Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, February 04, 2015
 
Grind2Win

So some people are declaring the sale of SOE being a result of them making "horrible Pay2Win games". First of all that is blatantly and provably untrue: There is not a single SOE game where I could start today and with a budget of a million dollars get a guaranteed win. The much more accurate term would be Pay4Power, because I can in many games buy gear that improves my power. And in the overwhelming majority of cases I can get exactly the same gear, or at least equivalent gear, by grinding.

The sad truth is that most modern games went down a route where you would be rewarded for playing by receiving gear upgrades and the like that increase your power and make you more likely to win. Most online games today are Grind2Win.

And that is exactly where the protests are coming from: The so-called hardcore gamers absolutely *love* Grind2Win games. A Grind2Win game enables somebody who has too much time on his hand to rise to the very top of a game, and feel all smug and superior about his "leet skillz". When in reality leet gear with average skillz tends to do better than average gear with leet skillz. And Pay4Power game shatter exactly that illusion of superiority. If an average player with money can buy exactly the same gear that the hardcore gamer did grind for, suddenly the competition is actually really about skill. And many a hardcore gamer finds that he is in fact not really so much superior when the gear is equal.

Yes, of course, if somebody beats you just because he bought better gear than you have, that is unfair. But it is exactly as unfair as if you beat him because you did grind for better gear than he has. Games that are really about skill do not allow gear differences.

For example World of Tanks has a special sort of ammunition which can be bought either rather expensively with in-game currency, or it can be bought with real money. Yes, if your opponent has that "gold ammo" which penetrates armor better, you are at an unfair disadvantage. If you otherwise have the same tank and equal skill, the "gold ammo" can make the difference between winning and losing. But why would it make any difference how the opposing player acquired that gold ammo? If he got it by grinding a lot of in-game currency or by spending real money, the effect is exactly the same. Grind2Win is exactly as bad as Pay2Win.

Comments:
Doesn't that mean you'd be left with a game with zero progression though?

Hmm, well I guess you could still have story progression...
 
Apart from story-progression, there could also be actual skill-progression. The "story" and "gear" of every single chess game is the same, but there is progression from novice to grand master.

Of course you might be right in that if in a game you only progressed by skill, the game wouldn't be very popular. Illusionary progression is probably much preferred by most players.
 
So after reading this and your previous post, it seems, from your view at least, that developers are to be damned no matter which approach they take, and that neither time-rich or money-rich players are solely to blame.

That kinda puts us all back at the beginning and creates quite a quandry, doesn't it?

Why are time-rich and money-rich players able to settle down for a muti-hour session of table-top D&D without the time-versus money disparity ever rearing its ugly head? I've playered D&D for years and with many hundreds of people over that time, and I can honestly say that the time-rich/money-rich debate has never arisen surrounding the game.

Why are video games any different?
 
The only time when we can viably talk about p2w scenarios is when

- items are being sold that yield significant advantages...
- ....in a competetive environment
- ....and said items are exclusive without comparable items via other means (grind)


If I can buy the weapon or farm/craft it, that's not p2w; time = money. It's different means to the same end.

The only thing that can be said pro grind is that whenever grinds constitute a large portion of a game's core content, developers may find themselves out of an audience sooner when everything can be bought just as easily.

That's an issue for item-centric games. There's something to be said for earning your way over time and how that affects server life and well, social and cooperative dynamics. Which some still believe to be essential to MMOs. ;)
 
Why are time-rich and money-rich players able to settle down for a muti-hour session of table-top D&D without the time-versus money disparity ever rearing its ugly head? I've playered D&D for years and with many hundreds of people over that time, and I can honestly say that the time-rich/money-rich debate has never arisen surrounding the game.

Why are video games any different?


Thank you for asking such an extremely easy question.

If you play D&D with your friends, each and every one of you will spend exactly the same time in the game. D&D is a synchronous game, people either play together, or not at all.

If you play a MMORPG play becomes asynchronous. Your friend with more time can play more than you and end up having more progress (first in levels, later in gear). If your friend then points a finger at you and calls you a n00b for not having the same gear level, that understandably causes conflict.
 
If your friend then points a finger at you and calls you a n00b for not having the same gear level, that understandably causes conflict.

