Do most live service games (especially those that are not PVP focused) actually provide much in the way of service?

Avatar image for bigsocrates
bigsocrates

6238

Forum Posts

184

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

#1 bigsocrates  Online

This is inspired by a comment @mach_go_go_go made about everyone's second favorite live service whipping game, Skull & Bones. They mentioned that Skull and Bones couldn't just be multiplayer Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag because it had to be live service. The thing is...what's the actual service?

Most people agree that Skull & Bones launched content poor. It has very few different types of activities and not even a ton of examples of those activities for an Ubisoft game. And a lot of "live service" games are the same. They launch in an underbaked state and slowly bulk up over time. The issue is that for many of these games what they add is not all that significant.

If you look at something like Marvel's Avengers, over the course of the time that game was live it added a few new characters and some mini campaigns. Those additions weren't nothing, but all together they probably add up to one average expansion pack, and unlike many expansion packs they really didn't add that much in the way of new encounter types or biomes etc... We're not talking Blood and Wine here.

Likewise for something like Diablo IV, they continue to do new seasons and add some mini campaigns in them, but those mini campaigns just aren't doing much in the way of actual new content. They're excuses to do the same things over and over, which is fine if you love Diablo IV, but Diablo III's seasons didn't really do much in the way of new content and people who loved Diablo III seemed to be happy playing those repeatedly. There will be expansions to Diablo IV as there have been for prior Diablo games, but I'm not sure what's "live servicey" about that. Diablo II had expansions and that game came out well before anyone heard of the term "live services."

Suicide Squad hasn't fully detailed its plans but like Avengers it seems like new characters and a little bit of new PVE content and that's it.

I just don't understand why people would want to return to these games or sink hundreds or thousands of hours into them for updates that amount to a few hours of additional content, most of which is pretty much the same as the old content. I've never personally logged back in to one of these games after a new content drop and felt compelled to keep playing long term. They're (sometimes) nice updates but usually by the time they're out I've pretty much had my fill and one new character or a few new encounters isn't going to change that. I tried with Diablo IV and I just couldn't care about the new storyline and yet MORE grinding.

With PVP it's different because those games are more dynamic and new content can change the meta in significant ways, revitalizing old content and evolving strategies and playstyles. And there are some games like Destiny that, however much I hate the model, really do put out a lot of new material to keep things fresh (even if it can't hit a schedule.) But the vast majority of these "live service" games seem severely underbaked in terms of the "service" they're offering. More of the same with some slight tweaks just doesn't seem compelling to me, and I don't understand why they take so much effort to maintain and update when so many of the updates are insubstantial.

Redfall was supposed to be at least somewhat "live service" with new characters and instead the game got some of its biggest bugs fixed and appears abandoned.

Maybe I'm just old and out of touch but I have a hard time understanding the point of many of these live service projects or how they're supposed to retain their players (which they mostly don't.) Skull and Bones is going to add some new boss ships and maybe storylines or whatever, but people are already sick of the game after 20 hours. Are they going to want to come back for another 10 grinding slightly different stuff? Was it worth mutilating the format of the game just to make that doable? At least under the old Season Pass model you'd get your game and at least sometimes some pretty good DLC or an expansion. Assassin's Creed IV added Freedom Cry and I can almost guarantee that was a better reason to come back to the game than anything Skull and Bones will add.

What's the value proposition here and how is it supposed to keep people playing?

Avatar image for thepanzini
ThePanzini

1397

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

#2  Edited By ThePanzini

We had these two charts from the Insomniac leak, the vast majority of Playstation players play single player which runs counter to everything we normally hear. There's a ton of players who could be spending more that these titles must be are aiming for.

