So if your pizza takes 8 hours, and the delivery girl decides to bum your internet for a few hours… Should you still tip?
Be they Loot Boxes, Prize Crates or good ol’ fashion RNG Containers, there’s nothing quite like the topic of Reward Cubes to bring a heated boil to the gaming community at large. Are they pay-to-win? Are they gambling? Do they belong in full price $60 games? Do they belong in anything beyond Free-To-Play games? Should they exist at all?
Recently, the controversy has boiled up a bit thanks to some rather ahem… enthusiastic reaches by companies like WB Interactive and Electronic Arts in their big fall titles (Shadows of War, Star Wars Battlefront 2) and I’ve heard that even the sports games have decided to dab their quills into the ink as well with the latest installment of 2K sportsball and Forza something or other. I will admit, the practice has gotten admittedly scummier since my first encounter with the loot box scenario when they were added when Star Wars The Old Republic went debatably free to play (two hot bars, a 250k credit limit, and can’t equip any epic loot but hey it’s free to suffer through!)
Now you have loot boxes that are tied directly to player progression, offering new abilities and ability boosts in Battlefront 2 or simply being able to skip the grind and have a medley of legendary orcs spring forth from a chest like clowns from a car. And yeah, that’s B.S. I’m not even gonna sugar coat it. Optional or not, cash should not be a way to skip the game you just paid sixty bucks for. It definitely shouldn’t let you be able to quickly overpower players that don’t shell out for it. I’m glad there seems to be at least a majority consensus on THAT at least.
Personally, the only way I’ve really “enjoyed” loot boxes – not that I’ve ever enjoyed them. Put up with them? – was in games like Overwatch. Where they don’t give you anything BUT random visual flair to add to the game. And you earn them when you level up. Nice. But hey, then they went above and beyond and added ADDITIONAL ways to get free crates in the Arcade. So not only do you not have any tangible reason to get them beyond looking cool but they also keep giving you more ways to get them? Not a half bad model. Still would like just ways to unlock the skins and whatnot on my own in the game maybe. Not banking on random chance from a box every few hours. Maybe some sort of unlock systems based on in-game achievements? You know like you already do with certain sprays? Bah. Oh well.
Of course, there are still down sides to Overwatch’s model too. The whole thing is psychologically angled to make you want to spend. You see someone with the cool thing? You want the cool thing. Better go pay money for a chance to get the cool thing. A covetous model of persuasion is exactly what Activision’s recent patent for Microtransaction-based Matchmaking is built on. Instead of matching players on skill or win ratio, it finds the ‘Haves’ and then pairs them against the ‘Have Nots’ and then after you lose to their Cash Shop Super Weapon while donning their Ultra Rare Skin, you offer them the chance to get the same cool stuff from these handy dandy cubes o’ stuff we sell for real dollars. Psychology is a dangerous weapon when paired with greed.
For no better example of psychology being used to line the pockets, look no further than gambling. Oh, I hear the screams of forums back in TOR echoing through to the youtube comments of today of ‘It’s not gambling – you always get something!’ And that’s true. Sort of. Loot crates are a weird legal loophole where since you always get something out of it, it’s not gambling. But you also always get nothing – nothing tangible with an attached dollar value that can resold – so it’s also not gambling. HOWEVER, from a psychological standpoint and not a legal one, Reward Cubes are very much gambling. They scratch that same itch, provoke the same reaction, and still drive you to swipe your credit card over and over chasing an elusive jackpot. Heck, why else would the crazy Kylo Ren-style lightsabers be introduced as a new ultra-ultra-ultra rare platinum item in SWTOR? It’s the hot new thing. It’s only comes from the cash-only loot boxes. It’s got a 1-in-10,000 chance to drop! Didn’t get it in this box? That makes it MORE likely to be in the next, right? (Not how that works at all by the way.)
Loot boxes CAN be dangerously addicting to those with a pension for such habits. And sure, there are non-loot box ways you could get it. Someone could sell theirs in the in-game market for in-game currency. But that still means SOMEONE paid cash for it. And to be honest, I casually played SWTOR for years – played every class at least once if not twice or three times – and I STILL never made enough credits to buy one of those Kylo Ren sabers for what they were going for on the market. Eventually just decided that was one thing I was never gonna end up getting. Like PvP achievements.
