Category Archives: Handheld Gaming
Yesterday, I had a conversation with a friend who wanted to understand the nature of online game purchases a little bit better. While I understand the general processes in my head without much trouble, explaining online games and microtransactions to a non-gamer is actually rather difficult.
That doesn’t mean I’m going to leave a friend without the requisite knowledge, of course. To that end, I’ve created this primer of sorts on microtransactions, using some of my own terminologies, for the sort of person who doesn’t really play games.
When we refer to commerce in this day and age, we usually think of the exchange of money or credit for good and services. In games, there is also commerce on numerous levels, with each sort of transaction allowing for different goods and services to those playing the game.
There are two sorts of transactions one would typically think of when it comes to games: the purchase transaction and the in-game transaction.
In a purchase transaction, a consumer who wishes to play a game, either through ownership of the game or acquisition of a license to use the game software, pays a fee (in cash or credit, online or in the real world) before he can acquire the means necessary to play that game.
With in-game transactions, we refer to the transactions within a game that allow a user to acquire items, equipment and services specific to that game. This necessitates paying a fee comprised of that game’s particular currency in order to complete the transaction. Whether it comes in the form of in-game gold, gil, zenny, or megabucks, these are simply virtual goods that, under specific circumstances, are not actually traded for any form of real-world currency.
Examples of purchase transactions include the use of Philippine Pesos or US Dollars to purchase a game like Diablo II. Using the currency within Diablo II, namely gold, to purchase weapons, armor, and potions is an example of an in-game transaction.
So far, this is all easy to understand, but complexity arises when we realize that there are other ways by which companies can earn revenue from games. There are a variety of ways in which games in this Internet-connected reality we live in can foster additional revenue, and that is mostly done through a set of transactions that are commonly known as microtransactions.
Unlike purchase transactions or in-game transactions, the word “microtransactions” is a blanket terminology referring to the use of real-world currency (again, either through cash or credit, though usually credit) to acquire goods, services, or additional game content for a game one is already playing, The term is known a microtransaction due to the current trend for microtransactions to generally, though not always, cost less than the price one would pay to acquire the game or continue to gain access to it.
If you remember the example earlier about using in-game gold to purchase weapons and armor in Diablo II, you’d expect in-game gold to have no real-world value. The truth, however, as a result of games growing increasingly more connected to the internet is that currency, goods, and services within a game can have a real-world monetary value assigned to them that can also be affected by market forces.
Many types of microtransactions exist at present due to the nature of games in this day and age, but for non-gamers (and probably concerned parents who don’t know how microtransactions work), an introduction on some of the broad types of microtransactions would be in order.
First off, there are direct microtransactions. These microtransactions are basically an exchange of real-world currency for a specific good or service within a game, or for additional content that is either locked away as a result of the game’s code (thus meaning you’ve paid real money for a key to unlock the additional content) or added to a game after that game’s release.
Direct microtransactions is really a broad term I’m using to refer to a wide-range of potential microtransaction types, but it simplifies the process simply because this sort of microtransaction describes the means by which one acquires a specific good or service while (usually) supporting the developers of a game or an entity connected to the company that developed the game being played.
An online role-playing game like World of Warcraft allows for the purchase of in-game pets, flying mounts, or character renaming services for a fee: this is a direct microtransaction. Most games on mobile devices such as the iPad that do not require a purchase transaction (and are thus touted as being free to download and begin playing) use direct microtransactions to unlock the full game and all its capabilities. Some games on personal computers and consoles (such as the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3) which have purchase transactions also get additional game content delivered through the console or computer’s connection to the Internet after launch, and these require the use of one-time credit card transactions (which are direct microtransactions) to download and play.
There is a second type of microtransaction that is a little easier to define, but a bit more difficult to peg in terms of its overall legitimacy as a microtransaction. These are what I’d define as currency microtransactions.These types of microtransactions are microtransactions in which a player would use real-world money to purchase the currency required to create an in-game transaction. Now, while in-game currency is also a form of virtual good, I’ve set it aside as its own microtransaction type due to how this particular form of virtual good can be used legitimately by certain game developers and unethically by certain companies.
