Category Archives: Game Industry

So long, cupcake! It was fun while it lasted

The recent announcement of NCsoft pulling the plug on Wildstar has sent the MMORPG sphere reeling ever since the news broke last Thursday. Veterans of the game have come out of hibernation to voice their disappointment and generally, the tune on social media has been one of regret if not surprise. As so many have stated, it’s particularly sad to see Wildstar go considering all of Carbine’s efforts to save the game over the past two years. From subscription to free to play to ingame tokens, shops and meta-currencies, Carbine kept optimizing their economics to ease new players into their MMO.

But those of us who followed the game and have played it for a reasonable amount of time, know that Wildstar never had the player base so many think it deserved and that was hardly a payment model issue. The numbers just never came until NCsoft dropped the title from quarterly reports in 2017 altogether. The recent player petition to save Wildstar from sunset has only reached 2500 signatures thus far. As much as I appreciate the sentiment, I don’t see what a petition could do in Wildstar’s case.

wildstar shutdown

„Wildstar did so many things right, but it lacked players“ is the general consensus and it’s one that does not satisfy. When Gordon Ramsay visits broke restauranteurs in his TV show, they all tell him that their restaurant’s issue is „not enough guests“. He rightfully pulls a face.

Recalling the launch days

Wildstar will go down as the smoothest MMORPG launch ever witnessed in my personal memory. From day one, the servers were stable, quests and grouping worked easily and the leveling process was solid. Players got a tutorial to teach them the basics and the bottomless well that is its famed player housing already unlocked at level 14. It launched with a standard monthly subscription model like WoW’s, it brought the polish, it brought a unique setting and game world, a roster of cool races like the Chua, two factions and decent character creation. There was group content, solo adventures, endgame raiding and the overarching storyline of Drusera and the Strain – really, there is nothing on the standard MMO buffet that Carbine didnt check off the list, while also surpassing rivals in the housing, cosmetics and soundtrack section.

Yet none of that helps to understand why this MMO didnt become a greater success. What I can do however is go back and scan every Wildstar post I wrote on this blog because like other early adopters, I stopped playing Wildstar after the server merges. So here are just a few excerpts I picked from different 2014 posts to give you a general idea:

“After seeing Carbine’s excessive 12-step attunement to raid entry in Wildstar which makes a 100 jailbreaks look decent, I am trying very hard to stay cool and understand what they were thinking and cui bono? […]it’s hard to stay positive when reading through the same old vitriolic forum discussions of “casual versus hardcore” that 12-step attunement infographic has sparked in Wildstar’s early community.” [source]

“There is no hiding in Wildstar’s raids – addons are seriously recommended, cooldowns must be juggled and adjusting your tragically limited actionbar for every encounter is a given. Execution demands a high level of focus because the fights are so mobile.[…]Considering how 40mans must feel in comparison, which are no less unforgivable, it becomes apparent why raiders have been crying out for Carbine to critically consider their endgame.[…]With subscription numbers dwindling and complaints both from the casual and hardcore (see the rest of the Q&A), Carbine cannot afford not to act. New content dumps may appease some non-raiding players but the fact remains that Wildstar endgame is tuned to a difficulty level that not enough people enjoy longterm.”

“Alas, for me the merges can’t come soon enough. Lightspire’s Dominion side has quickly turned into a graveyard, with probably 60% of its active members hosted by my guild and only one single other, competing guild in terms of raiding. The AH is dreadful, with entire subsections entirely empty or then, most likely offering an item or two by guildies (keeps the money in the family!). The costs for much coveted items such as runes amount to a subscription’s worth of platinum, just to get a basic gear set kitted out.” [source]

I gave Wildstar a very serious shot in 2014. I committed to a regular raid guild in order to do 5mans and try the raid content because there was no way in hell to get even that attunement done by yourself pugging. Pugging generally was never a real option – not because there weren’t enough players on day one, but because the dungeons were too frustrating to pug without voice comm levels of coordination and raid-like prep. If dungeons were hard even on “silver” mode, raids were….something else. There were maybe 3 raid guilds total on my server which doesnt make for happy competition. The long and tough attunement seriously affected recruitment efforts.

