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  • Lex 2:10 pm on August 26, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Age of Empires Online, Diablo 2, Diablo III, Dungeons and Dragons Online, League of Legends, Spiral Knights, Team Fortress 2, World of Warcraft   

    The Devil’s Wealth 

    Large corporations are managed with a great deal of forethought. The strategies which the highest echelons of management set into motion are considered and mulled over for long stretches of time and over many meetings. This is how businesses succeed and grow. The oft overzealous knee-jerky conservative reaction from a passionate fan base to an unprecedented announcement usually comes from people not willing to understand why something has been added to or omitted from the latest version of a given product.

    Blizzard didn’t become Blizzard by making mistakes with its beloved franchises. Many are regarding the addition of real-money auction houses to Diablo III as a miscalculated move on the celebrated developer’s part. The biggest fear the most vocal critics share is the affect such exchanges would have on the value of loot players acquire from drops. The most die hard players spend tens or hundreds of hours griding the same dungeons to obtain top tier weapons, armor and trinkets. From the outside micro-transactions may seem damaging to the gameplay of an multi-player online battle arena (MOBA) or any other online experience focused on competitive play. While this once held true for shooters such as the Modern Warfare series, these practices are most beneficial to games being developed on the industry fringe.

    DDO was one of the first Massively-Multiplayer Online RPGs to embrace the free-to-play model which supports micro-transactions.

    Free-to-play games like the dungeon crawler Spiral Knights and the MMORPG Dungeons and Dragons Online need such micro transaction systems in place to assure survival in a crowded, competitive market. Their business models are based on small dollar purchases made by the community of players surrounding them. Developers such as Spiral Knights’ Three Rings Design take huge risks releasing their games to the public with an entry-level cost of nil on the part of the consumer. All they ask of the player is the occasionally micropayments toward the purchase of in-game items. Such items provide character buffs or serve as simple aesthetic diversions from what is typically found in the game world.

    Multi-player centric indie titles for which micropayment auction houses are advantageous include the much lauded MMO Mythos, the DOTA inspired League of Legends and the MMO-RTS hybrid Age of Empires Online. All of these are games from the outlying sectors of the videogame industry. All were made by indie developers who ask little or no upfront monetary investment from new players. They need the capital provided by free-to-play revenue streams to sustain operations and keep the game alive.

    MANN Co.’s Aussie CEO Saxton Hale is the cartoonishly musclebound mascot of TF2’s in game store.

    Of all the games applying the micro transaction business model the majority are MMOs, MOBAs and an abundance of Diablo 2 derivatives. However, full-sized tent pole shooters have adopted the real-money transactions paradigm. Valve’s Team Fortress 2 integrated real money transactions for weapons and hats which has not been detrimental to the game. Quite the opposite effect has transpired as the TF2 community has grown steadily since the introduction of the trade and craft systems. With the recent free-to-play changeover the player population for the objective-based first-person shooter has exploded. Team Fortress 2 even dethroned Valve’s own Counter-Strike as the most played game on Steam.

    To bring this discourse back to Diablo III, specifically its auction houses, the idea that a game which recoups its production costs upfront from software sales and then asks its user base to fork over more money is a rather shifty proposition. Especially given that D3’s price point will probably be in the sixty dollar range for the standard edition. However, given World of Warcraft’s problems with gold farmers depreciating the in-game currency, one can easily recognize why Blizzard would seek to minimize any damage done to their new game by using what they’ve learned about player-run economies in conjunction with what they know about gold farming processes.

    Even with dominant artistic and technical prowess, Blizzard Entertainment is still a business.

    What do we know about Diablo III’s real-money auction houses?

    • Players will be able to trade money for in-game items via a player-to-player transaction system.
    • Blizzard gets a set cut from every trade.
    • A third-party provider will also receive a cut of the sale from any player who chooses to cash out.
    • Blizzard will receive yet another cut from a player who cashes out on their sale.
    • Anonymous transactions both ways. Neither player is aware of the other player’s identity.
    • Upon death, hardcore branded characters become barred from real-money exchanges.
    Why is Blizzard implementing real-money auction houses?
    • The alternative to micro transactions is a subscription based model ala WoW. In order to fund the maintenance and further development of Diablo III multiplayer servers Blizzard necessitates some sort of financial influx.
    • Cut into the revenue stream of gold farmers

    It’s easy to allow our grievances to cloud better judgement when the things we love dearly change. Stopping to consider the reasons for an amendment goes against our nature to preserve the things we love and the memories we have of them; especially when that change is unexpected. Servers, server maintenance and security overhead are costly even for a company as financially fortified as Blizzard. In the end we should all rejoice and celebrate the arrival of a new Diablo game. Blizzard has carefully cultivated its franchises over the years and it would behoove them to continue in their game design tradition. This tradition of meticulous testing and iteration, along with the mantra “It’s ready when it’s ready” has garnered them endless praise and an ever expanding fan base.

    Perhaps this aggravated fellow can best summarize the well-meaning but over-zealous fervor felt by the hardcore.

