Escapist Podcast: 082: Microtransactions and Tomb Raider

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I almost never buy any DLC, it's just out of spite for this kind of practice. You can tell that the DLCs for some games are just ripped from the game (or even on the disc but locked like some Capcom games). That's just wrong. I will not buy any EA games with micro-transactions, buying a $60 + the cost of micro-transactions + DLC you're looking at $100 per game. That is just way to greedy of the companies.

Speak of the devil I *just* stumbled across those Clueless Gamer shorts on youtube a couple hours before watching this!

I think it's also interesting to note that the shorts also include audio of audience feedback in the background - they always just lap up those jokes like they were the funniest punchlines ever.

Definitely seen Conan do better than those segments, but no seriously some of the death sequences in Tomb Raider would make me cringe so much. Like holy bejeebus. Spike right through the throat.

The worst spoiler I had was for the game chrono cross, when my friend told me that lynx

and I hadn't played to that part yet, I almost punched him in the face but I knew him since I was 8 so I let it go.

I have to disagree with Greg about the Conan "Clueless Gamer" segments. I find them to be facinating glimpses into what non-gamers percieve when they see video games. You say in the podcast the we are "beyond this stuff" but the problem with that position is... no we aren't and Conan's observations make it clear that video game design still hangs on to tropes that gamers are either too distracted to see, or have been desensitized to. I recommend getting being more open to hearing differing viewpoints, it is a hallmark of a mature adult.

Errr, HQ video is 0 MB large.

EVERY PORE. I WANT TO SEE THEM.

The Escapist Staff:
082: Microtransactions and Tomb Raider

This week, we discuss the comedian/tv show host Conan O'Brien and his attempt to Tomb Raider, Electronic Arts and their push for more microtransactions, and the pet hates we've developed with modern gaming.

Attention Podcat listeners! We're experimenting with live-action video in our podcasts, and want to know what you think! Watch a video-filled version of today's podcast here!

Watch Video

On the "game-type-to-academic-success" discussion, I think the whole thing leads to oversimplification of what's going on. There are so many explanations for the phenomenon being observed, most of them equally valid and likely.

For instance, reading and writing tend to be very stationary activities. Someone who prefers sports games might just do so because they enjoy sports, which are not stationary activities. And someone who enjoys reading or math or other more academic activities might like having the time to think a lot between actions. Action-heavy games (like shooters and sports games) are very different from Contemplation-heavy games (like strategy games, turn-based games, and RPGs).

Really, I think the core issue being expressed here is pacing, specifically the ratio of how much time you spend planning your next move to how much time you spend executing those plans. In FIFA games, you're spending most of your time doing and less of it thinking (in the stop-and-plan sense, that is). People that prefer fast pacing are going to be drawn to activities like sports (and sports games), and tend to spend less time on slower activities. People that like the act of thinking/planning/contemplating/calculating/etc. are more likely to be turned off by activities that don't give them the time to do that, and instead favor activities that provide the pacing they want.

(And, on the other side of all of this, people who share a similar pacing preference are going to tend to feel that those with whom they share that preference seem "smarter." As a teacher myself, I can definitely say it's very easy to prefer or favor the students who are most like ourselves.)

EDIT:

Also, agreed on the "Stop making me push buttons to do X" deal. As a tabletop GM, you don't make your players roll the dice to start the car, or saddle the horse, or draw the sword, unless that event matters. Just because you can affix a dice roll or button push or game mechanic to an event doesn't mean you have to every time.

The Batman games with their vents are a killer example. In combat, you feel this incredible flow because each button push translates to several complex actions -- the cause-to-effect ratio is skewed very much toward effect. The vents do the exact opposite of that: You're pushing a button -- the same button -- many, many times to do precisely one insignificant thing. One makes you feel effective and powerful, and the other makes you very aware there's a controller in your hand.

Agayek:

Also, see the Jimquisition for why "they need to make money" should not be a valid excuse for anti-consumer practices.

You seem to misunderstand a point of the argument.

Jim was saying not to use that argument in favor of anti-consumer practices. They were using the argument here to explain why they would choose to do these practices. To understand why, not in favor of them.

Eric the Orange:
You seem to misunderstand a point of the argument.

