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  1. #1

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    The Battlefront II Debacle

    So the new triple-A Star Wars game is generating stupendous levels of bad feeling in the run up to its release on Friday, mainly because of its shamelessly avaricious "pay-to-win" gameplay (You can't play as any of the saga's most famous characters unless you either rack up a week's worth of gameplay first or fork out Ä40+ on top of what you already paid for the game) and Electronic Arts' cackhanded attempts at public relations. A post they made in response to a complaint on the Subreddit, in which they attempted to justify ripping people off, has apparently become the most downvoted in the history of the site and is still plummeting. Uosdwis R Dewoh of this parish has written a nice summary of the situation and why it's crap which I'm sure he won't mind if I post here:

    So a bit of context: EA have exclusive rights to all Star Wars releases. That is to say other companies can release games, but only with EAís say-so. The MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) genre has become very popular over the last few years (if you ever played Team Fortress, itís basically that), and Battlefront was a much-loved Star Wars game that fit into that category. You pick a class of character (heavy, spy, sniper, medic, etcÖ) and play away to your heartís content, unlocking stuff as you progress Ė new weapons, outfits, skills.

    A lot of other successful games work on a free-to-play model (F2P), where you can play AAA-quality games for free, and then make your game experience more enjoyable through add-ons to make your character stronger. These are usually single-player, or co-op multiplayer experiences like World of Warcraft, League of Legends, DotA2, Warframe, World of Tanks, etc. At no point are you obliged to spend a cent on the game, and your enjoyment is not restricted by your wallet.

    The problem is when you combine these concepts Ė you get whatís known colloquially as a ďfree to play, pay to winĒ game. Say you and I are both playing as Stormtroopers in a deathmatch. We both have identical characters, armor and weapons. It will come down to whoís better at handling that character. Say I beat you, so you switch to a rebel, then you start winning 70% of the time. I need to change up my game, so I need a faster, more accurate blaster. It costs Ä2, but I donít want to waste real money on it. The alternative is I play the game for ~2 hours, earn in-game credits, and can upgrade then, so our matches are closer to 50-50 in terms of results. Weíre back on level pegging, and the game is enjoyable again.

    Now, say you want to win all the time, and you see Iíve just upgraded my weapon, which wonít do. You splash Ä20 on god-level armor, the best weapon in the game, and a jetpack. My rifle canít even damage you. This is the pay-to-win model in effect. You like it because youíre always winning against me, and I start spewing bile because Iíve to play for another 10 hours to unlock a new helmet that means I can survive two hits instead of one.

    Even objectively, thatís still ok. The big problem is, itís a Star Wars game, and you donít really want to play as Stormtrooper 156 all the time. Youíre going to want to play as Vader, or Lando. Youíre going to want to fly the Millennium Falcon, or an A-Wing, or Slave One. Whoa, hold on there, you need to play for 40 hours minimum before youíve earned enough credits to unlock one of those features. This is after youíve already spent Ä69.99 on the base game. If you want to get to one of those features faster, fine, you can get enough credits to buy the loot boxes containing these items at only Ä25 a box (Ä40 for a platinum box where youíve a chance at getting two).

    In summary, thereís nothing wrong about releasing a game like this, just the same way thereís nothing wrong about the super wealthy evading tax in the Bahamas. Itís not illegal, itís just immoral. Itís abuse of a beloved franchise, and itís holding a fanbase to ransom over stuff that should really have been included in the game you buy in the box. Iím not against F2P. Iím not even necessarily against P2W. Itís when you combine the two that you get into dodgy territory.

    The memes coming from it, however, will be delicious.
    Further to this, the single-player campaign is neither particularly long (about five hours, according to reports) nor exclusively follows the Imperial side of the conflict, despite what people have been led to believe by the trailer. This has the hallmarks of a colossal fuck-up.

  2. #2

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    A reddit user has calculated that it would cost $2100 to unlock all of the game's content.

