Star Stable: 2 years in, Cue Frustration

Meeting the BaronessIt’s been two years since Becca and I started playing Star Stable. And their recent lack of quality updates (quantity is never an issue on a weekly update game like this) has totally undermined our faith in the company. Now, there is a talk about “exclusive” content.

The Kidscreen article also lays out some other “exclusive” content that Star stable intends to add through the game. Pause. Through Merchandising. Star Stable intends within the next few years to create toys, collectibles, fashion and home décor. And when you buy these collectibles, they would come with a code that would unlock quests and storylines in the game. For lifetime members and subscribers and indeed anyone who pays for the game, this is a slap in the face. It is insulting.

On top of it, this type of strategy has been tried before with other games. IT DOES NOT WORK. Disney Infinity, Skylanders, Neopets, the horse game with the trading cards (Bella Sara). This does NOT bring in more players. This is actually a losing proposition. Not a money making one. There will be parents who will go along with it. MOST will not. There will be players including myself that will QUIT the game and not give them another DIME if they do this. I do not want to have to put money into toys and clothes and so on that I can’t use or don’t need in order to get ONLINE content for a game I have a lifetime subscription to. This is almost BAIT and SWITCH. It is also adding yet more micro-transactions to a game FILLED with them. (Which already pisses me off.)

You can read the article for yourself here: http://kidscreen.com/2016/08/30/online-game-star-stable-gallops-into-licensing/

The new stables are a huge example of this supposedly more “exclusive” content and needless micro-transactions. The player can start off with their new stable having two new horse slots, if they actually want a bigger stable (as promised) they have to pay star coins to “Expand” their stable to get it, up to 18 horses. Do you understand this? They promise bigger and better stables, and then are forcing their players including lifetime to PAY for bigger stables. And the reason they are doing this is because instead of having Horse Island where you have a choice to spend Star Coins or Jorvik Shillings to send your horses, they are implementing a free pasture. They are betting that younger players will want to see their horses and will be willing to pay real money for bigger stables, than players will pay real money to send their horses to Horse Island. (Basically, they aren’t making enough money off of Horse Island. So, they’re willing to try this instead.) If this strategy is successful, expect to see more updates to the stables that are payable in Star Coins. Because I’ve seen players admit that they have 100 horses.

And these players who are unhappy with the game, they do voice their concerns. Instead of their concerns being addressed. They are usually given a run around (it takes time, be patient), links to old interviews of things that never were actually put into the game. AND they are dog piled by the players who are happy with the game. Told that they should be grateful that new content is being added at all. That other games don’t update every week like SSO.

Other games? Other games are like WoW and Guild Wars. Other games have expansions of 2500 quests EVERY TWO YEARS. Star Stable hasn’t even managed 2500 quests yet. Other games have crafting. Star Stable has never implemented crafting. Other games have customizable houses/rooms. Other games allow you to have more than one ‘toon’ per account. Other games even allow you to customize your ‘toon’ build. Other games let you replay the story. Other MMOs do not plan to force their players to buy merchandising to continue to play IN THE GAME. Do not talk to me about other games. I have played them. I KNOW them.

And don’t tell me how to feel either. No. I’m not grateful. I’m upset. I’m frustrated. I’m insulted. I’m bored. Part of me is furious. Telling me to be grateful invalidates my feelings of being upset. I have a right to be upset. I’m a paying customer. Be thankful I’m saying something. 30% of paying customers don’t. They just leave and don’t come back.

Here is what I mean about people not understanding what gratitude is about. There are lots of other games, lots of other MMOs on the internet. I can take my money and go to another one of them where they will most likely have proven track records of adding quality content on a regular basis. Take WoW with their 2000 quests a year. So if you do 10 quests a day plus whatever holiday events they have. You can fill a year. THEN, you can go back and replay the content for the next year to keep yourself reminded of what is going on when they had another 2000 to 2500 quests to the game. (That is, if you like WoW.) Mercedes Lackey put it best in the Owl Trilogy of Valdemaar. If someone gives you food you don’t like, and you are not hungry, then there is absolutely no need to be grateful. I’m not “hungry” for more clothes and horses. I can find a game with story content somewhere else if I so choose. I do not have to be grateful for more clothes and horses. Period.

The players that are unhappy aren’t upset that there is new content going up every week. They are upset that the new content, the effort they see going into the game, isn’t towards advancing the games story. They are upset that the longevity of the game is being compromised. They’re upset because they are bored and aren’t having fun. They are upset over perceived value versus actual value.

Look, new graphics are pretty. They aren’t fun. SSO is wallpapering their game by giving the areas “face lifts.” The content of those areas aren’t changing at all. They aren’t becoming bigger. There aren’t new houses to explore. The areas are just becoming “prettier.” (And in some places they’ve half assed this too. The winery was only half finished looking when it was done.) The only added value this gives is “perceived” value. It looks better and more expensive. By “perceived” value, they can justify an increase in the game price. The game looks nice! It’s worth more! Perceived value lasts about a month and then people want actual value. STORY. The customer experience. Quests.

So, when is this effort going to go back into story? The players aren’t there at the company meetings. They can’t know SSO’s strategy unless SSO says something. The only place they say things are in articles they aren’t advertising! These players will leave and most of them won’t come back. They will find other games with actual “complete” stories that are valuable. Unless SSO can go “Well, we’re done with pretty graphics and useless store updates for now, we’re going to focus on story and only on story for years five, six and seven.” Then maybe players will stick around. But they can’t just say this. They have to do it.

I find it interesting that among the player base, you can suggest horses or lunging and leading and bigger stables and such things that don’t add to the point of the game, and they are greeted with enthusiasm. However, if a player suggests that more story should be added or finished. Then they are complaining and ungrateful. Then when someone does say they want more of x or y, the same players go “well, suggest it! They won’t add things unless you suggest them.” Well, players are suggesting story. They have as much right to suggest story as anything else.

And these suggestions happen around the same time every year. Players get bored and vocal about it most often during the holidays. Somehow, instead of jumping ahead of it, Star Stable repeats the pattern of pushing out more horses or an expansion to the map, which last year contained roughly three days worth of quests and opened half a dozen new story lines. This just adds frustration to players who want old story lines resolved.

Well, over the past year the suggestions for more story have gotten louder and longer because they are now doing Q&A sessions where they reveal absolutely nothing, making players more frustrated. There is one player I know who has been asking the entire year when the Baroness’ Race Track will be finished. The Baroness Race Track being part of the original map that opened five years ago!

Now supposedly, they “can’t” reveal what is going to come out in the game due to whatever legal and liability reasons they have. Honestly, in this age of transparency and constant social media presence, it’s an outdated notion. Even yes or no answers in regards to story would be helpful, rather than “we don’t know, maybe, we’ll see.” They do this with everything from story lines, expansion suggestions (medieval times anyone) to whether or not there are going to be specific types of horses and horse challenges. Look, we know that you’ve got dressage and more show jumping and western types of riding that can be done. There are four games, Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer that show us this. Give us a break and just put it in the game already.

Looking ahead with what they’ve laid out in the Kidscreen article doesn’t give me any hope that this game will ever be finished before having to shut down due to lack of funds…

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