Feature image for Diablo immortal post, showing the demon Diablo

Why I quit Diablo Immortal, and why you perhaps should too.

Diablo Immortal: Cess pits get more love!

 

Caveat first

From the viewpoint of casual PvE, dip in and play, this is a great game. Nobody is going to dispute that.

However, if you expect to progress beyond that, if you expect rewards, if you want a place on the leaderboard, or you have a passion for PvP, I suggest you walk away.

You could sell your house and even one of your kidneys to ‘win’ – and still get steamrolled by some fat cat with unlimited funds to waste. The extent of monetization in this game, the level of psychological manipulation, and the carefully hidden traps… You are not talking about hundreds or thousands of pounds but tens to hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Blizzard will not care if you have an addiction problem, they will not care if you are 12 years old and you max out your parents’ credit cards, and they will not care if you lose your house as a result. All they want is your money. All they can get from you. All purchases are final.

 


Review bombed

As you will probably know by now from streamers, bloggers, reviews and even mainstream press, Activision Blizzard’s Diablo is probably THE most monetized game ever made, with more psychological manipulation than any other game and as a consequence has the worst player review scores of all time.

Sure, some of it will be review bombing, but even so, managing 0.2 means almost nobody spoke up for it. iOS was marginally better with 0.5 but that’s hardly a glowing reference. The iOS and Google Android scores have since recovered somewhat, but whether that’s because of indoctrinating mobile users that paying so much is normalised is a matter for another discussion. PC users are less forgiving.

Without question, the intense, prolific and frankly obscene levels of monetization were the reason for the bombing, but it has wider tendrils to worry about. But hey, it’s free to play, pay to win, so I’ll let that slide. A little. Maybe. When the ‘pay‘ aspect of the ‘micro‘ transactions is unmanaged, unrelated and unending, with a maxed out ‘winning’ character easily costing hundreds of thousands of pounds – per character – that is so far beyond acceptable it must verge on criminal! It IS a reason to avoid the game like the plague, but it’s not the reason I quit. Not directly at any rate.

 


Bobby the Gatekeeper, Master of Grind

 

Some, probably most of you reading this will have played RPGs, MMOs and even tabletop AD&D (Stranger Things anyone?). You are probably a die-hard Diablo fan if you are reading this. There are rules, unspoken agreements and expectations. Composing and overriding all these is ‘the grind’. Some of ‘the grind’ is hidden or misunderstood; some will drive you to tears. Invincible anyone? Most WoW players will know of this toil. After Wrath of the Lich King, when the event passed into ‘farmable’ territory, people began to grind for the precious mount.

1% chance. I got this. A year later you are still trying. If you look on Wowhead, MMO-Champion and similar places you’ll read of people being on their 666th run. “Wish me luck!”. The poor bastard is probably still trying, “This time, for sure, it MUST drop.” Not how RNG works. If the chance of it dropping on the first try is 1%, the chance of it dropping on the 100th or the 1,000th try is still 1%.

The drop rate for some something like a 5/5 Blood-Soaked Jade in Diablo Immortal is roughly 10% of 1% of 4.5%. So, 0.0045% – that’s 200 times lower than Invincible. 1 in 20,000. And Activation wants you to pay £2.25 per try.

Putting it into the perspective of grinding embers as free-to-play, you would need to run Elder rifts roughly 30 times a week, every week, for 476 YEARS.

Here is the math if you find it unbelievable.
You can farm a maximum of 320 embers a week (200 plus 120 bonus). Crafting a random [1, 2, ?/5-star] gem requires 22 ‘Fa runes’, each of which costs 18 embers.
18×22 = 396, so basically 2 weeks per try.

20,0000 tries then cost 7,920,000 embers. At 320 a week that’s 24,750 weeks (476 years).

(You learn to run the numbers if you grind a lot, helps keep you sane – or gives you the sense to walk away!)