I consider myself a very experienced raider; I have cleared all of WoW’s classic content with my own guilds when it came out, all the way up to Sartharion 3D and Arthas 25. But when I took a group of my most seasoned WoW buddies to Wildstar’s standard 5man dungeons, lobotomy sounded appealing after hours of unforgiving twitchy telegraph combat. If this is how we felt, you bet others felt worse. And sadly, this never really changed.

How it ends

I don’t want to sound cynical when a game of such quality and promise gets shelved – I think Carbine are one of the greater studios out there and they did some unique things with Wildstar that I wish more people had experienced. Wildstar was often unjustly compared to WoW when it really did its own thing. However, no MMO shuts down because it “didn’t have enough players”.

I have probably spent between 300-400$ on Wildstar counting subs and later buying some ingame currency. But that is hardly the point. MMORPGs that don’t create enough traction within the first 3 months enter a dangerous vicious cycle: core players leave because of low population issues (raiding, economy, queues etc.) and new players won’t join when they hear about “dead servers”. If developers cannot or don’t act before the cycle starts, they are usually doomed.

In the end it’s many things that make MMOs successful, some less tangible than others. As players we are left to speculation and our personal experiences. Wildstar’s idea of group content difficulty remains its most baffling and confused feature to me to this day and it’s why I stopped playing it.

The game looked like fluffy bunnies, destined to appeal to a wide range of average raiders and casual “for the fun” players – yet catered to a hardcore crowd I’m not sure even exists in this segment of mainstream AAA-MMOs. Designing progression and core content for the few rather than the many may work for niche MMOs but otherwise, it is an unaffordable concept, well proven by WoW, FFXIV or GW2. It’s not the vocal minority that pays the bills.

Goodbye Wildstar! I thoroughly enjoyed your humor and whimsy, my wonderful house and Jeff’s soundtrack! To part, here’s my old Wildstar panoramas and of course, obligatory puppy pic!

Everything is Early Access and a broken MMO

Below is a picture of Monty, the greatest doge in the world. He has grown up so fast since we got him in December and he’s the reason I’m getting out a lot more and choose dog cuddles over video games more often than not nowadays –

So yeah, this is a rant with all the usual hyperbolic grumpy trimmings. I am annoyed at gaming and have been for some time. It’s not just that most open world MMORPGs have become convenient and boring and more of the same. Apparently Project Gorgon and Shroud of the Avatar will turn the clock back on some of these things and remind players that shortcuts are the devil (you heard it here, many times before). Or not, it doesn’t matter. Both games look dated and none of them look finished, so it’s another few steps down the ladder of ultimate desperation before I’ll pick up copies.

The situation on Steam is even more ridiculous. As a frequent follower of new Steam releases and discovery queues, I have been appalled at the level of unimaginative half-releases for months. The great, great majority of titles in my queues or on my follow and wish lists are early access. If I disable the EA tag in my search, I end up with even worse than when I keep it. And 40% of what’s actually releasing reads “Here is our open world voxel-based crafting simulation and survival game!” and every iteration thereof, sometimes it’s on Mars or on a desolate island. Hooray.

After months and months of previews Kingdom Come: Deliverance finally launched in February and I haven’t bothered picking it up. The game is plagued by the usual launch maladies and bugs that we’ve come to accept in 2010+ and there’s no way in hell I’m paying full 60$ price for a broken deal. Sea of Thieves has been hyped to no end pre-release for being that super exciting Pirate MMO but just like ARK, Conan Exiles and Destiny 2 (I want my money back!) before it, it turns out to be empty promises, shamefully missing content and broken co-op features. The next big thing? More like landslides on the erosion of trust.

Game releases used to be fun – they used to be full releases of finished games. Now everything is a premature MMO and players are juggling different categories of disappointment from “needed another 3 months” and “holy hell, how is this not still beta?” to “they’ll fix it next month…..or so” and “yeah, should’ve left it”. The PC market is clearly leading on this issue which is why consoles have re-established themselves so well, getting away with exclusive titles all the time. None of this is my idea of gaming in 2018. Also I’m getting sick of hearing about Fortnite and Twitch streamers.

