Tags Posts tagged with "The Otherside"

The Otherside

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wtf
I’m a chink, therefore Jackie Chan.

Yesterday, I left you folks on a cliffhanger. I’ll simply fess up and say that my ravings went on for too long, so I had to make this a two-parter. While I can make a part three because I ended up rambling on even more, let’s just end it today. Now, to answer the question: why won’t local e-sports tournaments ever work out?

That’s because of our player base. The so-called “next generation” of cyber athletes  are a bunch of weak-willed cowards. Throughout my employment in promoting Crossfire, issues about small scale cafe tournaments refusing entry of prominent competitive teams was a thing. Nobody wanted to play against the top dogs because they wouldn’t stand a chance.I’m going off the chain here again to say what kind of bullshit reason is that?

FG.Wolves drank so many tears in Point Blank.
FG.Wolves drank so many tears.

I won’t lie to you. I haven’t been keeping up with the local competitive game circuits so feel free to correct me if everyone is out for the top team’s blood but I doubt anything has changed much since I dabbled in that world. The person being criticized is not even the “current generation” of cyber athletes. As far as I am concerned, if you are over 25 years old, you’re considered a veteran, yesterday’s news, an old guy in competitive gaming because of this thing called hand-eye coordination which deteriorates over time. I also am not familiar with the MOBA scene here but I’m positive that there are only a few top teams and boat load of people who provides them with endless tears to drink.

In a competitive environment such as e-Sports, everybody is aiming for the top. If you get a chance to fight the champs, you will jump on that opportunity, that’s how you get better. The top teams in my time were more vilified than they were beloved. It could have been because of the way the top teams carried themselves rubbing people the wrong way or how other people couldn’t stand how they couldn’t beat said top teams but I saw more bashing than I saw competition. It wasn’t “put up or shut up”, it was cry till’ you had no more tears, pause and drink water, then cry some more.

In the history of bad ideas in the world of online games one stood out the most and it wasn’t the P1 million rope-a-dope Operation 7 tournament that never happened by E-Games. The honor goes to a game publisher (also E-Games) sponsoring their own e-sport team and parading them around for all the country to see, be envious of, and start bashing them out of butt hurt. Despite being the team to beat, people despised them because they claimed that the team was given preferential treatment in tournaments. As far as participation in tournaments and in-game items, sure but everything else was fair game and yet they complained. This is why we can’t have nice things. Everyone but a select few want it easy… in a competitive environment.

Yes! This image again because it's hilarious!
Yes! This image again because it’s hilarious!

The local game publishing industry also shares the blame in killing its chances at making e-Sports work. Most of it is actually self-inflicted due to several bad eggs in the industry. As if petty shit like ripping competitor posters and uninstalling their games wasn’t enough you had greenhorns in the online games industry in charge marketing with big salaries and big budgets during the online games bubble. They were squandered on ineffective yet costly marketing attempts which more than anything, insults the intelligence of their intended audience, celebrity marketing. Just as you would market consumer products. It took them a while to actually learn from their mistakes and when it came down to crunch time, they had to blame someone for their poor performance.

It’s not surprising nobody wanted to owe up for being a colossal moron so let’s blame the competition. The “illegal aliens” who were “illegally” taking away their player base… by setting up a game publishing company in the Philippines and offering games the same way they do, minus the idiotic marketing. What’s wrong with this picture is our government being protective of idiots while companies who actually can do much better and actually generate jobs for Filipinos are harassed to no-end or are prevented from doing business in our country. Several foreign owned companies were issued cease and desist orders but only Gameclub was “raided” by questionable means because they posed the biggest threat. It didn’t even pan out for the raid’s instigators. Does the E-Games brand still exist? Not anymore, case and point.

The punch line is the fact that Level-Up has gone through several owners: a South-African IT comapny, China’s Tencent, and finally Asiasoft. It’s public knowledge that Asiasoft is not a local company and yet there are no cease and desist orders or raids on game severs. There are obviously loop holes which can be used to skirt the law and this is not sour grapes, okay. I’m not secretly wishing for the downfall of Asiasoft-owned Level-Up, I think it might be a good thing considering the huge list of games under Asiasoft’s belt. They can actually provide Filipino gamers more games than anyone could ever have offered. But you can see as clear as day how our laws and law enforcement agencies could be used as a satellite targeted ICBM to ruin things for everyone.

The Hounds of Justice!
The Hounds of Justice!

Compound all that dirt above and more undisclosed in this already long post and you get a loss of consumer trust. Sales are down across the board for all gaming companies? Maybe they were traumatized with all that crap and just moved on to globally published games or games on Steam, like DotA 2. RIP local gaming industry. I don’t really mean it and as dire as things look now, I have friends in the online gaming industry and I wholeheartedly hope that they will achieve success and do print a substantial amount of money. I salute them for still  trying to fight the good fight.

As if the original DotA wasn't already a problem for online game publishers...
As if the original DotA wasn’t already a problem for online game publishers…

Things would have been different if shitheads like Don “the bald fucking shit eater” Jocson got a brain aneurism before he put his plan in motion. Words aren’t enough to describe what a horrible person he is so let’s just go the potty mouth child route.

Players wanting bigger prize pools or complaining about the prize pools I had for my own tournaments annoyed me to no ends. Even the so-called money grubby behavior some of the top teams displayed popped my nerves from time to time but is it really about them or more on my frustration at not being able to afford a bigger prize pool? It’s a shitty feeling when you look at our neighboring countries coming up with huge prize pools that make your grand prize look like a consolation prize. But do you think these so-called “money-grubbing cyber athletes” got to where they are just by counting prize money? Then again, what prize money? I doubt anybody in this country could even subsist on the collective prize pools of all tournaments made versus their expenses for playing and training for each respective game.

The player in scrutiny is someone I know and have personally acted as their team’s handler for the 2011 World Cyber Games. Jupiter Mars “Elgee” Gaboy has been playing games competitively since the Philippines received its first invitation to the World Cyber Games. I believe it started around 2002 or 2003 so that would mean he probably has over a decade of experience in e-sports.

