In news that was somehow simultaneously both expected and unexpected, today The Elder Scrolls Online announced that they’ll be moving from a subscription payment model to buy-to-play. Subscribers will be given bonuses, but otherwise once you have the box you’re free to explore Tamriel.
The right honourable Belghast had some words to say on this topic:
Don't like pay to win air drops, or overpriced early access schemes? We got games we deserve for not being willing to pay subscriptoins.
— Unseasonably Bel (@belghast) January 21, 2015
And indeed, it will probably surprise no one that I totally agree. When publishers can’t guarantee a regular income, history shows that they often resort to increasingly desperate measures to extract cash from players. Or, to put it another way, if you’re not paying a subscription or making regular cash shop purchases, rest assured that the game will be shaped to make sure someone else is paying enough for the both of you. (Just ask LotRO players about the little coin symbols all over Middle Earth now.)
Take yesterday’s news about the Heroes of the Storm Founder’s Pack. For the first time ever, Blizzard is offering players a way to buy into a game’s beta. Now, Blizzard is known for having pretty technically complete betas, so I think the value of this offer is better than most. But let’s be honest — if players show that they’ll buy into a Blizzard beta for $40, the number of invites that are sent to people who opted in for free will drop dramatically. If this Founder’s Pack goes well, we’ll almost certainly see a buy-to-beta (or alpha) plan for Overwatch or whatever it ends up being called. And man, Blizzard would be fools to walk away from the money they’d make for a buy-to-beta plan for the next WoW expansion.
Happy Gamer Lessons: Don't buy early access games. Don't preorder more than 14 days out. Don't participate in pay-for-beta or pay-for-alpha.
— Jessica Cook (@Liores) January 20, 2015
And there’s the rub: our behavior as consumers sends messages to publishers about how much we’re willing to put up with to play a game. The comedy of errors that is SoE’s buy-to-alpha packages might seem innocuous enough on their own, but who can say how much that affected Blizzard’s decision to dip their toes into the same waters?
I’m not saying that preferring B2P or F2P MMOs is always inherently bad, but it’s not like the publishers are running a charity. The loss of income from subscriptions will be forcibly made up for in other ways, and sometimes those ways will be bad news.
You’ve probably given some thought to how many games in your Steam library are unplayed. Maybe you’ve even joked about having more games than you could ever realistically play, or made a New Years resolution to chip away at your backlog. It’s okay, friend. We’ve all been there.
But wait! Thanks to the website SteamLeft now you can turn the nagging feeling that you spent too much money in the last sale into concrete understanding of just how many damn games you own and still keep in their virtual shrink wrap. Behold my shame:
It’s … actually, that’s not too bad. I mean yes, two months of nothing but playing games is still a fair chunk of time, but I could reasonably play through everything in a year with a little gumption. And heck, that list includes games that I didn’t like but still own, like Surgeon Simulator, or ones that just plain didn’t work, like The Testament of Sherlock Holmes.
(The site compares the average time it takes to beat a game — found at HowLongToBeat — and compares it to how many hours you’ve played according to your Steam profile. Any deficit between the two is added to your SteamLeft sentence.)
Based on a brief survey of Twitter, my 61 days is shorter than most results. I’m not sure if I’ve played more of my library or buy fewer games, but either way I actually felt pretty good about my only mildly terrible backlog. I bet if I was unemployed and ate a lot of take-out I could clear it out in three months, tops! Take that, time management!
Fortunately SteamLeft provides helpful ideas for what else you could do with your time.
Ugh, fine random website, you're right, I should exercise more. Rude.
Good point, I could be putting that time into less playful pursuits.
Oh my god! Screw this, I’m gonna go buy more games.
Speaking of backlogs, here is my question for you: What game are you most embarrassed to admit sits owned yet unplayed in your library? It can be either because of the game itself or the story of how you got it. Your answers might be read out on Cat Context (with attribution).
As for me: Gone Home. I own it and will tirelessly argue in favor of its existence as a game, but thus far I just can’t be arsed to play the darn thing when there are hats that look like a horse is eating your head to collect in FFXIV.
Like Cat Context? Check out the The Gaming and Entertainment Network for more great shows!
This week Liore, Ellyndrial, and Arolaide talk about retro games through the Awesome Games Done Quick event, Aro’s new Raspberry Pi emulator, and the Internet Archive stash of DOS games. Also, MMOs are back on our playlist with Destiny and Final Fantasy XIV making a return.
Liore watched a lot of AGDQ last week, and she’s all excited about retro games. We talk about our favorite moments from the event, and how difficult it would really be to play something blindfolded. Meanwhile Aro has been playing a ton of old SNES games — including some you’ve probably never heard of — on her new Raspberry Pi emulator and boy are her thumbs tired. Elly is excited to get his hands on the new DOS game collection at the Internet Archive because Lemmings is still great.