    Initial reviews are (shock!) not good. Sample quote: "This game frustrates in ways that I didn't know I could be frustrated."
    Last edited by Reginald Christ; 16-11-2017 at 10:41.

  3. #3
    Various Artist's Avatar
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    I'm still occasionally playing Battlefront II (I), as it were, i.e. the sequel to the original PS2 Battlefront. It's still terrifically playable, and I can pick the heroes and villains of my choice to deal out slaughter with without needing to play for 2,000 hours or fork out hundreds of pounds. It was a much more straightforward era, wasn't it?

  4. #4

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    It was a less cynical era, that's for certain. But this is the way triple-A releases are going. They cost so much money to make that many of them are in danger of not recouping the development and marketing costs, even with healthy sales. To combat this, studios are increasingly going to pressure gamers to spend money to unlock content - paying for what they already have, in effect. Battlefront II is an extreme example of this trend but it's an example of a kind of gaming Overton Window being moved. The next big game based on this model won't have a microtransaction system as exploitative as Battlefront does so it will appear somehow "fairer" in comparison.

    Meanwhile, more amusing developments. For starters, the Belgian Gaming Commission are investigating whether the game should be classified as gambling, stating that players are paying money for in-game content but aren't certain what that money will get them (this is the game's dismal "loot boxes" dynamic).

    Elsewhere, an Electronic Arts developer who supposedly worked on the game had a tweet go viral this week where he complained that he'd received seven death threats and "1600 personal attacks" online from gamers furious at Battlefront II. Slight problem - EA can't confirm that the developer in question works for them and it's impossible to verify whether he's received any abuse as he's removed all mention of EA from his Twitter account.

  5. #5
    SouthdownRebel's Avatar
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    It's an interesting story to watch develop from the sidelines, so to speak. Like VA, I have the previous edition though I've not played for a long while. Pre-launch, I was tempted to get the new one but no so much that I preordered - my current gaming is predominantly PC based. I wasn't overly surprised at this news though, given it's EA, and now I'm glad I didn't bother.

  6. #6
    Toby Gymshorts's Avatar
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    EA responds by temporarily pulling microtransactions from the game.

    It's fair to say that this is something of an omnishambles at this point.

  7. #7
    Patrick Thistle's Avatar
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    This is why I hate modern games. I've tried to like them. I just use my PS4 for Netflix and as a blu ray player.

    Mrs Thistle wants the new Nintendo thing with Mario on. "You can throw his cap on things and become that thing. You can become a dinosaur!" OK. Hopefully it won't be like every PS4 game where the first hour is spent setting up your fucking profile before you're able to play the game. PlayStation? AdministrationStation more like.

  8. #8
    Toby Gymshorts's Avatar
    I must confess, I'm an impatient cat
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    Apparently Mario Odyssey is a joy from start to finish. If I had 400 notes spare I'd buy a Switch just for that.

  9. #9
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    Yeah, it's pretty great. It doesn't get all that challenging until near the end*, and I still prefer Galaxy, but it's still thhe most fun I've had all year.

    *The ostensible end being when the game opens up, as with most recent Marios.

  10. #10

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    Oh, this is just beautiful.

    "EA's day of reckoning is here after 'Star Wars' game uproar, $3 billion in stock value wiped out".

    First week U.K. physical game sales of "Star Wars Battlefront II" declined 61 percent compared with "Star Wars Battlefront" from two years ago, according to GfK ChartTrack data. And the game is still not on the top 100 list of Amazon's best-selling video games year to date as of Tuesday.
    Disney apparently scheduled a conference call with Electronic Arts to "register their displeasure" at the whole thing.

  11. #11

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    Reports are that Battlefront II is tanking commercially. It's sold around 880,000 copies to date in the States. That might not sound bad but consider that it's a triple-A title and that one of its ostensible rivals, the latest in the Call Of Duty franchise, has hit sales of around 4.4 million and it's not even Christmas yet. I'd like to believe that Electronic Arts will remember the moral of this story in future but knowing them they're likely to come away from all of this with a different moral that everyone else does.

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