How many people would have dedicated that much time to playing games. Granted that he has not made a career out of it until recently, you would have to imagine what sacrifices he made to be the gamer he is. You can also question his sanity and priorities for sacrificing so much just in an attempt to make a career with playing games. He along with the other players during his era are still at fore front of the local FPS scene usually losing against each other in tournaments but almost always placing at the top. Why? I can only think of one reason. Because they are the ones willing to put in the most time and effort even if deep down, they know they’ll never make a career out of it and I can guess most of them are pretty burned out already. Call it whatever you will but that’s doing something “for the love of gaming” right there.

The guys from Cristal (now MSI Evo.GT or something I guess), Fairview GamingWolves, Loko, WaraPWND, among other teams  people were loud, very emotional, and blunt when it came to their opinions but they sure did their work when it came to preparing for tournaments. You cannot ever take that away from them no matter what people say or think about them. They have continued to raise the bar in competitive gaming for this country time and again by giving each other a run for their money and wowing everybody in international competitions by becoming fan favorites and placing in the top three at times.

There were more notable teams but I forgot their names because I am getting older already, for that I apologize.

It is stupid to call out one of them out for one outburst which isn’t even remotely damaging or derogatory to the tournament’s organizer. While I think this is a case of too much butt hurt from the community manager of Assault Fire and a couple of ignorant/flunkie bloggers, Elgee’s biggest mistake was to allow himself to come under scrutiny by opportunistic albeit idiotic people. Remember kids, when you’re a public figure, there will be a lot of people after your head, just because they can. How is it that some people can be so deluded as to be offended at a statement which reads to me as “the prize money is not attractive at all”? I believe the tournaments 101 already explained the role prize of money.

Here is my advice to future game operators: When someone complains about cash prizes and you know the deal behind why it is as such, just apologize that it didn’t meet their expectations and then assure them you will make one that is more attractive in the future as part of your planned events. It doesn’t matter if your game will actually not be around to see that time but we all have to keep our appearances. How hard is that?

As far as making a career out of e-sports in this country, I think it’s a bad idea but nothing I say or do will prevent people from trying anyway.

In hindsight, maybe Point Blank players didn't really hate the whole team. They just hated this hipster for rocking an undercut before it even became mainstream. Peace z3r02! ,\/,,
In hindsight, maybe Point Blank players didn’t really hate the whole team. They just hated this hipster for rocking an undercut before it even became mainstream. Peace, z3r02! ,\/,,

In the off chance (more like certainty) that people will be offended with the feature image, allow me to explain #Pinoize. It is basically the summation of what we believe is undesirable behavior in Filipino nationals which includes taking a studio/group pic with gang signs.

So I read about a “big issue” in the “e-sport world” of the Philippines from a phrase uttered by one of local e-Sport’s more prominent figures. The issue is apparently so big that it deserved coverage on some tech blogs; of course spouting the ever-so cliche feel-good ideas of “love of the game” and blatantly implying that the next generation of “cyber athletes” shouldn’t be “such money-grubbers”.

Excuse me while I laugh my ass off.

As offended I am at the sensibilities of the people who wrote that (blog post) garbage, I find it laughable that people still think that e-Sports is a thing in the Philippines or even in the world. Okay, maybe it is a thing with some local guys posing for MSI‘s gaming hardware, one of them being the subject of the other blog’s scrutiny. Or with the resurgence of Mineski and their brand of tournaments along with other emerging e-Sport promoters. More recently, there is a renewed interest in online games with Smart Telecom’s Game X platform for purchasing game credits for local game publishers. They also hosted a rather big tournament for Massive’s games with a more gratuitous prize pool in comparison with Assault Fire’s measly prize pool tournament which started this whole “debacle”. Mmm… maybe e-sports IS a thi—NOPE.

Are Filipino online gamers just that cheap, poor, or have they just moved on to other games?
Are Filipino online gamers just that cheap, poor, or have they just moved on to other games?

Still a big fat nope. E-sports is still not a thing in the Philippines, no matter how hard people try. It only appears to be a thing on the off-chance that people actually get with the program and make big money for e-sport promotions, game publishers, and sponsors. One of the key ingredients to making a successful e-Sport league is a big budget coming from a sustainable revenue stream. The lack of a sustainable revenue stream is something all online game publishers in the country have in common. I believe we have seen Level-Up, the country’s largest game publisher change hands more than three times in the past few years. It’s like passing a hot potato that nobody really wants.

If you actually follow e-sports, you will know that it goes with the game with the biggest player base and revenue stream. Back in the day it was Counter-Strike, and then Starcraft. There were many games they experimented in-between but it ultimately landed on massive online battle arenas (MOBAs), starting with that Warcraft III mod to League of Legends and then finally DotA 2. Most e-sport games in the spotlight are online games and there is no doubt as to why they are capable of having large prize pool tournaments continuously. That’s because they have a large base of players who buy their virtual items, merchandise and/or services regularly to the point that it has become the equivalent of printing money. It’s true, people go where the money goes both promoters and players and some people make it sound like a bad thing. As if these competitive e-sport types of games are the only games you can play “for-the-love-of-fucking-gaming.” By the way, I love how DotA 2 did their merchandise, that’s how I would have done League of Legends.

It really does print money.
It really does print money.

I’ve always told my colleagues that these e-sport events are necessary costs for the sole purpose of advertising your online game. They are glorious spectacles that cost a lot of money. You can hardly measure the results because there is a limited number of people you can accommodate in a day for a tournament so you won’t see a big spike in any measurable key performance indicators. But you know what, if you want to push your game into the mainstream, this is the road you have to take. You also need to keep your players interested in playing your game and spending money. Competitive games like first-person shooters and MOBAs thrive on competition so you need to conduct tournaments and the more newsworthy they are, the more advantageous it is to the game you are promoting.

Anybody remember this? It never materialized.
Anybody remember this? It never materialized.

The cost for logistics for a weekend tournament is already more than enough to make you shake your head in disbelief should you actually try to make money from these events; then there is the prize pool. What is the prize pool meant for? To reward players for their time and hard work? Hardly, it’s to make the tournament attractive enough to motivate people to take a crack at it and to make people talk about it. Then comes the hours of training, going through strategies, and even buying virtual items when needed. Preparation for these tournaments cost money too, if you’re serious about it. It’s an ersatz marketing tool, if anything.

Any spectator who comes into contact with staff or people in-the-know will scoff at a tournament with a small prize pool whereas their jaws will drop at disbelief at a fat prize pool. Big money tournaments are newsworthy, they can and will be talked about but that doesn’t equate an instant increase in your player base. A P1.5 million prize pool didn’t help Ragnarok Online keep it’s player base from bleeding to Ran Online. E-Game’s nationwide tournament for the now dead and buried Operation 7 which was also barking about a one million peso prize pool failed to garner enough interest and the tournament fizzled, never seeing the light of day.

