If we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a thousand times, but that doesn’t mean we (as customers invested in the game industry) shouldn’t call out questionable comments when we see them. Today’s dose of dire comes in the form of Shadow of War, and its maligned micro-transaction system; an interview with game design developer Bob Roberts was released by Eurogamer earlier today, and the results aren’t exactly convincing.
Out of a sense of journalistic respect, I am not going to list everything discussed in the interview; besides, we’d be here all day if we were breaking down every questionable comment. But even a quick skim read makes the general thrust of Robert’s argument clear. He believes that Shadow of War may always destined to catch flack for including Overwatch-style lootboxes, but that the system itself is present only for ‘player choice’.
(And that’s just one example.)
Shadow of War is not the only game mired in such controversies at the present (NBA 2K18 comes to mind). It is one of the more prominent upcoming releases to face such a backlash, however. Roberts does his best to talk this down, consistently bringing up the idea of ‘balance’. As other critics have suggested in the past I find it difficult to view a system literally allowing one to skip parts of the game in return for financial investment ‘balanced’, but the idea seems to represent the hill Roberts wants to plant his flag upon. Let’s just hope his assurances that the ‘balancing question will be answered’ once people have the game in hand don’t come back to haunt him.
Perhaps more interesting is Roberts’ admission that he wouldn’t buy lootboxes himself, if presented with the opportunity. It’s a question that is not posed to developers perhaps as much as it should be; while there are many articles citing Jeff Kaplan of Blizzard ‘acknowledging feedback’ about Overwatch’s lootbox system, I’m yet to see public admission on whether he himself partakes of purchasing them. With lootboxes seeming on the rise (for good or ill) in games as of late, maybe it’s a question that needs to be asked more.
Roberts may have a point when it comes to balancing – if the Nemesis system and recruiting orcs functions as it should, then perhaps these micro-transactions can be side-lined if not considered ‘inoffensive’. Roberts’ own comments don’t quite gel on this, however – his insistence that he wants players to be surprised at how much content’s in a ‘big game like ours’ sounds just a little odd next to his clams that micro-transactions are there to benefit players ‘scared…that they’re not going to see the full experience’. Offering ways to get through a game quicker (even a game where the amount of content in it is supposedly a big draw) to those worried about limited free time is one thing, but demanding that they cough up real cash for it is quite another.
With all this said, it should be noted that I don’t have any grudge against Roberts and from a personal stand-point, I hope the game is a success for him. But with Shadow of War’s numerous controversies pre-release, even high sales may not be enough to wash the taste from some consumers’ mouth.
Shadow of War releases on October 10th 2017.
At age seven, Jordan wanted to be a paleontologist. That went well. He now fills the void by writing on all manner of mildly-interesting topics - when he finds time in between complaining how everything was better in the 'good old days', that is.