Why is that even an issue? Are you implying that there is indeed a link between progression, self worth, and for someone to feel frustration when they are "out-progressed" in a DIKU progression game?

Why is it then ok to turn the tables, develope a F2P game where money-rich players can have an advantage over time-rich players with their wallets, and then point that same finger and call them n00bs for not having the same gear level?

Do you not understand that both scenarios cause the same type of conflict, and that neither is better than the other?
 
If I can buy the weapon or farm/craft it, that's not p2w; time = money. It's different means to the same end.

Even if it can take 2000 hours to grind?


 
At first you are fighting against a straw man. No one serious ever claimed that grind-to-win is good. I explicitly called to limit the daily farming time in EVE to prevent grind-to-win: http://greedygoblin.blogspot.hu/2014/05/to-farm-or-not-to-farm-for-casuals-and.html

I also did the infamous blue raiding experiment to ridicule the grinders.

You are wrong about gold ammo: you can't grind it. No gold shot is ever economical in WoT. You can grind it only if you DON'T use gold ammo, but play fairly at low tier. Then after 10 fair matches you can cheat one with grinded gold ammo. So 10 out of 11 of your opponents aren't disadvantaged. You can only use gold ammo regularly if you pay.
 
This is only really a problem in the context of PvP. If an enemy player pays or grinds to win, it means you lose. In PvE, it has no impact on you unless he winds up in your group, in which case it helps you.

Also, I am with Gevlon. Golden ammo is only technically available without real money so they can pretend they aren't Pay2Win when they are. It is similar to saying you could become rich if you worked minimum wage at McDonald's long enough.
 
How about this; since you keep believing that LoL is a P4P game, and in P4P games throwing money means more than 'skillz', why don't you spend however much you need to get above Silver 1 (which is still extremely casual, but lets set the bar really low for you), and when you do, I'll write up a post congratulating you and admitting that LoL is a P4P game. Deal?
 
And I'll sent you what you spent via PayPal.
 
The root of all this is the nonsense that you need character "progression" in a game. It's a vital part of some games (I think Diablo is the pinnacle of progression games for single player games).

By the way, these games are immensely popular, so it's factually wrong to say that games where skill is your only progression wouldn't sell.

The biggest gaming successes (Call of Duty, Starcraft) do not have this progression nonsense, and it lets them have a vibrant esports scene.

The real problem with "pay 2 win" is that it's an excellent way to incentivize microtransactions. I think that's what people are really objecting to - they don't want to be nickled and dimed to death in games, they want to pay a sum and be done with it. But it's hard to argue against "it's free! you only have to pay if you want to" and it devolves into a discussion about what exactly should you expect to pay for in a game.

The real problem is that "free" to play and steam sales have devalued games so much that it's impossible to make a profit with the old model of box sales. For me as a consumer the ideal model would be free trial + one time purchase, but that's almost extinct these days.
 
Second and third paragraph got swapped: "The biggest gaming successes (Call of Duty, Starcraft) do not have this progression nonsense, and it lets them have a vibrant esports scene. (These games are immensely popular, so it's factually wrong to say that games where skill is your only progression wouldn't sell.)

 
I don't like all these skill2win games. Why should someone else have a superior gaming experience just because they have faster reflexes than I do, or because they're better at strategy?

When I go to the movies they don't make it so taller people can enjoy the movie more. When I read a book, they don't make it so that only those with better eyesight can enjoy it.

Why is it that games require some innate ability you have no control over or influence on in order to fully enjoy the experience you're paying for?
 
Do you not understand that both scenarios cause the same type of conflict, and that neither is better than the other?

Chris, maybe it would help if you actually read my posts. For example the above one, in which I say: "Grind2Win is exactly as bad as Pay2Win."

So I see you totally agree with me. Grind2Win and Pay2Win are equally unfair. The question is whether sometimes two wrongs can make a right. If Grind2Win and Pay2Win each give an unfair advantage, but to two different populations, doesn't that to some extent balance itself out?
 
I'll write up a post congratulating you

Then start writing, I'm already at that level. Would you extend that offer to Heroes of the Storm? I hear you need to buy 10 champions to become competitive there.
 
