Observation: The Danger of Online Games

Something that I've become aware of recently is that online games have a very real but not obvious problem for the people that make and run them, the community. Now it used to be, in the old days, that you went out to a store in a truck with barely any air conditioning and windows that rolled down with a crank and bought a game and took it home and played it, beat it, and then left it alone and maybe played it again when you felt like it.

Fast forward to today and we now have games as a service and big online games that are meant to be played all the time. I'm starting to think there's a very real problem with online games with how they relate to the people that play them. With the traditional model you might get a game that's good or a game that's bad, but while your joy can be relived, your pain could be easily forgotten by not playing it again or returning it or what have you. With online games though people may like a game one day and then not like it another but they will still be playing it because it's the game they play.

The problem is that these online games can have big changes that change what you once though was a great game into a not so great or even frustrating or bad one. But people will still play it because it's what they play, they may need a change of pace but they'll still play it, or any other number of things that could change by the year.

The point I've been working up to is that I think people are starting to look at game companies like they're the government. There's a lot of "entitlement" with a lot of players talking about how well they could fix things or leaving long and horrible posts about how the developers and designers are idiots and should be fired and the anger and animosity just builds and builds over the years until the forums for these games are almost nothing but people complaining, even if the game is still fine.

I feel like all of this is going to build up into some kind of explosion against all these kinds of games at some point and it will turn into some kind of big game "scandal" or maybe some kind of mini crash for these types of games. Developers are starting to get death threats and their private lives are becoming more well known so that gamer anger is being turned towards a dark direction. It's one thing to get a splinter and then pull it out and move on with yourself but it's another when it's stuck in your foot and driving you crazy for a whole day. I dunno, is anyone else seeing this trend like I am? Maybe my train of thought is all over the place...

Maybe they should try doing pro-consumer practices? I don't feel bad when people stand up to abusers, and that goes for game devs and publishers doing shitty anti-consumer practices.

I feel like the Skinner box in these type of games is too strong for people to stop playing them, it's sorta comfort food. There's definitely better shooters out there than Destiny and The Division but people love unlocking crap for some reason. I'm actually the opposite, I hate having to unlock everything, just give me everything from the start and I'll decide what I want and don't want. That's how online games used to work and those games hooked people by gameplay alone. I haven't really gotten into any online games this gen because older games are just plain better, why am I going to switch to a new game when it ain't as good?

Specter Von Baren:
The problem is that these online games can have big changes that change what you once though was a great game into a not so great or even frustrating or bad one. But people will still play it because it's what they play, they may need a change of pace but they'll still play it, or any other number of things that could change by the year.

The point I've been working up to is that I think people are starting to look at game companies like they're the government. There's a lot of "entitlement" with a lot of players talking about how well they could fix things or leaving long and horrible posts about how the developers and designers are idiots and should be fired and the anger and animosity just builds and builds over the years until the forums for these games are almost nothing but people complaining, even if the game is still fine.

I really liked playing Battleborn and my favorite character, Mellka, got nerfed into oblivion so I stopped playing. That is definitely a problem that a game can change into something different that you don't like whereas single-player games really don't. It really is on the devs to properly balance their game because listening to the community is never a good idea. Very few people even understand how to properly play a simple game mode like say COD's Domination, you think they know how to balance anything? Not a chance. One reason I don't play any current online games is because devs can't balance for shit and balance is key to a good game or else you just have everyone doing the same objectively best playstyle and it's boring. Most devs use backwards methods like looking at data of what is used the most/least, that doesn't tell you much. For example, very few people have the skill to play snipers so your data is going to look like sniper rifles are underpowered, but then you buff them and top level players will only exclusively use them because you just made them the best gun in the game. Something like assault rifles are always going to be the most popular guns because they are the easiest to use regardless of if they're overpowered or underpowered. So yeah, my online shooter of choice is still Metal Gear Online 2, which the fans brought back after Konami shut down the servers.

Phoenixmgs:
I feel like the Skinner box in these type of games is too strong for people to stop playing them, it's sorta comfort food. There's definitely better shooters out there than Destiny and The Division but people love unlocking crap for some reason. I'm actually the opposite, I hate having to unlock everything, just give me everything from the start and I'll decide what I want and don't want. That's how online games used to work and those games hooked people by gameplay alone. I haven't really gotten into any online games this gen because older games are just plain better, why am I going to switch to a new game when it ain't as good?

