Being Upset at a Game Developer Doesn't Give You an Excuse to Harass Them


#1

When Star Wars: Battlefront II launches tomorrow, you won’t be able to play as Darth Vader immediately. Unlocking “hero” characters in Battlefront II requires credits, which are earned based on the amount of time you spend playing the game. A fan did back-of-the-envelope calculations and determined it would take roughly 40 hours to unlock the 60,000 credits required for a hero. This upset one potential Battlefront II player so much they made a post on Reddit about it! 40 hours is way too much for one of the main hooks to playing Battlefront II, and there’s ample justification to publicly drag EA and encourage them to make changes.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/7x4q9y/being-upset-at-a-game-developer-doesnt-give-you-an-excuse-to-harass-them

#2

The post by the EA PR person has more than 350,000 downvotes now. For reference, the next most downvoted post has at least 100,000 less than that. And, of course, the same thing is happening that always happens, which is to say the developers are getting the full force of the hate while the producers - they ones actually responsible for demanding these changes - go untouched. This is not unique to games, of course; it’s a part of a long tradition of workers getting blamed for the evils of management.


#3

It’s great that a job that is so generally hard to do in an industry where it sometimes seems impossible to have a living wage is also constantly attacked by gamers, some of the worst-acting consumers ever. Like, what could be seen as consumer advocacy just becomes vicious and feels like scoring easy points and getting your harassment kicks at the same time.

Can you tell I’m a dev?

Also, as @Highwire mentions, it’s the old conflict between front of house and back of house in creative work. The creative personnel want situations like this to happen the least, but have to take input from back of house to remain financially stable. Unfortunately, they’re also the front-facing part of the game, so they get all the hate for these things they probably didn’t want to exist in the first place and agree that are bad.


#4

This is another reason why I hate GG and the like. (It’s not that you need additional reason, but here you go.) We have to have this conversation about microtransactions and such, it was important, it is important, and it will be important for a foreseeable future, but I would rather not to add to that noise at all.

Do developers/publishers even listening now? Do they want to fix it or would they rather cut they losses and move on?


#5

As far as doing what people wanted, EA just changed the business model. People wanted a complete game for retail price, no season passes, microtransactions, balance busting unlocks, or community fracturing DLC. So, they changed the revenue model. Either because they want the extra cash flow of a season pass/dlc, or because $60 USD isn’t enough to feasibly cover production costs.

If the latter is true, then the AAA industry has a larger systemic problem with the way games are made. If it’s the former, it’s difficult to sympathize with any executives who are getting heat(death threats are unacceptable and at best are the least constructive form of criticism.) As with most situations like this: vote with your wallet. Yeah, SWBF2 may be a great game, but if you want this loot box gambling garbage trend to go away, you have to make a statement in the most clear and concise language possible: “I ain’t payin’ for this shit.”


#6

I’m unhappy about most of these games with Loot boxes and how they tamper with the games but inorder for it to change I need to talk to the devs and pubs about how it doesn’t work and not yelll at them as if they killed my dog.
Proper criticism does work as just recently Atlus is investing into it localization process to insure their games get the right translation after the small problems that showed up in Persona 5.


#7

This whole battlefront situation… just, people need to just fuck off sometimes.

r/Games is kind of a consumerist hellhole right now. And in some ways, that’s totally understandable. Lootboxes, MTX, and the like are often ethically shitty and detrimental to the game mechanically. And Star Wars: Battlefront 2 (2017) is a real crummy example of it on all fronts. That’s all true. I’m not buying the game either. However, the vitriol around these games is far too often targeted at the wrong people, for the wrong reasons.

Tangent: I see so much talk about voting with wallets, and it’s always associated with not buying a game and yes, that’s a part of it. But you know what I barely see? Support of games that do the very things these communities ask for. You’re telling me you want AAA quality story-driven single player experiences? These games exist and they’re actually pretty rad, my dude. Really. But on release it’s always “I’ll wait for a sale, that’s not worth $60.” I’m not saying people have to buy all games on release at full price, as that probably isn’t healthy either, and not everyone has the financial means to buy games full price. But voting with your wallet isn’t a one way street, and many of its loudest advocates don’t seem to get that. If you’re going to crusade against fucking video games using threatening language and harassing devs, I hope you’re also supporting games that “do it right.”