My point is always "games vs worlds." There are games e.g. esports where, like sports, it is a contest of skill amongst two evenly advantaged teams.

MMOs [currently] are about progression and that is inherently about differences. When a new raid tier launches, why should the full best-in-slot raider from the last tier have an advantage over a turned-max-level-today? There were a couple of post here from several years ago about how players want "unfair" advantages as long as it benefits them. So grind or twitch skill but rarely (on enthusiast sites if not IRL) money.

"Everyone" would be aghast if CCP sold something like "gold armor." But almost all of those people would disagree that a new player should have the same skill points as someone who subscribed for eight years.

My take away is that grind2win or pay2win (and I believe twitch2win) have real problems in MMOs. The hypocrisy in enthusiast sites is that p2w has a much greater stigma than g2w.

 
@Michael

Chess would be a boring game if it wasn't about who's smarter and with better memory.
 
Chris, maybe it would help if you actually read my posts.

I do read your posts, and in -every- single instance up till this post, you have appeared to be on the side of the "money rich" with the design of your rhetoric. I do not think this is by accident. And I have said in numerous other posts that neither side can seem to come up with a solution, because all that is being debated is how one group of gamers is being played against the other by the developers. Yet, you continue to champion the developers supposed "right" to make money, even in the face of bad game design and a revenue model that a great majority of gamers are smart enough to stay away from.

"Grind2Win is exactly as bad as Pay2Win."

We are NOT in agreement.

Grind2Win is NOT a negative in terms of a subscription game where progression is only had by spending time playing the game. It might be a negative to someone who feels that they should be able to subsidize their playtime with their wallets, but that's not what you're talking about here.

Pay2Win is NOT a negative in a game designed to allow players to spend real world money on in-game items. If everyone has access to the same mechanic, then it is unequivocally fair for all players.

On their own, both systems work to serve an intended audience. It's when the entitlement kiddies from either side feel like they should be able to dictate what payment model a developer chooses to use.

The outcome has been that developers are now designing games where both grind elements -AND- microtransactions(that allow a bypass in grind or progression) are allowed in the same game. If you feel, as I do, that this is a mistake, then we would be in agreement.
 
"Then start writing, I'm already at that level."

LoLking link?
 
Chris, you've kind of got it backwards. Grind2win subsidizes the time rich by making the guy who plays 10 hours a month pay the same as the guy who plays 160. All that overhead gets spread out over all the players who are paying a lot more for their playtime than everyone else.

The question is who is getting into the other guys pocket. To the degree the people paying the $ actually get the benefit of the money, FTP is morally superior to the rent-seeking of grind2win.
 
"If Grind2Win and Pay2Win each give an unfair advantage, but to two different populations, doesn't that to some extent balance itself out?"

For some reason you seem to assume every player has either infinite time, or infinite money they can (or are willing to) spend on the game. I think a third group, with limits to both time and money, is getting screwed by both.

And I don't have numbers, but my own non-scientific estimation is that the third group is far bigger than the other two.
 
you have appeared to be on the side of the "money rich" with the design of your rhetoric

It is not so being "being on the side of the rich", but rather a case of being against the sort of people who belittle others for not having put in as many hours into a video game, and constantly complaining about every move a game company does to make money.

I honestly believe that you and your friends are bad for the game industry, and that it is because of you that some games won't be made, because the money just isn't there.
 
One of the more pernicious aspects of g2w is the idea of dailies. Someone who logs in 10 minutes per day gets considablely more rewards than someone who plays 140 minutes every other Saturday. Even the 1337 gamers who are employed tend to not work 7 days a week yet that has become an accepted practice in MMOs,

---

IIRC there is a probably apocryphal story of when asked how they were going to change the executives minds, he said "them for them to die." I.e., as the gaming socialists age out of the prime demographic and are replaced by people who will have downloaded hundreds of mobile f2p games by the time they leave university, just how controversial will a game company making money be? Still, I fear these attitudes mean a declining investment in PC games, which makes me sad.
 
Considering how many posts you write about games you play and you've never written one about playing LoL, and considering how little you seem to understand about the business model of the game I have a really hard time believing you have any account at level 30 let alone one which has gotten ranked.
 
