Friday, March 20, 2015

Cell Phones and Gaming

I recently got a new smartphone. I asked for something decent that I could take good pictures with (I did not mention outright to the employee that it was to take pictures of my cats) and I took the first thing he showed me because it was free with a 100 dollar mail in rebate, was clearly leagues ahead of my old phone, and seemed fine from the 5 minutes I fiddled with it.

Turned out it was actually a pretty powerful phone with 2GB of ram. So, naturally, now that I had a powerful electronic device intended to be used to communicate with other people, I started looking for games to play on it to avoid communicating with people.

I've written before about idle games, and how I actually like them, and had previously been looking at some sort of dragon game that cookie clicker was advertising, but it was not available on the web.

obviously I want to play this

It was the first game I downloaded on my new phone. It follows the same general guidelines as cookie clicker - click/tap on the egg/gem for points, buy things that give you auto-points, so you can get points faster and buy better things that give you more points even faster so you can buy better things that give you more points... etc. The only thing is, because it was a cell phone game, it had an obligatory 'pay to win' item you can purchase with real money. Of course it did.

Worse, it's your typical freemium formula - your progress is outrageously impeded if you choose to not purchase them. The items, dragon keys, are used to purchase new dragons. Each dragon you raise will eventually award you with 10 dragon keys, but some dragons actually cost 20 or even 30, one of them costs 60. You can watch ads (which - while lame - is technically free) to earn a dragon key once per day, which means that aside from the time spent raising your newest dragon and buying that 10 key upgrade, you have to also wait a minimum of 10 days to get a new dragon while playing for at least a few minutes every day.

the ads are obviously just for other pay to win mobile app games

Cookie clicker exists on the internet as a browser based idle game that has no intention of ever trying to get you to give it money in order to get cookies faster, it expects only for you to click. A game developed with the same principles and advertised on that very site, but on a cell phone? Rack that sucker up with some sort of pay to win option!

If you didn't know any better, you'd think cell phone games having some sort of pay to win feature is obligatory. Recently, I was in the presence of a desktop computer that had less ram than my phone does, and yet there are games I could play on it that would be more fun with more content and would only ask for a small amount of money once.

Now, that's not to say there aren't games that are good that you can easily avoid paying money toward if you are patient enough, or games that aren't pay to win. I haven't stopped playing AQ Dragons - it's just frustrating. It's not even just free games - even a ton of the ones that you pay for still expect you to buy more things in game. The app games that cost money are 80% the same games that are available free but with no ads, 10% games that already exist off of phones (some of which purposefully add in game purchases not present in their non-app counterparts), 5% games that don't exist for free and yet still assault you with pay to win, and 5% some kind of animal simulators*.

(*not all types of games represented, percentages pulled out of my ass)

and this game was pulled out of a dev's ass

This is the first time I've had a capable smartphone and it's clear that they are a viable option for portable, handheld gaming. Why is it that 'mobile gaming' has been somehow pigeonholed into pay to win idle games? It's a disgrace.

I know there are good, non-pay to win games available, and I'm not naive enough to not be fully aware that the main audience of these app games are the kind of people who are somehow okay with this freemium, pay to win formula - I've just worked myself up into a tizzy about the subject while looking for a good game to play on my phone.

So far, the only completely free game I've seen (they only very unobtrusively and politely ask you to donate), while simultaneously actually being difficult is a game I was referred to called Pixel Dungeon, which is a pretty tough roguelike.

I've made it to about level 4 /flex

You of course won't find it in the play store's "top free" section, which is probably another hurdle that keeps good app games from gaining popularity. Your candy crush loving aunts aren't going to be downloading Pixel Dungeon onto their smartphones anytime soon. 

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