The World of Blood series of MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) are linked thematically by the world “blood.” The four games in this series of Facebook game applications are:
- Blood Lust (a vampire/horror themed game)
- Elven Blood (a standard fantasy RPG - the first I tried and my preferred game of the four)
- Skies of Blood (alternate reality where an Earth Federation tries to protect the planet from terrorists and other threats; you are part of a police squad)
- City of Blood (based on gang warfare where the gangs rule the cities)
The games aren’t gory, despite what their titles suggest. They remind me more of games like Gothador with better graphics. Each game features a character that you can use to adventure through a world by expending energy that slowly regenerates over time. You go on quests, kill creatures, and increase the strength and skills of your character through this activity. You move from area to area with some pretty images but no moving graphics. These games are prettier, cooler descendants of the text-based MUD games that have been around for decades.
Now, this being Facebook, these games attempt to leverage your social graph to get more players into their games. They offer you some incentives to recruit your friends. By sending out invitations to your Facebook friends you earn additional playing time. This is a typical strategy that these kinds of games use to recruit other players.
However, an interesting twist that the Blood games use is to hide most of the advanced sections of the games until you build up a group of players and non-player characters. Many sections of these games require a group of a minimum size. For example, the Garden of Eden in the Elven Blood game can’t be accessed unless you have a party of 9 characters. This means that you need to recruit 8 other people into your party or team so that you can play in this area. Virtually any MMORPG player will be tempted to recruit their other Facebook friends in order to increase their party size. Thus, the player pool grows: the game is tuned to the psychological profile of the typical MMORPG player, who tends to obsess over increasing the power of their character while exploring everywhere they can.
The other carrot that the Blood games use, similar to Gothador and other MMORPGs, is the use of bonuses. Each of the Blood games comes with ten bonus points when you start playing. You can use these points for:
- In-game currency, to spend on equipment
- Restoring your hit points
- Restoring your stamina points (these are the points that you use to have adventures in these games)
- Purchase a non-player character (NPC) to be a permanent part of your group
Once you use these points, they appear to be gone forever. However, you can buy more of these points using PayPal or a credit card. This is very useful to a player who has recruited all of their Facebook friends into these games but who has hit a brick wall in terms of group size. You can buy an NPC using eight of your free ten points. This leaves you with a bit of a dilemma, since you can’t buy anything for two points. Therefore, you’re going to be tempted to find ways to get more of these bonus points in order to feel like you’re not leaving money on the table, so to speak. And so, you’ll probably buy more bonus points to increase your group size. It’s a sneaky psychological tactic, but clever.
One other interesting tactic that the Blood games designers use is to offer additional bonus points if you sign up for all four of their games. Under the covers, these games appear to use a common gaming engine. By using four different themed eras, they are increasing the chance that you’ll like to play more than one of their games. Given the fact that your stamina points regenerate fairly slowly, you’re going to be tempted to flip from game to game in order to keep yourself entertained (I speak from personal experience). If you expend your playing time in all four games and you’re still not satisfied, you’re going to be tempted to spend some of your own money to keep the experience going. The first hit is free, as they say.
In summary, the Blood series of Facebook games are not original concepts: they borrow a lot from other online MMORPG games. However, by leveraging the Facebook social graph and adding ways to entice the player to spend some money, the game designers are making clever use of one of the most popular social networks. It’s a bit sneaky and exploitive, nor do I recommend these games to anyone who tends to get addicted to MMORPGs, but it is an interesting example of how companies can make money using the “free” model. I predict that more applications will follow this method over time.