DLC: Good or Bad?

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DLC is an important issue in the industry that gamers tend to be very split on. Some think that new features are always a good thing, even if it costs more money and some think that DLC is anti-consumer and unacceptable in any form. Like most issues, my opinion is somewhere in the middle. Some DLC is good, some DLC is bad. I think that intent, cost, timeline, and type of game are all relevant when deciding if a piece of Downloadable Content is bad or not.

I think that the biggest problem with DLC in games is when a game is released, has a $60 price tag, and then has paid DLC a week later. When a game has extra content for sale so soon after release, it means that the content was ready and always intended to be part of the game. The devs simply released an incomplete game at full price and then offered the rest of it for more money. The complete game is not $60, but $70, $80, $100, or more, depending on how much DLC there is. Marketing an incomplete game as a finished product while holding the rest hostage under an additional pay wall is anti-consumer and unacceptable. One of my absolute favorite series is terrible about this and I have been forced to stop purchasing their products: Total War.

I have been playing the Total War games since Medieval Total War in 2002. I have hundreds of hours in Rome, Shogun II, and Empire Total War and dozens in the others. These games are incredibly fun and appeal to my strategic and gameplay sensibilities on almost every level, but a month after each game is released there’s $20-$40 of DLC. Usually a game will launch with 5 or 6 playable factions in a map of 25+ AI factions. In a couple months after release, they will often add 5 or so more. These were obviously in the works at launch, but unfinished. They were always intended to be in the game and charging more money for them as if they were simply extra features is dishonest and unethical. If the game is unfinished, they should either delay the release or publish the rest of the content for free. Creative Assembly, though amazing at creating games, has business practices that I can no longer support.

In shooter games like Call of Duty, the devs will release new map packs as paid DLC. Fighting games like Injustice will also do this with new playable characters. I don’t see this as quite as awful as the Total War system, but it’s still not great either. While the extra content is not necessary to play or enjoy the full product, but it splits the player base. Since only some people will be able to play on all of the maps or as all of the characters, matchmaking becomes more complicated, separating players into those who can play with the extra content and those who can’t. This becomes worse and worse with every added piece of DLC. Companies try to solve this by offering a Season Pass, which guarantees access to future DLC for a one time price. This concept, while seemingly practical and will probably save you money, is not a good idea as a consumer. You are paying for content that doesn’t exist yet. There is no guarantee that future DLC will be of acceptable quality or that there even will be more DLC. It is the same issue as pre-orders, which I will get into in more detail another time.

I think that a game that does this well is Overwatch. The game is a one-time purchase, $40 for PC and $60 for Console, and you get access to all current and future content. Every new character, map, balance fix, event skin, etc is available to you. You never have to spend another cent. The way that Blizzard can do this and continually create new content for the game is through the optional loot box purchases. The loot box system is one that is controversial and some see it as anti-consumer. I covered this topic in my post about loot boxes. Essentially, as long as the contents of the loot box are only cosmetic, I am fine with the system existing and I much prefer it to being charged for each new character or map.

Another situation that is worth considering is free-to-play games. While I don’t like a system where parts of the game are locked behind a pay wall, but as long as the game isn’t pay-to-win, I suppose it is acceptable. I think that a good middle ground here is a game like League of Legends or Paladins, where most of the characters are unavailable initially. You have to either purchase them or unlock them eventually by playing the game. Each week, there is a rotation of characters that are playable for free, that week. The game is free, it is all unlockable by playing the game, and there is a way to experience all of the content if you play long enough.

Now on to examples of DLC that I think is specifically done well. First, I want to talk about From Software and the Soulsborne Series. Every game, other than Demons’ Souls, has had at least one piece of DLC. Every single one, in my opinion, has been an excellent addition to the game. They usually release the base game with plans to add DLC later, but the content in the DLC never feels like it should have been included in the base game. They all are clearly additions to the world and story and each one has added several hours of content. Bloodborne’s The Old Hunters expansion included my favorite boss fight in the series. For a paid DLC on a fully priced base game to be acceptable, I think that the added content needs to be high quality, solid quantity, and should feel transformative or at least additive to the base game.

