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Op Ed

GameFront - SOPA Isnít the Solution, But Can We At Least Agree Thereís A Problem?
Game publishers are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to battling piracy. If they do nothing, they are essentially ceding a good portion of their sales to pirates who have no intention of ever paying them a dime. If they institute a simple DRM scheme to try and protect their games, some gamers will get annoyed and others will get to work breaking the protection within days or even hours, making it worthless. If they institute a strong DRM scheme, such as Ubisoftís recent efforts to require a persistent Internet connection to constantly confirm the validity of a played game, it ends up negatively impacting a good many legitimate customers and also cause the esteemed, self-appointed ďInternet Representatives of GamingĒ to go into a collective hissy fit so large that it ends up costing more sales than it saves.

Raph Koster - Improving F2P. Thanks Ant via Boing Boing.
The thing to understand about the free-to-play market, and its best developers, is that F2P developers treat everything as science. Everything is subject to analysis, and everything is subject to proof, and the business process is about seeking what works. If what works happens to also be an original, innovative, interesting design that meets a checklist set of criteria for being art, well, all the better. But really, itís about what works.

We have to be honest with ourselves. There is an awful lot of stuff that we have cherished for a long time in the games business which turns out not to work. Sometimes it takes us years to shed the scales from our eyes about the fact that hoary conventions of yore are just that ó conventions, mutable and open to change.

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73. Re: SOPA Isnít the Solution, But Can We At Least Agree Thereís A Problem Jan 14, 2012, 06:48 Jerykk
 
You're so right yet so wrong. It has nothing to do with "wanting to pump out sequels on a yearly basis."

I'm pretty sure it does. Publishers don't like long dev cycles. Most developers get a year or less. The biggest developers get more but even that has limits. Just look at the Dragon Age series. The first game had a 6 year dev cycle. The second game had a 2 year dev cycle. Even the most profitable series out there, CoD, gets less than a 2 year dev cycle per game. If games were given more development time, we'd see bigger, longer games.

People keep throwing out DX:HR as a long game here. I spent 12 hours on it. I felt like I saw all there was to see. I spent a good amount of time wandering and jumping (but next to none reloading and replaying.) I opened every single door I found in every single level. Still 12 hours. In a game that recycled content and had you criss-crossing. If it was like most other FPS games, which keep you moving, it would have been 5-7 hours.

12 hours? Seriously? I'm guessing you just ran around shooting everything? I'm also guessing you didn't read all the e-mails, newspapers, eBooks, TV news tickers, ads and PDAs? Or talk to every NPC? Or listen to every NPC conversation? If you skipped all that stuff, you missed out on one of the best parts of the game; the ridiculous attention to detail. If you pay attention to these things, you get much more developed backstory and character development. You can also predict almost all of the plot twists.

Comparing the amount of content in DX:HR to the amount of content in the standard 4-hour shooter is ridiculous. Just because a lot of the content can be ignored doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
 
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72. Re: SOPA Isnít the Solution, But Can We At Least Agree Thereís A Problem Jan 13, 2012, 14:59 theyarecomingforyou
 
Creston wrote on Jan 12, 2012, 18:53:
Dude... please. Now you're just coming across as trying to defend the industry no matter what facts say.

Yes, Prince of Persia was 60 minutes long. OMG, my entire argument is invalidated! Rolleyes

There are always exceptions. By and large, game nowadays are FAR shorter and have FAR less content than they used to. Not everybody sees this as a problem, which is their right. But I used to buy shooters and I'd get 10, 15 or 20 hours out of them. Now it's mostly 4-5.

And if you want to pretend that that isn't so, then... whatever.
That's not my point. Modern singleplayer games - like Far Cry 2, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Batman: Arhkam City, Assassin's Creed series, The Witcher 2 - last 30hrs+. Modern multiplayer games with singleplayer - like Call Of Duty, Battlefield and Medal Of Honor - last 4hrs+ but can easily offer 60hrs+ with multiplayer. I have no reason defend the gaming industry for the sake of it - I do so because I hugely enjoy gaming as much as ever.

