“...keep them playing – and paying.”
July 20, 2017 9:01 PM   Subscribe

Server Crashes, 40GB Patches and DLC: Gaming's Biggest Irritations Explained [The Guardian] “Video games have changed immeasurably since the days of tape loading and cover-mounted floppy discs. Today, we get lifelike 3D virtual worlds where the player can seamlessly connect with companions and opponents from every corner of the globe. An online triple-A title will now offer literally hundreds of hours of fun spread across years of play. Yet, inflation aside, the price we pay at the till remains the same now as it was 25 years ago. To make this possible, a lot of things have changed about the way the games industry works – but those changes haven’t always been well received. When problems arise, frustrated consumers will often blame “money-grubbing” publishers or “lazy” developers. But is that fair? We asked the industry to explain five of the most controversial aspects of modern games buying – and, crucially, why they happen. 1. Downloadable content 2. Season passes 3. Day-one patches 4. Pre-orders 5. Server crashes”

• With the Apparent Death of Season Passes and $15 DLC, Did We Actually End Up With a Worse Deal? [VG24/7]
“For the longest time, games followed a single cadence with post-launch content: expansion packs that launched at around 50 percent of the base game’s price, and required the main game to function. Then DLC happened, and with it came season passes. Since then, season passes and piece-meal content packs have been the defacto way for publishers to support multiplayer games post launch, until very recently. Suddenly, one game after another started offering or promising post-launch content for free. Sometimes this takes the form of new maps, modes, and weapons. The one thing all games that shifted to this model have in common is microtransactions. For the most part, these tend to offer cosmetic items and other trinkets that don’t interfere with gameplay. When they do interfere, they’re handled well enough that you can ignore them, or earn an equivalent just by playing. This move has largely been positively received, save for those who have a principled stance against microtransactions in full-priced games.”
• Season Passes Are Starting To Sound Like Scams [Game Informer]
“The first season pass that I can remember clearly was for Rockstar Games’ L.A. Noire. Although many people (myself included) reacted negatively at the notion of pre-buying DLC, Rockstar successfully detailed its plans for L.A. Noire’s extended content with descriptions and release dates for each piece. Yes, Rockstar put an incentive on buying it quickly – a two-dollar deduction for early birds – but there was no guesswork on the consumer’s part. We knew exactly what we were getting into. That’s an example of how season passes can (and should) work. Given how these passes are issued now (especially the examples I listed), they sound like scams coming from money-hungry corporations. The point of DLC is to entice the player base to hold onto their game and revisit it. I get that. I like the proposition of getting more value out of my game, even if I have to pay for it in some way. But I want to feel confident in my purchases, and not be left wondering if I’m being taken advantage of.”
• The Multiplayer Season Pass is Almost Dead, This is How For Honor and Titanfall 2 Are Killing It [GamesRadar+]
“For Honor's developers plan to release all of the game's post-release multiplayer maps and modes for free, following more than a year of high-profile games that have abandoned the once-common paid DLC format. If you play many big, non-free-to-play multiplayer games, this development likely feels long overdue for you, and doubly so for your wallet. Titanfall 2, Rainbow Six Siege, Overwatch, and Gears of War 4 have all taken a similar angle. The latest scions of the two big shooter series, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Battlefield 1, persist in parceling out paid map packs on top of their full game price, but clearly the times are a-changin' - I wouldn't be surprised if this is the last year for both of their usual passes as we know them. It's a welcome sea change for multiplayer gaming, and the reason couldn't be simpler. [...] “We need to trust the player and they need to trust us,” McCoy said. “Trust that if we do the right thing - not sell maps and modes - we’ll get more people investing with us, investing in the game as a whole. They’re going to trust us not to screw them over and they can be happy with their $60 versions”. That doesn't mean multiplayer games just want to take your $60 and to leave it at that, of course. They're just finding smarter, less-disruptive ways to get extra cash out of you.”
• 7 Reasons Why Gamers Support DLC and Season Passes [The Gizmo Life]
1. Season Passes are cheaper
2. Season Pass holders get Early Access to DLCs
3. Season Pass holders get exclusive bonuses
4. DLCs offer normally inaccessible content
5. DLCs help in keeping things fresh
6. DLC items sometimes give godly benefits
7. To show support to the developers
• From Expansion Packs to DLC: The Evolution of Additional Video Game Content [The Artifice]
“Anyone with a good internet connection now has the ability to purchase and download a title on release day. Good expansion packs like those for the older Blizzard games on PC are not things of the past as some would think – The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine being an example of that – yet the marketplace is filled with an over abundance of frivolous offers that many see as a detriment to the entire industry of video gaming, a shallow cash grab from a cynic’s point of view. Overall, what the history of additional content for video games has shown is that it is not the distribution abilities that is the pivotal aspect to what makes additional content worth it or not, but whether or not the time and care was put into the project. Because of the high profits being made currently, this practice that the majority of game companies follow concerning downloadable content will continue on without any major changes. Gamers should demand that additional content be something that thoroughly expands on the initial experience of the original title, and perhaps most importantly these additions must show that the makers respect their fanbase.”
• Nintendo’s New Fire Emblem DLC Costs More Than the Game Itself [The Verge]
“Given that Shadows of Valentia costs $39.99, that makes either DLC option more expensive than the base game, something that even games with price $50 season passes like Star Wars: Battlefront, Call of Duty, and Battlefield 1 have yet to accomplish. That price gets you five DLC packs: Fledgling Warriors, which offers two new maps and a dungeon to explore; Undaunted Heroes, for another two maps and a dungeon; Lost Altars, which will add some more dungeons and new character classes, Rise of the Deliverance, which offers some prologue story DLC with new missions and voice acting; and a fifth and final pack that Nintendo has yet to detail. While that’s not a bad selection of content when it comes to add-ons to the base game, the total price — which is, again, more than the entire “main” game — isn’t a great look for Nintendo, which had spent years holding out on selling downloadable content and instead simply packaged games as complete experiences out of the box.”
• What's One Lesson You Wish Developers and Publishers Would Learn? [Destructoid]
GoofierBrute: File both of these under the "never going to happen" folder, but I wish publishers would A) stop rushing out their games just to meet a deadline, and B) don't announce DLC or a Season Pass when the game isn't out yet. Let me break it down:
A) In the case of the first one, I wish publishers and developers would take their time when it came developing games. I know this is all about money, and in this day and age of digital distribution it's super easy to patch games, but you only get one chance and make a good first impression. Take No Man's Sky; it's a lot better now than it was when it first came out, but because the game was such a disappointing mess, it doesn't matter that it's better because everyone else just moved on. I'm not saying a game should be indefinite development (hello Duke Nukem Forever), but a game shouldn't be rushed out the door just to meet a deadline. Take your time, and make the best possible game that you can.
B) This one is pretty straightforward: stop trying to sell me a Season Pass for your game that isn't out yet. I don't know if you're going to support the game after launch, let alone if it's even good enough to warrant buying DLC, so why should I buy a Season Pass? And if you are going to do that, at least tell me what's in it before I buy it. I'm not expecting a full checklist, but at least something like what Nintendo did with Mario Kart 8, where they said "here's our Season Pass. You get two packs, each coming with three racers, vehicles, and 2 cups. You can buy them individually, but if you get both, you get it at a reduced price and free in game skins that you can use right away."
posted by Fizz (60 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
How timely!