Let me give an example of a both currency microtransaction types. Legitimate currency microtransactions occur in a free iOS game called Tiny Tower. While the game itself is free, the game allows players to use the credit cards connected to their iTunes account to purchase an in-game currency known as Tower Bux, which can be used to speed up the construction of an amenity in-game.These legitimate currency microtransactions are the main means by which the developer gains revenue from their game, allowing them to continue developing more games.
Unethical (a loaded word, but I lack a better word to replace it with) currency microtransactions are commonplace in certain massively multiplayer online role-playing games such as, again, World of Warcraft. Certain companies employ people to acquire the virtual currency of a game like World of Warcraft in order to sell the currency to players for real-world money. In some cases, these companies will try and gain access into people’s game accounts to take virtual currency away from other players in order to sell it online. Very little of this real-world money goes back into funding the development of the game, and the experience of play is somewhat diminished by the encroachment of gold sellers into the virtual space.
Non-gamers, including those responsible for children who are gamers, would do well to reflect upon the implications of microtransactions on real-world wallets. Younger gamers who do not pay attention or who do not understand what microtransactions are can fall prey to unintended purchasing sprees, often on the parental dime.
One well-known report among gaming circles is the story of one Brendan Jordan, who racked up a 1000-pound bill on the console service known as Xbox Live. There was nothing illegal about the purchases, and while the mother of Jordan wants the game companies to bear some responsibility for the mess, it can be argued that game consoles have protections in place to prevent minors from accessing purchase-based microtransaction services.
In any event, non-gamers and parents should be more mindful of what games these days can and can’t do, and what capabilities the technologies of today allow. Ultimately, this will keep misunderstanding at a minimum and proper parenting at the ready.
Elementalistly took to writing what I consider to be a spirited discourse on why the MMO community is beginning to disappoint him, and while I understand his sentiments, I cannot say I completely agree with him.
While I won’t try to refute all his points (another writer, Nightwreath of Massively Multiverse, seems to have done that ahead of anyone else), I do wish to point out something I’ve noticed about the gaming community at large.
By some measures, it can be said that there is a significantly larger number of gamers now as compared to during gaming’s infancy. Comparatively speaking, the number of people playing MMORPGs during the Everquest I era were far fewer when placed against the era of World of Warcraft’s dominance. Couple that with the fact that console gaming is a significantly larger enterprise now when compared to gaming on personal computers, and you have the stirrings of a large console gaming base that could potentially spill onto or share commonalities with the fanbase of MMORPG games.
That said, there is one thing that made me think when I read Elementalistly’s post, and that had something to do with what I call the Chun Li -Bison Dichotomy.
During the latter half of Street Fighter: The Movie, we are introduced to Raul Julia’s famous conversation with Ming-na, set as a confrontation between M. Bison and Chun Li:
Chun-Li: It was twenty years ago. You hadn’t promoted yourself to general yet. You were just a petty drug lord. You and your gang of murderers gathered your small ounce of courage to raid across the border for food, weapons, slave labor…my father was the village magistrate. A simple man with a simple code: justice. He gathered the few people that he could to stand against you. You and your bullies were driven back by farmers with pitchforks! My father saved his village at the cost of his own life. You had him shot as you ran away! A hero… at a thousand paces.
M. Bison: I’m sorry… I don’t remember any of it.
Chun-Li: You don’t remember?!
M. Bison: For you, the day Bison graced your village was the most important day of your life. But for me… it was Tuesday.
The Chun Li-Bison dichotomy is the term I use for the situation wherein two entities have a disconnect over the perceived value of a particular event. The analogy holds firm in the face of two masses of gamers, and this is where the main discussion point begins.
I feel that Elementalistly fails to take into account not only the overlaps between the console and PC gaming communities, but also the inherent perceived value individual players have over what makes a game worthwhile to spend time on.
