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Critical Consensus: The Drowning

Critical Consensus: The Drowning

Thu 08 Aug 2013 10:52am GMT / 6:52am EDT / 3:52am PDT
MobileDevelopment

Scattered Entertainment re-imagines the FPS for touch devices, but free-to-play gets in the way of the fun

Scattered Entertainment's The Drowning is located at the centre of a vortex of unanswered questions. It is the first release from an expert team specifically assembled to bring AAA console values to mobile gaming. It is a supposedly 'revolutionary' new approach to making that most commercial of genres, the first-person shooter, work with a touch-based interface. And it's the tangible product of a studio led by Ben Cousins, one of the industry's most impassioned advocates of the free-to-play model.

So, a slick, polished, visually impressive mobile game where excitement can be found for the princely sum of absolutely nothing, then? Well, not quite.

"Instead of clumsily fumbling over a virtual stick, you direct your player by tapping sections in a level and the character moves automatically"

Modojo

At present, the response from the critics has been near unanimous in two areas: first, The Drowning is a great looking game, with the sort of detail and visual effects one normally associates with console releases; second, and rather more important, in its fresh approach to FPS controls Scattered Entertainment has found a unique and engaging way to tackle the genre through touch.

In its 8 out of 10 review - the highest score awarded to The Drowning so far - Modojo is full of praise for a "novel" control scheme that "works incredibly well."

"Instead of clumsily fumbling over a virtual stick, you direct your player by tapping sections in a level, and the character moves automatically. While doing this, you can look around by swiping the screen in different directions, or hitting a 180-degree spin button.

"It's useful to have this functionality, because the soulless oil creatures in the game come out of nowhere. You can shoot baddies on the move using a neat two-finger shooting system that provides better accuracy. The shot places itself between two digits and works incredibly well, especially with headshots."

1

There can be no doubt that this is Scattered Entertainment's biggest bet. The Drowning's control scheme has been at the heart of every preview, interview and press release since its marketing push first began, but while the majority of critics give credit for a job well done, there are still some dissenting voices. Specifically Eurogamer, which awards The Drowning a lowly 4 out of 10 in a review that struggles to find many redeeming qualities in Scattered Entertainment's debut.

"The Drowning has to tinker with the guts of the genre to make it work without a joypad or mouse but, credit where it's due, the system that developer Scattered Entertainment has come up with is about as close as we're likely to get to something that works through touch alone.

"It just doesn't always work well enough... When monsters do get up close, the system creaks and you end up all fingers and thumbs"

Eurogamer

"It just doesn't always work well enough. This is still a clumsy and unnatural way to play an FPS, and while it's more functional and intuitive than many previous touch-screen shooters, it's still inevitably going to be your third choice if keyboard, mouse and joypad are unavailable. Mostly, you'll find yourself running to a distant corner and firing madly at the oncoming horde before running to a different corner and repeating the process. When monsters do get up close, the system creaks and you end up all fingers and thumbs."

For GamesBeat, which rates The Drowning as a 5 out of 10, the controls are, "the most interesting part of the experience." However, Scattered Entertainment's achievements in this area are also misleading, as the experience those controls support can also be, "a chore to play." GamesBeat expresses appreciation for the short, contained missions, which recognise the way people prefer to play games on mobile devices. However, this arcade-like focus is undermined by a fundamental lack of substance.

"The actual game consists of small, timed missions on tiny maps. You either attack a group of zombie-esque creatures or defend a location from them as they try to break through small barriers. Essentially, both modes are the same. You run around and shoot the bad guys until they die."

And progress is tied to the game's free-to-play business model, which attracts a great deal of criticism from almost every review currently available. Destructoid, which awards The Drowning 4 out of 10, lists the approach to monetisation as the single biggest issue with the game, undermining the solid work evident in other aspects of its design.

2

"Even with some fairly generic enemies and scenery, The Drowning still functions as a decent, [visually] stunning mobile shooter. But here is where the game completely falls apart: microtransactions - and lots of them."

Apparently, getting ahead in The Drowning is a complicated business. Your performance on any given stage is assessed with a star rating, which subsequently dictates the amount and rarity of loot you are given for your efforts. All new weapons are broken as a natural state, and require parts to return to working order. Moving on to the next stage demands the use of a vehicle, which must also be fixed and filled with gas.

"I felt duped on multiple levels, as the game was quite clearly selling me three different ways to pay for a game that should have just been one premium price"

Destructoid

There are three in-game currencies: Black (oil, basically) is the most common and features in most transactions; Gas is used to power vehicles to the next stage; and Flares can be employed to earn better loot in any given round. Needless to say, all of these can be purchased with real-money, and Destructoid - among others - is less than satisfied with Scattered Entertainment's definition of 'free'.

"Firstly, you may find yourself entering a level with 30 seconds on the timer, wasting three precious energy/Gas points almost instantaneously. Then you find out (without warning) that you aren't equipped with the "right weapon" for the job, which you have to either grind for with random rewards, or buy/upgrade through purchasing "Black/Oil" for real-life cash. The Drowning then notifies you that if you buy "Flares," (after you've used up your free allotment of three), you can earn better items in that particular run.

