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TIGSource ForumsPlayerGeneralWhat Minecraft and Farmville have in common
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EMcNeill
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« on: December 02, 2010, 11:34:41 am »

EDIT: Crap. I just realized that I posted in General instead of Indie Games. Mods are welcome to move this thread.

I just wrote an article about Farmville-like game mechanics in Minecraft: http://www.indiepubgames.com/news/et-tu-minecraft

There's an interesting discussion going on at the minecraft reddit, too: http://www.reddit.com/r/Minecraft/comments/ef3g6/what_minecraft_and_farmville_have_in_common/

I'd argue that game creators should try to minimize grinding and VRRS mechanics in their games. So, for instance, maybe Notch could put in a high-level item that would make mining near-instantaneous. Thoughts?
« Last Edit: December 03, 2010, 02:05:33 pm by EMcNeill » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2010, 11:54:32 am »

Well, as an indie community we loath bad game design, and I think the reason why we're so against grinding and the like is because it's usually implemented badly (See: farmville).

Personally I find it kinda ignorant to write off one style of design as bad, and proceed to judge a game because it has it. That's kinda narrow-minded, don't you think?
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EMcNeill
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« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2010, 12:09:02 pm »

Well, as an indie community we loath bad game design, and I think the reason why we're so against grinding and the like is because it's usually implemented badly (See: farmville).

Personally I find it kinda ignorant to write off one style of design as bad, and proceed to judge a game because it has it. That's kinda narrow-minded, don't you think?

Interesting idea. So what's the good version of grinding? Maybe when it unlocks something more substantive?
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« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2010, 12:17:48 pm »

And at the same time Farmville isn't that shallow once you REALLY study the mechanics and his context.

First farmville is primary based on Fixed interval schedule (not slot machine) which is fair (unlike minecraft?), plant have varying but fixed schedule, the game is about maximizing the return based on your own schedule, as you progress you have more access to new plant and new schedule and new return.

The more you progress the more effort (click) you need, but you can acess to effort reducing tool, those effort reducing tool have limited resource (fuel) based on distance which add a layer of depth, suddenly you have to find pattern of crops to maximize the use of these tools... Etc

The game DOES feature variable reward schedule slot machine like (collection and random drop) but no more (actually less) than a regular RPG. Actually all game can be reduce to grind (kill moar enemy to progress dude!), Farmville and minecraft use the management game trope in their structure (collect and convert resource) that's why they are so "similar".

Where is the lazy design? ... farmville has more depth than a platformer or a shooter. I see only lazy analysis and sheep thinking.

For my analysis of minecraft mechanics you go see this two post:
http://forums.tigsource.com/index.php?topic=15830.msg455377#msg455377
http://forums.tigsource.com/index.php?topic=15830.msg458385#msg458385
It adress some of your question (creative vs survival)

EDIT:
Farmville is not more about clicking than a FPS or civilisation is.

EDIT2:
This post made me realize that farmville is a reallllyyy sllloooowwww diner dash.
« Last Edit: December 02, 2010, 12:40:15 pm by GILBERT Timmy » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2010, 12:30:11 pm »

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If there’s two game design tactics that indies hate, they’re grinding and slot machine mechanics.
Stopped reading there.

Also, Dwarf Fortress is a marketing ploy by Zynga, open your eyes sheeple.
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« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2010, 12:51:33 pm »

Infiniminer.  Never Forget.
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« Reply #6 on: December 02, 2010, 01:52:42 pm »

Quote
If there’s two game design tactics that indies hate, they’re grinding and slot machine mechanics.
Stopped reading there.

I carried on, but I very nearly stopped there. EMcNeill, aren't you being a bit presumptuous by making sweeping generalisations about the indie community?

The article itself makes some interesting and valid observations about the similarities between the two games, and you tried to tried to leave the conclusions of the article open and up to the reader, but it's pretty clear that in your opinion it's not acceptable to either diss Minecraft or to praise Farmville. If the choice really is that binary (and I'm not convinced that it is), I'd come down on the side of praising Farmville - after all, it has achieved a level of success that's beyond even Notch's wildest dreams.

