Daily Log-in Rewards and Other Psychological Manipulations in Modern Games

I don’t want to play Guild Wars 2 every day. I like the game, I just don’t want to play it every day. But if I don’t play it every day, I miss out of collecting a whack of useful free stuff as well as earning 2 Gold Coins for doing fairly easy stuff that I generally enjoy doing. But…

I don’t want to play the game every day!

You see, publishers and game developers know that people don’t want to play their games all the time. Similarly, they know that people would be content to never spend any money on their games too if that was possible. And it used to be that this was OK with developers and publishers, with the lot of them generally being content to make and sell games as one would make and sell any other product. But that’s just not the case anymore, as Ryan Cooper explains quite adeptly in this article from about a year ago. It’s a great article that I can’t really add much more to, so I suggest you take a moment to read it, then come back here for further context.

In short, game developers and publishers are employing trained psychologists with the express intent to create systems in their games that manipulate people into spending their time and money on their games. I think that’s a really shitty thing to do. But then, I am a reasonable person who doesn’t feel it’s appropriate to take advantage of others in general.

Anyway, as much as I like Guild Wars 2, both as a game to play and as an example of the kind of amazing games that can be created with today’s technology, there are some things about how ArenaNet conducts business that I disagree with. As such, I am going to go ahead and make a list of those things here. Am I “naming and shaming”? Yeah, yeah I am.

  1. Tax Evasion: Like so many companies, ArenaNet avoids paying state and federal taxes in the USA on their sales through their gem store by having those sales take place using a company based in Ireland. People who choose to avoid paying the taxes they’re supposed to are choosing to hurt every single person who would benefit from those tax dollars. Roads, bridges, hospitals, sewers, armies, scientific studies, disaster relief… pay your fucking fair share of taxes! Do I have proof that ArenaNet is doing this just to avoid paying taxes? No, but why else would their payments be taken by Digital River of Ireland? Same reason all those other companies are doing business there too – to avoid paying taxes…
  2. Creating false scarcity of items by not having them available for purchase at all times. Want to buy a specific cosmetic item? Well too bad, it’s not available right now – better log in every day to check for it! 😐
  3. Including an ugly version of an item with the product to encourage the purchase of a replacement. I first saw this tactic with in Everquest II with the armor one could obtain through questing after Sony Online Entertainment made EQ2 free to play. Gliders are the worst (and most woefully obvious…) instance of this behavior in Guild Wars 2.
  4. Offering progressively better rewards for logging in daily, some of which can only be reliably obtained by doing so, without providing a way to make up for days missed through alternative game play. They do this to make playing the game habitual, diminishing one’s choice to use their product or not.
  5. Allowing a small number of players to dramatically alter the prices of rare crafting components on the Trading Post, because the higher prices ultimately encourage many players to buy Gems with real money and convert the Gems to gold, as it becomes more difficult to earn the required gold through normal game play. “Tin foil hat”, you say? ArenaNet data-mines the crap out of their games; They know exactly what’s going on and they don’t stop or mitigate the toxic behaviour, because it benefits them.
  6. Purposely creating reams of useless items to encourage players to buy more bag and bank space. One can apply this sentiment (of creating an arbitrary limitation and then intentionally stressing that limitation) to various other areas of the game as well. Many “free to play” games do this, but in Guild Wars 2 it is applicable to people who have purchased the full version of the game (as well as its two expansion packs).
  7. “Loot Boxes”: Lucky number seven is ArenaNet’s long history of making desirable items available exclusively through means that are subject to random chance and that can be purchased using real money. It doesn’t matter if the player “always gets something” when what they get isn’t the thing they wanted and all they can do about it is, keep spending money until they either get what they want or they “go broke trying”. The concept is so abusive that it has become illegal in some countries, when it ‘s used in mediums frequented by children (such as online games).

OK you caught me, that first point doesn’t have anything to do with how game publishers/developers are manipulating players, but it sure pisses me off. It’s an underhanded tactic that is worth mentioning, because it undermines the “public good” by reducing the resources available to provide public services. Every year the average person pays more in taxes and gets less for it, while some (including many of the largest corporations) shirk their responsibilities, taking the benefits of taxes without paying their fair share. Fuck those people.