Overall, I think what I was going for with writing about this was that I’m used to seeing people take a very hard line stance on this issue. Understandable since it’s a very passionate issue. But I don’t think there’s really a good hard line stance to take. Loot boxes can be a fun addition to a game. I do think Blizzard is getting a knack for what a good balance of what should be in the crate, how easy it should be to get free crates vs paid crates, and definitely figured out a good way to make them feel fun. However, left unchecked the whole system begins to turn corrupt. You see pay to win become an incentive to buy crates, you see things being designed to nudge players toward crates to speed up or skip parts of the game, and you see the effort being put in to continue to make more alluring jackpot items to drive that addictive quality in wanting to keep buying to get the best stuff. Heck, I’ll even say that Overwatch could be improved. They gave away loot boxes for Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone for Twitch Prime that had guaranteed rare items like legendaries or gold cards. I’d love to see that sort of thing be added to the game as a reward for major achievements. Get 100 wins? Get a gold box. Unlocked all of a character’s achievements? Get a gold box. Complete a limited time holiday quest? Get a gold box so you will at least get ONE of the legendary skins during the small holiday event windows.
I wanted to approach it all rationally. I don’t think reward cubes are going anywhere. I think that as the industry pushes more to perpetual monetization over pay-once-and-your-done tactics with games we need to start really critically thinking about where we as consumers feel comfortable drawing the line. All or nothing approaches may be admirable, but so is throwing yourself on your sword and none of it accomplishes much. There doesn’t have to be a universal approach either. I want to encourage everyone to find their own personal line on the topic and then work with that. Let that be a personal factor in your buying decisions. It’s one of the reasons that despite looking amazing and fun, I didn’t buy into Battlefront or Battlefront 2. It’s why I remain hesitant about Anthem. It’s one of the major reasons I decided to stop playing SWTOR.
But I am not going to presume to tell you to do the same. All I’m gonna ask is that you think about it. Think about what you want and what you are comfortable with.
I think it says something that in the wake of this whole Szechuan Sauce thing that everyone seems to be focused on the supposedly “cringey” Rick and Morty Fans and their reactions and NOT the horribly botched attempt at promotional relevancy that McDonald’s made.
I mean, this wasn’t some spur of the moment thing. There was planning. There was prep. They made custom packet artwork for these things. It’s not like they just hauled out a box from the back room or something. So the fact that there was THIS much planning that went so very very wrong? Yeah. That’s worth mockery to me. McDonald’s is who we should be pointing the finger at and snickering.
The fans? Oh sure. Some went overboard. But you know what, they are fans. I’ve seen flash mobs of people doing dumber and more random crap at cons. And in terms of stupid crap fandoms have pulled? Oh come on. This doesn’t even crack the top ten. But why can’t they be like normal fans and turn over a car when their sportsball team loses? Bah.
Then again… this wouldn’t have even been a blip on the radar if not for the HORRIBLE planning on McDonald’s part. This is like Nintendo levels of bad supply planning. Some people I’ve spoken to seem to pretend that Rick and Morty fans descended in mass to wipe out entirely supplies of McDonald’s sauce and then demanded more and more. Instead of you know, sending a handful of packets and posters to each store and just hoping it works out.
So yeah. Fans can be silly. Corporations easily should have known better. Mock the Clown. Not the clowns.
So did you all see that Season 3 finale? Wowee. Nothings gonna be the same ever again, huh? Except the parts where they explicitly stated they are going to be the same again. *cough* Anyway…
Rick and Morty is one of those shows that is hard to get a beat on simply because it has perfected the art of trolling its own audience like some sort of modern day Andy Kaufman. We are talking classic old school trolling too. That form where you can never be quite sure where the line of what should be taken seriously or not falls. Rick and Morty introduces plot points, episode previews, and even entire episode names and summaries as we found out this season just to pull the wool over your eyes and show you something completely different or have it be a one off joke. Sometimes a joke turns out to be something horrifyingly serious like the utterly bizarre in comparison to the rest of the episode therapist scene at the end of the Pickle Rick episode. You never know when the creators of the show are just dicking you around and where they intend to be serious, especially since the show can alternate between those two with the flip of a coin.