Yes, people attach value to their virtual creations/possession because of the time and effort (and money?) they put into attaining them, and that's completely okay. In fact it's pretty cool. I built a big glass skyscraper, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm rather proud of it. I don't have a big intricate Farmville farm, or a top-level WoW character with all the rare gear (those games aren't really my thing, for a number of reasons), but I'm sure the players that do have the same sense of pride and accomplishment.

As for the slot machine/skinner box psychology: Well... Yeah. Games make use of a wide range of psychological tools to keep players coming back. That's hardly a newsflash, games have done that for as long as we've had the psychological tools to apply to them. Correctly applied psychological principles work well for player enjoyment, and means the games are more successul. It baffles me a bit that critics of social games shout "Skinner box!" as if it's some horrifically dirty psychological trick, and that "proper" games would never use psychology.

TLDR; it's interesting to compare and contrast the techniques and mechanics that go into various successful games, but I think it's a bit shortsighted to dismiss some techniques because they happen to be used in some games you don't like as well as some games you do.

EDIT:
Quote
So, for instance, maybe Notch could put in a high-level item that would make mining near-instantaneous.

There's already such an item. It's called TNT.
« Last Edit: December 02, 2010, 01:59:19 pm by LemonScented » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: December 02, 2010, 04:19:13 pm »

Quote
If there’s two game design tactics that indies hate, they’re grinding and slot machine mechanics.
Stopped reading there.

I carried on, but I very nearly stopped there. EMcNeill, aren't you being a bit presumptuous by making sweeping generalisations about the indie community?

The article itself makes some interesting and valid observations about the similarities between the two games, and you tried to tried to leave the conclusions of the article open and up to the reader, but it's pretty clear that in your opinion it's not acceptable to either diss Minecraft or to praise Farmville. If the choice really is that binary (and I'm not convinced that it is), I'd come down on the side of praising Farmville - after all, it has achieved a level of success that's beyond even Notch's wildest dreams.

Yes, people attach value to their virtual creations/possession because of the time and effort (and money?) they put into attaining them, and that's completely okay. In fact it's pretty cool. I built a big glass skyscraper, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm rather proud of it. I don't have a big intricate Farmville farm, or a top-level WoW character with all the rare gear (those games aren't really my thing, for a number of reasons), but I'm sure the players that do have the same sense of pride and accomplishment.

As for the slot machine/skinner box psychology: Well... Yeah. Games make use of a wide range of psychological tools to keep players coming back. That's hardly a newsflash, games have done that for as long as we've had the psychological tools to apply to them. Correctly applied psychological principles work well for player enjoyment, and means the games are more successul. It baffles me a bit that critics of social games shout "Skinner box!" as if it's some horrifically dirty psychological trick, and that "proper" games would never use psychology.

TLDR; it's interesting to compare and contrast the techniques and mechanics that go into various successful games, but I think it's a bit shortsighted to dismiss some techniques because they happen to be used in some games you don't like as well as some games you do.

It was presumptuous, but I thought it would be safe, considering the general lack of respect I see for Farmville and general love for Minecraft that I've observed. That may have been a mistake, and I apologize for overreaching. It's also just a bad opening line, but inspiration for a better one never struck me.

I recognize that Skinnerian techniques work, and I recognize that people put pride into their in-game accomplishments. I know from personal experience! But I've been doing a bunch of reading from David Sirlin and Ernest Adams and Jonathan Blow and like minds, and they're all starting to worry about the ethics of these sorts of techniques. Blow in particular has been outspoken. He made Braid to show a game in which the rewards (the "aha!" moments) were internal and more meaningful than, say, getting a 1up in a Mario game (which, he argues, doesn't really matter).

So even though we can use these techniques to make games that people will almost compulsively play, should we? Is reported player enjoyment all that matters? I thought there was a consensus that the answer was "no", but here and on reddit I'm seeing the opposing viewpoint being represented and defended for the first time. With regards to the choice between dissing Minecraft or praising Farmville, I'd diss Minecraft first.
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« Reply #8 on: December 02, 2010, 04:48:08 pm »

Braid was (IMHO) an excellent game and his deliberate avoidance of grinding and Skinner boxes were a breath of fresh air - I'd like to see more of that stuff. I certainly don't advocate the techniques you singled out as something that's an essential component of every game design, but I do think they're useful tools to have in the design "grab bag", and I don't see why we should be afraid to use them if they seem appropriate.