I don’t have a problem with in game goals or activities that reset daily, because it’s convenient to have a “ToDo” list in these games that have a large variety of game play systems to take part in. Really, much of what I do in Guild Wars 2 is complete some “dailies”, because often that’s about all the time and effort I wish to put into the game. I also don’t have a problem with companies selling customers items for use in their games. What I do have a problem with is the manipulation: I don’t like how they knowingly get under one’s skin and plant the, “you’re missing out on something if you don’t play” thoughts; I disapprove of how they rig their systems to pressure players to spend money to make their game less cumbersome/annoying/ugly; I find it distasteful that they perpetrate these misdeeds just to make more money from their players. It’s extra especially despicable when the player must purchase the game and/or pay a monthly subscription while still being subject to these manipulations.

Anyway, when I fire up BurgerTime on my Commodore 64 and play it for a bit, I know that I can just turn it off and come back to it whenever I’d like. It doesn’t demand any investment of my time or even my thoughts beyond when I choose to sit down and play it. Indeed, BurgerTime, like so many other games made in years past, was a game that was created for one simple reason: to be a fun game!

For good and for bad, many modern computer games are complex masterpieces of computer science and digital artwork that are intertwined with an unhealthy smattering of psychological manipulation and unsavoury business ethics. May I suggest that it does not need to be this way; Games can… just be games.


Disclosure: I have absolutely no affiliation with Ryan Cooper or theweek.com; His article was mentioned and linked here (without permission/discussion), because I read it and I felt it was relevant and helpful.

Top 5 Things I Dislike About Guild Wars 2

In honour of the fifth anniversary of the game, and with the new Path of Fire expansion being released later this month, and given how it is the only MMO I still play, I decided to make a five part series about Guild Wars 2. This is not sponsored content (nothing on this site is sponsored), it’s just something I made for the sake of doing so.

It’s important to have a well rounded perspective on subjects; People should know that their toaster will kill them if they go sticking their knife in it to dig out their trapped bread. That’s critical information, but you sure won’t find it written in big letters across the outside of the box! So, allow me to take a few minutes to share with you some of the things that piss me off about Guild Wars 2.

1. Crafting is so boring and grindy that I can’t be bothered to do it.
If I had to tell you the one thing I did the most in Star Wars Galaxies, that one thing would be “enjoy the hell out of the crafting system”. And it was great, because it was this multifaceted set of systems that came together to deliver a bunch of related activities that not only gave a person “stuff to do”, but also engaged the person’s mind in the process. Crafting in Guild Wars 2 is like, the total opposite of that.

I can sum up crafting in GW2 with the following…

  1. Get stuff.
  2. Combine stuff.
  3. Repeat.

Now, some would say that’s not fair, because the process of “getting stuff” can be quite involved, but I wholeheartedly disagree. The process of “getting stuff” is also an utterly boring set of activities that amounts to “kill stuff, pray to the RNG gods, repeat” or the similar, “click on resource node, pray to the RNG gods, repeat”. However, that’s not the real problem with crafting GW2. Nope, the real problems are,

There are too many utterly pointless sub components required for damned near everything that you’d want to make. Why are they pointless? Because they don’t effect the quality or … any aspect of the final item, meaning that the sole purpose of their existence is to create busy-work for the player. Yay, busy-work! My life wasn’t already chocked full of shit that takes a lot of my limited time! 😐

And the other major issue is the sheer volume of items that are required for many of the recipes. It was one thing for an item in Star Wars Galaxies to use 7,000 units of resources, because in that game one could set up harvesters to automatically collect resources for them all the time, even when they were offline. But in Guild Wars 2 there’s none of that, yet many of the items one would want to make require 250 of some crusty buttknuckle that can only be looted by playing the same content over and over for weeks. Or you can buy your buttknuckles from other poor saps who have slogged away at that content over and over for years, if you happen to have earned enough gold by… doing some other content over and over for months or years! You see what I am getting at here right? It’s a straight up grind.

