December 2019

Bad game design choices: Achievements

A large portion of gamers probably encountered the following scenario, they kept grinding a game just to unlock an achievement, even though they were already fed up with the game. That is exactly what achievements are designed for, to motivate you playing in a scenario where you would normally stop, because it became to boring.

Most games now have achivements, often combined with many other bad design choices. I did not really know whether achievements are good or bad, since they can be a good part of the game to motivate you and give you feedback about well your achievements in the game, but they also can be used in a bad way to simply motivate you to do boring tasks you would otherwise never do. So it seems to depend on how they are implemented.

There are two main ways achievements can be implemented in a game:

1. External:
External achievements have nothing to do with the game itself, they are just tracked outside of the game through the gaming platform you play it on most often provided by the game manufacturer or distribution platform.
So it is mostly to motivate you to get some kind of medal you then can show off to others on a social platform, or maybe you just want to collect them to prove yourself something. Those achievements are in most cases rewarded based on often meaningless or stupid things you do in a game, the game keeps track of all actions you do and if a certain combination of actions is done, it rewards you an achievement.

2. Internal:
Internal achievements are part of the game itself and they fit into the context of the game and they are not tracked outside of the game. Those can be in the form of medals or special items you receive in the game. For example you won a race and get rewarded a medal that then shows inside the game in your room or so and you know you achieved something like won a special race. Those achievements are based on meaningful achievements inside the game, they don't reward random or stupid behavior.

You can see that if the context of the game allows for the implementation of an achievement system so that it logically fits into the game it can be fine and justified, but if they are forcefully added externally just to have achievements it may likely be bad.

Why is it bad? An achievement is like a medal, which gets perceived as a physical reward by people subconsciously and so it is like paying people to do certain things like play a game. So people do not play the game, because it is fun or they want to play it, but they are working for an achievement. Sure the result may be positive if you only look at the playtime, but you are not actually increasing the players experience, but in fact make it worse, you just trick him into spending more time than he would normally.

I observed myself playing games a lot and if I care about achievements or not and I noticed in most cases I do not care at all, I just play the game and later look what achievements I got and then leave it at that and do not spend extra effort in getting achievements. However sometimes in rare occasions I become addicted or curious and I try to get all or some of the rare achievements just to later notice how pointless it all was. Recently I spend like 50 hours on a game and gave a lot of extra effort to play through the game very clean, just to get an achievement, just to later notice I did not get it, because I made a mistake somewhere or the game glitched and it did not count and this made me very angry, but then I managed to stop the hunt for an achievement, otherwise I may even have made another playthrough just to get the achievement. You see those psychological tricks can even trick someone who knows how they work. Many people now might argue that they do not care about achievements and most people do not, then I say, that may be correct, but achievements are similar to other bad design choices like adding gambling or pay to win, most players will just ignore it, but a small portion will completely fall for it and will be harmed a lot.

There are even some games that are purely based on getting achievement to make fun of that mechanic and the game itself is a very dumbed down version of a game, but the game is still very addicting. I will not blame them, since they are clearly made as a parody, but still some real games come close to that parody level, but they are serious.

Sadly it is also one of those trends that you hardly can turn back, since having achievements gives you an advantage in player retention vs games that do not have achievements. It is kind of an external psychological cheat code to get people to play something without actually improving the game, this is what makes it so bad in my eyes.

When making a product like a game in this case you have two choices to get people to use it: a) You improve the product or b) You use external tricks to get people to use it. Well and achievements are mostly an external trick, it does not actually improve the game or the players experience.

A legitimate implementation of achievements could look like that certain behaviors that are good gameplay and increase the gameplay experience for the player and other players could be rewarded with achievements which then in turn give you some benefit inside the game like experience points or money t hat then can be spend inside the game to improve your character or something like that. In this case both the game and the experience of all players is improved, but external achievements hardly do anything, you cannot even show them off to other players inside the game. If they would show to other players in game it would motivate them also to play nice and get those achievements, so it benefits everyone.

As you can see I tried to come up with a better implementation of achievements and how they could work to actually do something good, but if you just add them externally just for the sake of having them you don't actually improve the game.