"From that point if you've exhausted all your energy, then you have to wait to get more gas (read: wait to play the game again). You do start with three gas tank replenishment power-ups, but even then I was completely tapped out with roughly an hour's worth of play, waiting for it to slowly fill back up -- and you have to buy more from that point on with no freebies. I felt duped on multiple levels, as the game was quite clearly selling me three different ways to pay for a game that should have just been one premium price.

"Without the energy mechanic and constant drip-fed weapon and item parts, I could easily see myself destroying an entire afternoon blasting apart zombies. But that's not what happened."

32 Comments

Jakub Mikyska
CEO

197 1,044 5.3
Popular Comment
If games like The Drowning are really the future and this kind of F2P is going to be the dominant business model, I think it is time for me to start playing tennis, learn to play a guitar, perhaps even start growing roses... because I will be staying as far from gaming as possible.

It actually makes me sad to read about the The Drowning. That so much talent, energy and money is invested into a product that is basically no different from gambling, or even drugs.

Such abusive F2P should be made illegal. There you go... you can start throwing rocks. I am ready.

Posted:11 months ago

#1

Adam Jordan
Community Management/Moderation

112 63 0.6
It's a shame to hear that the only thing holding back the game is in fact the MTX side of things.

I know with mobile gaming that MTX models are essential due to the way mobile games are played but I would have thought for a first game, that Scattered Entertainment would take it slow, show they can provide what they stated (Which so far seems to be the case with stunning visuals and mechanics) then work on the MTX front.

Personally I have always seen F2P (No matter the platform) as an optional mechanic, allow the player to decide whether they want to pay, show them why they should pay by giving them a taste of the game and most of all, have a method where a player can get the same thing for free in order to progress through the game.

Once you force a player to stop progression through the game because they are likely needing to purchase something with real money then you are more than likely going to make them turn away and forget the game. I'm not saying provide the whole game for free but what I am saying is, give the player the option....such as if they need Fuel to continue the game, give them the choice to either pay to continue or have a little bonus game (Such as in relation to The Drowning....an endless horde mode...make the player play for that extra time in the game...the longer they survive in the bonus game, the more chance they can get that fuel they need to progress)

Posted:11 months ago

#2

Eric Pallavicini
Game Master

259 165 0.6
Such abusive F2P should be made illegal. There you go... you can start throwing rocks. I am ready.
Just make less abusive F2P game if you can support those... and let see who will win. Common sense tend to give the latter an advantage, except that few companies tend to support the idea.

Posted:11 months ago

#3

Robin Clarke
Producer

297 681 2.3
I find it surprising that this game is still being described as having production values on par with modern console releases.

Posted:11 months ago

#4

Ruben Monteiro
Engineer

64 131 2.0
Popular Comment
Can we go back to older and better paying models and just forget that F2P ever existed?

Posted:11 months ago

#5

Jakub Mikyska
CEO

197 1,044 5.3
Popular Comment
Eric: The more abusive F2P will win. No doubt about it. "Good" F2P is based around the idea that you like the game so much, that you want to consume it as much as possible - purchasing new content, abilities, levels, etc...

Abusive F2P uses a mind trick. The same trick that is used by gambling industry and exploits the people who are receptive to it.

It's not a question what's "good", but what works. Financially, games like The Drowning make all the sense in the world. But they make me want to throw up. They will make a lot of people very rich. Just like selling drugs does.

Posted:11 months ago

#6

Jose Martin
Entrepreneur & Financing - Media / Tech / Interactive Entertainment

23 19 0.8
Jakub hit the nail on the head. Unfortunately, many formerly passionate developers have succumbed to pure economics as their driving force, not saying that makes them bad people, really who can blame them when big publishers have been abusing dev teams for years, employing them for big projects, pushing back breaking schedules and endless unpaid overtime then dumping them like trash when a project is done, even when a released game makes a profit, if the profit isn't "big" enough, successful teams have still been sent to the unemployment line -

So now we see one of the consequences for those policies, devs forming independent mobile outfits and putting out a stream of abusive F2P crap, because the bean counters figured out that it doesn't matter if a large percentage of gamers play and enjoy your game, it only matters if you can lure and snag a small percentage of long term players who have the resources to continuously feed the addiction you have carefully crafted - these players, known as "whales", can easily justify the price of development of any well funded F2P game, on their own, even if most core gamers shun your model and rip apart your ethics, your game will still make a truckload of money if you tap into that obsessive, rich pool of "whales".

Making a game that attracts the largest audience possible and builds goodwill with a majority of the core gamer audience has definitely taken a backseat to the simple bottom line in many game companies playbooks....that is the state of the business, I don't foresee a drastic change until that pool of big spending addicted gamers gets sucked dry - we will see.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jose Martin on 8th August 2013 4:49pm

Posted:11 months ago

#7

Jose A. Gallardo
CEO / Lead Developer

2 2 1.0
I think F2P must follow another model than actual one. i think must be designed with a final price and the gamer must knows the final price. I mean with a game to be focus on "gamers" and not for "casuals". With our game Hell-IX we are following this model. Hell-IX is F2P for smartphones and tablets, however the game will not longer be F2P for computers and consoles. We listen to gamers and what they claim about F2P. We decide to remove the F2P model with PC and console versions but keep it on phones & tablets. But both gamers will pay the same amount even on F2P, there is only a number of items to buy on HELL-IX, if a gamer buys one by one he will pay the same as a player from PC or console who buy the full game from the begining.

