Thursday, April 26, 2012

Used games, DLC

Used game sales need to be made illegal. Fair use is fair enough between friends, but I take issue with those who take 100% of the profit from the sale of someone else's intellectual property. These profits belong to the developer/publisher and not passing them along is akin to selling pirate games. The companies who stand up for their "right" to sell used games remind me of the people who scream about their "right" to download things illegally.

The way I see it there is an obvious solution to this-- to have the game stores purchase additional licenses from the publisher to include with their used games. I have heard of game stores buying "online pass" tokens to include in the box with their used games, but the cost needs to be higher for the game store. Don't even get me started at the abhorrent practice of offering a $5 discount off the new price for a used game which then demands another $10 for the full functionality once you get it home. This to me epitomises why game stores deserve to die.

I suppose the main reason this stuff is considered to be okay at all is that we as humans still have trouble seeing beyond physical products. Not that this is surprising, considering how heavily the entertainment industry markets this illusion of "ownership" over the contents of physical media. Selling consumers a feeling doesn't cost any extra but adds immense perceived value to the product, and allows them to go on charging $60 for a pressed plastic disc.

"You wouldn't steal a movie" is one of the catch phrases of the anti-piracy movement. What "a movie" constitutes is left deliberately hazy to encourage people to associate it with the physical media-- the thing we are trained to understand holds the value. If a DVD is worth $20 and a Blu-ray is worth $30, how much is an MKV file worth? How much is an ISO file worth? The entertainment industry has trained us us so well to value the physical medium that we have no concept of the value of the IP once it's divorced from the medium.

This is exactly why "on-disc DLC" is such a reviled concept-- we are being asked to purchase something we have been trained so well to believe we already "own".

There's also the way that video game players do not typically consider a game-related purchase as a value proposition, but just as "omg this is the new hotness MUST HAVE". So when the value proposition is poor, instead of taking the rational route of not purchasing the product, they just let the company take their money undeservingly and whinge that they "had to" do it.

I am the [apparently rare] type of person who is willing to pay more money for a better game. If I already know I enjoy the game, even when the DLC is less content per dollar, it remains a strong value proposition because I already know that I will get good value out of those dollars. For example, I'm afraid to think how many hundreds of dollars I have spent on WoW over the past six years-- subscriptions, expansions, character transfers, extra accounts, and cosmetic extras. But proportional to the amount of enjoyment I have gotten from that game over the same amount of time, I feel that I have gotten extremely good value out of all of it.

I get so very irritated listening to people talk about whether they agree or disagree with the validity of certain types of paid DLC content. They start splitting hairs with assertions like "if it was developed alongside the primary product they should not be allowed to charge extra for it" as if the intention of the developer somehow changes the value of the end product. The sense of entitlement turns my stomach.

So in response, I present Coreus' guide to buying game-related products [either physical or virtual]:
Step one  Compare the monetary cost of the product to the amount of enjoyment you are likely to get from it. We call this a "value proposition".
Step two  Based on the above, either buy the product or don't buy the product.
Step three  There is no step three. This is not fucking rocket science, people.

Monday, April 23, 2012

WoW has too many subscribers

WoW today is worth too much money to too many people to be just a game any more. It needs to be all things to all people. It needs to be exciting and accessible to new players, while not alienating existing players by making the game too simple. To provide challenging content to those who want it, without alienating players who think they should be able to complete everything by standing still and spamming Steady Shot. To value all players and playstyles equally, without alienating players who feel entitled to a game tailored to their specific tastes and who are deeply offended by the idea that any feature that they themselves have no interest would even be developed for the game.

The huge number of people attracted to this game have skewed the demographics too far towards the casual player-- the type of player who just wants to log on and win things and display their epeen. The type of player that considered the 4.0 Heroic dungeons too hard; that thinks gear level is the best factor on which to judge other players; that sees nothing wrong with being carried by an overlevelled friend; that will leave a party after one wipe, blaming the healer or the "fail group".

The type of player who spends $25 on a single mount.

If we could just swing those demographics back towards people who actually care about WoW as a game [or a role-playing experience] we might be able to convince Blizzard to focus more on making a game rather than a series of systems dedicated to convincing each and every player of how awesome they personally are.

There are plenty of fantastic ideas out there for streamlining group play that I am sure would work brilliantly, but will never be implemented because they all tend to involve some kind of personal responsibility mechanic which would alienate people who are too dumb to think for themselves.

The sad thing is that there are plenty of newer players out there who want to improve their skill at the game, if only the game offered them enough feedback to do so. But this will never happen for fear of allowing chronically terrible players to gain any factual realisation that they are in fact terrible at the game; that it's not just that they are being matched to one fail group after another-- groups that may not really be all that bad, but are just not overlevelled enough to carry someone that terrible. There's a reason the random dungeon tool prefers to match good players with bad players.

I understand the old jaded WoW player. WoW was in many ways a better game back in BC, but it's not because Blizzard changed it-- it's because the playerbase changed. Blizzard just responded to the shift in demographics.

It's ludicrous to expect Blizzard to make an awesome game while simultaneously pleasing everyone, but as often as they are unable to succeed at the latter, if you take off the rose tinted glasses for a moment it's not hard to recognise that the game is better than it ever has been.

Also, this is kind of barely related but I really don't understand why people thought the motorcycle mount was so impactful in its immersion-breaking-ness when helicopters have been part of the lore since Warcraft 3.