Mike and Gus discuss the year of the loot box!
Mike and Gus discuss the year of the loot box!
There’s been a lot of controversy around Battlefront II, and that’s putting it nicely. The gaming community has made it clear time and time again that they don’t want microtransactions or loot boxes in their $60 games, but it’s painfully clear these business models aren’t going away. We can protest as much as we want, but they cost next to nothing for studios to implement. Regardless of the (good) fight the core gamers are waging online, one thing they don’t take into consideration is that they are the minority. Casual gamers make up a pretty sizeable chunk of sales, and as Ubisoft has just proven – microtransactions are surpassing their digital distribution sales – they’ll subsequently spend money on microtransactions and loot boxes.
I’ve played some Battlefront II, and I thought I should share my initial impressions with you guys. Before I do that, let me be clear: I don’t like microtransactions and I don’t like loot boxes. I wish they weren’t part of the gaming landscape… but they are. Knowing this, how you decide to speak with your wallet is entirely up to you, but I’m going to try and help you make as informed a decision as possible.
How Prevalent Is The Card System?
Anyone who thinks they’re going to play this game and escape the card system are absolutely fooling themselves. It’s your primary progression system, and the acquisition of cards is done via loot boxes… and yes, you can buy loot boxes with real world money. But how terrible is this system, really?
EA needs to do a bit more tweaking, I think. There’s a few different kinds of crates you can buy with credits earned in-game, but the most expensive, and most important one is undoubtedly the Trooper Crate, which provides access to new weapons and abilities and costs 4,000 credits. Sounds like a fairly high number, and it is, at least a little. Each round of online play will last about 10 minutes, and sometimes you can earn as little as 200 credits, or as much as 400 (these numbers are based on my personal experience with the game, and they seem to vary based on actual in-game performance). This means that at the very least, if you’re a really great player, it’s going to take you over and hour and a half to obtain a Trooper Crate. Keep in mind, this is without obtaining credits through other means.
Along the way, you’ll also earn credits by completing certain incentivized goals the game has set up, and boosts the amount of credits you earn in a fairly substantial way. In fact…
A majority of the discussion online has been centered around key characters, such as Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, originally costing 60,000 credits. That’s an insanely substantial grind, and it was what ultimately made me say, “Nope, not buying this game.” After the backlash online, they’ve revised the hero costs to be 75% less, so Vader and Luke are now 15,000 credits apiece. I’ve probably spent 3 and a half hours in multiplayer thus far, and with the credits I’ve earned in game as well as the challenge rewards credits I’ve earned, I’ve already unlocked Darth Vader and I’m halfway to Luke Skywalker. So, the grind here has been pretty reasonable.
It’s worth noting that the game does have a number of heroes and villains unlocked at the start, such as Rey, Kylo Ren, Han Solo, and Yoda. Honestly, I wanted to experience these characters more than the others, as I’ve already spent a good amount of time playing as Luke and Darth in the last game. I’m not excusing the devs for gating characters in the first place, as it clearly shouldn’t have been done, but unlocking them doesn’t seem to be a chore… at least not yet.
The beta didn’t shine this game in the best light. 90% of my playtime was spent helping a ship get from point A to point B, which was way too linear for my liking.
The multiplayer I’ve experienced in the full however feels much, much better.
If there’s one thing about the last Battlefront that was frustrating, it was that the previously designed levels, as much as I loved them, were probably too open for their own good. Stick your head out but a little, and someone’s going to start picking at you from a mile away. Of course, servers allowed up to 40 people to participate. I think games are up to 28 now, and the maps, while still allowing plenty of room to breathe, have been crafted a bit more carefully. They’re tighter, but not to the point of inducing claustrophobia. There’s a lot more cover when traversing from point A to point B. These are pretty solid improvements.
One thing you’re not going to see is Walker Assault… at least, not as you knew it. This time, Rebels must work their way to points on the map which have rocket launchers. Someone needs to pick it up, give it a moment to warm up, and then let loose. If they manage to pull this off before getting pulverized by the opposition, and the hit is successful, the AT-AT’s systems will be temporarily compromised, allowing your team to start draining its health.
I haven’t really spent enough time to determine what the balancing issues are, though, so I can’t really comment on that just yet. But overall, in some ways, I’d say the standard multiplayer this time around is better than ever, especially the Heroes vs. Villains mode.
The star this time, however, are the flying maps. Flying takes a little getting used to but feels great once you do, and the level designs are jaw-dropping. Remember that place from Episode II where all the clones were being made? That facility out in the rough ocean where the rain was pouring like crazy? You need to see this map in action.