You CANNOT grind legendary orbs in this game. Blizzard will not allow it. You must pay. And pay. And pay. Sure, 3 or so a month as free-to-play, but that’s nothing. If you want more, you must pay and even them there’s grinding to do.

You’ve seen the figures quoted, $15,000, $110,000. That’s for the first gem of up to 36 you require to max your character. As well as paying, you have to grind. Unendingly. You can’t simply rely on auctions as you need literally thousands of these gems.

Your first hundred legendary ?/5 gems* will cost you £25,000. Having remortgaged the house you can begin to grind, dropping 10 eternal crests a run. But, ‘cos Bobby, Wyatt and co. love to see you grind, and because it’s oh so profitable for the company. So, even though you are paying all this money, most of the gems will be dross. RNG is so bad only 1 in 22 will be remotely useful for you. Thus you begin the treadmill.
Using 10 crests a run (ch’ching, £22.50), you’ll be averaging 12 runs an hour. Running 8 hours a day, for a couple of days.

If you haven’t figured it out already, the end boss in Elder rifts is irrelevant, as are all trash mobs before it. The Elder rift is a loot box, pure and simple. Sure, it is disguised, but it’s a loot box all the same. You are paying before the run to pre-load the ‘wins’. Using the slot machine analogy, you put the coins in the slot (the crests – bought with orbs, bought for cash – into the slots) and you pull the handle (run the rift). The casino (Blizzard) guarantees you ‘something’, even if it’s only one cherry (1-star legendary), but that row of bells or 777 (2/5-star or better), boy are you gonna need a much bigger bag of tokens!
Any claim by Blizzard and Wyatt Cheung that the orbs are not ‘gear’, that’s it’s ‘misinformation’, that the game is not 100% pay-to-win are just PR lies.
*(To max a character you will need well over 5,000 such legendary orbs in all)

As you can see, orbs are important to the game. They are epically legendary in terms of Activision’s profits.

And Blizzard will cripple anything and everything that gets in the way of their profits, no matter what.

 


Combat Rating trumps everything, for a price

 

You grind and grind and upgrade and upgrade and – it makes almost no difference. What the heck? Why is my combat rating barely improving and why aren’t I getting loot?

The game – raids, PvP, dungeons, farming – it’s all tied and gated by combat rating. And all farming has caps, most of them hidden, undisclosed because they absolutely did not want you to know. This is a grind ARPG game that does not tolerate free grinds!

Everything boosts combat rating, but not all boosts are equals.
(As far as I can tell) the following affect combat rating:

  • Your hero’s level
    : Negligle difference

  • Your hero’s paragon level
    : Can add up over time, depending on tree choices, but progress is gated

  • Your hero’s regular gems
    : Small improvements. Farming is capped at 6 a day, with a few more from hilts (more farming)
    : Buying gems with cash via shop bundles is an option, while buying (swipe and win) via auctions is essentially uncapped

  • Your hero’s primary gear
    : Small improvements.
    : Upgrades are level capped
    : Legendary farming is capped at 6 a day
    : Quality is tied to orbs (pay to win)

  • Your hero’s secondary gear
    : Small improvements.
    : Upgrades are massively resource capped
    : Legendary farming is capped with primary gear
    : Set gathering is capped with legendary and gated with progress, which is tied to combat rating, which is further controlled by orbs.
    : Set quality is tied to orbs (pay to win) and other game mechanics

  • Your hero’s Horadric gems
    : Can make a noticeable difference, especially maxed
    : The gems are to free farm, though one is tied somewhat behind pay to win*
    : Keys are required to open chests, you can only farm a handful a day (377 needed for all chests)
    : Or you can get keys in paid bundles and or pay cash for platinum and open 21 chests a day (about 600 of each resources)*
    : *(Iben Fahd stone has a 1% chance to drop from any Sanctum chest)

