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Games And Gamery

Archive for May, 2011

Divorce: 15% Due To Game Addiction

Posted by Stropp on May 31, 2011

An interesting article from Game Politics (hey that’s the 2nd one today!) citing a website called Divorce Online. Divorce Online state that 15 percent of divorces can be attributed to game addiction.

From GP:

According to a press release issued by Divorce Online, an examination of 200 unreasonable behavior petitions filed by women using its service between January – April of this year found that 15 percent complained that their husbands were happier playing video games than they were paying attention to them.

Once again I must express my skepticism.

And I’ll start by saying that I do believe that there are some legitimate cases of game addiction. Some people do have problems with handling their compulsions, and we see addicts of all different kinds: Gambling addicts, sex addicts, Television Addicts, Chocolate Addicts… okay that last one cannot be an addiction. Something so good cannot possibly be addictive.

But as proportions of the overall population these people are a fairly small percentage, and surely could not account for such a large percentage of divorces.

So let’s look at the important part of that quote again.

…complained that their husbands were happier playing video games than they were paying attention to them.

That’s the crux right there.

Perhaps the marriage was already bad, and the respondants husbands simply wanted a distraction from an already unhappy situation. I’m not married, but if I were and my marriage was unreconcilable, I might spend time away from the other half too.

In days gone by, husbands and wives in bad marriages did spent time ignoring each other. There’s nothing new in that. The only thing that has changed here is that there are now distractions like World of Warcraft and other games for one of the parties to escape to. Rather than heading down the pub, or escaping to the toolshed, these guys spend some time in WoW. Rightly or wrongly, these husbands are retreating from their marriages, just like husbands in bad marriages have done for centuries.

I also suspect that even if the gaming time were reasonable and non-compulsive, there would be some complaints about it from unhappy wives. These would get incorporated into the ‘official’ figures and be reported as we have just seen.

So my skepticism remains. I don’t believe that gaming is addictive, or is causing the break down of marriage. Remember correlation is not causation.



Why Are Games Different?

Posted by Stropp on May 31, 2011

The long time thorny issue of used game sales has reared its head once again. Game Politics has a post about this from a slightly different perspective; how used game sales are driving the development of online multiplayer games. (I thought everyone blamed that on piracy.) However, this topic always raises the same question in my mind.

We all know that the game companies don’t like it because they’d like everyone to buy a new copy. That’s fair enough. Calling it piracy as some do though? Well that’s a different matter. And it’s wrong. In the US and Australia, consumers have the legal right to resell property they have legally purchased. If it’s legal, it is not piracy.

The game companies and their representatives however claim that games are different. My question is how are they different?

Games are software. So are DVDs. A lot of modern DVDs come with special software encoding, some have games on the disk, and all the menus and special features are software driven. And I can legally give away or sell my DVD. I can buy used DVDs from the local video store.

Games have stories. So do books. I can borrow books from libraries. I can also borrow games from some stores. There are a gazillion used book stores; you can find them in any city. I can give a book to a friend.

Games are art. Once again, I can buy second hand art anywhere. Go to the local trash-and-treasure market and you’ll find all kinds of art for sale, most of it ‘used.’

Games are copyright. Sure. So are all the above. Books, movies, even artworks are covered under copyright. They are all legally available as second hand products. Copyright only covers copying a protected item without permission, and even then there are exceptions given under fair use provisions.

Games are licenced. This is the rub. A lot of companies sell their games under licence, many of which only require  the consumer to open the package without a signature. These licences are supposed to form contracts with the end user, and by opening the package the user often gives up some rights. However, some rights cannot be given away. Depending on which state and country you live in the provisions for re-selling may be one of those rights that can’t be given away.

But the licence issue is a sticky one. What’s to stop a book publisher putting fine print in the copyright section of a book limiting your right to re-sell or give away the book after the original purchase? What’s to prevent a DVD publisher somehow locking a DVD to the original purchaser and claiming that the DVD is licenced only to you?

It seems that consumers are slowly having their rights whittled away under dubious licences.