When I first was introduced to Rick and Morty, I stumbled upon a vast sea of YouTube videos that were delving into every conceivable theory and dissected every frame looking for clues to Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon’s mastermind plan for the show. My first instinct was that it was just fans being fans and overthinking things, but with this show – can you be sure? There certainly have been times when it looks like there’s bigger at work. Just the stuff with Evil Morty seems to be implying that. Then again at the same time the whole thing could be building up to the mother of all fart jokes. You don’t know. I don’t know. Hell, I sometimes wonder if the creators know.
That’s what I’ve found to be this wonderous dichotomy while watching Rick and Morty that I haven’t found on any other show. It’s not that it’s “smarter” than other cartoons or TV, it’s just that you find yourself stuck in a Schroedinger’s Cat scenario of what the show is about. Until you open that box and look, the episode could be serious, plot heavy, fart joke heavy, cynical or completely whimsical. Mister Poopy-Butthole (Truly a thinking man’s name) told us EXACTLY when Season 3 would premiere. Should we trust his even more cryptic prediction about season 4? Or is it Justin and Dan just messing with us? How would you know until season 4 premieres? It’s insane! I can’t think of another TV show or hell, media property in general, where the suspense comes not from the plot or the characters but whether or not you can believe the creative team behind the show.
Rick and Morty is a master class in how to troll people. You don’t know when to take it seriously, so you don’t know how to react properly. If you give it any amount of personal investment, you’ll find yourself bewildered and confused as it jerks you around with important characters that are irrelevant and pointless characters that will tell you when to expect new episodes, you can have a build up of significant plot points that seem to racing to a finale only to have that finale be Rick and Morty being jerks to the President of the United States for a half hour, or you can have a show that messes with your expectations that instead of returning to the status quo at the end of each episode – it does it at the end of three seasons.
And sure, you can NOT feed the troll. But sometimes – rarely – such a magnificent troll comes along that its less fun NOT to ride the ride.
!Patch 7.3 Spoilers Ahead!
Illidan “The Betrayer” Stormrage. Imprisoned for 10,000 years for creating a second Well of Eternity at Mount Hyjal in an attempt to preserve the Night Elves’ magic and immortality after the War of the Ancients. Consumed the Skull of Gul’dan to empower himself into a half demon monstrosity so he would have the strength to take on the Burning Legion’s second invasion. Forged an army of Demon Hunters and enslaved Demons to prepare for a third conflict with the Legion. Used the Sargerite Keystone to open a gateway between Azeroth and Argus to force the champions of the world to deal with the demon threat once and for all.
Illidan is a character for whom the ends have always justified the means. Even his own life has been regarded as but a tool to achieve his ultimate goal of eradicating the Burning Legion. For some, this can be a noble endeavor that one should risk it all to stop a unending evil in the universe. However, this same traits can be that of a monster that destroys everything in his path to achieve that end. It’s probably one of the best recipes possible for a divisive character that people will either love or hate.
Which brings us to the latest World of Warcraft patch, in which Xe’ra – the Naaru we have been working with through our Order Halls and has been showing us the past events of Illidan’s life to show us how The Betrayer was truly meant to be the Chosen One to end the age of demons – is destroyed in a confrontation with Illidan who has no desire to be bound to a greater power once again or playing the part of a chosen one. The action shadows the conversation Illidan has earlier with the Prophet Velen where Illidan says that the Draenei have been using their faith in the Light to justify doing nothing in the face of the horrors that befell their people:
Not stopping the Eredar from dealing with Sargeras? Gotta trust in that Light.
Lead the Burning Legion in a chase across the Great Dark causing the eradication of world after world? Gotta trust that Light.
That’s the thing about Illidan that makes him such a complex character. Not that his motivations or personality are very diverse or even terribly interesting but that despite the horrible methodology that harms countless numbers of people for the greater good – he’s usually right. Without Mount Hyjal, Elven society would have likely fell apart. The Legion would continue to come to Azeroth until its world-soul was dead or corrupted. The Naaru are not the benevolent creatures people treat them as.
