“Democratic Money” and Early Access

The launch of Everquest Next Landmark’s alpha last week has gotten a lot of people talking about games with paid early access.

I’ve already stated that I’m opposed to the practice. I will spare you all the details of why I’m not a fan of early access / pay-to-alpha, but suffice to say that I don’t think we should be encouraging the industry to sell us unfinished games. (I also don’t kickstart things for similar reasons.)

I understand why people buy early or alpha access and I’m glad folks are enjoying the heck out of Landmark, but I just think setting this expectation of buying half-finished content will bite us consumers in the butt in the long run.

Today on Tales of the Aggronaut, Belghast expands on one of the reasons he likes paid early access: it’s a more “democratic” system of letting people into alpha/beta.

“I will admit I have talked to a friend of a friend who got me on that desired friends and family list more than a few times for a game I was extremely interested in. To be honest, the system that existed just is not fair to the gamer, and involved a whole lot of cronyism… did I abuse this fact to get access to what I wanted? Hell yes I did.

For the the concept of buying into a program just seems more just. If you care enough to plunk down your money in support of a game, then by all means you should have access to alpha and beta testing.”

(from the post Democratizing Access)

Like I said, I understand that people want access to a game they’re looking forward to now rather than later, but calling a financial barrier “just” and “democratic” made my head spin!

There are so many people who love video games who do not have a lot of extra income. Maybe they’re a student, maybe they work a minimum wage job, maybe they’re a single-income household so someone can stay home with the kids. Maybe they lost their job in today’s craptacular economy. Maybe they prioritize their budget on things that aren’t video games.

Honestly, I am fortunate enough to have solid employment and I still don’t have the wiggle room in my budget to spend $60 on a free-to-play game that isn’t finished yet and I know nothing about thanks to the NDA (which was lifted shortly after the alpha launch). That’s a week of groceries!

Buy a pay-to-alpha game because you cannot wait another second to play it, buy it because you want to be part of the zeitgeist, buy it because you want to claim your virtual land plot or you like the developers or for whatever reason. Do it! Own it! Enjoy it!

But man, let’s not pretend that a monetary barrier is somehow more fair than random selection, or that having the ability to drop $60 on an unseen, untested game indicates a greater level of fandom or commitment or anything other than having that money to spend.

Totally Legit Movies
Feb10

Totally Legit Movies

One of the things I’ve been interested in lately is video editing. I’m pretty used to audio editing at this point thanks to almost two years of doing the podcast, but video editing is an entirely different beast. It’s fussier in some ways, and has many more moving parts, but also lots opportunities for fun editorial tricks.

videoediting Totally Legit Movies

A segment-in-process

Back in December I decided to start doing a short video show about movies, along with a few friends. The idea behind Totally Legit Movies is to talk about underappreciated gems — movies that weren’t appreciated in their day but deserve more love. My personal taste in movies tends to run towards horror and cult films, and those will definitely have ample representation in each episode. But really there are movies that undeservedly slipped under the radar in every genre, and fortunately I have friends like Ellyndrial (and a few other familiar faces from Cat Context) who love comedies and animated movies and blockbusters and more to help drag them back into the spotlight.

(In a future episode we are going to make other hosts watch a “classic” that they haven’t seen yet, and you guys, Elly has never seen The Shining. I cannot wait to share the joy of REDRUM! REDRUUUM!)

So anyway, behold! A video! This first episode talks about slasher movie You’re Next (2013) and amazing cult classic Tank Girl (1995). What’s your favorite underappreciated movie?

Cat Context 44: SOE Closures and Hints of a New Star Wars Galaxies?
Feb06

Cat Context 44: SOE Closures and Hints of a New Star Wars Galaxies?

cat context vertical Cat Context 44: SOE Closures and Hints of a New Star Wars Galaxies?

Sony Online Entertainment is in the news this week with the announcement of 4 MMO closures and hints of a new game that will appeal to old Star Wars Galaxies players. Liore, Arolaide, and Ellyndrial sort of talk about all this news in between taunting each other about football, zombies, and terrible topic transitions.

What are the rights of digital property “owners” and do we have any say over what happens to our Sparkle Ponies and fancy hats when servers shut down? Also, which elements of SWG are worth saving, and is there any room for an old school game now with a new school of players?

Also, Elly talks smack about Serious Sam! Arolaide is still in love with Broken Age! Liore tries yet again to defend the powers of chaos and evil in games!

Please note that Liore is super not drunk at all in this episode.

