Former SWTOR dev talks about designing ethical lockboxes
An extensive Twitter thread from former Star Wars: The Old Republic lead systems designer Damion Schubert grappled with the timely and touchy topic of lockboxes and microtransactions from the perspective of one who designed them.
Schubert said that designers can make lockboxes that aren’t pure evil: “I’ve been working in free-to-play games for four years, and lootboxes are pretty crucial to that business model working. But it is possible to do them ethically, and they are super easy to f**k up.”
“Good [microtransactions] design is an art,” he continued. “It requires designers to be equal partners with product managers to come up with something that is perceived as fair and is celebrated […] MTX will fail if it doesn’t feel good to spend. It will fail if it creates a poisonous environment around the game instead of excitement.”
He went on to point out that 90% or more of a free-to-play game’s audience isn’t there to spend anything but are essential for getting the word out, providing a massive social environment, and making sure that queues pop. It’s why Schubert is happy with targeting big spenders: “I’m pretty fine with those guys paying a lot of money so that a whole bunch of kids without money or credit cards can play my games for free. I’ve compared it to the old patron system in Renaissance times, where kings and rich dudes would subsidize art so everyone could enjoy it. ”
Trion Worlds CEO Scott Hartsman highlighted the thread in agreement, adding, “The exact thinking that led to us naming our optional subs ‘Patron’ programs — server-based games are vastly more expensive to operate than single player/small group/async games. Someone needs to kick in for the bills. Enter, patrons.”