Why shouldn’t consumers be allowed to sell their old games, what makes games so special under the law?

If You Buy WoW Gold You Are Supporting Slavery

Posted by Stropp on May 26, 2011

Chinese Prisoners Forced To Farm WoW Gold

I wonder how much longer that game developers like Blizzard, and gold buyers, are going to keep supporting slavery.

To be fair, Blizzard are one of the companies that do a lot to ban gold farmers and sellers, but sometimes I wonder exactly how much they really care about gold sellers. After all, each time a gold seller is banned, they simply open a new account. Often using a stolen credit card. It works in their favor.

It’s kind of like the relationship that governments have with tobacco companies. The gov pass laws to ban smoking in public places, they ban ciggy advertising, and make it hard for the tobacco companies to operate. But they never come right out and ban cigarettes because they make a huge amount of tax revenue on the sale of cigarettes. The revenue gained outweighs the cost to the health system.

I figure it’s the same with Blizzard. There are costs to allowing the gold sellers to operate; annoyed subscribers, customer service calls, and hacked and plundered accounts. But the benefit is a continual positive cash flow from banned farmers and sellers. The revenue gained outweighs the cost to the playerbase.

If Blizzard were serious about dealing with gold farmers they could do a number of easy things, including.

  • Remove the ability to send gold by mail. Instead provide an option to transfer between characters on a single account. Or perhaps just let each character gain its own gold. After all WoW is technically a Role Playing Game.
  • Ban players who buy gold. Full Stop. Most players would never contemplate risking their account if they knew Blizzard would ban them. There would be some difficulties with this simply because of false positives, but the first step would be to ban the most obvious gold buyers.
  • Disallow the transfer of gold between players; perhaps make gold BoP, and only allow transfer via the auction house and cap buy it now amounts to some multiple of the average price for the item being traded.

So do you support slavery?

If you buy gold, you are.

Age Of Conan Unrated

Posted by Stropp on May 26, 2011

Noah over at Channel Massive has some words to say about the news that Age of Conan is going to go free to play, and more to the point, how Funcom are planning to push the game as unrated. I wrote about Conan going F2P last night, but missed the point on the lack of rating. That might have been the lateness of the hour of writing.

Noah makes a few good points about this strategy, including the fact that by unrating the game, Funcom is effectively cutting themselves off from all but the digital distribution channels. At first glance this seems like a bad strategy, but I wonder actually how many boxed copies of AoC are still being sold. My guess is that it’s not very many, and that the digital sales already vastly exceed the box sales.

The other point Noah raises is:

But Funcom has put itself into a dangerous place beyond how the game’s distributed. If this new version just adds a few more fatality animations and more T&A, misinformed media are likely to be the only ones jumping on it, adding fuel to the fire that games are a corrupt, dehumanizing experiences for everyone (especially the children! Oh, the children!).

I’m not sure this move is all that dangerous. Sure, there is some risk here, but there is probably more reward. We all know how the news media, especially types like Faux News, love to jump on the Helen Lovejoy, won’t somebody please think of the children bandwagon when it comes to anything new. Politicians know this all too well, and since they love to be seen so much they love to climb aboard this particular wagon as well.

There is no danger that Age of Conan will be banned due to its content. Politicians have tried to ban games from being sold to minors in brick and mortar stores and they haven’t yet succeeded because the courts see this as an unconstitional attack on free speech. It would be nigh on impossible to succeed in bringing in a law that banned a game being distributed over the Internet.

The thing is, making this much noise about how evil such and such a game is generally doesn’t have the kind of effect that the naysayers would like. They want parents and lawmakers to come down hard and ban the games they don’t like. The fact is most people have more than half a brain and know that games are really pretty harmless (no reputable, unbiased, or peer approved study has ever found a link between games and violence) or they simply don’t care.

All the jumping up and down about games simply advertises the game to people who would like to play it, and they buy. Even some pretty terrible games, and I don’t mean morally terrible, have experience great sales even though they didn’t deserve them.