There's a sale on the new DOOM*, it's updated to a new version, and they're giving out the DLC for free to everyone who owns the base game! That's great in theory, but the upshot is I have to download 35GB before I can play it again (thanks for making patches non-optional, Steam). I can't even run the single player campaign. On my capped, expensive Internet, this is kind of a no-go right now, so I guess I'm stuck not being able to play it.

*- It's great, btw. If you don't have it yet and have any interest at all it's a must.
posted by ODiV at 9:09 PM on July 20, 2017 [6 favorites]


(Oh, and some people who purchased said DLC, some as part of a season pass, are definitely felt taken advantage of.)
posted by ODiV at 9:11 PM on July 20, 2017


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posted by Fizz at 9:23 PM on July 20, 2017 [33 favorites]


That's great in theory, but the upshot is I have to download 35GB before I can play it again (thanks for making patches non-optional, Steam).

Yeah, I discovered this last night. I had to leave my computer on all night to let the download complete. I appreciate that id Software made this decision (then again I didn't pay for a Season Pass, I'm sure people who did are pissed). It's nice to have more content and support but damn 35 GB, that's like it's own damn game. My SSD is in the red.
posted by Fizz at 9:42 PM on July 20, 2017


I haven't read any of TFAs yet, but this ex-Unix sysadmin has always assumed that release day server crashes are the result of not purchasing enough temporary power to deal with a surge in usage requirements that only occurs in the first few hours of a game's release. It was pretty excusable back in the EverQuest/early WoW days; companies like Amazon and Google weren't available to rent out temporary processing power/bandwidth. Now, though? This is a solved problem. If they're not adequately preparing for release day, it's because they're cheap and don't want to cut into profits by potentially overestimating the release day traffic surge.
posted by xyzzy at 10:07 PM on July 20, 2017 [2 favorites]


Ultimate Edition - $129.99 - Everything included in our Standard and Deluxe Editions PLUS your choice of FOUR FORUM SKINS (classic, plain, modern and modern dark). First 100 purchases include limited edition Cortex & Jessamyn Action Figures!