No Caption Provided
No Caption Provided
Avatar image for ben_h
Ben_H

4828

Forum Posts

1628

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 5

For the single player GaaS games, they kind of don't have a service if you think about it, or at least they seldom justify why they need to be structured as a GaaS. That's the bizarre thing. My experience with these types of games is primarily Diablo III, though I've tried a few others too. In Diablo III, seasons essentially existed as an excuse to make a new character. The content you were playing was always a procedurally generated version of the same stuff just with some numbers shuffled around. The only difference was that you could unlock gear that you otherwise couldn't. In the new Forza's GaaS content, you unlock cars that aren't available elsewhere also. The races are still the same, you just get new cars to complete them in (the new Forza has to be one of the most "why is this game a GaaS?" games in existence. They replaced most of the standard Forza single player mode with events that have to be completely within certain time periods. Again, this is the single player part of the game. There is no functional need for this. The result is that the game's single player mode is incredibly thin on content compared to any of the past Forza games unless you specifically play it a few hours a week every week for months).

In a way, GaaS games are basically time-gated roguelite-ish games. You do the GaaS stuff to unlock new things to make doing the GaaS stuff again slightly different. There is no true end goal, much like a lot of roguelites. At a point you will have unlocked everything you want or will have burned out on the game, but the game is still the same either way.

The success of these games primarily seems to rely on people whose brains like to form habits around things and who get sucked in by time limited special gear/items/whatever. These type of people (which I am one), often will return to games more frequently over periods of time compared to others who complete games in a single block of time then move on (not one sitting, I mean they play one game to completion before starting a new game rather than splitting their time between several games). For them, having a game spread out over weeks or months isn't a big deal because that's how they play games anyway. For the other folks though, who seem to be a much bigger slice of the pie, having a game's content spread out over larger periods of time ruins the game. It seems like the industry massively over-estimated the number of people whose brains like the GaaS-like game structure but at the same time many GaaS games don't properly justify why they need GaaS-like content in the first place versus simply releasing a game with the same content without the GaaS time limitations.

Avatar image for zombiepie
ZombiePie

9227

Forum Posts

94836

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 19

#4 ZombiePie  Online

I mean, I hate to give them credit, but Ubisoft has done the "live service model" justice in the past. Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege has continually maintained large concurrent player numbers for years well after the game had a problematic and content poor launch. If it were not for the fact that the game still sports one of the most toxic communities in gaming, I'd give it even more credit.

We are also sometimes skipping old guard representatives of the business model like Warframe, Fortnite, and OG Overwatch. People often forget that Warframe launched with one map that you were expected to painfully grind out to get new armor skins and weapon drops. It wasn't a great time at launch, but they got there after the devs committed to an improvement plan that took years to complete, but once they had, they had organically created this huge online playerbase.

And laugh all you want about the memes, but people continue to be generally satisfied with what Epic has done with Fortnite, and while Overwatch 2 continues to shit the bed, most people look back at Overwatch 1's services as being mostly a positive experience.

Avatar image for bigsocrates
bigsocrates

6238

Forum Posts

184

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

#5 bigsocrates  Online

@zombiepie: I think it's telling that the games you list are almost all PVP, which is something I called out in my original post. I think that for PVP the model can work, because you introduce a new character or map or whatever and players create whole new metas around it, essentially doing the work of iterating and changing things for you over time. There's also the fact that people tend to play PVP games that click with them for longer than most will with PVE.

I also think Warframe is a somewhat different beast because it was free to play. Free to play games have been doing something like this for a long time and there are a fair number that have found success. You can point to Path of Exile and lots of others as examples of FtP games that have added content over time and retained playerbases etc...

The difference there is that they're not selling you a game with a promise to support it the way they are with a Suicide Squad or Sea of Thieves. They're giving you a game and then selling you stuff (cosmetics, frames, whatever) within it. It's a much lower barrier to entry and for FtP games there's no real alternative model.

I think a better example of it working might be true MMORPGs. Everquest (STILL GOING), WoW, FF XIV etc... That's a genre where games as a service really does work. So perhaps the issue is that they're trying to cram a model that works for certain types of games (PVP, MMORPGs) into other genres like third person shooters and it's just not working.