But also internal achievements can be bad, if they are overused. When achievements were initially introduced there were still outcries how bad an implementation of achievements is, but now they are kind of normalized and hardly anyone cares anymore. The initial critique was based on the fact that for example in a multiplayer role play game there are often very grindy and monotonous parts you have to do to gain experience points or money as reward and well the introduction of achievements made this much worse. Normally players would probably get bored quite fast to do monotonous tasks, but with achievements people were much more motivated to do boring things in games, even if they fitted into the game and gave ingame rewards. So a developer should be careful with such mechanics similar to gambling mechanics.

Achievement mechanics can be harmful even, if they have not even been integrated into the game. What does that mean? Well if a game for example has some kind of statistics, but not explicit medals or achievements for them, people can still see the statistic as a motivator to do something just to increase the statistic in that certain part. For example you can collect 50 diamonds in the game and the statistic shows you how many you have for example 28 of 50 collected, so this already may motivate many people to collect them all, even if an achievement does not even exist for collecting all. I remember a long time ago playing against someone and he would always be worse at the game than me, then he played certain boring parts of the game, just so he can be better at something than me and in fact he was, since those things were too boring for me.

Finally you can do a test yourself how bad achievements are and test yourself if a game is still interesting, if you already achieved anything. In many games the motivation drops a lot if you achieved everything, but a good game should motivate by itself and not by external motivators. Beating a game by itself should be achievement enough, you do not need an external medal, you already have the proof inside the game and maybe even already a highscore or you can make screenshots or videos of your achievements, if you want to show off. Achievements are like a parent figure watching you play and giving you rewards for good behavior, while in reality you should be able to figure out by yourself what your achievements are. This article has gotten longer than expected, initially I just wanted to write a short one since I thought this is just a smaller issue, so I think I will stop here, before I get even more ideas, but I think you got the gist why achievements are bad in most cases.

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Bad game design choices: Loot Boxes & Gambling

Let's get to the now probably more widely known loot box problem. I decided to combine loot boxes and gambling since they go together in most, if not all games.

What are loot boxes?
In games that have pay to win and/or cosmetic items, you will often also find loot boxes, that have those items in them, but you don't know what is inside yet.

How to they work?
Depending on the game you will get loot boxes by playing the game, they are randomly awarded based on playtime mostly, but the precise algorithms are of course not known that well. However once you got a loot box, you cannot open it, you often need to purchase a key to open it, which costs real money in most cases, when opening it, you will get a random item out of a certain pool.

What does it have to do with gambling?
Well loot boxes are basically a hidden slot machine, the loot boxes themselves are kind of useless, since you often get plenty of them through they game, only by buying a key for real money you get to "open" them. The opening process resembles a slot machine, where you put in money aka buying the key in this case and then in many cases a slot machine like animation will play giving you a random item out of a certain pool of possible items. Some games have a direct slot machine like animation, others directly give you a random reward, however the effect stays the same. People think they are opening loot boxes, but they are playing slot machine. The loot box is just a proxy for the slot machine and buying the key is just a proxy for putting the money into the slot machine. By having those intermediaries most people do not notice that they are gambling.

Why is it so bad?
Well gambling is known to be bad and therefore it is often strictly regulated, however through loot boxes as a proxy developers have been able to cheat the system and getting away with it, without the regulations gambling normally brings. The developers argue, it is not gambling because you do not win real money, but those virtual items can be bought for money and so they can be sold for money again, just often not officially.

Why is it bad for the game?
Gambling mechanics are in itself addicting, therefore the game itself becomes kind of irrelevant and degrades into a proxy to bring the gambling addiction to players. Financially this is very beneficial for the developers since the addictive factor will lead people to play the game more than they normally would and of course spend much more money into it. It is like a cheat code to increase the number of players, since a lot of people are prone to becoming addicted to gambling and they will spend a lot of time and money in it. The question here is, why do you then need the underlying game? The game itself degrades more and more into a platform to justify the gambling and to show off the pay to win and/or cosmetic items, which is also bad in itself as I wrote about earlier.