  • Scoria for the Helliquary
    : Can make a noticeable difference to combat rating, but you can only gather a few a week by raiding
    : Or you can swipe that credit card and get a hefty top-up via the shop and Prodigy’s Path and Kikuras Rapids Trove. (More paid options to follow, no doubt)

  • Your hero’s PvP bonuses
    : These are tied to progress, which is gear and time and progress gated
    : As these are daily / weekly events and points are limited to activities, there is little to no catch-up.
    : Some of this progress is severely limited by combat rating penalties
    : Again, you can buy your way past some of these limitations
    : A fully progressed (time-gated) hero gets +25% to attack and defence in PvP
    : (The server’s resident Immortal gets more bonuses on top)

  • Your hero’s legendary orbs
    : As free-to-play you are thrown scraps. It is what it is.
    : As a free-to-play have zero bonus to magic (it’s possible to raise it, but you are effectively stopped from progressing)

    : As pay-you-win it can rain legendary orbs (at a cost)
    : As pay-to-win you get up to a 90% bonus to magic find. You won’t get more dropping (‘cos caps) but what you do get will probably be of a higher level and quality.

    : Each gem in turn can have up to five more such gems inside!. Even with stars and maxed to level 10. For a price
    : Thus, as pay-to-win, you can well over 350% bonus to everything above, plus other benefits, plus cosmetic effects. So, health? Triple or even quadruple that! Attack? Same. Armour? Same again. You get the idea: pay them enough and you will be godlike.

    If I have missed anything
    : You can be sure it has been monetized too.

  • BUT IS DOESN’T STOP THERE!
    : There’s a push/pull system enforced on your progress.
    : Just starting, behind the curve in experience points? You get a buff to race you ahead.
    : Ahead of the curve? You get a debuff of up to 90% to stop your progress.

    None of this is for game balance, it is to help sell orbs etc.

    : If you are too high a level, you are probably a farmer, you are grinding instead of buying, you must be stopped!

    : If you are far behind, you are either new or casual and will be rushed to a high level, but ‘cos of the lack of grinding, you will be under-geared for everything. You won’t even be able to enter most of the content. Unless you invest in bundles, in gems, in eternal orbs. Unless you pay to catch up on that gear rating.

    The reason this manipulation of players’ paragon levels matters is it affects farming. Normal, you can solo dungeons, Hell I require 2 people, Hell II+ require 4 people. It doesn’t matter if they leave a minute later, but you can’t enter without the requisite paragon level, combat rating and the number of players. Furthermore, achievements and rewards are sequential. Miss or get blocked on one, you are locked out of the rest. For instance: ‘9/11 Complete Forgotten Tower on Hell 1 with a Warband party’. Hell II won’t do it, so if your Warband is beyond that and not interested in older, unrewarding content, you can’t unlock 10/11 onwards. Things like that make you not want to play the game anymore, I think!

    : Then there’s the push on warbands, which in my experience are a bust, and on PvP-focused clan, which are a dumpster fire because once the tournaments start it is obvious that they are the pay-to-win at the top and the fodder (everyone else) below. There is little to no skill involved here, no tiers (unless you count your credit limit as a tier)

    Starting to see how insidious this is yet? This game is corporate greed unmasked, exposed and totally unashamable!

  • But that’s normal for mobile, right?
    : No! According to some who ran the numbers, it is 25x more expensive than the nearest most expensive gacha pay-to-win game. Figures bandied about put a fully maxed character at as much as £1.8m (and I consider even this an underestimate!)

 

{ Diablo Immortal Elder Rift generator: Calculate the cost of that gem you want! }

For the BiS Blood-soaked Jade, it cost $21,800. I got it cheap, given the odds. The second simulation cost $86,975. Mostly ‘Chip of Stoned Flesh’ dropped, but I did see 6 ‘Seeping Bile’. In all, I had 30 5/5 by the time I got the drop I wanted, along with 32,429 1 and 2-star gems. Great value, eh!

