06/02/2014

insert coin to continue

Free to play games. Free. To. Play. All of the game at none of the price. Delivered to you the player. In instalments. Of money. Free to play games, the games that are anything but free. Games that please nobody save those who are free and easy with the contents of their wallet.  The price of anything and the value of nothing comes to mind like an oncoming vehicle of poor game design.

Its a curious phrase. Free to play, F2P. You'd think the clue was in the name but you'd be wrong. Whilst it evokes some image of a free for all game for all that is not the outcome game developers arrive at. Perhaps it works in one or two instances but by and large all we end up with is game design structured to steer you in the direction of spending your moolah at ever increasing speed.

In short its game design at its most screwed. Skill is sidelined and success becomes dependent upon feeding systems money until they pop with instant gratification. Of course you can always choose not to pay a penny and find yourself enduring a game where success is incremental to the point of tedium but who wants that right when you could be spending money. Its where gaming truly does begin to resemble a drug habit as opposed to a joyous waste of ones free time.

Dungeon Keeper recently made its return to gaming all free to playified and popular opinion is less than gushing. The more I read of it the more it resembles the archetype of a game compromised by the need to purchase every little edge open to you as a player. In order to succeed, you spend until you spend your way to victory. You might as well let your money play for you and remove the player out of the game entirely. Games that practically play themselves for a price. Might as well keep your finger on the 'Buy Now' button until the end credits roll. Who needs skill anyway? That's so last minute. Deep pockets is where at its at. At least you're not being asked to spend many times over the odds for these games. Oh wait you are.

Oh you're not? Well someone must be buying these £90 and £100 packs of extra goodies that I see on sale for games like Warframe and War Thunder on the PlayStation store. I have to figure that in some corporate office somewhere someone has cracked the code of how you get people to pay so much for so little. Perhaps £40 would be better spent on some 'in-game credits', like theme park money rather than a full retail release that at least gives you everything in one neat package. Nah who wants that?

Me. Me that's who. Guess all this shouldn't surprise me. It's where the last few years of game development has taken us. DLC has been whittled down into smaller and smaller pieces of content until you can barely tell what you're buying anymore. Arguably the last few decades has just come around full circle to the days of inserting coins into arcade machines for more lives and more play. To be honest I can't tell whether the game industry as a whole is looking forward or backward here or whether we as gamers are marching proudly forward, or backward with them. Don't have to like it though, not one bit.