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In-App Purchases

In-App Purchases

I’m playing a lot of mobile games these days now that I have an iPhone 6 Plus. Playing on the iPhone 6 Plus screen is way more fun than the iPhone 4. I can actually see stuff and my fingers aren’t blocking 40% of the screen. I’m not really a “mobile gamer” though, so I’m not inclined to spend more than $0.99 on an app, and even then I won’t buy ones that aren’t on a huge sale and critically acclaimed – Terraria for $0.99 today, for example.

The apps I tend to play are “freemium” which means they have In-App purchases (IAP). The IAP are generally the same type of thing you’d expect from a F2P game like League of Legends, or something a little more insidious like the type of model found in a F2P MMO. The worst of the lot are the IAPs tied to the “waiting game.” Freemium apps are notorious for being timer games where the main gameplay element is actually just waiting for time to pass. Token, Pearls, Doodads, or whatever the in-game currency for that particular app can be earned in-game at a tauntingly slow pace (only there to make put you in pain) or bought from the store. Spend the premium currency and the timers speed up.

Mobile games, the games meant to be ‘on the go and quick’ end up being slow and tedious upkeep games. It’s this weird juxtaposition of time and convenience, and that’s what makes mobile gamers the perfect prey for this type of business model. In order to keep a game that should be quick and convenient actually quick and convenient, money has to be spent.

IAPs have become a license to make bad design decisions or in many games entirely bad games. Games that would be AMAZING — even better than so many PC/Console games — are destroyed by IAPs having to dictate design direction. It’s sad because had the game simply been sold for $5 or $10 or heck even $20 I would have happily bought the game rather than feel like I have to be nickeled and dimed (many times to extreme sums of $$$) just to find the level of enjoyment I could have by paying the initial cost.

I truly believe we are entering an era where mobile devices are capable of providing as-good or better gaming experiences. For that to happen these games can not continue to exist predominantly as IAP waiting games.

Albion Online Alpha

Albion Online is a F2P sandbox MMO currently in alpha.  We received keys to participate in the alpha test that began this evening which ended up being so much fun that I had to jump on here and share my thoughts.  I would have had this post up yesterday evening shortly after playing, but my poor little laptop BSOD’d and I lost the whole thing. :(

Albion Online UI

UO meets Action RPG

Think of Ultima Online + a little bit of action RPG and you’ll start to form the foundation of Albion Online.  Played from an isometric perspective, Albion Online offers a completely sandbox experience on any device.  I was shocked to see that you can play cross-platform on iOS, Android devices, PC, etc.

 

Building

Players in Albion are able to build structures out in the world.  From what I can tell, there appear to be pre-designated spots close to the main city.  I haven’t explored far (the world is pretty dang big) enough to see if it opens up to more of a ‘place anywhere’ mechanic.  You can place storage buildings to help you store all of your heavy resources (there is a carry capacity), crafting stations, buildings to decorate, etc.  Like UO, you are safe in your building unless you built in the guild warfare areas.

Gathering and Skills

Albion Online Skills

This is about 5% of the skill menu

From the moment I started playing I realized how much time I could lose to this game.  The very first thing I had to do was gather wood, stone, and hides to craft myself some basic tools and armor.  I recommend making a shield and adding the Shield Wall spell — great survivability!  After crafting my tools I realized that everything in-game seems to be driven by the skill menu.  This skill menu is MASSIVE and makes Path of Exile look tame. [Read more…]

The iPhone Gaming Generation

Nintendo 2DSI had an interesting conversation at work the other day. A few of us are really into video games so we occasionally slip into casual conversation about which console is our favorite or what old video games we wish we could play again.  I don’t know how we started, but the conversation turned to Pokemon and then to handheld gaming.

One of my co-workers, who is very open about not being knowledgeable at all about video games, asked, “Is the Gameboy still around?”  I gave him a 30 second history lesson on the evolution of Nintendo’s handheld systems — how Sega’s Gamegear  didn’t last, The Gameboy became the DS, etc.  He then asked, “Do people still buy handheld gaming consoles today?”  A question like that comes as a bit of a surprise because those us who game know that it’s still a huge market, albeit a struggling huge market in the last few years.

We then got talking about the iPhone (iOS 7 just came out) and the following statement was made:

“I don’t need a gaming console.  I would never buy one.  I have an iPhone.”    [Read more…]

STAR COMMAND – Set Phasers To Disappointment

Admittedly I didn’t know a whole lot about the game going in. I saw a trailer and skimmed over the Kickstarter page along with a few other articles. What I thought was going to be a deep and satisfyingly was instead shallow and broken. I honestly can’t believe I chocolate-rabbit’d myself so soon after writing that. I suppose I have to take partial blame for expecting too much. Wait… No, no I really don’t. They essentially promised as much in their Kickstarter campaign. Anybody who sunk any substantial money into Star Command must be fighting waves of nausea.

Star Command Review

Visually, the game is great. They did a fantastic job with the pixel art and the aliens and ships are fascinating to look at. They obviously went for a Star Trek feel and I think for the most part they nailed it. Unfortunately it just all goes downhill from here. The combat, ship, crew, and diplomacy (or lack thereof) mechanics are all bad. They really are. I probably shouldn’t make sweeping statements like that but I honestly can’t think of a single redeeming feature among them.

The entire game is based around tokens. Win a battle, get tokens, spend tokens on upgrades or crew. Good luck being able to afford anything, though, when you have to constantly replace your crew. Parts of your ship also use different types of tokens to dodge attacks and fire special weapons. The problem is that you not only need to wait for the rooms to charge up, but then you need to spend a token. Unfortunately you can only hold 2 tokens of each type at a time. After that you have to generate tokens, introducing an additional timer into the mix.  The same is true for shield regenerators, etc. It’s a completely stupid and broken system. I just don’t understand why they created, essentially, 2 different usage timers. It would have been great if they just let you buy and stock ammo, but there’s none of that.  Read on. [Read more…]

Skylanders: Battlegrounds and Lost Islands

Skylanders Lost Islands

Skylanders: Lost Islands

We love all things Skylanders!  Skylanders: Giants came out recently, and already there are more games in the works.   Activision released Skylanders: Cloud Patrol earlier this year, and we found it to be a decent game for the iOS platform.  However, it lacked that special connection to the physical toys/figures that the other games enjoy — Even Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure on the 3DS had its own start pack and allowed players to utilize their collectibles.

That’s about to change, though, with Skylanders: Battlegrounds and Skylanders: Lost Islands.  These new iOS games will feature an optional bluetooth portal, and allow players to use their figures from all the previous games.  Not only does this increase the desirability of the iOS games, it introduces something quite unique to the iOS gaming market.  We haven’t played any other games developed solely for iOS devices that come with peripherals.  This could be the first of many entries into this type of dual market, and could very well cause several other popular iOS franchises to do the same. This may even be the beginning of controllers for mobile gaming.

Skylanders Battlegrounds

Skylanders: Battlegrounds will be an arena type fighting game.  The player can swap figures with the portal for free, or pay an in-game currency to select characters on-screen.  Clearly it’s better to have the portal.  The goal of the game will be to fight lots of enemies.  Activision has said that the graphics should be close to the Xbox 360 on an iPad.

Skylanders: Lost Islands will be one of those social multiplayer time-waster games.  Manage resources, build structures, and earn in-game currency to do it all faster.  These games are usually fun at the start, but often require a large investment to actually stay fun and not become a set of daily chores.

Despite being yet another investment ($49.99 for the starter pack and $5-7 for Battlegrounds),  it will be hard to resist more Skylanders.