Let’s be more realistic: I want ‘this’ gem, 2/5 will do. There are none in auctions, so I have to farm. Chance is roughly 0.45% (1/9th of 4.5% for a specific 2/5 rank 1 gem). So, 200 tries. As pay to win, that’s 20 runs costing £450 and I should get it within an hour or two, probably, but RNG, so no guarantee. As free-to-play, with just 3 legendary crests a month from farming, that’s five and a half years.

Fun fact:

Activision own a patent (US patent 9,789,406 B2), a “System and method for driving microtransactions in multiplayer video games

While we don’t know where or if it has been used, it is safe to say it could be buried deep into games like CoD, Overwatch and Diablo immortal, tweaking drops, PvP pairing etc to push microtransaction sales. There is nothing nice or consumer-friendly or even decent about the manipulative way Blizzard operates.

See also: Arstechnica: Activision’s patented method to drive microtransactions with matchmaking

Abstract
A system and method is provided that drives microtransactions in multiplayer video games. The system may include a microtransaction arrange matches to influence game-related purchases. For instance, the system may match a more expert/marquee player with a junior player to encourage the junior player to make game-related purchases of items possessed/used by the marquee player. A junior player may wish to emulate the marquee player by obtaining weapons or other items used by the marquee player.

Google.patents: US patent 9,789,406 B2

In simplest terms, the battleground pairing could be designed to throw you into the meat grinder against a shiny, jacked-up, dual-card-wielding troll. You are going to get stomped. You are going to die, a lot. But at the end of the match, it will let you look at their gear. To see what they have – and what you don’t. If you swipe that card enough too, you could be like that.

Then further algorithms kick in. Algorithms and data I guarantee they will have on you. Have you spent money? If not, how can we tempt you into that first spend, that first commitment? If so how much and on what aspect of the game? On cosmetics, or on pay-to-win upgrades?
What next pairing will best profit the company?

If you have seen videos of expert players thrown against whales and krakens in Diablo Immortal you will know the pairing is not balanced. If you are not spending tens or hundreds of thousands, you are fodder for the amusement of the trolls bankrolling this game. That’s how it is.

None of this bothers me as I’m indifferent to PvP but it carries across into PvE, so impacts all players. How much this behaviour profits Blizzard, and how much it is tolerated by players will affect how heavily Diablo 4 is monetized.

If Blizzard gets away with this in Diablo Immortal, every other shark, from EA and Ubisoft down will embed and replicate the parasitic greed of mobile games and pure pay-to-win games like Fifa. The entire games industry will turn all regular players into fodder for fat cats. You will be psychologically conditioned to accept this as ‘the way it is’, as the new ‘norm’.

The fifth columnists of these games companies will be infiltrating social media, fan forums, /reddit and standing up for this abhorrent behaviour, they will be followed and liked by the developers implementing these ‘features’. By the way, that’s not a conspiracy theory, that is what is actually happening now, with Wyatt Cheung following and applauding (co-conspirators?) supporting the monetization of the game. Of course, you may consider this standard corporate damage limitation practice and consider me in the tinfoil hat crowd.

Wyatt Cheung’s arguments of “misinformation” and his quibble over semantics and that ‘gear’ is ONLY the equipment drops and not the (pay-to-win) gems you equipment within them.

‘Gear’ gives you stats, buffs and points for your combat rating. Gear in not pay to win.
Fact! (They claim). I’d quibble, but OK.
Their argument, their legal stance, and their definition is that ‘equipment’ only applies to the 12 wearable items such as rings, weapons and shoulder pads. Gems like ruby and tourmaline that directly adds stats are not gear and they can be monetized. Charms? Same? Legendary gems? Again, not gear. They say.