When you combine the sub component’s lack of purpose, the crazy amounts of sub components (with some items having a chain of subs that are 10+ items deep), and the sheer obnoxious volume of items that are required, it’s a sad, perhaps even pathetic, miracle that there are people who have dedicated enough of their lives to craft full sets of end game gear in this game. lol… I sure as fuck won’t be doing it!

It would be one thing if the crafting was interesting, like Beast Master crafting or even just normal crafting was in SWG, but the plain truth of the matter is that it’s just… not. Crafting in Guild Wars 2 is an uninspired, boring, “collect X bear asses, click combine” system that’s basically just… there. It’s really too bad, because crafting stuff in games can be extremely engrossing and rewarding.

2. Story instances are filled with gimmick riddled, long, boring solo combat sequences.
For the amount of times my character has been left to fight massive bosses and hundreds of enemies all by herself, I sincerely wonder why she even drags the other dead wieght characters along with her…

As a person who makes game mods and who designs game play systems, I see right through this bullshit. That’s all it is, an artificial way to drag out the time it takes for the player to complete the content. It’s super annoying, it’s not fun, and it’s not even challenging (let alone being challenging in a good way), it’s just a straight up waste of time.

I am doing the story content to… experience the story, not to slog through boring raid mechanics that are designed to be enjoyed by a small niche of “gamers”. Also, I am not there to constantly fight stuff. If I wanted to fight stuff, I can already do that! And you know what? If I wanted to experience raid or dungeon mechanics, I can already do that too!

If nothing else, they need to make the “Skip to End” button available at all times so one can move on to the next step of the script at any point. I would happily forgo rewards to skip boring shit that I don’t care about, because the reward of actually enjoying myself is far greater than some loot foozle I’ll probably just salvage anyway. It’s a foregone conclusion that your character will win the battle, so I don’t see the problem with fast forwarding and sticking up a, “combat happened, you won” summary before moving on to the next part of the story. I mean, the story of the world is far more than you punching stuff and being showered in praise…

3. Many Gem Store items are only available for a limited time.
Seriously, take my money! Gahhh!!!!! 🙂

As I have mentioned in the past, ArenaNet does not know how to make money. They don’t, plain and simple. Rather than making all Gem Store items available at all times, which facilitiates one’s ability to buy something the moment they feel compelled to do so, ArenaNet chooses to hide items away for months at a time. At the very least, they should have a “real money only” store on their website that allows players to buy any Gem Store item, at any time. I am more than happy to spend real money on stuff that I can actually buy.

The Gem Store’s conversion of in game gold to gems is far too generous, from a business sense. There’s no incentive whatsoever to take out one’s wallet and buy something, especially when the thing you want to buy isn’t even available anyway. I genuinely “don’t get it”. And that’s not even getting into their online gambling lock boxes, which I feel are predatory and inappropriate for games in general.

Simply making everything available all the time, even if it was only purchasable with real money, would be amazingly fantastic for every human being who has a life which is interesting enough that they plumb don’t care about following what comes and goes from the Gem Store in Guild Wars 2.

4. Guild Halls are a housing system that is only able to be enjoyed by a handful of people.
Housing systems are cool. Like, really, really, really cool. Unfortunately, someone over at ArenaNet thought it was a good idea to make a housing system for Guild Wars 2 that can only be enjoyed by the smallest imaginable minority of the game’s population.

Yup, rather than give every player the ability to have their own house (or houses, as we have seen in so many other games), ArenaNet locked their housing system behind a massive wall that requires a player to either make their own guild or take over someone else’s guild. You can’t earn a guild hall solo, therefore you can’t use the housing system as a solo player. Now, if you manage to convince a bunch of people to help you complete the quest to earn a guild hall, you can play with the housing system solo, but good luck levelling it to the point of being useful (because doing so requires more materials than one could gather in twenty life times).

It’s just stupid to put a housing system into a game that only has one mode, especially when that one mode is “group play”. Everquest II just walks all over damned near every other game on the market when it comes to player housing, but it totally makes a mockery of the sad little housing system ArenaNet made for Guild Wars 2.