Jim was saying not to use that argument in favor of anti-consumer practices. They were using the argument here to explain why they would choose to do these practices. To understand why, not in favor of them.

They explicitly said "microtransactions and DLC are good practices because the producers need to make money". I don't remember the exact quote, but it certainly went along the lines of "I'm alright with the current nickel & diming in full-priced games business practices of the industry, because they're an industry and they need to make money."

Agayek:

Eric the Orange:
You seem to misunderstand a point of the argument.

Jim was saying not to use that argument in favor of anti-consumer practices. They were using the argument here to explain why they would choose to do these practices. To understand why, not in favor of them.

They explicitly said "microtransactions and DLC are good practices because the producers need to make money". I don't remember the exact quote, but it certainly went along the lines of "I'm alright with the current nickel & diming in full-priced games business practices of the industry, because they're an industry and they need to make money."

I believe they said they were ok with them because they were not necessary and non-intrusive. but that they understood why companies did them because companies need to make money. If you can find me a specific quote where they said that they didn't mind them because companies need to make money then I'll believe that.

The Cubism and Impressionism thing has already been covered, but I think it needs stating that Picasso was not an Abstract artist. His Cubist paintings were often abstract, but not Abstract art. Abstract art does not have a subject.

Also, you can thank Picasso for all those collages you did in school.

valium:
The Cubism and Impressionism thing has already been covered, but I think it needs stating that Picasso was not an Abstract artist. His Cubist paintings were often abstract, but not Abstract art. Abstract art does not have a subject.

Also, you can thank Picasso for all those collages you did in school.

... and to add to the art side of the podcat, Munch isn't pronounced munch, closer to a cross between moonk and munk (the u sounding a bit like "hoof" and a hard k sound at the end).

Agayek:

Eric the Orange:
You seem to misunderstand a point of the argument.

Jim was saying not to use that argument in favor of anti-consumer practices. They were using the argument here to explain why they would choose to do these practices. To understand why, not in favor of them.

They explicitly said "microtransactions and DLC are good practices because the producers need to make money". I don't remember the exact quote, but it certainly went along the lines of "I'm alright with the current nickel & diming in full-priced games business practices of the industry, because they're an industry and they need to make money."

Incorrect. Just because I can understand the good business sense of something doesn't mean that I, as a consumer, appreciate them. Something that makes money is a good business decision, but that doesn't mean I like it.

Great podcat again this week, and the added bonus of the video was nice. I expected a more literal round-table setup for some reason!

On the topic of DLC and Micro-transactions:

For me there is good DLC and bad DLC. Good DLC expands the game in a meaningful, but not necessarily vital manner, similar to the "Expansion Disks" or "Mission Packs" of yore. Bad DLC plugs those holes in content or function of the game that should not be in the final product (i.e. DEUS EX: Human Revolution & The Missing Link).

My main criticism for this ever-increasing trend and practice of completing a game/story through DLC is that it often feels like punishment. "Yes, you bought this game, but if you want the full story, that'll be €15 extra." Rather than rewarding me and convincing me to buy a new copy of the game on Steam (as I usually do) or boxed, it seems much more worthwhile now to go out and grab a used copy. That way I spend less money on the basic game, and even if I end up buying the DLC, I get the full experience for less.

On top of this a lot of the functions that are covered by micro-transactions were covered by cheat codes in the past, or easter eggs. At this point I would not even be surprised (yet very upset) if a publisher charged a fee for debug console access in PC games.

The current types of DLC seem to be much less about giving the customer more content, and more about asking more money to complete the product already sold. Susan mentioned "Alan Wake" in the podcat, and the DLC "The Writer". Should something like that not be the final chapter, or epilogue, for the full game, rather than an addendum after the fact? Can you imagine yourself paying extra to get the final chapter of a book you are reading? Or the last 5 minutes of an episode on TV?

Why do games and their consumers need to be treated so very differently from consumers of other media? When you buy the DVD of a movie, you often get bonus content. When you buy a book, you often enough get sample chapters of another novel. Having bought and played (too) many games over the last 25 years, I can honestly say that a lot of the joy and excitement I used to feel when buying a new game, unboxing it (discovering unannounced goodies perhaps?) has been replaced by a sense of dread and sweaty palms at getting a fair deal.