Legendary gems give you stats, buffs, points for your combat rating AND resonance which flat out increases equipment base attributes. AND they can give you up to 90% magic find so that any ‘gear’ that does drop will be higher quality than free-to-play people are likely to get.
So gems are actually much better than gear.
And the more stars they have, the more powerful they are.
The more you rank them up, the better.
The more gems you insert inside these gems and rank up, the more powerful you become until you the point that the equipment base attributes increase by 300%.
But gems are “not gear” claims Wyatt, so he never deliberately mislead people, we just misunderstood.
Happy to clear that up for you. Blizzard and Cheung are the good guys here, they don’t want you to spend tens of thousands of pounds each on ‘not gear’ to improve your chances in the game. Honest!

Nah!
When an executive or salesman flat out lies to your face, gets caught out doing so and without an ounce of shame stares you right in the face and states that you misunderstood, that it’s your fault for not reading the small print, that ‘other’s are spreading misinformation and gets his lackey’s to back him up… You walk away.

 


Go ask Norm!

 

But…

There is no but! If you have been normalized to excessive pay-to-win charges, this is a problem. You got played and you don’t even realise it!

Over time obscenities like this scuttle from intolerable to unpopular to ‘the norm’.

If players feed Blizzard’s coffer with this, other developers will follow suit.

In five or ten years, £1m per character/team will start to become the norm. By then, normalised to paying $100 to $1,000 per game and now seeing the cost jump tenfold, a hundredfold in everything you play, this new ‘norm’, this new level of insatiable greed should begin to sicken your generation. But you were OK with it in the past, complicit, apologising for and even feeding their greed, allowing it to snowball.

But maybe your kids won’t see the problem, for them, growing up with it, 100k, 1m per game is just how it is, “You don’t have to pay. This is how it is, how it’s always been”.

No, you don’t have to pay, you can enjoy the game equivalent of sleeping under bridges wrapped in newspapers and eating out of garbage cans to survive. Of staring hungrily in the restaurant windows as the player inside enjoys a side order of white truffle stuffed with white pearl albino caviar and dusted with saffron and edible gold. Sure the side order cost more than your entire life savings. Sure you are picking mould out of a half-eaten sandwich you picked out of a dumpster. But it’s free to play, you can enjoy it just as much. Right?

This is unending greed, fuelled by the corporate ‘need’ for unending growth.

The time to stop this prolific greed was a decade ago. Act now or face the consequences down the line!

 


Comparing Diablo III to Diablo Immortal

 


 

Diablo III

Diablo Immortal (beta)

Cost of game

£34.99 standard (offers available)

‘free to play’, but MASSIVELY monetised.
(Potentially hundreds of thousands of pounds per character)

Platforms:

PC (Microsoft Windows), Mac (OS X), PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, XBox One, Nintendo Switch

Android, iOS, PC (Microsoft Windows)

Copies sold / downloads

Over 30m

Over 30m claimed

Max number of heroes

17

5

Number of character classes

7

6 (no Witch Doctor)

Loot chest (equipment)

account-wide*

bound to character

Gems (regular and legendary)

account-wide*

bound to character

In-game currencies (e.g. gold)

account-wide*

bound to character

Regular gem and legendary gear drops

Uncapped

6 drops per day / event type, then drop rate nerfed, plus a few a day bought with hilts.

Or you can buy multiple troves and supply packs stuffed with these gems. Buying platinum with orbs (bought with cash) you can purchase all you want from auctions, right up to the point auctions run out of them, or your character is maxed. Money is no object in pay-to-win, after all.

Legendary gems

Free, 100% drop rate, easily farmable

Free capped around 1 or 2 a week, needs focused grind for mats (plus one a month with hilts.)
Multiple levels of crest type and multiple levels of RNG are applied to gems.
As an example, it takes 396 embers (capped at 200 / 320 a week) and 50+ dungeon runs to farm the embers to roll one legendary gem (RNG result).

Or you can get up to 10 these gems per run – for about £22.50 worth of orbs. Uncapped spending.

Legendary gem progress

Free, progress at your own pace.

Impossible to do in any meaningful way as free to play.
Obfuscated, massively convoluted and totally RNG-dependent system.