Now, some would say, “Idiot! It’s not a housing system at all!” and and they’d be right, because it’s not. Unfortunately, it should be. As it stands, the guild hall system is a giant “fuck you” to the vast majority of people who play the game, because they paid for it, yet for no good reason at all, they simply won’t ever have the chance to use it.

5. PvP isn’t worth doing, because it isn’t fun.
Unreal Tounement, Quake, Counter-Strike, and other FPS games where players are on equal footing and combat is … “point and clicky” I suppose, is the kind of “player vs. player” game play that I enjoy. I played my fair share of Alterac Valley in World of Warcraft back in the day, but honestly the “group together and mash buttons until people fall down” thing isn’t really my cup of tea. It’s boring and dumb, especially in games like WoW where, “my stats are bigger than your stats, therefore I win!” is prevalent.

Guild Wars 2 has two types of PvP. One where everyone has the same gear level and there are matches, similar to other match based PvP games. And the other is the “World vs. World” open PvP, where everyone is the same level, but the stats on their gear is taken into account. I don’t find either of these game modes interesting, because they all amount to is that thing I mentioned above, where there isn’t any actual game play or strategy, it’s just a ball of people moving around a map smashing buttons. Whoopie… I’ll pass, thanks.

Apart from how fraught with cheaters, exploiters, and general dipshits it has always been, Planetside 2 is really the perfect example of the type of PvP that I actually enjoy. The game play is varied, there are a lot of options for moment-to-moment game play style, and at least initially one could employ actual strategy to accomplish something (even if that “something” was ultimately pointless in the grand scheme of things). I don’t play it anymore though, because it’s full of cheaters and it’s run by a makeshift studio who I have absolutely no faith in whatsoever. Why waste my time on that? I digress… The point is, if PvP in Guild Wars 2 was actually interesting, I would do it, but it’s not, so I don’t.

Dishonourable Mention: The forum/Reddit/dungeon/pvp communities are toxic.
I’ve spent years taking part in various game related forums and I have yet to find one that is as utterly dominated by a few dedicated blowhards as the Guild Wars 2 official forum. Seriously, it doesn’t matter what the topic is, the same twenty or so people will come in, tell the original poster how wrong she was, and then they’ll spend the next fifteen pages shitting up the thread while they squabble with each other about unrelated topics. It’s very sad, but also quite fascinating. ArenaNet’s community team does not appear to be equipped to deal with it, either that or they just don’t care. All I know is, it’s not my job to do the research for them – people get paid to do that shit!

As for the Reddit, it’s a cesspool of unjustifiable “downvoting”, because fuck you for being different, that’s why! 😐 I don’t do “social media” (because it’s stupid and a waste of time), but it is nice to discuss topics of interest with others from time to time. Traditionally, games would have their own forums or there would be a fan website with a forum, but this Reddit website, much like 4Chan before it, is basically a forum that has a section for any topic and that convenience appears to be appreciated by many. It certainly cuts down on the number of logins and passwords one needs to remember! Anyhow, the section for Guild Wars 2 has more than its fair share of dedicated trolls and antisocial people, who will crap on folks for asking legitimate questions (because God forbid, someone ask a question… Sadly, the “Google it, asshole” crowd also crap up the in game chat too), troll people for not enjoying the game the same way they do, and who seem to religiously “downvote” posts for all the wrong reasons.

Bottom line? Don’t waste your time in either spot. If you have feedback on game play issues that you would like to send to ArenaNet, type it out in a bug report or a customer service ticket. That said, neither the Guild Wars 2 forum nor it’s Reddit thing are as laughably full of shit as the Elite Dangerous forum lol… That place is just retarded – even the staff and mods there are trolling assholes.

As far as the PvP and dungeon crowds go in the game, I have read many, many times about how shitty these people are to each other. I don’t have time for that crap, so I don’t even bother with any of that content. I have better things to do with my life than spend it entertaining other people’s petulant children; Fuck them and the broomstick horse they rode in on.


