We like the work of indie game designer Keith Burgun here, and he has a new essay up about Diablo: Immortal, comparing it to other free2play and gatcha-style games. Diablo: Immortal, as has been noted previously by our intrepid alien newscaster Kent Drebnar, has been outright banned in two countries for its unusually rapacious loot system.
The piece begins with a long quote from the Diablo: Immortal subreddit that really tears into the game. It states that the game is worst than the standard f2p, calling it the worst example of play-to-win, and liking it to slot machines at the nearby gas station. (A condition that, here in the state of Georgia, is not far from reality. There are video poker machines here all over the place.)
Keith uses it to launch into the damage that gatcha patterns have done to game design in general, that its assumptions have soaked into gaming in ways beyond mere monetization. This include:
- mechanisms like random drops
- drop odds made explicit in the game’s UI
- star ratings for items
- repetitive gameplay designed to entice players to grind away at it to increase the number of drops they get
- overuse of crafting
- making quests into a kind of progress treadmill, with explicit UI, requirements and rewards given as a cost/benefit exchange, and
- having many things in the game “level up” in some manner.
To all of this I exclaim “hear hear!” I would just point out that a lot of these trends in fact originated in MMORPGs. What is a star rating for an item but another form of a colored rarity loot system?
I would even argue that loot itself has become a degraded concept. All of these things are geared towards “releasing endorphins” or delivering “dopamine hits.” If an executive above your team is speaking in those terms, my advice to you is to bail, if you can, you aren’t making the world a better place. If you are thinking like this, please reconsider why you’re making games.
There is more I have to say on this issue, but rather than steal any of Keith’s thunder I’ll let him explain it, and do my own ranting at some other time.
Keith Burgun Games: Diablo: Immortal and Aesthetic Gacha-ism. Images in this post are taken from a gameplay video from Blizzplanet on Youtube.