Tag Archives: Castle Age

And the case is?

ABC shows us an article, which I saw yesterday and even as it is fine, even as it is nothing new, it is brought to us like it is an exclusive look at what has been happening for a long time now. The article (at https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-05-03/video-games-you-play-are-using-sneaky-tactics-four-corners/100098826) gives us “Persuading players to pay for advantages or extra features is a key part of the gaming business model”, yes that has been happening long before Candy Crush was a thing. And then we get the part where stupid takes over. With “Kat McDonald lost track of how much she was spending when paying with an in-game currency” we are given the taste of how she is an innocent victim, she is not. We also get “I wasn’t sure how to work out an itemised account, because on your bank account, it just says Apple”, from my point of view this is not a victim, this is an extremely stupid person. Even as the writers are trying to hide it all behind “Game developers will sometimes use multiple currencies to make it difficult for players to keep track of how much they’re spending”, we are being told a story for some reason that has not been revealed yet.

Whats up?
So to give you the lowdown, most games use two currencies, the normal one that everyone has and the premium one that only some get and needs to be paid for. For example Bethesda’s Fallout shelter has credits for all users, but you can buy Nuka Cola to get the advantage. They do give out Nuka Cola to all players in missions, you can find them and there is a chance Cappie and Bottle leave some when they visit you. I have at present 350 Nuka cola bottles, I have never spent a cent on the game. The game Gems of War has a few options in that regard, however like Fallout Shelter, I have never had to spend any money to get ahead, I merely had to play a lot. These two are for the most exceptions to the lot. Some games use gold bars, some use diamonds and so on. The important part is that ‘THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A FREE GAME!’ The two exceptions I mentioned offer to sell you stuff and it is appealing, but it is up to you the player to either take the grind road or take the spend road, take some responsibility! So when I see “Kat became so immersed in the game she lost track of how much she spent on multiple small purchases” and “I sat down with a notepad and pen and wrote out every single transaction and added it up to $4,000”, at this point I wonder how stupid the journalist actually is. You see $4,000 amounts to 400 to 1000 purchases, and that is not merely ‘she lost track’, this is one of these (as I personally see it) stupid people who should not be allowed near a credit card, just like the person spending $12,000 on FIFA purchases. We need to accept that either you are responsible, or you need to be, never near a credit card ever again. This sounds harsh but that is how it is. Yes we see that gaming makers have a business model, some are revolving around your data and advertising, some are about selling items and some are all of the aforementioned. This is not new, this is no rocket science, this merely is.

So when we get to “Or you or me could just spend some money then and there and get all the advantages that come with having progressed”, which is true and in many cases that advantage can be gotten in the beginning by spending $3-$10, depending on the game. The important realisation is to do this only once, the initial grind is the longest one.

I had this once with a game called Castle Age, I spent in the early 10 hours about $5, it got me a character (and gear) that gave me a huge leg up in the beginning. I did not feel guilty, this was in the early days of Facebook and Castle Age was a cool game to play. I played the game for about 2-3 years about an hour a day, so it was $5 well spent. That against $4,000 is a larger setting. We all get the vibes to dole out money if we have it, but to spend about 40 times the funds for a PS5 game is just ridiculous. And the ‘getting hooked’ is only part of the setting, when someone spends that much money it is not (or at the very least debatable) addiction, it is stupidity and some excuse like “But I was still participating because it was still giving me that dopamine rush” it becomes my personal conviction that anyone relying on ‘dopamine rush’ should have stuck with comfort food (and chocolate is cheaper too).

