How Loot Boxes Led to Never-Ending Games (And Always-Paying Players)

Discussion in '[H]ard|OCP Front Page News' started by Megalith, Nov 14, 2017.

  1. Megalith

    Megalith 24-bit/48kHz Staff Member

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    A history of loot boxes and their impact on video games: while Mass Effect 3 was a turning point for microtransactions in big-budget games, it may have all began in China, where the free-to-play model initially flourished. After the concept started to take root in western markets through mobile games, it was inevitable that traditional game publishers would take notice. Thanks cageymaru.

    There's also a legitimate fear that free-to-play's uglier elements, such as pay-to-win schemes, will slowly creep into big-budget gaming, either creating an uneven playing field or disrespecting players' time in the process. Those concerns have ensnared EA, which is facing a backlash over loot boxes in Star Wars Battlefront 2. The company has walked back some of its loot box plans and cut the cost of paid unlocks in response, but those are band-aid measures at best.
     
  2. cortexodus

    cortexodus [H]ard|Gawd

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    Pretty sure they only made it look like they "cut the cost". They also reduced the rate of credit accrual such that the "reduced cost" of the unlocks is effectively an illusion.
     
  3. nysmo

    nysmo Gawd

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    Can someone provide some examples of "pay to win" games? I only play FPS's so I'm used to lootboxes since Battlefield2, however it has never been a problem. Nobody ever really had an advantage over me. I would often go back to iron sights and destroy a server vs players using IR 20x scopes with supressors and 80rd mags just because it felt old school and encourages more aggressive tactical play. What started all this hooplah was EA's decision to make Vadar unlockable after 40 hours of play right? While that is an exceptionally long amount of time to unlock anything, who cares? I know he's more than a skin and can decimate players according to videos i've seen, but there arent 50 vadars running around in your game so it seems as though the impact is very low if any at all.

    It still seems to me that lootboxes are entirely cosmetic in every single game they are offered. Am I wrong?
     
  4. nysmo

    nysmo Gawd

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    Um, if a lootbox went from $20 to $10 then the cost has been reduced. Who cares about in-game credits, thats just if you want to earn them for free.
     
  5. Pez

    Pez [H]ard|Gawd

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    There are a lot of issues. There are lots of videos talking about them all. Some games intentionally put new players with vet players with perks, so the newbs will get owned and have to buy perks to keep up. Some games make opening loot boxes public, to entice others to buy and try to out do other players. And why should someone grind for 2 months to accumulate the points to buy the OP gun for multiplayer when they can just spend $5 for it.

    It's not all about skins. Yes, some games players have a random chance of getting the item as loot. But in some games, the odds are so small, that it's just about 0%. So if you want that item, you need to spend real world money on it.

    Microtransactions are the new big thing. I forgot which one, but one of the AAA game makers said they plan on every game having microtransactions, single player or multi player.
     
  6. ymer

    ymer Limp Gawd

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    Here's a weird idea: Don't pay for things you don't like.
     
  7. Gorankar

    Gorankar [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Only if your time has no value. It costs less, but they devalued your time as well.
     
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  8. PhaseNoise

    PhaseNoise Gawd

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    I just skipped this one. Once I see loot boxes integrated into the core design, I know I won't have the patience for it.

    To be fair though, I'm an angry old fart with almost no free time. I don't think I'm their core demo.
     
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  9. nysmo

    nysmo Gawd

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    Im still confused though, all you have mentioned are cosmetic items, nothing that actually improves your play. You hinted about some "OP gun" but again I've never found that to be the case. On paper certain guns might appear better suited than others, but I've never had an issue using a vanilla loadout in any FPS to pwn just as hard as people running around with their fancy guns. In fact quite the contrary, sometimes I prefer to. Transitioning between scoped night vision and plain visibility can be a detriment to your play, whereas a standard viewport can make you a more consistent player.

    Someone fills a tunnel with smoke grenades and are laying prone with a bipod and IR vision then I know not to go down there since I am outmatched. Instead I'll find a flank and end up doing better than I would have if I could use a similar loadout. It just seems to me nobody really needs weapon upgrades, as they dont really upgrade much. I'd understand if it was the difference between fighting on the ground vs fighting in the air, where one team has heli's and jets just decimating your ground forces with no ability to counter, but I dont see that happening.
     