I guess what I can't wrap my head around is the fear and ethical hand-wringing that surrounds these techniques. So many people talk about the ethical questions as if everyone is aware of them; I might be horribly out of touch with current design thinking, or perhaps I'm just plain evil, but I'm not aware of what these ethical questions actually are. They make good business sense, but I don't think that fact makes them inherently evil from a player experience point of view. Whilst a system that gives rewards for repeatedly clicking on stuff might seem at first glance like some horrible dystopian brain control, the truth is the "click on a thing and get a reward, over and over again" is a mainstay of a lot of popular game genres which nobody seems to question in the same way they've questioned the Farmvilles of the world. RPGs, FPS games, 3rd person shooters, Sim- games, Godgames, puzzle games, casual games - all of these, at their core, are about rewarding you for clicking on stuff. Other genres might have different basic mechanics (moving, jumping, shooting, steering, etc) but all of them basically ask you to string simple repetitive actions together for a mixture of short, medium and long-term rewards.

Quote
Is reported player enjoyment all that matters? I thought there was a consensus that the answer was "no", but here and on reddit I'm seeing the opposing viewpoint being represented and defended for the first time.

Is reported player enjoyment all that matters? Fuck yes! We're game designers, providers of entertainment... If we're not producing fun for people then we're doing it wrong. (Or we're making artgames, which are cool too, but for the vast majority of games the focus is still on providing an enjoyable experience). Whatever the incomprehensible part of the human psychology is that gives people an itch that they can only scratch by clicking on a thing and getting a reward, a lot of people have it and a lot of people get genuine pleasure out of doing it.

For what it's worth, I think it's pretty cool that you went into writing that article with a set of preconceptions that have stirred a debate in which there are people defending Farmville who possibly wouldn't have done otherwise. You, perhaps unintentionally, framed some design techniques which are often held to be "bad" in terms of a game which is so popular partly due to its use of them that you made people reassess the usefulness and validity of those techniques. Talking about stuff and thinking about stuff like this is good.
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« Reply #9 on: December 02, 2010, 04:51:18 pm »

I think you're forgetting one major point: Minecraft couples the grinding with exploration and risk/reward mechanics (the whole survival/time management aspect which you leave completely unmentioned for whatever reason). Also there's both strategy and creativity involved in setting up your system(s) of tunnels. You're creating something even while you're "grinding". Or to put it another way, Minecraft is an exciting game while Farmville is not.
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« Reply #10 on: December 02, 2010, 04:58:51 pm »

Infiniminer.  Never Forget.

*pours out a 40*

This article reads like somebody just discovered game theory and psychology of gaming. It's also wildly inaccurate because you make some pretty crazy assumptions about Minecraft.

One, you assume players are playing Alpha, just like how you play Alpha. Classic mode requires no mining, lets you customize the world any time you want, and is free. It still has a significant playerbase.

Two, Minecraft has a number of different goals, depending on the player. For example, I don't seek out resources. Rather, I spend my time exploring a cavern, and when I'm done, I wander around until I find something else I feel like exploring (another cavern, a huge forest, whatever). To me, the enjoyment of Minecraft is in finding the things that the engine generates on the fly, rather than building some superstructure. Some people build things, others explore, other fight monsters. It's a game with player-defined goals, as there is no developer-defined goals except "live."

Three, it's just a REALLY PRESUMPTUOUS ARTICLE. I had a hard time reading it because it was so idiotic. Scaring you to death? Making you scream? Jesus christ, stop being so melodramatic about a videogame. You already have a very tentative grasp on game mechanics as is, don't make it worse by acting as though you are a child.

Also, seriously, what is with people latching on to the term Skinner box in regards to games lately? It's really starting to annoy me. Yeah, games have a vague resemblance to an experiment performed on rats. All games, from card to board to video, operate on a few basic principles. The fact that the Skinner box vaguely shares one of those principles (and I can't emphasize vaguely enough) does not mean every goddamn game is a psychology experiment.

TL;DR - This post reads like "babby's first community college psychology course."
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« Reply #11 on: December 02, 2010, 05:00:15 pm »

Quote
Then, repeat a thousand times. It’s not a skill challenge; I could collect any number of almost any block if I just put in a little bit of effort and a huge chunk of time. Could this be... grinding? I thought we were beyond such nonsense!
You could say the same about reading a book. Word after word after word... none of them providing a challenge... taking up a huge chunk of time. Aren't we beyond such nonsense?