If this is all about combating loss of income due to used-games sales, or simply to stay in the black, how about Publishers incentivise new-game purchase? How about a lower initial price, or a discount to DLC prices if you are first owner? With all the metrics and the DRM crap that should be easy enough to implement. I have definitely grown very selective about the games I buy (or god-forbid pre-order), and the DLC I will purchase. I have often enough decided against a game because of DLC already, and can only see this increasing in the future.

Hey guys, I just watched the video version and I think it's a great thing that you've started putting them up this way (because you all have beautiful faces and now I can see Paul's airquotes). The issue I'm seeing is camera/Editor placement; Greg and Susan's faces are, obviously, obscured by a mic stand and Justin respectively. Having everybody visible through one lens seems like it might be difficult given the size of the room; maybe have more than one camera and periodically rotate through the feeds? I've run rigs like that before when broadcasting live performances and they usually work pretty well once they're set up.

Since they mentioned it, They should make that Bring in the cats thing a background or a secret.

Or better yet, someone should make a Bring in the Goats.

Hey, The Happening is a hilarious movie!

Also, I'm Finnish, and back in High school our art teacher used to lament on how our art-history-studies suck and how our school system is focused on mathematical sciences and how in the US all the kids learn art history from a very young age and are very knowledgeable in architecture and literature and such subjects.

As for DLC and micro-transactions, my main concern is that we're getting less and less content for more money. The same goes for games that just have very short campaigns and no other content.

And my OCD makes me buy all of the DLC and other stuff, or I can't enjoy the game. But I recognise it's my problem, just like I can't play the sequel if I hadn't played the original.

But there are games I haven't bought because I wasn't willing to get all the DLC. Or because they had a multpiplayer I wouldn't touch anyway.

Also, being able to use your skills to play a video-game is a great incentive for studying language. I personally never actively studied English in school (or did homework), and yet always got the high scores, because I used English so much to read books and play video-games.

As for video, I don't really care one way or the other. This is one of those things I like to listen to while working on something that doesn't require complete concentration.

Susan Arendt:

Itdoesthatsometimes:
I liked this weeks podcast.

I may sound like an asshole, but I feel like I am listening to the Podcast again. Just in case I did not sound like an asshole enough. It is not because Paul is back.

No offense Paul.

Good job, you all.

Um...huh?

I got real happy when I read that Susan quoted me. Then to find out it is because I have to clarify my post.

I was trying to say I liked this podcast more than most of the recent ones I have heard lately. I did not want to come off as an ass by saying something of a cross compliment. So, I tried to acknowledge that the crossness of my compliment is not the emphasis of my post. I felt that recent podcasts were missing that something extra special that has kept me listening over the years. I felt that this latest one has got it back. I wanted to say good job. My singling out of Paul was an attempt at humor which I realize did not land. To clarify that Good job Paul.

I hope this clarifies my previous post, and not make me look like an ass.

Greenscreen in the podcast room? I think it's time for "PODCAT IN SPAAAAAAAAAAAAAACE"!
This week, the podcat gang team up with the SPACE MUFFINS!

So I was thinking about the discussion with "dealing with loading screens better" and the "spamming of buttons pointlessly" (1.12.16 -> 1.13.03) I like how Heavy Rain handled the gameplay of mixing in non-essential, non-stressful actions with slow, hard to fail actions that needed smooth movement and precision with quick-time events in action-like scenes (and made the options bounce around, shake when it was supposed to be mentally/physically stressful on the character).

If those "hide load time" events worked more like that as you guys suggested then it would actually be nice. I remember a nice mix of where I had to hold down one button, then another on the other side of the controller, a third right near where I was pressing the first, and then had to do a slow, controlled movement of the left stick while STILL holding all three buttons down. You could fail and there would be a consequence - a bad guy sees/hears you, you fail to pry a door open, you move through barbed wire but cut yourself. Heavy Rain excellent use of how to use "quick time" and motion control actions and did a great job.

If those scenes were handled more like that, then I think that would make it far more interesting. Also, a skill that leveled to minimise/remove those pointless chore actions altogether... priceless.

