Difficulty is always a thorny topic. No wait should have went with a spike picture before that. Discussing game balance is just asking for a mass beating. Everyone has different ideas of what is expected and what is fair. I mean is the modern example of pay to win microtransactions any different than popping a bunch of quarters into an arcade game? Yes actually, what’s wrong with you obviously it is. Old arcade titles would let you keep going, but often would either wipe or cut your High Score down. The 1980s equivalent of disabling achievements. Which is kinda where we have to start. Arcades have stayed at the core of what game designers think of when developing mechanics for their next title. Granted RPGs are a bit of an outlier, sure. That is until you stop to consider the ludicrously large numbers you start to deal with towards the end of them. Not as apparent as the watch number go up feeling you get from arcade games and idle titles. More like an arcade stick shaped appendix just hanging out until it randomly decides to burst. This isn’t a bad thing. Obviously you can’t ask somebody to make a show without reusing a camera angle or musical sting. So I’m not saying it’s bad, just it needs to be addressed.
Arcade games are often attributed to being why limited lives stayed a thing in games for so long. Arcades set the standard in difficulty as well as microtransactions. So what is it like when a game has pay to progress elements tossed in? Single player type games I mean. We all know pay to win and competitive DLC are the worst things to ever exist. Just how do you feel about DLC, free or otherwise, that will unbalance the game for you?
Yeah it used to be a real question you had to ask yourself. Do you want the free DLC that would just dump money and items on you. Still does actually. Just it was way more prominent in the PS3 times. Obviously it’s a “first taste is free” type of gimmick. They are hoping you will rush along too fast and get yourself stuck so you buy the next bundle. Still the option is available from the start. No different than choosing between easy, normal, hard really. Just it gives you the option of when to choose it. That isn’t so bad. I have my own personal opinions about accessibility in games, but this isn’t the time for that discussion. Now let’s say the game you are playing has been progressing fairly well. Gradually slowing down until you hit the first big hurdle. As it starts to dawn on you how much more you have to go the game pulls you aside and is like “Hey man you just unlocked the ability to pay me money and save yourself a lot of time”. Suddenly the game will just feel worse. If it’s an RPG that let you buy stats, you would suddenly assume every hard fight was because you didn’t pay more money. If it was a platformer that let you buy double jump you would question each and every pit death. Or an idle game that lets you buy multipliers, same thing. So when a new title like Idle Research comes out that has you play for a few hours before dangling a pay to speed it up option well sorry but that’s kinda scummy. I mean I get it, honestly devs gotta get paid. Just maybe don’t hide it as an unlockable.
Take Egg Inc, another idle titles on Android, it is an unbelievable slog if you play the free version. Supplemented with a few perks granted from watching ads. Yet that’s there from the beginning. As well as all the microtransactions. Including the one that would make the game actually fun in the post game. An option to buy five times the silos used to feed your chickens while you are away. Without it you have to check back in every two hours. If you get it, that becomes once every ten. This option was there from the start, so I never felt pressured to get it. My mindset was “well I got this far might as well keep going”. As opposed to the sense of dread that comes from having the option show up along side the normal progression. It’s not about the ability to pay to progress, but how it’s presented. So obviously it’s a little different with DLC, that all comes down to how often they push the online store after adding new DLC. It’s never as clear cut as all real money purchases are bad in games. Rather it’s better to approach it as accessibility options. As long as they don’t exclude the majority of players from enjoying the title because they aren’t wanting to pay extra for a game they already purchased just to stay competitive. Like when fighting games don’t filter online matches based on purchased characters and you have no way to even practice against a computer using the new characters. That always bothers me. Sure it’s fine if I can’t use the character myself, but if you push the data as an update so I can fight them online why not add them into the single player modes as opponents.
I don’t want half those characters, but I guess I still have to pay five bux a pop to avoid getting destroyed next time I jump online. Now I know none of these issues are exactly terrible just they are not getting any better. Much like the artificial difficulty shoved into platform games over the last couple of decades thanks to quarter munching arcades. This idea of pay to progress won’t get better until we stop inserting coins to continue. Or atleast start demanding better from the games we let get away with it.