How does spending $100 on an IAP feel? Disappointing & hollow says this author

There mornings when you wake up, groggily recall what you did the night before and realize you fucked up. Sometimes this comes in the form of a poorly chosen hook-up, other times you rush to the toilet because you imbibed far too much alcohol. Or you’re me and wake up with a $99.99 iTunes charge for an in-app purchase in Game of War.

Many games that offer such large IAPs are advertised as “free-to-play”. My own interpretation of F2P has always been free-to-pay, because gaming today has morphed into an industry in which consumers are always able to spend if they want to. And believe me, they’ll want to. There’s a reason Game of War developer Machine Zone Inc. is valued at $6 billion. They’ve figured out exactly how to prod gamers into purchasing items and top players never get where they are for free. Their “trade secrets” on the best way to milk gamers even sparked litigation when a developer from a competing company claimed to have seen an investment pitch.

wow-celestial-steedThe success of “F2P” games has also led paid games to even offer ways to buy currency, speed-ups, cosmetic items, or other trinkets. The first cash shop pets and mount in mega-popular MMORPG World of Warcraft (which was seeing better days five years ago) sparked a huge debate about the ethics of charging for a game, the expansions and a monthly subscription, but still gating some items behind more purchases even after spending all that money.

PC and console games… OK. I can understand the allure. Items in titles that you’re heavily invested in which feature rich, detailed worlds and engaging game mechanics aren’t too hard to forgive. Maybe not $20k like this Redditor claims to have spent in ArcheAge, but a reasonable amount, sure.

gow-worst-purchase-everBut when offered with $100 purchases in a mobile game (I’m not saying that disparagingly, but the hardware doesn’t allow for as much depth) you have to wonder who would ever spend that much?! I’ve already shamefully owned up to my purchase and it does not make me proud to admit the amount I spent. It should be noted that I was in a more susceptible state, because I was in bed on prescription sleeping medicine, but the psychological hooks that led to my downfall were already in place long ago. Tons of chests containing random parts for crafting, double the premium currency, 3 years of speed-ups(!) was just too enticing to resist. Yes, that last part is correct and yes, some research takes half a year or MORE without boosts.

I’m writing this as a public walk of shame, cautionary tale and hopefully a stark look at what the industry has become and where it is deriving profit. There is charging for great content, then there is charging to be able to skip artificial barriers so large that make forking over a  Benjamin seems somehow logical. Oh, and this was a thank you sale. Thanks customers: a special new $100 collection of goodies from your friends at Machine Zone.

There are people who are spending a lot more than me. There are people who will continue to spend in free-to-pay games. Luckily others are dissatisfied and some may just need a sharp reminder that there are better things to do with money. Hopefully this sharp rap on the knuckles for me might save you a few bucks down the line. It just isn’t worth it.

MMOnday: How do you MMO on the go?

As smartphones and tablets have improved, in terms of both processing and graphical power, so too has mobile gaming. Gameloft has recently released a sequel to their game Order & Chaos, which was largely seen as a clone of World of Warcraft, except for your pocket devices. Clones don’t usually look so impressive, but back in 2011 it was no minor feat to a huge 3D world at your fingertips without ever having to boot up a computer. At launch it did sport a WiFi requirement, as well as a small monthly subscription, but it was nonetheless a remarkable technical achievement.

Nowadays we take such games for granted and there are plenty of MMO titles on iOS and Android to choose from. Not all feature 3D characters or vast worlds, but many have addictive gameplay that is suitable for short instances such as commuting to work or school, taking a lunch break or even distracting yourself in the restroom.

Do you prefer 3D MMORPGs such as Order & Chaos? 2D sidescrollers like MapleStory? Or even strategy titles? What are you playing while away from your favorite PC games?

Throwback Thursday: Destiny

Platform: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Developer: Bungie | Publisher: Activision
Release Date: September 9, 2014

Destiny’s latest and greatest expansion The Taken King has arrived in its multitude of special and collector’s editions, putting the ‘Year Two’ plans of Bungie and Activision for the game into play. What better time to take a look back at the game Bungie were hoping to redefine a genre with upon launch, bringing us new ways to play, to experience a story like no other and much, much more.