Anyway – I’ll be back talking about the few, short games I’ve actually enjoyed playing lately. They weren’t MMOs!

Loot Box Regulations are coming

It’s been a long time coming but random loot box mechanics in video games are finally put under the chopping block of state regulation. Considering that lottery systems in online games have only really been popularized in the western market since Farmville, it’s taken the public eye seven years to become aware of this ongoing and ever increasing phenomenon. PC Gamer recently published an interesting rundown of the history of loot boxes, detailing how we got to the place we are in.

loot box regulations

I guess it’s that one time gamers can thank EA for the stupidity that was the Starwars Battlefront 2 controversy in 2017. Shortly after EA published their plans for the game, public outcry reached the upper levels of legislators in various countries such as Belgium which started to seriously investigate the gambling aspects of loot boxes in video games. And now official Hawaii state legislation has moved forward to issue several bills that will put severe limitations on publishers –

One pair of bills, House Bill 2686 and Senate Bill 3024, would prohibit the sale of any game featuring a system wherein players can purchase a randomized reward using real money to anyone younger than 21 years old.

The other two bills, House Bill 2727 and Senate Bill 3025, would require video game publishers to prominently label games containing such randomized purchase systems, as well as disclose the probability rates of receiving each loot box reward.

It can be expected that Hawaii is setting the milestone many more western countries are about to follow. It will be interesting to see how different publishers deal with the newly imposed regulations and what it will mean for titles like Blizzard’s Overwatch, which has been successfully using loopholes wherever possible to circumvent stricter gambling regulations in for example China.

As someone who detests Overwatch’s random and skewed loot box system and has always drawn her arguably generous line at in-game lottery items, I welcome this change. There’s no reason why casinos should undergo different scrutiny than random loot boxes, which possibly also employ shady algorithms to screw players over.

It will be very interesting to see how and if players, who tend to buy into loot boxes, get deterred once probability rates are disclosed. I am also suspecting a new generation of random loot mechanics will soon replace the current ilk – but for a time, we may find ourselves in more agreeable waters.

So have you heard about Ashes of Creation?

One of the greatest things about blogging for a longer period of time is followers coming up to you saying “you’re wrong about that” or “you forgot this”. This is genuinely beneficial and helpful in so many ways even if it ends in heated debates and disagreements sometime. At the best of times, we discover new viewpoints or just new THINGS we never heard of – and new games! So it happened with my last week’s post where I researched upcoming MMOs in 2017-2018 to get excited about. Shortly after, a friendly person on twitter poked me to ask:

Have you heard about Ashes of Creation?

I admit that I hadn’t up to now! I am aware of few titles from the more distant future, like Amazon’s New World, but I missed last December’s news on the big Ashes of Creation reveal and first look video on environments. So it appears there is another big scope classic MMORPG title in the works currently, by former SOE and Daybreak MMORPG developers no less – who knew? After some research, it does not appear that Dave G. is part of the crew however, in case you were wondering!

ashes of creation first look

An Ashes of Creation First Look

Ashes of Creation development started 2016 which means the title is still a long way off and additional crowdfunding via kickstarter is planned to go up at some point. At a first glance, the game aims to follow the classic fantasy MMO formula, doing a little bit of everything with a focus on dynamic world building. This was something promised in EQN and we’ve yet to see a bigger title actually deliver on this front, so color me interested. Another feature that jumps out immediately is Intrepid Studio’s approach to housing which, according to their FAQ, is going to be both open world as well as instanced –

Q: Can I own land?
A: Our land owning system has an integrated personal housing and farming system to allow players to claim land in the open world. This land is the same static size for all players. You may then acquire blueprints for structures to build on that land, such as a home, stables for animal husbandry, crafting stations and more. In addition to open world housing, you will also be able to own homes within a Node itself; these homes will grow as the Node does, from a small cottage to a sprawling mansion! Certain Nodes will also have instanced housing. (source)

While there’s no definite word on the 8 different races and classes as of now, the different info on the housing and node systems make me wonder if there will be full non-combat classes? Many open questions like these are likely to be answered in the coming months and it’s worth checking out MoP’s interview with lead designer Jeffrey Bard as well as MMOGame’s recent interview with founder Steven Sharif for further inside info. From the many provided answers, I definitely prefer the below one from Syp’s interview:

Q: How will this game differentiate itself from everything else that’s out there or that is in the making?

