Game talkBuying one-shotting

 Posted by (Visited 4972 times)  Game talk
Sep 152007
 

So in the recent F13 interview, I made the statement that “Mark Jacobs is on crack,” as regards his position towards microtransactions. Naturally, this was said with a laugh and all in good humor. Whether the transcription catches that is always up for grabs. I knew that quote would get picked up, though!

It got noticed over at the Warhammer forums, and now there’s a discussion not of the quote, but more specifically of the actual impact of microtransactions.
Raph Koster Speaks: “Mark Jacobs is on Crack” – Warhammer Forums

“It’s not like they are really impinging on you. It’s not like they are ruining your game; they are ruining your game in your head.”

That’s true. Until they see you in-game and one-shot your character.

So, my core point was that microtransactions as a billing model is a separate issue from what gets sold, which is a separate issue from what impact it has on gameplay, which is a separate issue from whether what one person buys impacts you as a player. Equating all of this is what really bugged me about Mark’s position on the panel. Microtransactions and RMT are not the same thing.

Now, in the case of head to head games — or in fact, forms of parallel competitive games — obviously, you want the playing field, the “challenges,” to be as similar as possible. This is why we decry doping, corked bats, etc.

On the other hand, lots of games do have scope for varying equipment. All the racquet-based sports, golf, and so on. And someone with more money can indeed buy nicer equipment. Heck, even swimming has run into this with the issue of how sleek a suit is allowed to be, whether you can have a full-body suit, all that.

Now, my comments were really made in the context of PvE, not PvP. And I continue to maintain that in 99% of PvE cases, whether the other guy got an epic mount has nothing to do with devaluing your achievement. And as I mentioned, we could easily start tracking stuff like how you got that epic mount (or whatever) and display it, so that people who bought their way up would show that way. If we got really clever we could have special sorts of PvP arenas for earned gear versus purchased gear, and all other sorts of cool variants.

The real issue with purchased gear enabling someone to one-shot you isn’t microtransactions, it’s the game rules that say that this separable item is more defining of your abilities than your real world skill is. It’s an intrinsic design problem with the game system that reveals that it is poorly suited in some ways to a head-to-head competitive game structure.

In the real world, a sucky tennis player does not defeat a good one just because of having a nice racquet. A sucky swimmer does not outpace a badass one because of a swimsuit. And an amazing golfer does not lose to a duffer just because the duffer has fancy golf balls.

Once upon a time, I proposed somewhere the thought experiment that PvP matchups should always switch to a percentage-based hit point scheme automatically and transparently. I’m sure there are tons of design issues to sort out, but in short, the system would look at the various abilities and gear (which are really just abilities too) held by the two players, and arrive a a determination of what sort of relative damage the different players ought to do — set them on somewhat equal footing, in other words.

Anyway, bottom line. RMT purchases of stuff that makes one player godlike in head-to-head competition is bad for a bad head-to-head-game. But it has little impact on a good head-to-head game.

  12 Responses to “Buying one-shotting”

  1. source:Buying one shotting, Raphs Website Not exactly what I was looking for, but still a interesting read.

  2. Do players want to be on equal footing even in PvP? I think there are too many moving parts. The »culture« of the in-game community might become the way, that it is expected to purchase stuff, as it is at times expected to play so-and-so many hours to be »allowed« to be on equal footing. So it may open some can of worms. I agree on the bottom line. Good games are beyond all suspicion :)

  3. Yeah, this is a bit of fallacy where people assume purchased items have to be far and away better than “normal” items. The best design is to replace time requirements with money requirements. If you want to go camp 10 hours for your red glowy sword +50, that’s fine; why can’t I go spend a specific amount of money to get the blue glowy sword +50? It allows more people to play the game, and increases income for the game developer. As I’ve said before, I think the main problem is that the people with lots of time (and sometimes limited money) want to continue to be the top of heap and don’t want to let other people achieve things as easily.

    I think Mark’s just being reactionary. Of course, Mythic rose to fame when they were able to adjust faster to the subscription models, whereas other games still wanted the higher revenue streams from per-hour charges. Interesting that the company doesn’t want to adjust with the times.

    My thoughts.

  4. I really feel this is a case of tradition versus change. I don’t think it’s a question of people wanting to ensure everyone got their stuff the “right” way. Rather, as some others think, I feel it’s more that those who have don’t want others to have it. Allowing it means these people are not unique in persistent static worlds of sameness.