They are also kind of ridiculous and illogical I wonder why nobody ever talks about that, even though there are many people criticizing loot boxes. Let me list some of the illogicalities:

1. The first illogicality already is how you get those boxes, you get them randomly based on playtime, so you get them, but you have not done anything to get them, a game normally should consist of a mechanic you can influence to get a reward, but you can't in this case.
2. Is that why are there random items in it? I mean who would put random items in boxes and not mark what is in them?
3. Is that you cannot open them and somehow need a key.
4. The fourth problem is, why can you only find boxes, but never keys?
5. Why do keys cost real money, but the actual goods are free? I mean imagine you go into a store and they have put everything into unmarked boxes, so nobody knows what is in each box only probabilities what could be in them. Then you are allowed to take the boxes for free, but to actually get the goods you need to buy keys from them. If you then open them, you sometimes get more value than you paid for the key, but in most cases get something useless. Sounds totally absurd in real life, but in video games this is somehow normal.
6. How is it that you can buy a random key, that somehow fits perfectly into your random crate?
7. How is it that once you used a key it is destroyed and you need to buy a new one?
8. And finally why can't you just open them with brute force? Most are just made out of wood that could be easily destroyed.

You see just by the missing backstory you can already see that loot boxes are also badly designed, you can ask every child to make up a backstory for loot boxes and they probably can come up with something much better.
I mean lets try it and lets invent a well designed backstory: The loot boxes fall of trucks and contain secret weaponry from some evil corporation, which explains why they are unmarked and you do not know what is in them. They also cannot be opened because they are sealed by special alloy and you need a number key to open them, like a password, therefore each key only works on one crate once, because the company wanted their secret products to be extra secure.
You see I just made that up in a minute and it is already better than what all game designers do currently. What is so hard with that? I mean it feels like developers do not even give a shit. I'm not saying that you cannot build certain mechanics into games, but you need at least invent some logical backstory why they are in the game and integrate them into the gameplay. Instead they are making everything illogical and disconnected from the game and I did not even go into how illogical cosmetics and pay to win items often are.

The loot box idea probably originated from role playing games where you explored dungeons and found treasure chests you had to open to know what was in them, but in that scenario they are integrated into the game, they belong there, work logically and most importantly did not require real money to open and did not contain cosmetics or pay to win items.

It is quite difficult to isolate some bad design choices, since many go together with other bad design choices, like loot boxes rely on gambling, which relies on gambling addicted people, which relies on spending real money, which relies on the game having cosmetics and/or pay to win items, which rely on the game to make use of those items, which rely on the popularity of the game so you have an audience where you can show off your stupid cosmetics or your unfair pay to win powers to dominate others.

This is all like a chain reaction of bad things and they are not only morally bad, they are also badly designed, they are basically holistically bad and maybe even intentionally bad, since almost every child could design it better.

At least loot boxes have gotten so bad, that some countries even develop legal regulations for them, so we can at least hope that something will be done about this issue while most of the other issues I talk about have little hope to be addressed.

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Bad game design choices: Quest Markers

This another of those little design elements in a game that has the potential to ruin the whole game experience, it is very similar to the minimap and often is combined with the minimap and I call it quest markers. What I mean with quest markers? Well first the thing that is obviously meant with quest markers, meaning graphical elements in the game that show you where you have to go to fulfill your current quest. Those often are placed into the HUD and the map or minimap.

So why are those so bad, if they are so helpful and show you where to go and what to do, well that is already the problem. Think about it, you are in a game world and your task it to solve a quest, what you have to do, if you don't have quest markers?

1. You have to find the quest, meaning you need to explore the game world.
2. You need to understand the game world and what is going on.
3. When you found something you need to figure out if there is a quest or not.
4. You need to listen to the NPCs or read letters, books, text or whatever.
5. Then you need to decide, if and how you want to engage the quest.
6. Then you actually need to start thinking and figure out how you could solve the quest.
7. You may need to explore again and repeat one or more of the previous steps multiple times.
8. When you figured out where to go and what to do, you need to actually go there.
9. But going to the quest location also requires you to think and navigate on your own, you may have a map, but finding the way and location is still up to you.
10. When you arrived at the quest location you again need to figure out what to do now, these steps can repeat quite a few times.
11. Especially when you came to the wrong conclusion and went to the wrong location or did the wrong thing, then you can start all over again.

