Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, December 06, 2011
 
Biting the hand that feeds them

Imagine a guy walks into your bar and orders a round of free drinks for everybody. While you are sipping the free beer he just paid for you, do you think it would be a good idea to insult the guy for his "obvious" lack of social skills that he is trying to overcome with his wallet? The only place on earth where that is considered acceptable social behavior is the wonderful world of multiplayer online games.

As this blog has comment moderation, most readers moderate their own language, and I rarely have to actually delete a comment. But when Wargaming.net linked to my post about gold tanks from their World of Tanks Facebook page, I had to delete several comments full of hate, filled with insults and profanity directed against people spending money on World of Tanks. Wallet warriors was still the most polite term used.

I find that curious, because obviously if these players wouldn't pay for gold in World of Tanks, Wargaming.net would be broke, and World of Tanks would close down. While patch 7.0 will introduce the option to pay for skins and logos, up to now everything you can pay for in World of Tanks gives you some advantage: Faster advancement, access to tanks that earn credits faster, more penetrating ammo. Thus insulting somebody for having paid for an in-game advantage is insulting him for having paid at all, for having effectively paid the game for you. Insulting the guy who pays for your free game is about as intelligent as insulting the guy who pays for your free beer.

Apart from the social aspects, these insults are also getting the facts wrong. Most of them are along the lines of only bad players paying for stuff in Free2Play games. But numerous surveys and published data from game companies show just the opposite: New and casual players are not engaged enough with the game to want to pay much. The overwhelming majority of payments in Free2Play games come from the people who play the most, are the most experienced, and veteran. That is kind of logical: Somebody unwilling to even spend much time in a game is naturally unlikely to want to spend much money either. Somebody for whom a game has become a major part of his daily life is a lot more likely to also be willing to pay for a minor advantage. It is the top guilds that shoot with gold ammo in clan wars battles, not the noobs with tier 2 tanks in random battles.

No business model is perfect, and the Free2Play model isn't the perfect model either. But it certainly has the advantage that it allows people to play for free, financed by other players. Is it too much to ask from the people who play for free to have the basic decency not to insult the people who pay the game for them?

Comments:
Nice post.

Sometimes when I drive around being insulted in my Löwe I drop comments like "This is my third match in this game, how do you zoom in?". It's actually a bit fun to see the chat being spammed with people going ballistic. :)
 
I think that the problem is that the "pay to win" is a bit too blatant.

I don't remember having seen any of this behavior around LotRO, for example, where the pay to win is a lot less marked, and, more importantly, the game's focus is not PvP.
 
MMO worlds are just a mirror of the real one; and there too, some (not very smart or educated?) people cannot grasp the concept and advantages of social systems (even if they benefit them the most). I guess in this particular case, the wrong facts plus envy play the major role.
 
Seems like real life to me. The richest people in the world pay the most taxes, build the infrastructure, only to have the poorest moan and cry its not enough.

Sometimes in sports teams will spend exorbitant amounts of money to pick up the best players. Do they always win the championship afterwards, not by a log shot.
 
Nothing to add, really.
This kind of people are not even worth mentinoning, I think. They live in their own personal worlds rotating around them. They are almost always completely harmless, but it can be funny to troll them, cause they usually do not understand even relatively simple things.
 
I don't think that is really a good comparison, since players only indirectly help you by keeping the game running, they don't buy you a free beer.

A better example may be a coffee shop with free wifi that have a bunch of people sitting at all the tables using the free wifi on their laptops and then someone comes in and buys a lot of coffee and scones. And then shoots you?

I don't know, I guess no real comparison is perfect, but characterizing someone buying stuff from a free to play game as doing you a favor is obviously one-sided. People don't buy things from a game because they want to keep the game running, and they don't do it to help other people, they do it to help themselves, and very frequently to the detriment of others.

They are certainly important, but not exactly selfless philanthropists.
 
I agree with your main point. I have spent a moderate amount of money on WoT and I was glad to support them.

I will take issue with the price of the higher tier premium tanks though. That rent, is too damn high.
 