And you didn't address my other point, which was that the quality has increased dramatically. And when you say games have "FAR less content than they used to" that may be true about level size but 30hrs of box-room after box-room in Doom is of comparable value to 8hrs of strongly directed, focused gameplay.

I'm not blindly defending the industry. But you can't base the quality of games purely on length and "content". If a game focuses on multiplayer you CAN'T seriously expect a 20hr singleplayer campaign given current technology and design expectations.

Beamer wrote on Jan 13, 2012, 08:18:
People keep throwing out DX:HR as a long game here. I spent 12 hours on it. I felt like I saw all there was to see. I spent a good amount of time wandering and jumping (but next to none reloading and replaying.) I opened every single door I found in every single level. Still 12 hours.
And by that metric Pacman has precisely 30 seconds worth of gameplay before you've seen all there is to see. It's about the experience. That's why multiplayer games are so popular - because the core gameplay is enjoyable.

The reality is that the industry is hugely varied. Some games are epically long, while others have very short singleplayer and longer multiplayer. Some are based upon a core gameplay type that repeats, like Defense Grid. With Defense Grid I can easily play 10hrs just on one map, trying to get a top score. For a game I didn't pay much for the value is incredible. And yes, some games are shorter. All too often people are nostalgic for the past and are blind to the fact that gaming is just as good as ever. Afterall, in five years time people will be looking back and saying "I wish they made games as long / good as Skyrim / The Witcher 2 / Portal 2".

People seem to form an opinion and then only consider evidence that supports that position. "MW2 only had a 4hr singleplayer campaign? The gaming industry is over!"
 
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71. Re: SOPA Isnít the Solution, But Can We At Least Agree Thereís A Problem Jan 13, 2012, 08:18 Beamer
 
Jerykk wrote on Jan 13, 2012, 02:24:
Sure, but why are those the only 2 options? Why not 30 hours of modern shooter? Quality increases don't have to come at the expense of quantity.

They do when publishers want to pump out sequels on a yearly basis. It takes considerably longer to create assets these days than it did back in the 90's so if you have a one year dev cycle, you can either have a short game with high quality assets or a long game with low quality assets. Ideally, games would be given enough time to have both high quality assets and a lengthy play time, but the realities of the business only make this possible for a minority of games.

You're so right yet so wrong. It has nothing to do with "wanting to pump out sequels on a yearly basis."

Bhruic, think about how long it takes to make a level these days. Back in the Doom days you had about 20 textures to choose from, no real items to place and were working in 2D. Games had two people working on levels. Now games have at least a dozen artists creating models for all the random crap you see everywhere. They have four or five particle guys alone. They have people doing all the scripting because it's gone well beyond just "open this door and this other door opens behind you."
In short, when a 5 person team could kick out a 30 hour game in 2 years and sell it for $50-$60 you got plenty of 30 hour games. These days, at the level of detail customers want, it takes 100 to 400 guys to make 5 to 10 hours in 2 years. If you want a 30 hour game you either get significant recycling or you get a team that will go bankrupt because they'll never, ever make that cash back.

People keep throwing out DX:HR as a long game here. I spent 12 hours on it. I felt like I saw all there was to see. I spent a good amount of time wandering and jumping (but next to none reloading and replaying.) I opened every single door I found in every single level. Still 12 hours. In a game that recycled content and had you criss-crossing. If it was like most other FPS games, which keep you moving, it would have been 5-7 hours.

There's no "oh man, games need to be shorter!" conspiracy, there are just budget constraints. A team making a game expecting to bring in $20 million in revenues won't spend $20 million to produce it. Something needs to break. Either you get shittier graphics, shittier detail, shittier interaction or shittier length.
 
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70. Re: SOPA Isnít the Solution, But Can We At Least Agree Thereís A Problem Jan 13, 2012, 02:24 Jerykk
 
Sure, but why are those the only 2 options? Why not 30 hours of modern shooter? Quality increases don't have to come at the expense of quantity.

They do when publishers want to pump out sequels on a yearly basis. It takes considerably longer to create assets these days than it did back in the 90's so if you have a one year dev cycle, you can either have a short game with high quality assets or a long game with low quality assets. Ideally, games would be given enough time to have both high quality assets and a lengthy play time, but the realities of the business only make this possible for a minority of games.
 
