Video Games Should Be Play to Win, Not Pay to Win

Author: Nathan Doverspike

It seems like a long lost time, but believe it or not a time existed when video games allowed you to play them to improve, instead of paying your way to victory. Games seemed way more satisfying during that renaissance. No need to open your wallet time and time again when you were shot and tea-bagged by someone with a higher grade weapon or character you could only get by spending $20.00; or you could just forget about family, friends, and bills to play the game for dozens of hours en lieu of dropping that cash. Full price video games SHOULD be play to win, NOT pay to win.

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Before I get to beating the dead horse that is Star Wars Battlefront 2, I want to offer some praise to a game that I don’t personally play, but one of which I admire due to their business practices. That game is Overwatch, developed by Blizzard. This game, which released on May 24, 2016, has yet to charge one customer for a single map or in-game character, instead opting to go another direction for continual revenue. They offer in-game cosmetic rewards from random loot boxes. Wait, don’t I despise that form of monetization in modern, full price video games? Well, yes and no. In this case, because they offer no advantage to gameplay and are strictly cosmetic, I don’t see an issue with the implementation of the loot boxes (whether or not it is addicting and/or gambling is another topic entirely). It clearly paid off as well, since in Q1 of 2017 Blizzard reported Overwatch had exceeded $1 Billion in revenue. Not bad for a game that only requires you pay for it once and never forces your hand to reach into your thinning wallet for more and more dollar bills.

If Overwatch is the shining example of how to correctly offer additional content in this situation, there must be a bad example, right? Exactly, and for this I would like to present Star Wars Battlefront 2 (2017) as the stinky, half flushed turd that just won’t go away. This monstrosity of a game has managed to piss off so many of it’s own fans, that the publisher has reported to have sold less than half the volume of copies as they did Battlefront 1 (2015) in the UK alone. Don’t get me wrong, they still made money on the game, but that’s a significant drop, even for a big publisher like Electronic Farts…whoops I mean Electronic Con Artists…wait I meant to say Electronic Arts. Whew, didn’t think I was going to be able to make it through that sentence. I’ll just refer to them as EA from now on.

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If you would like to read about the scope of the drama, feel free to read this recap of the PR disaster. Here’s the short story: loot boxes are tied to individual character and overall player progression. Buy more loot boxes, and you have a better chance at getting better cards and upgrading your characters. You are literally paying to MAYBE upgrade a character you use and/or prefer. Yup, EA felt it was a good idea to force players to play for a ridiculous number of hours before unlocking either Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker, the two most known characters in Star Wars. Even after cutting the number of in-game currency required to unlock them by 75%, it’s still based on luck. Basically, you may advance your progression in the game, or you might just get useless cards for characters you’ll never use. That sure sounds like a trap to me!

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Eventually, after tons of outrage and contempt towards EA, they decided totemporarily remove the premium currency(it wouldn’t surprise me if they turn it back on immediately after the holiday season). That would solve the problem, except the grind to unlock all the characters and ships is still there; it’s just now “whales” or “dolphins” or “sea urchins”  or whatever they are calling them now can’t pay for it. That doesn’t address the issue that it takes far too long to unlock anything by simply playing casually (because some of us have jobs). Plus, the progression being tied to random loot still isn’t fixed, and might never be fixed if EA has the final word. While they did take a decent hit to their stock (it dropped 8.5 points overall in November, causing shareholders to lose $3 billion), they are such a massive conglomerate that they will have to have much worse months than that to make any permanent changes. Perhaps the increased pushed for legislation to become involved will persuade them to shy away from these greedy and downright predatory practices. While I don’t always think more rules and regulations are the correct solution, it might be the only band aid that patches this Wampa sized wound.

My hope is that more publishers and developers see the backlash towards EA and their practices, and in turn decide to take different avenues to monetize their games. These publishers and developers are entitled to revenue, as are we all. Let’s just hope that the next exploitative solution isn’t as revolting as the season pass or loot boxes tied to progression.

How do you feel about these practices? Do you prefer to drop some money on a game you like to possibly get better loot, or would you rather spend some more time to get that content instead? Let me know in the comments!

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Why I Love RPG’s and The Games That Stole My Heart

reckoning_screenshotAuthor: Nathan Doverspike

Before the Mass Effect Trilogy ultimately stole my RPG loving heart, I couldn’t get enough of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.  The characters were memorable, wielding colorful lightsabers able to cut down alien scum was a blast, and the stories that game told still inspire me to write to this day.  And that doesn’t even cover the AMAZING score the two Knights of the Old Republic games nail to really complete the authentic Star Wars experience they so satisfyingly knock out of the park.  If you haven’t yet noticed, this whole article is dedicated to my love and infatuation with Role Playing Games, more commonly referred to as some of the most amazing video games ever to grace this galaxy.

Fantastic writing is needed to really immerse the player in the world and convince them to become invested in the game.  Games such as Mass Effect 2, Knights of the Old Republic, and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning are prime examples of excellent writing.  Knights of the Old Republic introduces players to arguably the most badass character in the entire Star Wars Universe, Darth Revan.  Darth Revan can be evil, force choking his victims at will, but also has that pull to the light side that Star Wars Episode VII presents with Kylo Ren (who is now canon in the official Star Wars lore).  Knights of the Old Republic 2 is always amazing with the inclusion of Kreia, who isn’t who she appears to be throughout the whole game (only click the link if you don’t care about SPOILERS).  That twist is one of the best, right up there with Darth Revan’s reveal in the first game.

Those games are fantastic, but what is even more impressive is the galaxy and lore created for the Mass Effect Trilogy.  Commander Shepard is tasked with creating an elite group of aliens to defeat the impending doom the galaxy faces.  Every 50,000 years a galaxy destroying force descends upon them to wipe them out and restart the galaxy.  The player’s task: by any means necessary stop the galactic apocalypse.  Your choices, both good and evil, have real consequences.  Certain characters will leave your party permanently if you make decisions they strongly oppose.  Likewise, you can earn their trust, and they will battle even harder for you in the fight to end all fights.  One such fight, labeled the Impossible Mission, is one of the best experiences I have ever had and occurs at the end of Mass Effect 2.  Seriously people, please play at least Mass Effect 2 if you love RPG’s.  It has everything, amazing soundtrack, interesting characters, heart wrenching stories, exciting and fast pasted combat, and naked aliens!

The last example of why RGP’s are amazing is a slightly flawed but still awesome experience.  Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning was well received, but like most games with a huge budget and not as much marketing, it failed to cover the costs it required and thus will most likely never see a sequel.  Well, that and 38 Studios, the developer, unfortunately went bankrupt in 2012 after they were unable to pay back the state of Rhode Island the $1.125 million loan they owed.  Regardless, that game is massive offering hundreds of quests, dozens of unique weapons to find, and R.A. Salvatore as the lead writer for the game.  Tthat alone is enough to check it out in my opinion! (Did I mention there is a Chicken Overlord easter egg, because that is pretty rad.)

All the games listed above bring something unique to the table and remind me why I love games so much.  To me, RPG’s have that special extra bits of lore; that link (see what I did there) of personal attachment to your character since you get to make the decisions for them.  They are your gateway into these massive and wonderful worlds created by some of the most brilliant writers and artists in the video games business.  In all the examples above, the combat goes above and beyond to create a memorable experience for the player, especially Knights of the Old Republic’s ending.  RPG’s give you a world outside of your own to experience, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Let me know in the comments what are your favorite RPG’s and if you think there are some that I should definitely play!