  10. y0bailey

    y0bailey Gawd

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    I won't buy another EA game, but my understanding is that you basically need to grind for 40-ish hours to unlock Vader, or just fork over some money and buy him straight off the bat. This makes an uneven playing field on day 1 (as Vader is a more powerful character). It isn't just skins/cosmetics, it's fucking pay-to-win.

    Imagine buying the game with your own money, starting off day 1, and getting fucking rekd over and over again against kids who have more money and insta-unlocked a more powerful character. That isn't how games should fucking work.

    I'm playing PUBG right now, and the analogy would be "pay an extra $50 and every house you loot will have an AWP and a Groza" (very rare items that only spawn in crate-drops which are hard to get at). You literally buy an OP kit. You don't buy, you are playing a much more difficult game compared to them.



    I hope this shit finally ends soon. Fuck EA in their stupid faces.
     
  11. HeadRusch

    HeadRusch Gawd

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    Nysmo, why do you play a multiplayer online-only game......I mean why fire it up at all. To do a little pew-pew-pewing against other meatloafs, right? Or you're running your own channel on YouTube and need to put in the hours for your fans, or you're somebody who has an ego who absolutely needs to DOMINATE in games to make himself feel like he has worth...or she worth.....or whatever the pronoun may be.
    I mean you aren't in it for the story, so lets assume you're in it for the competition and you don't mind the repetitive "there is no effing game here" nature of the experience, you aren't there for a story or cutscenes or even scripted segments with varying maps and levels, you're cool with botmatch or PvP only games. Ok, fine, no harm no foul.

    So you pay your $60 bucks, and you get the game....and suddenly people there are slaughtering you. They have guns you don't have, they have abilities you don't have, holy crap..three people just turned into Darth Vader! You aren't winning any maps or games or leaderboards, your rewards are low....you're just grinding it out with the rest of the randos.

    But suddenly the game maker says "Hey, buddy.....hate getting your ass handed to you? Spend a little more and you can DOMINATE!"....and so people did that for awhile, pay to win phase 1.

    But then game makers said 'wait, let's do this even better....Hey, buddy...hate getting your ass handed to you? Spend a little more and you can get a CHANCE at DOMINATING!". Enter the loot box. So now, you don't just pay to level up, you pay for the chances to PROBABLY level-up, EVENTUALLY!

    If the games were Free to Play, then you'd accept that you had to pay into the game to avoid the grinding aspects of getting those double-jumps or special characters or whatever.....you'd buy some upgrades to enjoy the game more or you'd suffer along like a total rando, but you'd still have spent NOTHING out of pocket so, you win in the end. But when you charge for the game...then charge people 'just to keep up with everyone else', because you know there's always some asshole willing to spend $$$$$$ to be 'better than YOU' right? Yeah that's the big dilemma now, or at least one example of it.
     
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  12. MavericK

    MavericK Zero Cool

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    Here's a TL;DR for this whole debacle for those who seemingly don't know what's going on:

    -In beta, Loot boxes in SWBF2 allowed players to get Epic-level weapon/gear unlocks -> EA dialed this back a bit after massive kickback, keeping the Epic cards but implementing a level requirement in order to get higher-end cards. Not a significant change but enough to quell some of the outrage.

    -In pre-release review copies, Heroes costed 10K credits (in-game currency) to unlock, whereas in early release copies to the masses they were jacked up to 60K, which someone figured was the equivalent of something like 40 hours of gameplay per hero.

    -In response to massive backlash, EA again tweaked the costs to go from 60K to 15K, but they also reduced the amount of credits awarded for gameplay (for the campaign it went down from 20K to 5K). Again, ultimately not a significant change but they are hoping that again the outrage will subside and people will buy/not refund.

    That is the situation as I understand it.
     
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  13. Armenius

    Armenius [H]ardForum Junkie

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    I never spent a single penny on loot boxes in Mass Effect 3 and never felt like my progress was being hampered by the RNG. That changed in Mass Effect Andromeda.
     
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  14. lcpiper

    lcpiper [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Never played a game like Lineage II? Grind for two months every evening and every weekend to earn the cash for a Bow. Not a special Bow, not a drop from a raid boss, just the top Bow in it's tier purchased from the economy. Then do it again at the next tier knowing it will take four times longer.
     
