Editorial: Toxic Communities And Microtransactions – Star Wars Battlefront II

The sky is falling! The sky is falling! I am absolutely outraged that a game would have microtransactions in it! Whoever heard of playing a game to unlock things?! This is preposterous! Yes, the conversation about microtransactions is getting out of hand (and pretty ridiculous in my opinion). It does not break the game, and it does not give people an unfair advantage.

Editorial: The Overblown Outrage of Microtransactions - Star Wars Battlefront II

Microtransactions Do Not Make Games Inherently Bad

For some reason, some circles in the gaming community have this imaginary idea floating in their head that if a game includes microtransactions it will be a horrible game. I am not exactly sure where this idea came from, but my guess would be some gamers remembering the golden days of early game development. Full, fleshed out games where you spend $60 and that was the end of it. These were the golden days in my opinion, but that time has changed and development in the video game industry has changed.

We get glimpses of this here and there with great indy titles, like Cuphead, but it is not the norm for most of the industry. As gaming has become very popular over the years, so has the expectation of what a good video game is or should be. Gamers have such high expectations now for video games. In the golden days, a pixelated 2D side-scroller was enough to entertain us for hours. However, as technology grew so did the development of video games as well as gamers’ expectations.

Better technology means the need for more skilled labor. These people do not work for free. These developers’ craft and skill enable gamers to enjoy many of the great adventures we get in video games now. On top of more skilled development needed, you have the rising cost of marketing. Development alone can take many years and long hours, and studios have to pay these employees for the work they do. Overhead can take down the best video game companies. We have paid $60, as a standard, for years. In addition, we see more demand in the gaming community to move into live updates and games as a service. Here’s that word coming up again: overhead. The introduction of microtransaction, in my opinion, service a few roles for studios and publishers.

  • Offset the cost of advertising and development.
  • Allows developers to keep improving games with live updates and patches
  • Gives developers a way to offer free DLC
  • Allows studios to invest in other IP development

These are very good things for gamers. We are not forced to purchase that loot box. But, if you want to bypass some of the grind, you have a chance to do that while supporting the studio who develops the game you play. I have always viewed microtransactions and pre-ordering as way to give a hat tip to a studio. A “Thank you” for their work on a game I will spend hours playing. Or, if you want to put it into terms of streaming, if you enjoy the stream or streamer then you give them a tip or sub. A thank you for their hard work and entertainment value provided.

When did a grind become a problem in video games? When did having to earn something become so horrendous? What it feels like to me is that a certain group of gamers are being louder than another group of gamers. The group that feels entitled to handouts doesn’t see the value in working to unlock something and are generally toxic, whatever community they are in. I have no problem with discussing changes to games that have microtransactions, or talking about balancing changes to improve a game. There has never been a video game that is perfect. What I do have a problem with is gamers who seek to become so toxic that it hurts the image of that company or studio.

For one example, I thought Mass Effect Andromeda was a great game. It sold well, and had a very strong community behind it. Due to the loud, toxic side of the community, it basically killed the game. All the bashing caused EA to shelve the IP and future DLC. Apparently, for those people in this circle of gamers, vindication comes in the form of convincing others not to play a game. They can’t stop bashing it because of an endless need to feel that they are “right.” These people don’t stop there. They carry that toxicity even further into personal attacks on developers and studio heads.

 

Things like this are absolutely unacceptable, and it needs to stop.

(EDIT: It has come to our attention that Sean may not actually work for EA. Link.)

 

Star Wars Battlefront II Loot Boxes

So, with all of this said, are the loot boxes in Star Wars Battlefront II really as horrible as people make them out to be? No. I’ve played the full 10 hour trial and never felt unevenly matched. I have even encountered individuals with higher star cards, but that still did not make the gameplay feel unbalanced. DICE has done a fantastic job of making sure the heroes are balanced. A good case in point is when I was playing as Han Solo in Heroes vs Villains and took down Darth Maul.