With current drop rates, costs around £25,000 per gem to max level.

With 6 gems to level, that is around £125,000 per character.

But to finish and add resonance and cosmetic effects, each gem then requires 4 specific legendary gems inside. Also levelled, But this information and system are hidden until you unlock each level.

The inner gems can be 1-star (cheaper to level) but may go up to 5-star, giving a potential cost of up between £500,000 to £750,000+ per character.**

Paid currency

not applicable

account-wide (eternal orbs)

Cosmetic gear:

free, account-wide, highly customisable

fixed looks, character bound and monetized:
(1,000 to 1,500 orbs, £14.37 to £22.99 per skin)

Pets?

yes, free**

No
(Noting that playing Diablo Immortal rewards a pet in Diablo III)

Wings?

Yes, free**

Yes but appplied to resonated gear, costing hundred to tens of thousands of pounds.
(Noting that playing Diablo Immortal rewards wings in Diablo III)

Seasons

Quarterly, free

Monthly, free – but with various monetized options

Leader boards

Yes, skill-based

Yes, pure pay to win

Rerolls on gear

yes, free, (gold or mats) RNG based

Free, but predominantly paid, with multiple levels of RNG
(ridiculously so for charms)

 

*(season and hardcore separated)
**(Some farmable, others rewards from events or other Blizzard games or collector’s editions)

**Depends of RNG and on market prices if buying in auctions. As it requires combining thousands of legendary gems, the cost is far beyond any normal player.


Streamers telling you how it is

 

  { Callum Upton: Diablo Immortal – Malicious Micro-transactions (I did a REAL test) }

 

  { Asmongold: Pay-to-win vs free-to-play compared in Diablo Immortal }

 

  { Josh Strife Hayes & Callum Upton: For the last time, about Diablo Immortal. (Psychology aspect) }

Above, “Josh gives his final lengthy speech regarding a variety of topics revolving around Diablo Immortal and mobile games monetization system with the Tangent Tavern co-host Callum Upton.”

 

  { Bellular news: Diablo Immortal: It’s Not JUST About P2W  The Toolkit Of Evil Explained }

 

  { Torulf Jernström: Let’s go whaling: Tricks for monetising mobile game players with free-to-play }

 


Suggested and related reading

 

Onliine articles

 

Cracked (2010): 5 Creepy Ways Video Games Are Trying to Get You Addicted

“So here’s the big question: Are some games intentionally designed to keep you compulsively playing, even when you’re not enjoying it?

Oh, hell yes. And their methods are downright creepy.”

Talking about Skinner’s box in relating to game (notable WoW), and bearing in mind this was written over a decade ago, the article adds:

“Now, there’s no way they can create enough exploration or story to keep you playing for thousands of hours, so they had to change the mechanics of the game, so players would instead keep doing the same actions over and over and over, whether they liked it or not. So game developers turned to Skinner’s techniques.

This is a big source of controversy in the world of game design right now. Braid creator Jonathan Blow said Skinnerian game mechanics are a form of “exploitation.” It’s not that these games can’t be fun. But they’re designed to keep gamers subscribing during the periods when it’s not fun, locking them into a repetitive slog using Skinner’s manipulative system of carefully scheduled rewards.”

“… ‘Variable Ratio Rewards’ … This is addictive in exactly the same way a slot machine is addictive. You can’t quit now because the very next one could be a winner. Or the next. Or the next.”
(5/5 legendary orbs anyone? “I’ve spent £9,910, surely another £90 and the one I want will drop”)

[Chinese game ZT Online (now in version 2) featured treasure chests opened with keys, bought with cash. Sound familiar?
Have to say, Blizzard, you missed this next bit – or is it lurking in the next update!?]

“Wait, that’s not the best part. ZT Online does something even the casinos never dreamed up: They award a special item at the end of the day to the player who opens the most chests.”

