Tricks of the Trade - Maintaining the Free to Play Illusion

Tricks of the Trade - Maintaining the Free to Play Illusion

Mobile development studio Last Day of Work's Arthur Humphrey saves monetization for later in the player experience.

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Sounds a bit subversive, though. The spinning of illusion must be to benefit the player by showing them aspects of the human character, not twist them towards monetization. This, in turn, makes me all the more bitter for this speaker attempting to find common ground as somebody who dislikes crappy games and describes himself as a so called true gamer (a term in of itself kind of ridiculous), but ends up tainting those words by describing such a process that still relies on grinding as the sole reason to pay for the game, but pretends that such a system makes sense because the goal appears to be closer, even though the monetization implies that it is not the case, or even worse, is attempting to take advantage of somebody who has poor impulse control, like all the other games. I agree that cheap cash grabs are lousy games, but creating sneakier and more convoluted concepts of imaginary value towards loosening wallets is even worse, and can be connected to such recent ploys as false rating systems. If this is the 'savior' of the video game industry, we are failing to create a healthy gaming environment for the future.

I'll admit that there can be good mobile games, but until the industry learns to stop treating their trade like slave breaking or drug dealing, I can't disagree with even the more vitriolic rants about mobile gaming.

I think he's exactly right though, games are a business however the trouble with the F2P model is that you have to monetize some where which means that you have to insert, lets call it a 'Monetization Logic' into your 'Game Logic.' As a developer, somewhere during your game design and planning meetings, you have to plan out your business strategy. For package games, its already all separated. That makes it hard and I think what Humphrey is saying is absolutely right, this part of your design shouldn't come across as your goal. The problem is for every game that finds the balance, there are 100 games that done. For what ever reason as well, consumers are statistically proven to be much more scrutinizing of $1 dollar on a mobile device then they are of a $1 dollar cash transaction. Square Enix is a good example: When they release Final Fantasy 6 on mobile, they charge 18 dollars for it. There are no micro transactions but people are really really reluctant to buy a mobile application with that kind of price tag. But when they release the same remake on PSP for 30 dollars, no one blinks before making that purchase. So the question for the developer becomes what pricing model makes this profitable?

I mean even from there this gets very complicated, but I am a bit sympathetic to the mobile market because it could be quite awesome, but we have to go out and find the good games on that platform and make it worth it for developers to make good games for mobile.

See, the fallacy in the last paragraph of the article is pitifully obvious: when a game lies to me that I'm a pirate, a ninja or Commander Shepard, I know from the start it's lying; I'm not stupid, you see. I know I'm not Commander Shepard, so if I don't like who Commander Shepard is, I can stop playing the game right then, before I get too invested in it. I could just have another game tell me I'm John Marston instead (which I'll also know from the start is not true, by the way).

Not so with this new kind of fresh bulls*t. In this case, they tell me the game is free, and I believe it, because it's more realistic than believing I'm Gordon Freeman, albeit not much... and only later, when I'm already invested in the game, do they come and tell me it's not as free as they'd told me before.

That feels like cheating me and abusing my goodwill. Just tell me upfront I'll have to pay for something vital to the gameplay or sell me cosmetic items only. AFAIK, a monetization system can work perfectly well if you create goodwill on your players instead of trying to cheat them.

tl;dr: There's a huge difference between a fantasy and a lie, you know. Especially when one involves my real wallet and the other does not. And having a developer talk so openly about ways to cheat me out of my money and people being okay with it scares me. ;)

Spot on. Could not agree more. Seriously this is F2P. You can pretty much do anything you want in the game. Nothing is closed of from free players. Nothing essential at least. Having cosmetics that can only be purchased with real cash is totally fine by me. But the items/features that really matter can be obtained without having to pay anything with real cash. You'll just have to grind 2-3 times as much. But you see this is not a bad thing. This is how I see it:

1) you got people with a lot of time but not a lot of money and they don't want to spend it on microtransactions (students for example). Fine, just grind the shit out of the game and you will be able to get everything as well.

2) people with lots of money (relatively speaking) and a limited amount of time. For example: a working man/woman. They don't want to grind hours for a level up or a new item. Not when they can just pay up 2 euros and get it instantely. They don't have to if they don't want to. But hell, if you're like me and an average working week amounts to 50-60 hours of work then you don't want to grind at home. I make enough money to just spend it a couple of euros per week on something I enjoy.

3) people with no time and no money: Well... sorry but you're fucked.

4) people with money and (no) time but they just don't want to spend it because they are cheap bastards and they think that F2P should really be 100% free. Go fuck yourself. There is no such thing as 100% free. Developers NEED to make money.

