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Free-To-Play Switch Going Well For D&D Online

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the price-is-right dept.

Role Playing (Games) 201

babboo65 writes "Dungeons and Dragons Online is enjoying a second life in terms of player count and buzz, all thanks to its new business strategy: giving the game away. Turbine is making their MMO as accessible as possible, and that includes making players who don't pay anything as happy as possible. Subscriptions are up 40 percent. Ars explores how free can be very profitable."

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201 comments

The game (3, Informative)

Sinryc (834433) | more than 4 years ago | (#29754231)

The game is a whole lot of fun. I really hope this serves as an example for future online games. Micro Transactions really aren't all bad, especially the way that Turbine is doing them.

Re:The game (5, Insightful)

Professor_UNIX (867045) | more than 4 years ago | (#29754713)

I won't walk, I'll run away from games that employ strategies like this in the future. I got into a browser game a few years ago called Travian that promised to be "free" and you could buy "gold" if you wanted extras like instant builds or NPC merchant trading or +25% resource production boosts. I quickly realized that if you wanted to be in the top 500 players on a server of about 1500 active players you HAD to buy and use gold or else there was no way to keep up. I got so addicted to it that rather than wait 15 minutes for a resource to build I'd just insta-build it so I could move on to the next building level.

The problem was that by abstracting the currency it made it far easier to spend out of control. You'd pay $25 for 600 gold (~4 cents for each piece of gold) and you'd spend 3 gold (12 cents) to NPC trade, 2 gold (8 cents) to instabuild your queue of up to 2 things at a time (if you had the "plus" feature which added the queue for 15 gold (60 cents) a week), 5 gold x 4 (80 cents) to boost production of iron, wood, clay, and wheat, 3 gold x 2 (24 cents) to boost attack and defense bonuses by 10%, etc. The NPC trading was by far the worst money sink since it was so easy to abuse. You *could* trade with normal players, but nobody really does past the first few weeks of game play (the game round lasts a year) since it is impractical to try and find a trade for tens of thousands of resources... so you NPC trade it instantly for 3 gold (12 cents).

So, at a minimum you'd spend $6.56 a month for the Travian Plus feature plus +25% resource boosts, +10% offensive and defensive bonuses. That at first seems reasonable for running such a cool game, but I was averaging around $100 a month on gold because of NPC trading and instabuilding. My coworker had it worse because his two sons were playing and he was even worse with the instabuilding. His monthly Travian habit, including his two sons' costs were running him around $300/month. FOR A GAME!

So no thanks, I'll take a $15/month subscription fee ANY DAY over a microtransaction arrangement where you need to eventually spend obscene amounts of money just to be in the top players.

Re:The game (4, Insightful)

MrMista_B (891430) | more than 4 years ago | (#29754747)

Your problem isn't the game, it's that you want to be 'in the top players'.

Most people don't care about that.

That you do, is nobody's fault but your own.

Re:The game (1)

sadness203 (1539377) | more than 4 years ago | (#29754799)

So true, yet... People in these kind of game want to be in the top 10.
This kind of game is a competition and every little boost help.
There's no roleplay, no "action", no strategies, well, there's some, but it's minimal.
It's for this same reason that the average joe sixpack can't compete in professional game. he can't have all the little perks the professional athletes have.

Re:The game (1)

ubrgeek (679399) | more than 4 years ago | (#29754867)

It's no different in something like WoW with shouts of "Gear check" when there's a raid run. The biggest benefit to a RAID PUG is to get new, better equipment. The only way to get better equipment is to have sufficiently good equipment to get into a group that's going after better equipment. It's very much a circular course of trying to get/be the best (ditto in Wow PVP. I'm assuming in other games, as well, but WoW is the only MMORPG that I tried.) Setting aside the monetary aspect of the addiction-like behavior referenced above (spending ~$100/month for insta-builds, etc.) it's the same mindset.

Re:The game (1)

MetalPhalanx (1044938) | more than 4 years ago | (#29755773)

I used to play WoW - led 25 mans up until Ulduar - and was actually formerly in the top 10 on my server in terms of gear (as reported by warcrafter.net - note that it's no longer anything particularly special as I haven't been playing since about April 09). While gear checks can seem really harsh, the problem is that people hit fresh 80 and want to raid instantly.

The gear treadmill is NOT circular, at least not within a specific xpac. You gear up for raids in heroics/with crafting/rep vendor gear. You won't be great, but you'll be decent. Then you can start getting raid gear. The problem as I said is that you have "instant" raiders, who want to be dragged through and handed phat lewt and get totally tricked out while not contributing. In an already geared up group, this may not be a problem. But when your group is barely able to take down a new boss, having a few boat anchors can be a make or break. Even if they're intelligent players, if they can't push the minimum numbers required, it makes it that much more difficult. Of course, generally the really intelligent players don't attempt to raid until they have at least a semi-decent level of gear.

We would occasionally pug some people, and it's sad having a tank claim he's ready to raid wearing level 76-78 blue and green leveling gear (one shot boss squish - we took him for the laughs, he asked us to soulstone him). Or DPS who refused to upgrade half their gear from level 70 purples until they got level 80 purples and as a consequence are out-dps'd by the tanks (actually it was so sad in one instance, our healer was smite spamming in between heals and keeping up with this DPS). Just to round it out, I've also seen a priest outhealed by a ret paladin who also was top 3 of the damage meter (hint, the ret pally's HPS wasn't really all that high). If you have a guild that's already mostly geared out and they take you through because they can, that's fine, but that's your guild helping you short circuit the grind.

I do agree with your main point that it's the same addictive gaming mindset. But it really isn't circular, they've just determined the best way to lengthen the journey to the top. For level 80, it's currently:

Leveling up -> Heroics -> Tier 1 (Naxx, OS, EoE) -> Tier 2 (Ulduar) -> Tier 3(is it out yet?)

The next xpac (level 90) will start the cycle over. (Ok, I guess you could say that in an xpac to xpac comparison, it's circular).

I agree that the pvp upgrade cycle is very circular. In that case, you do the same few PvP arenas to get better gear, so you can perform better in those same few arenas to get better gear.