Well this list did not turn out that accurate, but it is just to show you that there are so many steps you need to do, you need to explore, act, think, act, think, walk, act and so on.

To make it even shorter you need to use your brain and memory to solve the tasks. NOW we get to the core problem of the quest markers: Quest markers make most or all of those steps required obsolete. Lets compare how the same scenario would play out if you have quest markers:

1. You need to walk to the location the quest marker shows you.
2. Arrived at the location you can skip and ignore all dialoges or other information and just move to the next quest marker.
3. Arrived at the final quest marker you automatically finish the quest or if the quest actually involves some thinking, the quest marker then shows you locally what to do.
4. Then you go back to the initial quest marker and you are done.

As you can see a quest marker does most of the work already for you, all you are left to do is walk from A to B and back, sometimes it gets more complicated and you need to walk to C and D as well, but don't worry the quest marker will tell you and show you, so it will be no more complicated than walking from the initial A to B. There is no more need for you to explore the game world and use your brain. The whole element of exploration is gone, the whole element of thinking and memorizing is gone, the whole immersion is gone, since you no longer need to listen to any dialogs or the story. No more need to care for anything, the only thing you are left to do is to walk from A to B, but even that is not hard, since the quest marker will show you exactly where to walk to and when.

Sure the severity of the problem differs from game to game, but some games are really that bad, that you can basically ignore all the scenery, ignore and skip all the dialogs and still manage to finish the game and in the end you still have no clue what was even going on. In case you were now thinking that quest markers are only in role play games, then you are wrong, quest markers are in many games now, it has become kind of a standard already to have those. I also expanded the definition of quest markers a bit, in my definition here a quest marker is any kind of marker that shows you what to do in a game, they can be in the HUD, the minimap or the normal map. It is similar to the minimap problem and the quest markers make the minimap even worse, since you do not even need to look at the game world anymore, all you are doing is moving your icon on a 2D simplified version of the game to another icon on that minimap and back.

Quest markers were probably introduced so stupid and lazy people also can play and finish the game, you know expand the possible user base and give them more "fun" by making everything easy, so they don't get frustrated. Quest markers are often also combined with instructions that pop up on the screen, in case the quest marker is not enough or the player has forgotten what to do while he was on the way from A to B where he did not have to think about anything and to further prevent him from thinking a text on the screen will tell him when he has arrived and what his next task is.

I thought that such kind of systems make games way to easy, since they are basically idiot proof, but I was proven wrong with this, I experienced multiple times when I was playing with others that they did not know what to do and asked me what to do, this made me quite angry and I told them that there is an arrow on the screen like all the time pointing to where to go and not only that, there is also a text that says that you have to go there and when you arrive there what to do further. So we might even see a further dumbing down of games in the future, I may suggest voice commands or pictograms just to satisfy the illiterates. Maybe also a straight autopilot in case they still don't get it.

This is another one of those negative trends that cannot be reversed, I noticed this in my game as well, since I don't have fancy quest markers, or instructions and arrows pointing to people what to do and I notice a large portion of players are unable to handle the game, even though all they would need to do is observe and read. I even color coded some of the buttons and functions, integrated hints and tipps at the loading screens, made a help menu etc, but this does not seem to help as people just do not read anything.

So as a game developer you are kind of forced for the most part to integrate such features like quest markers, since otherwise the more stupid people get stuck and get frustrated which then makes them quit the game, that is probably why most games have them now. People might say having a game easy enough so it can be played by more people and that people don't get frustrated is a good thing, but you have to consider what you are sacrificing for it, like removing the need to actually think for yourself and removing the immersion from the game and degrading it to a walking simulator. Some people may argue that quest markers are optional, but when you have them, why not use them? Through that you are also ruining the experience for the users who do not even need them. I'm very idealistic, but I still use quest markers and use them to finish the game faster and skip like every dialog. Even I'm so dumbed down through that development, that I have problems playing without quest markers, even though I had no problems without them in the past.

