And that’s why I avoid online multiplayer…

I used to play a lot of multiplayer when I was younger.  I enjoyed playing Quake and its sequels, plenty of the X-Wing games, and even some Warcraft 3 and its friends.  In recent years though, the amount of time I’ve spent competing with others online has dropped significantly.  And it’s not just to do with that “time” thing that everyone seems to like so much.

It’s because I don’t trust online gaming anymore.

Star Wars
I even used to be pretty damn good at X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter.

So those loot box things have been in the gaming news a lot this past year.  From manipulating children through gambling websites to psychologically messing with people to convince them to part with their cash, loot boxes have become quite the whipping boy in the industry.  And it’s not without good cause.  They have gradually ramped up from the marginally irritating cosmetics to flat out selling power to players.  DLC is small potatoes by comparison.

Just to put this out there: I don’t like cosmetic loot boxes (items that don’t effect the gameplay but make your character look cool) as it creates a divide between “haves” and “have-nots” in gaming, but I understand that they are not an issue in terms of gameplay.  I also don’t fully object to them in Free-to-Play games.  But I downright despise loot crates that provide more powerful items to players that open their wallets when they have already fully purchased the game.

british-1-pound-coins
I don’t think I have enough money to make this pyramid myself. But it looks cool!

This came to a head recently with the discovery of Activision’s loot crate matchmaking algorithm.  This insidious system (that allegedly hasn’t been implemented yet) matches newer players with veteran ones, with the expectation that they will get destroyed by the experienced players.  The new player may well spot the better player using a certain type of gun and associate their opponents success to using that weapon and feel as though they should open some crates to get this gun.  Once they acquire it, matchmaking will match them with weaker players who they will dominate “thanks to their new weapon”.

loot boxes
This is a small part of the flow chart designed to manipulate you into spending more money.

This is a psychologically manipulative system, designed to trick players into thinking they are better or worse than they actually are to encourage them to part with more cash for a chance to get a better item.  There’s not even the guarantee they’ll get the item they want.

Pardon my language, but fuck that system.  How can I trust a matchmaking system that may well be trying to trick me into spending money?  I know that multiplayer games have horrible people on sometimes, but I can ignore that to an extent.  What I can’t ignore is that I may not be having a genuine experience online.  I may be having an experience tailored to how much money I have or haven’t spent on the game already.

Activision
“We will not rest until we have all of your money. Buy our things!”

So I’m going to be avoiding a lot of multiplayer games that have a loot box component.  I’m going to be avoiding single player games that do the same (how can I trust that the game isn’t artificially lengthened or “grindy”?) for the foreseeable future too.  I don’t want to be party to a system that is trying to trick me into parting with more of my money.

Unless they’ve tricked me into thinking that.  Are these my thoughts?  Fetch me a tin foil hat someone.


30 thoughts on “And that’s why I avoid online multiplayer…

  1. No, they are absolutely meticulously designed to try to “force” you into spending money. It’s only going to get worse too. For example, Activision has been working on algorithms to push matchmaking in directions that will be pushing sales even harder, as well as bots that will pretend to be real players and try to get you to buy things.

    Despite all the complaining you hear about these kind of games, right now they’re still outselling everything else by massive amounts. Maybe someday they’ll go too far and this loot box bubble will burst, but luckily there are plenty of other developers that still like to make normal games that are free of this kind of thing in the meantime.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Don’t worry, I didn’t realise they would be using AI players to push loot boxes too, so new information is nice!

      There’s three outcomes I can see. Either someone will go too far and destroy the model (as you suggest), something even worse will come along and people will forget loot boxes, or people will get sick of this shit altogether. I’d prefer the latter.

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      1. It’s disturbing how much some people sink into these things too. I got pretty competitive in Marvel Puzzle Quest for a while and met some people that were dumping hundreds of dollars A WEEK just to maintain their status as top players.

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  2. I can certainly see your approach. For me, loot boxes haven’t negatively impacted my experience yet, so while I’m sure there will be some games that attempt to over-exert, until that happens I’m willing to give the games a chance.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I simply worry that they already are negatively effecting the experience without me even realising. The idea that they’re already getting their tendrils in through psychological manipulation is an unpleasant one. It’s a sad state of affairs when games with microtransactions are the less unpleasant option to my mind.