Firaxis, the makers of Civilization and XCOM, is an interesting case. I find that each game they release is excellent on launch and feels complete. Their major expansions have all be amazing and worth every penny, but they sometimes have smaller DLC packs which, while not necessary for the game, don’t merit their own price tag. XCOM 2 had a collection of additional soldier customization options called Anarchy’s Children. This should have either been included in one of the later DLC’s or added for free. Civilization VI adds new playable civilizations to the already plentiful list every few months. I think that these are often over priced. They are always good, but should be priced reasonably. On the other hand, XCOM Enemy Within improved on Enemy Unknown exponentially. It completely transformed the game and added tons of new content. Civilization V Gods and Kings, Brave New World, etc were all massive overhauls of the game, adding new features and changing mechanics. XCOM 2 War of the Chosen could have been marketed as a separate game. It completely changed how the game is played and added hours of new content. Overall, Firaxis has a few lackluster but not terrible DLC’s and arguably some of the best DLC ever made.

The last example I want to mention is The Witcher 3. The Witcher 3 is often held up as an amazing example of DLC done right. I just want to add my voice to this. Hearts of Stone, as an expansion was excellent. The story, new characters, new monsters, new part of the map to explore, new crafting mechanics were all excellent. The missions for Von Everic were quite different and very fun. I also loved how well it fit into the post game of Witcher 3. You didn’t need to start an entirely new playthrough of this massive game to play the new content at a satisfying level. I was blown away by Hearts of Stone and it was probably my favorite DLC in any game…until Blood and Wine. Blood and Wine was bigger and more saturated than most other AAA games. If I had to pick my least favorite thing about the base game of Witcher 3, it was that many of the Witcher Contracts and side missions felt pretty similar to each other. This was not a problem at all in Blood and Wine. Every mission, was unique, hilarious, evocative and fun. Posing for a painting with a dead griffin, winning a grand tourney, helping a love struck knight woo a cursed woman, enduring the bureaucracy of Beauclaire banking, and my favorite quest in the whole game: entering a land of corrupted fairy tales. When people say that DLC is unacceptable, I can understand that, but then I point to Blood and Wine and realize that DLC can sometimes be amazing and absolutely worth it.

Morality and Choices

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The world is not black and white. It is a wide rainbow of different shades of gray. There’s no such thing as good and evil. Morality is subjective and can be different for everyone. The best fiction, in my opinion, explores this concept. With very few exceptions (Lord of the Rings, for example), I dislike any story that deals with a clear purely good heroes fighting purely evil villains. Those stories tend to be boring, unrealistic, and simplistic. Good stories take human nature and explore both the good and the bad. Morality is a subject that I wish was explored more in games. Most games that explore morality tend to just be telling a specific story, and does not offer choices. The Last of Us is a good example of this. When it comes to offering moral choices to the player, most games don’t touch it, and many that do tend to boil moral choices down into a clearly good choice and a clearly bad choice. The few times I have experienced truly interesting moral choices in gaming are some of my absolute favorite moments in games.

I don’t need every game to allow me to forge my own story through choices. If a developer has a specific story that they want to tell, then they should feel free to. I mentioned the Last of Us briefly before, but I think that it was a masterpiece of storytelling and offering choices could have easily ruined it. The player was not meant to play Joel as they would act in his place. The player was meant to experience this story through Joel’s eyes. His character is specific and unambiguous. Other games that do this are Bioshock, Uncharted, Wolfenstein, and many more. As long as the story is good, I am fine with not having true agency.

There are some games that are story based but fail to explore any kind of interesting morality. I think that these games have boring and unrealistic stories. Middle Earth Shadow of Mordor is an example of this. The gameplay is fun and the nemesis system was fantastic, but the story, itself was boring. I couldn’t care less about the main character. The outcome is predetermined because everyone knows the Lord of the Rings story, so there are no real stakes in that respect, and there is no exploration into the morality of the characters. Sauron and the orcs are clearly evil, and the humans are clearly good. The only character with any amount of moral ambiguity is Celebrimbor, and he was really just a good person manipulated by evil.