All in all though, at least WoW is $15/month, not per piece of gear. If it was, I think it would see many less players. I compare games that leverage micropayments to mosquitoes, they inject the player's wallet with an anti-coagulant (incentive to be the best and buy their stuff to get there) and then suck them dry. /rant

Re:The game (1)

Thansal (999464) | more than 4 years ago | (#29756175)

Almost all correct, however I will chip in that WoW has short circuited the gearing cycle in an interesting (and I thing is a good) way.
They are giving away better tokens via heroics with each release of new content, at this point you get Ulduar (Tier 2) tokens from doing heroics, which means you can get ready to raid Ulduar with out having to run Naxx (a good thing as no one WANTS to run anything but the new stuff), and with running a bit of Ulduar you can run Trial of the Crusader (T3). With the release of the next patch (3.3.0) Ice Crown Citadel (T4) will come out, and heroics will start offering ToC tokens for heroics.

Obviously this peeves off some of the 'hardcore' raiders. however most people see it for what it is, a way of letting new players see actual content, with out getting boosted through older stuff by a guild tryign to gear them up.

Also, next xpac will be 5 levels, not 10, it lets them get in 4 more xpacs till 100 (their stated level cap), instead of 2.

As for the OP who thinks microtransactions ruin games, they haven't actually looked at DDO.

DDO Is offering these things via MTs:
1) Cosmetic items (not actually out yet, but hair dye and such)
2) XP Boosters (also not out yet), simply letting you get to level cap faster, this doesn't make you any better.
3) Nice to have items: Ammunition, wands, potions. These are really for the players that went DOH! I forgot to stock up before leaving town! It is an instant purchase from what I understand, and you are good to go.
4) Real buffs: resurrection cakes, skeleton keys (no need for a rogue), loot gems (upgrade the rewards in a chest), character slots.
Some people are kinda iffy about these, but I honestly think they are not that bad, and most can actually be obtained in game.
5) Content.

Number 5 is the big one I think, they let you unlock:
Races:
Drow (This can be done in game on a server by server basis, or purchased with real $$ so can use it on all servers)
Warforged (can only be purchased with $$)
Classes:
Favored Soul (same as Drow)
Monk (same as Warforged)
Dungeons/quest lines.

Every thing else is really just 'nice to have', even the race/class unlocks are nice to haves, however the actual content is where I suspect they will be making money.

What I think they did that was great is that you can still subscribe for the normal $15 a month and get access to everything (Drow and Favored Soul must be unlocked in game though), but you also get 500 points a month (I think 500 points is about $6, haven't actually bought any yet).

So all in all:
everything (baring content) can be obtained in game. Nothing makes you 'better', some thing make it a bit easier, but top gear and all that jazz has to be quested for.

Re:The game (1)

MetalPhalanx (1044938) | more than 4 years ago | (#29756293)

That's an interesting development in WoW. Looks like they've realized that "longer" gameplay isn't always better, if it separates friends.

That must be new from after I stopped playing. Thanks for the info!

Re:The game (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 4 years ago | (#29756493)

The new heroics mechanics were updated in 3.2. It solves, at least partially, the "I'm not geared for Ulduar but no one wants to run Naxx with me" problem.

That said, the gear treadmill and endgame in general stopped holding my interest after a while. It didn't help that all of my friends reside on a West Coast server - I'm East. I'm playing Aion now.

Re:The game (1)

plastbox (1577037) | more than 4 years ago | (#29754999)

I find it pretty hilarious how you refer to the difference between a professional athlete and "joe sixpack" as "little perks", rather than years and years of grueling, exhausting training, dieting, money invested and all the things a pro athlete has had to down-prioritize to make time for all their training, compared to putting in an average effort in the few things one has to do, working an average job, sitting in an average couch watching average TV programming, eating average Doritos and burgers, drinking average beer and being just about averagely overweight. =P

On topic though, I personally prefer monthly subscriptions to micro-transactions. I started playing The Ninja-Rpg [theninja-rpg.com] a couple of years back and although I don't know the games state now, back then it was a horrible mush of amateur code running like a sloth with easily 10-12 db queries per pageview. Still, there was character progression and a very rudimentary duel system so I played. I even payed for a few stat-regenerating abilities and such to get an advantage over my friend who also played (which resulted in him doing the same). We both spend at least $40 on that game, and mind you, that was the most horrible game either of us have ever played (not counting Flash games etc.)!

Micro-transactions aren't evil. In fact, I will gladly implement and use them when I get my head out of my ass and finally slap together some online game with enough polish to actually publish. Why? Because the game is still "free to play", but everyone will think "Well, if I spend these measly $5 this once, I can beat the crap out of $friend!", resulting in teh moneyz and grins and giggles for whatever developer has put hundreds of hours into this project.

Re:The game (1)

sadness203 (1539377) | more than 4 years ago | (#29755183)

exhausting training

Fapping to porn while waiting for the next tick count? check!

dieting

Eating pizza and drinking mountain dew between two ticks, check!

money invested

The more micro-payment you do, the better you get. check!!

And all the things a pro athlete has had to down-prioritize to make time for all their training

Well, it's basically the same, except they do it so they can win some ticks 'til the next tick. And god know they can't miss it... check!

So yeah, it can be on the same level, just not the same field, but some people find that serious enough to put the commitment. Is it healthy, I doubt so... That's another topic

Re:The game (3, Insightful)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 4 years ago | (#29754903)

you want to be 'in the top players'.

Most people don't care about that.

I think most people would like to be in the top players. They realise, though, that most of the top players have sacrificed years of their lives for that little level number on their profile and shinier weapons, and (very sanely) don't want to compete on those terms.

As an aside, this might mean that having some sort of safety cut-off for addicted players could make the game better for those healthier, less addicted players.

Re:The game (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29755921)

I'll just raise the issue of free to play FPS, where everyone has weapons that kill instantly, and you can't enjoy playing without some armor that you have to buy with real money.

Free to play, expensive to enjoy.

