Tobold's Blog
Sunday, November 01, 2015
 
Falling of the bike

I continue to play League of Angels - Fire Raiders on my iPad as a "whale". That is I am spending far more money than is reasonable for a mobile game, but far less than would make a visible dent in my disposable income. Having ascertained that there isn't any real danger of actual damage to my real life, I decided to be unreasonable as a kind of experiment. Not only am I experiencing the life of a Free2Play whale, I am also studying the game mechanics that push people into such spending.

Unlike other games where spending much money never tempted me, in League of Angels there is a rather clear advantage of spent money giving you access to more content. There are game activities like the island race which is only open to the server's top guilds, and of cause those guilds only hire the top players. As your level depends a lot on how much money you spend every day on additional stamina, the highest spenders are the highest ranked players. Play for free and you won't have access to certain parts of the game.

Another game mechanic that favors spending are the various PvP parts of the game. In the island race you can plunder other player's resources, but only if that player is weaker than you. So the top dogs are in least danger of getting plundered, while having maximum freedom to plunder others. The arenas work in a similar way: You have a limited number of attempts every day to improve your rank, but you lose rank when somebody stronger of lower rank attacks you. The best rewards are for the highest ranked players, which are those who spend the most money.

What I think drives the revenue for the game company very much is the fact that all of this creates a dynamic like riding a bike: If you stop pedaling, you'll fall off. The game mechanics and social dynamics punish taking a break: Most guilds will kick you out after a few days of inactivity, because players that don't contribute to the guild score every day are a dead weight; and as everybody is constantly becoming stronger, anybody taking a break will quickly lose rank and consequently get fewer rewards in the future, and less access to content. You can keep up with the Joneses with moderate spending every day, but you'll fall of the bike if you stop. This is a game that rewards you more for spending $10 every day than for single $100+ spending splurges.

Players don't need to be especially susceptible to "addictive" behavior for this to work. Wanting to be a top player and wanting to keep being so is a rather fundamental desire in many gamers. And that is good business: Why chase the few people whose specific weaknesses would allow you to milk them for thousands, if you can target a far larger number of people like me who can spend hundreds without worrying about it? Having said that, I don't plan on staying on this particular bike for much longer. I've pretty much seen all of the content of the game now, and like any game at some point even the most exclusive content becomes repetitive and boring. I don't know yet if one day I'll just stop abruptly, or whether I'll do a phase where I just switch to playing for free. But I'm pretty certain I won't be playing this any more come Christmas. Nor will I seek another game to become a whale in. It's an interesting experience once, but ultimately a bit silly, as most ways of spoiling yourself are.

Comments:
Sunk cost fallacy
 
So are you engaging in "the various PvP parts of the game"? Given your previous hostility to PvP that would be more surprising than your decision to experiment with being a small whale.

Or maybe I've misunderstood your position on PvP. Is this "asynchronous" PvP, perhaps, where the players never directly encounter the players they are fighting? I looked at the game's website but it's appalling gibberish and I couldn't make any sense of any of it.
 
Yes, it is asynchronous PvP where you never even really see your opponent. The advantage of that is that you don't get the sort of toxic behavior that direct PvP games like League of Legends are famous for. There are also not much opportunity of a group of people ganging up to harass a single victim like in Clash of Clans and clones thereof.
 
@Jeromai: And how do you call the fallacy of core gamers who think that every mobile game is the equivalent of Farmville without ever having tried the game? As a squad-based, turn-based combat game League of Angels has more tactical depths than most MMORPGs or shooters.
 
Tobold: do you have a deadline to finish this "non-addiction" of yours?
 
Yes, I actually mentioned a deadline in my post. Although I actually expect to stop much earlier than that. I'm an explorer Bartle type: Discovering new content is far more important to me than achieving or dominating. As content in games is always limited, I tend to switch games rather frequently. Only games with a huge volume of content, e.g. World of Warcraft, can hold my attention for more than a month or two.
 
Tobold id this indeed a scientific experiment then please document it well. It would be very interesting to read the numbers on how much you spend, how much time you play and how you are progressing in the game. If you can think of a way to document your mood and feelings about the game that would be interesting too.
 