A: Our hook is deeply integrated gameplay. When players first log in, they’re going to see Creation, beaten and broken. Outside of some few outposts of huddled masses, civilization doesn’t exist. It will be up to the players to invest life into the world, and bring villages, towns and cities into being. At the same time, they will need to protect what they’ve built, from the creatures they’ve disturbed in returning civilization to the world, as well as from each other. (source)

ashes of creation first look

It’s the one million question: How is your MMORPG different from those that came before it? Considering how 99% of all MMOs start their player journeys the same way, the above statement is great news! Maybe Ashes of Creation will be the first title to really tell a story from the other end – from a world of destruction and desolation that’s waiting for players to rebuild and heal the land. Too often have we started our journeys in the sheltered lands of Elwynn Forest, Queensdale or The Shire, only to meet our inevitable Mount Doom as endgame progressed. How many times can we stomach traveling from soft greens and golden colors to black, brown and lava red?

To hear a developer say “we’re flipping the coin” is actually pretty exciting! It’s early days but yeah, consider Ashes of Creation added to my list of hopefuls. I guess they need to come up with a new shorthand though, AoC is already taken folks!

Which MMOs to look forward to in 2017 and beyond?

I mentioned in my recent New Year’s post that I no longer look forward to any upcoming MMORPGs in 2017 and beyond. In fact, I have a hard time remembering many titles and the ones I do know, aren’t exactly my cup of tea. Judging from the reactions within my twitter verse, I am far from alone in this sentiment.

Now others have pointed out of course that gaming has never been more diverse and better than today and that is completely true. I can return to established MMORPGs and still find a lot of content to play through and get busy with. But with way fewer new projects on the horizon, I will still miss the excitement of looking forward to something new, diving into unknown worlds with other people. That’s just something I have always loved, that newcomer feel and collective excitement.

This encouraged me to actually go and do some research on upcoming MMORPGs for 2017 – 2018. As expected, it’s a different world from few years ago but I still managed to identify a few titles that may pique my interest in time:

Chronicles of Elyria

elyria01

There’s been some buzz around this title for a while now and I admit some of the developer’s ideas, such as aging and living through several lifespans with your characters, sound interesting. As a kickstarted project it’s got a lot to prove but there’s no harm in following what already looks like a fairly promising indie project. Release date estimated at Dez 2017 earliest, so double that probably.

Pantheon, Rise of the Fallen

pantheon

I know next to nothing about the great Everquest legacy and its associated heroes but I’m reading “high fantasy open world” and “focus on social and group play” and yeah you got me, I’m desperate! Bhagpuss has recently brought this title to my attention again and I’ve always trusted his savvy on the classics such as EQ and Vanguard, so color me mildly interested in Pantheon (once I got over the graphics, anyway)! Alpha/beta testing to be commenced in 2017 – release date who knows!

BLESS

bless

BLESS is a Korean title set in a medieval fantasy world, composed for by legend Hans Zimmer which has caught my attention in the past. While the game inhabits the crowded space of “very pretty looking, grindy Asian MMOs with ingame shops” together with upcoming Revelation Online, its overall aesthetic is significantly more mature (no colorful wings either which is good news). Like Revelation Online, BLESS is another F2P title, so I may or may not find myself downloading the client at a very weak moment of MMO desperation. That is, if it’s actually available sometime – a somewhat curious topic of late!