Specter Von Baren:
The problem is that these online games can have big changes that change what you once though was a great game into a not so great or even frustrating or bad one. But people will still play it because it's what they play, they may need a change of pace but they'll still play it, or any other number of things that could change by the year.

The point I've been working up to is that I think people are starting to look at game companies like they're the government. There's a lot of "entitlement" with a lot of players talking about how well they could fix things or leaving long and horrible posts about how the developers and designers are idiots and should be fired and the anger and animosity just builds and builds over the years until the forums for these games are almost nothing but people complaining, even if the game is still fine.

I really liked playing Battleborn and my favorite character, Mellka, got nerfed into oblivion so I stopped playing. That is definitely a problem that a game can change into something different that you don't like whereas single-player games really don't. It really is on the devs to properly balance their game because listening to the community is never a good idea. Very few people even understand how to properly play a simple game mode like say COD's Domination, you think they know how to balance anything? Not a chance. One reason I don't play any current online games is because devs can't balance for shit and balance is key to a good game or else you just have everyone doing the same objectively best playstyle and it's boring. Most devs use backwards methods like looking at data of what is used the most/least, that doesn't tell you much. For example, very few people have the skill to play snipers so your data is going to look like sniper rifles are underpowered, but then you buff them and top level players will only exclusively use them because you just made them the best gun in the game. Something like assault rifles are always going to be the most popular guns because they are the easiest to use regardless of if they're overpowered or underpowered. So yeah, my online shooter of choice is still Metal Gear Online 2, which the fans brought back after Konami shut down the servers.

I think my problem with this constantly repeated idea of "these devs are shit at their jobs and can't balance" is, who IS good at balancing an asymmetrical, competitive game? With single player games you can have bosses of varying difficulties, this boss was too easy and this boss was too hard, but in both cases it's just one person having an easy or hard time and them trying to overcome a challenge. When a game becomes competitive and people are playing against each other but not with the same tools, the complexity and the price of failure when not perfectly balanced goes way up.

What I'm trying to mean is, yes we should outright say these things are bad but if NO ONE knows how to deal with this kind of system yet then why do we have to shit on them so hard that people send death threats?

On your earlier point, I too dislike having a bunch of check lists to do in a game like quests in Hearthstone, I much prefer running around a single player game like Wario Land 3 and actively collection treasures. Overcoming a stage or hazard as apposed to just some busy work check list item to get general resources.

Specter Von Baren:
I think my problem with this constantly repeated idea of "these devs are shit at their jobs and can't balance" is, who IS good at balancing an asymmetrical, competitive game? With single player games you can have bosses of varying difficulties, this boss was too easy and this boss was too hard, but in both cases it's just one person having an easy or hard time and them trying to overcome a challenge. When a game becomes competitive and people are playing against each other but not with the same tools, the complexity and the price of failure when not perfectly balanced goes way up.

What I'm trying to mean is, yes we should outright say these things are bad but if NO ONE knows how to deal with this kind of system yet then why do we have to shit on them so hard that people send death threats?

On your earlier point, I too dislike having a bunch of check lists to do in a game like quests in Hearthstone, I much prefer running around a single player game like Wario Land 3 and actively collection treasures. Overcoming a stage or hazard as apposed to just some busy work check list item to get general resources.

It is pretty tough to balance abilities like in hero-type games where every character plays differently and abilities that CC are often times more deadly than the most powerful DPS weapon. Though when we can't balance something as simple as standard guns (ARs, shotguns, snipers, etc.) in shooters that have been around from the beginning of online games, what chance do most devs have at balancing tougher things? Standard guns are EASY to balance and most games fail at that. Guns have far simpler methods/solutions than asymmetric abilities. I don't think there's any easy solution for asymmetric games in a lot cases outside of simply having a few people on the dev team just knowing their shit and knowing the potential ramifications of each ability. There's a sorta "cheat" way of balancing 2 asymmetric teams where you just have them play EVEN (not odd) amount of rounds switching teams and ties are broken by total points earned (though you need a really well thought-out point system). Aforementioned, Metal Gear Online succeeded at this and my favorite game mode ever, Team Sneaking, was horribly unbalanced against the attackers but you played even rounds so you never lost due getting stuck in a tie-breaking match as the attackers. That's simple solution to a hard problem that most games with an attacking/defending game modes totally fail at. Coming up with a solid point system is easier than balancing 2 asymmetric sides.