Re:The game (5, Informative)

Targon (17348) | more than 4 years ago | (#29754863)

This is where you clearly have never even looked at the game in question(DDO). The game does not revolve around player vs. player, though there are some very very limited forms of it in the game(in certain taverns there are combat pits).

The DDO method of free to play is really giving you an unlimited taste of the game for free by offering a bit of free content without making all content for free. You have the option to either play the free content on multiple characters to generate enough "Turbine Points" to purchase additional content, or you can pay real money for Turbine points which you can then use to get the content package of your choice. If you don't like being limited in what you can access, you can just become a normal $15/month subscriber to get access to all the content in the game. In a month or two, if you don't want to pay the monthly subscription any more, you can switch back to free to play, lose access to the non-free content you have not purchased, but you don't LOSE what you have accomplished. Those who pay the monthly subscription also get 500 Turbine Points each month they are a subscriber, and those points can be used to unlock content for the free to play if the player decides to go back to Free to Play status.

So, DDO offers the best of both worlds. You get free to play with micro transactions, and you get subscription based for those who want all the content the game has to offer. There are also no "player rankings" as such, so no one really cares about who has the absolute best stuff, as long as your skill at playing your character is at an acceptable level(clerics who don't heal, or who don't know how to use mass healing spells in a raid situation may upset others for example). There is also a tolerance for poor equipment levels to an extent as long as party members know about it in advance so it doesn't kill what the group is trying to do.

And, this is why DDO is seeing good subscription numbers from the release of Free to Play. Some people may upgrade for only a few months to get full access to the "premium" content in the low to mid levels, and then switch back to the Free to Play and then only buy the few high level premium modules they want access to after that. Or, if new content is released often enough, they may stick with their subscription so they don't have to buy each new content pack as it is released.

Re:The game (2, Interesting)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29756141)

That sounds like shareware from the stone age. It worked then, no reason for it to not work now. For example, the first Duke Nukem, a squeaky little side scroller, gave you three levels for free. The game was so fun and had so many amusing aspects (like getting points for killing the energizer bunny) that you would gladly shell out the (iirc) twenty bucks for the Duke. I did, and Apogee surprised people who registered with not only the other six levels, but the shareware version of another game as well.

Attention musicians: you can make money with file sharing. The original Duke Nukem sold 35,000 copies with virtually no marketing or advertising; purely "word of mouth" since there was no world wide web for most of us back then, although we did have BBSes.

Re:The game (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#29754875)

His monthly Travian habit, including his two sons' costs were running him around $300/month. FOR A GAME!

Not "running him". He was spending that money on entertainment.

Just because you can't control yourself doesn't mean the game is bad.

Re:The game (1)

dushkin (965522) | more than 4 years ago | (#29754925)

I quickly realized that if you wanted to be in the top 500 players on a server of about 1500 active players you HAD to buy and use gold or else there was no way to keep up.

I play DDO for free and having fun. Reason is, the PvE content is good enough solo (or with a friend) that I don't have this need to be the top 500 player...

Re:The game (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 4 years ago | (#29755101)

You simply can't buy your way to the top in DDO. Any items you can buy can be found in game during normal play. I think the exception to that would be cosmetic stuff (wild hair dyes) & the potions you can buy that will give one character a 60% increase in XP for 6 hours. On top of that, completing faction quests will net you turbine points which you can use to purchase races & expansion packs among other things. I've been playing since the beta in July, have "bought" access to the warforged race & 2 suits of +1 full plate & haven't spent a dime of real money.

By the way, you can still pay $15 a month for a DDO VIP subscription & get access to all non item purchases in the DDO store. I.E. all races, classes & expansions. I'm guessing you won't have a 2 character per server limit either, but I don't know for sure about that.

Re:The game (1)

thejynxed (831517) | more than 4 years ago | (#29755353)

You have a ten character limit, as I am a VIP subscriber, and can verify this. Also, you may then purchase more character slots on top of the ten you already get.

I play on the Argonnessen server and go by Ghraal N'Talis (Lvl 7 Dwarf Rogue) and Malkavier DeSalle (Lvl 3 Drow Ranger/Rogue). Anyone from here playing on that server and want to group, just send me a PM in-game or mail me in-game to setup a time. I am not at Shroud-raid capability yet, but I can do all content up to level 10 areas, and frequently do Favor runs.

Re:The game (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 4 years ago | (#29755439)

Both of my characters, Valtoro (2 Pal) & Xanmorn (1 Rg / 2 Cl), are on that server, I'll send you a message next time I get time to play. Warning: still a total noob at DDO, during the beta I only got my fighter up to 4th.

Re:The game (2, Interesting)

Liambp (1565081) | more than 4 years ago | (#29755205)

That is a sobering post and your story is consistent with other things I have read about Free to Play Games. However I think there is a distinction to be made between micro-transactions where you pay to "get ahead" and micro-transactions where you pay for additional content. Micro-transactions where you pay to get ahead (faster XP potions or Item shop weapons and gear for example) are fraught with moral hazard. In order to maximise revenues the developer has to sucker you in to make you want to get ahead but to make the free method of getting there as tedious as possible. In essence you are paying to avoid having to play parts of the game!!! Microtransactions where you pay for additional content seem less problematic to me. That's a more traditional type of business transaction - if you want to play in that that extra dungeon you pay for it. If you don't want to play in it then you don't. I haven't played DDO online but I do note they are offering both types of micro transaction: Adventure packs which offer additional content (good imho) and also the usual gamut of faster XP scrolls and bonuses (bad imho).

Re:The game (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 4 years ago | (#29755479)

Regarding the item type purchases I bought a suit of +1 full plate in DDO recently, spent 35 of my free Turbine points (they have sales & stuff). 2 dungeons later, guess what I found in a chest?

Re:The game (1)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 4 years ago | (#29755711)

I believe that's the point. you can get stuff faster with microtransactions, but unlike many other games, you don't have to. You paid 35 points to have that armor 2 dungeons earlier than you otherwise would have...

Re:The game (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29755247)

Sounds like someone has a lack of control and should go back to grade school to learn how to be an adult again.