….Aaaand that’s it! This is already the end of my list for 2017 – 2018 MMOs and this summary frankly hasn’t done much to lift my spirits. Granted, I am a fantasy MMORPG traditionalist, so PvP titles like Camelot Unchained or Crowfall are missing. These are no doubt interesting titles to a select audience but they ain’t mine. Are there any other upcoming games I should know of – and if so, where are they hiding??? :halp:

So Amazon is Making an MMORPG

You might have heard by now that Amazon Game Studios, yes from that Amazon, have finally revealed three major game projects currently in the works: a MOBA title, a sports brawler and god help us all, a sandbox MMORPG called “New World”!

Amazon is Making an MMORPG

Internet retail giant or not, I was more than a little stunned to hear Amazon chose to take on the plague that is MMOs for their debut in video game development. Haven’t they heard there’s no money in MMOs these days – or do they know something we don’t? The project sounds ambitious enough judging from the marketing blurb and early sneak-peeks, but I’m with Endgame Viable here that it’s all buzz words at this point, from the “open ended sandbox” to “emergent gameplay” promises. I’m also not remotely interested in in-built twitch features but that’s me.

Still, along with Sypster and Mersault, part of me is excited to hear there’s a new player on the MMO market and one with unlimited funds at that. New World present a new hope, something to look forward to with some curiosity, whatever your reservation. It’s also good to hear there’s veteran developers on board, given things weren’t always looking that rosy at Amazon’s game division.

In this current dried out landscape of AAA MMO titles to look forward to (thanks Blizzard and SOE!), New World sounds like a mythical beast right now. I’m not going to get my hopes up but it’s fair to say I am intrigued – and I will be following things much more closely from here!

The Long Shadow of World of Warcraft: Titan and the Legacy Server Question

In the wake of the much discussed Nostalrius server closure, Gamespot published an interview with Blizzard’s Overwatch team about the great failure that was Titan, as part of a history feature for Overwatch. Titan having been this great hush-hush project for so long, with only a single Kotaku article shedding some light on its demise at the time, I found both the timing and takeaway of this new interview quite fascinating. It is rare for a developer of Blizzard’s caliber to come out and talk about screwing up projects of such magnitude in candid fashion, with notable commentary by Jeff Kaplan and Chris Metzen. Yet if youtube comments are anything to go by, it was another smart move on their end in terms of marketing Overwatch and generating some more trust and curiosity within the player base.

The Long Shadow of World of Warcraft: Titan and Legacy Servers

What the Titan interview is too, is a rather ironical look at the long-lasting after-effects of the monster that was created in 2004 – World of Warcraft, proclaimed hero and villain of mainstream MMORPGdom depending on whom you ask. Over the years many a case has been made against WoW for hijacking the creative diversity of the genre, causing a plethora of unfortunate clones or ill-budgeted AAA-titles crashing in one treacherous MMO bubble. What isn’t discussed nearly as often however are the negative side-effects of WoW from within, for a company and creative enterprise. WoW may be the best thing that ever happened to Chris Metzen and Co. but it “happened” to them in the same bewildering, unforeseen and uncontrollable way it happened to the entire market; a child of chance and momentum as much as creative genius and industry know-how. An alchemy that defies simple re-creation.

That fortuitous chain of events led the team at Blizzard through the same process it would lead anyone that could not be prepared, from a time of unstoppable force and hubris to a place of shattered dreams and identity crisis when it came to Titan, crushed under the real MMO giant that remains World of Warcraft. The irony is strong in this one. WoW casts its long shadow to this day and left the staff soul-searching and scavenging Titan’s remains to come up with Overwatch, a completely different, much smaller game to complement their genre palette. Thus a team used to the dizzying successes of the past stood humbled, as Chris Metzen points out in the Gamespot feature.

The Long Shadow of World of Warcraft: Titan and Legacy Servers

Among MMO bloggers there goes the saying that “there is no WoW killer other than WoW” and indeed, nothing can seem to affect this title’s weight, not even the next Blizzard MMORPG. This must create a challenging emotional ambivalence even among those closest to WoW and most blessed by its many rewards. And I can’t help but think it also plays a role in Blizzard’s unaltered disregard for WoW legacy servers; something that surely makes sense business-wise and in terms of fan service. But if we then consider a crew of people who are simply tired of old WoW and eager to create new experiences, experiences not continuously outclassed by a 12 year-old zombie that just won’t stop rearing its insistent head, well then we can empathize more with that decision.