This article discusses the base Destiny game only and none of its subsequently release expansions

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While Destiny failed at nailing the story-telling aspect of Bungie’s genre-redefining vision, it certainly nailed the gameplay. The speed, mobility and gunplay were (and are even more so with Year Two) excellent fine tuned, awarding players with a great sense of satisfaction when they manage to land the final blow to the head on their alien foes.

The three base classes meant that players always have the ability mix things up if they begin to feel their current persona is beginning to feel stale and while that was certainly possible, beginning to feel the sense of no progress certainly was not. Bungie excellently provided ways for player to continue their progression once they reach their level cap, offering new, hidden and Exotic armours and weapons to find.

In short: Destiny simply got better the more you played it. Guardians really only got a true taste of what the game had to offer once they had gotten the mediocre-at-best story mode out of the way and had greener PvE and PvP pastures on the horizon.

Of course, Destiny also completely nailed the sense of community. Few other games manage to feel like Destiny do when you play. Locales are alive with other players from all over the world. Other players taking part in random public events, or farming from the legendary Loot Cave. That sense of community only felt even stronger within Raids, in which only parties capable of the highest level of coordination would succeed.

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Destiny, while it had it shortcomings, was great. Bungie seems to have ironed out the kinks on the shirt that is ‘Year One’ and now offers an even better experience than when the base games launched just one year ago. Really, what makes Destiny so great to this day is the sheer amount of fun you can get out of the game and it’s as simple as that. Unless of course you dislike sci-fi, first person shooters.

MMOnday: What’s your favorite in-game holiday event?

MMOs have a long history of incorporating real holidays into game worlds in many creative ways. Next month we’ll see many titles roll out Halloween-themed events, undoubtedly sporting spooky aesthetics and ghoulish rewards. This year will be the first time gamers get to see WildStar’s Shade’s Eve event which was unavailable last year when the game was first launched. Now that it’s free-to-pay there’s no excuse not to check out the festivities!

Of course, Halloween is only one of the many special days that make it into these games. You may prefer Christmas or winter-themed events, such as Wintersday in Guild Wars 2, or even the eggs-cellent Easter events like Noblegarden in World of Warcraft.

Some might contend that games which incorporate real holidays into the lore are really stretching the immersion factor of the universe though and would prefer to have unique events based on entirely new holidays. What do you think?

Throwback Thursday: PlayStation

Platform: Sony| Release Date: 1994

I remember unboxing this strange grey box one Christmas morning, 1997. I was nine years old, and I had worn in my Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. All of the sudden, these strange discs were now being used instead of cartridges. Characters were blocky and shapes were 3-dimensional, and those damned CGI cutscenes were something to die for. This grey box we all know and love was, of course, the very first Sony PlayStation. It’s hard to believe that this was almost 20 years ago, and Sony is still in the release of these juggernaut systems every couple of years, and each release brings new and exciting technology for us all to share.

Why it was great

playstation_one_original[1]Honestly, why wasn’t it great? The PlayStation introduced full fledged disc based games, which brought in a whole slew of opportunities in game storage graphical prowess. I remember first getting “Croc: Legend of the Gobbos” and “Spawn: The Eternal” with our family Christmas present and being completely blown away by the superb details of the games. My brother bought Final Fantasy VII with his Christmas cash, and then that was it. My gaming years were set, and my preferred genre was chosen. I had since then became an RPG fanatic and, while I couldn’t get past that damned scorpion boss at the very beginning, I still enjoyed every second of that game.

Sony’s first PlayStation brought about endless possibilities with games, but it also had a lot of interesting Final_Fantasy_VII_Box_Art[1]things going for it as far as the hardware. The new Dualshock controller was a marvel bringing about slick controls and the bizarre, yet satisfying vibrating function (which I would often use to scare my cat). Having a memory card was also very new to me, and having a physical collection of saved data, so to speak, was something that I took personal pride in. “Look at all of these games I’ve played!”, I would think to myself. In actuality, most of said memory cards were full of Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and IX save files.

Final thoughts

Keep em comin, Sony. You release and I’ll be there throwing money at you. The PlayStation systems have always seemed to deliver on their quality of games and functionality of the systems. Even with the rocky starts of the PlayStation 3 and 4, they always seem to get ahead of the game (pun totally intended). It’s even become a household name that seems to sum up all of gaming in sentences like “Turn off that doggon PlayStation!”. With the gaming culture merging into today’s social media scene, it will be interesting on how the direction of future PlayStation systems will turn out.