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March 2010 Archives


March 23, 2010 11:07 AM


We Rule logo.

More often I'm hearing people describing Twitter as the place to get all of your news and to connect to everything and everyone. More than a few times I've heard people say RSS is dead and Twitter now owns the empty hole in your soul that can only be filled with up to the second news. They may be right, but there's one hole in my soul that Twitter couldn't fill and that a good old fashioned blog could.

I've been playing We Rule on the iPhone, which is a Farmville clone (cue the moans and groans). Anyway, there's a social component to the game and I posted up my Plus+ name (which We Rule uses to connect players) and got only one reply. I then posted my name on a We Rule story on tuaw.com and got 20 replies that night (and they continue to come in as I type). So, maybe it's not a shocker that a specific story and a comment posted on it would garner more results, but consider the fact that I posted my name on Twitter in a standardized format.

There's an in-game feature that spams Twitter saying you're looking for people to play with. It's done in the same format every time and only the name in the post is different. You can do a search for that right now and you'll see tons of people looking for each other. Now, I'm just one person, but it's worth pointing out that a blog comment in the right place can be far more productive than shouting into the Twitter abyss.

Oh yeah, add Circk on Plus+ when you get a chance. :D



March 9, 2010 11:01 AM


An in-game shot of a BMW at Montserrat.

Even though I work, have a family and play Warcraft, I bought the Limited Edition of Forza Motorsport 3 (and then didn't play it as much as I wanted to). I admit that I'm a sucker, but I love driving games and Forza 3 is the best game of its kind (Sony fan boys can go ahead and eat their hearts out now). Anyway, I paid $80 for the Limited Edition which came with a bunch of goodies (that I don't use) and the price keeps going up.

Here's the scary part, I could spend another $15 on additional downloadable content (DLC). One more cap pack, which would normally sell for $5 will push the total price to $100, and that makes me wonder how much DLC should a publisher try to sell. It's 2010 and the world's economic foundation is circling the drain, yet we have a video game that costs almost $100. Even in better times, I would question the sanity of someone trying to sell that.

DLC has an added effect of segmenting or partitioning the online community. If 10 people buy the game and only 5 buy the first DLC pack, then there are two segments of players, over time, with more DLC, you continually segment, and eventually fracture, the community. I think the fracturing of a community is just about the worst thing you can do to the long term life of your game (other than shipping it broken).

The goal of DLC should satisfy a few goals...

  • Make money
  • Keep the player base engaged with the game so they won't sell their copy to Gamestop
  • Keep the fans of your game happy so they will buy the next game

I assume, that thru price sensitivity and the fracturing of the community, that you hit diminishing returns on those goals very quickly. I have bought one DLC pack so far, and if I want to play the game online and be able to participate, then I pretty much have to commit to all of the DLC and throw down more money. That has an inertial effect where I have to keep up with the Jones's and keep on buying! Well, I'm not going to keep buying, because it's 2010 and I have a credit card I need to pay off. Sorry Turn 10, I love your game, but it costs too much for me to keep going.



March 1, 2010 11:12 AM


cod_xp_screenshot.png

Call of Duty 4 tried something "new" by including a player leveling system that was attached to a complex unlocking system. As you leveled up by killing people and doing a variety of other things, you got experience points and those points fed into your level. A new level meant you got access to new weapons and other gear (including perks).

Initial reactions to this idea were that people who play a lot, and thus hone their skills, would be rewarded with the best weapons and the scrubs of the world would be doomed to a world of hurt. Infinity Ward did a remarkable job balancing the unlock progression so that the super hardcore didn't earn themselves a god-like immunity to everyone else. The first weapon you got was a capable weapon and the best unlockables (such as the Red Dot sight) didn't require weeks of playing (perhaps only an hour or two).

CoD 4 Level 10 icon

However, given a system where there are levels, some people will figure out a way to game the system and "boost" their progression thru the levels as quickly as possible. The "prestige" mode, by which you give up all of your unlocked goodies after you hit max level, served to encourage this behavior. It's more prestigious (aka, my "epeen" is bigger than yours) to give up all the goodies and still pwn noobs. Ultimate epeen-ness (my apologies for using a non-word and adding suffix to it) in Call of Duty is achieved by hitting the max level in the game and 'going prestige' 10 times. At that point you're done and get a shiny icon that shows everyone in the lobby that your epeen is large and throbbing (and/or that you have no life).

That well designed incentive system, that begs you to keep playing, encourages people to "boost" and people inevitably answer that call.

Now, if you create a system with a reward at the end and then have people that want to circumvent that system, you are obligated to keeps things fair for everyone (even though it's all meaningless). In Call of Duty, and in any other game with this system, the method used to keep things "fair" is to not allow any leveling in private games. Those games would of course be the best method for someone to boost, because they could just invite their friends and grind thru the matrix of levels, unlocks and achievements. This wouldn't be fair to the player base, so XP gains in private games are always disallowed and are instead only allowed in public matches, which are predominately populated by assclowns.

The result is that people usually don't play private games, at least until everyone has unlocked everything and there's no more progress to be had. In Call of Duty 4, the progression system was so long that private games were rare. The same is currently happening in Modern Combat 2 since it has the same leveling structure. Battlefield Bad Company 2 appears that it will follow the same pattern.

The reason why this is bad is that the general public ("GP") on Xbox Live is the internet's version of Mos Eisley ("a wretched hive of scum and villany"). Many online gaming communities have been formed due to this exact issue. A 30something like myself doesn't want to play with 15 year old kids and listen to them pretend to be tough and whine about their homework. It gets much worse than that too. I'd rather play with men (and women, and not sexually harass them) closer to my own age and closer to my own tolerances for bullshit. The older people get the better they are able to divorce their sense of self worth to their in-game icons, the inverse is also true.

bfbc2_screen.jpg

Being forced to play in public matches will especially hurt when Battlefield Bad Company 2 comes out tomorrow. More than any other game I've played, teamwork in BFBC2 is an essential part of success and having fun. The reason why I play video games is to have fun. It's as simple as that, and playing a game with random GP assclowns is rarely fun, especially when the game itself is so focused on teamwork (which is a rare commodity when playing with random people). But, if I want to unlock all of the weapons and attachments, then I have to play public matches.

My question for the industry and community is, why do we care that people will "boost" themselves? I don't care that some kid spent his weekend with a friend getting himself an icon (that is only shown in the game lobby). What I do care about is having fun when I play a video game, and the GP usually ruins that, so I want to avoid them.

The status quo of only allowing leveling/unlocking in public games hurts the people who want to play private games. The irony is that private games don't get formed because of the boosting issue that that was created by having the leveling/unlocking system in the first place. Again, why do we care that some people will boost? Because he got the achievement for stabbing 10 people in one game? I DON'T CARE. I want to play with my friends and not be penalized for it. EA and Infinity Ward need to think about that (imho).


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