Battlefront Becomes a Battleground
There has been a pall hanging over Star Wars Battlefront II for a number of weeks now. It began with the growing realisation that EA had completely embraced real currency gambling mechanics, to the extent that the game was clearly going to be ‘pay to win’. By far the path of least resistance to getting ability enhancing ‘star cards’ is to acquire them via the capricious whim of the random number generator when opening a loot crate. This much was already a known quantity, but it only gets worse from here. As it turns out one of the best ways for the player to increase their equipment level is through acquiring star cards, and so loot crate gamblers are not only given an unfair advantage through the acquisition of ability bestowing star cards, but as a side effect they are also given an unfair advantage through an increased equipment level!
All of this was enough to get the community’s resentment simmering, but it was not the straw that broke the camel’s back. No, that honour goes to their stunning decision to put hero and villain characters like Luke and Vader behind paywalls which required that the player grind for forty hours per character in order to obtain them without paying real world money for them! Glorious! These staple characters were available for free in the previous title, but now they were being held for a king’s ransom by EA’s capricious greed! They even had the nerve to attempt some damage control in this angry Reddit thread, resulting in the single most downvoted comment in Reddit’s history, with a negative score of -675,000.
EA’s first hamfisted attempt to mitigate this situation was to decrease the hero and villain paywalls by 75%, which might have gone some way to fixing the situation were it not for the fact that at the same time they decreased the amount of credits earned for completing the single player campaign by a proportionate 75%, and a cooldown timer being added for earning credits from the game’s arcade mode! What EA giveth with one hand, they claw right back with the other. Predictably, this did nothing to calm the situation, and in fact served to increase the resentment towards EA.
EA’s second attempt to calm the situation was even more tone deaf:
“We hear you loud and clear, so we’re turning off all in-game purchases. We will now spend more time listening, adjusting, balancing and tuning. This means that the option to purchase crystals in the game is now offline, and all progression will be earned through gameplay. The ability to purchase crystals in-game will become available at a later date, only after we’ve made changes to the game. We’ll share more details as we work through this.”
They are essentially saying that they are switching off monetisation for the game’s first few weeks on sale, but will then be switching that shit on again after they have made all of their sales, and once it is too late for a refund!
Really though, any functional adult who is aware of this situation, yet decides to purchase the game anyway, fully deserves the rampant molestation that EA has in store for them. That is fine. What is more troubling is that this game is pushing gambling with real money transactions onto minors, when nobody under the age of eighteen should even be playing the game. That is predatory and evil.
Hello There Fellow Gamers
There has been a narrative emerging these past couple of months. EA is now pushing for all of their games to be open world multi-player games, because those are the kind of games that are easiest to monetise through real money gambling with loot crates. Recently Visceral was knifed by EA. Their first cardinal sin appears to have been failing to make microtransactions work in Dead Space 3, and the second strike appears to have come with EA higher ups beginning to doubt that the linear single player Star Wars game that Visceral were working on could serve as an effective vehicle for loot crate real money gambling.
Next up Manveer Heir came out to speak against his former employer. Heir had previously worked on Mass Effect 3 and Mass Effect Andromeda, and recounts how pivotal Mass Effect 3‘s card packs were in shaping the direction of EA:
“It’s definitely a thing inside of EA. They are generally pushing for more open-world games. And the reason is you can monetize them better…It’s the same reason we added card packs to Mass Effect 3: how do you get people to keep coming back to a thing instead of ‘just’ playing for 60 to 100 hours?
You need to understand the amount of money that’s at play with microtransactions. I’m not allowed to say the number but I can tell you that when Mass Effect 3 multiplayer came out, those card packs we were selling, the amount of money we made just off those card packs was so significant that’s the reason Dragon Age has multiplayer, that’s the reason other EA products started getting multiplayer that hadn’t really had them before, because we nailed it and brought in a ton of money. It’s repeatable income versus one-time income.”
Yep, this certainly sounds like EA. Heir even went on to reveal that he knew of one Mass Effect 3 player who spent over $15,000 on cards. This is the reason that we will never be free of this kind of bullshit. For every ten people who turn their noses up at EA and their typical tricks, there is one idiot gambling addict mortgaging their house in order to buy randomised in-game advantages.
This story managed to gain so much traction within the Bioware community that Bioware’s Brenon Holmes had to come out and run damage control against the notion that Anthem is destined to be a loot crate wasteland like Battlefront II – an entirely reasonable conclusion.
“I hear you. We’re talking a fair bit about this at the moment. I can’t really talk about it too much, but it’s an ongoing discussion.
And if it helps at all, we’re gamers too. :) A bunch of folks on the team have similar positions on monetization… so that perspective is definitely represented.
I understand his perspective, but I think he may be misinterpreting a lot of things… and he’s definitely not in the know when it comes to Anthem (he was never on the team).”
So… The defense that Bioware is going with is that Heir was part of a different internal studio [as though that even matters], and we are totally gamers guys, so stop worrying. Trust us. We are your friend!
How about fuck no? There were almost certainly gamers working on Battlefront II, and that did not save the game once EA executives became involved. Anthem microtransactions might not be as bad as Battlefront II, but that is only because Battlefront II turned out to be such a disaster. Because of this EA are going to walk it back a little, and then slowly edge their way forward again until they are able to surpass the avarice of Battlefront II this time without drawing the ire of consumers. This is the race to the bottom, where the race leader succeeds through going just fast enough not to attract too much negative attention to their scummy business practices.
Misery Loves Company
Any gamer with even the most rudimentary grounding in JRPGs could be forgiven for thinking that Final Fantasy XV‘s multiplayer mode would allow gamers to play through the main quest along side their friends [at least through the sections where the main party is intact]. Squaresoft was one of the very first companies to experience widespread success with multiplayer JRPGs on the Super Nintendo with Seiken Densetsu 2 and Seiken Densetsu 3. From the moment when a second character joins the party, both Seiken Densetsu games are playable to their completion in multiplayer mode.
Further strengthening this interpretation of the situation is the fact that the multiplayer expansion is being released after all of the individual character episodes, so that there is now a full party of storied characters with the mechanics for multiple people to control them. Given this fact it is just kind of logical that Square Enix would allow for Final Fantasy XV proper to be completable to its conclusion with the game’s multiplayer expansion – however, based on the tone of this news story readers can likely already guess that this is not the case.
Instead the multiplayer expansion to Final Fantasy XV allows players to create their own nameless no consequence avatar to be a member of the Kingsglaive, and from there players can band together in order to collectively participate in more hunts. Because Final Fantasy XV needed more hunts:
“Taking place after the events of Chapter 13 in the main game, Comrades puts fans in the shoes of the remaining survivors of the Kingsglaive as they fight to restore the Light to the world during Noctis’s absence.
In Comrades, players can create and customize their own avatar and partake in epic quests in a world engulfed by darkness. As members of the Kingsglaive, players will equip royal sigils that grant special powers from the rulers of old, strategize with one another and create a balanced team in battles against formidable foes and beasts. In addition to multiplayer quests, players can experience the story unfold in a thorough single-player campaign. By using the base of operations in Lestallum, the player can undertake a variety of exciting quests and encounter familiar faces.”
So now, far from allowing players to co-op their way through the main quest, Square Enix has given players a multiplayer mode which does not even feed any benefits through to the main quest. It is just a bunch of hunts – busy work – there for no other reason than for players to have some busy work to churn their way through. This is far from compelling. With the recent announcement of Noctis joining the cast of Tekken 7, gamers looking for a good multiplayer Final Fantasy XV game should just buy that instead.