Or painting. Why waste time with stroke after painstaking stroke if you can just take a photo? What a time-sink!

The problem with the 'grinding' term is that it's applied to too many activities without a real understanding of what it actually is or why it's bad. Most interesting things in life take a while to do, and not every step along the way is expected to be exciting or a challenge. In fact I'd argue that it's necessary to have fairly long periods of low intensity activity in order to truly highlight the high intensity ones.

What is frustrating about MMO grinding is that it's typically repeating exactly the same activity for with the only effect being that a couple of counters go up - or worse, repeating the same activity so that a counter doesn't go down (or your crops wither, or whatever). Nothing actually changes except a couple of numbers associated to your character. I would say that is semantically quite different from a game where your activity is slowly sculpting a persistent change to your environment.

I agree insofar as to admit that Farmville is not intrinsically an awful game when compared to Minecraft. However it is damaged by the fact that so much of the Farmville mechanics are intrinsically tied in to revenue generation and viral marketing. With Minecraft, you get an honest product - spend your $10, and play the game how you like it. How many do you think would play Farmville under the same conditions?
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« Reply #12 on: December 02, 2010, 05:16:33 pm »

Whilst a system that gives rewards for repeatedly clicking on stuff might seem at first glance like some horrible dystopian brain control, the truth is the "click on a thing and get a reward, over and over again" is a mainstay of a lot of popular game genres which nobody seems to question in the same way they've questioned the Farmvilles of the world. RPGs, FPS games, 3rd person shooters, Sim- games, Godgames, puzzle games, casual games - all of these, at their core, are about rewarding you for clicking on stuff.
2 things you're omitting:

 - it's not just about "clicking to gain rewards", but about specific ways to link the patterns to rewards that are shown to be optimally compelling. Look up "variable reinforcement schedule" or "Partial Reinforcement Extinction Effect" for example.

 - reducing something to its core is often choosing to deliberately miss the point. It's like talking about relationships as solely ways for humans to reproduce or talking about fine art as just a reproduction of a visual scene. When looking at games, we know that we are clicking for rewards, but it's about the thought processes that go on around and between the clicks, about the associations we make with the rewards, the cultural and psychological concepts referenced by the game's audio and visuals, etc.

When put together, implementing features that increase psychological compulsion and skimping on any sort of complex gameplay or narrative in favour of focusing on the compulsive 'core' can be seen as an ominous trend. When we set out to make games that are entertaining because they tell a story/test our reflexes/pit us against other humans/improve our hand-eye coordination/make us explore a virtual environment/etc., players are deriving fun from those associations and often developing skills in the process that extend beyond the game they're playing. Few people object to that. But when we start stripping that stuff away, and replacing it with stuff that people do not because there is something good that they can point to but because the primitive part of their mind is wired up to encourage them to do it, then we're moving away from something being compelling because it's fulfilling and towards something being compelling because the human mind doesn't know any better. Wedge monetization into the mix and there is a strong argument that you're selling an addictive substance, with few actual benefits attached.
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« Reply #13 on: December 02, 2010, 06:05:29 pm »

I just wrote an article about Farmville-like game mechanics in Minecraft: http://www.indiepubgames.com/news/et-tu-minecraft

There's an interesting discussion going on at the minecraft reddit, too: http://www.reddit.com/r/Minecraft/comments/ef3g6/what_minecraft_and_farmville_have_in_common/

I'd argue that game creators should try to minimize grinding and VRRS mechanics in their games. So, for instance, maybe Notch could put in a high-level item that would make mining near-instantaneous. Thoughts?

You're obviously new to the craze. I've been playing since a month after it started, so I've watched it grow from the ground up. First came creative mode, which was just something Mark had done for fun and ended up being a lot more enjoyable than he thought. Later he added Survival, in which you had to gather blocks as resources to survive against the onslaught of monsters. When people started enjoying the new gameplay aspects, he began Indev, which featured tools and crafting and lighting, and that led to a small influx of players. Fast-forward a few months, past when Mark was just getting into making Minecraft into a business (Dock), and Notch had the brilliant idea of making the game world infinitely large - it's not an arbitrary size, but you'd still fill your hard drive before you can explore an entire world. This was about the time when major gaming icons started taking a big interest in the game - Valve's TF2 blog, PCGamer, and more began praising the game to no end, and the with every update we got a ton of server downtime. This led to a lot more updates focusing on enjoyability of the game such as minecarts and boats. More recently, with the Halloween update, we got biomes.