Yes sometimes they are really helpful, otherwise you cannot solve the entire game, just because you got stuck on one quest, but this is more a problem of the game design so that it is not clear what to do. You also do not really need quest markers to solve such problems now, since people have the internet now and can look up the solution, I remember times when walkthroughs for games did not exist and you had to stop playing a game, just because you got stuck on one quest. To be honest it made the games more mystical and more of a challenge, even though it was frustrating sometimes and I think this is what games should be about, they should provide a challenge, require you to think and require you to immerse into the game world, if the game spoils everything for you through marking everything and everywhere you need to go, there is no challenge and you did not really achieve anything other than waste time and watch some nice scenery.

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Bad game design choices: Early Access

Early Access for games is a more modern invention, which did not exist in the past, it was once praised as a good and innovative thing, but now I think it has more drawbacks than it does good.

What does Early Access do? It grants users an early access to the game before it is finished, so they can get the game before it is actually finished and therefore help develop the game through testing and giving feedback.

Sounds all good at first? So let us break down what is bad with this model:

1. People pay often full price for an unfinished game.
2. Unfinished game means worse user experience.
3. More bugs decrease the user experience further.
4. They may already spoil the game, but cannot play through it yet since it is unfinished and later they are too bored of it to actually play it through.
5. It is uncertain how long it will take until the game is actually finished or reached a playable state.
6. It may even never be completed.
7. Even if you are able to resist to get early access to not spoil the game for you, you might accidentally watch streamers, articles, friends etc spoil it for you, since they cannot resist.
8. The game may be announced as having no Pay to Win in early access, but when released the developer adds Pay to Win screwing all users over.
9. It is unclear where the distinction between early access and the full game is, it is kind of arbitrary.
10. The knowledge of the game already existing makes waiting for the full game even harder.
11. Early Access gives developers an excuse for bad and slow development.
12. Developers may even use it as an opportunity to make money without ever planning to actually finish the game.

As you can see no matter how you turn it, in most cases it means a worse user experience, if you fall for it, you are screwed and if you are able to resist, you are also screwed. So is it all bad? Not directly, it depends on the kind of game. I would admit that Early Access may work for multiplayer games that are intended to be a constant work in progress, where the base game is already there and there is no story to spoil or a storyline that could be broken through bugs etc. However for single player games or games with story Early Access may turn out much worse, since those kind of games people usually just play through once and then never touch it again and if they already played it in an early inferior version with bugs, they may not be motivated to play it again when it is released and if so, they will already be spoiled.

There may be good examples of Early Access out there, but as I already said, the term is kind of arbitrary. How you are going to distinguish an Early Access Game from a normal game that gets like DLCs released over time or just gets regular updates? Adding content and updates over time is a fine method and pretty common especially in multiplayer games, but this even existed before the concept of Early Access existed, so why have it then? I think Early Access specifically refers to an early access to an unfinished product, like a beta version or a prototype, where as games that get updates and DLCs are already complete and just get something extra over time.

From a developer perspective however it can be actually beneficial, since you can get away with unfinished development and more bugs, since you can just say: "Ah that's because it is Early Access". For example I should have released Uebergame as Early Access first, since it would have given me some buffer time to fix things before all the players rushed into it, however it is too late for that. Back in the time I already found the concept of Early Access stupid, since it was just arbitrary and Uebergame was never supposed to be Early Access since it was not clear where development will go, it is more like Always Access, since it is open source. Open source in itself means everyone has always access to everything, so granting an Early Access is not even possible, since I cannot restrict the access in the first place.

So back to the problems Early Access games, well I think most is already said, in most cases it makes the experience for the end user worse, but for the developers it may actually be beneficial. Developers get away with worse quality, they can outsource their beta testing for free to the end user, they can make money before having a finished product, which may help indies and so on. Overall I think Early Access should be abandoned, at least the terms, since they are not clearly defined anyway, rather make a smaller sized game, that is in itself complete and add things later, than releasing a larger scale game that is not complete in itself and partly finish it later.