Most games that include moral choices take the simplest and easiest path, that of a binary morality system where you are given a good choice and a bad choice. It becomes more of a role playing decision where you decide if the player character is a good person or a bad person. Infamous does this. I love the first and second Infamous games but when you either choose to be Good Cole or Bad Cole, it doesn’t make you, the player, really think about what the moral choice is. You just decide that you want the evil powers or the good powers this playthrough and decide accordingly. Mass Effect and Knights of the Old Republic do this as well. You can never truly place yourself in the shoes of the player character because the immersion is broken by an unrealistic morality system. If you were truly in that situation, it wouldn’t even be a question. You wouldn’t ask yourself: “Hmm, should I steal all of the food from the starving people or nah?”.

Occasionally a game will come along that really makes you think about what is the right decision. These are amazing moments. One of my favorite examples of this was in the Witcher 3. You come across a small settlement that was almost entirely massacred. Geralt assumes, at first, that it was some monster that did this, but after examining the bodies, he discovers that they were killed with a sword. He followed the killer’s tracks to a wounded witcher. The wounded witcher reveals that he was contracted to kill monsters by the settlement but after he finished the contract they tried to get out of paying him by trying to stab him in the back. Wounded and furious, he killed most of the settlement. He knows that what he did was wrong and is prepared for you to execute him. But Geralt has experienced the discrimination and hate that most people have for witchers every day. He understands the pain and frustration of the constant mistrust and disdain that could lead to this mindset, and Geralt has not always done the right thing in the past. The player is given the option to duel the other witcher to the death or to let him live. I sat and looked at the screen thinking about the situation for at least 20 minutes. It really made me think and consider every factor. I loved it. The Witcher 3 had several really good moral choices like this.

Prey 2017 has several interesting choices as well. Spoiler warning for any game I mention, by the way. In the end you have to choose if you will sacrifice yourself and any remaining humans on the Talos 1 space station in the chance that you will stop the alien threat from spreading to Earth or if you will find an escape pod and try to return with help. The whole game, you have multiple characters insisting on the correct choice, including videos of yourself before your memory was wiped. Prey does an excellent job of making you mistrust every single person and thing on the space station, including yourself. You have no idea who to believe, so it’s a choice you must make for yourself. Life is Strange has some interesting choices as well. In the alternate timeline where Chloe’s dad is alive but she is paralyzed. After spending time with her, she asks you to help her end her life. The choice is agonizing, which makes it amazing. Some people criticized that moment because since Max immediately changes the timeline back, the choice ultimately doesn’t matter. I disagree. Perhaps it doesn’t affect gameplay, but it is a choice that Max will have to live with. I like to live through the characters I play and empathize with them, so Max’s impossible decision is my impossible decision. When a game truly makes me think deeply about my own personal morality, those are the moments that I remember.

Sometimes games create choices that have potential to create either gameplay or emotional impact, but ultimately fail to. Wolfenstein New Order and its expansion Old Blood have these choices. In both of these, you are forced to choose to save one of two people. Unfortunately, these choices come ten minutes after meeting the characters so you have no emotional investment, and the gameplay doesn’t change based on your decision, so the decision is also not functionally different. These feel like missed opportunities for powerful moments.

Ultimately I love when a game explores human nature and morality, but not when the morality is binary and simplistic. I also love having gameplay consequences to my choices.

Difficulty in Games

you-died-dsThe subject of difficulty in video games was discussed extensively a few months ago when Cuphead was released, but I think it is an interesting topic and worth speaking about. I have yet to play Cuphead, but I have played and loved the Dark Souls series, which is always brought up when discussing difficulty. My opinion on the subject, in its simplest form, is that difficult games are fine, easy games are fine, and games with multiple difficulty options are fine. Not every game has to appeal to every player. There are so many games, enough that every gamer can find plenty that appeal to their tastes.

When it comes to difficulty, I think that there is a fine line between frustrating and challenging. A challenging task is one that requires you to exercise your skills and strategy in a way that you normally don’t. When you overcome the task, you are filled with excitement and pride. A frustrating task is one where you aren’t forced to change your tactics, but you are simply required to be perfect or have more stamina. These tasks don’t make you exhilarated or proud(except maybe the satisfaction that others don’t have the skill to accomplish the same task), just a mounting sense of unfairness and bitterness.