I understand the point your making but I don't think most players see the situation in quite the same light as you. World of tanks is a competitive game. By definition people expect a game to be run in a fair and even handed manner. All players are expected to compete with no advantages that are not intrinsic to the person themselves.

If you were to enter a marathon and some of the runners were allowed to purchase segway's or golf carts to carry them along or were able to purchase a headstart that placed them well ahead of the other runners at the start of the race the unfairness of the situtation would be obvious. The fact that the funds raised by the paying players funded the entry fees of the others or kept the organizers in business doesn't factor in to the matter at all. It is a totally separate issue from whether the race is being conducted fairly or not.

Thus there will always be resentment and contention surrounding any model which allows one player to purchase an advantage over others regardless of economic realities.
 
I think this kind of mentality comes from the likelihood that most (if not all) the players who make such comments about "free tanks" would be unable to legally drink the "free beer" in your scenario. Certainly children who get their heads handed to them in-game by some of these "wallet warriors" will vent in an anonymous social forum, but I'd be very surprised if even a small percentage of these complaints originate from anyone over the age of 21 and not living with mama. It would be interesting to know the ages of the players who play entirely for free vs. those who subsidize them.
 
Your analogy is a bit flawed (although I do agree with the overall sentiment).

The people that pay gold make the game possible for those that do not.

But - the people that do not pay can feel as if they are at disadvantage.

It is a little bit like buying someone a beer then putting your feet in their lap because you bought them beer.
 
The problem with your analogy is that many of the people complaining (like me) have spent more on premium accounts than the cost of the premium tanks we are complaining about.

The situation is more like a bar with five or six regulars in it, when a new guy walks in and announces that he's just had a baby. The bartender says, "well, a round on the house then!" and the new guy then acting like he produced the drinks with his penis.
 
Actually, a better example is a bunch of regulars complaining about a new guy, who is ordering expensive bottles of scotch and being obnoxious, and having the obnoxious drunk reply to the complaints with, "yeah, well I'm the one paying to keep the lights on here!"
 
Sounds about right.

Sadly a truth of human nature is that most people would rather blame others for their failures than themselves, and the "he paid money so that's why I lost" is the easiest cop-out in the book.

I like that F2P games give me an option to try them seriously without spending any money (no stupid time limited trials) but if you enjoy a game and play it a lot I feel you have an obligation to contribute to the developer somehow, and the most sensible way is via the cash shop.

The game won't exist if nobody invests in it, so if you like the game, buy something. That's just good sense. No game is actually free, and people who play constantly without ever spending a dime should NOT be throwing stones at the paying players.
 
@Helistar - But how is it "pay to win?" You can get better tanks without paying. The Type 59 tank isn't invulnerable. It dies as fast or faster than the tanks it is matched against. At best it is "short-cut to mediocrity."

They only real advantage is in cost to maintain. I stopped going up to higher ranked tanks because the repair costs, if you died and your side lost, were eating up my savings.

But after reading Tobold's posts, I took my remaining gold (I had just enough left from the launch promotion) and bought the Type 59.

Now getting knocked out and being on the losing side is a break-even proposition, and I get to play in a higher bracket that is very active and full of good players, so I actually learn something now and again.
 
I would tend to agree with Helistar in that a significant source of the "wallet warrior" anger should be directed at the developers behind the cash shops in these F2P games, not the people who buy what is offered there. If there is a way to obtain an advantage through purchasing something, there will always be people who will do so. The problem becomes the developers who submit to this "pay to win" concept. I understand they need to make a profit somehow, but not only does "pay to win" create animosity within your player base, it can destabilize the game itself by creating unbalanced and unfair conditions. And you certainly can't turn a profit when half your population quits because the game isn't fun anymore.
 
The bartender says, "well, a round on the house then!"

It's not on the house. The money to keep World of Tanks going is clearly coming from the players who pay for gold. If you think Wargaming.net could afford to let everybody play "on the house" without anybody paying, you are sadly mistaken on the economics.
 