Maybe it would be a good subject for another blog post, but I'm a bit surprised how shocked people react and talk of "addiction" if somebody spends $300 on a game, while somebody else spending 300 hours on a game wouldn't raise an eyebrow.

Of all the possible damage that games might have inflicted on my life, I am pretty certain that the loss of time is far more severe than the loss of money. At the very least I could have finished university a year earlier if I hadn't played games like LPMUD during my studies. And I'm not certain my life spending on computer games will ever be higher than that loss of 1 year of earnings.

How many hours has Gevlon spent in EVE? Maybe somebody should cure his addiction!
 
@Tobold I have no idea how you made that leap. I was describing in three words your "falling off the bike" phenomenon.

As for mobile games, I am currently playing Dungeon Boss and used to play Dragonvale and even tried Mob Wars: La Cosa Nostra for a while, so I would not dream of dismissing the genre. I am, however, fairly amazed at the sheer amounts of money the whales in those games throw in, while I play around for free with some patience (and lack of caring over being top dog in PvP.)

The sunk cost fallacy applies to anything people invest a lot of themselves into, be it a sub game, a mobile game where you can't fall off the bike, anything with maintenance built into it (*cough* ATITD beetles *cough so much cabbage cough*) or an MMO or MUD you've played for years and have social connections to but somehow don't enjoy the gameplay anymore.
 
@Jeromai Sorry if I misunderstood. Your link isn't to a general sunk cost definition, but to a specific article about sinking cost into Farmville. To me Farmville and similar "cow clicker" games have yet a different dynamic, because you get rewards without actually having to play anything I would call a game.
 
Given you opted out of group content in Warlords of Draenor, what do you think about the social component of Leage of Angels? Is needing a guild a required factor of paying 10 bucks a day or can you imagine a system that would make you pay playing solo?
 
The guilds in League of Angels are very different from a guild in WoW. In WoW your guild is a chat channel and organizational structure for doing raids together, a synchronous activity. In League of Angels even the guilds are asynchronous: Everybody contributes through his activities various points to the success of the guild. The best guild is the one with the most points contributed by its members. As the number of guild members is limited, an inactive member is a burden and gets kicked out to be replaced by somebody who will contribute points.

I wouldn't really call that "social", it is just a different way to access new content, guild vs guild instead of PvP.
 
So the kicking/recruiting might even be done on a daily basis by the guild leader?

In Knights and Dragons the rewards are event based and you can't kick anyone during an event. Recruiting is done between events and the top guilds put together a team of people who they think are spending enough money/time to win/place well in the event with side guilds where people chill out who won't spend every event.

Although the pvp is asynchronous you'd have to play quite a lot in the 2-3 day timeframe of an event to contribute your points. Not really sure which system burns out people faster.
 
> Wanting to be a top player and wanting to keep being so is a
> rather fundamental desire in many gamers.


I don't know the game but from what I've read in your articles... more than being a "top player" you just need to be be a "rich/richer player". Because even if you're skilled and extremely dedicated to the game, you will never reach the top. You basically have to spend real money to buy your top position.

This is why you keep telling us "I have plenty of money, I can waste money on videogames because that wont affect my real life, I am fine, I am not addicted, etc" (here and in other past articles). This is not a critic, it's just what I read in your words: you buy time/levels because you can. And because you like being part of the 1% (in a videogame, at least).
 
A lot of games use the carrot option of daily cooldowns, logon rewards and unlocks to get people to play every day. It sounds as though League of Angels uses a hefty stick.
 
"Nor will I seek another game to become a whale in. It's an interesting experience once, but ultimately a bit silly, as most ways of spoiling yourself are."

This is ultimately why the model is flawed, as it can only really fool people once into heavy spending, and after that most people know better and aren't entertained simply by spending. The result is that even a game that starts with a moderate pay4power model has to shift further and further to the extreme as the pool of those paying gets smaller and smaller.