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69. Re: SOPA Isnít the Solution, But Can We At Least Agree Thereís A Problem Jan 12, 2012, 23:44 Bhruic
 
I don't care if I'm alone on this, but I'll take 8 hours of modern shooter over 30 hours of Doom.

Sure, but why are those the only 2 options? Why not 30 hours of modern shooter? Quality increases don't have to come at the expense of quantity.
 
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68. Re: SOPA Isnít the Solution, But Can We At Least Agree Thereís A Problem Jan 12, 2012, 20:47 Beamer
 
Prez wrote on Jan 12, 2012, 19:40:
Beamer wrote on Jan 12, 2012, 16:30:
I don't care if I'm alone on this, but I'll take 8 hours of modern shooter over 30 hours of Doom.

You are not alone, but 8 hours for a modern shooter SP campaign is long. Most clock in around 5 hours. That's just too short for me to pay full price, especially when I hardly touch the MP.

I'll give you that. I agree. Which is why I always would wait for the price to fall. And, now, I preorder from Amazon when they offer $20 GCs.
 
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67. Re: SOPA Isnít the Solution, But Can We At Least Agree Thereís A Problem Jan 12, 2012, 20:17 jdreyer
 
Creston wrote on Jan 12, 2012, 18:48:


1) You'll note that I said ON AVERAGE. Yes, there are always exceptions: Skyrim has more content than every Call of Duty game combined, for example. In general, and on average, games have gotten much, much, MUCH shorter.

2) The old audience has gotten savier, but the new audience has not, because they're just getting exposed to gaming, and they're the target audience, not you or me. Ergo, this argument is flawed. The idea that "no one would put up with that today" is proven false by the rather huge success of indie games in general, which mostly look like shit and re-use stuff all the time.

The game industry WANTS you to believe that every level now has to have 9000000000000000000 polygons visible at every time, because otherwise it's not "real" enough. So Devs spend 17 hours crafting realistic looking beams in a tower's roof somewhere, and players run past it without even noticing. But hey, at least that's a really, really, REALLY realistic tower!

Deus Ex : HR reuses a lot of textures, and I didn't hear anyone complain.

3) That's your opinion. It's not somehow Truth for the rest of the world. You want games to be railroaded and action packed and full of loud noise for 4 hours. That's cool, and more power to you. I prefer a game like Deus Ex. That actually lets me play for a week or so before I see the end.

I used to get a lot more games like that than I do now. Shooters especially have suffered heavily in this department. What shooter released in the last four or five years even lasted as long as NOLF?

Creston

1. If you're going to make blanket statements, could you back it up with some examples please? I didn't just cherry pick my examples, but used examples of games I enjoyed playing in the past. There were fewer games overall back then, so I replayed a lot, but most games have the same amount of content, with only a few notable exceptions, and most of those being only in the FPS genre.

2. If by "new audience" you mean under 12, I agree. Graphics are a secondary concern to gameplay. But once they reach their teens, the way a game looks becomes more important. And given the choice between two games, say Doom and Crysis, which do you think they will choose?

Indie games are flourishing, but still selling orders of magnitude less than studio titles. How many studio RPGs can you name off the top of your head? How many indie ones? Also, you're kind of supporting my point 3 here, as most indie are fairly short games: Binding of Isaac, Trine, Bastion, Limbo, Cave Story, etc. They also sell a lot b/c they are priced much lower.

3. No need to be snotty. If you prefer to watch 2001 A Space Odyssey instead of Star Wars, that's your choice, but most people do not.
 
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66. Re: SOPA Isnít the Solution, But Can We At Least Agree Thereís A Problem Jan 12, 2012, 19:40 Prez
 
Beamer wrote on Jan 12, 2012, 16:30:
I don't care if I'm alone on this, but I'll take 8 hours of modern shooter over 30 hours of Doom.

You are not alone, but 8 hours for a modern shooter SP campaign is long. Most clock in around 5 hours. That's just too short for me to pay full price, especially when I hardly touch the MP.
 
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65. Re: SOPA Isnít the Solution, But Can We At Least Agree Thereís A Problem Jan 12, 2012, 18:53 Creston
 
theyarecomingforyou wrote on Jan 12, 2012, 16:24:
The idea that games are shorter now is just not accurate.