This podcast was also livestreamed as a hangout on air:

It would be downright awesome if you gave us a vote on iTunes. :)

* Destructoid on Digital Property in the Third Age
* Free Music Archive page for our theme, in THE crowd by The Years

Making More Sad Faces at RIFT
Feb05

Making More Sad Faces at RIFT

I have been slightly tempted to check RIFT out again lately. (It’s all Game by Night‘s fault for talking about it on this week’s Game On podcast!)

For those just tuning in, I played Vanilla RIFT loyally for a couple of years and in fact it remains my favorite MMO ever. Some of the changes in their first expansion, Storm Legion, didn’t really work for me, and then they went free-to-play and suddenly a lot of my motivation for playing like silly hats and mounts and dimension furniture got stuck behind a paywall. So I quit.

Anyway, as if Trion could read my mind I just received an email from them about the new Budgie mounts. Budgie mount! Just look at this adorable thing:

budgie blog Making More Sad Faces at RIFT

My brain immediately decided that I must own this, so I checked out the details page. Bring on the grind! Just give me a reason!

Turns out they’re a rare drop from “Troves”, which sounds suspiciously like lockboxes. And while you get either one total or one each day (it’s unclear from the site) from questing, additional chances for a Budgie come from “visit[ing] the RIFT Store for additional Troves and Bird Seed!”.

A player did the math and concluded on the official RIFT forum that “[y]ou won’t be guaranteed to get a Budgie without spending credits”.

Ah. Well. So close, RIFT. So close.

The Backlog Report: January 2014
Feb04

The Backlog Report: January 2014

On the last episode of Cat Context Podcast I mentioned that game backlogs appear to be a real theme this year with folks. Perhaps it’s the natural result of a few years of binge-buying from Steam sales, or maybe it’s just an easy resolution for the new year, but no matter what the reason behind it is I too have been feeling backlog guilt.

With that in mind, myself and Ellyndrial and a couple of friends decided to knuckle down a make a giant spreadsheet of all our backlog games… which brought up the question of “what counts as backlog, anyway?”.

Not every unplayed title on my Steam list made it to the spreadsheet. As someone with a weakness for Humble Bundles, I’ve ended up with a number of games that I never intended to play, or that I just didn’t like enough to play more.

backlog 500x188 The Backlog Report: January 2014

Stop buying games, Liore.

And once you finish making a list, then you have to try and figure out “what does complete really mean?” (Who knew that the act of making a backlog was so fraught with philosophical questions?) For me I have to consider a game complete when I finish the main story. 100% — heck, even 90% — completion is a standard that I will never reach unless your game starts with the words “Mass Effect”.

The sad fact of the matter is that the best way to get me to play and finish games is to gamify game playing. Getting to tick the “Completed” box next to a title and compete with friends over how many we’ve knocked off in a month has inspired me to play my library more than anything else in recent memory. Man, we are such suckers.

Anyway here is what I worked on in January:

In Process
* I started off the Year of the Backlog with Tropico 4 The Backlog Report: January 2014 (Amazon link) because it’s one of the games on my list that I have spent the most time with already and also I love me some Tropico 4. The problem is that this game is long. Like, HowLongToBeat.com has it listed for at least 40 hours without the Modern Times DLC, and I admit to being prone to wasting a lot of time trying to line my city blocks up perfectly. In January I knocked out 3 more of the total 20 missions, and I still have lots of time to put in here.

Completed
Stacking 500x300 The Backlog Report: January 2014
* After running into the quagmire that was Tropico 4 I figured I should finish off something short, and Double Fine’s adorable Stacking The Backlog Report: January 2014 (Amazon link) was an excellent candidate. In Stacking you play Charlie Blackmore, the world’s tiniest Russian doll who also has the ability to stack other dolls around him to use their unique skills. Stacking has the quality of art design that we’ve come to expect from Double Fine, and while the puzzles themselves were on the easy side everything was cute enough that I didn’t mind.

Sort of Completed
* I only played Guns of Icarus Online The Backlog Report: January 2014 (Amazon link) once (so far), but seeing as it’s an arena-style game with no storyline I think that counts enough for this list. In this game you and 3 friends pilot a steampunk airship to steer, shoot, and extinguish fires in an air battle. If you can wrangle 6+ people together then GoIO is highly recommended! Shooting a giant flamethrower through the air and listening on Mumble as your friends shout about being on fire is frankly exactly why I play games.

* I finished Episode 1 of The Wolf Among Us The Backlog Report: January 2014! (Amazon link) Just in time for Episode 2 to be released! Back to the “incomplete” pile… (PS: The writing in this game is really good and I love how badass I feel while playing Bigby.)

Next up on my list is Shelter, aka the game that will make me feel guilty for being a horrible badger mom. Can’t wait!

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