Editorial: Progression Systems Must Be Stopped - TheFamicast.com: Japan-based Nintendo Podcasts, Videos & Reviews!


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Editorial: Progression Systems Must Be Stopped

Last year saw the beautiful, hilarious disaster that was Star Wars Battlefront II. That was a laugh, right? The gaming audience reacted so badly to the pay-to-win unlock system, the game flopped pretty hard. Pay-to-win wasn’t the core problem with the game, though. It was a symptom of something much worse: a progression system.

Multiplayer progression systems have been a thing for a while, mostly in bro-shooters like Call of Duty and Battlefield. A progression system -- playing the game for a while, unlocking better gear, characters, and buffs -- that’s just videogame common sense, right? Yeah, no, actually, in multiplayer, that’s extreme garbage, and it’s been creeping into more and more multiplayer games lately. It’s bewildering.

The weed gun with the pot leaf sights offers an unfair advantage by causing your targets to laugh uncontrollably.

Progression systems are extremely bad for several reasons. They spook new players, they open the door to pay-to-win situations, but worst of all, they create unfair matches. Why would you design your game to be unfair? That’s fucking insane! Nintendo has embraced multiplayer progression for indeterminable reasons in ARMS (stronger arms), Pokken (skill points), Mario Kart 8 (kart parts), and god knows what else. It has made those games, flagship system-sellers, bad.

Video game design expert

Some people actually defend progression systems for reasons. Let’s break them down:

  • “Unlocking stuff is fun. I love Skinner boxes.”  It’s true. I, too, enjoy the endorphin rush of opening up hourly pretend video game boxes, but look at it this way: every weapon, character, or critical thing you need to unlock isn’t a reward. It’s a hostage, a missing piece of the game that handicaps you as long as you don’t have it. Cosmetic stuff is a fine reward that doesn’t disadvantage other players, yeah, but better gear that gives an edge over other players? That’s gross.

No food pellets until he reaches 1st dan

  • “Players need to learn weapons/characters/options one-at-a-time.” I appreciate the idea of easing new players into all the stuff in the game, but keeping it locked out is a mistake that puts them at an additional disadvantage and is not necessary as part of a tutorial. Assuming every new save file or account is a new player is also a mistake: needing to manage a bunch of save files for events and get-togethers is also a pain in the ass. Looking at you, locked fighting game characters.


  • “It’s not that bad, since you unlock everything fast.” Is it really okay to make a game bad and unfair for just a little while? There’s not really an argument for it. Why not just reduce that unfair time to zero?

    Locking tools helps new players. Helps them get dunked on.

  • “Wet-and-wild online Call of Duty and Battlefield games aren’t all tryhard tournament matches, chill out bruh.”  It’s not cool and chill to be dunked on by better gear while grinding just to get on an even footing. In fact, I imagine it’s quite frustrating to buy one of these games late and be hit by the double whammy of being inexperienced and undergeared!

    Video game design expert

There are a lot of other what-about and even-though excuses for progression systems in games, but progression systems have never made a versus-game better. There will be band-aids like level caps or matchmaking algorithms or whatever, but they cannot 100% negate the core problem that progression systems introduce.

Just to be extra clear here, the problem is strictly in competitive multiplayer. Keeping stuff locked in single-player is generally fine. A couple of rare games even just had "unlock everything" codes, which is super handy for events. Some games have dual online modes, one with clean matches and the other with progression gear. What happens with those, though, is the progression mode dies off quickly. For example, see Injustice 2 gear, UMVC3 Heroes & Heralds, Killer Instinct Shadow Lords multiplayer. Nobody really likes to play unfair matches for any length of time.

Can progression systems be stopped? Maybe, with enough internet derision and market failure. I urge you to leave negative reviews of progression games. Start finding comments and reviews that praise multiplayer progression and fucking send that shit to scrubquotes. Take to the streets and start burning effigies. Guzzle the blood of EA execs if you haven’t started already. Momentum is starting to build on this, and it just needs a good push.

Become a video game terrorist today!

1 comment:

Sairus Delaney said...

I definitely agree that at the very least there needs to be a level playing field mode in any game that offers progression systems. Something that disables all perks and gives flat loadouts/unlocks/etc to all players.
Pokken's leveling up system is one of the main reasons I never invested too heavily in the game when it launched in arcades.