I’ve spent about an hour, hour and a half in the single player mode, and I’ve been having quite a bit of fun with it. One thing that’s an absolute strength is that they’re changing the method of play every so often. One minute you’re utilizing a flying droid to get around a rebel base, the next you’re running around going ‘pew-pew’, and the next you’re flying and dogfighting. I’ve heard that it’s a 5-6 hour campaign, so that’s not going to be worth the price of admission for most people alone. Thankfully, this new iteration of Battlefront is relying on a single game mode, and is offering a number of different options between the campaign, the arcade mode (pretty much Skirmish), and the numerous modes of multiplayer. This actually feels like a complete package (minus the loot box stuff, of course).
The arcade mode has a pretty stupid time gate on it, though, because the developers don’t want you to earn credits through it all day without ever touching multiplayer. They’ve said this is to prevent people from messing up the multiplayer system by earning too much too quick, but their intentions couldn’t have been more transparent. They just want to make sure you still have an incentive to buy loot boxes than to find an easily grindable way to earn them yourself.
Keep in mind that these are only my initial impressions with the game, but I’m going to echo what most other reviewers have been saying. Battlefront II, from a gameplay perspective, is a solid experience. I’ve spent more time these last two years playing Battlefront, and I see myself spending hundreds of hours on this game, too. Could it be better? Absolutely. Would I recommend this to everyone? No, not with the current progression system. I certainly don’t begrudge anyone for hating this game because of what the publisher has done. It’s a shame that stuff has to paint part of the picture as a whole, but it does. But for me, for my money, Battlefront II is a blast. I’m having more than enough fun playing the game as-is. Unlocking weapons through a grind was part of the last game, too, and microtransactions weren’t part of that equation. Now that they are… well, you’re still grinding for new weapons. Most of the additional weapons I personally couldn’t care less about… not in the last game, and not in this one.
Here’s hoping that EA makes more changes in the future so that more and more people feel comfortable hopping aboard, but as someone who really enjoyed the last Battlefront game, I’m extremely happy with the current product (as in, now that they’ve reduced the amount of time to grind for heroes).
In a recent editorial, I said that I don’t believe in boycotting games or even particular studios. I’m not a fan of microtransactions, DLC, or loot boxes, but I generally don’t think one lost sale makes a difference. Instead, we should use our voices to fight back, hoping publishers will take note and change things accordingly.
Now, less than a month after making that point, I’ve come across something so vile I’m finally drawing a line in the sand.
Loot boxes obviously set a dangerous precedent. Microtransactions and DLC inherently change the way a game is developed, but loot boxes are much more invasive ways for these companies to make money. Worse yet, they take advantage of people who are susceptible to addiction. But for me personally, they haven’t really impacted my gameplay experience because I pay them no mind. I’ll earn what I can, but I have not, and will not, spend money on loot boxes. As long as I feel like I’m enjoying a game and not a slot machine, I’m alright.
Activision, on the other hand, doesn’t want me to be ‘alright’. They want to finally be the ones to fully intrude on our gameplay, as they’ve finally jumped the shark and fully integrated loot boxes into a game. Not through a menu, but literally INSIDE a game. Which game? Call of Duty: World War II.
It’s been revealed that while sitting in the in-game hub, you’ll see loot boxes drop from the sky. People will be able to see everything you do, including the rewards you’ve reaped. If you’re stubborn and don’t feel like watching people open loot boxes, the game will actually reward you for doing so. Activision must figure the opening of loot boxes on Youtube and Twitch are a thing, so why not let people do so right at the source?
As if that wasn’t bad enough, here’s another kicker: Let’s say you go to a store and manage to get a copy of this game a day or two early. Well, guess what? You won’t be able to play the game you just bought. You’ll need the day one patch in order to make it work. This makes the physical copy entirely worthless. Let’s say some years down the road you want to play the game again, right? You grab your disc, install the game, but the servers are gone; you won’t be able to download a patch, so you won’t be able to even play the single player campaign.
I’m not going to spin some massive yarn, elaborating on the information I’ve just shared with you. It speaks for itself. I’m stunned, confused, angry, sad, disappointed, and scared. I sincerely hope other publishers will refrain from implementing similar tactics in their games, but something tells me this is just the beginning.
Keep in mind that Activision have decided to go full bore with this even after the many conversations about if loot boxes should be considered gambling. Games don’t even have warning labels for this kind of thing, because there’s no government oversight yet. I don’t want there to be government in my video games, but the industry is straight up asking for it. It’s an inevitability at this point.
Here’s what it comes down to, my wonderful readers:
I am not buying Call of Duty: World War II.
You should not buy Call of Duty: World War II.
The line between games and the money machines behind them are no longer just blurred, they’ve been mashed together like different colored pieces of Play-Do.
The time to take a stand is now. This is one time we really do need to vote with our wallets, no matter how glued to this franchise one may be.
