The $1000 Omelet

You may have heard about the Zillion Dollar Lobster Frittata a few years ago. That was its primary purpose — to be heard about. It was a successful little publicity bit that let a restaurant stake its claim on being the high end of the high end, where the richest of the rich dine. The richest of the rich pay more than you do.

Restaurants and games both tend to include a ridiculously high-priced items because it makes everything else look reasonable by comparison. Very few people will ever buy a $1000 omelet, but it makes a nice conversation piece while dining on $30 omelets. The cash shop for almost every game includes a $100 package, and occasionally higher. This is partly bait for whales, who might actually buy it. It is mostly an anchor point to make the $25 package “middle of the road” amidst $5, $10, $25, $50, and $100. The developer will nudge you towards $25 by making that the point where “and 20 FREE silver floogles BONUS!” starts. And hey, somewhat reasonable player, if you think you might end up buying the $25 package a few times over the next few months, why not just get the $100 package now and get the 200 FREE golden floogles BONUS? Developers want their customers dreaming big.

You can also nudge people upwards a bit by including horrible deals. That mid-range package looks much more reasonable when you place it next to something intentionally unreasonable. Say you offer three packages: Basic, with 3 features for $20; Champion, with 5 features for $40; and Legendary, with 10 features for $60. If you are going to spring for the $40 package, you might as well spring for the $60, right? Magazine subscriptions do this with “digital plus paper” packages that cost slightly more than the paper.

You can combine these. Disney World has $5000 trips, which are pretty nice but mostly serve to show you all the things you might pick when building your own package. And aren’t you smart, to get 75% of that premium package for less than half the cost? And when you are dining at the Beauty and the Beast castle, do you really want to let your kid order the $14 bowl of cereal? Sure, the $24 eggs are pricey, but they look much saner next to that cereal, and it makes dining on the meal plan an even better deal. Aren’t you smarter than those people buying $30 eggs while talking about the $1000 omelet?

: Zubon

Pokémon Go in Three Sentences

Some people seem to be mostly using it as an excuse to socialize outside with people, others are the classic uber-dedicated kind of nerd who needs to collect all of a thing regardless of how unreasonable the effort involved is. I’ve played a bit of it and I agree that it’s fundamentally boring because there’s nothing different about the mechanics of catching a ratata in one place and a meowth a block away. On the whole it seems like a force for good in the world.
drethelin

Cook, Serve, Delicious!

My thanks to Jeromai who recommended Cook, Serve, Delicious! I have spent only an hour in this game, but it was one of the most intense hours of gameplay I have had. 75% off during the Steam summer sale.

I tend to be suspicious of cooking sim games because I have hated the entire Papa’s (Pizzeria, Burgeria, Pancakeria…) series every time I have tried one. So far, CSD! knocks out the annoying things like precise placement of mustard in favor of intense time management. Intense! With just four prep slots and four dishes, I am facing off against an array of demands with lots of time pressure, along with the chores that add more time demands. The game days are bite-sized increments of gameplay, and you need to be on for those days. If you want to get a perfect score for the day and the bonus, at least; I imagine you can play more relaxedly and have a pretty solid restaurant.

Filleting fish is surprisingly satisfying.

I am looking at the screenshots on Steam and thinking that the later days must get a bit more dicey with many options. My recipes right now are basic with limited variation. Do you want sugar on your sopapillas or not? There is exactly one way to prep fish or chicken. One of the screenshots shows 13 different toppings for nachos. Which: realistic, fair, but that is a lot to customize per order, as opposed to the six possible toppings on starter salads.

I do not know how long the thrill of cooking will last, nor whether it will still be fun at the higher levels, but even an hour of intense, quality, enjoyable play makes this worthwhile at 75% off.

: Zubon

The Room

This is not about that movie.

The Room seems to be the best thing I picked up on the Steam summer sale, and you can still get it for $1.24. It is a not-terribly-long puzzle game (, starting with a puzzle box and unfolding from there. Most of the puzzles are enjoyable, although sometimes a little too far into “A leads to B leads to C, push the button” or “what are they thinking?” but where things fall on that continuum will probably be idiosyncratic based on what you find intuitive. When in doubt, try looking through the lens.

