I am an avid fan of computer games. Although I do not get the time I would like to spend in leisure, and although my resources are and have always
been limited, its been a rare year in my life, where some computer game or other, did not find a way to enrich my experience of life in some manner.
I remember fondly being a child, and getting my hands on the Amiga 600 for the first time, with its impressive catalogue of games to choose from. The
discerning gamer could have a whale of a time with that machine, and I certainly made the best of it, playing that machine well beyond the point where
my more well to do contemporaries were upgrading to higher spec machines, dedicated gaming consoles, and the like. The games were engaging, colourful,
and some of them were downright hilarious!
The next machine I got a hold of, was the N64, which was my personal machine, and my sister got a hold of a Sony Playstation. Suffice to say, the
jump from the Amiga to the N64 was incomparable in the modern age. For those not alive at the time, or not gaming at the time, there is unlikely to be
a time where any of you will experience the jarring difference between the immersion one experienced with the charming, but objectively flat looking
games of the Amiga, and that available to even the least impressive titles on the N64. The advances as made in terms of visuals these days, while
technically impressive, are small steps, compared with the leaps that were being made in those days.
But the cost of these machines and the games that they ran, necessarily increased in real terms, over time, something that pretty much everyone
understood was inevitable, as the technology being offered was simply greater in terms of its potency, more complicated to construct, both in terms of
the hardware, and indeed the software being run by it. Gamers understood, largely speaking, that the outlay involved with getting new gear to play on,
and new games to play, was going to only head in one direction, a direction which would mean that for ones money, one would expect ever better player
experiences, longer games, more nuanced, detailed, immersive experiences for the user, as well as games which simply looked better than what had come
And so things progressed, with the progression of gaming consoles and machines generally, ratcheting up the graphical quality, and the responsiveness
of games over time. But one thing had, since the beginning of my journey in gaming at least, remained true. Once a game was purchased, one could
expect to play the game until the machinery used to play it was beyond use, and never pay more than the box price to do so.
I have extremely fond memories, for example, of Star Wars: Battlefront II, on the Playstation 2. It was a stellar game, an absolute masterpiece of a
game, which kept myself and my friends engrossed for a very long time indeed. Coming out in 2005, it had narrative, depth, entertaining maps for
ground based warfare, vehicle combat and broad strategy combined to make an immersive player experience, space combat modes where dogfights, raiding
of capital ships, and careful deployment of bomber type ships were key to success. Playing a certain troop class for a certain amount of time, scoring
certain numbers of kills with certain weapons, would go toward unlocking new gear, and indeed making hero class characters available. Unlocking all
the good stuff, took a player a damned long time, but was not unobtainable in the least, and the feeling of accomplishment, when one knew one could
open up the game, and play any character one wanted, from the lowliest trooper, to the likes of the Fett Man, or Luke Skywalker, was intense. It was a
journey to go on, and one felt when one had opened the game up fully, that ones freedom in game had been earned in battle, that ones tactical prowess
and ones combat skills had been honed, forged in the fire of a thousand conflicts, over a large number of worlds and game modes. It was, in short, a
fantastic game, and one which I look back on with a fondness eclipsing that with which I view any other game of its sort.
That game, although there were downloadable content packs, some of which cost money, could be played end to end without spending a single extra penny
on it, and no one had the ability to access skills or powerups in game by spending money on the problem. ALL player advancement was earned by play,
all of it. This meant that if one had the desire to play with others, one would never be at a disadvantage, because ones bank account was smaller, or
ones common sense greater, than ones opponents. Only skill and time spent ever had the slightest effect on how well one might fare in a multiplayer
environment. This aided immersion, because the more you battled, the better at the game you got, and the better the gear and characters one could
access became. Nothing external to the game environment, effected your success rate in warfare.
Fast forward twelve years though, and things are not well in the Galactic Republic, or Empire (which ever faction you prefer).
Where the original Battlefront II was both beautifully arranged, visually impressive for its age, and fairly balanced to ensure that player skill was
the only barrier to success, not to mention being a broad game with massive scope and replay value, Star Wars Battlefront II in 2017, has been making
headlines for all the wrong, all the worst reasons.
This is a game with a short story mode, a limited number of theatres of battle, and although it looks impressive and has the sort of soundtrack you
would expect from a Star Wars intellectual property (i.e. an epic one), does not offer nearly as much bang for your buck as the original SWBFII, from
2005 did. Whats worse, is that alongside not offering nearly as much for the relative cost of the initial outlay for the game, EA were trying up until
a few days ago, to release the game with a lootbox, micro transaction linked progression system, whereby progression items in the game could be
purchased, rather than earned. By purchasing "crystals" with real money, then using those crystals to purchase lootboxes, a person playing the game
for a short time, could collect upgrades to their weapons, additional unit types, and even hero class characters, without having to put in the grind,
which brings up an important point. Estimates derived from user experience in the testing phase for the full game, suggest that opening up the whole
game, without spending a single further dime than the box price of the game, would take 4,528 hours. Thats 188 days, 15 hours and some change.
Alternatively, one could purchase the estimated 3,111 loot boxes, necessary to collect the necessary star cards and materials required for a full
unlock. This will cost approximately $2,100, or in English money, a still staggering £1,582.
Being a gamer, I know that time played is important, but thousands of hours on one game is an unhealthy amount to be playing ANYTHING. I have a save
on a game called Just Cause 2, which I played to death. I did that game to death, to absolute death. I would play it every time I was at home and with
nothing better to do. I sunk one hundred and fifty nine hours into it. I did the same with Fallout 3, took my time, ignored the fast travel mechanic
until I was level twenty, walked everywhere, killed everything I could kill without damaging my karma level...
But SWBF2 has officially screwed the pooch here.