Many shooter games err on the side of frustrating. On harder difficulties, enemies take more bullets to kill and you take fewer bullets to die so it becomes about staying alive long enough to shoot enough bullets into the enemies. The difficulty relies on taking longer and punishing mistakes. The Last of Us is an interesting case because not only does it make you die almost instantly, it starts to remove or change features. You have no UI(no health bar, no ammo indicator, it removes the ability to listen(see through walls) entirely, and it makes ammo and materials far less common. You really have to conserve ammo, choose which encounters are necessary to engage in rather than sneak past, and which upgrades or skills you want since there are not enough to upgrade everything. The way you play changes drastically. Nier Automata, while not a shooter game, does this poorly. On the hardest difficulty, you die in one hit, so you have to play perfectly. It often forces you to fight enemies by keeping distance and shooting enemies with your pod, which takes forever.

When it comes to Dark Souls, I think that its reputation does it a disservice. The series is challenging, but only until you learn it. Most players struggle through a game for 50 or more hours the first time, then complete a second playthrough in 10 hours. Dark Souls is fairly easy if you’re willing to learn its systems. Each boss will be difficult at first, until you learn their attack patterns and weaknesses. When you kill a boss, you feel proud because, even though you fail over and over again, you learn to progress further each time until you finally succeed. Dark Souls is challenging, but not frustrating (at least not usually…I’m looking at you Bed of Chaos…). Difficult games are good because they make beating them a true accomplishment.

The Dark Souls series also has several bosses that are known for being very easy. Examples of these are The Fool’s Idol from Demons’ Souls, Pinwheel from Dark Souls, The Covetous Demon from Dark Souls 2, Micolash from Bloodborne, and The Deacons of the Deep from Dark Souls 3. These are arguably the least popular bosses from each game because they offer no challenge. Personally, I love them because they usually have a new mechanic or story element that is interesting and unique. The Fool’s Idol has an NPC guardian who lies to you and makes the boss invincible until you kill him. Pinwheel has a heartbreaking backstory and amazing music. The Covetous Demon has an attack where he literally swallows you and spits you out naked after un-equipping all of your gear and armor. How goofy and amazing is that? Micolash is a huge troll. He immediately runs away from you while laughing like maniac until you can corner him. Yakety Sax would be perfect music for it. Deacons of the Deep is a giant crowd of pushover enemies where only one affects the health bar and they keep passing the boss health bar back and forth, like a game of keep away.

Another one of my favorite games is Journey. Journey takes a few hours to complete, there is no fail condition, and the puzzles are simple. The game is a masterpiece of environmental and emotional storytelling. The scenery, music and animations are beautiful and draw the emotion out of you. Journey is not hard, but it is unique and evocative. Life is Strange is another good example of a game that is easy but doesn’t suffer because of it. These illustrate why I think that not every game needs to be difficult. If a game, or part of a game, is interesting, entertaining, and evocative, then it doesn’t need to be challenging to be fun. Not every game is about overcoming challenge, nor do they need to be. Some games give you satisfaction from succeeding challenging tasks, some from an emotional release, and some from intellectual engagement.

The amazing thing about gaming is that the primary purpose is entertainment. If a game is fun or satisfying to play, then it is successful as a game. Not every person is going to like every game and that’s OK. There will be plenty geared towards them. Any time a game tries to appeal to every audience, it usually fails to succeed with any of them. Final Fantasy XV is an example of this.

To return to Cuphead and the controversy surrounding it, the situation all started with Dean Takahashi’s infamous poor gameplay of the demo. The subject of games journalism and the fiasco around Dean Takahashi requires its own post, but the fallout from that event spawned several articles talking about how games should not be hard, or that they should have a “Skip Boss” button. I disagree with this idea on many levels. Hard games are not bad, they just are not for everyone. It’s fine to dislike a game, but it’s not fine to claim it is a bad game simply because it wasn’t for you. As for the skip boss button. My immediate reaction is that it is a ridiculous overreaction. If you are frustrated with a game to a point where you want to skip content (especially in Cuphead, where the entire point of the game is to fight bosses) then you should just stop playing it. If a game is not fun, don’t play it. Simple as that.