I just contradicted myself. First they are a necessary spectacle and then they don’t really work. Why? I guess you’ll have to tune in tomorrow, as I dissect the requisite evils of these tournaments. Then, I will address the issue made by ignorant peanut gallery bloggers and the butt hurt of Assault Fire’s Community Manager. Also, it’s two parts because we are in dire need of hits before we “go red” and unlock the “In-debt knowledge of blogging” achievement. That sentence before this was sarcasm because I know it has to be pointed out.

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Game Masters in Philippine online game publishers are the front-liners of game operations and in recent times, female game masters have become the face of games on the marketing side. To be frank, I was one of those marketing people who enabled this kind of strategy especially with Cross Fire. However, in spite of what people on the outside think, there are a lot more things going behind the scenes with the ever-so-popular female game masters than people think of. Now, possibly for the first time  in Philippine blogging history, we take a look at the inside workings of being a game master with an interview with one of my former game masters, GM Ayla.

mrslash (30liv.es): This is an utterly pointless question coming from me, but I need to ask it anyway. What is it that you do as a GM? Most people picture this as playing games all day. I also imagine that people who interviewed you for your next job assumed the same.

GM Ayla: Yes, hahaha, I was asked if “I just played all day” as a game master. I was primarily assigned to handle the community of Cross Fire. Part of this entails managing the game forums and SNS channels, Facebook primarily. I also had to propose and implement in-game events and all of us GMs were required implement and host major onsite tournaments. But in spite of being more focused on the community, I also had to participate in QA (quality assurance) for new patches and bug reporting (to the developers). We also had to do billing related back-checking especially with purchase or top-up problems coming from players with our game. Thankfully, billing problems were not common.

mrslash (30liv.es): Okay, so can you describe your typical day?

GM Ayala: I enter the office after a long commute, go to my seat, turn on my computer…

mrslash (30liv.es): Not so literal please… :P

GM Ayla: Hahaha!… Okay,  the first thing I do is log into the game forums, the Cross Fire fan page, and my own GM fan page on Facebook. I check my inbox on those channels for new personal messages (PMs) from players with relevant inquiries such as billing issues, latency problems, suggestions and even new hack tools found by players. I had to regularly delete and moderate comments from players on the forums and Facebook pages because the community temperature frequently becomes very toxic with new hack tools and problems popping up here and there. I report major concerns immediately to the product manager and compile relevant discussions from the community for a weekly report. We then proceed to insert in-game items to winners of weekly cafe tournaments that were conducted by the sales/field team.

We normally host in-game events in the afternoon. Conducting in-game events is simply hosting a room for players to play in and recording the results after each game. We normally do 4 – 8 games per day per game master and we reward all participants almost right after the event. So we award around 2 to 3 in-game items to 60 to 120 players a day. We release new content every month so there will normally be a week or two of patch testing in the afternoon. Part of this patch testing is actually testing the function of every single item in the game as well as purchasing them to see if the proper amount of money is deducted. It’s actually very tedious because the more content that is patched, the more things we have to test. We had to do this because sometimes when the game is patched, something breaks and if we don’t catch it, the players will suffer and that is a major problem for us.

mrslash (30liv.es): Speaking of major problems, the game master gig isn’t really as easy as what people would think, is it?

GM Ayla: No it isn’t easy at all! People have no idea how stressful it becomes especially when major problems happen like during the time Gameclub’s servers were raided. The reactions from players were really bad that profanity was actually the lightest thing thrown at us. The comments we received were really foul and really insulted our dignity as women and even as human beings.

People also seem to think that game masters are also coders who develop content for the game and prevent cheats from getting through, network engineers who maintain the physical hardware, and everything else concerning the game service.

mrslash (30liv.es): Yeah, it’s all part of the job, but can you quote any of them specifically?

GM Ayla: I can’t say it… Di ko masabi eh. Alam mo naman hindi ako nagmumura. Tetext ko na lang sayo or send kita ng screenshot ng mga sinulat nila kung makahanap ako.*

mrslash (30liv.es): Okay. It’s ironic for me to say this but I feel that this country tends to have a very immature view on feminism. As a GM, you were expected to act a certain way (i.e., be filrtatious or at least respectful towards your “fanbase,” constantly take vanity shots of yourself.) What are your thoughts on this? Doesn’t it seem unfair or fetishistic of your audience in general to expect this sort of behavior?

GM Ayla: Well I think it can’t be helped since majority of online gamers are boys and a lot of them have yet to mature as individuals. I also think that aside from playing the game itself, players also go for meeting girls so it is effective when a girl GM is placed in front of them. It also some how makes some players behave slightly better in the presence of girls but being a public figure is a big responsibility because slipping up could damage the reputation of the game itself.

I’m personally not bothered by how players see me because I know well enough of my boundaries between my GM personality and my private life. It is flattering to be appreciated by people though. But I think players would engage any female GM put before them especially if they have face value.

mrslash (30liv.es): So you’re saying you have that face value?

GM Ayla: Hahaha! Ikaw nagsabi nyan! But seriously, it’s not that big of a deal and I haven’t really encountered any problems with it outside my job as a GM. Although some random people recognize me and other female GMs on the streets, they just greet me with a “Hi GM Ayla” and ask a bit about Cross Fire. I haven’t encountered anything on the creepy levels all my time as a GM.

mrslash (30liv.es): I see, so what is the dumbest or most ridiculous request you’ve ever gotten from a player?

GM Ayla: I don’t really recall anything but I think the worst thing player(s) have said to me were those things they said when our servers went down during the raid on Gameclub’s raid.

mrslash (30liv.es): Here is another ironic question coming from me: How much feedback did you get to give the developers, and how much of that actually gets implemented? 

GM Ayla: Well… you’re actually the one who deals with feedback and suggestions for new content. :P

mrslash (30liv.es): That is true… anyway, Cross Fire was way down the priority list in terms of localizing content. The developers actually makes content that can be re-used in other territories so making extremely localized content is overlooked because content that sells well in the Philippines is not worth it compared to content that sells well in China. We’re really way down the chain in terms of localized content priority.

