News from Destiny 2 and Battlefront II has been all the rage for all the wrong reasons.
Two highly anticipated games and two developers owned by large parent companies both have one uniting, glaring issue under fire: loot boxes.
How corporations like EA and Activision design games these days has attracted the ire of their player bases. What have they done to rub their fans the wrong way?How #Destiny and #Battlefront Are Scamming GamersClick To Tweet
Destiny 2: a Complete & Total Rehash of Destiny 1 With Poorly Imitated Warhammer Skins
That was a bit of a cheap shot. But you have to admit: the narrative in Destiny 2 is utterly lacking. In fact, the entire opening sequence reminds me of another highly regarded game (it’s the Mass Effect 3 intro).
The devs ignored the TIME HOPPING ROBOTS(?) that are the Vex. Like, what’s the deal with those guys Bungo? Or how about The Taken or The Fallen as the main bad guys? Why did you opt for the utterly two dimensional Cabal?
The Cabal worship a “deity emperor”, as discovered during the Taken War. Hmm…the character design and the social organization resembles some other franchise with a huge cult following.
But I guess the Romans “did it first”, so let’s table that discussion for the Reddits.
Many of the mechanics remain unchanged minus a few tweaks to supers and subclasses. (RIP fun-to-play Blade Dancer). And lest we forget: the game still doesn’t have legit transmogs like its Battlenet peers Diablo and WoW. No, infusions don’t count and changes like shaders becoming consumables signals one of the biggest issues in the game: Bungie is scamming players.
$60 for the Base Game + $35 for the DLC + Microtransactions….
In other Destiny 2 news, a recent job ad (now removed from the official site) posted by Bungie suggests that the micro-transaction economy is going to be a part of future development. In fact, the latest Destiny 2 news claims that Bungie wants to tie player progression directly with loot boxes.
The main issue is not paying for dances or actions. It is the shady behavior of hindering player progression and locking high-level content behind DLC barriers. Despite many players voicing their echoing disappointment, Bungie has been pretty mum about design issues in stark contrast to EA Dice developers of Star Wars Battlefront II.
After the Battlefront II news of the loot box system, many players were not pleased. You can find a nifty breakdown on Gamespot of how the drama unfolded. Was EA reinforcing the same strategies casinos use to encourage gambling?
As outlined beautifully on The Conversation, game design is now employing similar tricks to the casino industry. Hard and soft progress gates produce multiple sources of potential profit while in-game currency (Gems, silver, crystals, etc) helps users dissociate it from real money.
When “RNGesus” Evolves Into Gambling
A randomized loot generator in itself is not gambling. Sure, the psychology of it is incentivizing you to play more, so you can get MORE legendary guns and endorphin bursts. While studying how the social and biological aspects of gaming combine can be useful in game design, loot boxes essentially weaponize that knowledge.
Microtransaction designers can tap into the more primal triggers of a game’s user base to spur expenditures. You see this kind of incentivizing in tons of mobile games, as Hawaii Representative Lee pointed out about Clash of Clans to Kotaku. Specifically, with free to play models, these microtransactions are especially insidious.
Since you can’t predict the items you will get or even the likelihood of getting a certain product with loot boxes, you just have to buy blind. There is no transparency of the process. Combine this with the aforementioned casino strategies and it’s a perfect microtransaction storm.
Users spend more money than they otherwise would either to keep playing a game or to win the gun or item they want from a loot box. This is exactly the issue Battlefront faced.
How Should Developers Handle a “Are we Facilitating Gambling with Our Star Wars Game?” Crisis?
As a result of the vehement backlash to the gambling Battlefront II news, EA removed all microtransactions from the game. This knee-jerk reaction came after concerns of player progression, too. But it, similarly to Destiny 2’s woes, illuminates symptoms of a greater sickness: the relationship between progression and gameplay.
As Chaim Gartenberg suggests on The Verge, “The structure feels designed to funnel players toward buying as many boxes as they can…” There is no amount of retconning that can fix this. Just like with Destiny, you are trapped in an endless grind praying to the gods of randomness. The issue lies at creation and not execution.
Despite the rising cost of game development, we deserve better than this and developers can produce better than this. It is reassuring the Battlefront developers have stated their commitment to the fan base. But is that enough?
This further begs the question: is it Bungie and Dice to blame, EA and Activision, or some combination? Worse yet, one has to wonder if we, the gaming audience, have culpability in this trend toward microtransaction focused gameplay.
Alternatives to AAA Scammers
While the Destiny 2 news and Battlefront II news is a bit depressing, have hope fair gamers. The market is saturated with tons of alternatives to these bungled AAA projects.
If you missed the 50% off flash sale on both the incredible Wolfenstein: The New Colossus and engaging Prey, don’t fret. More winter Steam sales are on the way. In the meantime, consider the totally free and 100% fun Fortnight Battle Royale.
Pro-tip: you might still be able to buy Destiny using WoW gold.