Loadouts in Multiplayer Games

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Until around a year ago, I wasn’t much of an online multiplayer person. I played some here and there. Uncharted 2, Call of Duty Black Ops, classic Star Wars Battlefront and Battlefront 2. I did love local multiplayer. Modern Warfare 2, Battlefront, and Halo 3 I would play for hours on split screen with my friends. I also played some Warcraft 3 and Starcraft online as well. In the spring of 2016, a friend of mine sat me down and made me play Overwatch for a few hours. I almost instantly fell in love with it. The art style, the eccentric characters, the gun play all felt amazing. I was converted to multiplayer games and bought Overwatch for myself the next day. Since then, I have put some time into several games I never would have touched before: Lawbreakers and Ghost in the Shell betas, Paladins, Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, and Fortnite Battle Royale.

I found that I preferred the games where everyone enters the battlefield equal. I liked Uncharted 2 multiplayer more than Call of Duty partially because Call of Duty had loadouts and Uncharted did not. In CoD, each player selects which guns, attachments, explosives, etc their character would start the match with. In Uncharted 2, every player would start with an AK47 and a grenade, but better weapons would spawn in specific locations around each map. The beginning of the game was a rush to get to the weapon you wanted before anyone else. It was simple, but equal. The only things that distinguished one player from another were skill and map awareness. In CoD, I never knew what kind of loadout a player I would encounter would have. Maybe they had been grinding for hours and have unlocked amazing weapons and would have an advantage over me in gear. I would gladly sacrifice gear customization for balance.

I do want to quickly mention how much I appreciate Modern Warfare 2 and its merit based progression. Instead of earning credits to buy gun upgrades and such, you have to play with a gun and accomplish tasks to earn the right to upgrade it. I just would prefer it to be in a single player game(Wolfenstein does this well) rather than a competitive multiplayer game.

One of my absolute favorite things about Overwatch is that every Genji is the same. I know exactly how much health he has, how much damage I can risk from him, what his abilities and cool downs are. There is no advantage one Genji might have over another except skill. I feel similarly about Fortnite BR and PUBG. Every player starts off equal and only skill, map awareness and luck will lead to victory.

I quite liked Paladins, and will talk about it more at a later time, but I don’t like the loadout system, especially because you have to get the loadout items in loot boxes. I think the mid-match upgrades you can purchase are interesting, but it makes it difficult to know what I’m going up against when I see a Kinessa. She could have different health, damage, etc than a Kinessa in a different game.

I understand that this is a matter of personal opinion and it’s a pretty minor issue, but I like to analyze the games I play. I know that many people like loadouts because they are a clear representation of game progression, but the only progression in multiplayer games that I care about is personal skill.

Loot Boxes: Gambling or Nah?

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Similarly to the Battlefront 2 situation, the subject of the ethics of loot boxes has been discussed a lot lately. Are they gambling, should you be able to buy them with money, what contents should they contain, what kind of games should be allowed to have them, etc. My view on this is mixed.

Simple Answer? Yes, loot boxes are gambling. You are expending a resource for the chance to gain something of greater personal value. Some people argue that in cases where you can earn loot boxes without buying them invalidates the gambling argument. I disagree. I think that time is also a valuable resource. “Time is money” as the saying goes. If I spend time grinding a game to earn loot boxes or the credits to purchase loot boxes, I am taking time out of other activities to earn the chance to gain something I want. I am gambling time for in game items.

Recently the ESRB ruled that loot boxes are not gambling because you are guaranteed something, even if it’s not what you want, unlike a slot machine where you may come away with nothing. I also think this is a bad argument because if you take it to its logical conclusion, I could create a slot machine that guarantees at least a penny every time you insert a token and place them in locations where gambling is illegal. This is obviously ridiculous.

I also want to briefly mention some similarities between something like a slot machine and a loot box. Every loot box system I have seen is colorful, has exciting sound effects, shiny color coding, etc. You press the button, the box shakes for a moment then explodes into a pile of loot. Often, they don’t even show you what you have immediately until you click on each item to reveal it. When you pull a lever on a slot machine, it plays exciting sound effects as the moving parts spin and flash. They reveal one by one so the anticipation builds with each revelation. Each of these elements come together to trigger dopamine centers and can easily be addicting.

If you agree with me so far, what is the solution? Should randomized reward systems be outlawed in games? Personally, I don’t think that is necessarily the only solution. I think the real problem is that most people don’t see loot boxes as gambling and so don’t know what they’re getting into with them. At the least, any game that has a system like this should declare it on the cover inside the ESRB rating. For example: T for Teen, Violence, Language, Gambling. Then people should be aware of what they are getting. Especially parents who might not want their kids to be engaging in a gambling system.

