A thoughtful and personal exploration of games

An Explanation and Gaming Online – Part One


Hello to everyone who’s decided to entertain my delusion of grandeur!

I’ve been noticing a couple of friends who, when I tell them what I’m doing here or when they find out, aren’t sure what this project concerns exactly. Allow me to explain in something akin to a wall of text.

Basically, not to sound condescending or anything (but I am going to treat you like a small child for a moment), things are made of parts. In the case of food, the parts are ingredients. In the case of a book, the parts are pages and words. In the case of a game, the parts are called mechanics. The mechanics compliment and supplement each other to provide a whole experience. We, the audience, typically only see the finished product (like in books and food) unless we make our own (we’ve all written something for school and we’ve all made sandwiches). Regarding games, not a lot of people (on the same scale as my little examples) have made games and so we’re all enjoying the finished product without really seeing the components of that product separately as their own entities. This is an exercise in separating the mechanics from the game or, if you will, taking the cheese out of the sandwich or citing a passage from a book. I can’t entirely remove the context of the mechanic, in fact, as is evidenced in the 2Moons screenshots I posted earlier, I showed the mechanics in question IN the game.

I’m not doing this little project as a way of reviewing games, I’m doing this as a way of figuring out which mechanics appeal to me. By doing so, I hope to become a more educated participant in the medium and to also appreciate the complexities before me in my preferred form of entertainment. It’s just like watching a show or reading a book to see if you like it: did you like this program for its character interaction? How about the story? I’m just taking notes while I go.

Further, I don’t intend to spend a lot of time on these games. I’ve played MOST of the games on the list I’ve put up here and I can get past the “honeymoon” phase pretty quickly. Some games (like Dungeons and Dragons Online) will probably be hard to break down into the individual mechanics that appeal to me if the game as a whole has strong appeal for me. I figure probably no more than three days playing any of the Free-to-Play (F2P) games but I’m flexible.

Oh, speaking of F2P… I should probably post a few terms on here as I go to clarify for some non-gamer friends who are interested in my project nonetheless. I’m a huge fan of accessibility and while I’m breaking down games, I should be breaking down terms. I’ll try to keep it rather general so as not to lose some of you.

Free-to-Play (F2P) is just that: the game is free to pick up and play. No guarantees on the quality, but developers are surprisingly proficient in churning out a very pretty and quite functional F2P game. There are a LOT of F2P games out there.

Pay-to-Play (P2P) is also self-explanatory: you pay a subscription fee (like to a magazine or HBO) to access the content of the game. These games tend to have production values (brand names, higher quality graphics and mechanics, big company backers), but can sometimes be outdone by their F2P counterparts.

Micropayments are F2P games where the player can pay a little cash to gain an in-game benefit of some sort. Some games (like Dungeons and Dragons Online) have an in-game store or a website store where you can spend your real money to gain virtual benefits. These benefits range from consumables like magic potions that are not found in playing the game normally or special equipment that is difficult to find or just plain expensive if you were to use the in-game currency. This is sometimes viewed as a happy middle ground to players because you don’t have to pay any money if you don’t want to. Fortunately, enough people want to pay for these little enhancements to game play because it gives them that extra edge and, as a result, the game sticks around funded by these generous souls.

I’m not going to get into the politics of F2P versus micropayments versus P2P (because there’s a lot of outcry over subscriptions). Suffice to say, those are the three financial flavors of online games and each category has a sparkling gem or three. Further, some games cross all three categories like Dungeons and Dragons Online (there’s that game again, but it’s a great example of this). DDO allows players to play for free and enjoy the game with some restrictions (2 characters per server, no special quest trees/dungeons, etc), but they also have a subscription system that gives incredible benefits (10 characters per server, access to every special quest and dungeon, etc) and if you ever stop paying your subscription, you still have SOME benefits but not as many as you had while paying for the subscription (4 characters per server, among other things). Further, they have an in-game store where you can shell out DDO points (which you can buy with cash or accrue through completing quests) for anything from magic potions to magic arms and armor.

Like I said, there’s a lot to learn about these games, but if you stick with me here, I’ll do my best to explain as I go some of the little differences and a lot of the terms. Remember, playing games is supposed to be fun. If you know the terms, the fun comes to you a bit faster.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. I’ve just finished downloading and updating 9Dragons and I’m looking forward to reentering the F2P world of Chinese martial arts! DFTBA!

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2 responses

  1. Christina

    Nice clean explanation of the acronyms to people learning the gaming lexicon. May want to explain further some other lingo like First Person vs chase camera and how those functions interact with game play so when you go into your reviews the backgrounds of the lingo is already established. Keep it up.

    February 24, 2010 at 1:16 AM

  2. Thanks. I’ll get to several of them eventually.

    February 24, 2010 at 1:34 AM

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