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The Lawling: Of Laughter and Monsters

An eccentric, sometimes stubborn or unorthodox analysis of massively multiplayer games, their audience, and the philosophy of entertainment.

Author: Lawlmonster

Cash Shops?

Posted by Lawlmonster Wednesday October 10 2012 at 7:47AM
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Recently I posted a response to a little thread you can find here, regarding the inherent state of F2P cash shop games. Agree or disagree, here are my thoughts and the post I wrote:


The overlying problem with cash shops isn't that they're an unethical platform for providing profit or stabilization, despite several instances in which they've been presented that way, but that they manifest artifical obstacles for developers to program buyable solutions to bypass. How that makes you feel depends entirely on how you perceive your time playing games and what it is you're looking for, but I'm an art before commerce kind of guy. I like the integrity of a project to be wholely based upon the process of creation, without the necessity to design for financial success. That doesn't mean the two are exclusive from one another, or should be. It's fairly obvious that most studios are forced to blance the two, so I wouldn't dispute that budgeting and management are a large fraction of what promotes success.

Subscription games have their own problems with monetization and artificial obstacles, as many of you would be sure to notify me. What's in it for a developer to provide constant updates for content or technicality when they've a fixed income at the end of every month? In order to maintain subscriptions, developers are forced to produce to keep players interested. I'm fairly certain there are cases which this isn't true, but when looking at games like WoW, AOC, or Rift -- especially Rift -- it's proved to be in the best interest of designers of subscription games to constantly find new ways to make the experience worth the price.

Now consider that  F2P games can thrive on a minority of frequently purchasing players, which makes the retention of membership or long term expansion less vital. What do designers create in this situation, to prompt the continuation of profit? Content isn't necessarily as important if maintaining players can be placed on the back burner, which doesn't mean it's completely ignored, so how do they convince players to spend money? In the istance of games like Allods, which is probably one of the most unethical forms of implementation for a cash shop, designers hinder the experience of players who aren't paying by removing helpful features, or creating artificial obstacles like reduced experience gain and inventory space, while conveniently providing priced solutions.

So when I say F2P games are inherently flawed, I'm not saying they're bad, or particularly unethical. Guild Wars 2 seems to be doing the cash shop model of B2P with respect for the player experience, which I can appreciate. More options is always a good thing, but F2P games are flawed from conception. That is to say, any game designed to provide a frustrating or less adequate experience which can be removed by paying, particularly under the guise of being "free to play", was not designed with the player in mind, for the player. And again, this all depends upon which side of the art versus commerce debate you've seated yourself. Obviously, a game or project designed with flaws to frustrate or coerce players into paying was not designed specifically with artistic integrity in mind.


How do you feel? What do you think is more important for game studios to thrive: attention to art, or attention to commerce? Or do you believe something else entirely? Let me know in the comments below!