"Seems like real life to me. The richest people in the world pay the most taxes, build the infrastructure, only to have the poorest moan and cry its not enough."

They also derive the most value from said infrastructure.

How are your employees going to get to work if they don't have a road to drive on? How are your trucks going to ship your merchandise across the country? Sure the poor use infrastructure too, but they don't derive nearly as much value from it as the wealthy.
 
It's not on the house. The money to keep World of Tanks going is clearly coming from the players who pay for gold.

And more money comes into WG from premium accounts than from one-time gold tank purchases. It's the regulars in the bar who keep the lights on, not the guy who comes in one time.
 
And more money comes into WG from premium accounts than from one-time gold tank purchases.

I don't have data on that. Presumably so don't you. Given how a Löwe costs 5 months of subscription, and a Type 59 costs 3, I'm not so certain.

And anyway, why would it be okay for somebody to buy himself an advantage via a premium account but it wouldn't be okay if he bought himself an advantage via a gold tank? Is all your hate just based on the false belief that gold tanks are better than regular tanks?
 
And anyway, why would it be okay for somebody to buy himself an advantage via a premium account but it wouldn't be okay if he bought himself an advantage via a gold tank? Is all your hate just based on the false belief that gold tanks are better than regular tanks?

No, it is based on gold tanks being disruptive. I really don't think that premium accounts give an "advantage" as much as they give a convenience. The only effect they give is time and a half on credits and XP. It's the WoW equivalent of saying that buying epics from RMT is the same as rested XP.

The problem isn't the tanks themselves. It's the matchmaking advantage (which feeds lower level tanks as fodder to the premium tanks) and people who are unqualified to the point of being a burden in the tanks, like letting someone buy themselves an inning in the outfield of a minor league baseball game. They might be as good as minor leaguer, but some are not to the point that they throw the game -- especially if they are the entire outfield.
 
Honestly, if gold tanks are actually no better than the average tank out there, then the people complaining are stupid, and you should ignore them lest you give them any legitimacy.

There is one caveat: You mentioned that gold tanks are no better than regular tanks fully equipped, but I assume that means that gold tanks are better than stock tanks, and fully equipping a tank is not an easy task to do. Reading your tales on this site (as I don't play the game), it doesn't seem like the regular people make enough money past repairing their own tank to equip their tanks to be better than gold tanks. Would you say this to be true or not?
 
it doesn't seem like the regular people make enough money past repairing their own tank to equip their tanks to be better than gold tanks

That would be about the worst possible way to play World of Tanks. The matchmaker regards only your tank type and tier, not your gear. So driving a stock tank longer than necessary is like raiding in green gear in WoW, it just isn't a good idea.

What I always did was leveling up my tanks without using the free xp, and then blowing the free xp on the upgrades, so as never to drive a pure stock tank.

It's the matchmaking advantage

I just played a match in which a Type 59 was fighting a tier 10 Maus. Are you sure there is a matchmaking advantage? I rarely see the Type 59 on top of the list, there are nearly always higher level tanks in battles with Type 59s.
 
I just played a match in which a Type 59 was fighting a tier 10 Maus. Are you sure there is a matchmaking advantage? I rarely see the Type 59 on top of the list, there are nearly always higher level tanks in battles with Type 59s.

The chart that I posted was the most recent one put up by Overlord. It may be for 7.0. I know that there is a current advantage (Overlord confirmed it) -- it may be getting greater in 7.0.

(For those who don't know, "Overlord" is the handle of the official developer rep.)
 
What a terrible anology :)
Yes, people are thanksless idots. All of them - except for the silent ones.
 
@Tobold were you platooned? Because if the MM table is correct, you would never meet tier 10 heavies or tier 9 mediums when soloing.
 
It's the matchmaking advantage (which feeds lower level tanks as fodder to the premium tanks)

What you forget here is that the gold tanks aren't the kings of the battleground. If they were then you would be correct. They are at best tier 8 tanks, which allows two tiers of tanks above them so they could just as well be seeded as fodder themselves. And that's just if we don't count the regular tier 8 tanks which are better fully equipped anyway.