All that to say: maybe it's got those elements that you and many of us typically despise, but it's done right - I never feel like my time playing Minecraft is a total waste. It lets me express my creativity in the best ways possible with just the right amount of reward (diamonds) and terror (TWANG, Tssssss..). I praise Markus for his legendary efforts, who has always respected the community's desires.
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« Reply #14 on: December 02, 2010, 06:24:24 pm »

I agree insofar as to admit that Farmville is not intrinsically an awful game when compared to Minecraft. However it is damaged by the fact that so much of the Farmville mechanics are intrinsically tied in to revenue generation and viral marketing. With Minecraft, you get an honest product - spend your $10, and play the game how you like it. How many do you think would play Farmville under the same conditions?

Gah. I knew someone would do this, and that I'd feel duty-bound to respond, and that I'll probably look like an asshole in the process. So...

Firstly, a disclaimer: I've never played Farmville, it's not really my cup of tea, but I do have a fairly keen interest in social/freemium games in general, and I do sort of get where they're coming from. If that means I have to hand in my Indie Badge, so be it.

Secondly, there's some confusion between the two equally-horribly-named business models of social games and freemium games. There's often some crossover between the two, because they work well together, but don't tar both with the same brush. Social games build viral marketing into their business model by having elements that encourage you to interact with (or spam) people on your social network. The current state of that is pretty ropey, both because most of the social aspects of the games lack any really interesting social interaction, and because they're a kind of cynical free marketing. Good for business, but doesn't make for great games. I'm not going to defend that, since although I think those systems could well become refined and interesting and fun in the future, they aren't right now.

The freemium stuff is an entirely different kettle of fish, however. If you pay nothing to start play the game, and if whilst playing you're given the option of advancing at a slower rate for free or paying a bit of money for some cool items that might advance the game a bit quicker (or just look good), and it's totally your call as to which you do, how is that in any way dishonest? To my mind, alongside perhaps episodic games, that's the most honest business model that exists in games right now. Do you want to pay money upfront for something that might be shit, or do you want to try something for free, and decide later whether you want to spend a few dollars or cents here and there (or carry on playing it for free, or just stop playing)?

I don't bedgrudge Notch the money I paid for Minecraft Alpha, and I'm looking forward to seeing where Minecraft goes in future, but if he offered a few stacks of diamond for a reasonable real-world price? Yeah, I'd buy it.
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« Reply #15 on: December 03, 2010, 06:27:57 am »

Quote
Nothing actually changes except a couple of numbers associated to your character. I would say that is semantically quite different from a game where your activity is slowly sculpting a persistent change to your environment.




Farmville is not the social game with grinding seriously, MAFIA WARS is! Grind is bad when you have no option except to delay through repetition elements unlocking. Farmville and minecraft provide choice and strategy through finding various pattern of play, there is one game that is more EPIC and that's all the major difference. I could argue objectiveley that farmville is more deep than Braid because of combinatorial possibility (puzzle game are rarely "deep" in a strict sense, there is only one correct solution and then it's done).

Farmville and minecraft have the same mechanics, except the failure condition is different (survival vs wither).

80% of player enjoy Farmville with full option without paying, it's a fair deal, monetization bullshit is overblown because what Pincus said and done.

Sorry guys, i'm not liking farmville but at least I won't make intellectual dishonesty about its design, nor I will encourage this because I want good design practice to be understood and spread.

People diss farmville pretty much like some people diss minecraft, something they don't play nor understand the success or the actual design.


EDIT:


In every game people like their home made epic castle


http://farmville3d.com/
a collection of Landscape design in farmville very reminiscent of minecraft
« Last Edit: December 03, 2010, 06:54:29 am by GILBERT Timmy » Logged

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« Reply #16 on: December 03, 2010, 08:21:25 am »

Secondly, there's some confusion between the two equally-horribly-named business models of social games and freemium games. There's often some crossover between the two, because they work well together, but don't tar both with the same brush.
I disagree with trying to split this into two distinct categories. The social aspect and the business model are orthogonal, and there's nothing inherently wrong with either. The problem is when you tone down elements that are fun, replace them with elements that are compulsive, and then essentially put paywalls between the player and their next reward.