There you have it
And that is when the article is showing its actuarial part, the McDonalds were as I see it merely used to bring the goods towards “In loot boxes … you don’t buy the game for the reward mechanism but the reward mechanism is there. You purchase access to this … and you get a random outcome, that might be very valuable or not at all valuable”, yes another go at the loot boxes, which in my point of view is not gambling. Some games hand out loot boxes on a daily basis, some give them out when ‘milestones’ are reached, or specific circumstances are met and some use them as well as those that can only be bought, but the ones you buy tend to have more valuable cards, items and options. And in all this, no one is responsible, it is the poor poor player and the evil maker of games. Please go cry me a river, when you spend $12,000 on loot boxes you are absolutely bonkers, more important, the main part of the game does not require these loot boxes. In some games (Ubisoft) they offer them, yet they also CLEARLY state that these items can be gained by normal play without spending cash, and such items are a mere few dollars. Then there is the view of game influencer Laura Gilbert, which I actually love (her point of view, not her, before you get the wrong idea)  “Gaming influencer Laura Gilbert refuses to buy any loot boxes”, I agree, to be more clear, if a game cannot be played without loot boxes, it should not be allowed to be released. And even in FIFA, the part that uses loot boxes is not the foundational part of the game, or it was never originally so, I do not know how it is now to be honest, because I loathe soccer, I am a hockey player (the real version on ice). 

Two more things
There is “Video gaming has grown into one of the most lucrative entertainment businesses in the world”, that is true, there is a hidden gem (for the game makers). In the first there is the need for short term satisfaction, we are all OURSELVES guilty of that, you, me we all are, I might be clever enough to avoid certain traps, but I see that they are there. The other side that there are games that have a pay to win foundation (candy crush like games, any game with a match three approach (Gems of War excepted), there is a pay to play setting, this is harder, we see the Idle games, where we can play the foundational games, but when there are competitions, the only way to reach the ranks is to pay for special items, special managers, more powerful miners, the list goes on, it is never a lot, but in the beginning be ready to pay $3-$7 to get the better people in the game. There is the option to watch ads to continue, yes you can avoid them, but it slows you down, so to get the leg up you will be watching 5-15 ads per hour, so how is that satisfying?  And they also offer options to get the really rare cards, but they tend to cost a few $$$. All this is out in the open, so the entire “They kept messaging me, telling me to come back and play” as well as “so immersed in the game she lost track of how much she spent on multiple small purchases” are as I personally see it, parts of the BS foundation, it is time to take responsibility, but the writers of the article are in part making statements, but to the larger extend it to bring loot boxes out to another round of finger pointing, all whilst the players need to take responsibility for their own actions. 

The article does however end with “Gamers are now starting to realise how they’ve been played”, I find little to oppose this, and the larger state was achieved by me in the beginning. There is no such game as a FREE GAME. There is ALWAYS a price to pay, in all the games I have seen two exceptions. Bethesda gave us Fallout shelter, even though it was initially done to give larger visibility to their Fallout line and they made a lot of money out of the other games, which had to be purchased. There is an optional truth that they hoped that the microtransactions would give them more money and it did, yet I have played it on 4 systems, and I never had a need to make any kind of purchase. The other part is Gems of war, there it was a new game with no link to anything else, and they offer options for purchase, but they never push for it and I never had to buy anything, there is no pay to win, or pay to play. Perhaps in higher stages, but on one system I made it to level 150 without spending a cent. They might be the two exceptions, and I am not new to gaming. I started testing and reviewing games in 1989, so I have been around for some time (I started with a VIC-20 in 1983). 

There is one part I stepped over (intentionally), it is the quote “Microtransactions started appearing in games in the mid-2000s, encouraging people to repeatedly make small purchases to keep them involved”, I do not oppose it, but I wonder which games had that first? I noticed it first with Candy Crush, they were not alone but the math gave me the speculated insight that it was designed to ‘almost make you succeed’, it was very clever and I deleted the game the same day. There is no way to beat an algorithm, that much was pretty clear to me. We can go on for a long time, but the larger setting is the irresponsible spending of people and that is left on the side of the road, it is equally irresponsible to do that. I believe that the ABC article fails to a much larger degree at that point, from my point of view it was about the push on loot boxes and to help out Senator Jordon Steele-John (Greens), but that is my take on the article.

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Realisation towards achievement

We all realise things over time, I am no exception to that. I am old school (well, old at least), I come from the stock where you buy a product, you get a product and to some degree that is it. I was there from the very beginning. I have nothing against SaaS, I get the concept, I get the notions and the considerations that come with it. Yet when I see how some programs need to find a way to fund its creators, I get it, and I do not oppose (OK, that came across wrong), but you get the idea. There is (for the most) no such thing as a free ride). 