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  3. Well, it probably doesn’t make anything better, but EA now holds the record for most downvoted comment on Reddit due to their attempt at justifying the loot box system for Battlefront 2.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m with you on this one. I’m not at all opposed to companies trying to milk the heck out of me for cosmetic DLC – I’ve bought five separate season passes for Dead or Alive Last Round, and those are just bundles of costumes – but I won’t pay for a tiny chance at maybe getting the thing I want.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I hate the “buy extra stuff” in MMOs too, it’s so off-putting. I started playing Neverwinter online again recently and the amount of stuff they try to get you to buy is insane, to the point where I’m not certain how long I’ll stick with it. I will say though that I don’t mind the Loot Boxes in Overwatch because everyone knows that they are all purely aesthetic, getting a new skin for Tracer doesn’t make her faster (for example), although having said that I can’t remember the last time I got anything decent in a loot box, I still enjoy playing though so that’s OK.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I even have a problem with aesthetic items these days. They are a feature of the game that is being hidden away by a random chance. It’s even more irritating when they are time limited.

      Why can’t I just buy the item I want? Because the publisher makes more money from players when they have to keep getting random items before they get what they want. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some sort of algorithm in these games that reduces the chance of you getting items for characters you use regularly just to trick you into spending more. That’s a cynical thought, but certainly not impossible.

      Things like free to play games don’t wind me up as much (although random loot boxes still do) as they have to make their money somewhere. Egregious, in your face adverts for them are a no no though.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I get that, it is something I would rather wasn’t random but I’ve also never been tempted to actually buy a set of loot boxes.

        It’s a shame really because it gives those games a sort of dark side if you know what I mean. It makes it seem like they care less about the game and people’s enjoyment of it. Hopefully it won’t become the norm for all games.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think it’ll get worse before it gets better. Big publishers will likely keep pushing the limits with them until someone goes a step too far and does something silly.

        You are right though, it feels like the game is less of a fun product and more of an insidious mind-fuck trying to get you to part with more money.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. that’s a pretty shady way of doing things. What games are they implementing this in?

    I don’t like the idea of loot boxes for making you more powerful, especially when most of the games in this light are full priced retail games that already cost quite a bit to play the base game. Cosmetic rewards is another story as they don’t affect me in terms how I experience a game. Overwatch and Rocket League come to mind. I can look bland but still kick ass.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Even cosmetics annoy me. They’re put in in that way to be desirable. I don’t mind cosmetics that I can straight up buy, but ones hidden behind a random chance are utter shit.

      Activision haven’t implemented it yet, or so they say. It’s only a matter of time though.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I absolutely agree. Loot boxes are terrible and a matchmaking system is supposed to always make things evenly matched. Putting you against opponents who are drastically weaker or stronger is just terrible. It’s a problem that I have with Smash Bros but at least it doesn’t actively cash in on this with dlc. Activision continues to look worse and worse

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Major publishers are just the worst right now. Everything is all money, all the time. It’s no surprise that some people are saying single player games are on the way out (they aren’t) because they’re harder to monetise.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Definitely, values have been left by the wayside. The worst part is that these games still end up doing really well. Hopefully something happens to make the situation get better soon

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow, that’s really ridiculous! I don’t do much online gaming and had only heard of this “loot box” phenomenon in passing, but I can’t believe it’s actually a real thing. What happened to gamers being on top of leaderboards because of their SKILL? Why aren’t all these upgrades included in the core game to start with?! I didn’t think anything could be worse than DLC or microtransactions. This shit’s gotta stop someday!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s amazing that no one complains about DLC anymore, and that’s because it’s become the norm. I’m worried that loot boxes will become the norm next. They’re already turning up in single player games which is scary for me as that’s where I spend most of my time. Thankfully indie games don’t seem to be making use of them yet.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My husband and I were in Target a couple days ago and I was bitching about all the games that have DLC now, haha! I play mostly single player games as well so hopefully loot boxes do not become the norm 😦

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I play ESO, very casual player. I don’t care for the loot crates. The majority of the items are cosmetic or xp potions, so I suppose not the worst-case but I am concerned that the trend will eventually move to a model where achievement is based on ho much cash you spend instead of time and skill.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The thing with MMO games is that the look of the characters is kind of a big deal to some players. Locking that expect behind a “try your luck” wheel is still a pretty crappy model. If you want to sell cosmetics, then sell cosmetics! Don’t sell a chance to get cosmetics.

      Liked by 1 person

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