My awkward reference to a game being “worthwhile to spend time on” is written specifically to avoid confusion and to necessitate a thought process with the reader. One person will find a game is worthwhile to spend time on because of a variety of factors that will potentially differ from the next person. In my personal case, a game is worthwhile to spend time on if it provides me with an experience that I can lose myself in temporarily, regardless of whether I “finish” the game or complete my objective or not. For another person, a game may be worthwhile to spend time on because it allows for decidedly short-term bursts of entertainment or amusement. For yet another, a game is worthwhile to spend time on because of the achievements and recognition one can get from mastering it.
The MMO community at large has changed from the time of Ultima Online. The Community is no longer a few thousand strong but is, instead, a society of millions connected by different games. To say that the MMO community is disappointing seems to presuppose that everyone places the same value on a game one holds dear when compared to other available games, when most games are, as Elementalistly would put it, damn fine games.
If a game has provided a person with what he needs and values most in his leisure, then that should be enough, and few should remain disappointed if they have enjoyed their time, found their personal tastes to be more attuned towards something else, and moved on. If a person has found a game wanting and moved on, respecting that others may find a game more to their liking than he, then is he not an upstanding member of the gaming community at large for being mature enough to cut ties cleanly without blaming someone for purchasing something that ultimately did not agree with him, regardless of how much or how little time he spent playing the game?
It is only when one sounds the death knell of hostile criticism and negativity upon leaving that I become concerned for the well-being of a community. With that point, I must say, if we took negativity from all comers as a sign of the impending doom of the things we love, then what are we truly left with other than disconcerting emotions and an utterly useless Street Fighter: The Movie analogy?
Back in September of 2010, I wrote about how I found myself falling prey to gaming hype and how I seemed to gravitate towards games with the purpose of becoming a pundit of sorts. I’ve altered my stance on the the idea of becoming a force to be reckoned with in the game blogging world (there are far better things to worry about, like finding a job, falling in love, and learning how to manage finances). Since then, I’ve noticed I’ve been making a rather large number of gaming purchases, which worries me somewhat.
The ever lessening time I spend affixed to one game (a month ago, I was playing Guild Wars, then two weeks ago, Everquest 1′s trial, and now, I just bought Dead Space and Magicka on Steam) makes me think that I am less of a gamer because I do not love gaming, per se, but rather have grown to love the idea of a game.
This is worrying because I have yet to find a job. This is also worrying because it’s a waste of money that could be accruing interest in the bank. This is worrying because falling in love with the idea of something, ANYTHING, instead of the reality that is there makes me think I haven’t grown as a person.
Around seven or eight years ago, I was enrolled in a mandatory college class for religion (Catholic universities like the one I went to have mandatory religion subjects to foster personal growth in students) called Marriage and Human Sexuality. One of the things I learned in that class was that there’s a difference between loving someone and falling in love with someone.
According to that class, you can fall in and out of love with someone, and that feeling you get when you fall in love might seem genuine, but can quite possibly be a mixture of a crush with your own projections of what you want in a partner, which may not actually be in that person you’ve fallen in love with. Once the honeymoon phase is over, and the cracks begin to show in the relationship, the illusion reveals itself, and you fall out of love.
Back then, I realized that, lonely as I was, I knew I didn’t want to simply “fall in love” with a personal illusion of a woman I’d gotten to know. I wanted to love and accept someone for the good aspects and not-so-good aspects they had.
I thought I could extend that sort of thinking to all the different aspects of my life, which is why I try and take pains to think about the things I do or engage in. When it comes to gaming though, I feel like I never learned anything from my class back in college.
True, games and people are different things and I may be too hard on myself, but it doesn’t diminish the distress I feel when I think about how I buy games, play them for a short while, and then never finish them. It’s like I’ve fallen in love with the idea of the game, but found that my projections of what I expect that game to be do not mesh well with the reality of the game, and I shelve the game for failing my perceived ideal.
It’s a waste, and yet even with that realization in tow, I cannot help but still want to purchase new games with the hope that they will astound me and lead me to some great divine epiphany of awesome that I cannot comprehend but simply bask in.
It scares me to think I haven’t grown as a person. Perhaps I should give myself some credit for at least realizing that something might be faulty in my acceptance of hype and my constant failed relationships with games.
That said, I wonder if the ones who are truly fanatical about games can even see the deficiencies in the games they say they love. That blindness to truth seems even scarier than any issue I might have at present.