Dude... please. Now you're just coming across as trying to defend the industry no matter what facts say.

Yes, Prince of Persia was 60 minutes long. OMG, my entire argument is invalidated! Rolleyes

There are always exceptions. By and large, game nowadays are FAR shorter and have FAR less content than they used to. Not everybody sees this as a problem, which is their right. But I used to buy shooters and I'd get 10, 15 or 20 hours out of them. Now it's mostly 4-5.

And if you want to pretend that that isn't so, then... whatever.

Creston
 
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64. Re: SOPA Isnít the Solution, But Can We At Least Agree Thereís A Problem Jan 12, 2012, 18:48 Creston
 
jdreyer wrote on Jan 12, 2012, 15:44:
Creston wrote on Jan 12, 2012, 13:33:
Lokust wrote on Jan 11, 2012, 22:11:
They already ARE doing this and have been for years. 25 years ago new video games were around $50. Now they are $50-60. Adjust for inflation and that's a steal. Games cost far more to make now, but they make up the difference between higher development costs and lower (relative) prices through volume as the gaming market is larger.

This argument is bunk. I know the industry loves to bleat it over and over again, but they (and you, seemingly) also ignore the fact that ten years ago, I bought games that had 15-20 hours of content on average. And now it's an average of FOUR.

If they want to charge more for games, maybe they should put some more content in. (Games like Skyrim obviously excepted.)

Creston

Creston, There are lots of things you're not taking into account.



1) You'll note that I said ON AVERAGE. Yes, there are always exceptions: Skyrim has more content than every Call of Duty game combined, for example. In general, and on average, games have gotten much, much, MUCH shorter.

2) The old audience has gotten savier, but the new audience has not, because they're just getting exposed to gaming, and they're the target audience, not you or me. Ergo, this argument is flawed. The idea that "no one would put up with that today" is proven false by the rather huge success of indie games in general, which mostly look like shit and re-use stuff all the time.

The game industry WANTS you to believe that every level now has to have 9000000000000000000 polygons visible at every time, because otherwise it's not "real" enough. So Devs spend 17 hours crafting realistic looking beams in a tower's roof somewhere, and players run past it without even noticing. But hey, at least that's a really, really, REALLY realistic tower!

Deus Ex : HR reuses a lot of textures, and I didn't hear anyone complain.

3) That's your opinion. It's not somehow Truth for the rest of the world. You want games to be railroaded and action packed and full of loud noise for 4 hours. That's cool, and more power to you. I prefer a game like Deus Ex. That actually lets me play for a week or so before I see the end.

I used to get a lot more games like that than I do now. Shooters especially have suffered heavily in this department. What shooter released in the last four or five years even lasted as long as NOLF?

Creston
 
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63. Re: Op Ed Jan 12, 2012, 16:46 theyarecomingforyou
 
Creston wrote on Jan 12, 2012, 13:31:
I don't really agree with your "Single use at a single time" point, though. You're legally allowed to burn a copy of a DVD you own for backup purposes, and once you've allowed that, how are you going to stop a family from watching that movie on two TVs in the same home at the same time?
But that's exactly my point - you're not using it for "backup" purposes but you're using multiple copies at the same time. That's taking away money from the publisher and abusing the free-market. Now if they want to give you the right to do that in order to add value to their product then that's fine but you don't have a right to it regardless. And where do you draw the line? What happens if a parent buys a game for the family but then they kids move out to go to university in another town/city/country? Is it still valid for them to have a copy? And what happens if they then decide to lend that copy to a friend?

If people wanted communism they'd vote for a communist government. People have to abide by the rules of society. If everybody just does as they please without any consequence you compromise the market and you don't have a "society" - you just have a collection of individuals that operate without rule. Note that people aren't suggesting that piracy is morally right; people are merely justifying why they do it. Yeah it's wrong... but games are too expensive / but games are too short / but the publisher is being greedy / but I wouldn't have bought it anyway / but... but... but...
 
