Monday, March 12, 2012

I don't Trust Valve and Neither Should You

Sitting here and watching DOTA2 unravel more of itself every passing week truly is a exciting sight to behold, and while many enthusiasts and fans tend to watch with awe and admiration, my reaction is usually more in the likes of somebody with both hands on their face, fingers parted at the eyes- terrified of what could potentially ruin the game at any moment. So far, so good. But with the inevitability of the ever dreaded Microtransactions already well underway it's only a matter of time before Valve starts unveiling stuff they plan to sell.

It seems to me that most people aren't worried. Part of this sense of calm comes from the fact that, after all, "It's Valve!"- the company that can "do not wrong". But for me, somebody who know all too well what a Microtransaction store can do to an ARTS game in particular, the whole shebang leaves me with this terrifying sense of possible bullshit still to come. League of Legends, Bloodline Champions, Heroes of Newerth- all these games have incorporated Microtransactions to their games and in many ways made them worse in the process. Of course, I don't blame them, as the money is good and League of Legends has proven time and time again that it's simply the most Economical strategy for an ARTS game. Nevertheless, as a player of the game it's virtually clear (at least, to me) that Microtransactions can only make an ARTS game more bloated. HoN got Early Access, BLC got a weird rune system and a bunch of other weird garbage, LoL... well, I've never played LoL so let's just leave it at that.

All this sort of raises the question inside of myself- how badly could Valve fuck this up if they really wanted to? How much could they get away with? The answer to that in my own mind sort of scares me. People tell me that I shouldn't worry because Valve is a beloved company that would never do any harm, but to me that's ironic- I'm scared because valve is a "beloved company"- because anyone knows that "credibility" in the video game industry is just another form of currency waiting to be cashed in- the question is simply when?

Team Fortress 2 is, in many ways, the poster boy in all of this. The F2P model in TF2 has been very successful and there's no doubt among anyone's mind that DOTA2 will have a very similar model. While a lot of people seem to have embraced the TF2 Man Co. Store (I would be lying if I said I had not spent some money in there) I must confess I never really liked the whole thing. Perhaps I'm in the minority here, but the as "Trading Hats General" replaced "TF2 General" on the Forums I became increasingly annoyed at how much the actual gameplay was being replaced by the ever-present "hat market". As somebody who values Gameplay over gimmicky items, luck and lottery garbage, this whole change was a rather unwelcome one for me. What's more, the implemented "Crate System" that Valve introduced later was basically a cash grab- players were required to purchase keys in order to unbox Crates they got (you couldn't do anything else with them) and proved to be the only way to get Unusual Hats (aside from trading, but nobody would trade you an Unusual Hat for anything less than another Unusual Hat). Stuff got so out of hand that people began making TF2 items and "Hat Pricing Lists" to put value on the things. Sometime around the day I was reading an Excel spreadsheet online trying to figure out how much my virtual Fedora was worth I had to stop what I was doing and wonder what I was doing with my life.

It feels like Microtransactions ruin everything they touch- and while a lot of people seem to put it passed Valve to ruin DOTA2 with them, I don't, and to be honest, neither should you. A lot of players don't consider TF2 "ruined" by the in-game store, but I see TF2 as a shell of its former glory. The new weapons are fun, but often blatantly overpowered (stuff like the Pomson) and purposely difficult to craft in order to entice players to buy it in the store instead. Many players rationalize a lot of the stuff from TF2 with the idea that "it's only cosmetic" and that most of the stuff you have to spend money on to get doesn't influence gameplay. But really, I don't buy it. Even if this were true, the entire cosmetics "market" creates such a strain on the Community by shifting the focus from gameplay to meta-gameplay (people idling TF2 for hats instead of actually playing the game). But the worst part is it's not even completely true. Valve likes to walk a fine line of what could be considered "pay for power", a while back they introduced a hat for the Sniper that could make him immune to headshots when worn in combination with other items, making the hat very valuable and would basically have to be purchased in the store.