Just a quick note for those folks who were wondering about Final Fantasy Type-0, which I talked about for a short bit a few weeks ago.
Siliconera reports that Final Fantasy Type-0 isn’t actually a new game, but rather, Final Fantasy Agito XIII sporting a new name. According to the report, Type-0 is set to become a spinoff of the Final Fantasy universe and will not be a part of the Final Fantasy XIII continuity anymore, seeing as there’s actually Final Fantasy Versus XIII and Final Fantasy XIII-2 to think about.
Final Fantasy Type-0 will be coming out in Japan this summer, and will span two UMD discs in length.
I spent ten minutes earlier playing Angry Birds on the iPod Touch of a friend. The game is available for play on the iPhone or iPod Touch, provided that your device has the proper updates required to play the game.
Angry Birds is a game starring a bunch of differently colored birds who are angry… angry at pigs who apparently have done something wrong. I do not know what these pigs did (probably mass genocide of birds?), but the introductory cutscene-type deal seemed unappealing and cartoony so I skipped it.
Most of the ten minutes I spent playing Angry Birds was actually comprised of listening to my friends tell me about the controls. Apparently, these furious fowl are willing to jump on a slingshot and have someone finger them into position to be released all cannon-like in order to obliterate some pigs. This smacks of many MMORPG tropes, such as the suicide mission trope and the band of heroic fowl trope. By comparison, World of Warcraft and LOTRO both have chickens in them, and I assume they are also rather angry at the misrepresentation of their species as a fowl race.
Much like other MMORPG’s before it, Angry Birds is actually quite the intriguing multiplayer game, but for a different reason entirely. It involves a system of gaming known as “sharing,” which is commonly unheard of in many MMORPG’s as it requires people to relinquish control of the game in order to allow other people equal time in completing or failing objectives. That said, the addition of a sort of ranking system to determine who should best be set in the sharing roster may become an intriguing development for the game, should its developers decide to implement it, as it opens up an entirely new metagame that can enthrall its sizable fanbase into playing.
With that, it can be said that Angry Birds is one of the most innovative MMORPG’s I’ve had the experience of playing. Despite its lack of a crafting system and its rather lackluster quest implementation, Angry Birds serves as the immutable metaphor for the human spirit, as man, like an Angry Bird, must learn to overcome obstacles together in order to succeed in killing people who want to do other things which you disagree with.
EDIT: For the record, I do not take money from Rovio. They have not paid me to say anything. But I would like some money, so if you could send some my way, that’d be nice, Rovio.
I’m in a lot of pain right now due to my wrist hurting, but I really wanted to write this post, so I’m just going to endure the pain for the next thirty or so minutes while I type. Apologies if the message gets kind of jumbled up during the moments when I stop typing.]
Yesterday afternoon, I had sex with a hooker.
I will not tell you if this is a gaming reference or a real one, but obviously one is preferable to the other given the proper context. Suffice it to say, each of your individual contexts might differ depending on your mindset, strength of will, gender, and feelings towards the issue of paying for sex.
You might feel elation at having paid for sex. Or guilt. Or despair. When you’re playing games, such an act has few repercussions, except perhaps in the manner in which your character develops in an RPG. When you’re in the real-world, however, the feeling you had when experimenting during a game may have magnified itself because you’re actually there, and you feel every bit of it.
Translate this into other actions, such as shooting a gun, stabbing someone, or stealing. When it is done in the real world, there is a distinct change in the air, as if somehow, the quantum mechanics surrounding the realm of human emotion had changed. Every act we do is inextricably connected to other people, and this may change the lives of others in a distinct, yet unknowable way.
In games, on the other hand, the damage to the fabric of reality is mitigated by the way programmers have decided to deal with your action. You can escape from cops by running to a safe house, which automagically (YES AUTOMAGICALLY) lessens your wanted rating. You can alter one person’s life, but that person knows no one else but you and therefore directly influences no one else regarding the evil you’ve committed. Hell, you can die, lose your belongings, and just come back as if nothing happened.