#8

There’s an intersection here with toxic fandom. I don’t think there would be this harsh a reaction if EA used this model in an original multiplayer shooter, but this is a Star Wars game. People are coming to this with strong emotions from decades of enjoyment of the Star Wars setting and characters, as well as nostalgia for the old Battlefront games. For a lot of players it’s not “you made a thing I don’t like,” it’s “you ruined a thing I love.” (And as I’ve seen pointed out elsewhere, it’s not like players can just buy a competing Star Wars shooter from another publisher.) Fandom’s sense of ownership amplifies the sort of reaction that we usually see under the guise of consumer advocacy. People feel a threat to something they perceive as a part of their identity. This, by the way, is part of why it’s essential to stay aware of your fannish tendencies and keep them in check.

To be completely clear, I extremely don’t want to excuse harassment. Being angry about a game doesn’t remotely justify that. I just want to look at why the response has been so strong in this specific case.


#9

I don’t really believe in the “vote with your wallet” mantra, because top-level brass will never interpret the right message from it. “I guess people don’t want more Battlefront games” the CEO says, reading the quarterly financial statement while planning how many people they’re going to lay off next month.

Instead of trying to consume away from an unethical industry practice, what needs to happen is advocation for legislation on games that utilize this practice, and pressure from the games industry against high-paid executives. The CEO of EA makes (per salary.com, including stock rewards) $19,972,718 a year, the equivalent of 222 programmers at a median salary of $90k.

Game hyperconsumers should be focusing their attention on that fact if they wanted to see actual change, but I don’t see them ever targeting CEOs since gaming as a culture skews heavily into meritocratic beliefs.


#10

I agree with the shitty inequality of pay, but I disagree that these companies don’t get the message.

A lot of trends that people were annoyed and upset about have gone the way of the dodo over time. Remember when new games had online passes with them that were one use and any used copies needed to cough up the cash to pay online? Remember when the true ending to the game you bought game as paid for DLC available at or near launch? Remember flow charts of retailers to figure out which one had the pre-order bonus you really wanted? Remember paying for bundles of skin packs to get the one you really wanted and no way to unlock them other than paying? Remember unlocking all the weapon skins for Gears of War costing $45?

These companies do sometimes learn the thing they need to learn. Problem is, they figure out other new ways to monetize things that come with brand new problems.


#12

Forgive me, but when you say “Consumers must be held responsible for their own behavior”, what are you referring to?
I feel like I might be misreading it, but that comes across as a condescending “Everyone who buys games with loot boxes needs to be educated about how they’re wrong and bad” attitude.

Full disclosure, I don’t strenuously object to loot boxes in principle, and find them as a concept to be just as valid as any other game mechanic. I do agree that they’re currently being used wildly irresponsibly and excessively. Just like any game mechanic, they can be used well or poorly.

I bring that up in hopes to explain why I’m probing that statement above. The discussion about loot boxes, when it veers towards consumers’ use of them, invariably turns to some variation of “us true gamers are going to get outvoted by casuals/children/bros/whatever if we vote with our wallet”. It implies that anyone who chooses to engage with a game that has these, even if it’s in spite of these mechanics, is somehow “just not educated enough”. I like to count myself as a gamer, but resent the idea that it’s impossible to reconcile that with not wanting to overthrow the lootboxetariat.

Again, if I misread what you meant, I apologize. I needed to get all that off my chest, I guess, so i don’t want you to feel like I’m directly yelling at you about it.


#13

See, but I don’t think that they got the message, except in the broadest sense that the listed practices don’t make them as much money. The business side of game dev never gave a shit and continues not to give a shit about anything other than money. They did not learn any lesson other than some bad practices don’t make them money – for instance, it’s BAD for them to lock out players from online to try to curb the used disc market because online is where people spend more money. (Also the move towards digital continues ever onwards, so it’s less and less of an issue anyway.) Same idea: straight up buying skins you want with money is the lesser of two evils here when compared to skins being random drops from loot boxes – the latter is more exploitative and eventually makes the company more money.

The problem, though, is that with the lootbox issue, I can’t really imagine a way to actually make it so that exploitative online practices don’t make the company more money barring outside intervention (i.e., regulation). Look at games like LoL, GTA5, Overwatch, TF2, FIFA, etc. They already make so much money. SO FUCKING MUCH MONEY. And it’s not once – they keep making money for years and years and years. It is mind blowing how much money Riot must have made with League, and it’s a freaking 10 year old game that’s free to play. It tips the scales zero percent whether or not I spend money on those games, because the people who do spend money are a larger audience and it makes financial sense for the industry to target them rather than me.