Moving on. What do you feel about GMs who overstep their boundaries and “abuse their power,” so to speak? We’ve all heard tales of sexual trade and barter for virtual items across many of these games. Have you run into a situation where you’ve leveraged your status as a GM yourself?

GM Ayla: Personally, I have never considered using my GM status to make a quick buck. More than anything else, I do value my reputation and integrity in the work place and as a person. But I have seen it happen around me like one of the GMs in Gameclub who used free eCoins to buy items for an RPG game to sell for real money and that other GM who did RMT in order to get money for his wedding. I did however, use my “fame” as a GM for a contest for a model search by posting on my GM Facebook page to ask for votes.

mrslash (30liv.es): Yes, I remember letting that one slide. Did you win the contest you promoted on your fan page?

GM Ayla: No but at least I got a few thousand votes instead of a small number of votes like what happens to new comers like myself in those kinds of contests.

mrslash (30liv.es): Anyway, with everything said and done, was being a GM a good career choice for you? What do you do now and how has being a GM helped in putting you in the position/career path that you are on right now?

GM Ayla: This being my first job taught me quite a few things about work ethics and dealing with people in public. Having to constantly talk with strangers helped me boost my self confidence in dealing with clients in my current job now. I’m working in the hotel and restaurant industry as a banquet sales account manager. I cater to weddings, debuts, and similar events so I have to deal with a lot of people. Having felt the full force of irate and unreasonable customers certainly helped mold my self confidence in being capable of dealing with almost any situation as far as customer relations is concerned. I also gained the confidence to actually host events such as weddings having started hosting tournaments working as a GM.

mrslash (30liv.es): What do you think your mark or legacy is with Gameclub?

GM Ayla: I don’t want to brag, but I think I’ve been on of those game masters who were able to separate my personal life from my GM personality. I didn’t get personally involved with gamers I came to know through my job unlike other GMs who let their benefits (of free items and free cash) trickle down to their friends and even some people they came to know from being a GM*. I also suppose the fact that my GM Facebook page is still earning likes and still receives complaints from players regarding lag, or cheats up to now in spite of being inactive for over a year goes to show that I was actually helpful and trusted by players.

*No specific names were given.

Fun Facts:

GM Ayla is hoping to find a career in her true passion which is in the performing arts. Dancing specifically.

GM Ayla’s fan page has been receiving more likes even if it was inactive since January 2012 from 29k likes to 40k likes. Check it out here.

Like all Game Masters, there are a ton of fake game master accounts for GM Ayla and some people totally get scammed by giving those fake GM accounts their user names and passwords.

*GM Ayla said she would text me or send me a screenshot of the explicit things players have said to her because she couldn’t say those words verbally but sadly, she didn’t.

The author of this post can attest to the fact that GM Ayla does not use profanity. However, she has slipped up at least once while getting fragged in Cross Fire. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, competitive video games brings out the profanity in you because they are that engaging.

We will be abusing GM Ayla’s fame one more time by having her promote 30liv.es on her fan page.

None of the female game masters in my team were gamers to begin with. They didn’t know how to play but a few months into the job, they became pretty good at their respective games.

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Game services, online games specifically, shutting down is not a new thing in the history of online game publishers in the Philippines or in other countries. It’s easy to put blame on the game publishers and players are normally quick to do so but there are several factors that can affect the decision to keep a game service running. This however, is not a rant or a commentary about how “it’s not the game publisher’s fault” when an online game is closed nor is it about blaming somebody else. What I am writing about are the licensing terms and situations that would drive a game service to shut down be it the publisher’s fault, the game developer’s fault, all of the above, or external factors.

This is going to be one of those tl;dr posts but I do hope local online gamers do take the time to read this because I think it’s pretty informative.

Licensing Agreements:

Contracts are the foundations running a business between 2 or more parties. There are a ton of legalese items which need to be taken on and agreed upon before a game developer and publisher can and will pursue to do business with each. Unless a game developer self-publishes, it will be imperative for them to find a local publisher or someone to market and distribute a game for them. There is no legitimate game developer or publisher who would want to screw the other party over because it’s a quid pro quo situation where both organizations need each other to make some money. However, big companies like NCsoft (Korea) have certain standards to be met in terms of how much they expect to earn per territory also with consideration on how much they have invested in the development of a game so their terms may feel like a “screw job” for local publishers. However, the smartest thing to do is to walk away from such deals and not force the game onto the company and the market, because chances are, it’s a recipe for disaster like Lineage 2 SEA.

Publishing contract periods which normally run for 2 years at a minimum are basically a fixed period where a game publisher is required to operate a game up to the game developer’s standards. The summary of these standards are basically to ensure that client and server connectivity is optimized, game servers are online for public consumption all the time except for scheduled server maintenance times, and ensure that the game publisher hires enough personnel to operate the game (IT personnel and game masters). When a game publisher is unable to meet these standards, it is possible for a game developer to terminate their licensing agreement (if it is stipulated in the contract). However, I have never heard of such a case happening in the Philippine market.

Minimum Guarantees are not uncommon in publishing contracts but they may be implemented in different ways. This is important for developers to ensure that the publisher can actually turn a profit from a publisher’s operation they support with their game development team. There are no such things as “standard minimum guarantees” because these terms can be negotiated between both parties most of the time.

Royalty rates are factored into minimum guarantee terms but the ideal setup for a publisher. is a contract without a minimum guarantee only a revenue sharing agreement which will range from 80-20 percent or 70-30 percent cut where publishers get the lion share while developers receive the rest as royalties. This ensures the publisher that the game developer will be compelled to develop proper content of each local market in order to rake in more profits. However, should a product under perform in a certain market, the game developer certainly needs a way out of supporting an unprofitable territories especially if the publisher they went into business doesn’t perform up to par. This is why I say minimum guarantees aren’t a bad thing as long as it is not an exorbitant amount that no single game will actually be able to attain such figures.

However, should a game publisher be foolish enough to pad their forecasts in order to successfully strike up a deal with a big company, they are just asking to fail and the executive who actually pushed the padded figures or came up with a ridiculous forecast and ran with it should be fired and blacklisted from the entire industry.

It’s important to bump realistic forecasts with how much a developer is asking for from the licensing fee to the royalty rates because no matter how much you believe in a game you cannot guarantee that your game can meet a developer’s expectation if the actual numbers say otherwise.  If a publisher does not meet the minimum guaranteed royalties, the contract may be re-negotiated or even terminated by the developer as it is normally stipulated as such.