Some people have noted that there’s a quick mention that Xe’ra sealed Alleria Windrunner in a void pit for 60 some odd years for disobeying her. Which is weird considering how kindly and nice the Naaru are, right? Except we’ve known the Naaru weren’t to be trusted since the Burning Crusade. Kirrik the Awakened, an Arrakoa who converted to Light worship under the Naaru A’dal from traditional Terokk/Shadow worship, says: “Those who have not given themselves over to the Light are mere servants of evil. They must be destroyed.” These are the teachings of the Naaru. Join us or die.
So was Illidan right to destroy Xe’ra? There’s definitely a worthwhile debate to be had there. Was Xe’ra wrong to try and perform a forced purification on Illidan? Oh yea. Of course, that would have been where the Naaru would draw the line as well I expect. Based on what Kirrik the Awakened says, and the fact that he tasks you with such things as destroying Arrakoa eggs so they would not be born of Terokk instead of the Light, I would say that if Illidan resisted that Xe’ra would have simply destroyed him.
Stuff like this is why I never could get on board with the I-Hate-Illidan train or the Notice-Me-Illibeans-Senpai bandwagon. He’s in neither camp. Heck, I’d struggle to call him a Hero or even an Anti-Hero. He acts more like a force of nature than anything. He just acts in a purely utilitarian manner without worry about the consequences because the potential good outweighs any cost. It’s like saying Voting is a hero or an anti-hero. No, it’s just a thing we do as a society to improve things and it’s not perfect but damn it’s better than being gnawed on by a literal infinite number of demons. I may have mixed up a few wires in that last sentence.
In another side note, the thought occurs to me that I have no idea why the Naaru are against the Legion. The cosmology that Blizzard has set forth thus far is that the opposing element to Fel is actually Arcane, with them representing the spheres of Chaos and Order respectively. The Naaru are born from the Light whose opposite is the Void with the Void Lords and Old Gods being the opposite of the Naaru. But the Burning Legion – in its original incarnation – was started because Sargeras decided it was a safer bet to destroy worlds infested with the Void than chance them infecting a world-soul and creating a Void Titan.
So if the Burning Legion hates the Void, and the Naaru hate the Void… Why do the Naaru hate the Burning Legion? Other than apparently the Light is the natural enemy of all ‘negative’ elements since it also apparently can one-shot creatures of the Death domain when its opposite is Life (overseen by the Wild Gods like the Ancients or Loa.) The Light is overpowered. No wonder they nerfed paladins to the ground, baby.
A final note on Illidan that I stumbled upon while researching some of this but couldn’t work it in anywhere else. Apparently, during the Illidan novel, the events of Legion are foreshadowed when an elder naaru visits Illidan while he controls the Black Temple in Outland and shows him a vision of one possible future where Illidan leads the Army of Light against the Legion. Illidan views his image as being cool, level headed and hopeful – and at that moment, because the vision showed him happy-ish, Illidan decided that he could not trust the Naaru. And I think that’s hilarious. Illidan is probably the most self-aware character in the game right now. “In the future I’m happy? I’m NEVER happy! You and your kind are liars!” “Chosen One? Are you kidding me? Have you seen my approach to problem solving?”
So what do you all think about Illidan’s recent developments? Good? Bad? ‘I Hate Blizzard and Deliberately Seek Out Posts About Them on the Interweb to Voice My Displeasure’?
(P.S. Kudos to the animation team at Blizzard. From the blood on Illidan’s arm to the facial change when Xe’ra mentions how “Little” he got for his sacrifice – great subtle touches that sold that scene that for me)
Well, if there’s one thing the Land of Odd has been getting popular for its these Story Summaries. Quick and easy chunks that bring you up to speed so you don’t have to go through the grit of each and every patch/expansion/questline to get the feel for the tale. And hey, if there’s one gaming series that needed a skip button – It’s Kingdom Hearts.
