Search

Categories

Microtransactions: Good or Evil?

This is just a random brain fart but I was thinking this morning, aren’t micro-transactions in games kind of scammy?

You could argue if people are willing to pay it’s not scammy since no one is forcing them to pay. It’s more the issue of value for money. If I buy GTAIV for $60 I’m getting the results of 200 people who worked 2-3 years to make that game. When I pay $1 for some seeds in a game I’m paying effectively for some designer to spend no more than a few minutes. Sure, every thing costs money but feels like charging someone $6 for a burger at McDonalds and then charging them $1 for each napkin, $1 for a straw and 50¢ for a toothpick. Those things cost money too but their costs are so small that no one would go to a restaurant that charged for them.

So why then do people buy micro-transaction virtual items? I guess to some degree it just feels like selling snake oil to me. I suppose that’s unfair as there is no deception involved. At the same time if some kid at school managed to sell single sheets of plain white school paper to an 8yr boy for a $1 a piece I’d expect his mom or dad would give him a strict talking to that sheets of a paper are not worth a dollar each. The kid selling the paper for a $1 a sheet would looked at as scamming the other kids. So how is it different with in game micro-transaction items? How are the designers of those games not being scammy?

I can already see the counter argument to the paper example. People ready buy pieces of paper for $$$. Greeting cards, Baseball Cards, Pokemon Cards, Wrapping Paper. I guess my counter argument would be what I’m getting in each transaction. A Greeting Card, I’m paying for the convenience. It’s much easier to buy some card for $3-$4 than make my own and trying to think of something witty or funny to write on it. Wrapping Paper? I’m paying to make something pretty for a friend and again for convenience. I’ve made my own wrapping paper for special occasions but it’s a lot of work. Baseball cards and Pokemon cards are generally pretty cheap. Average 10¢ or less per card? It’s only the rare ones where the market goes up. I personally find it silly but still, that’s different than the types of virtual items sold with micro-transactions. A few bytes enabled in an app that appears as some seeds to plant flowers in a game seems on the surface to be about worth as much as the pencil lead it takes to draw a simple flower. Not the sketch itself, just the lead. Ie, not much.

Note, I’m not talking about DLC. Paying $5-$10 for a new Left 4 Dead campaign seems worth it because I’m getting several hundred man hours of work for my $5-$10. Paying $1 for a virtual sofa to decorate my virtual house though seems like a rip off, especially when I get say 5000 items in the main game I paid $50 for. That’s 1¢ an item. Less if you put a value on the game itself and everything that’s not items.

It’s as if the music industry started charging $10 per single music track after CDs had already set the price at about a $1 a track in bulk.

I’ve heard some people claim that the whole microtransaction market is about to collapse. That the novelty is wearing off. We’ll see I guess.

My First Game Jam

A co-worker of mine used to work in the Research Triangle area where he used to participate in some of their local game jams. Even though he’s on the other side of the country now at Google he still wanted to participate so he put out the call and 6 of us jammed for a weekend.
Read more…

WebGL Samples

So for the last month or so I’ve been working on some WebGL samples. Today they finally went public. Here they are:


Read more…

DAN the MAN

Using a Mock Library to make Unit Testing Easier in C++

Unit testing is the process of writing tests that test a single *unit* of code. This is as opposed to integration tests which test multiple pieces of code together. The problem often comes up in which you want to write unit tests for some code A, but that code calls into some other code B, and you don’t want to be testing B in your unit tests. B should have it’s own unit tests or B is out of your control like an OS API. A’s unit tests should only test that A does what you expect it to do given that the code it calls does what it’s expected to do.
Read more…

How I Learned to Like Code Review

Code review is a development process where each time you write some code someone else is supposed to review the code before you check it in. As far as I know, most teams do not practice code review. Certainly most game development teams? I know that until I came to Google I had zero experience with code review. I had read about it and I mostly thought about how annoying it sounded to have someone have to review at my code. Now that I’ve experienced it at Google though I’m a fan.

I think I was really lucky to experience code review the “Google” way because I suspect it’s a better experience than most other places. I’ll point out why as I go over the 5 things I think it took to start liking code review.
Read more…

Apple Bans another 100+ existing games from iPhone

Apple’s recent announcement that iPhone apps must not be written in anything other than C, C++, Objective C or WebKit JavaScript and must not use any layer to access the OS has been widely reported as being a shot against Adobe Flash.

That may be true but it also means that applications written with Unity3D, Torque and Unreal will also be banned.

All of those systems are exactly the equivalent of Flash. They each use a C/C++ code base engine to allow people to write games in another language that runs cross platform. For Unity3D that language is C# or any language that runs in Mono. For Torque that language is TorqueScript, for Unreal that language is UnrealScript.

“3.3.1 — Applications may only use Documented APIs in the manner prescribed by Apple and must not use or call any private APIs. Applications must be originally written in Objective-C, C, C++, or JavaScript as executed by the iPhone OS WebKit engine, and only code written in C, C++, and Objective-C may compile and directly link against the Documented APIs (e.g., Applications that link to Documented APIs through an intermediary translation or compatibility layer or tool are prohibited).”

  • Flash is an intermediary translation and compatibility layer that runs apps written in ActionScript
  • Unity3D is an intermediary translation and compatibility layer that runs apps written in Mono related languages like C#
  • Torque is an intermediary translation and compatibility layer that runs apps written in TorqueScript
  • Unreal is an intermediary translation and compatibility layer that runs apps written in UnrealScript.

Here’s a list of 42+ SHIPPING games on iPhone built on Unity.

http://unity3d.com/gallery/game-list/

Here’s a list of 68+ SHIPPING games on iPhone using Torque

http://www.torquepowered.com/games/torque-2d-iphone

I’m sure there are countless others as well as several Unreal games in development.

Section 3.3.1 has effectively banned all of these games.

That also doesn’t account for the hundreds or thousands of games not using a commercial engine but still using a language other than C/C++ as their core language. Many games use languages like Lua or GameMonkey or custom languages.

For example, all the LucasArts adventure games use the SCUMM engine which also effectively violates section 3.3.1 above.

RVT

You never know what you’re going to find on the internet. I was searching for screenshots of games I worked on and I found someone has played through Robocop Vs Terminator, an NES game I wrote that was never released. It actually looks better than I remember it.


Read more…

Moonlighting

Or, doing things “on your own time”.

First let me make it clear “I AM NOT A LAWYER”. But…my understanding of the law in California is that if you create something related to the business of the company you work for, EVEN ON YOUR OWN TIME, it belongs to the company, not you. That may sound shocking to you. Let me try to explain why it’s probably got to be that way.
Read more…

TGA Thumbnails (and viewer) for Vista and Windows 7 both 32 and 64 bit

Several years ago I wrote a TGA Thumbnail plugin for Windows 2000 / XP. I skipped having a Vista machine and just recently upgraded to Windows7 64bit. I thought that now that I finally have a 64bit machine to do development on I’d try upgrading the plugin to work there.

I started researching how to do it and found out Microsoft added this subsystem they call the Windows Imaging Component. It basically lets developers make plugins to both read and / or write any image format, plug it into Windows and then any app which uses that system can start loading and/or saving those formats. The cool thing is Vista and Windows7 use it for both thumbnails AND for viewing images.

Read more…

Page 6 of 27« First...45678...20...Last »