For online games/MMO's: And the best thing you can have is combine (1) with (2) because the (1) group makes sure that there is an active player base so that group (2) enjoys the game enough to pay for it. Group (1) gets to play for free. Group (2) can have a relaxing shortcut in the game after a loooooong fucking week and the developers make money. Everybody wins!
This a F2P model that planetside 2 for example executes so well. If you can also balance this out that real player skill is also needed. That you can't just drop 500euros on the first day, buy all sorts of shit and become death emperor of the universe after 24 hours, then you have made a nice f2P game. AKA planetside 2

iseko:
4) people with money and (no) time but they just don't want to spend it because they are cheap bastards and they think that F2P should really be 100% free. Go fuck yourself. There is no such thing as 100% free. Developers NEED to make money.

Well, then I guess I'm a cheap bastard. If the devs need the money so bad perhaps they shouldn't be making >>>FREE<<<2play games... If micro-transaction are required to win the game perhaps they should be called pay2play or pay2win. It's the principle of the matter. However, there are some true F2P games I refuse to give money to for different reasons.

Sarge034:

iseko:
4) people with money and (no) time but they just don't want to spend it because they are cheap bastards and they think that F2P should really be 100% free. Go fuck yourself. There is no such thing as 100% free. Developers NEED to make money.

Well, then I guess I'm a cheap bastard. If the devs need the money so bad perhaps they shouldn't be making >>>FREE<<<2play games... If micro-transaction are required to win the game perhaps they should be called pay2play or pay2win. It's the principle of the matter. However, there are some true F2P games I refuse to give money to for different reasons.

The game design I'm talking about is not pay2play or pay2win. Well it is pay2win but with an extension: grind/pay2win. If you just grind 3 times more then someone who pays then you can have EVERYTHING that a paying player can have. Difference is that of course it takes you three times as long. So if a paying player has to play 2 hours a day. A free player would have to play 6 hours. It is 100% free if you want to it to be. The only thing that is not free is extra cosmetics. Which is not important unless you want to look fabulous while killing shit.

And even then the grind/pay2win is not strictly true since player skill is also a part of it. Something that a player who grinds the shit out of the game will have a better grasp on (generally speaking).

I 100% agree with you that pay2win or pay2play models that portray themselves as f2p can fuck right off. Dungeonkeeper is an extreme example but there are others out there that are a bit more subtle. Well the subtle ones can fuck right off as well. If the game cannot be completed 100% without paying (in a reasonable amount of time i.e. max 3 times longer as a paying player) then I call BULLSHIT.

iseko:
The game design I'm talking about is not pay2play or pay2win. Well it is pay2win but with an extension: grind/pay2win. If you just grind 3 times more then someone who pays then you can have EVERYTHING that a paying player can have. Difference is that of course it takes you three times as long. So if a paying player has to play 2 hours a day. A free player would have to play 6 hours. It is 100% free if you want to it to be. The only thing that is not free is extra cosmetics. Which is not important unless you want to look fabulous while killing shit.

And even then the grind/pay2win is not strictly true since player skill is also a part of it. Something that a player who grinds the shit out of the game will have a better grasp on (generally speaking).

I 100% agree with you that pay2win or pay2play models that portray themselves as f2p can fuck right off. Dungeonkeeper is an extreme example but there are others out there that are a bit more subtle. Well the subtle ones can fuck right off as well. If the game cannot be completed 100% without paying (in a reasonable amount of time i.e. max 3 times longer as a paying player) then I call BULLSHIT.

I will direct you to look at the part I quoted...

iseko:
4) people with money and (no) time but they just don't want to spend it because they are cheap bastards and they think that F2P should really be 100% free. Go fuck yourself. There is no such thing as 100% free. Developers NEED to make money.

... and then say, "LOL, wut?"

If it isn't 100% free it should not be known as free2play. The title is misleading and bordering on bait and switch. I'm more irked at the fact you said I should "go fuck yourself" because I expect free2play games to be free, or at least have the option to be free. I'm talking about everything by the way, costumes, content, story, just everything. There are mobile games that allow you to earn in game real money currency for doing things IN GAME. THAT is a true f2p game.

Sounds like Arthur Humphrey could use a copy of Jim Sterling's new seminar, How to Reduce Backlash.

On flash drive, even.

iseko:
4) people with money and (no) time but they just don't want to spend it because they are cheap bastards and they think that F2P should really be 100% free. Go fuck yourself. There is no such thing as 100% free. Developers NEED to make money.

I realise you've already been quoted on this, but are you serious here? Insulting people for thinking that, and I quote "F2P should really be 100% free". You're calling people cheap bastards for thinking that free to play games should be free to play. Surely you want to reword that a bit at least?

Also, plenty of things are 100% free. Several of my favourite games are free, Dwarf Fortress being one relatively well known example. It doesn't charge you to play the game, it doesn't charge you to obtain the game, it really doesn't "monetize" you in any way with ads or the like in the game or even on the website. That is "Free 2 Play". The games that actually use that term however are nothing more than scams, as far as I'm concerned.

A simpler and more honest way to put this might be:

1. Always make it easy for people to give you money.

2. But don't beg, it makes you look cheap and nobody pays a cheapskate.

 

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