The one thing that redeems the nature of doing stupid things in the real world, however, is that you can find ways to redeem yourself for the stupid things you’ve done, but only by working hard at changing your life for the better. In games, the ability to turn your karmic “reality” into a quantifiable number that can be altered is far too simple, and no amount of programming knowledge will ever quite get it right.
So yes, you can have sex with a hooker in either the gaming or real world, but if you really want to change from being a lonely sex-starved individual with a twisted, addled conscience, the real work begins after you’ve screwed up if you did it for real.
You can choose not to do stupid things in the real world or gaming world to begin with, and work with a decided difficulty adjustment to your life. Think of it as the Hell Mode of living on Earth.
I’ve never played a Professor Layton game, and I’ve yet to finish any of the Ace Attorney ones as well, but I can’t help but be impressed by the crossover of a puzzle-solving prof and an ace attorney.
Translation of the Audio? You bet!
I’ve been keeping watch on a particular issue that’s popped up on Destructoid and Kotaku, reserving my thoughts on the subject till I had more information. The issue was about paying someone, Best Buy in this case, to update the firmware on your PS3.
Just now, Destructoid updated with a story telling the side of Best Buy, and I think I now have enough information to comment on the matter in full.
For the most part, I personally think paying someone to help you to update your console, whether it be PS3, 360, Wii, DS or PSP, should be a non-issue.
The issue that some people have with this service is that updating one’s firmware is dreadfully easy. For them, perhaps, such is the case, but not for everyone, I’m sure. Back when I was working technical support for a major game console, I learned that even the most dreadfully simple of things can be very complicated if one has no background in the matter.
For instance, let us take the issue of cables. You have different types of cables (Component, Composite , and HDMI, if I remember correctly) which you can use to connect a console to a particular television. If you had no technical experience with the rear end of a TV, you’d probably be afraid to try out different cables to connect your console to your television, especially if you just bought a new television and didn’t want to break it.
Having someone whom you feel is an “expert” or at least has a substantial background in the topic you’re having trouble with usually puts you at ease. Best Buy is offering that sort of security (at a price) for people without the background knowledge of a console but who want to enjoy gaming as well, or are offering the service for people without a reliable internet connection (for instance, I have an unreliable net connection and rely on luck and late night attempts to get PS3 firmware updates).
Now, what wasn’t pointed out in the original articles of Destructoid and Kotaku was that the the firmware upgrade fee actually covers more than firmware, but also includes “user account setup, parental control setup, and other components.” For that price, if they include teaching you how to be self-sufficient, then I’d have to say that’s thirty dollars well-spent to ensure that you don’t screw up.
If gamers are close-minded about this particular issue, pose to them a single question: Ask them if they know how to hunt for game with a spear. Chances are they don’t. Explain to them that they pay for someone to provide them not only with the service of raising and maintaining an elaborate food distribution system (MARKETS!), but also the actual product. While they could probably kill a pig with a spear if push came to shove, they pay for the convenience of not having to do it and the security that the meat they’re eating isn’t poisoned.
A simple enough transaction, I would say, for a little peace of mind.
There were inmates on my lawn,
Yes there were inmates on my lawn!
But for some reason, now they’re gone.
I know your kind, a guard, dark and deadset
On beating a highscore through the head
and when having too much PvZ
You forgot about the inmates you’re supposed to see
I was an inmate once! (Inmate once!)
But then I stole a key! (Stole a key)
That guard, he just dun goofed (Dun Goofed!)
And now I’m free!
There were inmates on my lawn.
Yes there were inmates on my lawn.
Oh yes they all seem to have gone,
But we’ve recaptured all but one.
Simply put, there is now an op-ed piece on the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s online website about some inmates who escaped from prison because the guard was so caught up playing Plants Versus Zombies that he didn’t notice them take the key.
Of course, the other possible problem here besides the obvious (and highly surprising) negligence would be what the real story is, as “The wall was made higher, additional barbed wire was installed, security measures were tightened…”
Indeed, I’m intrigued to figure out if the zombies inmates escaped or were let out by corrupt prison guards. Either way, that’s some shoddy guarding there.
Sourced from Destructoid