I think the key variable is that you play PVP and MMORPG games for the other players. The game serves as background for competition or social interaction. Yes some people solo MMORPGs but it's not that common. Because the players generate the value in those games the content doesn't get used up as quickly. You make a new raid dungeon and people want to raid it with their guild over and over, as opposed to adding a 2 hour story people want to play once.

Avatar image for zombiepie
ZombiePie

9227

Forum Posts

94836

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 19

#6 ZombiePie  Online

@bigsocrates: Yeah, I do think PVE is tricky, but it's not unheard of in the world of games as a service. Despite current community consternation, the gold standard within game studios continues to be Destiny and Destiny 2. Both games launched... in not great states, but the promise of weekly and monthly content updates was enough to keep people from retiring the game. I think the key has been buy-in with developer promises that things will get better and that content updates are coming. That's what kept people around for Sea of Thieves and No Man's Sky. By hook or by crook, people stuck around for both games after they debuted and now they sport some pretty impressive online communities. But what's to say if one's word or promises hold any water? That I don't know. Did Sea of Thieves get lucky? Why did people ditch Redfall at a greater rate than No Man's Sky when the latter had so much more backlash at launch? Are games like Star Citizen graced with people that are fully committed to the sunk cost fallacy? I don't know.

With MMOs, I feel like the conversation turns into something different. The "services" for something like WoW or FF14 largely connect to what allows people to feel like they are part of a vibrant community.

Avatar image for ben_h
Ben_H

4828

Forum Posts

1628

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 5

#7  Edited By Ben_H

Yeah, that's a big part of why I specified single player at the start of my post. Multiplayer games with GaaS components are a completely different beast and for them it can be understandable why repeatable and seasonal content exists. This type of content provides an extra meta-layer of content for a game you'd already be playing with friends anyway.

It's single player games, or games that can be played entirely single player (see Redfall) that these types of mechanics seem like a bad fit versus just having the content as part of the game without the timer or other GaaS components.

I'll use the recent Forza Motorsport as an example again. In the old Forza Motorsport games, there would be dozens and dozens of sets of races to complete in the single player career mode. If you didn't want to complete all of them, you could pick and choose which sets of races sounded fun to you, or if you were a racing sicko completionist you had hundreds of hours of racing to look forward to. In the most recent game from last fall, at launch there were only something like 20 series in total, many of which contained a few races that only took 5-10 minutes each to complete. The entire fixed, always available single player set of races could likely be finished in maybe 12 hours or less if you skipped the entirely pointless practice sessions they tried to force you to do before each race. Replacing the dozens of other series of races are now a group with five or six sets of races rotated out each week and a few other sets rotated out on a slower time scale. For the month or so I played Forza on and off, those weekly race sets were generally roughly the same each week (they were the generic "pick any [insert class here] car and do these races" type thing) so after finishing them once it seemed pointless to do them again unless I wanted the specific limited availability car that was offered as the prize for finishing the every set of races for that week. They basically content treadmilled what used to be a giant wall of races that was satisfying to complete on your own time while at the same time removing a huge amount of variety from the game for anyone picking up the game at any one time. You are essentially locked into playing Forza's single player one way, and if you don't want to do the weekly content treadmill you are left with an incredibly unsatisfying single player experience from a series that used to be famous for having a fun single player mode.

Avatar image for av_gamer
AV_Gamer

2882

Forum Posts

17819

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 15

User Lists: 13

#8  Edited By AV_Gamer

This is one of the reasons why I like Genshin Impact. Not only is the game a F2P where you don't have to spend money to progress. The content updates are almost always different and unique, which keeps things fresh and the replay value high. And this is before their major update, where they reveal another part of Teyvet and the next Archon main storyline. Even repeat content has a different twist on it. For example, the Lantern Rite's seasonal content is happening right now, because of the Lunar New Year in February. But it's completely different from what happened last year. This year the players get a new character, a storyline around said character, and new mini-games to play to earn gaming resources.