Noah continues:

Honestly, the “unrated” strategy seems like a desperate swipe for short-lived notoriety, something Turbine’s Lord of the Rings Online and D&D Online didn’t need to be successful after transitioning to F2P. Can’t Age of Conan be meritable just for going F2P and adding a new expansion?

That’s true, but LoTRO was a great game from the start, and DnD Online had the advantage of being one of the first western games to go F2P gaining a lot of publicity in the process. Age of Conan suffered from a lack of content at launch and the subsequent bad publicity, and while the game itself has been vastly improved Funcom don’t appear to have recovered from that launch.

By relaunching the game, and perhaps getting some free advertising from the Helen Lovejoy’s for AoCs unrated extreme and sexy content, Funcom is looking to give the game a large initial boost.

The biggest risk Funcom faces is that noone will take notice of the media and politicians, and not play the game.

Conan The F2P Barbarian

Posted by Stropp on May 26, 2011

Age of Conan is going to be relaunched as a Free To Play game sometime this NH summer, which should be pretty soon now as it is getting quite chilly in the land of Oz.

It’s not all that surprising really. Funcoms other game, Anarchy Online, also doesn’t require a paid subscription for the low end content. And from what I’ve observed, adding special F2P servers for Everquest 2 has been good for that game as well. Hopefully this action by Funcom helps AoC get a decent influx of new and old players into the game.

It’s been a while since I player AoC. It was about a year ago I took advantage of a promotion to create a Barbarian and retry the game. At launch Age of Conan was fairly limited with the best content being experienced in Tortage under level 20. When I got back into the game last, it was obvious that Funcom had spent a lot of time and effort improving the post-Tortage experience. And from the press releases I’ve seen, that effort has continued.

I’ve also seen recently that there is going to be an expansion that ties into some of the locations that movie goers will see in the new Conan The Barbarian movie.

With all that, and considering that the Barbarian is going to be one of the four classes that comes ‘free’ with the F2P aspect of the game, it might be worth dusting him off, equipping that axe, and once again finding out what it best in life.



PSN, SOE About To Come Back Online

Posted by Stropp on May 15, 2011

It looks like the long outage will soon be over. According to Ten Ton Hammer and Game Politics, the news is that Sony will start to bring up both the PSN and SOE networks any-time-now (TM)

There’s a firmware upgrade for Playstation 3 which will allow users to change passwords and restore some services.

When everything is back at full capacity? Not sure yet, but this is certainly good news for gamers.

Quests, Good Or Bad. I Vote Good.

Posted by Stropp on May 13, 2011

The question of the day. Quests, are they good or bad.

Wolfshead thinks quest are the worst thing to ever have been added to the MMORPG experience, and wants to remove them from the MMORPG experience. I kinda think he hates them because the current flavor is the smooth creamy WoW flavor. But he does have a couple of good points in his article. Quests can certainly hurt socialisation as players hurry to carry them out at the expense of interacting with other players. Quests can also make what should be a virtual world experience in to a far more of a linear affair, making the experience an on-rails ride.

But, a game without quests? What does that mean?

Well, if we are talking about a typical progression based MMORPG, then we revert to the heady days of yester-year where the only way to advance was to grind out several million NPCs.

In that sense the humble quest has been something of a godsend. Even though we now have the quest grind, I think I like it better than finding a spot to camp, and then grind out mobs for hours on end until the ding. Then finding a new spot and repeating until max level. At least quests offer a reason for going to a location, and for knocking off those ten rats. Old Lady Knickerbocker doesn’t care for rats in her basement don’t you know? Or is that bats in her belfry?

Where I think the quest has gone wrong is that it has been overused, and used in a way that makes it the sole means of progression. You do quests until you get to the level cap, and then do your dailies and raid. Quests are simply used to get a player to the level cap quickly with the distraction of a story.

I also think that quests are used to denote activities that are hardly questlike. When I think of a quest, I think of Frodo and the Ring. I think of Luke trying to escape a boring existence and falling into a great destiny. I think of Decker and the Replicants. I think of meaningful stories, not the killing of some of the local wildlife, or helping a Hobbit deliver the mail. Those are tasks, not quests.

