When How Much becomes Too Much: Limited Editions and Multiplayer Gaming

There are certain red lines I have. The Dragon Age Inquisition Premium Edition being sold for around $170 is one of them.

Limited Editions have been part and parcel of video gaming identity, you pay for more to get additional content. Extra weapons, extra armour, all of which can be viewed as a mixture of lore making and gameplay. Limited Editions however, have transformed in the last decade. Now instead of just being full of extraneous material, usually in relation to the development of the game there is a trend towards including ‘non-essential content’ (Dragon Age) and enhancing multiplayer competitiveness through unique items (I.E. Star Trek Online).

Let us be honest Limited Edition gaming is nothing new to gamers, especially online gamers. When you really look at it Free to Play (F2P) basically operates under a similar framework of thought, that if players think the game is actually worth it they shall shell money for it.

The problem with that is that limited edition games tend to be sold prior to a video games release whereas with F2P you can opt in to becoming a paid player (or ‘subscriber’) and, subsequently opt out once you become sick of it. Star Trek Online has a perfect blend of this where you have different levels of subscription ranging from the silver (free with limited access), gold and, finally a life subscription. A limited edition game can be compared to a newly bought car being driven off the sales lot; the moment it leaves the dealership its price drops significantly. The reason? Because no one wants to pay a premium price for a ‘used’ video game.

Of course this brings us back to the opening sentence; Dragon Age Inquisition, a game being slated for release this year (and most likely will be a disaster) has a limited edition. For roughly 170 dollars according to Eurogamer you will be awarded:

 

  • Highly detailed exclusive Inquisitor Collector’s Edition case produced by TriForce measures approximately 3.5″ x 7.5″ x 11.5″
  • The case is individually wrapped in faux reptile skin, has the mark of the Inquisitor stamped on top in gold foil, and the interior is fitted with and imprinted red silk.
  • Cloth map of Thedas drawn to scale measuring approximately 14″ x 17″
  • 72 card Major and Minor Arcana tarot card deck with custom artwork depicting mythology and mysticism from Dragon Age lore.
  • Inquisitor full scale six tool lock pick set
  • One set of four full scale map markers each approximately measuring 3.5″ x 2.5″ x 3″
  • Inquisitor’s Badge
  • Inquisitor Badge
  • Quill and Inkpot
  • 40-page Inquisitor’s Journal
  • Orlesian Coins
  • Limited edition SteelBook case

List courtesy of Eurogamer.

Maybe I should use the steel book to beat myself over the head for buying an inpot and quill. I wonder if the book will be written in Ye Old English?

Now I want to point out that none of these items being listed have any sort of impact on the game itself unlike other games where limited editions bought you season passes or allowed you access to secret characters. 

The red line for this game however is the fact that these trinkets are in essence worthless primarily because Dragon Age 2 was a disaster in terms of lore making. The entire story of Dragon Age 2 makes no sense in terms of the larger setting of this universe. Now the price for these edition are exorbitant, primarily because it is merely attempt to cash in a relatively loyal (shrinking) demographic. I suspect however that even this demographic is going to be disappointed with this edition primarily because it offers no gameplay advantages. 

Of course there are a slew of troubles with this game, this is just the icing on the cake, because really who needs an inkpot and a quill?

 

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The title of this post actually arises from an online letter that eventually led to an e-mail exchange between two game designers about the future of game pricing in an increasingly Free to Play (F2P) video game market. It is a fantastic read and I strongly recommend that people take a look at the original letter and, the resulting exchange.

The exchange also prompts one to examine the issue of video games as time sinks. While there have numerous articles about video game addiction and, will undoubtedly be continued but there are relatively few articles that actually focous upon how gamers view this sort of narrative.

The current dilemma with gaming is that creating twenty to forty hour games are no longer feasible are shoe string budgets. The cost of game design have soared alongside most entertainment commodities. Activision for example has reportedly intending to spend $500 million on developing and marketing Destiny; it is fair to say that this is a make or break for Bungie. The question that gamers need to ask is that prolonging game play really worth the exorbitant costs? Or does it just become grinding?

Activision for example has reportedly intending to spend $500 million on developing and marketing Destiny; it is fair to say that this is a make or break for Bungie. The question that gamers need to ask is that prolonging game play really worth the exorbitant costs? Or does it just become grinding?

Wonder how much it cost to draw this?

Grinding has become and, is a key component of online games. Any online shooter requires you grinding, some MMO’s seemingly actively encouraging grinding such E.V.E Online, W.O.W. SWTOR avoids grinding in its main storyline relatively well by trying to create a compelling and interweaving storyline, this attempt to blend storyline with multiplayer is interesting if a bit convoluted. Grinding is not just confined to just multiplayer games though.

DA 2 in some ways is an ideal example of single player grinding. In the game during the side quests you would slaughter hordes upon hordes of men, monsters, etc. to retrieve a set number of items. There was little to no change in the story line nor did the setting alter in any sort of way that can be considered meaningful (if at all). So what ends up happening is that the value of the game is not valued based upon its design mechanics or its story line but by the amount of minutes it consumes in mundane activity which can replicated in every other game.

Yes, because who does not want to become a harbinger of doom in a ruined land?

What this all comes down to is the notion that games need to be prolonged for the sake of meeting an ambiguous time sheet.

The adage of video game design seems to be that if practice makes perfect, grinding is the perfect game.

Let us hope that changes soon for the better.