Re:The game (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29755495)

Sniffing glue; flipping up girls' skirts; and shoving the smallest kid's face into his lunch tray? Yep, grade school is a great place to learn how to be an adult.

Re:The game (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29755767)

His monthly Travian habit, including his two sons' costs were running him around $300/month. FOR A GAME!

Ever played golf? I know golfers that spend far more than that playing golf, and some of them really can't afford it. If you come up with a fun enough anything, people are going to spend money. Even when they can't afford it.

Re:The game (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 4 years ago | (#29755797)

I don't know what game you were playing that lest you spend that much without capping it, but I would not go near it...however I do not think this one will be like that.

Re:The game (1)

bigbigbison (104532) | more than 4 years ago | (#29756741)

There's nothing like that in DDO. The store has some stat boosts and potions, most of which you could get from vendors in-game with the "fake" money you earn on quests. You can also use real money to buy in-game money. I would imagine the biggest thing though is buying quests. However, you don't really even need to do that since you get "points" for advancing through the game. I've earned enough points to buy 2 quest packs without spending a penny of real money. I would estimate around 2/3 of the game content is free with 1/3 of it for sale but there's still enough free material where you wouldn't need to buy anything if you didn't want to.

Re:The game (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29755787)

Small tip for those intrested in playing this for a decent amount of time, pay for 1 month of it, you get a bunch of free points, i think 500 and you get 2 free character slots.pay for gives you X slots not sure howmany Free play gives you 2 slots, but once you pay for and then stop paying your now a premium member which gives you 4 slots.

Looks like a brilliant move (1)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 4 years ago | (#29754275)

I know I'd probably never subscribe to a MMO. But this business model wouldn't make me feel "stuck" with a game I might, or not, like.

If it proves to be a success, it will likely be copied by numerous other actors in that field.

Re:Looks like a brilliant move (0, Redundant)

somersault (912633) | more than 4 years ago | (#29754335)

This sounds a lot to me like MapleStory, so it is already the copying stage. I assume that MapleStory has been moderately successful. I spent about as much on it over a couple of months as I would have spent buying a boxed PC game, as a kind of thankyou. And also to get a cool purple lightsabre and pink bunny.

Re:Looks like a brilliant move (2, Interesting)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 4 years ago | (#29754449)

There are hundreds of Free-to-play 'MMOs' out there (most of them browser-based affairs and/or Korean) that use a similar model to DDO. Free Realms being one of the biggest (and newest).
The idea of Free To Play and Microtransactions is one that's proven itself to be profitable.
I can also see Blizzards new MMO using that model to prevent it clashing directly with WoW

Re:Looks like a brilliant move (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 4 years ago | (#29755141)

One thing I wonder about, though. Doesn't this fall under gambling (and the legal minefield offering gambling is) ? Especially if it's true transactions ...

Re:Looks like a brilliant move (1)

Keill (920526) | more than 4 years ago | (#29755437)

No - this game doesn't go far enough to make it into 'gambling' - though I've read up on a couple of games that were (are?) planned/talked about which probably would...

In order to count as gambling - two things need to happen:

a) any item you can find in a game would need to have recognized real-life monetary value.

b) there would be a way to convert these in-game rewards into real life money.

(Of course, the only thing then would be to make it so that there would only be a 'chance' of finding items of enough value to pay back the amount of money you spend on the game, which is why it doesn't really work with free-to-play games).

Re:Looks like a brilliant move (1)

Saint Fnordius (456567) | more than 4 years ago | (#29754923)

In some ways it also seems like a modification of the payment model behind Kingdom of Loathing. Offer the game for free, but make some content available only to those who pay. It's also possible to get some of the premiums without paying, but that requires either grinding or a sugar daddy. The key to this model is making the players feel like you're not out to milk them, giving them the sense that they are respected.

So if KOL, a game that admittedly is pretty limited, can stay afloat all these years with this business model, I suspect D&D Online can pull it off as well. In the end, it's the content that makes people toss their money into the tip jar. To further the bad analogy, it's the difference between charging admission to enter the bar and hear the band, or passing the hat and letting the audience tip the band.

Just like crack (1)

Comboman (895500) | more than 4 years ago | (#29755363)

"Give the first hit for free" is a business model that has always worked well for drug dealers, so if this MMO is as addictive as they hope it should work well for them.

Unlimited trial (1)

kjart (941720) | more than 4 years ago | (#29754293)

What they are giving you, essentially, is an unlimited free trial period to play the game. You can download and play the game for free and, chances are, if you really like the game and decide to keep playing it, you will eventually give them some money. It's a fairly clever strategy - I wonder who else will follow suit (Warhammer?).

Re:Unlimited trial (4, Insightful)

cgenman (325138) | more than 4 years ago | (#29754317)

Note that you're also paying for convenience. You can buy anything with in-game earned currency, or you can just plop real cash down and buy things. Players that have more time than money can grind everything, and players who have more money than time can fund development of the game.

Also do note that this is a pretty common mechanic in Asian MMO's. When a player has only intermittent access to gaming cafes, you have to find ways of monetizing the gameplay which doesn't lock players into repeating payments. Pay-or-play-for-items is one such strategy.

Re:Unlimited trial (4, Interesting)

Wildclaw (15718) | more than 4 years ago | (#29754527)

Players that have more time than money can grind everything,

Unfortunately, due to how the currency system is setup, that grind involves repeatedly creating and deleting characters, as the amount of a currency a single character can earn is limited.

Re:Unlimited trial (1)

Targon (17348) | more than 4 years ago | (#29754933)

DDO doesn't have a "pay for raid loot" system though, so you can't just drop money in to get what the long-time players have had to work for. Most of the micro-transaction stuff you can buy is centered around either the premium stuff that subscribers get automatically with their monthly subscription, or convenience items like healing or spell point potions. This keeps the paying customers happy that only those who PLAY their way into the high end game(free to play or subscriber) will be getting the better items in the game.