When I look at the beginning of the iPad (I had the very first model), I got deeply into Blockheads. It was a free program and yes that was nice, but the programmer was really smart. He gave the players the option to get production upgraded to twice the speed for a mere $5.99. After a few hours I saw that I was going to like the program and spend the cash. I never regretted it and I still have the program, it served its lifetime stage, a dozen times over at least. It might be the best $5.99 I ever spent. Now, there are ways to get ‘free’ programs going. Micro-transactions was another option. Games had the option to earn the cards, or you could buy a booster pack (Magic) it is another way to get the return on investment. In the beginning games like Castle Age relied on it and it worked well, those who didn’t have the money, or would not spend the money could still play, without purchases you still made progress, but it would be slow and there would be grinding. I had this in Castle Age, I actually only made 1-2 purchases and the game became playable. A decent game for under $5, there can be no objection. 

So as the SaaS model progresses, I looked at both Day One ($2.08/month), and EverNote which is a lot more expensive. I am looking at it a an option next to Tablet Journal, which was free at the time and only charged for the additional backgrounds and icons. I had no issue buying them and now that I am looking at the new iPad, I wanted to upgrade the programs I used. 

Also, over time I noticed a few flaws in the Tablet Journal and I did program once, as such I was thinking to make my own version. Or at least make one that I liked completely (and it keeps me off the street which makes everyone happy). It also intersects with a few other issues I was having and the idea forming in my mind is a new sort of game, but I cannot start on that, my programming skills are just too rusty (the reward for becoming a data miner). 

In all this I needed to address replay-ability, challenge, growth and independence. You might think that this is a joke, but the last element is actually a lot more important than you think. During AC Brotherhood, Ubisoft almost had it right, but their focal point was in another direction. As such I now see that the mobile/non-mobile environment needs to be embraced, not separated on or merged. 

Gaming is a state of mind that must be protected and embraced, the mind is in different settings, the mind is the centre piece in the game and the makers seem to ignore it too often. Most game makers seem to see the brain, the person as the added appendage to the game, yet this is not the case, or at least I personally think that this is wrong, the brain is the entire piece n all this and the game is designed around it, as such the failures of Ubisoft become clear, when you make a game for everyone, you make a game that pleases no one.

We all have different needs in gaming, some prefer puzzles, some prefer stealth, some like it in RPG mode, some love closed levels, some need them to be open. I think that this is why Minecraft is such a hit, it is open and allows us to fill in the part we want to fill in. Yet, I have no intent of making some version of Minecraft, I believe in setting the stage to a group of people, so some will like it and a larger group will not, but it would be my intent to make it as appealing to those who want it as possible. 

So what will it bring? I do not know yet (the rusty programming skill makes it a question mark). Yet, the larger stage is not what w like, or what we might like, it is the stage of being apart, being different. Just as I hope that Cyberpunk 2077 has larger true hacking skills, we see the need for a game that is about making us seem more clever, not a game that links piece one and piece 2. I am not referring t a puzzle game like Myth, but the added setting that puzzles brought in rendez-vouz with Rama. So not getting two cogs to compete the puzzle in Tombraider (no negativity implied here), but a stage where we need to see the puzzle and consider the solution, not fitting 2 parts, but finding the proper 4 parts out of 50 offered. 

I get it, not everyone likes puzzles and some will not like the option offered, but I would make it for those who do like this side of gaming, the part where the mind figures it out. You see I always believed that games are a great educator and the proper game still needs to be paid for, but as the joy and educations progresses, we see a price that is eagerly paid by the player, all whilst those who lack funds (or prefer not to pay) can still play the game. 

When we realise that we are better or feel better with the program in our midst, at that point the $5.99 is not a hurdle, it is the threshold to the next stage in our lives and if games like Minecraft, Blockheads, Magic, Archero and Fallout Shelter can please its audience, any other creator can too.

 

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