Not interested unless I can get the figures as Funko Pops.

(I SO wish I could draw right now to sketch out what they would look like.)
posted by Samizdata at 10:18 PM on July 20, 2017 [4 favorites]


here's a sale on the new DOOM*, it's updated to a new version, and they're giving out the DLC for free to everyone who owns the base game! That's great in theory, but the upshot is I have to download 35GB before I can play it again (thanks for making patches non-optional, Steam). I can't even run the single player campaign. On my capped, expensive Internet, this is kind of a no-go right now, so I guess I'm stuck not being able to play it.


What DLC (says the guy that just uninstalled it)?
posted by Samizdata at 10:21 PM on July 20, 2017


Doesn't explain why even small bugfixes require multi-GB patches.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 10:36 PM on July 20, 2017


DLC also helps studios retain developers after a big title ships. The number of devs needed to finish a AAA game is a lot more than is needed to start the next AAA game, which often means a round of layoffs. DLC lets some of the studio work on new content for the shipped title while the next big project is in pre-production.
posted by Durhey at 10:47 PM on July 20, 2017 [15 favorites]


Doesn't explain why even small bugfixes require multi-GB patches.

I am thinking that an issue with interdepencies. You update X, which spawns changes in Y and Z. Next thing you know, you're talking real annoyance for the guy with the 3Mbps DSL (that can't get any higher due to distance from the CO).
posted by Samizdata at 11:08 PM on July 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm okay with DLC that's like, 'Hey, a new area with new story!' (see: Witcher, Dragon Age). I'm less okay with DLC that's like "Hey, now your building system can be slightly improved!)"
posted by corb at 11:08 PM on July 20, 2017 [9 favorites]


I'm okay with DLC that's like, 'Hey, a new area with new story!' (see: Witcher, Dragon Age). I'm less okay with DLC that's like "Hey, now your building system can be slightly improved!)"

What about, say, Borderlands 2 style, with new classes?
posted by Samizdata at 11:11 PM on July 20, 2017


I haven't read any of TFAs yet, but this ex-Unix sysadmin has always assumed that release day server crashes are the result of not purchasing enough temporary power to deal with a surge in usage requirements that only occurs in the first few hours of a game's release.

Having participated at arm's length in a release that went huge and crashed the servers repeatedly over the next few days, it was my experience that it wasn't simply a matter of insufficient provisioning. It's more like an exercise in relative constraints: you have enough VMs, but the load balancer doesn't have enough file handles available for sockets; you have a nice scalable NoSQL database whose indexing requirements grow at a slightly larger rate than data, causing the index nodes to crash past a certain point.

You can't really predict how a whole system will work under a huge load without actually subjecting it to that load and seeing how it performs, and its really hard to simulate actual huge loads. It's incredibly easy to generate false positives. The best load test I ever did was to silently deploy a feature to a website and let it run invisibly for a release cycle before we actually turned it on. It's the only time I've felt confident on release day.
posted by fatbird at 11:14 PM on July 20, 2017 [14 favorites]


Welp, it's all going to get worse when we're on games that require all 4K textures.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 12:08 AM on July 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


Probably a nitpick, but "flack" in the Guardian? The standards must be slipping.
posted by Laotic at 12:48 AM on July 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


To flesh out the discussion on preview:

I do not agree with the argument in support of micro-payment and in-game-purchases. We could perhaps all agree that a good game by definition builds an addiction, and so the studios are in effect peddling a drug. Some people handle addiction worse than others. It is not therefore true that "The modern games business has a huge range of customers who all want slightly different things. Some are willing to pay more for more content,..." but rather that the micro-payment model is akin to charging for every extra sip of your morning coffee, or delaying culmination in sex pending a micro-payment, or installing urinals which only allow you to pee a few drops before exacting a 10-cent charge to your e-wallet.
People who get addicted easier spend amounts of money on in-game-purchases which they later regret and that is the demographic which complains about creeping post-purchase payments, in my opinion.

That said, I have no ideas for a remedy. It's a free world and people are free to harm themselves as long as they don't harm others too much, I guess.
posted by Laotic at 12:59 AM on July 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


That's a bit harsh, Laotic.

My twin brother passed away in March. He was too ill for the longest time to get out of home. He played Destiny online a lot, helping him connect with other people he never had the chance to meet. He formed close relationships with these people and felt like he was able to contribute in some small way to a shared happiness, even if it was miniscule in the grand scheme of things.