Re:Unlimited trial (1)

dword (735428) | more than 4 years ago | (#29754569)

I've also played Hero Online [netgame.com] like that for years. After about a year of free play, I got bored because advancing got very slow and difficult, so I put up some cash. I've paid them a lot, but I got plenty of entertainment in return. This is a good strategy and it seems very fair - if you like the game you pay, if you don't you just go somewhere else and stop loading the servers. There are also those that never pay and just rely on free stuff, but that makes the games more entertaining for those who pay, because there are more players to interact with.

This is not really newsworthy, because there are hundreds of games that have adopted this strategy (here are a few [play-free-...-games.com] ). Of course, this being Slashdot, the "D&D" is always newsworthy :)

Re:Unlimited trial (1)

stjobe (78285) | more than 4 years ago | (#29755157)

I wonder who else will follow suit (Warhammer?).

It's unlikely that Warhammer would implement this - there's no easy lines to draw between free-to-play and subscriber content in that game.

As an aside, with the 1.3.2 patch 2/3rds of the Tier one (read: starter) content will be closed off or made more difficult to get access to - the RvR areas in High Elves vs Dark Elves and Dwarf vs Greenskin areas will be unflagged for RvR, all players will start in Empire vs Chaos area and the RvR area there will be the only one active.

It's the first time I've heard of a MMO closing off content instead of adding new content. All in the name of a "better new user experience". I guess numbers of new players are so low it doesn't make sense having them spread around three zones...

Re:Unlimited trial (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29756611)

Very few people did RvR in those zones anyway. People might show up to RvE the Battlefield Objectives from time to time, but it was always rare to see anyone fighting. The Empire/Chaos T1 zone is much better for combat because the opposing sides' warcamps are located so close together, and two of the BOs are dead in the center of the map. Even when I made characters in other races, I'd fly to Norsca (Norland? forget which) as soon as I could.

I don't play WAR any more (guild moved to Aion), but this makes perfect sense to me. The people who stick around in WAR are PvPers, and funneling people into the most active PvP area is the way to go.

Dark Dungeons (5, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#29754297)

Matthew 7:13-14
Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

How much easier could Satan be making it than providing the game for free online?

Some required reading [chick.com]

Re:Dark Dungeons (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29754337)

I...you...this...

I can't tell if the cartoon is a parody or not. I mean for 90% of the damned thing I thought it was, then I get to the bottom and my whole world gets thrown upside down.

Also, to speak of the Free-to-Play switch, I'm reminded of Oblivion. Specifically the Oblivion horse armor pack. Free-to-Play with microtransactions is just the first step towards selling tons of useless crap and knick knacks that people buy "because it's cheap!" and the company eventually raking in the money.

Free-to-play works because people are willing to pay 100 payments of $1 but unwilling to play 1 payment of $100.

Re:Dark Dungeons (1)

SL Baur (19540) | more than 4 years ago | (#29754401)

I can't tell if the cartoon is a parody or not.

It's real. And now I have an unmistakable urge to go play some World of Warcraft on my warlock.

Re:Dark Dungeons (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29754695)

I'm feeling more compelled to go have another orgy with vampires in Second Life!

Re:Dark Dungeons (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29754765)

I'm feeling more compelled to go have another orgy with vampires in Second Life!

As long as we can still play D&D whilst doing it, count me in!

Re:Dark Dungeons (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29755007)

I'm feeling more compelled to go have another orgy with vampires in Second Life!

As long as we can still play D&D whilst doing it, count me in!

Your Second Life avatars will sit at their virtual computers to play D&D Online.

Meanwhile, your "real" body is actually a surrogate [imdb.com] and everything is inside the Matrix, and the universe is a 3-D holographic projection anyway.

Re:Dark Dungeons (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29754405)

I can't tell if the cartoon is a parody or not. I mean for 90% of the damned thing I thought it was, then I get to the bottom and my whole world gets thrown upside down.

We really shouldn't feed the trolls, however,

It takes about 30 to 45 minutes for LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) to kick in. Given that the crazy turns on around the 3rd or 4th panel, the timing would seem right.

Back to the topic. My only complaint about p2p mmo games is when they are run by small groups of people. You always end up with people being made custom, unattainable items. As long as they don't do any of those shenanigans, it's a great idea.

Re:Dark Dungeons (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29754709)

You always end up with people being made custom, unattainable items.

Like girls?

Re:Dark Dungeons (1)

Targon (17348) | more than 4 years ago | (#29755207)

In the case of DDO, Free to Play works because people have the option to really play the game and decide if they like it enough to play. There being no initial investment(buying the game in stores or online) before having to pay the subscription also helps.

You can play DDO fully free, but then decide you want to pay real money to buy an adventure pack like the Deleras quest series if you want access to that content without having to continue to pay after that. Or, people decide that they will pay $15 up front for one month, have all the content be included for that one month, and then play whatever. It is very possible to get through all the level 1-10 content packs in that one month, so if you would not want to go back through that content after your one month, that one month subscription means you avoid needing to buy that low end content after you switch back to Free to Play.

Re:Dark Dungeons (1)

craagz (965952) | more than 4 years ago | (#29754549)

You seem pretty excited about what Satan can do with free gaming. Maybe nobody informed you about the free porn all over the net. Just like Quagmire from a recent Family Guy episode.

Re:Dark Dungeons - and dieties (1)

icepick72 (834363) | more than 4 years ago | (#29755687)

The moral of the required reading is we should accept Christianity through a cartoon instead of Satan through a board game. I guess Satan must be in the DDO marketing dept and God at Marvel in illustration otherwise this epic battle on the entertainment media couldn't be taking place. It's just too bad God dabbled with magic in the Narnia series because that really confuses the church's current message about sorcery being evil. Oh well we all make mistakes.

Re:Dark Dungeons (1)

St.Creed (853824) | more than 4 years ago | (#29755701)

Lol, that must have been one of the most confused comics I've read in ages :)

Great parody!