Meanwhile in more modern news, Aro updates us on her mission to romance everyone in Dragon Age: Inquisition. Elly has returned to Destiny for a bit, but seems somewhat subdued about the game’s future. Liore finally got back to playing MMOs, in this case Final Fantasy XIV, and she wants everyone to know about the hats.
Also, Aro dreams of seeing Adult Simba one day! Elly is still totally dazed by sudden parenthood! Liore played something called.. Corpse Party? Huh.
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* The Tetris Showcase at AGDQ
* Blindfolded Ocarina of Time at AGDQ
* The Internet Archive collection of DOS games
* Free Music Archive page for our theme, in THE crowd by The Years
Things are continuing apace in FFXIV! My highest class is a 23 Conjurer, with a level 7 Arcanist coming up the ranks. The goal is to eventually get both classes to 30 at which point I can combine them in various ways to form a White Mage and a Scholar, the two healing specializations. I think. It’s all a little confusing.
Next week patch 2.5 hits, and there’s a fancy trailer for it on YouTube as of today. While I’m way too low level to worry about any of the end-game or max level content updates, this patch is also introducing a casino-like place with lots of carnival games including chocobo racing and the Triple Triad card game from Final Fantasy 8. Sounds good to me!
Anyway, as I’ve mentioned before this game is really all about cute outfits and pets and mounts. (You can get costume gear for your chocobo, people. CHOCOBO HATS.) So here are some tips on being fabulous in Final Fantasy 14 using a few tools that I didn’t find terribly clear for new players.
1. The little color swatches on gear tiles represent the color of the item. That might seem obvious in retrospect, but it actually took me ages to figure out. My first instinct was that the swatch indicated quality of gear (like blue and purple in WoW) but then I was sort of boggled trying to figure out where things like “light green” and “kind of pinkish” would fit on a quality continuum.
2. The game has an Aesthetician that you can unlock who will change your appearance, but you can also change your race by buying a $10 bottle of Fantasia from the Mog Station. This is important (and cool) in a game like FFXIV where you’re encouraged to just have one character forever. After dealing with WoW, $10 for a race change seems pretty reasonable!
3. You can change how your character stands while idle! Type /cpose repeatedly to rotate through the handful of options, including crossed arms and a variety of slouches. Your character will remember what you picked and use that pose while idle until you change it again.
4. For PC players, the “Pause” key is bound by default to “look at camera”. This little command is super useful for taking all kinds of cool screenshots of your character, like the one at the start of this post. Just pick a nice backdrop, move your camera, and hit Pause. Combine this with one of the many available facial expressions found under “Emotes” in the social menu. Pow, perfect screenshot!
As mentioned in previous posts I’ve been feeling a little blue about the “gaming community” as of late for various reasons. Gamers, man. This week though I started watching the Awesome Games Done Quick event and if like me you’ve been feeling down about gaming I absolutely recommend that you check it out.
Awesome Games Done Quick is a fundraiser for the Prevent Cancer Foundation, held twice a year by the speedrunning community. It’s streamed live, 24-hours a day, and at any point you can go to Twitch or their website and check out folks blasting through games both old and new. As of this post the event has raised over $500,000 for their charity! AGDQ has been going on for a number of years previously, but this is the first time I’ve tuned in. And man, it’s been a treat.
First of all, it’s a joy to see people who reeeeeeally love games. Speedrunning can be through just plain skill and muscle memory or also involve an element of glitching the game to skip segments, but either way these folks have clearly spent hours devoted to their current game of choice and they are often a font of wisdom about it. I may not be a speedrunner in any way but seeing nerds (and oh man these are nerds) talk about analyzing algorithms to discern the most optimal paths in a game… well, even if we don’t have the specific type of gameplay in common I can’t help but feel that these are my people.
Additionally AGDQ and speedrunning in general seems to be a robust community, and each game also has its own dedicated group. The player gets to bring fellow speedrunners up “on the couch” behind them while they play, and often donations come in from their friends while they’re doing their thing. There’s discussion about “building on Y’s strategy” or a moment of giving props to the folks who helped the speedrunner while they were getting started, and I find it really heartwarming to see people being supportive and friendly.
But aside from the love for games and for their fellow speedrunners, some of the stuff you see on the stream is seriously amazing. There’s the gobsmacking invisible Tetris, a highly entertaining run of I Wanna Be the Boshy (with a mystery $20,000 donation near the end!), and today’s Ninja Gaiden Relay Race which sees 6 players battle over three games and end up a lot closer than you’d expect. Yesterday even had the first even AGDQ marriage proposal!
This round of Awesome Games Done Quick goes through January 10th, and if you find yourself idling in front of your computer you should definitely pop by to see what’s happening. It’s people who love games doing cool things with games, all for a good cause, and it might even make you feel better about the idea of a gaming community.