Contract Renewal clauses are important for a publisher to ensure that they can be guaranteed to operate a game continuously as long as they meet royalty agreements. I have encountered a contract which grants an automatic contract renewal when the minimum guarantee is met by the publisher. If it’s not an automatic renewal, there should at least be terms agreed upon by both parties to give incentive to meet or outperform minimum guarantee agreements. Fixed contract renewal terms are also good to avoid huge debacles (probably caused by greed) such as Sudden Attack’s high-profile publisher dispute in South Korea. The consumers are the ones who suffer in these cases and as far as I know, this issue caused the game (Sudden Attack) to lose a lot of paying users.

Breach of Contract is one of the worst things that can happen for a game service and while the legal details to me are vague in the case of Special Force, the reason for the game’s untimely loss of content support and ultimately closure of service in Gameclub was because of the raid discussed in a previous column, which became grounds for licensing contract termination. These types of disputes are really bad for the consumers because when these issues arise, both publisher and developer go into self-preservation mode, milking every single peso they can before the inevitable happens.

After having discussed the above terms, it becomes pretty obvious that poor figures will definitely get a license agreement cancelled or fail to be renewed for a new term. A lot of factors come into play here and are not always the fault of the game publisher. For instance, a game can be acquired for a very cheap licensing fee and revenue sharing scheme as a test to see if a game can prosper in uncharted waters. Even with adequate marketing, strong field roll-out, and a very good item pricing scheme, if the game is a bust, it is what it is.

Poor marketing (which includes overspending on inane and ill-conceived campaigns) can make or break a game because if you blow through your marketing budget within the first year without getting a good conversion rate from marketing spent versus acquired and paying  players you’re probably not going to get any more money to market the game because it will be considered a failed endeavor and the company will either try one last shot at it or switch gears to self-preservation mode and cut costs.

Game Developer Issues:

One clear sign for a game in peril is the lack of substantial updates from new zones/maps, new items to buy, game modes down the pipeline, etc. Players normally speculate that a game publisher doesn’t have enough money to buy new content from the developer but as far as I know, it isn’t the case. Licensing agreements also include provisions for providing regular game updates. While it does not specify exact content like number of items, or what kind of new map, it can include fixed time periods such as monthly content updates, quarterly new maps, etc.

The bad thing when content stops is the fact that publishers are at the mercy of the game developers since they do not own the source codes nor are they equipped with the personnel to develop new content. Publishers localize, market, and operate games. They go as far as suggesting new content but cannot implement it if the developer won’t make said proposed new content.

There are cases when internal issues within the game developer’s side causes a game to collapse. One such case is the hyper-marketed ROSE Online by Level-Up. Word is the entire studio (Triggersoft) walked-out/resigned/ or just basically refused to work on the project anymore. As a result, the “Rush on Seven Episodes” gimmick fell short to a three or four world game instead of seven worlds as promised. Locally, gamers would talk about how it shouldn’t have been pay to play to succeed but all those points of discussion are moot because the success of an online game would normally depend on it’s marketability in key regions such as Korea, China, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Russia, USA, hell, even Indonesia.

I’ve always stressed that online games in the Philippines is a pretty small market and I believe it still is in comparison to other markets and if you consider funding the development of a game based from revenue coming from the Philippines.

That’s about it for now. These aren’t really a thing for regular online gamers to consider when selecting an online game to play. But to patronize services where your money isn’t an investment in anything virtual and is treated as payment for “entertainment value”, you would want to play and pay for a game that is pretty much going to run for years to come so it will do them some good to at least make a background check on the game developer’s track record with other countries and perhaps even a glimpse of how they do business with publishers.

Comments, questions, and general violent reactions are appreciated in the comments section below. :D

Author’s Note:

I missed another flippin’ week. But no round of drinks will be bought this time because aliens.

 

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In light of the most recent issue surrounding always-online DRM (the whole exaggerated Adam Orth hoopla), I believe this issue is worth discussing from a business and consumer’s stand point in the free-to-play market of online games. After all, MMOGs are the most acceptable form of games with always online DRM attached (for reasons that ought to be self-explanatory).

Free-to-play games are a double-edged sword for the business end (publishers) and the consumer end.

On the Publisher Side:

  • The Bad

    1. There is a huge overhead for field teams (and their marketing merchandise), server rack space, and bandwith. These costs compound over time with new titles released and become variables affected by user traffic.
      • When a game breaks out and reaches it’s peak, chances are there would be additional investments in physical hardware, bandwith, and manpower. The additional fixed costs will become a burden over time when the game’s popularity dwindles. Lost revenues, layoffs, and ultimately unsustainable operations will looms over game publishers. Especially in a very saturated market.
    2. Guaranteed royalties paid to the game developers must be met in order to continue operating the game service. Game developers of a game’s licensor can cut the contract of publishers who are unable to meet the minimum royalty payment even if the publisher is still willing to continue the service. These hits are bad for a game publisher’s reputation and may affect the performance of their existing and even future titles.
    3.  You’re competing not just against local game publishers but against the entire market of free-to-play games from international servers, Facebook games, web games, and even mobile games. The market is getting smaller and you are dealing with intangible competitors. Even if they don’t setup shop in the Philippines or even directly market to the Philippines, they reach your players and poach them.  It kind of becomes a big deal with items 1 and 2. There is also “that damned DotA”, killing online games since… 2004?
  • The Good
    1. The potential for the ideal “printing money” operation is always there. It is the goal any game publisher aspires for.
    2. With proper cost management and a good revenue stream, a small online gaming company may thrive in an over saturated market with good marketing and item pricing.
    3. Truth be told, with online games inevitably coming to the end of its life cycle, profit margins can easily be plotted out early in the life of a game to ensure that come the time a game needs to be shut down, a game publisher would have profited much from it and just cut their losses when they have to and move on to a new game title.