… “BF Skinner knew. He called that training process “shaping.” Little rewards, step by step, like links in a chain.”
[Little rewards, little offers in the shop, leading to more rewards, step, by step, leading you by the nose]

That really is a great article and finished with an excellent and incredibly accurate warning:

If you think WoW is addictive, wait until you see the games they’re making 10 years from now. They’re only getting better at what they do.

 


 

The Guardian (2014): How Candy Crush gets you hooked – six addictive tricks

We know that extroverts and introverts respond differently to different colour combinations in environments. We have seen players of fantasy role-playing games linger longer and spend more of their in-game currency in particular colour-combination merchant stores, for example.

A more valuable emotional experience for players is one that isn’t tiring but that makes them feel secure, happy or pleased. You do not have to invest as much energy in this emotion and so you can experience it for far longer.

So, quick decisions like: ‘Stand and fight or run and hide?’ are exciting system one decisions, whereas those involving questions like, ‘How will I earn enough money to buy that jewel-encrusted fluffy horned helmet?’ are pleasing, as they give us a sense of purpose and achievement, which is more about system two

“In terms of east and west, there are big differences,” says Moore. “Clan and team-based games are much more popular in the east than the west.”

 


gameindustry.biz (2019): What did the FTC hear in its loot box workshop?
Surprisingly absolutely nobody, the Entertainment Software Association clearly fought tooth and nail to argue loot boxes are not gambling (honest), when clearly – to everyone – they are. That the FTC and other governments didn’t stomp on the practice doesn’t mean the ESA are right, in means the level of lobbying (and whatever else…) resulted in it being put on the back burner.

“He showed a screenshot of Fortnite, noting that it uses well-established psychological tricks from the retail world, like pricing something at $1.99 instead of $2.”

“The problem here is that when you combine this with things like these bonuses that are offered, it’s a lot of cognitive load on the user, creating a complex exchange rate between digital money and real dollars,” Breyault said. “It can make it easy to lose track of an object’s real-world value.”

“The community mostly thinks loot boxes are gambling,” Dariani said. “… over and over we had people coming back to this idea that if it’s not gambling, it feels like gambling.”


You know that guy, Giorgio A. Tsoukalos, (“I’m not saying it was aliens, but it was aliens”), well, I’m not saying proverbial brown envelopes were exchanged, but… You are talking about an industry that makes tens of billions of dollars a year in profits from loot boxes being investigated. The investigation went away. All I’m saying.

Independent.ie (2022): ‘The seven psychological tricks tech firms borrow from gambling industry to keep us hooked on social media

That’s why social media sites want you to build a profile that grows as you post: the more time and effort we invest, the harder we will find it to consider the idea that we might be wasting our time. This sense of investment is well-exploited in mobile games that offer micro-rewards for logging in every day.

MakeUseOf (2019): 6 Ways Video Games Trick You Into Spending Money
(I don’t recall Bellular news citing this article, but I am quite sure (like 98%) that they have read it as a section of one of their streams was almost word for word to this in parts).

GameDeveloper.com (2017): Psychological Tricks that make Millions from Free to Play games

  • Create discomforts and then sell tools to reduce that discomfort

  • Slowly tear down the resistance – and the resolve of the gamer – to not spend money on in-app purchases

  • Explore the principle of Reciprocity
    (Essentially, here, we gave you this cool digital thing, for free, now buy ‘this’ for money, ‘cos that’s fair)

GameDeveloper.com / John Hopson (2001): Behavioral Game Design This is an important article as it focuses and the Skinner box as it relates to in game reward systems and – notably – extinction events. Like farming and getting no rewards. Something Diablo stuffs players with. This is why I walked away from this retched game! Read the article!

“As a general rule, extinction involves a lot of frustration and anger on the part of the subject. … A related phenomenon, called ‘behavioral contrast,’ “

… “The moral here is that reducing the level of reinforcement is a very punishing thing for your players and can act as an impetus for them to quit the game.”
How to make players quit. … “The other situation that can lead to quitting is the sharp drop in rate of reward which I discussed in the chimpanzee example.”

