So I’ve wired up my initial “Forum Buzz” calculation and discovered.. that while my plan for its calculation is probably a good mirror of what happens in the real world, I’m not convinced that it works in the context of a game.
Basically, here are the game rules as they currently stand: Only players who are addicted to your MMORPG will generate any kind of forum buzz, on the theory that nobody else will bother to post on your forum. The addicted player will add either positive or negative buzz, based upon their current satisfaction with the game. (So if you’ve just nerfed their class, they probably will be generating negative buzz). Buzz decays over time (currently at a rate of 25% per day.. I’ll probably increase this to 50% per day, but it needs more testing). I then base the rate of new subscribers on a weighted buzz value which is equal to: (2 * positive_buzz) + (1 * negative_buzz).
So as a rough rule of thumb, if you have two hundred people posting negative comments about your game, you’ll get half as many new members as if you have two hundred people posting postive comments about your game. This works off the assumption that any sort of exposure will bring you more customers than no exposure, regardless of whether the exposure is good or bad (although obviously good will be more effective than bad). This seems to make sense, and actually appears to be more or less what we see happening in real MMORPGs. The problem is that I’m not sure whether this works well in a game format.
See, what it effectively means is “big games get more buzz, and more buzz generates more players for the big games”. Big games get bigger, small games get smaller, almost regardless of whether the buzz is good or bad. It really can’t be argued that that’s what’s happening; certainly most of the new MMORPG players are going into the big MMORPGs like WoW. But I don’t think that’s going to be fun to play; it kind of makes having lots of subscribers become the only requirement for success at the game; if you have lots of subscribers, your new subscriber base will grow massively, pretty much regardless of whether or not your player base actually likes what you’re doing, because either way, they’ll be generating a lot of buzz on the forums which will bring a lot of new players into the game. This is, of course, assuming that you manage to keep your players addicted. But so far, that’s actually not turning out to be at all difficult to do. Maybe I need to improve the ‘addiction’ algorithms, to make that a little trickier to generate.
Need to think about this more.