Bungie, being able to keep the game alive through continued microtransactions and DLC, have my praise. The game has a lot of flaws and could do many things better, but it helped keep my brother going, and presumably many others in similar predicaments.
posted by bumcivilian at 1:26 AM on July 21, 2017 [10 favorites]


Season passes aren't that different from the expansions packs, the only thing that changed was the distribution method and release window: expansion packs used to be released one year later, and I've seen season passes dry up in 6 months. The Workshop (or whatever is called) is no different than the unofficial retail data packs that were popular in the mid-90s - those with extra/improved tracks for racing games, hundreds of maps or scenarios for strategy games, Doom WAD collections (archive.org is full of them), etc. Some are good, some are bad - same as it ever was. The problem with DLC was (is?) when content was deliberately held off to sell as DLC (like the on-disc DLC on the previous gen) that soured many people on the idea, and many season passes do sound like that.
And if branding and tradermark violations was not an issue, I reckon I could make some money from, say, Pro Evolution Soccer mods (and boy, does it need it) - I used to be on the top of boot and ball making in FIFA 2001 and 2002, and one of the best at vintage kits. Except those days we did it for free and now I probably could have a Patreon asking $1 for access and $5 for requests.

But if we're going to talk about what grinds my gears, here's one: auto-patching. Sure, games are a lot more complex than they used to be, and patching in general is a good thing - some PS2 games could have used some post-release tweaks and some not only fix stuff but also add extra content. But I have a bunch of 360 games that have a few bugs here and there out of the box. Once MS pulls out the Live service for the console, what happens to the patches? Since there's no way of downloading a cumulative patch to a pen, those games will be broken forever. But if I want to play, dunno, Hi-Octane, I could just go to Patches Scrolls and get the two-floppy upgrade to the game (or try to find the CD-R with patches). Sure, they'll just say to buy the new console and the remasters or hope it was included in the retro-compatibility, but it's still a shitty way of doing stuff.
posted by lmfsilva at 1:55 AM on July 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


What DLC (says the guy that just uninstalled it)?
Doom update 6.66 unlocks all multiplayer DLC and overhauls player progression. [PC Gamer]
It's massive but it's also filled with a lot of free content: maps, weapons, demons, etc. I hope you enjoy your install. Grab a book.
posted by Fizz at 1:56 AM on July 21, 2017


Ser-ver Crash-es
Fortygigabyte Patch-es
- and DLC
DLC

It's like the chorus chant of some kind of gamer nerd rap.
posted by hippybear at 2:35 AM on July 21, 2017 [4 favorites]


Ultimate Edition - $129.99 - Everything included in our Standard and Deluxe Editions PLUS...

As always, I'll just wait until I have hardware that can support it, probably five years later, by which time there'll be a Gold Edition with all the stuff, for $10.
posted by pompomtom at 2:49 AM on July 21, 2017 [8 favorites]


On the server crashes thing, what I've heard from people still in the industry (and which tallies with my experience) is that gamesdev (still) has a massive Not Invented Here problem, which means that adoption of AWS/Google Cloud/Azure for hosting scalable infrastructure has been much slower than in other areas and that people were (and quite possibly still are) literally buying server rooms full of physical hardware.

(Also, a lot of games tend to scrimp on the login server and throw all the capacity at the gameplay servers; in infrastructure terms, this is like putting a single toll-booth at the entry point of a six-lane highway)
posted by parm at 3:42 AM on July 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


We could perhaps all agree that a good game by definition builds an addiction

No we certainly could not. There are, of course, games that try to do this, and they may even be the majority arguably, but not all good games, and not by definition.
posted by juv3nal at 3:48 AM on July 21, 2017 [7 favorites]


* and equally arguably on the other side of the coin, the ones that do try to do this, might by definition not be good.
posted by juv3nal at 3:49 AM on July 21, 2017


Cow Clicker comes to mind.
posted by hippybear at 3:50 AM on July 21, 2017


Probably a nitpick, but "flack" in the Guardian? The standards must be slipping.

The Guardian is so notorious for poor copy editing that its nickname is an anagram. It's not so much standards slipping as them briefly having standards.
posted by Merus at 4:06 AM on July 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


Q:"But is that fair?"
A: "Yes"
posted by mfoight at 4:24 AM on July 21, 2017


I'm still incredulous that Bethesda keeps trying to make multiplayer Doom 4 a thing. More singleplayer, folks, just like everybody's been telling you for a fucking year now.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:24 AM on July 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


It's like the chorus chant of some kind of gamer nerd rap.

Run-D.L.C.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:28 AM on July 21, 2017 [10 favorites]


It's mentioned as a joke up-thread, but Gold Editions and Game if the Year Editions are great for this. You have to wait a bit, but a year or so isn't that long, and you do save a lot if money.