Initially I did not have Early Access on my notes list for bad game design choices, but after getting so frustrated about some games I want to try or I have tried that are unfinished yet I just had to write my frustration down somewhere. I mean having bought an Early Access game feels like having paid full price for a demo, but not just a demo, instead a demo with more bugs than regular demos. Now I'm waiting in limbo for a game to actually get finished and another game I did not buy yet to get into a state where I might try it out, but the reviews still say do not buy yet.

As you can see I speak a bit out of my own experience and I thought it would be much better if this Early Access did not even exist, since then a game would be released instantly or not at all and you would not have to bother with when to get it and reading the reviews or watching streamers to figure out when the game is developed enough to be worth playing without ruining the experience for yourself. In the past things were much simpler., almost every game released had a certain quality standard where you could just grab a game out of the store and be sure it was complete and mostly bug free, those times are probably over, but maybe the trend reverses again in the future.

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Bad game design choices: Cosmetics

This is probably the "Pay to Win's" little brother. So what are cosmetics, it is the way of the game making money by selling cosmetic items for the game like hats for the player to wear. This is different to "Pay to Win" in the sense that someone who purchases it, does not gain an advantage in the game, so sounds good at first, but at second thought, then why does it work anyway? I mean if cosmetics supposedly don't do anything for you in the game, then why people buy them? This question bothered me for quite a while now and I want to elaborate why I think it is bad game design.

Why do people buy Pay to Win? This is obvious, they want to have an advantage, want to show that they are better than others.
Why do people buy Cosmetics? Because they want to show that they are better than others, they want something that makes them special, distinguishes them from others.

I think Pay to Win and Cosmetics are basically the same, the difference is just that Cosmetics are not directly game breaking, only indirectly. Pay to Win gives you a real unfair advantage against others, whereas Cosmetics give you a perceived advantage against others. So it is both a competition beyond the game itself, like players compete on a meta level against each other. The game itself degrades into the platform where you can show your meta game, like show off your costumes etc. So the game is no longer just about the game alone, but about something else.

What I also think is wrong with Cosmetics is the element of deception, I mean subconsciously a user thinks they gain an advantage by purchasing it, otherwise they would not pay for it. I don't think anyone when seeing cosmetic items for purchase thinking to themselves "Oh those things are totally useless, I need to pay lots of money to buy them" That is kind of irrational so I think an element of deception is present, which I see not as a good practice.

The deceptive nature then hooks into other elements that are also bad, for example Cosmetic items are often tied to loot box system, which then is tied to a gambling system, both topics I probably will have to write an extra article about, although it is hard to distinguish those, since they are often so intertwined.

So I don't even know what is more immoral, letting people pay for real advantages or letting them pay for useless things? The good part is, Cosmetics don't directly ruin the game for others, as most people do not buy those things anyway, but otherwise it is still immoral since most of the revenue comes from what game companies call "whales" which is a tiny percentage like 1% or less, that generates almost all the revenue in microtransactions.

The biggest problem however I think is that I think having Cosmetics makes everything ridiculous. I mean you are playing some kind of war simulator, which is one of the most common games and then people run around with funny hats and rifles that are painted in funny ways. Sometimes I even felt sorry for people who ran around with skins that cost a lot of money. I don't really know how to explain it, I would just say cosmetics are just stupid. When I as a game developer would add Cosmetics for people to buy, I would just feel bad, similar to when selling them Pay to Win. From a developers perspective Skins and Cosmetics are one of the easiest things to produce. Imagine all the work that goes into designing, modeling, unwrapping, texturing, animating and implementing a weapon in a game vs just spraying the texture over or changing the color and then selling that as a supposedly expensive feature. Anyone who knows how to operate a paint program can make skins, it may even be funny in some cases allowing people to do that, but why having people pay for it? I don't know I think it is just wrong. To me it is just another shady method of making money from people through deception and manipulation.

