Monday, January 19, 2015

H1Z1 Air Drops Onto Survival MMO Gamers' Dreams

UPDATE (January 19, 2015)
I would like to apologize. In review of what I have written, this was a hastily put together reaction piece that is lacking in information, both about the H1Z1 air drop situation and my own personal opinions. Before I sat down to write, I had already written three extensive comments on Reddit in response to the situation. A lot of information on my opinion, especially about whether or not the air drops can be considered "pay to win", was contained in those comments. When it was time to write this article, I had already written the heck out of the topic and was exasperated by the negative responses. I feel that resulted in a substandard article lacking in content and context. For a more thorough description of the H1Z1 controversy, I recommend Totalbiscuit's Content Patch #189. If you would like to read my initial comments on the H1Z1 situation, here is my lowest rated Reddit comment ever defending SOE's air drop idea and attempting to establish a difference between it and pay to win, and here is attempt #2, and attempt #3. You may notice a difference in the stance I took on air drops from the article below. There are a couple of ways to view the problem, but my main concern on Reddit was trying to battle the idea that a randomly placed supply crate is pay to win, because allowing that idea to win could set a dangerous precedent for games when it comes to experimenting with their marketplace. It seemed like the majority in vocal opposition to the air drops had this idea that an in game marketplace should only ever sell cosmetic items. Imagine World of Warcraft decided to add a world raid boss or event to the Blizzard store. Pay $40 and a server wide message exclaims "[insertPlayerName] knows not what he has done! An Old God rises from the depths below." The Old God is a challenging fight, on par with the most difficult raids that currently exist, and the end loot is amazing. Does it fit the old model of purchasing items and weaponry? Essentially, it's like the air drop in H1Z1. In H1Z1, a server message is sent out, the drop falls, and then zombies spawn around the drop. The main problem, and difference, is that World of Warcraft is an old, finished, stable(ish) game and H1Z1 is a game in its infancy. The drops don't offer a challenge because they aren't finished testing them. Unfortunately, because they opted for the Early Access program instead of using alpha and beta testers, and they accepted in game purchases, they had this coming. They should have waited a bit before dropping this bombshell on their fans. The original article is below, but, again, I'm sorry that it isn't up to my standards. Please watch the video by Totalbiscuit, linked above, for a better explanation of the H1Z1 events.

As someone who occassionally gets into beta tests and alphas to scout ahead of the pack, I noticed that those opportunities started drying up when people started literally paying to test a game, Early Access. There are a million reasons why that is silly for the consumer to do, but it's also silly for the company to do, and here H1Z1 is a perfect example.

The air drop thing is a big issue to consumers, bigger than it should be. To the developers, this was their alpha testing phase. Things aren't going to work right, fine. The whole purpose is to work out the kinks before release. In most Early Access games where there are kinks (see DayZ for the past, what, 5 years?) people have come to accept it, so why not this time?

Early Access + In Game Marketplace = Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy???

There are a lot of people mad about the devs going back on their word about paid for weapon drops and how it ruins the survival part of their survival MMO. This isn't the first time that an Early Access game has had a game breaking bug, and it isn't the first one to employ a marketplace, but it is the first majorly anticipated game to accept $20-$40 USD to purchase an untested feature. A feature that goes against the genre of the game.

Survival MMO's are supposed to create a near impossible scenario for the player to overcome. If there was a zombie apocalypse, how screwed or prepared would you be? The type of people that like to answer that question are the type of people that would like to play a good wholesome survival MMO. And PVPers. Broken mess that DayZ is, it wouldn't have been anything if it wasn't for the hilarious PVP videos made by popular streamers like Destiny of StarCraft II and Planetary Annihilation fame.

Air drops do not fit into this mold. Not as a paid for transaction. As a server event, if the drops happen regularly at specific drop points, like in a real disaster, it would fit the setting better. And if they didn't drop guns and ammunition, that would be great! Seriously, who puts together a care package that includes food, water, and whatever random gun they have lying around? I know it's the zombie apocalypse, but that's exactly why people shouldn't be handed guns. In every zombie apocalypse movie, someone gets a gun that shouldn't have had a gun, and they start murdering people (living people). A big point, and part of the tension in those stories, is managing the weapons and making sure they don't fall into the wrong hands. In response to the outcry, the devs have lowered the spawn rate of guns in the drops and down a few other patches to how they work. To that point, the devs have said that they are going to continue tweaking the current model of air drops with no significant change as to how they function, possibly until they drive away every last consumer and their game forever festers as another example of a failure of the Early Access system

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