Or you could even be like me and play games 2-3 years out and have a plethora of vetted, fully-expanded games to enjoy for as low as $20 to $30.
posted by oddman at 5:04 AM on July 21, 2017 [6 favorites]


(Titanfall 2 -- mentioned in one of TFAs -- is really good, you guys. Best FPS single-player campaign since Half-Life 2, and the multiplayer keeps getting new free stuff on like a monthly basis.)
posted by tobascodagama at 5:22 AM on July 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


It's mentioned as a joke up-thread, but Gold Editions and Game if the Year Editions are great for this. You have to wait a bit, but a year or so isn't that long, and you do save a lot if money.

Seriously. I just got the Gold Edition of The Last of Us for 20 bucks, and it even has a secondary side-adventure already on the disk. There are games I NEED to play the day they come up (Dragon Age,) but I don't mind waiting on a lot of titles.
posted by headspace at 7:08 AM on July 21, 2017 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty tolerant of the first four points in TFC, but the fifth, server crashes make my blood boil. Micropayments, pre-orders, patches, can all be attributed to issues outside the game developer, such as customer preferences or logistical supply chain realities. However, server crashes, even if they cannot be completely eliminated, are entirely a consequence of the developer deciding to prioritize profitability over performance.

I assume this is an upper management issue, as I can't imagine there are too many dev's out there that look forward to game or expansion release days and the insane amounts of stress that comes from trying to keep everything running smoothly without adequate resources.

I generally do not purchase single-player games until they've been out for some time, but MMO's are a different beast. And as someone who suffered through Raubahn EX in the FF14: Stormblood release, I'd like to throttle some Squeenix management folks.
posted by sharp pointy objects at 7:27 AM on July 21, 2017 [2 favorites]


Fizz: To enjoy this MetaFilter post please choose from one of our three available premium packages:

WTF? No hats? I'm outta here!
posted by sneebler at 7:52 AM on July 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


hippybear: "It's like the chorus chant of some kind of gamer nerd rap."

yo yo yo this is mc microtransaction and I'm here with some user-generated content

e: Faint of Butt: "Run-D.L.C."

god DAMMIT, FoB
posted by boo_radley at 8:08 AM on July 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


It's mentioned as a joke up-thread, but Gold Editions and Game if the Year Editions are great for this. You have to wait a bit, but a year or so isn't that long, and you do save a lot if money.

The one area where this type of plan falls short is for FPS/community based games. Things like Titanfall 2, Battlefield 1, and Player Unknown Battlegrounds are easier to jump into earlier in the gaming cycle than later. This isn't to say that it cannot be done but it's infinitely harder to join a larger online gaming community like that 3 or 4 years later.

It's a trade off, you get all the fancy DLC, extra in-game content, but assuming that online competitive/community based gaming is what you're into, you might be all alone on those servers.

Buying those Gold Edition and Game of the Year Editions I find are better for single player campaign style games like Tomb Raider, Uncharted 4, Just Cause 3. Larger open world games that are now fully fleshed out and have been patched and padded to the max.
posted by Fizz at 8:14 AM on July 21, 2017 [2 favorites]


Also, I have to take issue with the VG24/7 article calling out Titanfall 2 for not adding that much content (totally ignoring the fact that they decided a whole new game mode and its maps don't count as content for some reason) and then neglecting to mention that Battlefield 1, in the same period, added the same amount of new content but charged for it did in in a way that fragmented its existing player base so badly that they've been struggling to deal with the backlash ever since. (You can play the new maps if you have a friend who owns it! Or, err, uh, you can just try it out for a while now. Yeah, just for a little while, but we'll turn off all the progression stuff that our multiplayer is built around if you take advantage of our ~generous~ ~offer~.)
posted by tobascodagama at 8:17 AM on July 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


Paid DLC just doesn't work if you want a sustainable multiplayer game, basically. Battlefield/front and CoD don't give a damn because their season passes are just a way to make annual release money without having to actually do annual releases. But for any game that isn't a Madden-level juggernaut like those two, multiplayer DLC for anything but cosmetics is suicide.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:19 AM on July 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


So I was out of gaming for a while post Xbox 360 until just a few weeks ago and I kind of totally missed whatever the hell Season Passes were, to be honest. Just DLC to a timetable? I mean, the copy of Elite: Dangerous I have here says "Horizons Season Pass" and I don't know what the hell that means, because it sort of sounds like "oy, you'll need to relicense this content in a year."

So, er. People who were there, help a man out. Thanks.
posted by Kyol at 8:37 AM on July 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


I actually didn't mind the model that the most recent Hitman game implemented, that of a "Season" of gaming where you had the choice of purchasing individual "Episodes" as they were slowly released throughout the year or you could wait until the entire thing is out and buy it as a complete collection.

