Finer Points: How To Make Loot Boxes and Gachapon Not Suck

Loot Boxes and Gachapon are all the rage these days; both the literal and figurative meanings of ‘rage’ in fact. While I frankly despise the practice and think they should absolutely never be in any game in almost any form, there’s a hell of a lot of ways they could be better and as a designer, it bugs me that even free Gachapons are usually done terribly.

How can we make such an inherently abusive and exploitative mechanic better? Here’s all the considerations.

Update 2018-02-19: Added “Speed It Up”, a section on how even a “good” gacha can waste your time.

Finer Points is a series of Game Design/Game UX articles by Sir TapTap focusing on very specific gameplay elements and the major impact on a player’s experience they can have.

It’s Gotta Be Free

Here’s the thing. Monetization influences game design. This is why Mobile games have a bad rap; most of them are F2P, and that heavily influences game design.

You simply cannot objectively and ethically design a gambling system when exploiting the player will earn you more money. Even if you did, you would be designing a game you couldn’t profit from. The only way to ethically include a luck-based system for earning items is if it has absolutely no tie-in to your monetization model. This is simply non-negotiable.

“But wait, I’m not one of those bad designers—” you sputter before I gently place my index finger on your lips with a gently “shush”. Granblue Fantasy’s designers no doubt thought they were “one of the good ones” as well.

The issue with bias is you’re not always aware you’re doing it.

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This UI Change Could Have Prevented Patreon’s Fee Change Debacle

Patreon announced a new fee structure last week. It was intended to prevent the problem of “double charges” and allow them to roll out Charge Up Front to all users. People hated it. A lot. Today they canceled it, as I suspected/hoped they would.

How bad was it all? My campaign lost 10% of Patrons in under 24 hours, and I strongly suspect I won’t get all of them back. And from posts on Twitter, I was hardly the only one who lost a substantial amount of Patrons. That’s really not fun to experience, especially as someone who had nothing to do with the actual change at hand.

Patreon Screwed Up

I could actually write several articles on all the little problems with their proposed changes and their reasoning. But the biggest problems were such:

  1. Patreon moved the fees from Creators to Patrons, and added a 35 cent flat fee that drastically affected $1 pledges. This strongly discouraged Patrons from pledging the most common pledge amount of $1.
  2. Patreon did this because they came up with a brilliant new system that multiplied the amount of fees Patrons would have to pledge. This destroys the incentive to pledge to lots of creators.

That’s basically the coolest thing about Patreon gone: the ability to support lots of creators with small donations.

I’ll let Patreon’s own charts speak for how terrible the basic concept of their change was:

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Finer Points: Scripted Losses are Bad Game Design

I’ve ranted on Twitter a couple times about scripted losses in games, and a fair number of people still seem to think they’re pretty decent ideas, so I thought I’d get into the meat of what makes them poor design. The bottom line is they violate too many of player’s expectations in a lot of ways developers probably don’t even realize—like many issues in gaming, it’s really easy to overlook when you know what’s going on, but when you don’t, hoo boy.

Losing Sucks

So this isn’t news. But I think game devs underestimate just how a sudden loss can affect players. Allow me to tell you a story from my youth. From the ancient times, when all games were pixels, and “multiplayer” often meant taking turns in a single-character platformer or just plain ol’ watching a friend play a single player game all day.

I was playing Chrono Trigger with a friend on my Playstation, a bit late to the game. He had beaten the game on SNES before I had even played, but he didn’t want to spoil the game so I was going in fairly blind. The only RPG I had played before this was Super Mario RPG, at that same friend’s house. I never owned a copy.

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On pace and walking simulators

pace
noun
1. a rate of movement, especially in stepping, walking, etc.: to walk at a brisk pace of five miles an hour.

2. a rate of activity, progress, growth, performance, etc.; tempo.

While playing TIMEframe I found myself thinking–isn’t this a bit slow? As a “walking simulator” (forgive my use of the term, I don’t mean it derogatorily), TIMEframe’s primary input is, yes, walking. And I began to notice something about the genre: they really all are quite slow–very much walking sims and not running sims.

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