Re:Dark Dungeons (2, Interesting)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 4 years ago | (#29755825)

thank you for the humor. I haven't been reminded of this travesty (travesty because some people take that comic seriously) in some time. Because I'm afraid you might be one of those people, I'll "feed the troll" with some counter humor:

MST3K analysis of Dark Dungeons:
http://www.humpin.org/mst3kdd/ [humpin.org]

A less humorous, but wonderfully sarcastic "Dark Dungeons" point-by-point response:
http://www.theescapist.com/darkdungeons.htm [theescapist.com]

Second Life (4, Interesting)

MrMista_B (891430) | more than 4 years ago | (#29754327)

Second Life has been doing this for years and years, relying soley on microtransactions.

From all accounts, they're still doing very well.

Re:Second Life (3, Informative)

fake_name (245088) | more than 4 years ago | (#29754487)

The big difference is in Second Life those micro transactions are between players; Linden Labs takes a cut only when players convert ingame currency back into real money.

Re:Second Life (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29754885)

The other big difference is that they don't need to provide an actual game, just the tools for everyone else to create something game-like for them.

Re:Second Life (1)

MartinSchou (1360093) | more than 4 years ago | (#29754937)

They make money when you convert Linden$ to real money. And they make money from land rentals. I suspect the last one is the large money maker.

Re:Second Life (4, Insightful)

gutnor (872759) | more than 4 years ago | (#29754975)

The content of the "game" is also provided by other players. So, not really that much different, money goes to people generating content.

iPhone developers (2, Interesting)

ElectricSteve (1655317) | more than 4 years ago | (#29754347)

This is the model to explore for iPhone game developers who are complaining about market resistance to price points above $2, and piracy. I also wonder if we'll see developers for the Xbox 360 (Xbox Live Arcade) and PS3/PSP (PlayStation Network) give it a crack. I constantly end up with unusably small amounts left in my "wallet" on these services, and I wouldn't think twice about getting rid of it for small gains or more content. I guess you could say the cut price Rock Band Unplugged on the PSN is a start, but there's still an entry fee.

YPou Fail It (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29754463)

Runes of Magic (2, Interesting)

hotrodent (1017236) | more than 4 years ago | (#29754583)

A friend put me onto Runes of Magic (which uses Micro Transactions) as I was an ex-WoW player, vowing to never pay for MMO games again. So I played for free for a couple of months and enjoyed not having the "pressure" to get value for money that a monthly fee seems to induce. The decision to buy a mount using real $$'s came easily. A few more purchases later, I'd spend about $50 and felt I had got my moneys worth. I spend when *I* want, not when a certain date passes. I can take a break for a few weeks and nothing is lost (although a few purchases do have a time limit)

The model works very well!!

tricky to balance (2, Interesting)

Necroloth (1512791) | more than 4 years ago | (#29754653)

I think free-to-play games with microtransactions must strike a careful balance in rewarding those who put money in but at the same time not putting the free players at a disadvantage. For instance, I play on Jade Dynasty and shop items tend to be items that makes things easier such as getting mounts and cosmetic items but nothing that would put them at a clear advantage over non-payers. Besides usually people sell shop items in the market for in-game money and it's not actually that difficult to earn money if you're willing to put some time grinding.

Not my cup o' tea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29754797)

As much as it might make sense financially, I have never particularly liked the concept of microtransactions in most games. With games that charge a monthly fee (or are somehow entirely free), your "status" in game as relative to other players is based on time and skill. With microtransactions it's time, skill and how much money you can scam off your parents credit cards. I'm sure there are a lot of people out there who are willing to pay a small sum whenever they feel like it to avoid being tied to a game through a monthly payment, but it throws any notion of the game being a level playing field out the window.
I remember back when I used to play WoW (before they ruined it with those godawful expansion packs (not that I'm bitter or anything)), I would look at a level 60 character with a full Tier 3 armor set and think "That guy must really be playing a lot/be really good at this game". Had the game supported microtransactions my most likely thought would have been, "So that guy has a decent gaming budget/generous parents, big deal.".

My apologies for the somewhat rambling nature of this post, I am in a hurry.

Re:Not my cup o' tea (1)

Targon (17348) | more than 4 years ago | (#29754955)

You have not looked at how Turbine has applied the concept to DDO. In DDO, money only buys you access to the adventure packs, and other game features that subscribers get for their monthly fee. The only thing money will get you is convenience items since the items from raids are NOT available for purchase, and even "good" items need to be earned in-game since gold is not sold on the store.

Re:Not my cup o' tea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29756129)

(OP here)

I admit that I haven't checked DDO specifically since I stopped playing (before the F2P switch), so they may have handled it better than I feared.
My previous post still stands in a more general sense though. People play games to have fun, but part of that fun is seeing ones efforts rewarded by, in some small way, becoming better than other players. If I just spent several weeks grinding to the level cap in a game, and I see someone who simply threw money at the devs in order to get to the same level in half the time, I feel like I've wasted my time. Sure, I had fun playing the game, but he still got the same things I did, and with much less effort.

Reading these comments has convinced me to give DDO another shot. Thanks.

Decent (2, Interesting)

meglon (1001833) | more than 4 years ago | (#29754865)

I'm trying out DDO, again.

For a simple critique... the game has many small issues, which most other games have already dealt with.

Their auction house is a disaster. The quests are fine, except it becomes a simple grindfest way to early. It's an instanced world, similar to Guild Wars, not an open world like Eve, or even EQ or WoW. It's very linear. That can be fine, but don't expect to simply go out and explore and achieve anything.

The graphics are good, and run pretty smooth. The skill acquisition and character development (feats and enhancements) is very nicely done, and allows for a several different ways to play any of the classes. While you do define your class and race from the start, there are a number of ways you can customize your toon to your vision of it.

One big drawback for free players is there are limitations to things which Turbine doesn't quantify, such as: there's a limit to gold you can have per level, but nothing ever tells you how much.. until you sell something in the auction house and can't get your gold from the mailbox because you've gone over a non-disclosed limit. Pure frustration there.

While overall it's a game I'd recommend, I'd have to say it has one other significant downside, that being the seriously myopic players. Not all of them obviously, but the few truly hostile ones to anyone new, and anyone who has anything good to say about any other game puts this crew into the "worst" category of people I've dealt with in online games, ranging all the way back to the original Diablo.