But then again that worked well for this game simply because of the way the game was developed and its inherent repeat mission play style. I enjoyed being able to spend time and focus on a single episode during the month and a half. I played more of that game during that time because that is all I was able to play and it built up excitement for the next episode.

Then again, maybe I've just been programmed into liking this type of pay model because its become so much the standard.
posted by Fizz at 8:41 AM on July 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm still incredulous that Bethesda keeps trying to make multiplayer Doom 4 a thing. More singleplayer, folks, just like everybody's been telling you for a fucking year now.

They're half listening what with the new Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus and The Evil Within 2 which are both games that are heavy on single-player campaign. So we have that to look forward to.
posted by Fizz at 8:45 AM on July 21, 2017 [2 favorites]


So I was out of gaming for a while post Xbox 360 until just a few weeks ago and I kind of totally missed whatever the hell Season Passes were, to be honest.

A Season Pass is just a DLC bundle. Functionally, you're preordering all upcoming DLC, and you usually get a discount out of the deal (as is traditional with bundles).

Like everything else, there are good ways to do them and scummy ways to do them, but the scummy ways tend to get the most attention.

XCOM 2, for instance, announced a season-pass-in-all-but-name at the same time as they announced what the DLC contained would be and rough-guess release dates for everything, which is like the platonic ideal of a good season pass. Firaxis has since decided to release a new DLC that isn't included in the original bundle, but most people are ok with this because the season pass advertised itself as "get a bundle of these three specific DLCs" rather than "get all of our DLC forever".

In the middle ground, Fallout 4's season pass was offered before anybody knew what would be in it. Shortly after the first round of DLC was released, Bethesda decided to do a second round that wasn't originally planned. They decided to add this second round of DLC to the existing season pass while increasing the cost of the pass. However, they gave people over a month of heads-up about the price increase, so it was weird but not, like, terrible.

I don't play enough of the games with really shitty season pass models to give a good example of what that looks like, but the fact that Fallout 4's pass is considered a middle ground of acceptable weirdness should give you an idea.

Then again, maybe I've just been programmed into liking this type of pay model because its become so much the standard.

I mean, there are pluses and minuses, right? And it's ultimately all about implementation. Hitman is a game that suits an extended "season" model very well, as you said, because the whole thing is based on repetition and learning the environments. The time-limited events give you new things to do within that framework, so it works. (Game Maker's Toolkit had a good video on this.) But at the same time, you'd never buy these things a la carte, because it's difficult to define the value of "here's a slightly different take on one mission you've already done" versus "here are a bunch of slightly different takes on missions you've already done that we'll keep delivering for a while".

Compare this with the WoW model of MMOs, where you're paying a monthly fee for the privilege of accessing the game but then you need to shell out again for the expansion, and it kind of gives you a hint about why Free to Play is such a big thing in the MMO world. WoW justifies the double-dipping by being an 800-pound gorilla, while FFXIV justifies it by actually providing regular content updates outside of the expansion schedule, as well as within it.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:00 AM on July 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


A season pass is just pre-ordering all DLC in a certain time period. Usually cheaper than buying it piecemeal.
posted by zabuni at 9:00 AM on July 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


Of course, is this when I grar about paying full price for DOOM at release date just to see them offering later for $15?

(SHUT UP about all the Fable 3 DLC you have that goes away when GfWL goes away. You have already TOLD THEM ABOUT IT ENOUGH!)
posted by Samizdata at 10:07 AM on July 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


Of course, is this when I grar about paying full price for DOOM at release date just to see them offering later for $15?

Yeah, I've been burned by this a few times. Sometimes you can predict when a price might drop on Steam if its conveniently around the time of a Summer or Winter sale. But other times, its a roll of the dice. You might pay full price only to have a mid-week sale hit two weeks later that slashes the price in half. I am sorry for your loss.
posted by Fizz at 10:21 AM on July 21, 2017


The one area where this type of plan falls short is for FPS/community based games. Things like Titanfall 2, Battlefield 1, and Player Unknown Battlegrounds are easier to jump into earlier in the gaming cycle than later. This isn't to say that it cannot be done but it's infinitely harder to join a larger online gaming community like that 3 or 4 years later.

After a certain point the playerbase for a multiplayer FPS consists entirely of a handful of newbies and a hard core of obsessives who play 24/7 and are better than you will ever hope to be. Somewhere there's a Starsiege: Tribes server that hasn't seen a new player in ten years, no doubt.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:26 AM on July 21, 2017 [2 favorites]


Of course, is this when I grar about paying full price for DOOM at release date just to see them offering later for $15?

Yeah, I've been burned by this a few times. Sometimes you can predict when a price might drop on Steam if its conveniently around the time of a Summer or Winter sale. But other times, its a roll of the dice. You might pay full price only to have a mid-week sale hit two weeks later that slashes the price in half. I am sorry for your loss.