Blunderboy:
Emerghard! I can see faces!
Also, you don't have a table? And you wear pants?! I've been picturing this all wrong!

EDIT - Before anyone asks. This is how. With less pants.

image

I did my usual press play, minimise screen and commence multitasking, so I didn't realise there was video until half way through. Having never seen the full podcast crew before and with all the talk of cats I kind of expected something like this:

image

but with cats=]

Yay for visuals; however, even though I suspect I am partially brain-dead for not recognizing everyone by voice at this point, I found it especially difficult with a video now, with faces involved. >.<

Like the idea to put DLC out 1-2 weeks after initial release. It lets the die hards, who would finish the game within that time frame, while letting those who have to wait or wait for reviews to build confidence in the game when they do want to pick it up. Then again, publishers probably know this, but since it's 1-2 weeks, they might as well try to get money ASAP, and make it day one available.

Also agree with Susan; the whole 'cutting out content' argument does not hold liquid, and really should stop. Granted, I think more widespread knowledge of game development process...

(Tangent: Adam Sessler mentioned this in one of his Sessler's Somethings, but made a good point about developers getting more involved in the discussion on violence in games)

...would alleviate so much of this confusion. Hell, more developer involvement on there processes would help gaming culture immensely; this tends to be an art form that has a (much?)higher than normal barrier to community involvement, which I think is integral to the longevity and credibility of an art. (artist and culture gurus, feel free to check me)

I can also understand Greg's ire with Conan here, on the grounds that games....tend to have an aspect where you, uh, LEARN. 'Clueless gamer' can't last forever as a shtick if you have a functioning brain; you WANT to survive, you want to improve your 'skill'; ANYONE wants to achieve this, in or out of games. If you don't realize this in one type of game, you more easily understand this playing another. Ignoring that, you're TRYING to remain clueless, especially after doing this segment (read:playing a game) several times. Knowing that kind of takes you out of the comedic element of it all. As far as the concept of 'clueless gamer' goes, Conan is just slapping himself with the ignorance of the general culture (from like, back in the 50's [even?], jocks vs. nerds)

Granted/Regardless, this Clueless Gamer was hilarious . So maybe it's something else. :P

Phlakes:
Art history time.

Oh my gosh, thank you, thank you, thank you! :D I was in my car listening to the podcast this morning, and it was just torture! :D When Tito said "I think it's cubism", I could've hugged him.
Of course, I'm biased, because my parents dragged us to the National Gallery of Art every chance they got, and we had art history lessons in addition to standard art classes grades 6 through 9th.

Regarding spoilers... I think there's a fine line, a balance to be found of sorts. It's up us who don't want to be spoilered to avoid situations in which we will be spoiled, and it's up to people who have the information to try and be careful (ie don't go out of your way to spoil a twist for someone). Tito, I'm so sad for you, that you got the twist in Usual Suspects spoiled for you, that's just horrible! I remember my mind being utterly blown, because I was utterly unsuspecting when I saw it. And I saw it on DVD years after it hit theaters!

About microtransactions... I don't mind them so much, as long as they're not being shoved down my throat, which is basically what you guys said. Blatant pandering of Warden's Keep in Dragon Age: Origins - not okay. Even though I still bought it, not just to experience the content, but also for them to stop advocating their DLC in that silly and annoying fashion. I know, I'm not helping, I know.

It's great to have the video, but I mostly just listen to you guys, you make my morning commute bearable!!! :D

Finally, I have a bone to pick with you Susan, it's about the Alan Wake DLC you mentioned. Now granted, I haven't played Alan Wake at all, and I'm just going on what you said, but you said the Writer DLC "completes the story". What does that mean? Is the story incomplete without it? Something about that just bugs me, it seems wrong to have an incomplete story if you don't buy the DLC ; but maybe I misunderstood or don't have all the elements to make an informed opinion. Maybe the DLC just fleshes out bits and parts of the ending?

I agree with Justin on some games pushing the edge of DLC. Koei is a great example of this. You're charging me almost $2 for a costume for a character? I know it doesn't change the game, but it seems like a slap in the face (specifically talking about locking Kenshiro's original costume in FotNS). That would have been something you could unlock back in the day. Guess those days are long and gone :(

Great podcast as usual!

