Living Games vs. Timeless Games

The last 15 years or so has seen a huge shift toward "living" games--i.e. games that are regularly changed through patches and expansions.  The business world loves these because they are typically monetized for continued spending of the players that you just can't get from an unchanging game. Though I am not opposed to living games (I have played and enjoyed several myself), I am going to make the case that they are overvalued and have non-obvious drawbacks from both a business and a gameplay perspective. And I am going to start with a story.  Note:  I use the broad term "living" rather than the more common "live service" because I want to include more than just video games (ex: Magic: The Gathering). The Rise and Fall of Warmachine For those who are not familiar, Warmachine is a tabletop miniatures game that had a huge burst of popularity (at least among the wargaming crowd) for a few years before falling to a shadow of its former glory.  I played a

My First Book is Out

 In a break from talking about games, I'll go to my other creative passion: writing. I've written four novels--two that were just me learning to write, and two that I think are actually good.  The most recent is "I Like Monsters (Except my Teacher)" which is a bit of a Home Alone meets Wocket in my Pocket story. I just released it on Amazon, so take a look:

Get Money from an Underserved Demographic

I'm hardly the first person to point out that many former hardcore gamers now have families and responsibilities that severely constrain their game time. However, I haven't found a lot of insight in any of the articles I've read about how to make games to better serve them. So now I'll talk about what's I believe has been missing from all of those. Why This is Such a Great Opportunity These gamers often have money. They deeply miss the epic experiences they used to have, and they're happy to pay if they can get it back. They are especially excited to share this experience with the people they love (some of whom are far below their skill level). However, being time-constrained, they're not going to be spending much time on forums or filling out surveys. It's a group that's significant but mostly silent. As such, I don't have data to back up what I say here, though it reflects the experience of myself and other gamers I know. Likewise, I hope it ha

Let's Make Failure Fun: Part 1

There is an oversimplified idea in game design that, in my view, has done enormous damage to the quality of games. It's the idea that failure causes frustration and frustration leads to quitting, so the way to get people to like your game is to protect them from failure for as long as possible. This idea contains truth, which is why it sticks around, but it includes a couple fallacies. The first comes comes from lumping all failures into a single bucket. Certainly, I've experienced the ultra frustrating failures from unreasonable difficulty spikes (Battletoads hoverbikes, anyone?), unfortunate RNG (You have a 95% chance to hit, and you missed three times in a row), confusing mechanics (I was playing...and then I died), or many other things that made me want to throw my controller and never play that game again. However, I've also experienced failures that made the game more interesting. The failure is exciting, sometimes in the moment and other times only after a later

Why We Like End-Game Better (and How to Make the Whole Game As Good).

 As I have been hunting for a new MMORPG (good ones are hard to find) and watching videos, I am once again hearing a sentiment that gets expressed in many ways. "Why can't it just be all end-game?" "Why won't you let players skip to end-game?" "The game doesn't really start until max level." Of course this sentiment isn't universal, but it is very common. The important question is why do so many players feel this way?  Considering the Obvious Answers The first answers that probably come to most people's minds with this question would be things like: It's more fun when you're more powerful. The content is more epic. There are more options available to make your character(s) what you want them to be. I mention these because I want my readers to understand that I've thought of them, but I want to focus on a factor that I believe is both more important and more subtle.  A Reversal of the Rewards System Players tend to play to th

Stop Hiding Your Game!

One of the most common mistake I see in video games is the tendency to create a good game experience, then build barriers to keep players away from it for as long as possible. Your first reaction is probably "Wait! Who does that?" The answer is almost everybody, but it's probably faster to just list off the ways it is done. 1. Hiding behind an easy intro Think of the last strategy game you played. How long did it take before you actually had to, you know, use any strategy to succeed? Sometimes, game developers are scared that if players fail too early, they will quit the game out of frustration. There's probably some truth in that, but I suspect it usually applies more to players failing and not understanding why. If you've created a game that involves putting in effort to overcome obstacles, then a newcomer isn't really playing your game until they have to put in effort. A player who fails but has ideas about how to avoid failing next time will ofte

Keeping Your Game Tactical: Guide-Breaking Challenges

Game guides/walkthroughs are quite a double-edged sword, offering much that is both positive and negative to a full game's experience.  One of the negatives that I want to address here is the way guides are almost mandatory in multiplayer games. In single player, it's easy to say "I like to figure it out myself", and you can just ignore the guide and have a good time.  Multiplayer is different. In PvP , you can expect to have opponents who have read or watched strategies from the best players in the world, and if you don't do the same thing, you get repeatedly crushed. In PvE, your team mates will usually have read or watched these best-player strategies and will quickly become frustrated with you if you make them fail because you're trying to figure out what they already looked up. Unfortunately, game guides (as well as similar things like expert streamers, or forum discussions) will quickly change a tactical experience into a pattern experience, especially i