After this decision, our project on Steam/Greenlight project got a lot of followers and they are happy. I think developers and publisher must avoid so much greed. "Gamers" are loyal to companies, however "casual" can invest on one product and change to other one as soon is trendy.

Posted:11 months ago

#8

Gil Salvado
3D/2D Artist

33 37 1.1
There are many F2P titles I wouldn't spent any money on, but there are the few - which aren't abusive - I do spent some money on from time to time. And I don't regret it, whereas I would, if I would've spent money on a game that is supposed to be FREE-TO-PLAY in order to be able to play it continuously.

Back in the days Arcades have been so popular and didn't charged you for playtime, but for failure. I guess, current F2P developers should examine the mechanics of arcade games much more, as they didn't received as much heat and still were very profitable.

Posted:11 months ago

#9

Brian Lewis
Operations Manager

124 69 0.6
I am going to ask this question, and I am hoping that someone can clarify this for me. Why not offer both?

This game is standalone (not coop or an mmo), so there should be no issue with simply offering two different options. F2P, with transactions to recharge as it currently has. P2P, where you have to pay upfront, but with a faster auto recharge. Heck, they could even just sell the faster autorecharge as an option for the F2P version (single price point upgrade).

F2P is a good way to get a game to its market, but once you have the game in the players hands, hybrid monetization systems are the best to get their money. Offering MORE options seems like the best route.

Posted:11 months ago

#10

Sergio Rosa
"Somewhat-Creative Director"

62 35 0.6
I keep wondering what would happen if a game like this one was instead sold as a premium price (based on mobile standards, so it would be like 7 USD or so). Maybe it wouldn't sell millions but I wonder if players would still buy it because they think it's worth it.
On a side note, I am considering porting my current game project to iOS in the near future (a horror game). All I know is it would not be free to play, and it would not cost 99 cents either (specially considering the PC version will sell for 15USD). The easiest answer would be "it will not sell" but I haven't done enough research to know.

Posted:11 months ago

#11

Dave Wolfe
Game Developer

64 30 0.5
I downloaded the Drowning a few days ago and I was disappointed by the controls. I never even got to the point where you could make a purchase, the controls are just way too clumsy for a fps. The two-finger tap to shoot works well, but the movement and looking around is really awkward, especially when you are surrounded by enemies and you have no idea how much you need to turn to get at it, or even which direction to turn.

I really don't think this is the future of fps.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Dave Wolfe on 8th August 2013 8:30pm

Posted:11 months ago

#12

Murray Lorden
Game Designer & Developer

199 72 0.4
It's a tricky place right now.

I think it's very hard to get people to buy your app, for any price tag.

So free makes a lot of sense, especially if you have no real marketing budget to get hype, and get the game in front of thousands or potential buyers.

Making it free, and giving users a way to spend money in the game seems to me to be the best bet. So I'm making a game which is free for 20 missions, and then you can buy extra seasons of missions (20 missions in each season). and I'm hoping that has some success.

I also want to do a paid version, where you get the first 60 missions all included.

I don't want to nag the player for money, I just want to let them do some IAP's if they want. And preferably to give them actual new content for their money, not just "some currency". Selling players currency as the core of your business model seems a bit weird to me (as an oldschool gamer), because you're just selling them numbers! You're selling them cheats. Seems strange, as I've never liked using cheats when I play games.

But selling currency seems to work.

I'm going to try to avoid ever making a game that simply sells currency, no matter how well it works. :)

Viva le gameplay!

Posted:11 months ago

#13

Alfonso Sexto
Lead Tester

767 574 0.7
@Jakub
Man, was interesting to read you comment since right now I'm working in BlueByte. We do browser-based F2P games which is a business model that I personally dislike. What keeps me going is that the philosophy here is exactly that: "Make a good game so customers will be loyal and pay for stuff on it" and this is working for us. Lot of costumers, benefits and continuous contact with the final user (something that a lot of companies seems to have forgotten.

Let The Settlers Online and Anno be an example of how to do a F2P game that makes money and, at the same time, create a good game that people will expend money into because of its quality.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Alfonso Sexto on 9th August 2013 7:45am

Posted:11 months ago

#14

Eric Pallavicini
Game Master

259 165 0.6
The more abusive F2P will win. No doubt about it. "Good" F2P is based around the idea that you like the game so much, that you want to consume it as much as possible - purchasing new content, abilities, levels, etc...
Which is very much like the "traditional approach" and the very concept that supports the purchase of expansions or franchise exploitation. More recently with digital sales, DLC and Micro-transactions supported this as well (assuming micro-transactions are "fair" in the objective sense of the word)
Abusive F2P uses a mind trick. The same trick that is used by gambling industry and exploits the people who are receptive to it.
Well that is pretty much saying that the gaming audience is a "bunch of brainless manipulable jerks with no taste nor idea what a proper game is and that most of them are just in need of some kind of therapy or rehab to solve their addictive personality issues". While I do NOT support this assumption, I do agree it may be occasionally true but not enough to make it a general rule.

