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Tycho / on Wed, Mar 26 2008 at 10:49 am

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Its worst tendencies having gone dormant for months, Electronic Arts suddenly drew itself up to its full height and began a fresh round of decapitations.  Over the years, we’ve had to hold interventions like this from time to time for the company.  It is in that spirit that we open a dialogue.   

As you are no doubt aware, the press maneuvers for Battlefield: Bad Company have been stymied by the notion that they’d be charging for additional guns upon release.  They responded to the charge that they were selling weapons by saying "Yes, we are doing that."  I can  certainly appreciate this kind of candor.  We produced a comic strip to chart the future of these policies, and it was intended to act as a cautionary tale.  Looking at it now, it’s likely that it will only drive them into the unmapped reaches of grasping, mercenary ecstasy. 

There are many kinds of games you can play with other people, but in general these games are either weighted toward stats or skill.  In a stats-based context, you can be an incredible player and still run aground on an opponent with the right gear.  In a skill-based context, most often typified by shooters, map control and expertise are the prized virtues.  In the first type, those inequities are an important part of the game’s progression.  Securing the right statistics is the game for most people.  There are multiple classes, all held in a kind of ethereal check with one another over years of twists and tweaks.  Everyone earns - or is supposed to earn - their equipment in the same way.  Maintaining the appearance of systemic equity is paramount. 

In shooters, this is what we know:  that each player is in control of an entity in the same map, and each entity is capable of the same range of movement.  Beyond this, my actions are responsible for the outcome.  Lag is the primary vector of inequity in this system, because it kicks over this egalitarian thesis.  Balance is, in a way, a kind of morality.  It’s systemic morality.  And even if we don’t use those terms, we know instinctively when it is being injured.

This is what makes the proposed for pay weapons so distasteful.  We’re told that they will be "balanced," and that may be so numerically, but if their ownership isn’t universal we’re arguing against the bedrock assertions of the genre. Quite frankly, it’s wrong.  We’ve come to endure, if not accept, premium maps and modes.  But when they start fiddling with the numbers like this, I’m not sure they understand how corrosive it really is.     

(CW)TB out.

  with my head between my hands


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