There is one caveat: You mentioned that gold tanks are no better than regular tanks fully equipped, but I assume that means that gold tanks are better than stock tanks, and fully equipping a tank is not an easy task to do. Reading your tales on this site (as I don't play the game), it doesn't seem like the regular people make enough money past repairing their own tank to equip their tanks to be better than gold tanks. Would you say this to be true or not?

Even without a premium account they would still make money and xp to get the upgrades, but it would take longer time. But usually you spend more time in your fully upgraded tank than you do in the same tank that is not. The largest cost, both in xp and credits, is to buy a new tank. The upgrades are usually not very expensive. Especially considering that you can blow your free xp as Tobold just stated.
 
@Wilhelm Arcturus: it's pay to win because it allows you to skip the initial grind of a tank, which, in higher tiers, means a lot of battles losing money and being unable to damage anything except scouts.
Try a stock tier7 tank and you'll see what I mean....
 
"People don't buy things from a game because they want to keep the game running, and they don't do it to help other people, they do it to help themselves, and very frequently to the detriment of others."


Yeah, so what?

Premium accounts are basically gold tanks you don't see. I level up a lot faster because of premium, and because I pay money to free up the xp from my fleet of elite tanks, I can generate 20-30k XP A DAY just by getting the double xp bonus for the first win of the day. I only fought 57 battles in my IS-4 before I got the IS-7. If I hadn't had a premium account and free XP I probably would have had to fight more like 400. I don't get what wild ass advantage people think gold tanks convey, but it really isn't there. It generates xp and credits. If you play it well its fine but not overpowering. I'm as likely to be shooting up inferior tanks in my IS-7 as the Lowe. They're really more for the people who want to keep their WOT expenditures reasonable. If a noob or two gets their hands on one, so what? It's not like you aren't as likely to be fighting an equivalent noob next battle, and it's not like half your team in any given subscription MMO isn't grossly underskilled and undergeared. Hating that guy is pure jealousy.

It's one of those things. You can't have a successful FTP game that doesn't charge for advantage. There's only so many flying ponies or reskins you can sell.

People have the right to find that morally objectionable if they want, but what you do in that case is not play the game.

From the WOT perspective it's a battle between the freeloaders and the people who actually pay for the game. There's no business on earth that will side with the freeloaders, nor should they. So if you don't like it, leave. Nobody will miss you at all.
 
Koal--- but people buy advantage in marathons and sporting events all the time.

Better shoes, better gear. Unless the marathon issues every runner the exact same equipment, you totally can purchase advantage (and nobody cares).

Ultimately its a video game. It's a video game that is being offered to you for free, with the caveat that the people are willing to pay for the game advance faster and, if they are willing to spend money on it, gain some minor performance advantage over you.

If you don't like that deal, walk. Go play an MMO where the performance advantage is given to the people who are willing to spend a bunch of time on the game instead of money.
 
On a third note, I haven't exactly conducted a survey, but the regulars I'm acquainted with (the guys who use gold ammo in clan wars), tend to have premium tanks. I haven't heard any of them complain about premium tanks.
 
For those that don't play World of Tanks or are put off by the supposed "pay to win" concept:

I've been playing for nearly a year as a free player and enjoyed every moment of it. I've never felt disadvantaged and never felt as if the premium or gold using players were dominant. I purchased gold 1 time after about 6 months of play purely to support the developers, with that gold, I bought tank slots when they were 50% off to have the convenience of "owning" more than the default 5 tanks and barracks space to allow the storage of more crew members as well.

I could have bought credits, or converted experience as well, but I really enjoy leveling up my tanks and I don't care to "race" thru the tech trees so that didn't really appeal to me. The only real "pay-to-win" involved in World of Tanks is gold ammo, but you will only see that used consistently in Clan Wars (the end game) and even then, you can win without it AND gold is the PRIZE for success in Clan Wars. That last twist really makes you appreciate how cleverly World of Tanks is put together.