Quote
Social games build viral marketing into their business model by having elements that encourage you to interact with (or spam) people on your social network. The current state of that is pretty ropey, both because most of the social aspects of the games lack any really interesting social interaction, and because they're a kind of cynical free marketing. Good for business, but doesn't make for great games.
But there's nothing inherent to socialness/virality that "doesn't make for great games". If my Steam or XBox games post messages to Facebook about my achievements, that is social, that is viral marketing, but it says nothing at all about the quality of the game. And if that was all that Farmville did, that wouldn't reflect badly on it either (apart from when it gets so much that it becomes spammy). The problem is that Farmville provides mechanisms to encourage you to harass your friends in order to make your own gains in the game.

Quote
The freemium stuff is an entirely different kettle of fish, however.
Except you're treating freemium as a different thing, when it's not - Farmville has a freemium business model, where some of the currency you buy your perks with comes in the form of referrals.

Quote
If you pay nothing to start play the game, and if whilst playing you're given the option of advancing at a slower rate for free or paying a bit of money for some cool items that might advance the game a bit quicker (or just look good), and it's totally your call as to which you do, how is that in any way dishonest?
Does Farmville tell you up front which features require real world money? Does it mention that certain things are only possible if you recruit friends? Does it tell you that you will be essentially taunted by being shown things that other players had to pay money to achieve?

That, to me, is less honest than saying "you bought the product - here it is, in its entirety. You get exactly the same as everybody else.".

There is also a strong thread among gamers which states that you shouldn't be able to introduce external resources to improve your standing within the game, as a point of fairness. Obviously this is not completely enforceable - an athlete with better training will run faster than one without - but for the most part we adhere to it, especially in terms of what can be done inside the game environment and within its duration. Many types of equipment, dietary supplements, and even methods are banned from sports for this reason. Thus it's not surprising that many gamers consider open flaunting of this to be somewhat unfair, even if the game in question explicitly allows it. Because it subverts their idea of what games should be like.

Freemium isn't inherently dishonest. I worked on a freemium game. But it doesn't (or at least didn't) hide key features behind a paywall. And it makes a big attempt to make something intrinsically fun - not something intrinsically compulsive.

Quote
To my mind, alongside perhaps episodic games, that's the most honest business model that exists in games right now. Do you want to pay money upfront for something that might be shit, or do you want to try something for free, and decide later whether you want to spend a few dollars or cents here and there (or carry on playing it for free, or just stop playing)?
Except you've stripped out the actual gameplay from this equation, and that's the most important part. Different types of payment allowing different players to get access to the same game is not terribly contentious. Different types of players that allow some players to get privileges and benefits over the others is something else. Imagine how chess tournaments would be if you were allowed to pay to have pawns upgraded to bishops.

Quote
I don't bedgrudge Notch the money I paid for Minecraft Alpha, and I'm looking forward to seeing where Minecraft goes in future, but if he offered a few stacks of diamond for a reasonable real-world price? Yeah, I'd buy it.
I think that's fine, for single-player games, if you don't mind the feeling of cheating yourself. (And if you don't consider it cheating yourself, that's fine too.)
« Last Edit: December 03, 2010, 08:29:19 am by Kylotan » Logged
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« Reply #17 on: December 03, 2010, 09:58:57 am »

Except farmville IS NOT a competitive game therefore it does not change the fairness of the game. Better than that it have lightly cooperative gameplay, if a player is ahead because he spend real money, all his friend benefit from greater rewards (gift, xp boost from task, etc...) FREELY.

Those argument are irrelevant.
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« Reply #18 on: December 03, 2010, 10:31:06 am »

Goddamnit Gilbert, stop shattering my preconceptions about Farmville. What am I supposed to use as an example of "everything that's wrong with gaming these days" in discussions now?  Cry
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« Reply #19 on: December 03, 2010, 11:06:25 am »

They both have the same vowels in the names ... spooky!
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