Posted by Lawlmonster Monday January 2 2012 at 7:26PM
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Though I realize that politics in reference to government probably isn’t what people want to be reading about on an MMO site, I’ll mention that it’s an important platform that’s lead me to a few startling conclusions. Recently, a close friend and I have been discussing the upcoming election in the United States, taking place in 2012, and I was surprised when I realized that, in many ways, debate upon any topic is extremely important to our character. The reason I mention this on a blog about gaming is due to the simple fact that we, those who peruse forums on a daily basis, are often involved in debate that requires us to question our own values, or what it is we look for in entertainment.
Being able to examine ourselves is a very important part of life, and a very necessary step to enjoyment or self fulfillment. If we are unable to look inward, or even outward for guidance, to discover what it is we are or who it is we’ve become, it isn’t surprising to be met with an incessant eternity of frustration. On a personalized level, I have never known myself very well, but through debate and discussion I have been able to discover more about who I am than I would ever think possible.
I believe this is readily observed if you tread back through my post history, and look at my first year commenting or writing through this website. Be forewarned, I was an asshole. Not the kind of asshole who was saying the right things, providing an honest or worthy message, but without the proper delivery, but the kind of asshole who had absolutely nothing of value to provide in any conversation. The reason for this, I believe, was because I had blockaded myself entirely from any perception beside my own, and had devalued other opinions to the point of white noise. If you were one of those people I had been vitriolic toward, I apologize. Really, I can’t apologize enough.
When I actually began to think about what other people had to write, and seriously began to examine myself in my environment, I was met with a puzzling development. Despite how often I decried them, themepark games actually did provide me some entertainment, no matter my reasons for dismissing it. Was it what I truly wanted, or what I thought was intelligent game design? How could I overlook something so easily defined as pleasurable, simply because it didn’t meet the standards I had personally dictated?
The truth is that I still had many problems with linear game play, but as I continued to evaluate myself playing titles that would have otherwise received my criticism and negativity in the past, I began to have more fun, and fun is a simple thing. It’s so simple sometimes you don’t even realize it’s happening until you overcome your intellectual hurdles, and placed yourself in a position to appreciate what’s available. Do we watch Michael Bay films because he’s an amazing story writer? Hell no! We watch Transformers, Armageddon, or The Island because there are explosions, and eye candy. This may be a very base emotional response, to find this amusing, but to ignore it would be inhuman, or ignorance on such a personalized level it could remain hidden for years.
That’s why it’s important to talk about things, and I mean everything. Pick any topic under the sun, why should religion and politics become taboo? We should be debating, and arguing, or relating anything we possibly can, because we can only truly learn more about ourselves by testing our opinions, our ideals, or our perceptions against those around us. Many people feel this to be defeating, an almost inglorious retreat, to know that the impressions we carried weren’t actually true or representative of the individuals we were, almost lacking in any consistency at all. However, it’s important to remember that change is a good thing, in many ways bringing us closer together, and helps us find happiness or hope where we could least expect it. To quote a famous Spanish proverb, “A wise man changes his mind, a fool never will.”
As for upcoming blogs, I’m not sure what they will bring. I plan to write a piece upon hypocrisy, particularly my own in regards to this joy I find on both sides of the fence: themepark and sandbox, oldschool and newschool mentality. I’d also like to ask if anyone reading had a particular MMO, or any game really, that they would like me to review or give my opinion upon. If you have any suggestions, topics or variously, please feel free to leave comments.


Posted by Lawlmonster Saturday December 31 2011 at 3:20PM
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It's a difficult thing to start a blog, and it's usually these first posts that I dread the most. Should I be laying out my goals, the foundation for future topics? Would it not be better to discuss who I am, or what it is I love about video games? Or rather, shouldn't I cut out the bullshit, middleman mentality and come to a simpler, less pretentious conclusion? The fact of the matter is that writing is never effortless, and to quote Thomas Wolfe for words no one could ever be sure were actually his, if not stolen from another author, "writing is easy; you just open a vein and bleed."
To have no plan, at times, can result in the most miraculous of accidents. In the same instant, to be otherwise unprepared for the foreseeable constants can be extremely detrimental. What I hope to do rather than tell you directly who I am, is for you as a reader to decide for yourself, to extrapolate what you will from this blog about MMO’s, and to intellectually devise your own conclusions.  
No, I don’t plan to bore anyone with an introductory article filled with useless or unfulfilling information, like my favorite color, my favorite food, how old I am, or what it is I do for a living. Ultimately, do these things really matter? Is the credibility of my opinions or impressions any less significant if I were to reveal to an audience that I was a social worker, a bus driver, or a mailman?
So when it comes down to discussion about sandboxes, or themeparks, regarding old school mentality, or new school mentality, what I will try to do best is relate to you what it is I feel and think, without the unnecessary involvement of agenda, or personal motive. The authenticity is that my goal will be nearly impossible to achieve, to write without interference and to display only the most honest of personal truths: what I like, what I don’t like, and how these reflect upon, or are reflected by, my character.
The overall enjoyment of this medium, a phrase commonly associated with art, is instead dependent upon base reaction to a collection of stimuli, and the inherent truth that my feelings or thoughts are my own. I think, therefore I am. I feel, therefore I am. I game, therefore I am.

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