On the other hand, you said "the people who are receptive to it" which conveys the idea some people are not, and probably a vast majority.
It's not a question what's "good", but what works.
History is written by the winner, yes.
Financially, games like The Drowning make all the sense in the world. But they make me want to throw up. They will make a lot of people very rich. Just like selling drugs does.
Should we keep going into that analogy... well selling a 50% pure product can bring you a lot of money... but if you sell a 90% pure product, even if more expensive, your customers will tend to come back to you instead of the guys who sell the 50% purity product. Now of course I don't go into details of territory wars and drug business related violence (but I guess if we allow ourselves to make such a shortcut by comparing F2P games to narcotics, then we completely agree we already are simplifying tons of things to suit some metaphorical argumentation, the consensus being necessary for better understanding purposes).

So now, replace "purity" by "quality and fun" (or any criteria you'd truthfully like to apply to your product). And you will know where the gaming audience will go, regardless of the business model you apply to your product.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 9th August 2013 8:55am

Posted:11 months ago

#15

Jakub Mikyska
CEO

197 1,044 5.3
To make things clear, I am not arguing against F2P.
F2P is a great model that can work for the benefit of game developers, players and the whole industry. But it must be based around a certain level of "fairness". You must build a monetization system into a great game. Not build a game into a great monetization system.

What I have a problem with is abusive F2P. Games that intentionally lure you inside and then won't let you truly enjoy the game, unless you pay, but the "mental hooks" are already there and your subconsciousness is screaming at you to start buying stuff. I am not saying that mobile audience is a brain-less mass that gets exploited easily. Most people see through that and most people will always select products that treat them fair. But there simply are people who don't have this ability, young kids being a good example.

In the end, everybody is mostly responsible for themselves and their kids. But once people get burned, they rarely come back. Mobile games have already damaged the whole industry in degrading games' value in many player's eyes. 0.99$ is viewed as premium price these days. And now, abusive forms of F2P are about to do another massive damage. That's what upsets me.

Perhaps there should be some kind of rating system, like ESRB and PEGI, that rates the monetization mechanisms and informs about the expected cost of actually playing the game.

Posted:11 months ago

#16

Eric Pallavicini
Game Master

259 165 0.6
What I have a problem with is abusive F2P. Games that intentionally lure you inside and then won't let you truly enjoy the game, unless you pay, but the "mental hooks" are already there and your subconsciousness is screaming at you to start buying stuff. I am not saying that mobile audience is a brain-less mass that gets exploited easily. Most people see through that and most people will always select products that treat them fair. But there simply are people who don't have this ability, young kids being a good example.
Same goes for everything, I am afraid. Then it is a problem related to education (social, parental and yes also the one the industry provides to its audience...)
Perhaps there should be some kind of rating system, like ESRB and PEGI, that rates the monetization mechanisms and informs about the expected cost of actually playing the game.
Perhaps we should put some stickers on newborns as well "may cause dramatic changes of life style, can harm your finances and the ones of your family"... While I do not completely disagree with the idea of regulations, I tend to think it is an overprotective attitude. And being overprotective (and at the same time paradoxically claiming we want more freedom) is an act of assistance people, and not letting them learn by themselves. So this will only replace an addiction by another, not solve the problem.

Addictive personalities, as a trait, is highly encouraged by consumerism, everywhere. Now I do understand that when we really care about something and are really honest and passionate about what we do around that something (here the gaming industry), we want to preserve that as a sanctuary of the highest hopes and nobility because that is how most niche things start. And then, when the masses find interest in that because some "greedy prospector" brought it to them, the niche crumble and the essence of what "founders" cared about falls apart. You do not need to go far to observe that anything that becomes mainstream tends to have a huge loss in quality (Plato's Cave allegory?). But it is not because tons of fast food restaurants of some brands are in nearly every city of the world that there is no high quality fast food restaurants anywhere (where you can have a home-made burger full of love that will haunt your senses for the rest of your life), let alone high quality food restaurants.

What I am saying here, is that at some point there will be a balance that will emerge at some point from "natural selection" and not because of arbitrary regulations (at least not only). Some big companies in F2P already, at least on the PR/marketing side of things, understood that if you don't build a game around a monetization system (understand profit centered), but rather build a monetization system around a game (understand user's interest focused) it actually gives your company more monetization options and opportunities. In other words, sell chocolate for chocolate and not shit pretending it is chocolate. Now, yes, they will be both sellers and buyers for shit sold as chocolate. But do you really need a gullible audience for your high quality product, is that a market share you need and want to fight for (since this category would not even be able to tell if your game is good or not, unless they're being told so).
In the end, everybody is mostly responsible for themselves and their kids. But once people get burned, they rarely come back. Mobile games have already damaged the whole industry in degrading games' value in many player's eyes. 0.99$ is viewed as premium price these days.
I disagree firmly with that. I would see this as a positive incentive to an industry that may have gotten too comfy being unchallenged. Yes today cheap games are cheaper to produce and they sell for less. So? How many 50-60£ games have been huge disappointments in the past few years? Blaming the F2P model for everything that goes wrong in the industry is basically trying to find a scapegoat. While there is no doubt the F2P model is going to be a huge challenge for this industry to go through, it is certainly not the only reason that made the audience of the industry look for alternatives to the beloved AAA franchises and traditional model.

To end this (too long answer) on a positive note. What people with high hopes and noble thoughts about the industry need to focus on is not destroying what they deem evil, but devote themselves to being good and let people choose what they want, and eventually "good" will dominate.

