Sunday, February 24, 2013

Marvel: Avengers Alliance

Despite my better judgement, another Facebook game has captured my interest: "Marvel: Avengers Alliance" (which I will refer to as MAA for the sake of brevity). It's a typical Facebook game in that it allots you a certain amount of "energy" that you expend as you play, and when you are out of energy, you can't play the game any more until your energy regenerates. MAA expands on this concept by giving you seven different types of game currency, each of which is expended by different facets of the game. You need energy to play missions, command points to hire new heroes, SHIELD points to level up your heroes, silver to acquire new equipment, ISO-8 to play special missions, lockboxes in order to randomly acquire special bonuses and equipment, and gold for a variety of things. In fact, you can use gold to buy many of the other currencies, and in turn, you can pay real life money for gold. It's a complicated system whose purpose seems to be to obfuscate the amount of money you actually need to spend on the game in order to play that cool mission you saw, or to unlock your favorite Marvel hero.

Setting aside the ethics of the whole "buy energy to play" business model, the basic game itself is simple and entertaining. There's some light storytelling to set up the missions, and the missions themselves are turn-based combats similar to the old console roleplaying games. It's a fun little game, and it makes me wish that someone could strip it out of the Facebook game paradigm and make a standalone, turn-based, pay-for-it-once Marvel superhero RPG. I'd pay for that in a heartbeat.

So why won't I pay for the Facebook game? It comes down to simple math: they want more for it than I want to pay for it. A lot more. Let's say I want to open up all the features of the game, just as if I had gone out and bought a non-Facebook computer game. In order to have the option to use any and all of the 40 currently-available superheroes in the game, I would need to spend about 2000 command points (wild estimate), which would cost me about 1000 gold. Buying 1000 gold at the best possible volume rate would cost me $200 real world dollars.

For an old-school, turn-based, 2D RPG, I'm thinking more along the lines of $20.

And that's just the cost to unlock the superheroes; if I wanted to unlock all the equipment and missions and so forth ... you get the idea.

Thankfully, all of these resources can be earned in-game, though some are difficult to come by. So I can jump in for five minutes now and again and have a little superhero battle for free, and I guess that's fine. I just wish I could buy the game that this could have been if the developers had really wanted to produce a game and not a revenue stream.