Happy Halloween everyone! It’s one of my favorite holidays (I’m a sucker for Christmas, too), and I thought I’d celebrate the occasion by discussing two of the hottest horror games out there: Friday the 13th The Game, and Dead By Daylight! More specifically, I’m going to tell you which is more worth your time.
Dead by Daylight came first, and it’s a fairly simple game. One person gets to be the villain stalking their prey, while four survivors must escape the semi-large arena they’re placed in. In order to do so, they must go around the map and repair five generators which power the escape gate. The villain, of course, has to stop them.
One major thing this game gets right is the intensity of the chase. A villain’s proximity can be determined by musical cues, so when they’re close, it’s time to run, and once you’re being chased, you can’t help but sit on the edge of your seat. Villains. Are. FAST. They have that ‘power walk’ thing going for them, but they can catch up to you if you’re not careful. As a survivor, your job is to outmaneuver them by hopping over short walls or windows, and to slow the villain down by knocking pallets over. Of course, these pallets are destroyed in a couple of short seconds and the chase is on again. You’ll feel hopeless, but there’s plenty of chances to escape. You can temporarily blind the villain with a flashlight. Your teammates can help create a distraction, or maybe the villain wants to go make sure nobody’s about to start a generator. Even if the villain grabs you and (painfully) tosses you on a hook, your teammates can save the day… as long as they’re not too busy running for their lives.
Another plus is that this game allows horror fans to live out their fantasies. Want to be Leatherface, Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger? You can! Fancy Laurie Strode on the survivor side? Well you can do that too!
The downside to this game is that the ‘repair the generators’ bit is the only means for escape, leaving the game with a distinct lack of variety, at least on the survivor’s side. It takes a long time for the repair process, too. It probably takes over a minute without any complications, such as the villain showing up. You can also have setbacks during repair as well… that is, if your reflexes aren’t fast enough. Having to run around and do this time and time again is a chore, and once all the generators are started, guess what? The gate needs to be powered on… which is another ‘hold a button for over a minute and hope the villain doesn’t show up’ game. And, of course, because that’s the only way out, they tend to camp that part of the map. Not the most brilliant design. This game has been out for quite some time now, and they still haven’t added any escape-based variety.
Also, if you want to be a villain, you’ll rarely jump right into a match. You’ll have to wait for people to join your lobby, whereas with survivors, you can jump from game, to game, to game, without having to wait.
Still, the thrill of the chase is what makes this game so addicting and fun. Being able to play as your favorite horror villains helps, too.
It’s worth noting that the base game is fairly cheap… $20. If you want to play as these other villains, you’re going to have to pony up some money for DLC. The good news is that players are never segregated according to what DLC they own or not. You can play with anyone on any map, and play against any villain or survivor… you just can’t play as the DLC characters themselves. If you want everything this game has to offer, it’s best to pick it all up during a sale (like right now).
Friday the 13th The Game is similar to Dead by Daylight, in the respect that one person gets to be Jason, and everyone else – 8 people, to be exact – play as counselors who need to either survive for 20 minutes or escape. There’s a small handful of maps to play in, but everything is generated at random. Cabins and other key areas or items will always change up match to match, so neither Jason nor the counselors can cheese by memorizing where everything is.
I’ve never seen anyone last a full 20 minutes against Jason. He is, without question, overpowered. I mean, he’s supposed to be, right? He’s Jason! So, escape is what you’ll want to focus on. Try running cabin to cabin, looking for useful items. You’ll want a map to find other key points on the map, some first aid spray, something to arm yourself with, as well as things which will aid in your escape.
Maps will have a car or cars to repair and possibly a boat. Cars require gas, a battery, and keys. Boats require gas and a propeller. You can also find a fuse to fix an electrical box which allows access to a phone to call the police. Five minutes later they’ll arrive at one of the major roadways… but can you hold out that long? Even entering a car or boat doesn’t entirely guarantee your safety, as Jason can get right in front of you, effectively totaling the vehicles.
As Jason, you have certain powers at your disposal. You can teleport to any point on the map, see counselors outlined in red, or speed to them sort like the evil entity in the Evil Dead films. The counselors CAN kill you, but they’d all have to work together and be extremely lucky. Counselors can outrun you, at least for a little while. Eventually their stamina runs out, and if you chop them up with a weapon along the way, they’ll accrue damage and slow down. Another thing you’ll want to make sure doesn’t happen, is someone finding a stationary radio to call for help. If they do this, Tommy Jarvis will come equipped with a gun and loads of stamina. His job is to make sure everyone else gets out alive.
While Dead By Daylight is quite a bit of fun, I’m a much bigger fan of Friday the 13th. The developers really nailed the look and feel of the films, and you couldn’t really ask for more than what they’re providing with this multiplayer experience. What sets it above its competition is the variety of ways in which you can plot your escape, because Dead By Daylight is lacking sorely in that regard.