Some argue that because people can get addicted and self destructive, the system should not be allowed in any game. I can understand this, but I also believe in personal responsibility. As long as an individual knows what they are getting, they should be trusted to make their own decisions. Developers shouldn’t have to treat every member of their audience like a child that needs protecting.

The next question is whether players should be able purchase loot boxes with money or just through in-game actions. This also ties into the question of the loot box contents. In my opinion, purchasable loot boxes can only contain cosmetic items without becoming pay-to-win. If loot boxes can only be earned through in game actions, then it is tolerable that they contain gameplay-altering items, though I, personally, believe that gameplay advantages should only be awarded based on merit and nothing else. I have said before that gaming should be the ultimate meritocracy where every player enters equal and only skill can give you victory.

I think that an important thing to consider when looking at microtransactions in games is why a game might include them. I will use three games to illustrate my view of this: Overwatch, Battlefront 2, and Fortnite Battle Royale.

Fortnite BR is free to play, doesn’t contain advertisements, and all new content that has been added has been free. In late October, Epic Games added a microtransaction system where you purchase V-bucks and use V-bucks to purchase cosmetics. At the moment, this is the only way the game can make money. While it is true that this system is not a loot box system, but instead paying money for currency to buy items directly. It should also be noted that you can earn V-bucks by grinding in the paid PvE mode Save the World, but most players only have the free Battle Royale mode.  I think this system is fine because the microtransactions can only lead to cosmetic items and I believe that developers should be able to profit from games they make.

Battlefront 2 is more complicated at the moment since the future of their microtransaction system is uncertain. Currently it is not enabled, so players can only get loot boxes through in game actions. This was not originally true. Previously players could purchase crystals which can be spent for loot boxes. Furthermore, loot boxes in Battlefront 2 contain not just cosmetics, but also gameplay-affecting items. The system, as it was before, was not tolerable. Since players could purchase loot boxes with money which contain gameplay progression items, it was a pay-to-win system on top of a fully priced AAA game.

Overwatch is one of my favorite games, so I will try to be as objective as possible. Overwatch is $60 on Console and $40 on PC. The game includes a loot box system that you can either earn in game or by buying them with money. The boxes only contain cosmetic items but some consider having a microtransaction system in a pay-to-play AAA game is unnecessary and greedy. I can understand that, but since the Overwatch devs are consistently adding content every few months which is free for everyone. I would prefer cosmetic loot boxes that people spend money on to paying for new maps and heroes. Ultimately, I am fine with this system as long as Blizzard continues to support the game.

My thoughts boil down to pay-to-win is never acceptable, but cosmetic purchases are tolerable in games that are either free or are continually supported without paid dlc.

The Battlefront Situation

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Everyone has been talking about the Battlefront 2 drama and I thought I would share my two cents on the issue. For the sake of transparency, I haven’t played the game, so I won’t be speaking about the details of the gameplay, just the business practices and ethics.

When I was growing up, I was a huge Star Wars fan. I love the movies, yes even the prequels, and Star Wars Battlefront and its sequel were my some of my favorite games. I would play for hours at my friend’s house. I was following the possibility for Battlefront 3 for years and was extremely disappointed when the project was canceled.

Years later when EA bought the rights to Star Wars Battlefront and announced the 2015 reboot, I was excited. When it came out, I felt a little let down. It felt lackluster and unfinished. I was disappointed that they removed the prequel content entirely, had almost no single player and the game generally just felt more like a re-skinned Call of Duty game than a Star Wars game. I only ended up playing a few hours before returning to games I enjoyed more.

Initially the marketing for Battlefront 2 had me hopeful. Space battles, original canon single player campaign, prequel content. It was everything I had wanted in the first game. I was planning on buying the game until I saw some beta reviews/gameplay. The game itself, looked like a lot of fun, but I also saw loot boxes, microtransactions, and a very concerning pay-to-win model.