But try the game, it's enjoyable enough, if you can ignore some of the "D&D started everything, bow down to us" crowd. My caveat is, i started playing D&D in 1977, no need to be rude or arrogant about it.. it is after all, just a game.

Re:Decent (1)

Targon (17348) | more than 4 years ago | (#29755233)

There is a big difference between the long-time players and many of the new players just getting into the game. Yes, there are SOME people who are really bad, but most of the long-time players on Ghallanda at least don't take that sort of attitude. Then again, what you are seeing may be due to the World of Warcraft crowd trying to compare every last feature to WoW, rather than looking at DDO as a DIFFERENT sort of game, and not a clone of the old EQ game design with different graphics/rules.

Re:Decent (1)

RalphSleigh (899929) | more than 4 years ago | (#29755405)

Having played WOW before, its very hard not to compare, just give us the linkable items in chat and a tooltip on the party healthbars showing class/level/location and all is forgiven.

Re:Decent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29755599)

I was a long time WOW player who enjoyed the solo questing. Unfortunately it after you get to the top level you more or less have to start raiding or do as I did and just start new toons to experience new areas previously missed. After getting 8 toons leveled to 80 I just got bored with the same quests over and over again. I just started playing DDO last week and so far I love the fact that I can do the instances with out grouping or if I need the assistance I can "hire" a NPC. Of course I'm only a level 4 so far so I guess I will have to see how it gets at the higher levels.

Good for them, they seem to have got it.. (1)

Seth Kriticos (1227934) | more than 4 years ago | (#29754927)

I played and occasionally still play one or the other MMO that relies on similar models: you can play free and have a great game and you can upgrade and get some more benefits anytime you want.

Much easier to get folks hooked with some quality game time than with a shiny box, and once they are, they quite happily play some premium.

Now this is not new, there are a lot of folks doing this, mostly small indy developers with smaller mmo's and browser games and they seem to be doing very well.

Subscribe - unsubscribe (1)

ldierk (1270930) | more than 4 years ago | (#29754945)

What I don't get: Suppose you have been a subscriber for 3 months. While you are subscribed you have access to all adventure packs etc. Now when you unsubscribe do you lose access to all the content even though you spent 45$ on the game? In contrast when you buy the adventure packs via micro-transactions, do you gain access for ever?

Re:Subscribe - unsubscribe (1)

Shados (741919) | more than 4 years ago | (#29755243)

While you subscribe you get a small allocation of points, so you can use that to buy things permanently. But yes, if you buy via micro transactions, you keep things forever. Subscribers do get some minor perks that cannot be bought, but overall, if you were planning on playing 1-2 year+, buying everything in micro transactions would gain you in the long run, while if you want to play for a short amount of time, you're better off subscribing. Also, since not all of the purchasable content is worth the money, it can be a good idea to sub 1 month to try it all, then buy what you like.

Plays on Linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29754947)

Too fucking bad you can't install it within linux! One would think a desperate corporation would have all bases covered, but no. Let them release an update that will let me install it and they'll have my addicted ass.

No offense Turbine, but make MAC versions (3, Insightful)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 4 years ago | (#29754989)

because I am not loading a windows partition just to play games.

One reason I like Blizzard is that they have kept us in the loop for a long time, even before it was simple

Re:No offense Turbine, but make MAC versions (2, Informative)

Targon (17348) | more than 4 years ago | (#29755163)

DDO uses DirectX for rendering, and it would take a LOT of effort/money to recode the graphics engine at this point, and since the number of Mac people who would pay money would be fairly low, the return on investment would be so low that it would be a money losing effort. Then again, you KNEW that the selection of games that support Mac was fairly low when you bought your computer, so if you want to play games, you should have known that you would need to set up Windows to play the vast majority of games.

You also have to look at how many people on a given platform may turn into paying customers early in the program development cycle. If you do not expect many Mac people to buy your game, and it will cost $1 million in development costs to support that platform, do you REALLY see it as a wise investment? DDO started as a regular MMO with a subscription, and Free to Play only came out YEARS after the initial release. With this in mind, would you REALLY expect that the Mac platform would have made Turbine a profit?

Re:No offense Turbine, but make MAC versions (1)

CountBrass (590228) | more than 4 years ago | (#29755413)

Or alternatively you employ a competent software architect who doesn't choose to use DirectX thus tying your programme to a single OS.

Blizzard manage to release both Windows and Mac versions of their games at the same time and presumably Diablo, Starcraft, Warcraft and WoW have all made their money back.

Mythic have recently released a beta of a Mac client for Warhammer Online (based on Cider).

More pertinently though, if you know nothing about software development perhaps you should forgo making comments as if you do. Although you do score a consolation point for knowing the computer is a Mac not a MAC.

Re:No offense Turbine, but make MAC versions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29756753)

DDO uses DirectX for rendering

In Windows, so does WoW. Accessing the OpenGL rendering path in Windows requires a command line switch.

It's really not nearly as difficult as some people try to make it out to switch between Direct3D and OpenGL. 99% of it is just a different name for the same function.

No offense Shivetya but... (0, Troll)

CountBrass (590228) | more than 4 years ago | (#29755423)

It's "Mac" or "Macintosh" not MAC (unless your seriously suggesting something along the lines of porting DDO to run on a network card...)

Re:No offense Turbine, but make MAC versions (1)

larryj (84367) | more than 4 years ago | (#29755801)

I've just started playing. So far, I've been using bootcamp. I posted a link to a Linux/OS X launcher in a previous reply. That (https://launchpad.net/pylotro) plus Crossover appears to be working for some. Instructions at http://forums.ddo.com/showthread.php?t=200985 [ddo.com] .

Re:No offense Turbine, but make MAC versions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29755949)

Maybe supporting the Mac is why it is taking so darn long for Starcraft 2.
 
The tease is endless...
 

Glad to hear this. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29755059)

I don't work at Turbine anymore, but I actually wrote the code for new player tutorial they're using now, and it's kinda cool seeing so many people use it. And I wish Turbine well, they treat their employees better than most gaming companies.