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62. Re: SOPA Isnít the Solution, But Can We At Least Agree Thereís A Problem Jan 12, 2012, 16:30 Beamer
 
I don't care if I'm alone on this, but I'll take 8 hours of modern shooter over 30 hours of Doom. Hell, DA2 took the Doom model of adding length (just recycling the same crap over and over and over) and got slaughtered.

Games cost vastly more per dollar now. They employ vastly more people (go look at the credits for Doom if you forget that.) And I find them more valuable. Not relative to how I did then, but right now. Sorry, Doom just isn't very much fun anymore. There's a sense of dread that comes from a sense of emptiness (that wasn't wholly planned) and monsters fighting each other is cool, but criss-crossing the same small level, with new closets full of monsters opening each time, to fight something with virtually no AI in order to find the key that opens the door you've walked past 100 times already?
Not really much fun.
 
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61. Re: SOPA Isnít the Solution, But Can We At Least Agree Thereís A Problem Jan 12, 2012, 16:24 theyarecomingforyou
 
Creston wrote on Jan 12, 2012, 13:33:
This argument is bunk. I know the industry loves to bleat it over and over again, but they (and you, seemingly) also ignore the fact that ten years ago, I bought games that had 15-20 hours of content on average. And now it's an average of FOUR.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution - 30hrs+. Skyrim - 100hrs+. Tropico/Civilization/Anno - 50-300hrs+. Team Fortress 2 - 100hrs+. Borderlands - 35hrs per playthrough.

And don't forget that the complexity of games and their production values have dramatically increased. People will happily pay £100 for a decent bottle of champagne because of the quality and production required, whereas you seem to be suggesting that all games are comparable and can only be valued by length of gameplay.

So not only does a game like Skyrim have dramatically higher production quality that previous games but it offers more gameplay and at a price that is more than reasonable, especially in a historical context.

It is up to gamers to decide what games they wish to buy. If wish to spend £50 on a game that's two hours long then that's their decision. But look at the original Prince of Persia from 1989. The game was 60 minutes long. It was timed, so that's a fact. Could you replay it? Sure. But you can do that with modern games. The idea that games are shorter now is just not accurate.
 
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60. Re: SOPA Isnít the Solution, But Can We At Least Agree Thereís A Problem Jan 12, 2012, 15:52 nin
 
Especially with half the stuff in my Steam account unplayed...

Yeah, I started a sub list ("new"), to keep track of what I've not played yet...and it's almost as long as my regular list now.

 
http://store.nin.com/index.php?cPath=10
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59. Re: SOPA Isnít the Solution, But Can We At Least Agree Thereís A Problem Jan 12, 2012, 15:45 jdreyer
 
Beamer wrote on Jan 12, 2012, 15:34:
Games fall in price quickly. I bought most brand new games for $30-$40 around black friday, and many of those have been $19.99 since.

Waiting isn't hard.

Especially with half the stuff in my Steam account unplayed...
 
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58. Re: SOPA Isnít the Solution, But Can We At Least Agree Thereís A Problem Jan 12, 2012, 15:44 jdreyer
 
Creston wrote on Jan 12, 2012, 13:33:
Lokust wrote on Jan 11, 2012, 22:11:
They already ARE doing this and have been for years. 25 years ago new video games were around $50. Now they are $50-60. Adjust for inflation and that's a steal. Games cost far more to make now, but they make up the difference between higher development costs and lower (relative) prices through volume as the gaming market is larger.

This argument is bunk. I know the industry loves to bleat it over and over again, but they (and you, seemingly) also ignore the fact that ten years ago, I bought games that had 15-20 hours of content on average. And now it's an average of FOUR.

If they want to charge more for games, maybe they should put some more content in. (Games like Skyrim obviously excepted.)

Creston

Creston, There are lots of things you're not taking into account.

1. Which games are you comparing? Does Dragon Age have less content than Baldur's Gate? Starcraft vs. SCII? HL vs. HL2? Fallout vs. Fallout 3? Civ vs. Civ 5? Total Annihilation vs. Supreme Commander? UT vs. UT3? I don't think any of the newer games mentioned here have less content than the older games.

