« The News, Sporting | Main | llama, llama, apple, hussyfscap »

Run, run, run, run, run run run away

Your Humble Blogger has been playing a lot of Temple Run 2 lately. I don’t actually enjoy it as much as I did Temple Run, but I play it a lot more. Because, I think, it’s harder and the rewards come slower. And I still want those rewards.

A fellow named Tevis Thompson wrote about The Endless Shopper on Grantland about a month ago (I’m a little behindhand on my blogging), and it’s a pretty good article. About Temple Run, anyway—I don’t play the other ones. I particularly took the point that the game is designed to make your scores improve (and your games last longer) whether you get better at the game play or not. You can’t help achieving the early objectives, and even most of the later objectives are simply a matter of continuing to play, rather than doing anything you would not otherwise do. So your multiplier increases, and your scores increase. If you buy anything with the coins you almost can’t help collecting, your gameplay improves—as Mr. Thompson says, even if you never actually got much better and your scores go up some more. You feel like you are improving, but are you?

This became more obvious to me recently, as I have achieved (almost) all the objectives and have purchased (almost) everything there is to purchase. I’ll talk about the exceptions in a bit, but my point at the moment is that there I have stopped improving my game play through upgrades and objectives, and the game has become dull. Of course, I have played the game five hundred times, so perhaps it’s unreasonable to expect it to stay interesting. Still, I have pretty much run myself out of the endless runner.

I find the whole current economy of video games perplexing and disorienting, as it happens. I understand it, but it doesn’t feel right: you can play the game for free, but it takes money to win. That’s not entirely accurate, of course, but the general idea is there.

When it works, for me, in gameplay, it works as part of a multiple-layer MFQ strategy, perhaps with a variety of kinds of victories available. Or in a game with system that compels the player has to balance goals within a run—in a launch game, for instance, you may need to level up by achieving height benchmarks, but gain money by long-distance launches, and also have power-ups valuable for later launches that are more frequently found higher, or lower, or close or further away. In system like that, even if it is well-designed (and some of them are), you could find yourself in need of half-a-dozen launches’ worth of pure money-grubbing, and the ability to save yourself the effort by spending an actual buck or two doesn’t detract from the game. I don’t spend the dollar, but I don’t mind that it’s an option. It doesn’t unbalance the game.

For that to work, though, there has to be a really delicate balance of goals. In Buster Bash, for instance, it doesn’t work at all—it seems like it ought to work, but it doesn’t. In that game, you are essentially trying to hit as many home runs as you can, and hit them as far as you can, while along the way collecting sunflower seeds for hitting targets. The sunflower seeds can be exchanged for equipment that will help you hit the ball farther and more accurately, which of course helps you with both goals as well as helping you replenish your seeds. But I simply can’t collect enough sunflower seeds to trade in for whatever it is will help me bash the ball further. I could buy them, and not for very much money, either, but I am not going to. I’m just going to stop playing.

Fruit Ninja, on the other hand, seems to be two different games: a free one and a paid one. I haven’t played the paid one, so I don’t know how it is, but the free one is pretty much a solid free game. You can in theory pay for stuff, but there isn’t any point to it; there’s nothing to achieve that the starfruit currency will get for you. So when I play (not often) I don’t generally even think about the possibility of paying.

Which is the issue, really. From my perspective, I don’t want to think about the possibility of in-game purchases at all. I’m not going to make any, and the more I have to think about them, the less I am going to enjoy the game. From the game company’s perspective, of course, they want players to think about in-game purchases a lot. And if that makes the game less enjoyable for me, well, I’m not giving them any money, now, am I? That’s a bit harsh—all else being equal, they would rather I enjoy the free game, as my word of mouth (or blog or whatever) is potentially helpful. But the game is for people who make the purchases, and that’s got to be their priority. And I’m never going to be that person.

Where does that leave me? On level 8, with only two objectives left: one million coins, and ten million meters. Another five hundred games to achieve those, I’m thinking, and having said that, it makes me want to find some other game to play.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


See, now you're just trolling me.

(Memories of singing "cycloalkanes, qu'est-ce que c'est?" with classmates in high school chemistry)

Comments are closed for this entry. Usually if I close comments for an entry it's because that entry gets a disproportionate amount of spam. If you want to contact me about this entry, feel free to send me email.