Edited 5 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 9th August 2013 5:11pm

Posted:11 months ago

#17

Jakub Mikyska
CEO

197 1,044 5.3
As I wrote, I am not against F2P. I just have this cynical view of the world that money always wins over what's regarded as "good". And if we have too many people going into the abusive F2P meat mills, they will never return to the game industry again and they will be lost. To the traditional game models, as well as the "good" F2P. Parents will cry on TV, complaining that their kids just spent 10.000$ on a single game, public opinions will shift, politicians will act... we all know how this works. The industry is just one angry mother away from being categorized somewhere between porn and hardcore drugs ;-) (joke)

Anyway, I think I said all I had to say. To anyone reading this: Have a nice weekend!

Posted:11 months ago

#18

Eric Pallavicini
Game Master

259 165 0.6
And if we have too many people going into the abusive F2P meat mills, they will never return to the game industry again and they will be lost.
While I totally understand your point, and agree to your "cynical view of the world" and somehow share it (believe it or not). This is still a very pessimistic and fatalist approach.

I saw tons of bad movies (some I paid to see) and I still watch some time to time.

But you right: "Have a nice week-end!" :)

Posted:11 months ago

#19

Christian Murphy
Games Programmer / Designer

10 17 1.7
I agree , wholeheartedly

Posted:11 months ago

#20

Christian Murphy
Games Programmer / Designer

10 17 1.7
I agree , wholeheartedly

Posted:11 months ago

#21

Christian Murphy
Games Programmer / Designer

10 17 1.7
I agree , wholeheartedly

Posted:11 months ago

#22

Bobby Farmer
Development Director

9 2 0.2
@Eric,

As an employee of the people who make Kingdom's of Middle Earth you clearly have an angenda.

Any game which, to instantly upgrade 3-4 buidings and skills from level 9 to 10 (forgetting about how much time/money it would cost to get there in the first place), costs about the same as GTA 5 will (plus the hardware to play it on), to me seems to be firmly in the whale harpooning camp.

And as someone else above said, targeting those who have this kind of addiction is not a million miles away from online gambling.

I'm sure in a few years time people will look back at some of the more extreme F2P games and think "Did we REALLY let that happen?"

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Bobby Farmer on 12th August 2013 3:13pm

Posted:11 months ago

#23

Eric Pallavicini
Game Master

259 165 0.6
As an employee of the people who make Kingdom's of Middle Earth you clearly have an angenda.
@Bobby Farmer
Here we go again, this basic and primitive argument. Like if I cannot have an opinion on my own, like if the "term professional" has no meaning. Well, let me tell you something Bobby, in the world I do live in, people have contractual obligation and they may have differing opinions (and still have to compromise) than the ones of their affiliations (if I have friends who are stupid, does that makes me stupid as well?). I have been in the army and I have learned to be a good soldier and follow orders, that does not mean I did agree personally with those orders (the one time I did refuse an order, I ended up in a cell for several day and it could have been worse). Maybe, just maybe, it is time that you realize that in this world it is not because you are serving a banner or a TradeMark logo that you agree with the mission, call that "duty", call that "a job" or call that "being professional".

Now, I am getting tired of being sort of insulted as an individual or even as a professional by such assumptions (my only agenda is to have bread on my table and a roof above my head, and unless you could offer me a decent package of those - can you ? -, I am sorry to disappoint you Bobby but I'll choose that over the comfort of a bridge and the tasty leftovers of public bins - because we don't all have the LUXURY to CHOOSE like you seem to think everyone has - I assume you do or think you do - and I am really happy for you, MR DIRECTOR, if your qualifications makes you such a VITAL ASSET to your employer that you have this choice - people like me - EXPANDABLE ones - are on another level, and we do what is necessary to SURVIVE, can you understand this Mr Farmer?) by such easy associations as they MEAN that I have NO FREEDOM of thoughts nor I do have any right anyway to express OPINIONS here, because according to people making those associations I am a brainless person unable to have an independent point of view (pretty much meaning that I am a brainf**** shill - how respectful is that?).

Now regarding your comments on my current employer and its products, I am not the right person to discuss about this and I won't comment more than I did on a general basis in this and other topics on this site (although I can assure you of one thing: "I was not the one who developed and implemented the company's strategy nor I believe I my position can have an impact on that"). Thank you for your future consideration and immediate understanding.

Edited 8 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 12th August 2013 5:21pm

Posted:11 months ago

#24

Bobby Farmer
Development Director

9 2 0.2
Wow! I had no idea this would hit such a raw nerve. I'm guessing from 'Here we go again' that I'm not the first person to have made such an assumption?

The Hobbit: KoM is a very nice piece of work, but fundamentally it (and many others) are using very sophisticated techniques to extract as much money from their customers as they can.

I wasn't attacking you personally, but was - I believe reasonably - suggesting that someone who works for a company who adopts this kind of monetization strategy, and then defends it at length, had a vested interest in doing so.

This was not intended as a personal attack at all, I'd never do such a thing, but I have a major issue with this way of making money from games.

There's a reason gambling sites have warnings about 'Gambling responsibly', and alcohol adverts talk about 'drinking responsibly', and that's because certain elements of the population need protected –and legislative bodies have recognised that.