    • CmdrEdem 4:54 pm on August 26, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I don’t think the problem is really the AH itself. The problem is: because of security concerns regarding item duplication and other cheating related to powerful item aquisition the game will have to be played online at all times. People that is afraid of the AH for any reason besides that one is a fool. Like Blizzard said: RMTs exist in D2 and it’s not like it destroyed the game. More people will use RMTs now that there’s a safe way to do it? Sure as hell they will. But I don’t think this will break the game and Blizzard will watch very closelly so it’s new gem is not shattered by this hammer.

    • JenicEm 10:30 pm on August 26, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Good Point, Lex!
      It is so amazing how this game isn’t even out yet and these ‘fanboys’ are already thinking it is ruined!! Thought he video at the end is a fake reaction (over exaggerated) it illustrates exactly some of the off handle emotions brewing out there.

  • Thais 7:04 pm on October 26, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Collective Consciousness, Raganök, , World of Warcraft   

    Videogames and Cultural Hybridization 

    This is text is result of a conversation between me and my good friend Omar Ruvalcaba concerning some points in videogame culture and how it can hybridizate traditional/etnical cultures or be product of that hybridization. I must warn you first that we reached no ultimate conclusions at all and also that this text is only a compressed version of our conversation! Hope you enjoy it!

    Cultural products of a culture are the expression of its culture values and thoughts. Period. Of course, there is also the author personal touch and “universal” values, which generally are in a deeper layer. For example, Shakespeare work, each one of his writing, are highly tied with Elizabethan era, its values and its ways. Even in writings placed in other countries our other times written by Shakespeare have that British XV~XVI accent. Even though, all those works also talk about deeper human values, universal ones, that can make sense in any culture, no matter where or when in a Shakespearean way.

    Videogames are also a cultural product, but the society in which they happened to be created, our contemporary society, is not as well defined nor most of those cultural products use such complex narrative elements as Shakespeare’s. Also, most videogames are produced in 4 or 5 countries while are readily consumed by all the rest of the world. So, it’s not hard to come up with questions as how conscious game designers are of the culture of the people that will be playing their games in the development process or when designing the human computer interaction aspect (such as the controls) do designers of this equipment consider how people in various communities outside of Western Europe and the USA participate in activities, two of the three main videogames producers?

    Well, you don’t have to think much to answer that: probably not, or all evidence indicates that they don’t. But, honestly, can you blame them? We are as we are because of our cultural environment; our model Shakespeare was, dressed, though and ate what its environment allowed him to. Of course, we do have our personality and freewill to decide what we want, but we can’t decide for a option that was not given to us. Therefore, Shakespeare couldn’t write [or, at least, would have a lot of trouble not only to come up with such ideas but also to make himself understood back them], for example, about zombies or aliens, kinds of characters that weren’t part of Elizabethan common thought, its collective consciousness. But fairies and elfs were, that’s why.

    Also, that brings me to mind that I also said our society was not as “well defined” as Shakespeare’s, a argument which can be said about many aspects of today society, but that I meant in a cultural spectrum. In Elizabethan era, the fantastic creatures in the social imaginary were basically some old Norse [their Britannic imagine being, itself, a prove of hybridization] or some creatures, not that well known, from classical mythology. Today, we can add up European  [werewolves, vampires, warriors, knights], African [zombies], American [chupacabra, bigfoot, indians] and Asian [ samurais, gueishas] folk myths/characters and also myths created by modern society [as aliens]. And they can all [or almost] appear in only one place/game, as World of Warcraft or Ragnärok.

    That, by itself, is show us how multi-cultural can a videogame that, at first glance, seemed a total American or Japanese creation. Of course, those appropriations generally aren’t accurate, but generally natural-historic appropriations aren’t since the appropriators have to “fit” the traditional idea to its own traditions or beliefs. That’s a natural evolutionary movement of human cultures, an enriching one. Even Shakespeare did it based on the collective consciousness of his time; try comparing his Pluck to a traditional Norse elf. Also, complete accurate references could also be considered boring to most people. In the original zombie myth, the malady is not contagious nor instigate brain eating, but the popular culture zombie malady does. And it’s awesome.

    So, even that most people are still not really interested in a pure original immersion in other cultures throw games, that “semi” immersion provided by the hybridization of a pop culture movement/figure with the native cultures can be a great way to begin the culture exchange. I like to think about this with great Japanese games from the 80’s and 90’s in which the hybridization of the american/japanese culture seemed almost perfect, like Ninja Gaiden and Kabuki.

    I believe that though this multi-culturalism is present in all games they are more obvious in indie games. Even indie pop based games, that seems to have no relation to the developer’s native culture, can be used to understand some kind of outlook provided by his reality. For example, in India there is some kind of great glamorization of the western super-heroes. Even though, they understand these super-heroes in their own ways. Therefore, even if they try to approach the theme in a “American” way, it will actually translate the American super-hero to their own culture. This example is blatant in Indian movies.

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