Some people may argue, that you can get those cosmetic items in the game just by playing it, yes that may be true, but the games are intentionally designed so it is very hard to actually get them or get a significant amount of them or get the good ones. It is the same mechanic as in Pay to Win, they give you a little bit for free, then make the game harder until you pay to make it easier again, in this case you pay to get the cosmetics. I played games before that had cosmetics and I like creating my individual character and showing my individuality, but I see it as part of the game and would not pay for it. For example if you achieve some things in a game and get a cosmetic reward for it, than this is a nice way of showing your progress to others, like having achieved a certain challenge, but just getting something through paying for it, I don't know. Certain expensive skins can even backfire as other players will see "Oh that player is some spoiled rich kid who thinks he is better, let's attack him"

I think there are also psychological effects that are bad in the long term for human society, for example you promote vanity in people through cosmetics in games, similar to how social media turns people into narcissists. I think these problems go together, I still know times where nobody would come to the idea to create a selfie and display their vanity, this is because social media did not exist by then, it is similar with games now, I still know times where nobody would come to the idea to want cosmetics for their video game character to show off. Yes custom characters existed almost as long as video games existed, but mostly there was a fixed amount of different models to chose from, so you get a little bit of individuality and it helped to visually distinguish players in the game also, but everyone had the same options. Some people may argue that they like to spend money on cosmetics just to support the game developers, because the game supposedly is so costly to develop and maintain, since most games with cosmetics are multiplayer. However I know times where you would purchase a multiplayer game for the same price as a single player game and the game developers somehow managed to support the game and keep their servers running for many years after the game was initially released even though they made no more additional money from the customers other than the initial purchase of the game. If the developers really need more support, they could just outsource the costs to the community, which in fact some companies already do, but they also sell Pay to Win, Cosmetics or Premium models and keep all the additional profits for themselves. So in the end it is just about making more money and being greedy, but sadly developers are being forced to adapt those models as well, otherwise they make less money and cannot compete anymore.

Cosmetics seems to be one of those trends that cannot be undone, since as a developer if you integrate one of those trends that help you make extra money, then why not use it? If you don't use it, then you put yourself on a disadvantage vs the competition and in the long run you may even go bankrupt. This is probably because there is no longer such a strict distinction between Pay to Win games and Cosmetics games, buying ingame currency or whatever, because every mechanic lets you gain more money, so why not use as many of them at the same time as possible. I saw games that have Pay to Win, Cosmetics, Purchasable ingame currency, Premium model AND full price initial purchase as well as DLCs.

Finally I would say, yes there are not as many arguments against Cosmetics as there are against Pay to Win, but I think Cosmetics are still morally wrong and I would feel bad selling them knowing how ridiculous this all is, how it manipulates/exploits people and fosters vanity/narcissism.

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Bad game design choices: Pay to Win

This is probably the worst design choice you can ever make in video game design history. I should have covered this earlier, because of how severe this problem is and hardly anyone really understands the real problems with it, but whatever lets get to the point why "Pay to Win" is so bad.

Lets make it short: Pay to Win is a bad design choice, because it ruins the whole point of the game. Most games with Pay to Win are competitive games, which means you compete with others and the whole point is to compete against others, which means you need others to measure your performance, however with Pay to Win this becomes basically impossible. Why does Pay to Win make competitive games impossible? Because there is no way to measure your performance anymore, for example if you lose you no longer know that you really lost, because the enemy could be having a Pay to Win advantage and without the advantage you would have won. It is the same problem the other way around, if you pay for advantages you also do not know, if you are really winning, but this way around most people probably do not complain, since they like to win too much, that they are satisfied with lying to themselves.

Most people only complain that Pay to Win games cost to much money, but that is not even the issue, not at all. It is irrelevant how expensive a game is as long as it is equal for everyone, I mean not equally expensive, but equal in what you get. Sure having games be more expensive is bad for the consumer, but this does not really ruin the game itself. The game world is its own independent universe you go into to escape the real world struggle for money and power and so on. Well at least that is what it was in the past or what it should be, but that is no longer the case since with Pay to Win you bring all the real world problems into the video game world as well. For example one gamer may be poor, but in a video game he can become rich and win in that game against people who are richer than him in real life. Another example is someone who is a loser in real life, can become a winner in the video game world, at least he has an equal chance to do so. Well all those people no longer can escape reality, since the people who are rich winner in real life, will also be rich and winners in the video game world, because they can just buy it.