If the industry continues to go down this route, I think we’ll start to get even more pressure from the ‘moral majority’ on this than we do on violence in games.

And finally, and not getting at you, but getting at the game monetisation … I just loaded the game up. My city wall is at level 9. To go to level 10 I need a Hobbit Building Crew and it’ll take almost 3 days to upgrade – so if I want it at all it's £7, and if I want it right away it's 460 Mithril in total – which costs £28 (around $40). This is just one small thing in a game with millions of things to do.

The amount of traditional game you can buy for $40 is colossal in comparison, so how can this kind of monetisation possibly be viewed as reasonable?

Posted:11 months ago

#25

Eric Pallavicini
Game Master

259 165 0.6
Wow! I had no idea this would hit such a raw nerve.
LoL, and now you even find a way to flatter yourself? You gonna have to try harder if you wanna troll me, I spent years of my life having to be backup executives decisions which I did not agree with and be nice to not so nice people because it was my job to smile and take the heat. I reminded you about the perspectives and I did it in a direct way, but at the end I do not care what you think, because you are probably not going to change your way of life after this (most likely not I would say, that is the extent of my faith in humanity).
I'm guessing from 'Here we go again' that I'm not the first person to have made such an assumption?
No, they are in fact other people who think it is ok to take this kind of short-cuts... or should I say "short-comings" as it a bit of a low blow argument in a debate.
This was not intended as a personal attack at all
Please read yourself again :
As an employee of the people who make Kingdom's of Middle Earth you clearly have an angenda.
Excuse me, if that is not a personal attack, aimed at a entry level non-managerial position person and blamed for an executive level decision (seriously?) I am probably from Venus and I have 3 boobs too! And that coming from an executive, it is hard to stomach because you should know better.
And finally, and not getting at you, but getting at the game monetisation
Well saying it now is a bit easy, because having a go at me is exactly what you did now that you mention it (I did not). So please don't come here now with that BS (and disrespect me even more) "don't take it personally, I was not having a go at you" as this is typically what abusive people and bullies say to excuses themselves, they are not molesting their victims, they are helping them to get stronger to face the adversity of life. Sorry to disappoint again, but while I am not yet that old or wise, I am not born yesterday either. But let's focus on the topic if we can.
The amount of traditional game you can buy for $40 is colossal in comparison, so how can this kind of monetisation possibly be viewed as reasonable?
Well the opposite is also true, I play tons of F2P games for years (got more than 500 hours on World of Tanks, to name one - sorry Wargaming for not supporting you more by the way) and I never ever paid a penny for them, so imagine the amount of traditional games I could have bought spending zero cent over more than a 1'000 hours of playing for free...? well... like a legen-wait for it... dary zero! I must br really stupid to go for deals like that, while I could have spent 600$ on triple AAA titles to keep myself busy for the same amount of time (as I usually play an average of 100 hours per 60$ game).
And finally, and not getting at you, but getting at the game monetisation … I just loaded the game up. My city wall is at level 9. To go to level 10 I need a Hobbit Building Crew and it’ll take almost 3 days to upgrade – so if I want it at all it's £7, and if I want it right away it's 460 Mithril in total – which costs £28 (around $40). This is just one small thing in a game with millions of things to do.
As I mentioned earlier, I will not discuss monetization or design choices, or the overall company strategy. This is not my place to be.

I am going to answer your specific analysis like this : "Do you really need to have all your buildings at level 10 to enjoy the game?". It is an option that makes you stronger, and faster to play for sure. If that is what you want, what you need, go for it, it is available for the price deemed appropriate by the developer. If that pleases you, do it. If you have a problem with it, think it will not bring you the enjoyment you expect your OWN ACTION and CHOICE to bring you, then embrace patience (as this may be available for free later on) or accept that you will not be the best of the best of the players on your server. If one can't do that and act as reasonable grown-up facing this choice then there is definitely an issue, but I don't think it is with the game and I do not think either that whenever this phenomenon get incarnated it is because of the presence of a potential tendency to an addiction. If one can't feed his addictive personality within the wide range of products the society of consumerism offers, this society would have failed long ago. Whenever your addiction is taking more care of your car than of your partner, having more shoes that you can wear in a year, window shopping while dressed as kick-ass superhero, stuffing yourself with chocolate, wazabi and gherkins sandwiches, collecting very rare Turkish comics from the 50's, throwing vampire and werewolves parties, having hardcore passive sex, keeping a high percentage of alcohol in your blood continuously, having firearms in your basement and enough ammo to start a world war, working out on your cardio with headphones on at least 3 hours a day, stalking celebrities and collect autographs, say offensive stuff on Youtube and hope you did it right enough to get viral and have your 5 minutes of fame, etcaetera, etcaetera, or being the highest ranked player of game X to have your nickname being venerated by a few dozen of teen that will jizz in their pants just being able to chat with you... if that is your goal, if that pleases you, I would say "why not? whatever floats your boat..."