But named correctly, or not, I think what we have now is better than before. What would be better still, would be to have more variety in what activities we can do in MMORPGs, but that also applies to the exclusive combat nature of the current crop of MMORPGS (EQ2 and ATITD not withstanding.)  Perhaps it would be better to re-evaluate and rejig the quest model, but throwing the quest-baby out with the bathwater?

Rather than doing away with quests, lets thin them out by adding more to do.


Making It Hard For Pirates Loses You Paying Customers

Posted by Stropp on May 12, 2011

I remember hearing a simple tip about how to protect your property in case of a burglary. You leave a moderate amount of cash, say a hundred dollars, in an obvious location. That way, the burglar doesn’t trash your house looking for your well hidden cash and possessions. Now I’ve never been burgled, but when I read this post about protecting your games from pirates this morning from indie RPG developer, Jeff Vogel, that old tip immediately came to mind.

Jeffs advice for game developers is to simply make it hard for your players to forget to pay for your game. Putting up all kinds of roadblocks to pirates also puts them in front of your paying customers. In his post, Vogel relates a couple of stories that occured when he did have barriers to players, and upon removing these barriers saw a net positive effect in the number of people buying his games.

The thing is that if someone wants to pirate your game, they will. Just like you cannot stop a determined and smart burglar from breaking into your house, there’s no way to prevent someone pirating a game. Your only hope is to delay them.

But this comes at the cost of pissing off and losing legitimate buyers. Isn’t it better to lower the barriers and gain extra sales from people who want to pay, than keeping those barriers and losing customers, and still not preventing pirates from breaking through them?

Good Old Games, You’re My Hero

Posted by Stropp on May 10, 2011

Just saw on Rock Paper Shotgun a little news item that Good Old Games has decided to drop a IP location check for buyers of their games.

This means that Australian gamers won’t be faced with the following.

  • Not being charged a ridiculous premium on games because we live in Oz, as Steam does for some titles.
  • Not being able to buy a game online because the publisher blocks games that didn’t pass our stupid Australian censorship laws.

Both of those are bonuses.

I do like this quote from RPS.

It’s great that GoG are employing trust in their customers this way, because it means they know that no one in Australia would ever dream of breaking this bond by using the lack of IP geo-tracking to purchase a game that’s been censored by their country’s government.

pause in typing

okay. Just excuse me for a second as I pick myself up off the floor. Laughing like that is a health hazard.

As you know I hate censorship. I think it’s the lowest act of government, and a sign of the nanny state mentality that politicians who think they know better than the people who elected them. As an adult I have the right to choose what I read, watch, listen to, or play. No government has the right to dictate that.

So I applaud Good Old Games, even if they are not making a stand against censorship, to at least remove some of the road blocks thrown up assisting the censors.

SOE And PSN Downtime – What Are You Going To Do?

Posted by Stropp on May 10, 2011

A couple of days ago I wrote about the situation where Sony was keeping its SOE and PSN networks down over the weekend which is prime gaming time. In that post I wondered what the average Sony gamer would do. Would they wait out the downtime, or go find something else to play?

I wrote that on the 7th of May.

Since then, Sony has said that it will likely be keeping the PSN network offline until at least the end of May. Considering the PSN woes started a week or so before the SOE problems were recognised that means the Playstation Network will be offline for five to six weeks… at least. Wilhelm portends that it’s likely the SOE network will be down until then as well, meaning a four-ish week downtime, in effect no SOE games at all for the entirety of May. He conjectures that with Sony’s recent financial woes, and some pretty major layoffs, that the SOE network could come back with far less to offer gamers than it had only a couple of weeks ago.

Whether or not that will happen is another matter, but what I want to ask you is what you will do. Are you currently involved in any of SOE’s games like Everquest, Star Wars Galaxies, Vanguard, Planetside or any others?

Are you going to wait out the downtime by doing non-MMORPG activities?

Are you going to take the opportunity to try out other MMORPGs or games?

Are you planning on returning to SOE games, or are you done with them?

Let me know in the comments.