  15. lcpiper

    lcpiper [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Sounds like a personal issue to me.

    If the game isn't fun enough to play as it is, then it isn't worth playing. Why is "progress" your only measure of entertainment.
     
  16. bristol16

    bristol16 n00bie

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    Serious question, not trying to be a jerk...Isn't the possibility of you getting wrecked by a team of Vaders the same as you being placed on a team of Vaders and your team wrecking the other team? Doesn't that balance out the pay to win or is that not how it works?
     
  17. Dan_D

    Dan_D [H]ardOCP Motherboard Editor

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    That's not how that works. You can only have one of each Hero class character in a game at once. You can match Luke vs. Vader, but you can't match Vader vs. Vader.
     
  18. SighTurtle

    SighTurtle [H]ard|Gawd

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    Hmm....wouldnt a lot of this depend on how powerful the upgrades are? Heres a GameSpot article on the Progression/Upgrade system. Tbh, without actually knowing how powerful these things are, Im not sure we can condemn the practice. I hate to say it, but allowing people with more money than time to advance alongside everyone else, is a ok idea. It depends on implementation.

    For example, in Battlefield 1, you can basically buy all the unlockable progression content (guns, classes, etc) through the Shortcut Kits. And I think thats ok. Some people want to get all the guns, and variants of the special classes without the grinding, and honestly, in my opinion, it does not affect the game in any dangerous way. None of guns give you any more of a overwhelming advantage than if you had simply grinded your way to unlocking them. Maybe it may have had a effect early on at release, but at this point, everyone and their mother already has everything unlocked. None of them are overpowered either anyway. The MP 18, the starting gun was a perfectly decent gun.

    So ya, it depends on how EA sets it up. If Battlefront II has the same system like BF1 (aside from the Heroes, different story, and i dont actually know about that in the first place), not that bad in my opinion. Battlefront I I heard had the unfortunate place of being too bland. Literally every gun was the same last I heard, no difference between any of them.
     
  19. Gorankar

    Gorankar [H]ardForum Junkie

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    It is not, at least not for me in that sort of game. However, for a lot of people progression in a game is important. Some people love a game, but don't care for the grind. They can pay to avoid that grind or not. It does not change my point though. Time is money.
     
  20. SighTurtle

    SighTurtle [H]ard|Gawd

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    Some people just find the idea of completing achievements as fun. I have a friend who's goal has been to complete all the WoW achievements and tbh, I dont see the appeal, but Im gonna guess alot of people operate like that.

    Edit: For example, Paradox added achievements to a lot of their games, and I think a lot of it has to do with a codifying of things someone would think up in their head as a challenge, like "I'll take over the world as Switzerland". Im assuming the same applies to things like 1000 melee kills or complete every quest.
     
  21. twonunpackmule

    twonunpackmule Gawd

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    I don't play big budget AAA games anymore. At least, not a full price.
     
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  22. bristol16

    bristol16 n00bie

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    Oh, ok. I played the BF2 beta for like 20 minutes and never played the first one cause it looked like garbage. The second one looks like a fun game, hopefully EA doesn't screw it up on technicalities like loot boxes.
     
  23. MavericK

    MavericK Zero Cool

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    Too late for that.
     
  24. rudy

    rudy [H]ardness Supreme

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    I don't know your specific games but any sort of advantage is an advantage. A lot of people like to claim that just because an advantage is small means its not important. For instance if various scopes gave you an advantage and you went back to iron sights, that doesn't mean the scopes are not an advantage, maybe all it means is you are pretty good with iron sights. The question is could you have done better if you had the scopes? Or if you pitted you vs yourself in a hypothetical game would the person with the upgraded scopes be able to leverage them to a win. Sometimes I think people like to use these arguments just to toot their own horns. Awesome, I can go into CSGO and beat a non smurfing silver whom has an AWP with my pistol more often than not, but make no mistake I will get crushed by someone with equal skill to me, that argument does not in any way make the AWP not an advantageous weapon.

    Here is an example in TF2 when it went free to play, their were many modified weapons, now you could achieve them all through, crafting, trading, or purchasing them. These weapons had distinct advantages in certain uses, and people who owned them would beat people of equal skill that did not. To me this was pay 2 win. Because you are either forced to wait until you can get them or pay up right away to get them. Now CSGO is a different story, all the guns are cosmetic, you can purchase them but no purchased gun is going to shoot more accurately than one that is not no matter the skin. And when a person opens a new account they get 1 copy of every type of gun in the game. I think this is a good way to make a game.