"Of course you might be right in that if in a game you only progressed by skill, the game wouldn't be very popular. Illusionary progression is probably much preferred by most players."
-Tobold

After sleeping on it I actually thought up of a few examples for myself outside of my board game collection. One I quite like is Feng Lee's Attack on Titan game where everything really is down to player skill and even though I suck, I love that game and am truly awed by players who are so good that they no longer touch the ground. :)

Mandatory link if you wanted to see for yourself. Just as a warning there is a pretty steep learning curve.

http://fenglee.com/game/aog/

I haven't thought up of an actual MMO example though, or a clever enough way to make an MMO in such a way. Hmmm. Sounds like a good challenge. :D
 
"Considering how many posts you write about games you play and you've never written one about playing LoL, and considering how little you seem to understand about the business model of the game I have a really hard time believing you have any account at level 30 let alone one which has gotten ranked."

Now now, give him some time to find something he can call his on LoLking. It's hard to provide an account name on the spot...
 
At first: all real life games have only skill progression. You only progress in football by climbing the ladder. You don't get faster running shoes or penetrating ball for playing 1000 games.

Secondly: my new post about free to play games: http://greedygoblin.blogspot.hu/2015/02/bum-fights.html
 
@Michael

"Why is it that games require some innate ability you have no control over or influence on in order to fully enjoy the experience you're paying for?"

This boils down to a matter of perspective. Does a person believe that they have absolutely zero way to affect or improve on innate ability?

Skill, imo, is not just talent or innate ability. There is a measure of knowledge and practice in the mix that makes up "skill."

A player with a belief like this will actively seek to improve, as opposed to someone (possibly with learned helplessness) that has decided to just give up and stop striving (at whatever particular game or whatever, aka a cost-benefit analysis of whatever return a game might offer doesn't match up to the effort it would take to learn and develop more skill at it.)
 
It's hard to provide an account name on the spot...

You can goad me as long as you want, but there is a good reason why I use very different names when I play PvP games and never reveal details or give my account name on my blog. Knowing how "popular" I am with you and your crowd, that would be like painting a target on my back for getting harassed or even account hacked. I believe that you are an evil person and would not hesitate to do something unethical or even illegal in order to hurt me if I gave you the opportunity.

Also it is by definition impossible to pass the no true Scotsman fallacy argument. I *once* made the error of writing about EVE from the view of a casual player, and got an endless stream of hate and "you're playing it wrong". Even if I play a competitive game, I don't do it with a very competitive mindset. As a result I will always see those games in a very different light.

Note how you first called Silver 1 "extremely casual" and now try to suggest that it would be impossible for me to reach. You can't have it both ways.
 
And Pay2Win adds an extra incentive to developers to make their games Grind2Win, As well as eking out content (applicable to all games) it has a direct effect on revenue by making the game boring for those who don't pay.
 
First, if I wanted to be 'evil', I'd post your real name and tell everyone that's Tobold on my blog, which you provided to me a long time ago via email (guessing by mistake). I'm sure the other 'evil' people that read my blog could then use that to hand out your home address and everything else. Keep thinking I'm actually that person, or keep pushing me, and maybe I'll prove you right.

"Note how you first called Silver 1 "extremely casual" and now try to suggest that it would be impossible for me to reach. You can't have it both ways"

It's not both ways. You aren't even at an extremely casual level with LoL. I know this because you are clueless about the game based on what you write about it.

But, since you cluelessly believe LoL is a P4P game, I made the offer for you to spend to get that power, and despite your lower skill level, you would wallet-warrior your way up.

But of course you dodged that, because not only are you a liar (you don't have an S1+ account), but a coward.


 
I wonder if someday people will equate posting anything controversial on the internet with essentially courting your own violent death at the hands of whatever crazy person stumbles across your post and is upset by it. Would that be a more civil time, I wonder?

How dare we have opinions. o.O
 
Keep thinking I'm actually that person

Thought experiment (although you could do it for real): Make a post on your blog and say you found a way to deface Tobold's blog, asking for ideas of what nasty stuff you could put on my blog. How many of your regular readers would reply with "Syncaine, I would never have believed you to suggest something this unethical", and how many would reply with "Lol, I'm in!". It isn't *me* in particular who thinks you are this person, it is the image you have created yourself.

