In the 1950’s, Peruvian inflation forced Coca-Cola to charge more per bottle of Coke. Unfortunately, their vending machines required physical updating to accept a new and larger domination. Instead, Coke devised a probabilistic system: the machine would charge the same amount as before, but randomly refuse to give a bottle. This raises the expected price of a bottle Coke while forgoing any physical updating. But a miscellaneous software engineer has a better idea: raise the price of Coke, but instead randomly give the money back.
The increase in price for a given ‘bottle draw’ would equal the expected payoff of a lower priced ‘bottle draw’ that randomly refuses to give a bottle. This is an interesting solution to player frustrations in gacha (“I didn’t get anything of value when I opened a pack!”).
Anyone care to reckon which model one would perform better: Higher draw price but gives money back or lower draw price but sometimes doesn’t give anything?
F2P is as much of a design choice as it is a business choice. Given this, F2P has its own set of design challenges among which is the content problem.
Developers will only continue making additional content until the benefits are greater then the costs. This is specified when
expected marginal revenue from content > development costt + opportunity costt
development costt is the cumulative cost by time of release (t)
User Acquisition Rate (UAR) < Churn Rate (CR)
there’s a shrinking pool of buyers which only widens at t+1. This is the essence of the content problem: how do we create content fast enough to curtail churn and while minimizing development costs?
The genius of PvP (Player v Player) environments is how they necessitate the emergence of a meta-game. In mathematics, Player vs Environment (PvE) resembles the field of optimization where strategies are static – one and done. PvP environments, however, resemble game theory models where it has been shown strategies evolve in an evolutionary process. This means equilibrium in PvP environments is constantly being reshuffled with each balance change; the search for dominant strategies in an ever shifting equilibrium is the game itself.
It’s been 4 years since the launch of Clash of Clans and there continue to be oodles of strategy videos. Supercell is constantly debuffing and buffing different units which makes some strategies more successful than others and by trial and error players expose this.
The push for PvP environments has seen the emergence of ‘Systems Design’ and the demise of a Level Designers. Withfewexceptions, linear and deliberate gameplay has gone the way of Spaghetti Westerns.
On the other hand, a different type of PvE has found ways to combat the content problem. For example, Trials Frontier adopted meaningful level mastery with a touch of PvP. This is achieved via quests that revisit locations, stars, leaderboards, mission rewards, and gameplay that rewards depth (back/front flips can improve my times!). That said, PvE shares a smaller piece of the pie than it once did. This trend will only continue as F2P marches into the console and PC arena.