Saturday, May 27, 2023

Modern Civics

Well hello there! Would you like to know how the United States works? I knew you would!

Okay, so, if you live in the United States you are what they call a citizen. (The United States of America is called a country.) As a citizen you pay a subscription fee, called taxes, that is based on how much money you made in the past year. In return for your subscription you get benefits such as well-maintained roads, clean air, a functional legal system, and a chance to vote periodically for the country's leadership.

(If you are not a documented citizen, you may be here on a trial period (refugee). If you do not pay taxes you are either a pirate (criminal) or a VIP on a complementary membership (wealthy). Oddly enough the people on the trial period are considered the most problematic by half the country's leadership.)

Now, you may notice that the roads are not very well maintained and the air is kind of smelly and overheated. That's because for the past forty years (at least), around half of the country's leadership (the same ones against trial periods) have insisted on a subscription plan where the majority of the country pays at the highest tier, but the people with the most money get complementary memberships. And despite the accountants pointing out this doesn't work and isn't good business (governance), this faction insists on sticking with it and lowering subscription fees.

Why are they doing this? Well part of it is they tend to have the most money, and so do their friends. But also, they want the country to get in enough trouble that they can convince the subscribers (citizens) to vote them into total control. Once that happens they can change the subscriber rules so the subscribers don't get to vote at all, and chance their benefits to what they think citizens should have (rights based on being white, male and wealthy), and all the members who disagree with them can be removed from the service (deported/arrested/executed).

Does it seem like they should be allowed to do this? That's right, it doesn't! But we let them because a lot of subscribers get told by marketing (the press) that this is a good thing for them and a bad thing for people they don't like. And the people who aren't trying to get the country in trouble, don't want to admit to the subscribers that a good part of the leadership wants to tear the service down - it's bad P.R.

So why is this important? Well, a while back the leadership passed a rule that if the country built up a certain amount of debt, they would stop paying their bills. There wasn't an actual requirement to do this, but leadership thought it was a good idea and assumed everyone would stick to it.

Anyway, next week we might hit that limit, and the anti-trial period faction would be very happy if the country stopped paying its bills so they can blame the CEO (President) and have him voted out. So they're forcing the rest of leadership to agree to a bunch of changes that will also hurt the country, but not as obviously.

So what can you do? Not much! The main thing is to vote against the people trying to wreck the service, but that system is heavily weighted in their favor so it's not easy. You also need to vote for people who are trying to fix the service, but again, that's an uphill battle. Still, try your best!

Monday, April 10, 2023

Resident Evil 4, Microtransactions, and Paying for Cheat Codes

Fair warning, this post is not on-brand, I'm working through my feelings on a video game so just bear with me.

Anyway. Resident Evil 4 Remake! Played it. Finished it, on standard difficulty, once. Great game. I've been playing Resident Evil games since the series began and haven't missed a mainline game yet (if you don't count Code: Veronica), and this one is up to standards.

Normally after beating a Resident Evil game I would, per tradition, unlock the Rocket Launcher with infinite ammo and go on a vengeful spree through the game, destroying my fear of the various monstrous enemies by blowing them into pixelated chunks. Capcom has, as of last week, decided to make that a question of moral difficulty so now I'm blogging instead.

Background: the infinite Rocket Launcher typically unlocks after beating the game with a sufficiently high rank, usually S, which used to mean doing a speed run. Resident Evil 2 Remake tweaked that a bit by requiring a speed run on Hardcore difficulty, and then Resident Evil 3 Remake and Resident Evil 8 introduced bonus stores where you could unlock and purchase the weapon after doing some challenges. 

So far, so good, except RE2Remake also provided an option to just buy the infinite Rocket Launcher for five bucks. This flew under the radar because the option took about a year to come out and by that point no one really noticed.

Fast forward to now, and RE4Remake, which has more weapon upgrades but has added microtransactions to the mix, in the form of "exclusive tickets" you can buy for $3 a pop in real money. These let you unlock high-end weapon upgrades that you'd otherwise have to do multiple playthroughs of the game to earn.

Is the infinite Rocket Launcher locked behind this? Oddly enough, no, you can't use a ticket to get that, probably because it would break the game's hardest difficulty in half. But, you can get a Handcannon (Magnum) with infinite ammo using the tickets, which has kind of the same effect. And that's something you can't do by just grinding out in-game money, at least if you want to go for the trophy tied to beating the hardest difficulty with infinite ammo on your side.

In short (too late), Capcom is charging three bucks for what used to be a cheat code.

Is this a good thing? No. I miss cheat codes. Bring them back.

Is this evil then? Also no, at least not in comparison to some of the truly predatory microtransactions out there. At most I think you can spend $10-$25 on these tickets. And the game is single-player so it's not a thing where you're paying to beat other people.

Am I going to buy these things?


I confess, I prefer to cheat my way through games whenever possible. I am time-limited for gaming, but I do like to see as much of the games I like as I can, and I like unlocking the trophies. So if $3 saves me a couple of hours of grinding I consider that worth it. (And this is why I need to avoid anything with pay to win mechanics.)

With that said: Capcom's been getting more and more willing to load up microtransactions in their big franchises, and this is the first time where they've done it in a way that the game may have suffered for it. The weapon unlocks in RE4Remake are weird and grindy in a way that's not been the case in most any previous game. They aren't quite at the point where I think open greed influenced the game design... but they're close.

There's been some muted backlash over the tickets already, but not a lot. As I said, these aren't egregious next to stuff like Diablo: Immortal. But if Capcom decides to keep pushing their luck on this sort of thing going forward, it could get ugly.

Probably right in time to screw up a Resident Evil 6 remake, if one happens. Wouldn't that be funny.