(This is curious as it is precisely what Blizzard did with the hidden drop caps, done intentionally (I believe) to frustrate players into buying orbs. Given the astronomical cost of gems, and the intentional early extinction of every other item in the game, most rational players will quit. Even the grinders will walk away when it is obvious there is no point trying.
My point here is not simply that it’s a bad game mechanism – it’s primordial.
We are talking about trying to overrule our lizard and monkey brain responses, which are hard-wired by millions of years of evolution Any cognitive psychologist worth their salt should have told them the tactic would explode in their face.)(

Ranker (I know, but still) (2018): Video Games That Subtly Trick You



  • Games Rely On Our Basic Need To Gather Supplies

  • Games Use Behavioral Psychology To Hook Players

  • Players Prefer Games With Rare Collectibles

  • Shorter Levels Encourage Longer Playtimes

  • Sequels Tend To Offer More Of What You Already Enjoyed

  • Free-To-Play Game Makers Know That Self-Control Has Its Limits

  • Loot Boxes Are Just Like Gambling

  • (‘Halo’ Is) All About 30-Second Blasts Of Fun

  • “Avoidance” Forces Players To Continue Coming Back (e.g. Crop decay in Farmville) FOMO (fear of missing out comes under the same box, like free daily rewards

  • Developers Run Psychological Tests On Gamers

  • Free-To-Play Games Create Issues, Then Sell Solutions

Note that Diablo Immortal utilises and exploits every one of the above and more?


In print:

 

 
The following books relate to psychology and or psychology and games design, with the emphasis on cognitive biases and thinking fallacies that businesses can manipulate to exploit you.
Links are to Amazon UK:

Basic:
You are not so smart, by David McRaney The full title continues: ‘Why your memory is mostly fiction, why you have too many friends on Facebook and 46 other ways you’re deluding yourself’.
So, Bellular and others mention the ‘anchoring effect’. Turn to chapter 39 and the book begins by telling you “your first perception lingers in your mind, affecting later perceptions”. Then it gives examples and you start to understand the mind games Blizzard and the likes are playing.

Intermediate:
Getting Gamers: The Psychology of Video Games and Their Impact on the People who Play Them, by Jamie Madigan
Self explanatory, but if you got this far, you can do worse that pop over to the authors web site: The Psychology of Video Games

The Chimp Paradox by Professor Steve Peters
The full and mouthy title is ‘The Mind Management Programme to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence and Happiness: The Acclaimed Mind Management Programme to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence and Happiness’.
On first glance, it is one of those ‘turn your life around’ books, but it’s still good, it’s an easy read and – more importantly here – goes into detail about our ‘monkey brain’ and behind that our ‘lizard brain’ and how it’s the reason we do the things we do, even if they are bad for us. This in turn would lead to automatic vs critical thinking, as covered in depth by Daniel Kahneman, below.

More advanced:
Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman
It doesn’t cover all the cognitive biases as psychologists keep finding new ones to label (there are literally hundreds), but it’s a solid grounding. Anchors are covered, again, chance and the fourfold pattern, risk policies, and more. I did a degree in forensic psychology and we didn’t get close to this book! Deep but highly recommended.

Evil by Design: Interaction Design to Lead Us into Temptation, by Chris Nodder
Has a leaning toward web design more than games but is general enough. While labelled as ‘Do no evil’ it’s the sort of book less scrupulous developers might consider an instruction manual. I imagine Blizzard’s staff have a copy or two somewhere!


Bonus videos, enjoy 🙂

 

  { Viva la Dirt League: Micro transactions be like }

 

  { Viva la Dirt League: Not enough experience to pass – New Area }

 

  { Fandom Games Honest Game Trailers: Diablo Immortal }

 

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