And yes, that image might be false and unfair. As unfair as the guy with the arabic name being "randomly" singled out for extra security checks at the airport. You are part of the gamer hate culture on the internet, and since Gamergate people have realized that somebody spouting hate on the internet about games isn't necessarily less dangerous as somebody spouting hate about other subjects. Whether you call that cowardly or prudent is a matter of opinion.

since you cluelessly believe LoL is a P4P game

I wonder if our disagreement on that issue results from us playing at different levels. I would agree with you in saying that if you are already rather good and far advanced in LoL, it is impossible to get further ahead by paying money. But for new and casual players buying the first champion or boosts is helpful to advance, and thus a form of Pay4Power. Low level power, sure, but nevertheless. How can anybody claim that paying real money for a boost that doubles your IP gain is not an in-game advantage?
 
"How can anybody claim that paying real money for a boost that doubles your IP gain is not an in-game advantage?"

Because IP doesn't matter one bit once a game starts.

And if the only reason you believe LoL is P4P because you can get an account to 30 faster with cash, or more champs faster with cash, that's not P4P, that's pay-2-skip. And paying to skip ahead in LoL is counter-productive; someone who plays fewer games before jumping into ranked is going to be worse off than someone who played more, and owning more champs doesn't matter once have you a few you like (which you must in order to play ranked).

There are a lot of games someone can make the argument against being P2S vs P4P (CoC, though that one is pretty weak too), LoL is perhaps the absolute worst game to take that stance with, and taking it makes it hard to believe you either do play, or that you aren't trolling for a reaction when you make such statements.
 
You can call it whatever you like. Paying money to advance faster is *not* just cosmetic fluff.
 
I never said it was only fluff. But there is a lot of space between pure fluff and buying power to win. You said you can buy power in LoL. That's wrong, you can't. Nothing you can buy will help you win ranked games to advance up to something as casual as the silver ranks.

Everyone that has played LoL to the point of even semi-serious ranked play has told you this. Only you still try to defend that point. Among other things, its just odd and makes zero sense beyond a poor troll attempt similar to you 'playing' EVE and running into a known gate camp spot to 'prove' that people will kill someone in EVE.
 
I never claimed you can buy power to beat a certain rank. I said you can buy power, period. And now that I proved that you can buy power, you just moved the post and changed the definition of what Pay4Power is.

In League of Legends a new, casual player, can buy himself power in the form of faster advancement. Among 67 million monthly active players, there are millions and millions which are not yet at the level where buying power stops making sense. That is where Riot is making their money from.
 
You're wrong on where Riot makes their money. I have multiple Riot employees on my friends list in the game, and one of them (someone fairly high up) is a member in Inquisition, so directly from Riot I've had it confirmed that skins make up the majority of sales. (Not to mention just one look at what the shop promotes and gets update with most should tip you off)

That aside, leveling an account to 30 isn't the goal of LoL; it's the tutorial. Winning games is the goal, specifically ranked games (the most popular game type by a wide margin), which is why the game puts up a victory/defeat screen at the end of each game. Nothing you can buy will let you see the victory screen more often.


 
I find it interesting that you refuse to provide your LoL-accountname, but ask whether Syncaine's offer would also work for Heroes of the Storm. Do you think Syncaine will be able to work his 'evil magic' more easily in LoL than in Heroes? How do you suppose this 'harassment' that you are so scared of would even take place?

At this point, I find it incredibly unbelievable that you'd have a LoL account at Silver I or even anywhere near that. As others remarked, based on what you write about LoL one would almost believe you have never played it at all! I also cannot imagine you would be able to bear the in-game chat for long enough to get to Silver I.

However, if you have actually made it to Silver I, I would love to hear how you did that. What roles/champions do you like, how long did it take you to get where you are now, what do you enjoy about the game and what do you not enjoy? And, of course, how much of your climb was helped by this Pay4Power system that you claim LoL has?
 
When in reality leet gear with average skillz tends to do better than average gear with leet skillz. And Pay4Power game shatter exactly that illusion of superiority.

Possibly.
 
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