Discussion in 'Article Discussion' started by bit-tech, 30 Nov 2018.
This, so much this:
I think games get such negative press, it is the digital equivalent of buying Panini stickers, but I also see the problems that they bring, not only to balance, but even for cosmetic things. People will steal accounts because of a users items in their inventory. I don't really buy the loot boxes are gambling argument, but the items and trying to get them has certainly bred gambling outside of steam to try and earn these items.
Personally, loot boxes, even free drops, tend to ruin a game. I am not talking about weapon pickups or timed drops that everyone is aware about from the quake days, but the modern gamefication of the whole experience that has come about mainly because Valve needed ways to encourage player retention in their system beyond a game library. By creating such a massive eco system, there are many gamers who don't venture far outside it. This has led games and other platforms to try and copy these ideas all in the interest of player retention, but I think ultimately gamification of everything is going to turn around and bite society in the arse, eventually.
I haven't yet finished developing a game of saleable quality, but when I do, I want to avoid as much gameification a possible, with the contradictory needs of wanting to reward players and ecourage people to the game. To this end I'll have achievements, and maybe badges/cards, and the relevant backgrounds and sprites, but i'll avoid loot boxes, or game-changing bonuses of any description, as well as any concept of pay to win. You'll be able to buy the game and get all content, unless of course I later add DLC. There would be nothing else to pay for. The whole concept of micro transactions immediately turns me off a game.
Except they aren't really. The only true similarities they have is that you don't know what's in the 'pack' when you buy it and that most games ape collectable cards by having a board with all the available outcomes shown so you know what you 'could' have. Most forms of gambling display a grand prize as well, so that's an elements CCGs, lootboxes and gambling share.
Those are pretty superficial, collectable cards are made in finite numbers and have predictable outcomes, a lot of CCG's will sell you a complete pack for a set price, even the ones that don't the cost of getting everything from a given set is usually quite predictable.
Lootboxes are functionally infinite, whilst I'm sure there is a limit to how many items a company like Valve or EA can spawn then track, that limit must be in the quadrillions. More importantly they have entirely unpredicatable outcomes, to the point of the odds of a given 'prize' being hard to ascertain or in some cases (cough, Blizzard) entirely variable. The audio and visual aspects of lootboxes closely ape slot machines, as does the token system most games operate (you aren't spending £10, you're spending 1000gold/nachos/gems), just like buying chips in a casino. There are layers of opacity to lootbox systems that don't exist in CCGs, but conform to traditional gambling very closely. The fact that countries are forcing companies to display odds on their lootboxes should surely set alarm bells ringing.
I can somewhat accept that they are their own thing in strict legal terms. They aren't a CCG, they aren't gambling in the legal definition. They are new thing that hasn't existed before the internet age that is almost exactly the same as traditional gambling, but adds elements of CCGs and sidesteps the notion of real world value to avoid regulation. To me that means the definitions and regulations surrounding gambling have to be expanded to cover lootboxes and other 'gambling like systems' in videogames. They should certainly carry the same restrictions to access as actual gambling.
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