Stuff like death threats are never warranted or good obviously. Though I don't think you could ever stop certain people getting way too fanatical about game (or whatever). You can simply stop playing the game if it doesn't reach your standards, no reason to threaten the devs.

So many people merely "play" the game to get the game to a playable state vs playing it because they like it. Grinding/farming to get some gun or armor or item that is key to your playstyle or build or whatever is stupid IMO. You're wasting time to just get the game to the state where you then actually want to play it. I remember playing the Mass Effect 3 multiplayer wanting to unlock new characters (that came in lootboxes) to try them out, see how they played, and whatnot. I went to farming a certain enemy type on a certain level (Geth on Firebase White) as that was the fastest way to earn credits. I realized that I'm not really playing the game but having to grind to then actually play it properly so I just quit playing. I would have actually played the game longer if I didn't have to unlock anything and just played it simply because, you know, it's fun. Or just sell the new characters as DLC and I'd probably buy them, supporting the post-launch content, I'd rather waste a few bucks vs hours of my time. Sadly, too many people get hooked on the Skinner boxes and most games are like that now. I remember COD4 and I stayed at level 55 never prestige-ing because what's the point? I have everything unlocked and why the hell would anyone want to start over? Yet a lot of people need that feeling of pseudo-progression I guess. Progressing for me is getting better at the game, not unlocking new things or slightly different icons. Nobody plays baseball as a kid to unlock a new bat or whatever, you play because it's fun and you wanna improve. Not to mention, the unlocking of constant new things makes balancing that much harder vs a shooter with say 3 guns of each type that everyone can use from the beginning.

A lot of online games are based on their customers' continued support so the "entitlement" is something useful for these games improving themselves. You do need to have someone controlling which opinions to listen to but if there was no such element we wouldn't be seeing freaking BLITZTANK announced for BBTAG during this year's evo. That's right out a meme character almost nobody but the most devoted know about lol.

And while it is true that some patches can ruin a previously good game, you still get way more out of that one game than out of a single player game. If it's something you play a lot you can even spend thousands of hours on just that one purchase. The value proposition with those games as well as the depth of entertainment you get is just on another scale.

Specter Von Baren:
Developers are starting to get death threats and their private lives are becoming more well known so that gamer anger is being turned towards a dark direction.

Starting? That was a thing even before 2014! Remember when CoD players sent death threats to developers after patches were made?

https://www.polygon.com/2013/7/24/4552332/black-ops-2-developer-threatened-over-weapon-changes

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/126301-Call-of-Duty-Developer-Gets-Death-Threats-After-New-Patch

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EDIT: It even coincides with your suggestion that the anger gestates from the online audience, and I don't see it stopping anytime soon.

I think its more a correlation with the general investment involved in most online games, whether they're demanding money or time.

If you're pulling a Destiny and hurling a time-locked intense grind for some gun or another. Then you whip around and change that gun to be less effective (or outright obsolete, as Destiny's Light Level nonsense tends to go). Which is why a lot of "event" stuff tends to be cosmetic in games that have figured out more of a working formula.

Doubly so this is kind of a problem if moneys on the table. Destiny, to beat the dead horse, also has consistenty shopped out expansions, and more recently, pushed cosmetic microtransactions. True to form, when the expansion content is left in the dust by never getting any additional maps or whatever in game modes, or more gear left behind by light level limits people are going to react against that. Even more recently there was the Warlock Book fancy emote they shopped as exclusive, then dumped in the free (well, earnable ingame currency) pool a few weeks later.

In some cases this does bleed into even those cosmetics. You pick up a character in a MOBA, or Warframe, OVerwatch or whatever. Throw some dosh on a skin for them. Then next patch rolls around and the character gets ultra-nerfed into a nigh unusable state (or in Warframes case, power creep pushes them into obsolescence, and you're waiting potentially years on a rework).

That and if they deal with any kind of chat or forum setup, the usual mess of internet pseudo-anonymity bringing out the vocal minority of absolute s****bags, without strenous moderation that most game companies don't budget for (they probably should, and that maybe is also part of the issue, understanding what they're signing on for)

 

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