Gold tanks are exactly as Tobold described, very efficient credit farming tanks. Since they have high multipliers for credit earnings AND low repair costs, people run them to earn the credits to buy, upgrade, and maintain their other tanks. Once you reach a tier 8 or 9 vehicle, you realize that premium tanks (even the somehow dreaded T59) are quite a bit worse than a fully upgraded Tier 8, and are just as much fodder for tier 9 and 10 tanks as any other lower tier vehicle.

The subtle point that non-players may not appreciate about World of Tanks is that the meta design for a PvP game with "leveling" REQUIRES that players have incentives to play low-mid level characters. Otherwise your game devolves into a max level only game and any new entrants to the game see either slower queue times or endless matches where they are over-matched. The WoT design basically makes high tier vehicles expensive (in credits/in-game currency) to maintain unless you are an exceptional player. They ALSO make low-mid tier vehicle very efficient to run and quite decent credit earners. So even without spending any REAL money, you can have a max tier vehicle and support it by playing lower tier vehicles. Premium vehicles primary purpose once a player has an end-game tank is to generate a ton of credits in very few matches. This combination of design factors mean that they get the metagame design that they desire (lots of matches of different tiers available) and also allow people that want to A) skip "content" or race up tech trees pay to convert experience B) people buy premium accounts to make sure that they maximize exp/credit earnings and C) buy gold tanks either for pure credit earnings or as another vehicle to convert exp from. All of these things are great for people that want to pay for this but have 0 impact on the rest of the playing field.

Final point, lets not forget that this is a tank PvP game. At any tier in the game, there is a tank that you can play and have fun for free, there's no need to play max tier or premium tanks, and some of the most fun matches are in the lowest tier vehicles. As per any other game, its not a grind if its fun...
 
WoT should offer a Premium+ plan for $5 more where you can queue with matches guaranteed to contain no Lowe/P2W items. My guess is the number of people who would spend their own money to avoid the company having to resort to P2W would be quite small.

My hypocrisy detector goes off about fairness: What if you were to ask a group of these players who are outraged about P2W, whether, in the interest of fairness, new players should get the exact same tank/gear as someone who has been playing a year? Would they be as enthusiastic of supporters of fairness?

Unless you are funded by donations, like the buy-Tobold-Coffee plan, then people won;t pay money unless they get some benefit.

@MagrothJ - yes some of the enjoyment of RMT is knowing how annoyed some deserving people become.

Disclaimer: of course regardless of the business model, bad companies can implement it badly and there is no good business model for a bad game.

@ Sine Nomine - that is the point of Simth's "Invisible hand" of capitalism: "and he is in this, [as in many other cases] led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was no part of it. By pursuing his own interest, he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it"

The fact that the RMT customers of WoT did not have philanthropic intentions or that the freeloaders are ungrateful or resentful does not change Tobold's point that the freeloaders benefit from the RMT.
 
Games that have options to pay for extra in-game currencies, items, ect. aren't always bad.

Customizing your game with superficial fashion or cosmetic items is fine by me. Though when the items available for purchase tend to imbalance the game play aspect such as making players more powerful or giving them substantial advantages may upset some folks. With this, skill is thrown out the window and real money = virtual power.
I believe that in-game cash shops should be limited to non character enhancing material.

Although companies can sure still make their money through this method a lot of people are run by money, plus I'm sure more people would rather buy a Super Flaming Sword of the Behemoth than a fashionable Chef's hat.
 
@Hagu: My hypocrisy detector goes off about fairness: What if you were to ask a group of these players who are outraged about P2W, whether, in the interest of fairness, new players should get the exact same tank/gear as someone who has been playing a year? Would they be as enthusiastic of supporters of fairness?

You mean as in a game like, for example, chess? I don't see hordes of chess players complaining about new players being given access to a full set of pieces from day one....
 
Better analogy would be that the guy who buys free drinks then gains "paladin bubble" and goes and punches everyone into face while being protected.
I can see that some people would prefer a chance to punch him back to a free beer.
 
I don't see hordes of chess players complaining about new players being given access to a full set of pieces from day one.