On the Consumer Side:

  • The Bad
    1. Nothing you pay for is permanent. Strictly speaking, whatever it is you are paying for is just the entertainment value of the permanent item you get from the lottery or even that permanent costume or armor you bought off a sale. The EULA and TOS of online games are very specific with regards to owner of game data. It’s not yours and it never will be. Especially when the game service is taken offline.
    2. You access to the game is dependent on the publisher’s capacity to support the game. Hosting servers cost money and while a game will enjoy a high amount of traffic especially during it’s peak in the product life cycle, it will eventually dwindle like all games. There will inevitably come a time where there simply aren’t enough players to sustain the game’s operations. Once the servers go offline, there is no coming back.
    3. The only thing you can look back to once your game reaches the end of it’s life are screenshots and videos of your time in the game.
  • The Good
    1. In the strictest sense, consumers can spend several hundred hours on “entertainment” without having to spend a single peso on the game outside an internet connection, computer, and electricity. It is by far, still one of the cheapest sources of entertainment.
    2. Online games connect people from all over the country or sometimes even the world so players can not only entertain themselves but enjoy the company and culture of different people. It is by far one of the biggest draws of online games.

With all these new trends in the game industry (Korea and Japan have strongly shifted to mobile and web games), I am still a firm supporter of retail games. They have replay value even decades from now just like that Super Mario Bros. cartridge for the family computer. They are pieces of history and even after *knock on wood* companies close down, they would have left their mark in history with something tangible.

What will you have show people after spending hours and hours in a game which requires a constant online connection when the game service shuts down?

 

 

 

 

 

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Since 2008, the online gaming market became abuzz with a genre not alien to Filipino games: First-Person Shooter (FPS) games. I never understood why any of the main game publishers at the time (Level-Up and E-Games) never decided to pick up an FPS title. Perhaps the first-mover (ABS-CBN Interactive and now the to-be-defunct Amped Games) who published WarRock could have been a factor. But then again, that’s why there is a QA team for testing potential new IP acquisitions to see if a game can and will run properly on the local infrastructure. I believe the issue with WarRock was the peer-to-peer connectivity which translates into a death sentence in the Philippines where all other ISPs were and are probably still at “war” with PLDT.

Special Force Online, launched and published by Gameclub in 2007 surprised the industry and even myself who was skeptic of the game and to-date still finds the game unbearable to play. In a matter of 2 years (2007 to 2009) Special Force hit number one in concurrent users, unique monthly visitors, but more importantly in revenues.

The best month of Special Force would gross around PHP 40+ million and on average would do at least PHP 20+ million per month so the game gets Gameclub around PHP 200+ million per year and you know what’s the kicker? These revenues I revealed are actually in-game item sales not actual cash received. The prime source of income of any online game publisher lies with their pre-paid cards or e-pins and anyone who has worked in the industry would know that card distributors and retailers normally have a float of up to 50% so the actual cash Gameclub receives would be around PHP 300+ – 400+ million annually for just one game. 

Now I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that those revenues up there for one game can easily be the revenues of E-Games or Level-Up with all their games combined on a good year. It’s no wonder they’ve tried jumping on the FPS/Action shooter bandwagon ever since. I’m also pretty sure that every time a game publisher tries to introduce a shooter game, it is treated as THE messiah that will save their company from obscurity or further downsizing. It’s not wrong to assume that but it is wrong to assume that the game itself will carry you on while you mindlessly do the same item mall shit you did back when a company’s (specifically E-Games… lulz) FPS Messiah A (Operation 7) or B (Point Blank) was introduced.

New companies like Massive Gaming  jump into the market with action games because it’s more accessible and appealing to Filipinos who are mostly all about “skill beats money” illusion. It’s an illusion because item mall items are there to tip the scales in favor of skilled paying users. However, it’s no doubt that shooter games is still the most in-demand genre to-date in local online games.

Contrary to what I’m leading you all on is that the market has changed. It’s change for better or worse is still to be decided. As I have mentioned in a previous column good publishers will adapt their item mall to changing user trends. I would like to say that is the case but most of them are left behind with the same old lotto ploy started by Special Force and Cross Fire. The thing is, while the lottery is still a big deal, people over time have become disenchanted with it (it’s about damn time too).

After Gameclub was raided by E-Games, Dragonfly Interactive (publishing arm of Dragonfly Ltd, developers of Special Force) revoked the publishing license of Gameclub and “re-launched” Special Force Philippines. They however, have been unable to replicate the same level of success Gameclub enjoyed. In retrospect, that raid would have happened regardless yet the irony of it is the fact that the perpetrator of the raid, E-Games, would never have reaped any financial benefit from it.

I’ve mentioned before that in Special Force, the lottery guns do absolutely nothing yet they’re the best selling items. However, any other FPS/action shooter will come to a rude awakening that it’s not the case anymore should they have banked on the lottery system or just because they were sold that their game is superior to all the FPS games out there. That “our game is the best” high can only last as long as your first month of launch and then it’s a nightmare spiraling out of control.

It’s all about giving players value for money these days. Simple as it may sound, people don’t really get it. Is it safe to still assume each individual player would actually spend PHP 350 and above on your game each month? I say, hell no.

On a good year, you’ll be glad if each paying user would average PHP 600 – 1,000 (take note for a year) and that’s excluding what they would spend on renting PCs or paying for their internet connection and electricity. The key to making money is acquiring new users every month and every year and make them spend that PHP 600 – 1,000 in a year and you’re all good because it’s really that damned hard make Filipinos spend on anything for entertainment purposes (except for the internet).

If game publishers want to see some semblance of success with their action shooter titles, they really need to get their heads out of their asses and change things up on how players get paid content. Riding the genre bandwagon is only going to get you #annihilated. This is not an advice column so examples will be held off and game publishers need just revisit their think tank instead of just meeting the status quo (same shit all over again) or chalking up “sexy chicks = marketing” on the board in their next meeting. There is one game company doing it right, but I don’t think it needs mentioning because knowing of them is part of not having your head stuck up your ass.

Author’s Note:

I missed a column for last week and I blame Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, My trip to Japan, and some unknown source of the lazy beam. Because of this, I’m going to buy the 30liv.es editors a round of drinks as a bribe penance and what-have-you.

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The lotto or lottery in real life is basically a game of chance where you get to pick numbers and pray the scheduled random draw picks your number and then you win big money. Now these games of chance are regulated by a government office to ensure that no shenanigans and game fixing occur (as far as I know of).

While there are systems in local online games branded as “lotto” or some (invented) fancy-shmancy name like “Mega Gold Egg”, or “Emperor’s Treasure Box” (both not real names of any lottery item or system, I hope) and so on, it’s not really an “all-or-nothing” deal like the real thing. Thus, do not need to be regulated by the government nor could be manipulated in a way to screw people out of their money.  However, I feel that some light needs to be shed on the lottery system: Why it works and then it will tell you why it exists.