You should give why you are enjoying PvP here some additional thought though, because it sounds like you are discounting the feeling of winning (via wallet) quite a bit in terms of why you are enjoying it. Speaking of which:

"There are also not much opportunity of a group of people ganging up to harass a single victim like in Clash of Clans"

What leads you to believe that's possible or something that exists in CoC? More to the point, CoC is asynchronous PvP, but without the ability to wallet-bash someone. Just a thought, but perhaps that game or other PvP games without P4P don't work for you while this one does because of the lack of wallet-driven success?

You stating that your guild has a lack of the social aspect is interesting too, because my groups in CoC and BB are more active and cooperative than most MMO guilds, but again I suspect the fact that you win with your wallet and not with a growth in your abilities plays a large factor (although when I did my whale experiment a few years back, in a zero skill/all wallet game, the top guild I was in was also very socially active, so I don't think the wallet aspect is the make/break here.)
 
So, what do we do if the new year comes and goes and you still "experimenting" with this game? Maybe there will be new features at a certain level that you will want to stick around for. I'm sure you're capable of "quitting at any time," but do you need a safe word, just in case?
 
Because even if you're skilled and extremely dedicated to the game, you will never reach the top. You basically have to spend real money to buy your top position.

Replace "money" in that phrase by "time", and you have a description of a huge number of other games, including all MMORPGs. I know a few games that are really skill-based, e.g. Starcraft where a skilled player takes hundreds of actions per minute more than an average player. But pretty much any game in which your power is based on a "level" and "gear" which is accumulated over months of time is not truly skill-based.

P.S. I started playing Shadow of Mordor last night, so my interest is already shifting. Haven't spent anything on League of Angels today. Am still playing because it is a mobile game, and I can play a mobile games in locations where I can't play Shadow of Mordor.
 
because it is a mobile game, and I can play a mobile games in locations where I can't play Shadow of Mordor.

Funny thing: I only play my mobile game at home because my boss sure as hell wouldn't let me play at work, I ride my bike to commute and when I'm out I don't use mobile devices.
 
> Replace "money" in that phrase by "time", and you have
> a description of a huge number of other games,
> including all MMORPGs.


MMORPGS require time because they are supposed to engage you with great stories, tons of quests and things to do/see/collect/enjoy. World of Warcraft features an insane huge amount of lore: it's like reading a book. Skill isn't really needed, you just need time to enjoy the content (books work the same way, you need a lot of time to read them).

As opposite, FPS titles -amongst others- require a lot of time to train and be good. You don't reach the top tiers by buying a free-pass: you have to defeat players in matches/tournaments and "earn" your rank. Top-players don't invite you because you've got money to buy the VIP ticket: you have to show them you're a pro, money doesn't count. It takes time, it takes effort, skill and dedication of course. It's like any real-life sport (but you don't lose weight, I guess).

Back to this game, what I meant when I used the word "money" is that you can reach the top positions by simply spending money. The more you spend, the higher you go. It would be like paying to insta-win a soccer match, instead if training for weeks and try to win because you are better than your opponent.

While in real-life a poor person can become a great soccer player, in this game that's impossible.

p.s. I don't know the game, I am judging/commenting based on what you write in your post of course!
 
Tobold, what is your impression for how conscious players are that they largely "buy" the top positions? You make the comparison with time (which I agree with), but in basically every instance I can think of, the players spending the most time make big claims of greater skill, and berate other players as being unskilled. Do the top players brag about being "the best," or are they openly aware that they simply spend the most time and money?
 
The one guy I talked to, who is the highest level player on the server and leader of the guild I'm in, is well aware that it is a money thing. He mentioned money as reason when somebody admired some shiny thing he had.
 
> is well aware that it is a money thing. He mentioned
> money as reason when somebody admired some shiny
> thing he had.


Well then, this game is basically the equivalent of Gucci, Prada or Louis Vuitton stuff for women.
 
In principle, yes. In practice I could play League of Angels at top level for a year for the cost of a single Prada handbag. :)
 
It really depends on what handbag you want. My wife worked for both Gucci and Prada and she often witnessed rich Arabs or Russian guys spending 10K+ euros for *one* handbag or piece of "gear" in those stores. Crazy stuff but... when you've got big money you have to find a way to spend it.
 
Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link



<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

  Powered by Blogger   Free Page Rank Tool