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Molyneux: Free-to-play must be designed from the beginning, not added later

Peter Molyneux has learned a lot from his 30 years in game development, but what he is seeing now in the free-to-play arena--and experimenting with with in Curiosity--has him excited about its viability as a tool to make better games, providing that F2P is at the beginning of the discussion.

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Peter Molyneux has learned a lot from his 30 years in game development, but what he is seeing now in the free-to-play arena--and experimenting with in Curiosity--has him excited about its viability as a tool to make better games, providing that F2P is at the beginning of the discussion.

"You can't introduce free-to-play mechanics to a title six months after it's released," he said in a keynote at a F2P Summit conference in London (via The Guardian). "It's got to be part of the design. It can't just be crammed in there later on." He added that there have been some bad examples of developers putting in-app purchases into games that aren't designed for them, or milking consumers for cash under the F2P banner.

Free-to-play also eliminates one of the nagging problems in game development: "this terrible phrase from marketing: 'Can we have a demo of the game?' That's another thing that free-to-play did. The game itself is the demo, and the demo is the game," Molyneux said.

For Curiosity, Molyneux said the game was too successful in the beginning and they had to rush to solve it, but now, as people near the core for the final unveiling, his team at 22Cans is starting to evaluate its success. While some of the cheaper in-app purchases have been the most successful, he said that the $77,000 Diamond Chisel, which would have chipped away at the cube in massive chunks, never made it into the game, but was really meant to be just a tease.

"With the Diamond Chisel, our ambition was to charge an impossibly-high amount--so high that no one in the world would buy it," he said. "It was more the psychology of knowing that this hugely valuable thing was there ... But when we submitted the app to platform holders like the App Store, they turned around and said 'Oh my goodness, you can't charge that amount!'"

Of course, when you read stories about kids charging up huge bills on accounts charged to their parents' credit cards, that may have been a wise move.

Contributing Editor

From The Chatty

  • reply
    April 18, 2013 3:00 PM

    John Keefer posted a new article, Molyneux: Free-to-play must be designed from the beginning, not added later.

    Peter Molyneux has learned a lot from his 30 years in game development, but what he is seeing now in the free-to-play arena--and experimenting with with in Curiosity--has him excited about its viability as a tool to make better games, providing that F2P is at the beginning of the discussion.

    • reply
      April 18, 2013 3:25 PM

      Is anyone still playing Curiosity? It seemed like something with a very short shelf-life, even moreso than most F2P games.

      • reply
        April 18, 2013 3:27 PM

        I get on like once every two weeks to see how much it has progressed, then that's it. lol.

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          April 18, 2013 3:37 PM

          How do you tell if it's progressing? I thought the number of layers was unknown.

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            April 18, 2013 4:11 PM

            It is, but you can see how many layers have been uncovered.

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        April 18, 2013 3:42 PM

        it ranked #400 overall on iPhone for 2 days and has not charted since, which probably means it has been making zero money for the 5 months since its release

    • reply
      April 18, 2013 3:36 PM

      "Peter Molyneux has learned a lot from his 30 years in game development,"

      Really? I'm not convinced.

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        April 18, 2013 4:44 PM

        Most of it was about how to get investor money.

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        April 18, 2013 10:33 PM

        He hasn't done anything notable since dungeon keeper

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      April 18, 2013 3:59 PM

      Peter Molyneux should have "Industry Troll" on his business card, because with the $77,000 in-app purchase idea, that's what he is. "...so high that no one in the world would buy it!" Come on, Peter! Haven't you ever seen news stories about the stuff that people buy on eBay?

      Note that he didn't discuss the problem of "pay-to-win", or balancing games intientionally to skew toward in-app purchases or social media spamming. In fact, he seems to like the idea of free-to-play games taking a long time to progress through:

      "In a way, we've always had this problem when we've made computer games," he said, describing the experience of spending 2-3 years making a Fable game with a team of 100-150 people, releasing it on a Friday, and then hearing players boasting about having completed it by the Saturday.

      "There was the realisation that in certain circumstances it [free-to-play] can stretch that gameplay time out so that people don't obsessively play for six or more hours," he said. "It does pull out that time, and it requires people to wait and see what comes up."


      ...or to buy their way past time limits and energy systems via coin packs, coin doublers, etc.

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      April 18, 2013 4:45 PM

      I created a F2P game where everyone chips away at a cube. I am now the authority on F2P.

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        April 18, 2013 7:03 PM

        Yeah, I felt he was saying this also.

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        April 18, 2013 7:08 PM

        It sure seemed like that is what he was saying. I would have more respect for his opinion if we actually created something that resembled a game in a free to play space. Destroying layers on a cube with no objective other than to hit some mythical message is not it. I would rather hear from companies like Cryptic, Turbine, Perfect World, and maybe even Sony to get an impression how the Free-to-play market is fairing and the best strategies to use for the future.

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          April 18, 2013 8:38 PM

          I hope the final message or whatever in the cube just says "lol."

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            April 18, 2013 9:21 PM

            ^this... or just "Trolled."

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              April 18, 2013 9:50 PM

              Naah, it will be a link to the rick roll video XD.

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      April 18, 2013 10:20 PM

      I won't say that free to play isn't better designed when designed as such from the ground up, but I think he is wrong on this.

      "You can't introduce free-to-play mechanics to a title six months after it's released,"

      There have been plenty of MMOs that have thrived from making the switch down the line. Most notable is Turbine's MMO's. Team Fortress 2 saw a large increase in playerbase from its switch.

      F2P is a perfectly fine monetizing life preserver to lean on when a game is seeing the end of its lifespan. Given, many times it's like a geriatric living on pills at a nursing home, it been known to keep a game alive and well.