    The other issue is there are many things in games with much more subtle advantages that may be pay 2 win. For instance in overwatch there are animations that you get from lootboxes that allow you player to lay down, this basically fakes like you are dead. And to me those are an advantage and I see people abusing them in play all the time.

    There is also the argument that even cosmetic skins can have an advantage by making your player slightly more difficult to see, one beef I have with a lot of games now is that there is no option so that you can force your client to only view default skins. There are many disadvantages to playing with players whom may have all the skins unlocked and be changing their model depending on the common colors in a map and so on. Even in CSGO I can see a small argument that some skins like safari mesh blend in well enough to create a small advantage when acquiring a target.
     
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  25. rudy

    rudy [H]ardness Supreme

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    IMO it does, because many of those items do have advantages so you are talking about playing against people from the get go who have an advantage. I experienced this in BF3 and can say it had a pay 2 win feel. For instance you can upgrade your rank in the game faster when you have more weapons to give you those advantages all over which amounts to more experience points. The only way to solve that would have been to make experience points time based only.
     
  26. BloodyIron

    BloodyIron [H]ard|Gawd

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    Uhhh didn't micro-trans become super popular in South Korea first? With games like Maple Story?
     
  27. SighTurtle

    SighTurtle [H]ard|Gawd

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    Did the experience points matter in some way aside from gaining ranks? If I remember correctly ranks didn't give you any benefits.
     
  28. rudy

    rudy [H]ardness Supreme

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    That is the example, to prove that it did matter if you rank up faster, because BF rank was based on achievements, kills, etc, it in fact meant that you had an advantage. If you care about stats, ranks, or just the fact that you are playing against people who have better weapons without needing to put the time in. It affected all of those variables which makes the whole game feel unfair. Theoretically you can earn every thing in all F2P games but if it takes a long time to do it then you are playing in a unfair playing field until you acquire all the items.
     
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  29. SighTurtle

    SighTurtle [H]ard|Gawd

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    Ahh, that makes sense. Tbh, I've never been competitive in the sense of ranks, or stats but I see what you mean for others.
     
  30. CaptNumbNutz

    CaptNumbNutz My Cannon Balls Sunk My Fail Ship

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    Here you go. This game just launched.



    And this is the revised system they came up with after they received a monstrous amount of criticism in the Alpha and Beta trials for this game.
     
  31. SighTurtle

    SighTurtle [H]ard|Gawd

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    I highly doubt they will make significant rollbacks in response to the criticism. Looks bad. Instead they will hopefully reconsider what they do with future games.
     
  32. lostin3d

    lostin3d Limp Gawd

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    I'm sure when I die I'll have my share of regrets, but paying into this s**t ain't one of 'em.
     
  33. nysmo

    nysmo Gawd

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    Well thats the thing, there is no "right" way to play in every given circumstance. A scoped rifle can be a detriment based upon the map you're in and your own skill level. In CSGO that AWP main is gonna have a bad time on the wrong maps, so in those cases he'll swap. Same thing in all these other purported P2W games. Thats the point I was driving, I could be the ringer for any team just by adjusting my playstyle rather than my loadout, and suddenly all those difficult to acquire loot items are irrelevant. They were never required to begin with, so the argument that "could I have done better" doesnt mean that anyone else had an advantage over me.


    You said it right there, there was always an alternative to paying. I have about 3000 hours or so in TF2 and my backpack was so full I'd have to dispose of most new items "found". I could always craft virtually anything I wanted at any time. You also mention trading, which was even easier than crafting. My first 4 pages in my backback was nothing but refined metal. I had to donate it sometimes with silly prizes to players like "whoever kills me with kunai gets 5 refined". One particular gun I was very adept at was the Beggars Bazooka. Nobody played it, so nobody was used to countering it, therefore I had to go off-meta and master it. Did I necessarily have an advantage though? Well if you count pure raw skill then I'll always have that advantage. If someone else picked up the BB they would not immediately be as good as me so once again the point is moot. In fact they'd throw dozens of games if they tried, just like I did to learn. You cant buy your way to success if you are a bad player. Good players will always be good.