You run legacy servers when you’re actually happy to keep the past alive. At this point, I don’t get the feeling Blizzard are content to be defined by the successes of WoW’s heyday and this weighs heavier on their mind than a couple more subscriptions.

Straight Talk: Tired of Social Rants

Important notice: This is a rant about rants, wooo! Also: I have adjusted some of my opinions on this blog over time, as some of the links provided illustrate. That’s because I am old and fickle!

One of the great MMO blogger evergreens is the (anti-)social debate; with the genre becoming ever more accessible and mainstream since its earliest beginnings, players new and old keep musing on the pros and cons of MMO gaming allowing for increased flexibility and playstyle variety. Stuff like removing role restrictions or shared loot, are dividing topics. Depending on where you stand, your “more social” is someone else’s “anti-social” and it’s very difficult to reach any kind of consensus. I hold with what I’ve said in the past, that the two approaches to MMOs can’t reasonably co-exist. A lot of this stuff is mutually exclusive and even when it isn’t, solutions are usually too complex for practical application. LFG tools in many MMOs are ‘optional’ but we all know what happens once they are introduced: they impinge on everybody.

Roger recently deliberated whether he has become a more anti-social gamer over the years. This struck a chord with me because I find myself in the company of many 35-45ish players who have at some point gone through that stage of self-evaluation. As commented in Roger’s thread, I personally do not believe he’s become more anti-social; what I believe is that MMOs have stopped enforcing planned cooperation via game design. I have made this case before at length and I still don’t buy into the whole altruism spiel, nor will I ever. Being “social” is absolutely an intrinsic quality – you either are or aren’t social. The rest is facilitated gameplay.
Then today, Eri followed up with a similar post, professing her disdain for shared loot in GW2 and the “entire shift” to self-centric gameplay in MMOs. I’m rather sure that even in my most hardcore raidleading days, I was pretty darn self-centric in pursuing my dreams of raiding and loot and whatnot. I faintly remember removing players who weren’t up to the task. But anyway, these posts made me realize something: I am so done with the (anti-)social rants. It’s like we’re stuck and never get beyond them.

darklegacy01

Year 4 in “A Decade of Love and Hate” – the natural progression of the MMO player.

I carry as much MMO nostalgia with me as the next veteran player, heck sometimes I miss the good old, bad days. They were bad a lot more than good but I am not always rational. In truth, I understand why things are different today and like so many older gamers, I need them to be different. My investment choices like anyone’s, shape what MMOs may or may not become. Inevitable fact: MMOs that are trying to survive, have to be financially viable. MMOs that introduce gatekeepers, forced grouping, fixed setups and any variation of limiting factors, are very likely not going to make as much profit on today’s saturated market. And no, don’t look at WoW – look at Wildstar or ESO instead. I am sure all of us would prefer having both: the freedom/flexibility and the social bonding experiences but it doesn’t work that way. Not in the traditional sense we are so used to anyway, where game design pushed us into talking to strangers, grouping up with strangers, cooperating with strangers longterm until they were strange no longer. Maybe in this new era we need to explore different ways, make more conscious efforts?

There’s a significant percentage of 30+ players populating MMOs today, players with bigger pockets, and they need gaming to fit around their lives, not vice versa. That’s okay! I’m not saying I like quiet party chat or mass-zerging so much either but any solution to these issues will have to either address that reality or remain fictional. If you’re against the social shift in MMOs, great! The solution however, will need to be more original than returning to what we already had. Today is not going away.

P.S. Don’t miss the full strip on “A Decade of Love and Hate” over at Dark Legacy Comics!

