GamesBeat: You’ve been working in online games your entire career, right?

Barr: Yes.

GamesBeat: Going back to Dark Age of Camelot?

Dark Age of Camelot

Above: Mike Barr’s first game was Dark Age of Camelot. Definitely no Wave Motion Guns here.

Image Credit:

Barr: That was the first, yes.


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GamesBeat: What is it about online games that draws you?

Barr: It’s fantastic to see the community. Peter [Holzapfel, Yager’s game director for Dreadnought] touched on that earlier. The growth, the way you put a game out there and it evolves. The players play it and love it or hate it. They find things they want you to adjust. You have a conversation with them. You figure it out. OK, I see where you’re going there, let’s move in that direction. It’s an evolving game. The game five years in — look at a game like World of Warcraft. It’s a totally different game after five years.

GamesBeat: How involved are you with talking to players?

Barr: Our community team is very involved. I try to talk to the community team regularly. I try to reach out to customer service regularly as well. I don’t do a lot of direct contact. Once the game releases, I do plan to get more involved.

GamesBeat: What have you noticed from players as far as what they want in online games and how that’s changed in the last five or six years?

Barr: With the free-to-play model, it’s different. In the past, they’d give you $15, and you gave them the entire service. With free-to-play, you have to provide a game that’s fun and enjoyable for people who just play for free, but you also have to add value for people that spend money. Sometimes, that’s a fine line. People want to feel like it’s fair. You have to dance along that a little bit. You have to provide value to both people who pay and people who play the game for free.

GamesBeat: When you were talking about your payment models earlier — one of the things that stood out to me was, somebody who says they’re an Elite member, or whatever you end up calling it, they can buff other players with benefits who aren’t. That’s nice, but what happens if that team ends up playing a bunch of free players?

Barr: If that team has five players and they all have Elite status and the bonuses are all going to them, but on the other side people are all free — those others won’t accelerate as quickly, but the people who are all Elite status will probably move on to veteran fleet or legendary fleet. Then, you’re not matched against them. You’re progressing at different levels. People who are purely free will play against more people who are purely free or new people who come into the funnel later. The other thing is that it’s all random. You can have some squads forming up like that, but it’s random, so in one match, there may not be anybody with Elite status, and in another match, there may be three.

GamesBeat: Is there anything in the matchmaking that might say, here’s an Elite player and another player, let’s pair them with free players, and everyone’s happy?

Barr: I don’t think matchmaking currently considers Elite status, but we’re tweaking matchmaking constantly. That’s something we could consider.

GamesBeat: Have you found that with free-to-play, people who pay are more demanding as far as what they want from the game, or is there not much of a difference?

Barr: The trick to the people who pay — again, it has to feel like it’s worth value. I’m a consumer of free-to-play games myself. Typically, I’m the guy who doesn’t drop down money right away. I’ll play a game a couple of weeks. When I’m invested in it and I see the value in what they’re trying to get me to spend money on, I’ll give them some money. I want to support the game, and I think it’ll give me value in the game. It’s that contract with the player. You don’t want to have a game where it’s painful to just to play it, and you’re paying to get away from the pain. We don’t want to do something like that.

Above: Here’s a battle on the Rings of Saturn map. Lots of lasers and missiles … but no Wave Motion Gun.

Image Credit: Grey Box

GamesBeat: What’s a good example of free-to-play game today that’s meeting that balance of free versus paid players?

Barr: The Tanks model does a pretty good job, the World of games. No, here’s a game I actually love. I play a lot of it personally, and they probably have an update today or tomorrow because [Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2] is coming out. Marvel Heroes Online, they do a really good job with daily rewards and loot that you collect in game. You get so much loot that you want to buy new containers, and they charge you for new containers, but you’re thinking, OK, I want to keep this loot that has value for me, so I’ll give them five bucks for a new container, something like that. They’ll do sales on their currency and things like that. So, OK, I’ll pick and choose. I’m having so much fun in the game, and I see so much value — you can unlock characters as you go by earning daily rewards or getting drops in the game, but you can also accelerate it. If I want a new character or a new costume or something like that, I’ll give them some money. I’ve probably spent $50 or $60 there, something like that.

GamesBeat: Talking about daily rewards, are you going to have any?

Barr: Yeah, we’re looking into daily reward types of systems. Consecutive logins or you have bonuses for your first time playing. Those kinds of things. We don’t have anything locked down yet, but we’re working on things like that.

GamesBeat: Hearthstone is one of the biggest free-to-play games around, and yet, they don’t offer daily rewards. How do you come down on the subject?

Barr: I think it’s totally worth it. I think it’s a great idea. Myself, as a consumer, as a player, I want daily rewards. I want to log in and know I’m going to get some kind of value showing. That carrot. There are so many different things to play, right? But it’s a touchstone. I know that I’m going to go back here and log in and get something out of it. And I can look around and see what’s new.

GamesBeat: What kind of daily reward do you prefer? Something that just gives you a reward for logging in or something like, “Do this goal today and you’ll get this?”

Barr: I think it should be a combination. You get something just for showing up and looking at what’s new, being a player in the pool, something that makes your time go faster, but also, you should have something like daily quests or contracts. I know that if I do this today — if I run through these five matches or kill these certain ships, I’ll get a reward on top of that. I think it’s good to have a combination of incentives.

GamesBeat: On the slide presentation, we saw the characters and the captains y’all took inspiration from, but there wasn’t a Star Blazers nod. Did you fight to get that in and lose?

Barr: [Laughs] It’s funny. I was in Berlin once, and I didn’t realize that they had made a live action version of Star Blazers. It was dubbed in German. I woke up in the middle of the night and turned on the TV, and I didn’t know if I was dreaming. It’s a touchpoint to me, but I don’t know if it’s a touch point to a younger generation. I would have loved to see something like that in there, but I understand why it wasn’t.

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