Well, I did get my $40 of fun out of it AND I was one of only two people I knew to own it when it was fresh and smelled of that lovely new demon smell, sooooo...
posted by Samizdata at 10:31 AM on July 21, 2017


multiplayer FPS consists entirely of a handful of newbies and a hard core of obsessives who play 24/7

This has been my experience with every FPS player base in the last 10 years. Also, if you ever feel the need to be called an insulting slur by a 14 year old after you're sniped in the head 10 seconds after spawning into the game, feel free to log into GTA V Online. They have you covered.
posted by Fizz at 10:34 AM on July 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


I've been steadily losing interest in games lately because of everything detailed in Fizz's linked articles. One of my favourite games, which had been buy to play, was just relaunched as free to play with micro-transactions. It costs $4 USD to upgrade your inventory by 5 slots. After that it's $5 and so on. The grinding required to gear up is unbelievable, unless you want to drop a few thousand dollars, of course. And because of gold sellers we can no longer trade items or buy and sell between friends.

Then there's the bullshit pre-order/hype machine. A game is hyped like crazy, people rush to buy access to the alpha or beta (actually paying to bug test the game for the company!*) and then the game either: a) is shut down before release, b) is eternally in beta, c) is terrible.

*Seriously, is nothing properly bug tested anymore? There's part of your reason for multiple, huge patches to fix exploits and game breaking bugs. Most beta testers who pay for access are not there to actually find and fix bugs, and they certainly don't go about it systematically.
posted by Stonkle at 12:19 PM on July 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


I don't work in game dev, but I do work in enterprise software dev.

The answer is no. Nothing is properly bug tested any more. Standalone QA teams at this point are the exception, not the rule.

The thinking seems to be that, since automated testing frameworks are better/easier these days, manual testing is either not required or can be done by developers before they commit their code. Which even a minimal amount of experience will tell you is not actually true, but everyone (not only on the management side but the dev side as well) wants it to be true because their metrics look much nicer if they just ignore system-level manual testing until right before release.

Frankly, manual testing is tedious and boring, so nobody actually wants to do it, and I can't really blame anybody for wanting to sideline it. But there's a certain level of contempt in the industry for the idea that QA is even a discrete skill set that I think goes a long way to explain why so much software these days is just plain garbage.
posted by tobascodagama at 1:05 PM on July 21, 2017 [5 favorites]


This is all great conversation, but what I want to know is what it means regarding the release of Half-Life 2, Episode 3...
posted by mystyk at 2:15 PM on July 21, 2017


We could perhaps all agree that a good game by definition builds an addiction

No we certainly could not. There are, of course, games that try to do this, and they may even be the majority arguably, but not all good games, and not by definition.
posted by juv3nal at 12:48 PM on July 21 [4 favorites +] [!]

* and equally arguably on the other side of the coin, the ones that do try to do this, might by definition not be good.
posted by juv3nal at 12:49 PM on July 21 [+] [!]


Well, actually, since you did not provide any supporting arguments, I still disagree with you.

Game, in the sense as understood by a child, is thrilling because it teaches a new skill, and only until that skill is learned.

Game, as understood by a gamer, be it SimCity or Witcher, teaches a minimum of a new skill, but becomes compulsive as a result of the gratification it offers.

You may feel free to disagree, but at least provide some arguments.
posted by Laotic at 3:03 PM on July 21, 2017


I'm not here to have a debate, you're welcome to continue not being convinced.
posted by juv3nal at 3:12 PM on July 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


Yet, inflation aside, the price we pay at the till remains the same now as it was 25 years ago.

I'm surprised the guardian article goes past this so briefly. My understanding was that customers expecting the price point to be about $60 when "really" it should have gone up to more like $100 was a defining factor behind these decisions. If developers had that much of a multiplier on their expected return, could they throw enough money around to avoid huge day one patches, server woes and the tackier charges?

I know in most cases the work would just expand to fill the budget, but on the other hand, some developers do seem to be just working to a relatively smaller, more tightly reigned scope these days (though it does inevitably mean suggestions of under delivering).
posted by lucidium at 5:36 PM on July 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


You think $60 is bad. It's $74.99 in Canada for a AAA game during its first couple of weeks. Thank you very much shitty dollar conversion.
posted by Fizz at 6:57 PM on July 21, 2017


I've been steadily losing interest in games lately because of everything detailed in Fizz's linked articles. One of my favourite games, which had been buy to play, was just relaunched as free to play with micro-transactions. It costs $4 USD to upgrade your inventory by 5 slots. After that it's $5 and so on. The grinding required to gear up is unbelievable, unless you want to drop a few thousand dollars, of course. And because of gold sellers we can no longer trade items or buy and sell between friends.