This is why I don’t think that voting with your wallet works; in other words, I do not think the message (= lower sales) gets there at all 99% of the time if it is just an individual decision to spend or not spend money (Star Wars possibly being an outlier due to the intensity of the fandom). I think it is absolutely a social, political battle at this point, in the sense that concerted collective action is the only thing that will bring about change, not individual purchasing decisions. (In the event that something actually DOES lead to lower sales, whether that is correctly understood is a separate issue.)

Of course, my idea of concerted collective action does not include death threats.


#14

The thing is, every one of the methods I listed above also did nothing but generate profit. Players either didn’t engage in the extra purchase which meant no extra profit, or they did which means extra profit. They are all in some form or another exploiting a consumer’s weaknesses as well, be they completion tendencies or peacocking online. Those don’t hit the bliss point quite like gambling, but people clearly go absolutely nuts over cosmetics for absolutely no reason and will happily fork over cash for them.

I agree that voting with wallets shouldn’t be the alpha and the omega of the discussion, but for lots of people that’s their only realistic option. There’s lots of work to be done about income inequality, corporate power structures, labor exploitation, and all of that for sure. It’s just hard conceptually to tie microtransactions in a game to a complete overhaul of the political system.


#15

I agree, but my point is that they were REPLACED with another, more profitable method. They didn’t go away because the consuming public said hey, this is shitty, I’m not buying it. They went away because the bean counters saw more beans elsewhere. In other words, I don’t think it was negative feedback that taught devs a lesson, I think it was more positive feedback from shittier exploits that made devs switch. Don’t limit online access, because you want your players online. Don’t let them buy skins, because they will buy more random boxes. DLC hasn’t gone anywhere, although whether that’s the “true ending” or not is open to interpretation, I guess. (The pre-order bonus thing, I think, was largely retailers flexing their muscles, and retailers continue to lose power in almost all markets.)

Admittedly, I may be simply lacking imagination; I did not foresee the coming of lootboxes (I have almost never felt the urge to spend real money on optional purchases) driving out the other shitty practices, so it’s possible that there are other market forces that may change the landscape enough that lootboxes die out like other practices without intervention. And It’s not like I’m out there organizing a crusade either; my participation also largely ends at not spending recurring money on these games (I play League and Overwatch and have spent no dollars on them other than the initial purchase price of Overwatch) and criticizing the practices in public spaces (like this one), so I’m not trying to shame anyone into action (hope I didn’t come across that way). I’m just saying that, as of right now, I think that raising a stink IS likely more effective than simply not buying (but also hopefully sans death threats).


#16

I guess there’s no real way to know, but I don’t personally agree that they all went away because a new money maker took its place. If these were successful and people didn’t hate them vocally, they would still be around in addition to the other things like loot boxes. On top of that, there were gaps of time between each of these methods so it’s not like they only let go of one branch the moment they had a firm grip on another.


#17

would it not be the “lootboxurgeoisie”?


#18

Uh.

Uhm.

Dammit.


#19

I feel like the actual result of this was the worst of both worlds. EA puts out a statement that they’re going to make a very small change to the most upfront issue (Luke and Vader’s pricing reduced by 75%), where that was simply the most grossly representative example of how bad the progression system was.

On the other side of things, you have people like Totalbiscuit and their sycophantic followers making piss-poor justifications for harassing people on the development side–the people who often have little-to-no say in these exploitative systems–and all the while arriving at the conclusion that they “needed” to harass those people to get results, when in reality they’ve accomplished virtually nothing.

All of this consumerist rage doesn’t seem like it had any purpose at all, since now the reviews coming in are rightly criticizing the progression system for being grindy and poorly thought out, resulting in score averages that are likely way under EA’s projections for the game.

I can’t come out of this without feeling, again, a notion of “gamers are the absolute worst and are completely ineffectual when it comes to activism in the industry”.


#20

The people writing those reviews aren’t doing it in a vacuum though. Given that games with exploitative mechanics seem to have received mostly free passes before with the microtransactions being treated as almost out of scope (Shadow of War in particular had several reviews published that explicitly didn’t test or consider the loot box driven grindy end game at all), I think it’s more likely that the vocal backlash here is forcing reviews to take this problem into account and is driving those lower scores.


#21

I feel like the discussion is moving towards whether what EA did was justified or not when the main thing to say is don’t unload your anger on some random character artist who happens to have a Twitter account. Downvote that reddit post into the Earth’s core all you want, mass mail EA’s corporate offices, boycott EA’s games, do anything productive instead of making the life of a developer who had absolutely nothing to do with this business decision hell. I think the current loot box trend is a bad one as well and Battlefront 2’s utilization seems like it’s on the upper end of egregiousness. Guess what? The designer in charge of character movement for the game is as likely to agree as they are to disagree.