The largest complaints I see involve heroes like Luke and Darth Vader being locked behind paywalls, combined with the slow speed of gaining credits. Personally I have no issue with this. The heroes are balanced and there is not one hero who I feel is more over powered than another. I think individuals are upset they are not being handed a character. It’s the “give it to me now” culture. We all want to play as Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker, but the fact is that we will all get to play with them.

At some point you are going to unlock these characters. You just have to earn it, which in my opinion, gives me a sense of satisfaction and a carrot to chase after. Let’s not forget the challenges that give credits boosts and the ability for the DICE team to update or tweak any credit changes at any time. This is something that DICE has said it is already looking into.

 

Working on a game with a live economy and without a premium content lineup is a new challenge for us at DICE. We had one progression system in the closed alpha and heard your feedback back then. We made another iteration for the open beta and heard your feedback then too. For launch, we’re having another iteration and there will definitely be more iterations as we evolve this game post launch.

 

Again, there is nothing wrong with discussing needed changes to a game, but it’s another thing to feel like you have to crap on anyone who might be enjoying a certain game with which you have issues. Example:

The game is not irredeemably bad. I can’t remember the last game that made me laugh and smile so much while playing.  The game did not funnel or force me into any situations where I felt the need to purchase a crate. Then again, this is just my singular voice talking about a game I enjoyed playing.

The Grind

Ok, so the game has too much grind for you? Maybe it does for some people, but the grind can be a major draw as well. Take, for example, Destiny 2. The original Destiny game, and its DLC, did so well because it offered a carrot for you to chase, a need to grind for that coveted weapon or item. In Destiny 2, some of that grind was taken out via the clan loot system. The result of that is less of a drive to play the game for some.

So, what we see now is less activity, and the feeling of satisfaction when you get that item you worked so hard for has diminished. Of course, DICE could have gone the route of the previous game with paid DLC and had all the characters unlocked, but how would you then feel if you couldn’t play with a clone trooper on Kashyyyk because you didn’t have Episode III era troopers unlocked?

What I am trying to say is that grind isn’t bad. If at launch, it does indeed take 40 hours to unlock Darth Vader (source), that is a drop in the bucket for how much time I will put into the game. I wouldn’t consider myself a “grinder” in Overwatch, but I have put 349 hours into just playing that game. That’s enough to unlock 8 characters in Battlefront II. And, for those who want to bypass the grind, you have an option.

Gaming Culture

This could be a major turning point in gaming culture. The louder voices are drowning out the smaller voices. Headlines splash across Twitter and Facebook and someone tells you not to purchase a game because they say so. The problem is that this only promotes groupthink, and it pressures developers to make changes to satisfy the whims of the the noisiest complainers. Instead of developers controlling how they want the game to function, it could have the game head in a direction it was never intended on going.

You can see this now in the Destiny 2 community. The game is cleaner, has better functionality, and is way more balanced. Unfortunately, the vocal part of the community is trying to pressure Bungie to make changes. These changes may not be for the betterment of the game. The best and safest hands a game can be in is the studio who spent years developing it.

It’s a sticky situation for studios and developers. In one hand, they want to reach out and talk to the community to get feed back. In the other hand, why would they bother when all you get are death threats? With apps like Discord, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, the lines of communication with developers have never been more open. So, lets try to bring up problems in a civilized way and not abuse the power we have in the community. Here some examples of the community gone rogue.

Toxic.

 

Lastly, let us all remember why we pick up that mouse or controller… To have fun. This is what studios are in the business of doing; They make fun. So, if you are having fun in a video game, mission accomplished. I know I was having a blast in Star Wars Battlefront II and can’t wait for it to release later this week.

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Mulehorn117

Founder and Podcast Host at Mulehorn Gaming & Analog Assault Podcast
Wade, also known in the gaming world as a "mulebaggin extraordinaire", Mulehorn117. I’m married with three kids and have a love for gaming. My gamer history starts all the way back with Tandy 1000 and Atari. You can find me on the airways with the Analog Assault Podcast.