And that concludes my therapeutic venting for the day. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did! 🙂

Disclaimer: I have nothing against people who enjoy riding “hobby horses”. I just pictured an obnoxious 20 something man-child riding one around a public place annoying people. Turns out, riding them is actually a sport that encourages female pride in some places, which I think is great! Totally bizarre, but great none the less lol…

Daybreak Game Company is not simply “Sony Online Entertainment with a new name”

For many years I have played Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games (MMOs for short), with Star Wars Galaxies, Planetside 2, and World of Warcraft being the ones I have enjoyed the most. The first two of those games were made by Sony Online Entertainment, a Sony subsidiary which was sold in 2015. Since that sale, the SOE I came to very much appreciate ceased to exist. While I have taken a large step back from online communities in the last couple of years and not really played much of anything in that time, I do still play Planetside 2 occasionally and keep up with its news. After reading a misleading statement on Reddit about how the new company is the same as SOE, I felt the need to post the following.


Daybreak Game Company is not simply “Sony Online Entertainment with a new name”…

And saying as much is insulting to the hard work, time, attention, and caring that many people at SOE put into their jobs and the community for nearly two decades. Especially the community. If for some reason you don’t believe me or aren’t aware, please take a few minutes to look at the video histories of their Youtube accounts to get an idea of why I am saying this today:

https://www.youtube.com/user/soevideos/

https://www.youtube.com/user/PlanetSide2/videos

As a SWG vet, I know the norm was to hate on SOE for all their mistakes, trust me. However, as a guy who was an SOE customer since 2002, playing almost all their games at some point, I’ve also been lucky enough to take part in some really great times in MMO gaming, from having fun playing the games to getting in some serious dialogue with the developers of various games. It’s an amazing feeling to load up a game and actually use something that’s there because you discussed it with the developer and they added it to the game!

SOE’s community interaction was second to none and DBG’s is not up to that standard, not by a country mile. As an example, even Star Wars Galaxies was turned into a great game by the time it shut down, in large part due to the back and forth iteration on system designs that happened in the forums (the final weapon crafting revamp was pretty much a cut and paste of what community came up with, for instance). The nice folks at DBGs are around and while I am sure they care about their games and their communities, they aren’t doing so at the same level as SOE. That’s just reality.

I’m not “bashing on DBG” by saying this, I am simply taking a moment to give credit where credit is due.

SOE did a lot of things right and actually giving a damn about their communities was at the top of that list. Were the games perfect? Not by a long shot, but they were made with a lot of heart and that’s worth something. Did they talk the talk, but not walk the talk a lot? Yup, but we owe the very existence of franchises like Everquest and Planetside to that very same courage to not just dream, but actually try to achieve those dreams in the harsh realities of “the real world”.

Sure, I have been a grumpy and unappreciative turd at times over the years, earning myself some hate from Smed, Higby, and TRay in the process, but it was always because I care. I believed in the dream, I saw the potential, and for some reason, I cared. The folks who made these games cared too and many of those people are no longer at Daybreak Game Company and that matters, because it’s people who make dreams come alive. Just look at the hundreds of names rolling in the credits of any movie to get an appreciation for that fact.

SOE and DGB aren’t the same thing, for many reasons, so please don’t say that they are.

Thanks,

– Tatwi
http://www.planetside-universe.com/member.php?u=15312


Earlier in 2015, I decided to wash my hands of Planetside 2, deleting my characters and all the cruft I had cluttered my hard drive with over the years. I did this in large part due to the boring as crap manner in which the players choose to play the game. On top of the super annoying bugs and cheaters, the poor game play and toxic community made me feel like the original vision of what the game could be was gone forever. So I deleted my level 83 TR Engineer and moved on. However, this fall I felt like playing a shooter game with vehicles and variety, so I decided to play some Planetside 2. It’s still a zergy mess with an often toxic community and more cheaters/hackers than ever and it’s not worth playing. Life is better without Planetside 2.

Many thanks to all the folks at Sony Online Entertainment who genuinely enriched my life (often for the low, low price of free!).