2. The audience is savvier. Doom and Quake have fairly long Single Player content, but the levels are simple, the textures reused again and again (and I don't know if they are that much longer than SP Doom 3 and Quake 4). No one would put up with that today. Gamers demand complex, unique environments, which require vastly more resources. Doom was a few megabytes, Doom 3 a few gigabytes.

3. Longer doesn't mean better. I only played a few hours of the original Call of Duty before quitting. It was boring and repetitive. But I played all the way through both SP campaigns on Modern Warfare 1 & 2. They were enjoyable and action-packed and I had a blast, even though they were probably shorter.
 
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57. Re: SOPA Isnít the Solution, But Can We At Least Agree Thereís A Problem Jan 12, 2012, 15:34 Beamer
 
Games fall in price quickly. I bought most brand new games for $30-$40 around black friday, and many of those have been $19.99 since.

Waiting isn't hard.
 
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56. Re: SOPA Isnít the Solution, But Can We At Least Agree Thereís A Problem Jan 12, 2012, 13:33 Creston
 
Lokust wrote on Jan 11, 2012, 22:11:
Cutter wrote on Jan 11, 2012, 20:29:
The najor problem with the larger devs is they all think they can continue to ask premium prices for games in a shitty economy. Come in a lower initial price point and make it up on volume. And get it on sale ASAP the moment initial sales start to slow. What`s the point of having a product sitting around not selling at $50+ dollars when there would be some movement at $25 and a lot at $10 or less. Hell, things are going to get worse before they ever get better if they ever do, so only a handful of established IPs will get the premium money. The others just need to adapt quicker or perish.

They already ARE doing this and have been for years. 25 years ago new video games were around $50. Now they are $50-60. Adjust for inflation and that's a steal. Games cost far more to make now, but they make up the difference between higher development costs and lower (relative) prices through volume as the gaming market is larger.

This argument is bunk. I know the industry loves to bleat it over and over again, but they (and you, seemingly) also ignore the fact that ten years ago, I bought games that had 15-20 hours of content on average. And now it's an average of FOUR.

If they want to charge more for games, maybe they should put some more content in. (Games like Skyrim obviously excepted.)

Creston
 
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55. Re: Op Ed Jan 12, 2012, 13:31 Creston
 
theyarecomingforyou wrote on Jan 11, 2012, 18:24:

I'm not sure why my posts warranted such hostility. I'm not even sure we're actually disagreeing on anything.

I'm not being hostile, buddy. Didn't want you to think that either, so apologies if you felt that way.

I don't really agree with your "Single use at a single time" point, though. You're legally allowed to burn a copy of a DVD you own for backup purposes, and once you've allowed that, how are you going to stop a family from watching that movie on two TVs in the same home at the same time?

So why can't a family buy a game, then have everyone in the family play it at the same time? Other than publisher greed?

I fully accept that that's not the reality and that publishers need to respond to the marketplace realities.

Exactly. All this wishy-washy "Well, if there were no piracy, you can't argue that we wouldn't sell more copies!" is just bullshit. It's the same as saying that if all people could fly, nobody would ever buy a flight simulator. (and the industry would then try to add a "tax" on flying, to make up for the deprived income and lost jobs of flight simulator devs... Sigh ) It's probably true, but it's still a stupid statement to make. (by the industry, not by you.)

Creston

This comment was edited on Jan 12, 2012, 13:37.
 
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54. Re: Op Ed Jan 12, 2012, 12:25 Jerykk
 
And morals have nothing to do with whether it is right or wrong.

Quote of the Day.

As an aside, while I do pirate, I also buy plenty of games. In fact, I find myself buying more often than pirating these days due to sheer laziness and general apathy towards most new releases. It's just more convenient to buy a game on Steam than it is to pirate it, especially when that game has a lot of patches.

As for the F2P article, I think there's an inherent limit to what you can do within that business model. Ultimately, F2P games rely on microtransactions and this reliance has a significant impact on the game's design. Players need to be given a reason to spend money, which means you typically have to restrict access to things that would have otherwise been immediately and freely available. Tribes Ascend is a perfect example of this. The XP system, unlockables, class system, two-weapon limit and numerous variants of the same core weapons are all a result of relying on microtransactions.

This comment was edited on Jan 12, 2012, 12:37.
 
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