    People who master any sort of ruleset do not want to see that ruleset change, whether in games or in life. That’s why there’s been an ever-widening generation gap over the last century :)

  5. “it’s the game rules that say that this separable item is more defining of your abilities than your real world skill is”

    Ah, well… see… we’re all hardcore until proven otherwise in a world of 6 billion. But locally maybe some of us are hardcore madskillz at some things while others are at other things.

  6. Funny thing is that in no game I have ever played, does buying money or items truly give you an advantage over another players. In wow it really doesn’t so I don’t see the big deal.

  7. I think a big thing is that it has to do with RPGs. People might be incompetent roleplayers, but they like to pretend they’re roleplaying anyways.

    I mean, if it was Quake Deathmatch and MT was for allowing your server to unlock maps, map features, special weapons, special powerups… no one would care. (I say this having not played; just assuming it’s ye standard FPS. :P )

  8. I Might Be Wrong: Microtransactions, RMT and… DIPS?…

    Since the rather inflammatory ‘talk’ regarding RMT and microtransactions at the AGDC last week, a lot of opinions and opinion-like substances on the topic have been tossed ’round the blogosphere. Now, given that my employer has been a…

  9. [...] has another great post further defining his take on microtransactions, RMT, and the like.  There was an interesting [...]

  10. I agree that micro transactions aren’t necessarily the same thing as RMT (although one tends to lead to the other). RMT as an alternate progression scheme though is not to my mind a sound solution. If people can pay a trivial amount of real cash to bypass your cool quest-arc or encounter to go straight for the glowyness at the end then you can expect a large proportion of people to do just that. Not because your content sucks, not because buying the glowy is more fun than playing through the content but because people tend to go for the path of least resistance. If the steps to get it through gameplay are non-trivial then a lot of people will just reach for their wallet and fast forward to the next stage. So why did you bother to develop all that content precisely?

    The macro transaction model that most Western MMOs currently hold to works because the glowys that can be obtained through the purchase of an expansion generally aren’t available through other means. It’s an orthogonal model rather than a parallel one. People can pay for the content or not pay or it but there’s no blurry line between those who did and those who didn’t.

    The suggestion that players consider the process of buying items devalues ‘earned’ items is, I think, a convenient label that RMT proponents put on the objections as a way of trivialising them. I suggest that the difference isn’t just one of perception, it isn’t that I feel my epic mount becomes worth less because someone can hit the ‘buy it now’ button and get it without all the pain, it’s because you feel like an idiot doing something the hard way. It acts as a disincentive to play the game and experience the content. Why do it the hard way when for a dollar or two you could be at the next stage already? Why am I such a chump that I’m trying to persuade my group to rez and regroup for another run when I could open my wallet and get us past this.

    None of this is a problem if there is a clear delineation between paid for rewards and earnt ones. I have no problem dipping into my wallet to buy new clothes for my guy in Pangya because the only way I can get those clothes is to pay for them, the stuff I earn through playing is separate and distinct. Much the same as the stuff I get access to from buying the latest expansion for my Western MMO of choice.

  11. “it isn’t that I feel my epic mount becomes worth less because someone can hit the ‘buy it now’ button and get it without all the pain, it’s because you feel like an idiot doing something the hard way. It acts as a disincentive to play the game and experience the content. Why do it the hard way when for a dollar or two you could be at the next stage already?”

    Are you saying that content=pain? I’m inclined to agree that much of what gets passed off as content does = pain. Given the penchant for time-sinks it’s longlasting pain to boot…

    If RMT allows me to spend a couple of bucks to skip the time-sinks and pain and instead spend my time having fun with the content that doesn’t = pain, well, sounds like a great idea. If you prefer the pain, more power to you but it’s your choice. Whether or not that makes you a chump, I’ll leave you to decide, it’s not my call.

    “None of this is a problem if there is a clear delineation between paid for rewards and earnt ones.”

    Shrug. Sure, give the bought-with-time-and-pain sword a different color, fine by me.

  12. “Are you saying that content=pain? I’m inclined to agree that much of what gets passed off as content does = pain. Given the penchant for time-sinks it’s longlasting pain to boot…”

    No I’m not saying that. You seem to have missed the part where I said that people would go for the easy way regardless of how much fun the alternative is. Good content is not painful to go through and yet people will still try and bypass it if they can. Difficult or non-trivial does not have to equal no fun.

    “Shrug. Sure, give the bought-with-time-and-pain sword a different color, fine by me.”
    That’s not a clear delineation though. It’s just an alternate version of the same thing.

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