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I'm not so sure. As a player, I was initially excited about free-to-play games. I viewed them as a rebirth of shareware, a try-before-you-buy sort of thing. But having played a few, and having had a few games I bought go that direction, I'm not nearly so enthusiastic now. They almost always suck, or turn out to suck after they add in-game purchases. Even the games I would have held up as shining examples of "doing it right" sucked six months later.

These days I'm wary of games that advertise free to play. As if that were something I, as a player, wanted. I see it less as a try-it-we're-sure-you'll-like-it and more of a we-won't-tell-you-what-it-costs and we-can-get-you-hooked-and-you-won't-care-it's-not-fun and maybe a little we'll-keep-changing-it-so-you-keep-needing-to-pay.

There's such strong pressure to have purchases affect gameplay, too. I've seen any number of nice games start out promising that would never happen, and then . . . it happened. I mean, remember when they introduced hats in TF2? Said they'd never, never, never affect gameplay? We know how that went.

So I don't know. For me as a player, that sort of game has an uphill battle to earn my trust. Even if it's awesome now, the pressures are just such that it probably won't be in six months. Not the sort of thing I want to build my cherished family entertainment memories around.

There's also the rather-disturbing phenomenon of a small percentage of people spending an outlandish amount of money on these games. Sure, some of them might be enthusiastic fans, but that seems unlikely to me. Free-to-play games are just . . . not that kind of game. It seems more likely that they're folks with poor judgement, or who are even mentally ill. I don't know, but it doesn't sit well with me.

I'm not a successful indie game publisher or anything, so I don't have a proposed alternative. But I do think I'm not the only one who feels this way, and I'd expect the view to become more prevalent as players gain experience with the model. Free-to-play might be dominant now, but I wouldn't bet on it staying that way.




> I mean, remember when they introduced hats in TF2? Said they'd never, never, never affect gameplay? We know how that went.

Actually I don't know how that went. I play bit of Dota2 which has similar model and Valve has always contested that, in-game cosmetics will never affect game play and so far it hasn't. So I am very curious with TF2 hats affecting game play. Care to elaborate?

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There were a few sets, like the full Milkman set for the scout that gave him a 25hp set bonus, but it needed the hat.

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So I am very curious with TF2 hats affecting game play.

I am under the impression that some hats have particle effects. If you are playing a spy who is impersonating a character with that kind of hat, the particle effects aren't duplicated.

I would appreciate it if someone who plays TF2 more than me can say how much it affects the gameplay.

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Well, when TF2 came out, it was laser focused. Every class had a role, and was strong and weak against certain other classes. So now, you throw a bunch of new items, and it loses that. The sniper is weak to spies, that's how it's supposed to be. So then the sniper gets given a shield that makes spies unable to stab him, and a jar that he can throw on the ground and reveal them. Engineers were weak to snipers, but now they can take control of their sentries and manually shoot things outside of the normal range. So the end result is that everything ends up becoming pretty okay against everything. I haven't played the game for a long time so I don't remember everything.

The other issue, which is one of the reasons I stopped playing (aside from me pretty much stopping playing video games in general) is aesthetic overload. I don't like the notion of things being called "purely cosmetic" because appearances have meanings. The 9 classes were designed to be recognizable from their silhouettes alone, which is pretty brilliant. But now you can pile an absurd number of things onto your character, completely changing that. Not only do you not know what your opponent is equipped with anymore, you also have an additional psychological blocker to identifying them. And it's just tacky. TF2 was originally a 60s spy movie parody, and I really felt that. Now it's just... everything. It's just a lot less compelling to me.

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Well, when TF2 came out, it was laser focused. [...] The 9 classes were designed to be recognizable from their silhouettes alone, which is pretty brilliant.

That's interesting and quite disappointing to hear. In Valve's in-game commentary, they specifically point out that they were trying hard to achieve exactly this (distinctive outlines). It sounds like there's been a complete change for the vision of the game, likely due to personnel changes.

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As someone who has played 1000+ hours of TF2, I do agree that this is dissapointing. Some items have changed silhouettes, and that can hurt gameplay.