Not that Kingdom Hearts is bad. It’s just frustrating to play every entry in the series. Before the recent 1.5 and 2.5 collections, you had a series that spanned the GameBoy Advance, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, Playstation Portable, Playstation 2 and iPhone/Android devices. Not only is that a lot of gaming hardware, it’s also older hardware that might not be so easy to acquire anymore. Thankfully, the updated collections for the PS3 and PS4 have managed to bundle most of the software in a single place for your playing enjoyment. But what if you don’t want to play Kingdom Hearts the Card Game? Or figure out how to level up your Command Deck? You don’t want to be lost come the recently announced 2018 release of Kingdom Hearts III! Well, this guide will help you.
You can find the Kingdom Hearts Story Summary (In Chronological Order) page right here. You can find a spoiler free timeline of the games here.
The Story Summary page also includes a new thing – a FAQ section. You can send me questions about Kingdom Hearts and I’ll see what I can do to answer them. I know the series can get kind of confusing at points. You can send them to me in comments, via twitter (@Vrykerion) or on Tumblr (Vrykerion).
The Dead rise, Izzy finally goes insane and we try defiantly to order yet another pizza… or five.
For those who have been wondering about the “Coming Soon” story summaries for Heavensward’s patches (3.1 – 3.5), your wait is now over! All of the story summaries for the Main Scenario Questline in Heavensward are now finished and posted on the Heavensward Story Summary page.
Unlike Heavensward where the decision to write the summaries came after finishing the 3.0 MSQ, I will be doing my best to keep notes on the plotlines of Stormblood as I play through it. Hopefully to decrease the downtime before I am able to get the next batch of story summary for the newest expansion out since as it has come to my attention, some people have been using my summaries as a way of not just catching up on the narrative but also skipping the non-voiced cutscenes and reading what happens here. Hey, if that’s how you want to play – go for it. Not my fifteen bucks. But I figured I should TRY to not wait until the end of the expansion before posting the Stormblood summary.
How much abuse can one legendary science fiction author take?
I miss when video games were fun.
Oh not the games themselves – they still are fun as heck – but more so everything surrounding them. In recent years, gaming has been something of a ‘problematic fave’ to borrow a term. You can enjoy the product but damn if the dubious ethics of the publishers, the foaming rage of the fandoms, and the all out tug-of-war over artistic merit doesn’t sour the whole experience a little bit. When its gotten back to the point where people are backing away from being labeled “gamer” again (albeit for wholly different reasons) you know things have gotten bad.
I don’t get it. I really don’t. I don’t know if its something about my experiences or upbringing or when I got into gaming or anything but a lot of this stuff doesn’t seem that complicated to me. Enjoy games. Treat other people with respect. Don’t assume your view is the only valid one. Sesame Street taught me this stuff. But even I’ll admit that there were periods in my life where I let them slip. I suppose none of us are without flaws.
Still it’s weird to be an outsider because of things like ‘giving the benefit of the doubt’ and ‘being optimistic about games’. For instance, I really liked the original ending to Mass Effect 3. I may have mentioned that on this blog a few (dozen) times. But I really did. It felt like a solid science fiction open ended ending that you would find in like an old Heinlein novel or something. I never got the whole ‘your choices didn’t matter’ thing because really, the entire game was a culmination of your choices. I bumped into faces that I did a side mission for back in ME1 and helped out or let live. Not everything got a big dramatic cutscene but if you read all the things (Note: This was before Final Fantasy XIII taught me that gamers don’t like to read apparently. Put down your torch, that was a joke.) your previous choices DO have an affect on things. Like the Rachni. If you take the Rachni back with you in ME3, the outcome is dependent on whether you saved them in ME1. If you did, then these Rachni will remember you and benefit the war effort. If you killed them, these are artificial Reaper controlled rachni and they will go nuts in your labs and you’ll lose precious resources from the war effort. Yes. That’s in the game.
So how is all that the benefit of the doubt? Well, generally I don’t just discount something because it’s obtuse or doesn’t make sense right away. I was a fan of Neon Genesis Evangelion after all. I suppose it got drilled into me back in film school. There’s meaning and purpose behind things we create. You just might not see them right away. Take the previously mentioned Final Fantasy XIII trilogy. Is it flawed? Very. Is it difficult to understand? Can be. But if you take the time, savor it, and take in everything that it offers to you – I found it to be a magnificent game with a wonderfully fascinating story.