Sorry to betray (possible) expectations but this is not an account on how I participated in a corrupt and evil system to screw players out of their money using a random game of chance. I am going to be frank, while there is no scam in “lottos”, I hate it that these lottery systems are necessary to make money. I hate it that it works (so much better) in other countries that developers are blinded by its “money-making” powers that they think it works in all countries without tweaking the system. But most of all, I hate how the whole item shop paradigm is so messed up that game developers can stretch out

What is in a “Lotto” in online games?

gashapon
In-game lotto systems are similar to Gachapons or Capsule toy dispensers.

There is always a “rare” item that is either really hard to find or can only be acquired by playing the lottery game. Mixed in with the sought-out item are a bunch of lesser items assigned as “consolation prizes” if you don’t get the main prize. In other words, regardless of what you get for playing the lotto in online games, you actually get an item of equivalent value to what you paid for. If you spend P30 for a spin at the in-game lotto, you will get at least P30 in value of items or even more. See, there is no scam, it’s actually quite a value for money thing for players if done properly. Needless to say, the probability of winning the main prize is very low. After all, how would we have made money if everyone just needed to take a few spins and get the big prize?

A common issue with players is getting “garbage” items… well all I can say about that is the consolation prizes are determined by how much of a scumbag or how cool a game publisher or developer is.

Who makes money for Online Games?

Because online games are generally free-to-play in the Philippines, we have to quantify players who actually spend money in-game as paying users. You might have guessed right, these guys are the minority of a game’s population. I’m talking as low as 3% of unique accounts per month (of course if your game has such a low rate of  paying users, you’re in deep shit). A modestly healthy amount of paying users is roughly 10-20%, and even with those rates it’s not like printing money. Those figures are reached with blood, sweat, and tears.

There was this running joke/truth in the industry (or at least among the people I’ve worked with) that in free-to-play online games we need a huge volume of free-users (aka too cheap to buy from item malls, destined to suck in the game) for the paying users to enjoy the game (by kicking their asses and making them jelly at all the gear and glowing armor pieces, and weapons they have on their virtual peen… avatars).

You can also say, free-to-play online games captures the classic “rich vs poor” and “sticking it to the man” paradigm where bands of people can unite against the people with deep pockets ruling the game. Of course, somewhere along the way, the rich guy gets to recruit or convert players to the “dark side” by giving them “salaries” in the game be it in-game currency or cash items but that’s more on MMORPGs. For first person shooter games it’s what I would call a dumbfounding insight, because people will spend a lot of money to get a gun with different skin yet performs the same as regular guns which can be acquired with in-game money. In MMOFPS games, it’s really a matter of skill more than gear, so there aren’t many functional items to spend on, yet there is a lot of money to be made.

What do you get from the Item Mall?

In MMORPGs, the general commodity traded is TIME. Free-to-play online role-playing games are such huge time sinks that even though you can technically farm for any item you want (in most cases, unless your publisher and developer are scumbags), this takes up a lot of time. While your average “poor” gamer breaks his/her back trying to hunt specific items, “rich” players can get them instantly by plunking money down the game publisher’s coffers.

tits or gtfo
Kids, you have me to thank for NOT implementing this character in Cross Fire Philippines.
200912141754_01
Get that golden gun! It does absolutely nothing but look golden!

In MMOFPS games, you pay to gain an advantage over your opponents in the  form of “better” weapons, armor, and perks such reducing flash-bang effects and duration. But what sells better in these types of games are actually gun skins and avatars (specifically GIRL avatars) that don’t provide any benefit. Other games arguably have placed in additional stats for lottery guns but due to game balancing issues, people may like or not like the additional stats so they are kept at a minimum most of the time. It’s a vicious cycle talking about game balance and cash items, so let’s just leave it at that.

Gun skins draw attention from players since the “best” gun skins come from the lotto systems you get greeted with a “rich” or “lucky” from other players when they see you. That seems to be the benefit more than the little extra ammo clip or scope sight you get with the gun with customized skin. It feels good to win stuff other can’t.

Generally speaking, people like girl avatars for the same reasons you are thinking right now. Because they look hot and everything that comes with why people like hot girls. Girl avatars came to a point where they became sleazy, dressed up like whores in slutty military cosplay outfits with guns in their hands and that was where I drew the line. I didn’t want my game (Cross Fire at the time) to get unwarranted attention nor did I want to enable kids to play as slutty military assassins or whatever back story was concocted for the character.

Being in the free-to-play online gaming industry is already selling my gaming soul to the devil where players pay for superficial items to pay for more often than not, lack-luster content. Games are marketed with a core feature that doesn’t change through-out the game’s lifespan and people end up looking forward to the next new gun, the next gun skin, the next epic tier gear and the upgrading item that’s tied with it. It doesn’t really change from game to game so you wonder why would anyone even bother going through the same thing over and over again.

Ultimately, the business model makes money so things won’t change if the players won’t change. By players, I mean those players in major markets such as Korea and China where free to play games make a killing in. If Filipinos players drop online games as they are now like a bad habit, game publishers go down, internet cafes will still survive (with DotA), and the game developers will move on. It’s not as if the Philippines is a key market. It had potential but after 10 years of operating online games, companies closed down, downsized, and reorganized.

Are Online Games Evil?

At the end of the day, online games are still one of the cheapest forms of entertainment for the masses. Cheaper than going to the movies or even eating out at a fast food joint. It provides entertainment value for millions of gamers nationwide. They are time  and money sinks but like most hobbies, aren’t they all? Although playing online games with free-to-play models are arguably one of the poorer choices of hobbies (next to playing retail video games and buying collectibles) it’s what most people can afford.

But in my opinion, a game which allows users to spend an unlimited amount of money in an instant is not something good (but good for business). Yes, I know, self restraint, discipline and all that but tell me, what have people like me done working in a game publisher to remind people not to spend too much money in the item shop or to make sure they game within a budget? Nothing, that’s what. If a bunch of entitled people wish to spend P 1 million in one of our games, we would be smiling from ear to ear. That’s money taken and can never be refunded (booyah *fist pump*).