    I dont know what youre talking about, I have 1500 hrs in OW and there is no "feign death" emote. The closest I've done is "sit down" emote in the bushes at a choke and watching the whole enemy team walk right past me then rip into them from behind, but this is more for laughs than tactics and usually results in me getting destroyed despite picking up a random lucky kill.

    The only thing I think is remotely debatable are games where you unlock a different weapon. But as I have pointed out twice, those weapons arent an advantage in every players hands who wields them. Sometimes they can actually be a disadvantage when a player feels compelled to use it because he doesnt understand the mechanics properly. I have never once felt "oh i need this weapon to win this objective" in any FPS I have ever played, and I'm pretty damn good at shooters.

    Until everyone starts with nothing but a pistol and you can P2W to unlock a rifle then I honestly feel dev's have balanced the "necessity" for unlocking items to progress. An upgrade from iron sights to reflex dot is so trivial, and the time it takes just to learn the game is usually all the time it takes to unlock these items progressively anyway. By the time you're ready for it, you will have earned it.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2017
  34. M76

    M76 [H]ardness Supreme

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    And as a side effect it also led to never paying players who used to be paying players.
     
  35. Tiburon1186

    Tiburon1186 Gawd

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    I don't know who these always paying players are.... sure isn't me!
     
  36. Dekoth-E-

    Dekoth-E- [H]ardness Supreme

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    If you can buy anything that gives you an advantage even situationally, that is by definition pay to win. There is no arguing against this, no twisting the facts, nothing. If purchased items are not strictly cosmetic, you are paying for an advantage.
     
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  37. Mugato

    Mugato Gawd

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    I really like your synopsis of the environment, well written. For me, I’ve been playing pc games for well ever and the first big micro transaction game I was involved with was Everquest II. At first it was just skins and mounts and you still had a sub...then everything changed. You could send real money to each other using sony cash, pots for epic fights, temp buffs etc. Thaaaat’s right around the time the game went downhill and lost a ton of subs. I was one, and since then I simply don’t buy loot boxes or anything else. I enjoy the game and play to get what I can get. For BF2, I did pre-order, I love star wars (I mean alot, insert jim carrey) and I don’t care if I’m Vader or have Rey’s super see through walls Epic star card. Even with every epic star card and hero maxxed in this game, I would only do about 10% better, so who cares. They can add as many as they want, I’m not buying. Not to say what they are doing is right AT ALL, it’s very wrong, but the way the world is at this moment.
     
  38. bristol16

    bristol16 n00bie

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    For you maybe, I'll play it before I write it off. The kicker here is, by the time I get around to playing it, even the people who did the grind and didn't pay to win will already have all the good stuff anyway, so who cares!?
     
  39. El_Capitan

    El_Capitan Limp Gawd

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    In the end, it's just a cash grab from game companies. Regardless of whether it's for pay-to-win or not, comparing it to a "classic" pay $50 for a complete game with minimal bugs during launch back in the 2000's era, these days you pay $60 a game to play a buggy or unbalanced game until a couple of major updates fix them. You can also pre-order for $120 and get special in-game content that you could never otherwise get. Then an extra $5 per DLC content, which should have been in the original release, anyway.

    For me, I could spend $1,000 for a game, and could care less, if I liked the game and if I actually had time to play. If this was 12 years ago, though, I'd be penny pinching and buying the game at some bargain bin at a basement in some used bookstore for $4, waiting for two hours of updates after installation, on a 4-year old game that's complete.
     
  40. lcpiper

    lcpiper [H]ardForum Junkie

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    It's not for you, but "For a lot of people". You know, if we all stand up and fight other people's battles for them, every issue starts to look like it effects entire communities and makes mountains out of mole hills. Let them speak for themselves and if their voices add up to something worth considering or taking action on, then perhaps it will be addressed. Otherwise it makes a little problem look like a big problem and everyone winds up having to live with the product of a few who don't represent the greater number of people.

    These people complaining that 40 hours of game time is too much to have to work toward something, that's bullshit in my book. I've played many many games with greater time sinks than just playing and waiting. It's one thing to grind experience, try grinding wolves for three weeks to get 3,000 Iron, so you can make a sword, at the top of Class C, so that when you level into Class B, it's almost worthless and you can do it all over again but now you are killing Hypogryphs for two months.