Even outside of game plots, there are things like DLC. Downloadable content has been viewed almost universally as a blight on the gaming landscape. Assumed to be lazy cash grabs or content ripped out from the finalized game in order to sell later to make additional cash. While I can’t argue that those things have never occurred and certainly can point to a few examples where they most definitely have, there are some positives to DLC that I don’t ever think get given the time of day. Take that “content ripped from the final game” concept. I see that one a lot. Especially with games like RPGs. People argue that they should have just included it in the final game and not sold it separately, that in ‘ye olden days’ of gaming that you would get the full product at a single price. Which isn’t really true. A lot of the stuff that ends up being DLC is stuff that is planned for the game, but can’t be finished by date they need to go gold by (the date the game needs to be finished so they can send it to be mass produced and packaged for the actual release day). A lot of times, studios will keep working on polishing the game after that point and push those updates out as a big ‘day one patch’. But a lot of times content that was planned like that would just be cut or dummied out. That happened A LOT in the old days. Heck, there’s entire plotlines to the original Knights of the Old Republic that got dummied out, and a romance plot too. Games can have massive unexplorable areas that were going to be used for something but there was no time to finish it. Going back to Mass Effect, a lot of the complaints about the DLC being “on the disc” were only partially right because yes, these planned for expansions were planned for and thus their bare bones were already in place but incomplete. All the dialogue and scenes where Kasumi Goto in Mass Effect 2 interacting with the existing missions/story were on the disc, but her model was a generic placeholder and her recruitment mission and loyalty mission where absent.
DLC is something that can – and often is – used as a second chance to save ideas from the scrap pile without having to sacrifice a release date window. But people often assume the worst, greediest, and most scummy practices imaginable. Again, I can’t say those horrible views are based somewhat on fact. There have been cases of that happening. I just think that its awfully pessimistic to paint the whole concept of post-launch content with such a negative brush based on those incidents. Now whether you don’t think the price is worth it is a whole other debate, and really that always comes down to personal taste. No different than ‘Is this game worth X dollars?’. Sometimes it isn’t. No I don’t want to spend $1.50 on a swimsuit I personally won’t ever use in Final Fantasy XIII-2 (I do have the swimsuit outfits, but that’s because they came as part of a bundle.)
I suppose a lot of this can be viewed as the ‘gaming fandom’ going through its cynical teenage years of being a long term fanbase. But there’s always those who buck the flow, and Indy gaming being embraced so wholeheartedly is just one sign of that. The fact that games made by small teams that don’t just become best sellers, but spawn entire fan followings solely around their games can just so that people can find something positive to enjoy in gaming still. It’s not just a bunch of grumps spouting witty cynicisms like a bunch of jaded critics. Gaming is something that should be enjoyable. Be that conquering the hardest difficulty if that’s your thing, or playing on ‘Story’ difficulty because you’re interested in the story and lore. You should play what you enjoy and how you enjoy. Be it Braid or Boy and His Blob, Tetris or Tekken – just enjoy your games.
Of course, that’s not that there isn’t anything to be concerned about with gaming in general. I mean, from the online threats to the unethical pressures publishers have pushed on developers, gaming as an industry and as a medium has a long way to go. And yes, there are plenty of valid criticisms that can be discussed about games. But if there was one thing I learned back in art school, it was that criticism is healthy for growth, and not everyone is going to like everything. Heck, my own writing was often berating for having ‘no substance beyond being entertaining.’ I personally believe that the important thing is to keep looking forward at how games can improve, how we can enjoy our entertainment to the fullest, and be considerate of other viewpoints that will help gaming grow into a vast and diverse community where we can all enjoy things.
Then again that’s all just me. I said I didn’t want to preach and I meant it. I’m not going to demand that my view is the right one, or the only valid one. It’s just mine. I just miss when games were fun.
So if your pizza takes 8 hours, and the delivery girl decides to bum your internet for a few hours… Should you still tip?