How is that relevant in the context of World of Tanks or MMORPGs? The reason you can't hurt a Maus with a Loltraktor is not the difference in skill of the players.

And we DO hear World of Tanks players complaining about people buying tier 8 gold tanks and killing lower tier free players with it. This comment thread and the one about gold tanks are full with exactly this sort of complaint.
 
"paladin bubble" and goes and punches everyone into face while being protected

I don't see the "paladin bubble". Yesterday I was in a battle with my T-44, with lots of other regular medium tanks on my side, and 5 Type 59 tanks on the other side. And of course some guy like you started wailing how we were doomed and that the wolf pack couldn't be hurt. I replied by saying that if we know that there is a pack of 5 tanks coming, we should act accordingly, and that is what we did. We stayed together in a defensive position, easily first killed that wave of 5 Type 59, and then leisurely wiped out the other 10 tanks.

If you can't beat one or five Type 59 tanks, your tactics suck. I did rather well with my regular T-44 against them by adjusting my tactics.
 
If you can't beat one or five Type 59 tanks, your tactics suck. I did rather well with my regular T-44 against them by adjusting my tactics.

That's another Tier 8 tank. How well would you do in the T-34-85 that is fed to them at a disproportionate rate by the matchmaker?
 
How well would you do in the T-34-85 that is fed to them at a disproportionate rate by the matchmaker?

How well would you do with a tier 5 gold tank that is fed to a tier 8 regular tank at a disproportionate rate by the matchmaker?

It's all just excuses by people blaming the matchmaker, or gold tanks, or their team, or whatever else to explain the sad fact that they aren't constantly winning in spite of their to themselves obvious superior leet skillz.

I see Type 59 and Löwe tanks matched against higher tier tanks all the time. And the official matchmaking chart clearly shows that the Type 59 is NOT matched against lower tanks than a regular tier 8 medium tank. It only has a difference on the chance to get matched against a tier 10 tank, but those are rather rare in random battles anyway.
 
How well would you do with a tier 5 gold tank that is fed to a tier 8 regular tank at a disproportionate rate by the matchmaker?

I would do poorly. And that's actually a better example of my point. Regular Tier 5s can see a Type 59 -- but a Tier 5 premium doesn't get matched against it.
 
So that is the big OP advantage of a Type 59? That he can get paired against a Matilda, while T-44 can't? How many Matildas do you see every day on the battlefield?

For the T-34-85 you mentioned earlier, the chance to get paired against a Type 59 or against a T-44 is exactly the same. So your "disproportionate rate" only applies to rare tier 5 gold tanks. You could argue that makes the Matilda overpowered, but for the Type 59 it doesn't really make any difference.
 
For the T-34-85 you mentioned earlier, the chance to get paired against a Type 59 or against a T-44 is exactly the same. So your "disproportionate rate" only applies to rare tier 5 gold tanks.

No, it isn't. Not unless you know of some way that the T-44 can be in a match in bracket 11 and bracket 9 at the same time.

Type 59 spends its time in 2 brackets -- 9&10. T-44 spends its time in 3 brackets -- 9-11. In brackets 9&10, there is always be disproportionately more Ty59s, because the other Tier8 meds are spending some portion of their time in bracket 11 -- and since, as you say, there are less Tier 10 tanks, they are spending a lot of time in that bracket to fill things out.
 
Bracket 11 battles exist more in theory than in practice. Most people stop doing random battles once they reach the top level tanks, as you only lose credits by playing them, and those tanks are in high demand in the clan wars battles. My T-44 is spending next to no time in bracket 11 battles.

And if it would make my T-44 overpowered by never doing bracket 11 battles, I could simply quit every time I am in one and also only do bracket 9 and 10 battles, without paying a single gold.
 
It must be different on the EU server, because on the NA server, I'm in tier 11 all the time.
 
Complain to win? This seems to be common in forums in other MMOs where people complain about class balance, faction balance, etc all in the hopes of develops changing the rules in their favor. The fact is, they will always find something to complain about until they win all the time.
 
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