Lootboxes are tolerable if they either contain only cosmetics or they can only be gained through in-game actions. If you can use money to purchase any kind of bonus that affects gameplay, or even the chance of a bonus, the game becomes pay-to-win. I see people trying to defend the game’s loot crate system by saying that you earn crates in game frequently and that the loot crates you can purchase only have minor star cards, so the difference is negligible and therefor not pay-to-win. I disagree. My logic is this: if two players of equal skill and the same loadout meet on the battlefield, one player purchased a loot crate with a 2% damage reduction star card and the other hasn’t. The player with the star card will win. This makes it pay-to-win.

Video games should be the ultimate meritocracy. The only thing to give you an advantage over others is your skill. Being able to buy advantages with real world money, gives those with more disposable income an edge they didn’t earn. More than this, however; I have seen the progression system in the game. You have different classes, each class has a level and star card slots. You don’t have access to all of the slots for each class. These are unlocked as you level up that class. You level up each class with contents of loot crates. So even though the contents of loot boxes don’t contain star cards that give you an instant, significant advantage, they do allow you to level up your classes quicker and equip more star cards than someone who would not buy crates. I also want to quickly mention that anyone who preordered the Deluxe Edition of the game received some amount of rare star cards, which is another case of some players paying extra money for advantages.

The other major issue that has been circulating is the amount of grinding involved in unlocking heroes, and other content. Originally, it took something in the neighborhood of 40 hours of grinding to unlock one of the top tier heroes, Darth Vader, for example. EA/Dice has since decreased the cost of these heroes by 75% to something more reasonable. This is good, but apparently they also decreased the currency you receive from campaign rewards by the same amount. So you also earn these credits slower, even though the hero is cheaper. Regardless, since you could purchase the currency with real world money, some players will have Darth Vader on day 1 and some will not. To be fair, I don’t know if Darth Vader is significantly more powerful than the other heroes, but I don’t think it matters. It is gameplay content that some people have an unequal advantage to attaining. As an aside, and this is a subject worthy of being talked about on its own, I don’t think that necessary or even encouraged grinding is ever a good thing to have in a game. If players cannot experience the full content without grinding, then there is a problem.

The last thing I want to mention here is the recent (yesterday as of this post) announcement by the devs that they are turning off all in-purchases. This sounded excellent. Had we finally been heard? Did big bad EA finally cave in to the demands of their audience? Well no. Hidden in the middle of the post was a line that said that the ability to purchase currency will be re-enabled at a later date. So basically, they are turning off microtransactions temporarily. The cynic in me sees this as a ploy to get those who were angry and canceled their preorders and decided not to buy the game, to change their minds and enjoy the positive press of doing the right thing, then as soon as the refund period is over, and they have all the money from preorders and such, they will re-enable microtransactions and nothing will have changed.

Is it possible that things will change for the better? Absolutely. But until it is confirmed that players can no longer purchase in-game advantages, I will not buy this game. I refuse to support companies that utilize anti-consumer and anti-gamer business practices, even if their games are ultimately very enjoyable. We need to stop this trend here, before it takes hold and becomes a normal practice.

What am I doing here?

I want to make games. That’s the dream. I’m still learning those skills, but I am constantly thinking about games, mechanics, business practices in the industry, what part the consumer and the developers play, etc. I’m always talking the ears off of my family and friends, so I thought that I’d write some of them down here.

A little history about me. I have been playing games since I was a child. They are the perfect intersection of active entertainment, storytelling, and art. I didn’t own a console until I was 16, but I had been playing on an old PC for years before that. At the time I especially loved real time strategy games. Age of Empires, Age of Mythology, Warcraft 3, and Starcraft were, by far, my most played games, with Civilization III not too far behind. Any time I would go to a friend’s house, I would love to play split screen games like Star Wars Battlefront, Modern Warfare 2, and Halo 3.

I now own both a PS4 and a gaming PC. I use both more or less equally. My genre preferences are fairly wide. I enjoy shooters, puzzle games, real time strategy games, the occasional RPG. The only genres I have never really enjoyed are fighting, racing, and sports games. Currently, my favorite games include, Civilization V, Bloodborne, XCOM, Overwatch, and The Last of Us.

I like to think that I think logically and can look at things objectively, though I’m sure there are plenty of times where I am not. I love to critique the media I love most and I try to think about games from more perspectives than just as a gamer. This is a place where I will be sharing my thoughts, complaints,  and love of games.