However, TF2 was very much on the right track to have the perfect combination of revenue generating side-items with unchanging gameplay. Just because they've strayed a bit does not mean that it can't be effectively used for other games.

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> There's also the rather-disturbing phenomenon of a small percentage of people spending an outlandish amount of money on these games. Sure, some of them might be enthusiastic fans, but that seems unlikely to me. Free-to-play games are just . . . not that kind of game. It seems more likely that they're folks with poor judgement, or who are even mentally ill. I don't know, but it doesn't sit well with me.

I have heard this about the gambling industry, from colleagues when I used to work at an online gaming company. I think it is true that a large amount of the profits from these type of things come from a small percentage, and often those people cannot really afford to loose such great amounts of money either.

Of Zynga's games, apparently "less than 1 percent [of players] are responsible for between a quarter and a half of the company’s revenue".[0]

[0] http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/zyngas-quest-for-bigspe...

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Yeah, I don't have any data to back it up -- it's just intuition -- but I've got to think that spending $5000 on Farmville just can't be right. I mean, that'll buy you pretty much unlimited movies, music, and TV for a year, with maybe a vacation thrown in there. And the games they spend it on are terrible. I'd understand if it was Starcraft or something, but it's nothing like.

When I was a teenager playing video games all the time, I had a great desire to develop them. Who doesn't? I think that was at least partly responsible for my learning to program. But as an adult, I'm a lot more ambivalent about the industry. Sure, it's art, and some games are awesome, but some also scare me. I can't shake the feeling that some games have a genuine psychological addiction element, and some people might not be well-prepared to cope with that rationally, and the whole thing looks kind of . . . exploitative.

I'm not as sure as I was, when I was 13, that I want to be a part of that.

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Personally, I don't see how such a model can work. By using this model you're spending millions to make a big game like LotR and then hoping that enough of your customer base will pay for new content. But making new content itself is costing money and you haven't payed off the initial investment yet. I don't see how you wouldn't always be chasing your tail with such a model unless your later additions are going to be really cheap to make and expensive to buy, but why would anyone buy that? Just because the initial offering was free doesn't mean people are going to be willing to pay a lot more minor enhancements later. If anything, you're probably escalating what it takes to spend money.

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I play TF2 much more than I should, and I can say that they have the balance between the weapons pretty well perfect. Of course I have my load-outs which I prefer, but there aren't isn't really anything that outshines any other weapons, whether it be the base weapons or drops. I can guarantee you that I can kill you with any of the base weapons, and that I can be killed by anyone who has practised enough with any of the weapons.

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I have a game and when I say it's free to play and in the future I plan on adding some paid options, people automatically assume they will suffer if they don't pay. However, I plan on adding paid options that are purely cosmetic. We'll have to be very clear upfront that the game is 100% free unless you want to make your city standout which is really up to you.

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Even the games I would have held up as shining examples of "doing it right" sucked six months later.

All but the greatest $60-up-front retail games suck six months later too. Most games just don't have that long of a shelf life - they just aren't designed for such replayability.

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The $60-up-front retail games that we uphold as shining examples of "doing it right" are still awesome six months later. Every game in this category I thought was awesome right out of the box, I was still playing and still enjoying years later.

But I can name several free-to-play games I thought were awesome a few months ago that I've completely given up on. It's not because they lacked replayability, or because they were less awesome than I initially thought. It's because the games changed, not in ways that improved gameplay, but in ways that increased the pressure to acquire various consumables.

In the free-to-play games I initially enjoyed, I'd have happily spent money on expansion packs -- permanent add-ons that let me experience more of the same sort of fun as the original game. But instead, the games keep changing to be more of a joyless slog, and then they offer to let me skip the slog and get back to the fun for a few bucks. When the game mechanic becomes so dull that it makes sense to charge players to avoid playing, it's no longer a good game.

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For every one shining example of "doing it right" there are hundreds of terrible games though. Its still early days for free to play. You may be right, but I don't know yet. I currently play three free to play games (and have been playing them for a few months now): League of Legends, World of Tanks and Path of Exile. I guess we'll see in a few more months if I agree with you or not, but so far so good.

(Been playing LoL for 4 months and WoT and PoE for about 5 months now)

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