Then there's the bullshit pre-order/hype machine. A game is hyped like crazy, people rush to buy access to the alpha or beta (actually paying to bug test the game for the company!*) and then the game either: a) is shut down before release, b) is eternally in beta, c) is terrible.

*Seriously, is nothing properly bug tested anymore? There's part of your reason for multiple, huge patches to fix exploits and game breaking bugs. Most beta testers who pay for access are not there to actually find and fix bugs, and they certainly don't go about it systematically.


Or there's that time when you pay retail for a game, then it becomes free to play within six months after purchase. (Looking at YOU, Gotham City Imposters!)
posted by Samizdata at 12:46 AM on July 22, 2017


Laotic, what about Firewatch, The Stanley Parable, Gone Home, To The Moon, etc. Would you consider those addictive in the same way a book is?

Game, in the sense as understood by a child, is thrilling because it teaches a new skill, and only until that skill is learned.

Learning skills is not a binary state, it's a curve.

Game, as understood by a gamer, be it SimCity or Witcher, teaches a minimum of a new skill, but becomes compulsive as a result of the gratification it offers.

This is a weird dichotomy you're trying to create. Skills are far from the only reason play games (exploration, social stuff, creativity, immersion, etc), and kids games don't inherently teach any more new skills than video games do. There are video games with skill curves way steeper and/or deeper than most kids games.

If you derive pleasure from exploring the unknown and sightseeing in games like Minecraft, Skyrim, or Witcher, and you also enjoy exploring national parks, is that so different? Where do you draw the line between addiction and any other normal human thing that provides dopamine to the brain? Is it games' efficiency in doing so?
posted by JauntyFedora at 1:21 AM on July 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


Plenty of people play games in an attempt to capture or experience the male power fantasy. Success can feel like a high (I'M THE BADDEST BADASS EVAR!) while failure provides the low. Cycles of extreme highs followed by extreme lows are all a person needs to form an addiction.
posted by VTX at 5:43 PM on July 23, 2017


My understanding was that customers expecting the price point to be about $60 when "really" it should have gone up to more like $100 was a defining factor behind these decisions

I think the problem is that the shit that's the most expensive is not the best parts of the games, but the shit that makes them expensive takes away from the best parts of them.

Like, let's look at some games I love. Dragon Age: Origins is an incredible game series that allows for several different origin races, classes, and economic stations. It allows for multiple different intros. And throughout the game, it allows for reactions to those situations, different game endings and situations according to how you interacted with your party. And things happen to places according to how you handled them - the quests you chose to do or not do, who you sided with.

Now the focus is on open world, really with Dragon Age: Inquisition, they can only keep track of a few major forks. Your origins are discussed really mostly only in missions on the war table, not in sweeping live interactions, with few exceptions. Because it costs way more money now to animate those, to have the natural human reactions to all of these situations. And because with an open world, it would be really hard to show the places changing every time with everything you change. So your actions have almost no impact.

And it's hard to keep shelling more money for games when they're getting both prettier and worse in some ways. Fallout 4 was gorgeous, but had none of the nuance and impact on the world of earlier Fallouts. Your decisions don't matter, so why should you care enough to pay more money?
posted by corb at 11:47 PM on July 23, 2017


I don't think that's all that new though is it?

There have always been games that put an emphasis on pretty graphics over gameplay and story. Or games that change direction to be more like the "hot new thing". I remember a phase with MMO's where just about every single one was making changes to be more like WoW.

I remember the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series getting an increasingly convoluted and nonsensical story after running out of legitimate reasons to include such wildly different settings. You can have an arctic snowmobile chase and a cabin in the woods shootout in your game OR a story that makes sense, I guess.

I think that's why I've mostly settled into a rhythm of playing older games. I ponied up big and pre-ordered the whole shebang for Battlefield 4. While I eventually enjoyed the game the launch was...rough. The game was glitchy, there were a lot of bugs, some balancing issues, and HUGE change to the agility of the helicopters from BF3. I was also a server admin so our little group did a ton of work getting the players from our existing and popular BF3 servers to move to the new game and play on our server when they did.

Nowadays, there are enough demands on my time that I don't play that many games so I only plays games I know I'll like. That usually means waiting until well after it's launched so all the early problems gets ironed out and the public has had some time to really evaluate the game.

Often it means that I can delay making hardware upgrades and I'm buying discounted versions of the games so my gaming hobby ends up costing a lot less as a result.

The big problem doing it that way is that if the draw to the game is it's multiplayer, I can't wait too long or there won't be many players (and those that have stuck around will have had a TON of practice) and/or the multiplayer component is no longer supported.
posted by VTX at 6:15 AM on July 24, 2017 [2 favorites]


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