There are two ways to do it (0)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#29755081)

One is "good", one is "evil". At least in my opinion.

The "good" way is to trade money for play time. You can either invest time to hack, slash, grind and harvest whatever you need. You need resources, you need some equipment, you need access rights to some area, so you play and grind it, you spend time, then you may access it. Or you spend RL money and access it now. The way I see it it offers people the option to either spend time or money to get what they want. I have money but little time, so I'd probably opt to spend some cash to play the few hours I have every week to do what I want, I would buy the potions, items and whatever else to just access the "juicy" content. Others may have time but no money, so they will invest a few more hours to harvest what they need.

The "evil" way is to get you hooked with the "free" content, but to access the better, more interesting, end-game content, you have to cough up the dough. Where you can only succeed in certain areas when you have the stuff that's only available for hard cash.

I don't mind the first way, since it allows everyone an interesting experience, whether they pay or not. Paying customers get a fastpass, but that's about it. The latter method is a completely different matter, where it's often not told until you notice, after month of playing, that they keep you from experiencing the game whole when you are not willing to pay for it. It's like getting a trial account without being told that this is all you get (because usually you're sucked in by the promise of a free game). Yes, TANSTAAFL, but since free games exist, i.e. games of the first kind, it's not so clean cut.

One last thing: If you are against paying for fastpass, be aware that with most MMOs you get both: You pay, AND you grind.

Re:There are two ways to do it (1)

ldierk (1270930) | more than 4 years ago | (#29755187)

To me DDO seems to be closer to you second, "evil", example. You have to pay to get "Adventure Packs" which give you, as I get it, access to content you otherwise can't access.

Re:There are two ways to do it (1)

Shados (741919) | more than 4 years ago | (#29755225)

Correct. Except there is a way to get infinite DDO store points for free by grinding: its just boring as hell. But technically you can unlock 100% of the content for free.

Re:There are two ways to do it (3, Funny)

sapphire wyvern (1153271) | more than 4 years ago | (#29755251)

The real question is, what are the "neutral", "chaotic" and "lawful" ways of going about it?

After all, we're discussing D&D Online...

DDO Free to Play (1)

graveborn (1033312) | more than 4 years ago | (#29755409)

I just recently started playing DDO only because they offered a free to play option. sure I am limited in content (short two races, limited character slots, not all content available) but I just wanted something different to try out without making a purchase and commitment. I am enjoying the occassional session with DDO without spending a dime. I still pay for my subscriptions to WoW and CoH (which I haven't played in months!) but I feel no pressure to spend any money in DDO. if I ever decided I liked it enough to want to expand the content, then I don't have a problem paying the subscription fee for a while. I think they are doing a pretty good job so far. I just wished they had mentioned the lack of access to two races with the Free to play option. they seemed to actually use those two races as a lure, to want you to play, then when you get all set and downloaded and logged in, nope you can't play them! that was my only complaint so far about the game. It felt like bait and switch.

Silkroad Online (International version) (1)

skiman1979 (725635) | more than 4 years ago | (#29755411)

Silkroad Online is free-to-play and relies on microtransactions so players can pay real cash to buy items in their item mall if they choose. The international version of the game is overloaded with gold-farming bots and player-leveling bots. The 35+ servers are almost always filled to capacity, and it can take hours to log in. When you finally do log in, you can often find herds of gold-farming bots running around an area, often times in sync with each other, grinding on mobs. A lot of players even run multi-client software so they can have 10-30 gold bots online at the same time while their main character grinds via bot software to level up. It becomes a real problem for players who actually want to play the game.

Let's hope the DDO setup they have works better than this.

I just wish... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29755503)

...Turbine had done this to Asheron's Call 2 instead of killing it and screwing their players over. They released an expansion pack for it, Legions, and shortly after announced the end of that MMO. Talk about shady business practices.

Asheron's Call 2 was an excellent game, unlike DDO.

Puzzle Pirates (4, Informative)

ZorbaTHut (126196) | more than 4 years ago | (#29756253)

I'm surprised nobody's mentioned the Doubloon Oceans on Puzzle Pirates yet.

A while back Puzzle Pirates set up a bunch of new servers with no subscription fee. Instead, they had a second currency. Besides Pieces of Eight, the standard currency, there was a new one called Doubloons.

On normal oceans, you could play for free with some restrictions, or you could subscribe and have all the restrictions lifted. On Doubloon oceans, you buy off those restrictions with Doubloons - some on a monthly basis, some on a 30-day-played basis (my 2-year-old character is about three weeks through his first "30-day-played" badge. I don't play often.) You can buy off only the restrictions you care about, or you can buy off everything, or you can even buy "super-badges" that give you more capabilities than you'd have normally on a subscriber ocean.

The trick is that you can convert PoE into Doubloons. And not at a fixed game rate, either - it's player-driven.

So let's say I play Puzzle Pirates for the fun of it, and don't care about all the subscriber features. I go out pirating, I make money, I buy doubloons off the market, I can get my badges.

Or, alternatively, let's say my time is valuable to me and I don't feel like grinding. I go blow $20 on doubloons, then trade them for a huge number of Pieces of Eight. Now I'm rich, and I can go buy the pretty clothes and furniture that I want.

Everyone wins! Including the publisher! Because, remember, at no point in this system can you actually create PoE with doubloons or vice-versa. It's always a trade. If a group of players want to spend $10 in doubloons on a bunch of high-level features, someone, somewhere has paid that $10.

Eve Online does something similar. Now, Eve is a subscription-based service, but you can also convert timecards into items called PLEXes. Pilot License Extensions. Each PLEX is a 30-day subscription, and PLEXes can be traded, at will, on the open market. So, again, if you don't want to pay any money for the game, you don't have to - make the money ingame, buy a PLEX, use the plex, repeat. As long as you can buy one PLEX every month, you're set! (You may have to subscribe for a few months to gear up your PLEX-making.)

Alternatively, if you want a small fleet of battleships, go buy some timecodes, turn into PLEXes, and sell. Lots of money, lots of battleships!

Everyone wins!

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