Even when it is not at its best as a game, in that you are basically pushing buttons to watch a fancy mechanical box whirl, it is a cool fancy mechanical box. It also leads to some enjoyably phantasmagorical imagery as the story of the game develops.

As a bonus, the sequel launches on Steam July 5, so if you like this one, there will be another one this week (and 2 and 3 are already available on mobile).

: Zubon

Gems of War

The other match-3 game I have been playing a bit of lately is Gems of War, also off the Steam discovery queue. It is from the makers of Puzzle Quest, so the basic gameplay is solid and entertaining. This is their F2P game that includes just about every F2P grind and cash shop mechanic I have ever heard of, except for selling “energy.” Its monetization is impressive in its horribleness, particularly in the way it stacks upon itself and creates layers of hiding actual dollar amounts. Continue reading Gems of War

Colorblind

The Steam summer sale recommended I try Force of Elements, a match-3 F2P2W asynchronous PvP game in early release. Having enjoyed a bit of match-3 lately, I tried it out. In my second game, I found something really exciting: this game not only failed to take colorblind people into account, it went in the other direction and uses a “grayed out” mode as an attack to make it difficult to see what gems should match. That is one way of defining a problem into a feature.

Also note the “asynchronous PvP,” in that your opponents are computer-controlled versions of other players. This means using colorblindness as an attack only works against other humans, unless the computer imposes a different penalty upon itself in these cases.

: Zubon

Humble E3 Digital Ticket

If you occasionally get a Humble Bundle, now is probably the time to get one. Just looking at the “pay what you want” level, it includes:

  • Psychonauts, which is good.
  • 40 treasure chests for Pathfinder Adventures
  • 500 coins for the Amazon appstore
  • content for 4 MMOs

And then more. And then more MMO and MOBA content in the paid levels, and more games, and some subscriptions and betas. And then there are some more of those games and betas at the “pay what you want” level. And some other stuff.

: Zubon

Cancer and Crashlands

I have cancer.

It’s stage 4 esophageal cancer. You can look up statistics, but as it is “uncurable”… my first oncologist said I was looking at maybe 5-7 years, not decades. I haven’t had this discussion again with my current oncologist.

I am currently being treated at Siteman Cancer Center, which is one of the top 10 cancer centers in the U.S. My oncologist specializes in GI-tract cancers, and I am currently on a pretty good study regime with Herceptin. I have had 4 full chemo treatments in this first round of 8, and I am showing early stages of remission from my latest CT scan.

This is why I’ve kind of dropped off the face of the interwebs.

Crashlanding Back Here

Continue reading Cancer and Crashlands

Dressing Room

a screenshot from the game Farm For Your Life showing the character customization screen The game Farm For Your Life has a simple feature that I have not seen elsewhere: on the character customization screen, put a mirror behind the character so you can see how that hair, jacket, whatever looks from behind. Yes, you can usually spin the character around to look, but is a mirror that hard? (Probably, yeah.)

In many game genres, you mostly see your character from behind anyway. Maybe the point of view should start behind the character, like in a barber shop or hair salon, with you the customizer as the hairdresser. And spend less time customizing the exact shape of a nose you can’t see 95% of the time.

: Zubon

Evolution and Enshrinement of a Feature

The first time I encountered an MMO with a confectioner trade to make muffins that buff people, I was enchanted. It is a simple and slightly silly idea with roots in developers learning what players like.

Hunger, thirst, and other biological functions are not common features in MMOs these days, apart from surprisingly common quests to make you clean up poop. Early RPGs commonly had hunger and sometimes thirst, reflecting the intuitive notion that you will starve to death if you never eat. This meant players needed to acquire food (and sometimes water) and eat regularly or else suffer a hunger debuff that might stack unto death.

Players generally hated that. It was the sort of bookkeeping that most people ignore in pencil and paper roleplaying games, like encumbrance. Yes, there are survival games where finding food is a core mechanic, but most of us are happy to assume it happens in the background. More importantly, players hate debuffs, they hate feeling like something is being taken from them, and they hate being reminded of costs over time.

It feels like a tax on playing the game. Continue reading Evolution and Enshrinement of a Feature