Angry Birds Epic: This could have been a great game

2014-12-05 06:27

I keep thinking about this, and then not doing it, and then thinking about it more.

Angry Birds Epic is a spectacularly bad game, and it’s a bad game not because Rovio don’t have the technical ability to make a good game, but because the entire game has been subordinated to a pushy and aggressive F2P model.

ABE is a turn-based RPG, with fairly simple mechanics. Nothing amazing, but certainly some potential to be pretty fun. Except that they want to sell you things. So, first off, everything is tuned about requiring purchases. No, I’m not just whining about difficulty; I mean there’s clear indications and repeated reminders that you’re supposed to be spending money to get things that will help you out. Also you are occasionally offered the option of watching an ad to get buffs. Sometimes ads are just played for you anyway. You can’t skip those ads. You can’t turn them off.

A game which showed you ads occasionally, and let you remove ads for a few bucks, would be a business model that I wouldn’t particularly object to, and would not prevent the game from being fun. A game where fights are balanced around you watching an ad before them to get buffs that improve your combat statistics, however, is migrating noticably away from “fun”.

Similar things happened to the original Angry Birds. When it released, it was designed to be a challenging puzzle game. When they started adding purchaseable advantages, they started tuning the game around the advantages, and it became a lot less fun.

Mostly, I’m disappointed by ABE because I think that, if Rovio had made the most fun game they could, using a less intrusive model, I would have really, really, enjoyed that game. Instead, they made a game intended to be actively unpleasant unless you paid significant extra money on a recurring basis.

It is not obvious how you could encourage companies to make more-fun games instead of less-fun games, when less-fun games make more money. The sweet spot financially is to make a game which is just fun enough to get people involved, then actively unpleasant without contributions of cash. Making a game which is fun already and doesn’t require extra infusions won’t make as much money. Not even close. But the impact of this on the quality of games for sale is not necessarily good…

Peter Seebach