Okay, I just got ten minutes in before realising that it's gone 5am and I really need to sleep. So I'll finish it tomorrow, but I think it's worth mentioning straight away that I'm totally on board with the video thing. I usually have the audio version on in the background while I'm doing other stuff, and quite often I'll get to the end and realise that I haven't really caught much of what you were saying. Having the video there guarantees my attention. Good times.

I did not realize there was a video of this podcast when I first started watching it cause I don't scroll down to read all the stuff that is written, I just hit play. Now I only have about 20 minutes of it left saved up, I shall let you know of what my thoughts are in...20 minutes!

In the future, please list such major announcements in the segments of the page that are instantly visible as soon as you click on the link! XD

edit:

That last question actually applies to me a lot. Growing up in Greece gaming and RPGs specifically helped my English and Japanese skills considerably. Eventually I got to the level of watching anime in Japanese with English subtitles and understanding them as though they were in Greek. Now some years later I'm living in the US and trilingual due to those influences.

Eleima:

Phlakes:
Art history time.

Oh my gosh, thank you, thank you, thank you! :D I was in my car listening to the podcast this morning, and it was just torture! :D When Tito said "I think it's cubism", I could've hugged him.
Of course, I'm biased, because my parents dragged us to the National Gallery of Art every chance they got, and we had art history lessons in addition to standard art classes grades 6 through 9th.

So I got it right? Awesome! I was totally pulling that one out of my ass, but I'm glad I'm not a complete idiot when it comes to trivia. Thanks Eleima.

Greg

I don't know, the fact that some shows are much easier if you get the entire season in one sitting or close together. For example Lost, I think shows could be talked about after the entire season has been shown.

Maybe this would be better served sending it in as a question but whatev, I'll just ask the question here and hope that the Potcat crew shines their infinite wisdom down upon this lowly servant :)

Basically, I'm confused on your view of Micro-transactions versus Season Pass.

The general tone I got was that you were OK with Micros but not OK with Passes. However, your argument for Micros could just as easily be used for the Pass': You don't have to use it if you don't want to, it's an option that is available to you. Why does that line of reasoning make Micro's an OK thing but it makes Pass' not OK? I've never seen a game with a Pass where that was the only option; you're able to cherry pick what you want if you don't want everything or if you don't trust that you'll like everything that may come out.

King's Quest puzzles had tenuous relationships with logic, as I recall. Hold on to that pie to throw at the monster 3 hours after you pick it up...

Greg Tito:
So I got it right? Awesome! I was totally pulling that one out of my ass, but I'm glad I'm not a complete idiot when it comes to trivia. Thanks Eleima.
Greg

Well, Picasso went through a variety of phases, and in the later stages of his life, he tended more towards surrealism, but he is best known for his groundbreaking works in cubism (the portraits deconstructed faces, with both eyes on one side).

tippy2k2:
Maybe this would be better served sending it in as a question but whatev, I'll just ask the question here and hope that the Potcat crew shines their infinite wisdom down upon this lowly servant :)
Basically, I'm confused on your view of Micro-transactions versus Season Pass.

I don't want to speak for that, but the sentiment is that you don't really know what you're buying with a season pass. Future DLC may or may not come not, it may or may not be any good. With microtransactions, you're paying for a very specific game element (reduced build times, extra materials for crafting, etc).

Arothel:
King's Quest puzzles had tenuous relationships with logic, as I recall. Hold on to that pie to throw at the monster 3 hours after you pick it up...

Oh come now, admit it, you've always wanted to push a yeti off a cliff! ;) I think my favorite part was walking rotten with dead fish in my pockets. :D

I can't wait to see all the finger quotes.

Susan:

Thank you, thank you, thank you for the Only in Kenya reference. :)

Free Snorkel with every visit!

cynicalsaint1:
Strange I never realized Susan was actually a talking anthropomorphic mic-stand XD

yeah i was also dissapointed by camera position hiding Susan.

also i been picturing it all wrong, i was expecting something like a large wooden table, all 4 of you on one side and microphones+equipment on another side..... you know, something similar to LRR videocasts.

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