Also, tell me what difference that does MORALLY makes with a 60$ BIO game? What difference exactly? Does the marketing of a BIO game differs? Like if before the F2P there was no scam from dodgy companies, no average or unfinished product not living up to the marketing campaign, and of course never ever the marketing of traditional games ever did something like the marketing is supposed/expected to provide by essence (how bad that marketing must be) like telling the customer on the box how many enemy types he could kill (increasing the real amount of models by changing the color of the skins...), how "clever" was the IA and challenging the difficulty levels were (basically doubling or giving insane advantages or cheats to scripts that did not really change from one difficulty level to another)... So, can we please, for a second stop trying to divert attention here?

Here is a mind trick (a Jedi one) for you "F2P model is not the scapegoat you looking for". And understand also, because unlike what those attacks made on me try to achieve - discredit a balanced opinion based on the fact I work on the "darkside" - and this while I wrote it down in black and white many times that I acknowledged the risks of the F2P games (fact that of course is conveniently being ignored by those who... oh, use those demagoguery tricks to gather favorable opinions, which reminds me a bit about one of the argument summoned by the very same anti-F2P people, talking about mind-tricks). Since I do claim to have a balanced opinion on the F2P model and not being on one side or another I did not deny either the existence of abusive free-to-play games, which I believe are going to naturally and slowly become a minority or even become non-existent when the people in the classical industry stop ranting about the Model and start using it with the high ethics they loudly claim to be on the side on (which, again, I doubt they truly are, because... should I remind it again, at the end it is all about money, more money).
If the industry continues to go down this route, I think we’ll start to get even more pressure from the ‘moral majority’ on this than we do on violence in games.
And what did we do about that? Basically the "anti-F2P" camp keeps offering 1 solution : Desintegrate the F2P industry (ignoring the fact that a big part of this F2P industry is fair and don't rely on mind-tricks or gambling either). And what is the argument? They are damaging the industry's reputation? Or we need to protect our audience and preserve public opinion (translate market shares, because at the end... that is what this is all about... so please get off your white knight horse my lords)? At the end of the day, if the industry wanted to address the "anyone who plays a FPS is a dormant psycho ready to go on rampage as soon as he get the opportunity" prejudice, the traditional industry could have done that years ago... but yes, like any political seduction campaign it costs money, so what? Are the anonymous shareholders of the industry mastodons ready to sacrifice their dividends or the Execs their bonuses to appear more nice? Yeah... sure. Not gonna happen. Now lets be fair we give to charity (woohoo nearly free advertizing, PR and CR campaigns! All in one!)

So what effort do we do, if we are so much worried about the image of the industry? Talk about that in isolation within the industry? Create commissions with no teeth to keep the stargazers who needs a cause to stay busy with and distract everyone while we keep making the big money flows in? Who do we think we are fooling with that? Excuse me, but white knights fart like everyone (and basically they should stop pointing at the bad black knight claiming his farts stink even more, because it doesn't change the fact farts are farts no matter how they stink - and it is of common knowledge that we usually can only stand our owns).

Edited 14 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 13th August 2013 9:31am

Posted:11 months ago

#26

Bobby Farmer
Development Director

9 2 0.2
Glad I didn't hit a raw nerve (edited 14 times :-).

And I don't mean to sound condescending here, but you need to get less defensive when someone disagrees with you - especially if you pride yourself in being difficult to troll. I managed to do it and it wasn't even my intention :-)

Believe it or not, this was most definitely not a personal attack, and was purely my view on why monetisation carried out in the way Kabam do it could ultimately be detrimental for the industry as a whole.

Perhaps my assumption that this approach was being defended by a Kabam employee was incorrect, but I hardly think it’s a wild assumption to make.

Posted:11 months ago

#27

Jakub Mikyska
CEO

197 1,044 5.3
The more and more I read this, the more and more I think that a rating system for monetization mechanisms is necessary...

We put "violence" labels on games even though we know that no kid is going to turn into a serial killer because of games. We put age restrictions on games even though that every parent should by instinct know whether a game called "Grand Theft Auto" is the right one for their 10 years old kid.

And we all know that we don't need to build that Level 10 wall and spend 40$ on it. But some people obviously do so. And they should know in advance that such things await them in a game and they should be able to make the decision whether they want to play such a game, before they may get addicted.

Posted:11 months ago

#28

Eric Pallavicini
Game Master

259 165 0.6
Glad I didn't hit a raw nerve (edited 14 times :-).
@Bobby
Another assumption and jumping to conclusions. I am not native English, I corrected mostly my numerous wording and spelling mistakes (though I know... i see them, left a lot more but I am just too lazy to correct them all in that pretty long post).
Perhaps my assumption that this approach was being defended by a Kabam employee was incorrect,
It is incorrect indeed. I am in no way speaking here in the name of my current employer (If I was I would be less blunt, outspoken and borderline harsh). In addition, while my influence on any current or previous employer strategy or management decision is pretty limited not to say nonexistent that doesn't mean I do not attempt to share my vision from within. Whenever this brings results, make an impact or not is another question.
but I hardly think it’s a wild assumption to make.
Maybe from an Executive perspective. From my level perspective if my assignations are profitable, at best I'll be able to keep my job as long as I need it. But even if the company's growth goes crazy like 2000%, I do not think it will change my life very much... at best the company will throw some social events that I will not be interested in since they involve doing stuff I don't really care about or like to do (or maybe give a bonus to everyone, but 100% of zero is still zero right?). So yes, from my level perspective, it is a wild assumption to make.
The more and more I read this, the more and more I think that a rating system for monetization mechanisms is necessary...
@Jakub
That makes sense! Now that you go into this kind of detail, I do fully agree that a classification of the monetization features and mechanisms or rating system could be useful. (if i remember well, I offered one categorization in one of my first interventions on this site, like half a dozen months ago, but no one reacted on that).