Fig: A better Way to kickstart Games? [#Blaugust 26]

In case you haven’t heard yet, there’s now a new crowdfunding platform exclusively for games and it’s called Fig (yes really). As reported on Wired, Fig’s advisory board includes indie studio heads and kickstarter heavyweights such as Tim Schafer, Brian Fargo and Feargus Urquhart. Besides focusing on games only and a highly curated, much shorter list of available projects at any given time, there’s namely one other big difference between Fig and KS:

‘But the biggest difference is Fig will combine rewards-based crowdfunding with equity investing. Fans can support Outer Wilds to get rewards, but accredited investors can get a share of revenue once the game is released. Fig CEO Justin Bailey, who was the COO at Double Fine, says campaigns eventually will be opened to non-accredited investors, meaning anyone could become an investor in a game and reap the rewards.

“Look at what happened to Oculus,” he says, referring to the pioneering VR company that started as a Kickstarter project. “It was sold to Facebook for 2 billion dollars, and the people who were involved, the superfans who were getting behind Oculus to make that possible, they didn’t see any of that. It would seem like they should, since they had a pivotal role in that coming about.”’ [source]

As someone who only ever kickstarted something twice in her life, supporting friends on both occasions, I don’t know that I have an opinion on this new crowdfunding option for games. What happened with Occulus Rift was definitely a low if not foreseeable act, so from that point of view Fig is a response that should appeal to enthusiast funders with bigger pockets. I’ve come across negative voices in a few places too, sarcastic comments about gamers requiring their own platforms for everything far away from all other media and culture, isolating themselves like the weird bunch they are.

I wasn’t aware how the variety of products on kickstarter meant such an awful lot to some people but maybe I’m missing something. Anyway, do you think Fig is a good addition to videogame crowdfunding or should games remain on generalist sites like kickstarter, together with comic books, combat kitchen ware and towel shorts?

Today in P2W: Gamers are getting older and that’s okay!

Today I came across this passionately one-sided opinion piece over at Massively OP which makes a somewhat poor case against the ever-rising pay-to-win model for videogames (yeah, am still reading about MMOs and stuff!). I admit it was a disagreement between Isarii and Scree on twitter that made me aware of its existence, so like every curious MMO blogger I was drawn to the drama – and there is always drama when players discuss pay to win.

Now before I address the Massively article, I’ll say this: I am personally not a fan of P2W games. I don’t play any and they tend not to interest me in the slightest. I gave Candy Crush 15 minutes of my life once, out of obscene curiosity and recoiled in disgust after the first of many enforced time locks popped up. That being said, I am not afraid of P2W games either; while their market share may be growing, I don’t believe them to be an imminent threat to more traditional games or gamers since they do not cater to that target audience. We all know that gaming as a whole is getting bigger and the really significant growth of the last few years belongs to social or “casual” as well as mobile gaming. – Geeky and niche MMO gaming? Not so much. Still, we have little to complain about compared to our humble beginnings. So I guess what I’m saying is, I don’t fear P2W games any more than I fear that WoW has destroyed the MMO genre when really, WoW created its own market and if anything, helped other MMOs along (midterm copycat fails or not).

Of course one can take a moral approach and try analyze how (un-)ethical P2W models are. There may be merit in that discussion, although personally I am not prepared to have it (and my liberal stance on f2p is hardly news). Too often does it come down to players defending what they know versus what is new and still unfamiliar ground. Or worse, everyone starts sounding like a wanna-be psychologist and umm gaming addiction and save the children. There are some shades of grey, may-be, but essentially all videogame ventures and business models are looking to make the most money in the most effective way possible, triggers included. There have always been players at the shorter end of the stick of whatever business model. How exactly is this such a great “truth” we never heard of (in reference to the Massively article)? So while I understand some critics’ concerns and where they come from, I tend to agree with Scree on this one. The times they are a’changing and maybe we need to keep an open mind and try sound less like our at least proverbial grandparents.

olddaysbla

We’re getting older, oh noes!