Compare this to Destiny 2, who for years had the same season battle pass content. Yeah, they expanded on the lore, but the activities were pretty much the same. Do battle pass bounties, max it out level to 100, and while doing so, wait every week for content updates. Bungie claims this season is the last time they are doing this, and they will introduce the episode's seasonal content, which they claim will be even more story driven. But yeah, I get what you mean about grinding the same live service games and their modes over and over again. At the end of the day, it comes down to if you enjoy the game around it. The reason I still play Destiny 2 despite all the recent nonsense, is because at its core, the game has some of the best FPS you'll ever play, IMO.

Avatar image for mach_go_go_go
mach_go_go_go

515

Forum Posts

144

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

#9  Edited By mach_go_go_go

@av_gamer: honest question, and I don't mean to yuck anyone's yum, but there's roughly a million billion games out there that contain 60%+ of the bullet points you listed for Genshin Impact, but without the looming spectre of payment options and the inevitable shutdown. And what's great is those million billion games have stories that end, not foreclose. So most of the positive and zero of the negative. Why does Genshin appeal to you over those?

Avatar image for av_gamer
AV_Gamer

2882

Forum Posts

17819

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 15

User Lists: 13

#10  Edited By AV_Gamer

@mach_go_go_go: Well, first, I love a good single player game that has fun gameplay and a story that ends. I just finished Evil West. And the GB staff was right, great ass B Game. It's one of the reasons I have a PS5, because of their strong timed exclusives, which mostly are single player based. The reason I play Genshin Impact despite it being a live service game with pay options is simple, because I enjoy the game. I mean, why do people play Fortnite and many other games I can name, because there is something about it that hooks them. The money spending aspect is a personal choice, and I'm not going to tell another adult how they should spend their money. There is no one over the other for me. I like all kind of video games, Genshin Impact just happens to be one of them.

Avatar image for ll_exile_ll
ll_Exile_ll

3383

Forum Posts

25

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 2

#11  Edited By ll_Exile_ll

For all its faults, Destiny is really the only AAA PvE live service that is actually able to keep up with a regular cadence of substantial content. With expansions complete with a full campaign and new endgame content every 12-15 months and 4 seasons with new story content and PvE activities between expansions, plus a couple dungeons every year, you can't really argue against them actually providing legitimate live service.

Of course, you have to pay for all that. Expansions are practically full priced games, plus the cost of each season and now dungeons are sold separately. You add those all up over the course of a year and basically the equivalent of an MMO subscription fee. Still, regular community uproar aside, Destiny is at the very least definitely holding up its end of the bargain in terms of actually providing a live service.

Avatar image for bigsocrates
bigsocrates

6238

Forum Posts

184

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

#12 bigsocrates  Online

@zombiepie: I think Destiny is an, or perhaps THE, example of the games of a service PVE concept working out, problematic as that series has been.

It's worth noting that both Destiny and Sea of Thieves have significant PVP components, and strong endgames, and I think those two elements do a lot to keep people around with stuff to do during content lulls.

I think No Man's Sky is fascinating because it is not REALLY Games as a Service. There are zero microtransactions (unless they added them?) That's just a game that they've kept updating and selling more copies. THAT model has a bunch of other examples of huge hits like Terraria and Stardew Valley. Just keep iterating and selling new copies works out some of the time!

Now I'm wondering whether Minecraft is GAAS. I guess it....is? But it's so old it definitely wasn't conceived of in that way and originally didn't have a lot of micros (or any for quite awhile) but at this point I think it's pretty much GAAS.

GTA Online is also, I guess, GAAS. That's another hybrid PVE/PVP example.

What's interesting about a lot of these huge hit examples is they weren't necessarily conceived of as GAAS games they just kind of grew or evolved into them. GTA Online evolved out of GTA 4's online mode, which wasn't GAAS, but obviously has been a very well executed massive hit, even if for me GTA V was about the single player and I bounced off the online pretty hard.

Avatar image for thepanzini
ThePanzini

1397

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

#13  Edited By ThePanzini

@bigsocrates: Pretty much every game now has some sort of service aspect to them, were seeing free GAAS like updates to many offline titles. I don't play many Assassin Creed games but Odyssey had free content in side quests and missions periodically dropping after release along with paid mtx and DLC.