A testament to the success of the business model of free-to-play PC games are the Facebook and mobile games these days. Those are on another level of evil, but an evil people don’t seem to have a problem supporting anyway. But you know what, if a game publisher isn’t all about sucking money out of gamers, I think you’ll notice it in how they price their items, how you get good items, and how frequently they put out sales. There should probably be one or two good titles out there, you only need to find them.

 

 

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Who really benefits from “cheats” in online FPS games? How come cheats are so rampant in my game from publisher XYZ? Why do people make cheats? Do these companies actually care if cheats are left unpatched? What the **** are the GMs doing about these cheats!?

If you have picked up a locally published online first person shooter like WarRock, Special Force, Cross Fire, and the like, chances are you’ve asked these questions at one point in time. Given the scenario of online FPS games in the Philippines right now, chances are, anything the publisher of your favorite FPS game will sound like complete BS to you.

The fact of the matter is, the “bullshit being spouted” by game publishers are sugar-coated bits of the truth. It is natural for publishers to remain quiet about what can be done against cheats or third party programs (3PPs) because they are fighting a losing battle. But this doesn’t mean they don’t care because they have much to lose if their game remains unprotected. In my experience, dealing with these game-breaking programs have been my biggest source of frustration in the online gaming industry.

The Misconceptions:

1.) Publishers double dip into their player base by suckering players to buy in-game items and then make money on the side by spreading cheats/hack tools

Ads
Ads, this is how free hack tools make money.

When games are tested and assessed by business development units (the decision makers for release in the Philippine market) the main thing they look at is how fun the game is, how much content a game has and what will push users to purchase premium items for real money. There is no “hehehe let’s spread cheats for this game to earn big bucks meeting”. The mere notion of thinking that game publishers revel in the misery of their own players is absurd.

Having cheats run wild like is what takes out the value of premium items which cuts the lifeline of online games, paying users. This is because 3PPs give its users an unfair advantage over paying users for free or at least for a fee which does not go to the game publishers’ pockets,So let’s be clear here, no game publisher in right state of mind will be happy when hack tools are plaguing their FPS game.

The truth is, games that lack security and encryption are easily cracked open like piñatas and abused by hackers. In other words, you don’t even have to work in the game’s publisher and developer to make these 3PPs. All you need to do is download the game and crack the files.

Paid hack tools are rarely used by Filipino players because a free hack tool usually follows. These free cheats earn money through ads and with thousands of players logging into a game on a daily basis, you would imagine you could make a killing with it. That would be the case if you didn’t have huge overhead costs such as physical servers amounting to over 100 servers, server bandwith for the network players connect to, office space, employees amounting to nearly 100 and more.

2.) GMs do nothing about hack tools. They’re slacking off.

Quite frankly, there isn’t much they can do but 1.) find the source of the hack tool. 2.) find out how it works. 3.) pass it on to the developers of the game and third party security providers and 4.) everybody’s favorite, ban cheaters as they are reported or detected. Look up the requirements for game masters in any company, none require them to be programmers because that is not what game publishers need them for. Yes, why not hire coders then? It’s simple, game publishers don’t touch the game’s code. If it’s anyone’s responsibility, it’s the game developer’s and then things should become clearer to you.

Banning cheaters is a lost cause because preventing hack tools from working is the key to winning this war against 3PP makers and users. This boils down to a coding slugfest between game developers, third party anti-hack tool providers like Gameguard, X-Trap, etc., and the coders of the “cheat programs”.

Third party security providers are incapable of curbing the problem in the long run, but they are better than nothing. Their anti-hack updates can take up to a week or 2 to be patched only to be worked around within a day or even less. Even if they make updates daily, the burden turns to the publishers and their players. I know 1 MB of patch files is nothing in the first world but it is a cumbersome undertaking for cafes and even to some home users.

This problem is stacked with post-patch problems which need trial and error troubleshooting and even if you streamline the fix, kids don’t want to deal with that when all they want to do is play the game! Even I wouldn’t want to but hey, it’s better than nothing. If a game developer relies on a third party to deal with people who exploit the way their game is coded, you’re on a one way street to getting overwhelmed by the number of cheaters especially when your game clicks in the market.

The only way you can make game developers seriously consider fixing your game is if you are one of their key markets. The Philippines is an extremely long way from becoming a key market for game developers so don’t hold your breath for things to get better anytime soon.

3.) Game publishers are stupid! They should make registration harder so the cheaters can’t troll us with new accounts!

This is going to be tricky and possibly tl;dr material so I will just give the short version. The registration process must be kept simple especially for new start-ups because getting kids in cafes to register an account easily is very important, especially during “free-play” activation. Free-plays are basically publishers renting out cafes or specific seats in internet cafes during certain days and times to allow potential player to sample their new game.   You may think you could encourage them to keep their passwords for perks but the truth is, they will forget about their damned account details over and over again. The only time they will actually give a damn about their account is when they get hooked to the game. That’s going to be around 2-3 account registration cycles.

Yes, cheaters are a problem but adding an email address to account registration doesn’t do much to help. Requiring some sort of identification will be a nightmare to verify without any form of generally used online verification system tied up to a government ID… plus the fact that requiring a government ID kind of annihilates your chances of getting new registrations if they’re kids. It’s one of the best ways to curb hack tool usage but one that is impossible to implement at the moment.

So What’s the Point?

If your game has cheats in it and your only line of defense is a third party security provider, demand that the developers do something about it. If they don’t you’ll have to be content with manual banning of cheaters by the game masters and other programs they have in mind. If you can’t deal with that, I suggest you find a game that has yet to have any cheats, support it by actually spending money on their items. Or you can always buy and play blockbuster titles like Call of Duty, Battlefield, Counterstrike, and the like if you can afford the game and a computer that can run them.

But last but not the least, sloppy or lazy game developers allow their online games to be riddled with cheats and exploits and the publisher has to deal with the backlash. 

Author’s Notes:

“The Otherside” is a weekly column which features my opinions on relevant issues in the online gaming industry in the Philippines after having left the industry, possibly for good. These are based on first hand experiences in my five years in the business as part of the marketing arm of game publishers which includes game operations. I am not a qualified software programmer nor do I make any claims of being one. 

The images posted on this article were just searched for on the internet through Google, they may be from working or non-working hack tools.

If you want a specific part of the Philippine online game industry discussed in future columns or ask some questions about the current column, feel free to post a comment.