I suppose I just don't really trust Valve (any more than I trust any other video game company) to make Microtransactions not-obnoxious. Even if they continue to walk their fine line of "not pay-4-power" then I'm still not really going to be satisfied. I feel like DOTA2 is a competitive game that, much like HoN, shouldn't be tampered with. HoN already "blew it" by limiting the Hero pool for new players (which makes countering some Heroes difficult if you don't have the Hero you need unlocked), something that DOTA2 players like to critique. But really, DOTA2 players who make fun of HoN because of the cash shop are in for a rude awakening- the same rubbish is coming to DOTA2 in some form or another. So, while I guess I do respect Valve more than other game companies, I wouldn't put it passed them to clog up the game with a bunch of cosmetic garbage that will get in the way of features and hero development (looking at you, HoN). I don't want to see every character in DOTA2 with alternate costumes, I don't want to see "items" that I can equip my character with to look "cooler", I don't want different looking versions of the same spells- I want a competitive consistency, something that, apparently, is on the way out.


  1. I totally agree with you. Especially with the last sentence.
    Everybody understands why publishers have to do it, but I still can dislike it.
    Of course, they see all this freaking extra money they can make with this instead of charging one time lets say 35 bucks.
    The core problem here is (as nearly always) the people.
    I play HON since beta now and knew at least 15 people who were saying " I will never spend a single dime at this " when the gold coins and EA were announced. To this day only two people hold their "promise" one of them is me :D.
    People encouraging publishers to do this.
    Ingame Shops, Online Passes, DLC´s I curse you...and people who are using their money this (even if they got every right to do with their money whatever they want) I curse you too.

  2. Good read as always but I think if anyone will get the microtransaction system right for an ARTS, it's going to be Valve.

    Development so far has shown that the items will all be cosmetic, and I highly doubt that will change to incorporate any gameplay changing elements in the store.

    Axe right now remains pretty much very visually consistent with his store items being simple things like his Axe, Belt, Shoulderpads, etc.

    I think as long as Valve maintains a consistent character look while still allowing a visually noticeable amount of customization for characters, it will be the best of both worlds.

  3. Hon is still way better then dota (slowta) 2 with the shop, soon as valve unleash theres its fucked.

  4. Although I agree with you I don't really understand your train of thought.

    Firstly, we don't know for sure that Valve will choose the microtransaction for Dota 2. In my opinion, it's the only company/game that the "buy once, never pay" mode could work due to the massive appeal and the rich income for Valve from other sources (i.e. Steam).

    Secondly, if Valve chooses the microtransaction method, I can't believe that Icefrog will let his creation be destroyed. So this isn't trust to Valve, it's trust to Icefrog and Valve.

    Lastly, you spent an entire article "accusing" Valve for something that's not settled when in the meantime, S2 has done exactly all the things you're afraid Valve will do. :\

    Anyway, cheers from a player who enjoys both HoN and Dota 2 at the time.

  5. I'd pay 10$ a month for patches, reliable servers in my area, maybe dedicated slots, balance patches, moderation, new heroes development, simpler interface, team page in game, a true IM system and stuff like that. I think that if you have constant expenses, than you should pay a monthly fee to keep the game stable and strong rather than buying silly cosmetics to support the company. WoW has done that and it looks like they have made a lot of money

  6. dude there is a big difference in quality of staff and work they put out compared to hon. hon's textures are complete shit and so are the models for the most part. who cares if its there. they have a huge staff. this game isnt being run by a bunch of college kids aka s2. half life 2? your gay and so is your rant welcome to the real world son.

  7. Another +1 to what Krandel said. But even WoW got a little farther than just monthly subscrition, and the rumors are saying that Dota 2 gonna be a F2P since from the start. Unfortunatly, Nigma is right at this point, we are a minority, seeing from what I've read from the development forum and from PlayDota. Mostly of all players wants the game to be that way. I'll not be surprised when the Dota 2 shop releases an item that only someone that brought it can use. And when this day comes, I'll have Warcraft III installed back at my machine

  8. Be skeptical, not biased. ;)