We did not even get to the worst part yet, the worst part is probably that the game is no more fun, because it just has become unfair. Not only that, but the game becomes into something like the real life is as well, a struggle for domination and bullying others. People no longer enjoy going into a different virtual world and play around in an even playing field anymore, but instead it becomes mostly about dominating others and making them suffer without them having much chance to fight back, well unless they pay, which makes them suffer in another way.

Then what was originally a game has become serious and is no longer a game, since real money is involved and it basically becomes a business battle. Serious means, less fun, in fact Pay to Win games are intentionally designed to be not fun and cause suffering to the consumer, which then forces him into paying more. So Pay to Win, does not make the games bad by itself, no if a game has Pay to Win, the developers also intentionally make it even worse, to coerce players to pay more so they get the fun back that was intentionally stolen from them. Sure this mechanism is not obvious to many people, because at first the game is designed to be fun, only in the long run it becomes worse and the game tries to trick you into paying, that time delay makes the mechanism less obvious to players.

We talked so much about competitive multiplayer games and you may wonder how Pay to Win is so bad for all the other games or at least partly game mechanics that are not strictly competitive multiplayer, well for those cases there are reasons as well. Lets imagine how a non competitive and/or single player game tricks people into paying? Well you need to remove features that are originally there and create a paywall, so people buy a game not knowing they have to pay more in the long run to get all the features, which is kind of unfair already. Another really bad part is, that the game can be made intentionally too hard, to also trick people into paying to make it easier again. In the end the player ruins the gaming experience for himself through paying for progress which basically makes the whole point of the game useless. The challenge of the game is to play through it, not to pay to unlock the playthrough without playing it or playing as you are supposed to do.

However in reality there is not really a distinction here, because every game is more or less competitive and multiplayer, even if it is all single player you compete with the computer or compete with yourself to achieve a high score you then can show off to others, but with Pay to Win of course this also all becomes pointless and you are just cheating yourself and others, which brings us to probably the worst factor Pay to Win brings us and this is that it legitimizes cheating. Normally cheating was frowned upon in games since forever, well it still may be, at least in the way you are not supposed to, but it is encouraged in the way you are supposed to now through the build in Pay to Win cheat system.

Can it get any worse? Of course it can, Pay to Win likely increases the rate of illegitimate cheating as well, since there is now much more motivation to do so, because you can earn money with it or at least get something that normally would cost money. But in both cases, no matter if you pay to cheat or cheat in an illegal way, you are ruining the fun even more in both cases.

And finally the more Pay to Win exists the harder it is to get rid of it, because Pay to Win earns the video game companies much more money now, that you can hardly even compete anymore in the market without using Pay to Win in some form.

And finally finally the worst part is probably the social engineering factor, since I noticed a change in peoples mentality and many do not even know anymore what a game is or what playing is. I mean think about it, why were virtual game worlds invented? To escape the real world and to do things you cannot do in real life without having to worry about the consequences, but with Pay to Win you bring those problems into the game world as well, destroying the main point of having separate virtual worlds.

So lets summarize what Pay to Win does so far:

1. Games become pointless, because you no longer can measure your success.
2. Games become more expensive for the consumer overall.
3. Games become less fun.
4. Games are no longer games, they are serious.
5. Games are intentionally designed to be worse now.
6. Games deceive you about what you need to pay to get the full experience.
7. Games encourage and/or legitimize cheating.
8. Games increasingly become more Pay to Win and over time it becomes harder to undo the damage.
9. Overall human society gets worse.
10. Games become pointless overall.

As you can see, one "little" bad design choice can trigger a whole cycle of doom that makes everything worse and it brainwashes people into thinking that this is normal and that it cannot be different or ever was different. Pay to Win was one of the main motivators to me to create Uebergame, since the industry most likely will not solve the problem, because it can't, since they need to make money, but sadly now that motivator is a bit gone now, since I noticed the change in peoples mentality which makes that they do not even want to change to situation and they like Pay to Win. People overall seem to have a cheater mentality and the industry appeals to them somehow. So it may not even be the industry who is solely at fault here, but it is a problem in humanity itself. So I can just hope this article discourages someone to not develop with Pay to Win or to not play Pay to Win games anymore.

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