My immediate reaction to the Massively piece was, passionate rant or not, that it’s incredibly condescending towards anyone within that “older gamer group with disposable income” who dares to play games differently and enjoy them differently. Jef Reheard even goes as far as saying that P2W players don’t actually play the games – no, they “pay their way through instead of playing it through”. This is also clearly not fun! That makes you wonder why the heck all these weirdos keep paying money for something that surely is objectively horrible but wait, there’s the answer to that as well: they are lab rats that act out of compulsion rather than umm, the righteous and sound enjoyment of the non-P2W advocate. Yep…that really is the gist of the article, I’m afraid. You got some jolly “no real gamersss”-disdain, mixed with the old “not fun”-trap and some pseudo-psychology spice to top it off and make this one unsavory cocktail to drink.

It’s no longer about the fun or the escapism of gaming; it’s about capturing a bite-sized piece of those bygone days when they had time to play, and of course it’s also about satisfying those psychological skinner box urges[…]

I snorted. And then I self-cringed too because I’ve had my share of “why achievements and instant gratification are destroying my MMO”-rants and malcontent on this here blog. I still hold to the journey is the reward (for_me). However in hindsight, and also really whilst writing, it’s apparent that dramatic rants were dramatic. I think us MMO explorer types can live alongside the achievers or killers just fine for the most part, heck some of us even like one another despite our different playstyles (<3)! And none of us have gone out of business.

But back to P2W: as a general rule, all panicky reasoning is bad reasoning. And sure, you might find P2W cheap or cheaty and that’s alright, but obviously there are many ways to find pleasure in games. I’ve played MMOs in the past just to dress up my characters and yes, buy exclusive clothes from an ingame store. Likewise, P2W-players do very much also play the games they invest in, duh – it’s not like they’re just paying money and then never spend any time on actual game play. They just play differently. Maybe they want to skip stuff they don’t consider fun (like grinding!), maybe their sessions are shorter. Either way, it seems reasonable there should be a market for such a customer. It also seems contradictory (and patronizing but let’s forget that) to say the model is dangerous for the weak of mind and spirit and then make a point out of how it’s a more mature and financially stable target audience that sinks money into P2W games like World of Tanks and ArchAge?

And gamers are OK with P2W in large part because they’re getting older and they’ve outgrown gaming. They have mortgages, multiple jobs, kids, and a dozen other excuses for circumventing game mechanics with real money.

Ah pardon moi! I did not realize gamers needed “legit excuses” for the way they play games at all. As far as I am concerned, an aging player base with more disposable incomes and diverse tastes in gaming is brilliant news for the videogame industry. We are entering uncharted waters still with the first generations of videogamers advancing through their middle age; this process is far from over. Games, genres, markets, business models: they are far from being fully explored or formed or finished. I’m not sorry for growing older or changing my spending ways – what a silly argument to even have.

myworldischanging

Many changes, handle it!

I’ll make it a simple summary: whatever rants declare (good old) gaming is dying or getting worse or going under for reason “XY” are wrought with fallacies. Cathartic at times maybe or endearing in their zeal, still wrong. Don’t trust them, don’t worry about it. The only truth is change. Games change. Audiences change. It all changes constantly. Sometimes you’ll like it better, sometimes you’ll like it worse. Most likely, it just means we’re getting more games and different games and more diverse, specialized markets and business models. We’ll see things come and go, over and over because such is the paradox of time (green is the new green!). And some games you really should avoid, ideally without preaching to others (too much).

Yesterday a still studying co-worker of mine showed me an interview he did with a 60-year old pharmacist who happens to train apprentices. The topic was “today’s youth” and communication, or something. It was basically an old fart talking about how young people cannot concentrate anymore, constantly use their mobile phones for wasteful activities and other weird things the old man (old because of his ways) clearly did not come close to grasp. He had zero understanding of this new generation he was supposed to teach, in fact he had no interest to learn about their world at all. It was a most tedious read for me, also because I have worked with young people and count myself among the digital age children. I fucking love the internet and over-sharing on twitter.

That’s why I am somewhat radically over the ever-fearful, judgmental whinging of fading generations, in all walks of life. I hope one day I’ll be a better old person (with a cool hat). There is a new world born every day and I am ready for the next adventure.

(…and I’ll still tag this post under ‘rants’ because :IRONY:)