Edit: false-friend changed.

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 13th August 2013 9:33pm

Posted:11 months ago

#29

Eric Pallavicini
Game Master

259 165 0.6
While at first I ignored those paragraphs on purpose, I finally decided to answer them overnight.
And I don't mean to sound condescending here
@Bobby
By saying you don't mean to be "something", you actually convey the exact idea that you are what you don't mean to be.
but you need to get less defensive when someone disagrees with you
You did much more than disagreeing with me. In 8 month I disagreed with dozen of people on this website but I never ended up doing the kind of personal battle we're doing right now. From your first intervention till that last one you've made, you are the one who kept being personal and judgmental, which you keep doing no matter what (and yes, this is also a personal judgment from me on you, only fair at some point)
especially if you pride yourself in being difficult to troll. I managed to do it and it wasn't even my intention :-)
I do not take any "pride in being difficult to troll" which is your interpretation and your wording of what I said, not mine. All that I can say to you is that so far I did not overreacted or flew off the handle which means you did not managed or achieved anything in this line (have you ever met a troll? a real one?). At most you had my undeserved attention and that is the only thing you can claim (and maybe the only thing I should really learn not to do when facing this kind of situation, but I guess even after all this year I still have hope at the beginning of such situation that my interlocutor may actually not be hopelessly stubborn and arrogant - my bad since I know 99% of the time it is not the case).
Believe it or not, this was most definitely not a personal attack
Didn't I mention earlier the tendency of bullies and abusive people to denial? The "most certainly bored by this inter-individual verbal joust" audience (no one brought popcon) will appreciate and I live it to them to judge. On my side, I already commented on that and I will shortly break it down in more details again for you: "As an employee of the people who make Kingdom's of Middle Earth" = the recipient of the message in the contert which is me and "you clearly have an angenda" = the assumption, here clearly not flattering and clearly offensive. But well, I am not expecting you to back off after such a display of insincerity from your side (<-- and this is a personal judgment again).

I will end this discussion (from my side at least) with this internet meme (originally a quote from Scott D. Weitzenhoffer I think) hoping that if anyone has more to say on the article it will continue healthily:

"Debating here with you about your behavior is rather like trying to play chess with a pigeon; it knocks the pieces over, craps on the board, and strut around like if it is victorious."

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 14th August 2013 9:31am

Posted:11 months ago

#30

Bobby Farmer
Development Director

9 2 0.2
@Eric, you spend large portions of your extensive posts in relation to me calling me a bully etc etc, when all I've ever done is make an assumption many would - that an employee of Company A defends the products of Company A.

I still have no idea why this has triggered such fury.

But to spend all that time calling ME a bully, and end up claiming the last word, and then using it to say it's not worth speaking to me because I have the wit, dexterity and bowel control of a pigeon is, well, more than a little hypocrital.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Bobby Farmer on 15th August 2013 6:21pm

Posted:11 months ago

#31

Eric Pallavicini
Game Master

259 165 0.6
Ok, let's make it clear then. While I believe the 1st post was clearly out of line, you answered twice backing up your post and insisting you said nothing wrong, while at the same time mentioning "you have hit a raw nerve" which obviously did not trigger any alarm signal that you may actually have gone too far in offending someone. So yes, after your 2nd post I could clearly see that you would not admit having done a mistake by making the association you've made in the first post.

I did a lot of Customer Support in my career and ended up facing hundreds of customers that were really right to complain about the company's decisions. I ended up reporting that dozens of times to the management who rarely not to say never took a stance for in favor of the customers and granted me with the mission (for which I did not sign up for and for which I was seriously underpaid to accomplish) of having to tell personally and politely (not an easy task I can assure you, if you try to live an honest life and even more when the customer you facing is clever and respectful) something that you deeply disagree with yourself and know it is unethical (or quit your job on the spot, which not everyone can afford).

So yes, I will defend myself when being made responsible of something I am not <--- and that is the only issue I had at first, which could have been solve by at least not escalating.

We are both humans, we both do mistakes (and not talking about my numerous spelling or grammar mistake here)... Recognizing when we do is the necessary condition to improve ourselves, and by reacting to your first message I said to you two basic things "you may be wrong" and "you did hurt me personally" which should have triggered some questioning in you like "did I do something wrong?" and "did I actually hurt the guy's feelings?". But instead you did choose to deny "I haven't done anything wrong" and "if you feel hurt, it is your problem - and let me give you some advice". While there is a bit of truth in that too (I choose to be offended at the end) in that situation your are still the one who made the aggression leaving me with no choice than defend (which I did, and to some extent the best defense being attack...) or avoid (which could have been the wisest option for me, though maybe not the most useful for you).

Don't worry, I'll get over it. But I think you should realize what you did and what you have chosen to do and maybe next time be able to recognize when you are going too far, because escalation only leads to escalation.

Anyway Bobby, no hard feelings on my side. I just hope you understand my point and well now we should really leave it I think.

Posted:11 months ago

#32

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