Friday the 13th is also on sale currently for 50% off, but I can’t recommend a purchase to everyone. You have to be a fan of the franchise in order to really appreciate this, otherwise you might feel the game is too simplistic, or may not be able to wave off Jason being overpowered. But if you are a fan, you absolutely owe it to yourself to play this game!
Mike, Gus and Gabe watch as Neogaf burned shortly after it came back online.
More and more these days, people are ditching physical copies for digital, and it isn’t hard to see why. You can pre-load a game and play it right at midnight without having to wait in any launch lines. No more clutter on your shelves. You don’t have to worry about losing a disc, or having someone steal it from you. There’s cons, of course, such as the inability to sell or trade digital products, but there’s an even bigger reason which most people shrug off with indifference: You may not own said product for as long as you’d like.
No, really. Tell people that their purchase is only good for as long as the service provider allows, and they’ll laugh, saying, “Come on, bro. It’s 2017. It costs companies next to nothing to share this stuff on their servers. If you ever need to download your games again, it won’t be a problem.”
Nintendo Wii owners probably have something to say about that.
At the end of September, Nintendo made a statement:
“Dear Nintendo fans,
On January 30, 2019, we plan to close the Wii Shop Channel, which has been available on Wii systems since December 2006. We sincerely thank our loyal customers for their support. You can still ad Wii Points until March 26, 2018, and purchase content on the Wii Shop Channel until January 30, 2019. In the future, we will be closing all services related to the Wii Shop Channel, including redownloading purchased WiiWare, Virtual Console titles, and Wii Channel, as well as Wii System Transfer Tool, which transfers data from Wii to the Wii U system.
If you have Wii Points to spend, content you want to re-download, or content you’d like to transfer from a Wii system to a Wii-U system, we recommend you do so while the services are still available.
Thank you for supporting the Wii Shop Channel and for being such great fans of Nintendo.”
This presents a multitude of problems.
Nintendo may be giving people adequate notice, but that’s the only kudos they get in regards to this announcement. Problems ahoy!
The Wii may be 11 years old at this point, but people can still access content on the Wii Shop Channel on their Wii-U. This may seem like a non-point, but the Wii had over 200 classic games that never made their way to the Wii-U shop. We’re talking Bonk’s Adventure, Bubble Bobble, Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, Chrono Trigger, Commando, Double Dribble, Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, Mega Turrican, Super Turrican, and many, many more. So if you have no interest in the retro game market or emulating old-school games, a lot of these will be disappearing.
So, why not buy what you’d like in the next year and be done with it?
Well, hard drives don’t last forever. Nintendo makes products which last for a long time, but if you’ve got a Wii that’s already pushing a decade, it’d be risky to buy stuff now just so it could go belly up in a couple of years. And, that’s really the bottom line here: You could have invested hundreds, or even thousands of dollars through the Wii Shop Channel, and it won’t matter. If that little storage disc inside the system breaks down, it’s all gone.
We could just say, “Well, that’s just a very Nintendo-like thing to do. We’re not surprised. But Sony and Microsoft will never…”
But we don’t know that for certain, do we?
With the PS4 offering zilch in the way of backwards compatibility, I think it’d be great if they kept the PS3 servers alive indefinitely… or, at least, enough to satisfy whatever the demand is. I doubt that’ll be the case, though. One day they’ll want to reallocate those resources. Microsoft, on the other hand, are doing that whole backwards compatible thing, so they’ll probably keep the Xbox 360 economy kicking for some time. But make no mistake about it, folks. The very moment these companies realize they’re spending more money to host these servers than they’d prefer, they’re going to do something about it. I’m not saying this because ‘evil companies are evil’, but because that’s business. When the numbers don’t line up, adjustments will be made.
So, will access to these servers be available 20 years from now?
“Who cares about what happens in 20 years!”
Well, I’m 35, and 20 years ago I was probably playing Super Mario 64… and I still play that game whenever I get the chance. If you’re in your teens or even your 20’s, trust me: Time sneaks up on you faster than you think it will.
Ask yourself this: Is the convenience that a digital library brings worth an inherently shorter lifespan?
For some, the answer may be yes. There’s a lot of people who trade up and never look back. Still, I find it hard to believe that people are fine with spending $60 for a game they won’t have access to indefinitely.
This is something people need to talk about. It needs to become one of the big conversations online. Again, I know it’s easy to wave this off as ‘Nintendo being Nintendo’, but if they’re able to do this without much backlash, it sends a message to Sony and Microsoft that they should have no problem doing the same. If you’re vying for a digital future, do whatever you can to ensure that your library doesn’t eventually disappear!
Mike, Gus, and Gabe discuss the sexual assault allegations against Neogaf’s owner Evilore, why some people continue to buy controversial sellers due to micros and lootboxes, and the ‘all digital’ future.