Avatar image for bigsocrates
bigsocrates

6238

Forum Posts

184

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

#14 bigsocrates  Online

@thepanzini: Well I think Ubisoft sees many of its games in a GAAS light. Valhalla was partially pitched that way, and Odyssey had some of that in it as well for sure. If you go back to Origins you see less, and then Syndicate is pretty much an old school DLC model. But games like Minecraft and Terraria came out when it was much more common to just have games on a disc with maybe a few patches to improve things. And Stardew Valley has had many years of free development (as has No Man's Sky) in a way most games don't get. I think there's a big difference between something like Stardew Valley and something like Spider-Man Miles Morales, which may have gotten a tiny bit of content and some tweaks but is pretty much the game they shipped.

Of course GAAS is a spectrum but to me one key element is the ability to spend more money over time, and often an unlimited amount of money on consumables or frequently updated cosmetics. In my view if you can just buy a game and get everything in perpetuity (like with No Man's Sky) it's not really GAAS.

Avatar image for av_gamer
AV_Gamer

2882

Forum Posts

17819

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 15

User Lists: 13

#15  Edited By AV_Gamer

About Destiny 2. One thing I will also say in the game's favor, is that the new Fireteam Finder feature they added is a game changer for people like me who play solo and don't have a dedicated group of friends to play the game with. This was one of the main problems with Destiny for years. Solo players getting locked out of a good amount of end-game content because they need a Fireteam to do them. Now the issue is mostly corrected thanks to this new feature. And the fact the feature still in beta gives me hope for future updates.

Avatar image for thepanzini
ThePanzini

1397

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

#16  Edited By ThePanzini

@av_gamer: Destiny's structure has always been its achilles heel, Bungie will never be able to make enough content, creating content only a few will ever see/use is not only really inefficient but it skews expectations.

Avatar image for cikame
cikame

4473

Forum Posts

10

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

#17  Edited By cikame

It depends what you would consider a "service" to be because for most publishers the requirement just seems to be "things are added", and the quality of those things varies wildly from crappy little cosmetics to actual tangible content.

Call of Duty used to require you to buy new map packs which i guess i'd consider to be an "expansion", buying an add on for the game to make it bigger, whereas offering new maps for free now is a part of their "service", with the intention being that you're grateful and will buy some cosmetics or buy into the battle pass or something, serving you one thing so that they can serve you another thing like a buffet table of junk, but if you don't really care about interacting with the service for more rewards and play casually then it's just fluff in the background.

@mach_go_go_go: Of all the F2P and live service games i've played Genshin is unique, one of the points you missed was the variety and quality of the events and updates they have, a big update will add whole new areas of the game full of quests, story and new characters, where smaller updates and events will have meaningful questlines, activities and minigames which vary from PVP game modes (in a single player game), puzzles, shooting galleries, combat challenges and... like i just did today, a little timing based cooking minigame.

No Caption Provided

Genshin doesn't pester you with payments, it relies on quality content to lure people into playing gacha for new characters which hey, it's a F2P game of course it wants you to spend money, but the "service" part of it blows me away with its variety of fun new content big and small.

Avatar image for mach_go_go_go
mach_go_go_go

515

Forum Posts

144

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@cikame: @av_gamer: I mean, all that sounds great. And as long as the player knows what they're getting into, then it's a win-win as far as they're concerned. At minimum, the game gets the engagement, and the player gets a cool game for no money to start. It's like walking around a casino without gambling - you know fully well that this experience is being bankrolled by someone, but that someone isn't you and presumably is a responsible adult and wholly aware of their own decisions. And if that someone stops bankrolling it your behalf, you move on to another casino, I guess.

Avatar image for cikame
cikame

4473

Forum Posts

10

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@mach_go_go_go: You've got it, it's just where for most F2P games i've played i feel like i'm getting access to 60% of an experience that requires i spend money to progress, Genshin is just 100% with extras if you want them.