Gabe Newell's possible experiment

General Gosu “GosuGamers” Gamers

Disclaimer: Although the subject matter involves DotA 2 and examples from HoN and LoL are used in this article, this is by no means a comparison of the merits of either game / competitive scene. Please keep discussions about the key issue being discussed.

Oh Valve, you guys have always been pretty awesome among the bigger developers, with fans who don't mind putting up with a whole new time / calendar system for release dates, your awesome snackbar, and you actually put quite a lot of effort into your sequels, with new elements of gameplay most of the time instead of just sticking in Yoshi and tweaking the number after the title. But with every brilliant idea there's usually lots of broken lightbulbs leading up to it, and one of Newell's latest plans is either the savior of online multiplayer or just the worst thing ever implemented into steam.

"The industry has this broken model, which is one price for everyone. That’s actually a bug, and it’s something that we want to solve through our philosophy of how we create entertainment products.

What you really want to do is create the optimal pricing service for each customer and see what’s best for them. We need to give customers, all of them, a robust set of options regarding how they pay for their content.

An example is – and this is something as an industry we should be doing better – is charging customers based on how much fun they are to play with. Some people, when they join a server, a ton of people will run with them. Other people, when they join a server, will cause others to leave. We should have a way of capturing that. We should have a way of rewarding the people who are good for our community.

So, in practice, a really likable person in our community should get Dota 2 for free, because of past behaviour in Team Fortress 2. Now, a real jerk that annoys everyone, they can still play, but a game is full price and they have to pay an extra hundred dollars if they want voice.

That’s just one example. Another is how much people want to pay for items. Some people are happy paying a dollar. They’ll pay a dollar over and over and over again, others want to be different, others want to run servers and create mods.

Each one of these people should represent a different monetisation scheme for the community as a whole."
- Gabe Newell, Valve co-founder

UnitedStates Phil "The_Thrill" Haller

Let me break this into two questions:

1. What is the definition of a "likeable person" and how is such an identity attained?
2. How practical is the this idea and what would the response be?

1. Fun is defined many different ways. "one mans trash is another mans treasure" "one mans fun is another mans misery" What I find fun might be incredibly different from another person. What makes a person likeable? Is it their sportsmanship? Their skill? Their humor? Their good looks or money? The answer is simple: THEIR ABILITY TO WIN. I have 8 HoN accounts and they range from low 1600's to high 1800's. When I queue up, sometimes I'm Blue, and sometimes I'm Orange. I have played hundreds of HoN games over the past 2 years and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the one thing that makes a person likeable, is how often you WIN with them. I couldn't give two fucks if I join a game and play with 4 assholes, as long as we're winning that's all that matters to me. Winning is FUN, maybe in games like Team Fortress 2 that have had the competitive viability literally sucked out of them, a "Like" "Dislike" system would work, but in a game that is built to be competitive like DOTA 2 should be (fingers crossed they haven't ruined another series) the feature would be even more abused. Hey Brown, you seem like a nice guy, you listen when I say buy wards, you use your spells when I ask you to, WHAT YOU JUST GOT ABYSSAL SKULL ON BLACKSMITH??? Rate down. Noob. So in reality the only way to attain a likeable status, is to consistently win, or only play with friends. Using a popularity contest to decide who gets privileges, sounds like it'll be accurate and unbiased. Which brings me to point #2....

2. You find trolls and mic abusers offensive? You know what I find offensive? Obese people. I have an idea Gabe, how about this. From now on, whenever you go to a restaurant, the people who work there will vote on whether or not they think you're fat. If they vote yes, you have to pay twice as much for your food. Sound fair? The practicality of this type of "payment plan" is a joke. You expect to get fair and accurate results in a game where tensions run incredibly high and the smallest mistakes decide entire games. Then expect a community of already largely immature gamers to not abuse the system, rating up their friends regardless of the fun factor they bring, and rating down people they have personal problems with or just the bads they are forced to endure in the everyday grind.

Like a rotund version of Karl Marx, Gabe Newell sets expectations high with little thought process on application or reality. What a terrible idea.
So first off, I don't think I need to explain how is Gabe's latest idea controversial at all, I mean, price discrimination as well as economic conditioning for player's behaviour isn't exactly innovation of the year, but was simply never put into practice for fairly obvious reasons.

First off, Newell's perception of prices seems to be a little...reversed for lack of a better word. Sure, you could assess how valuable a customer is by observing his expenditure on your products, but ultimately prices are more of a customer's assessment of a company's products - whether or not it's worth parting with that amount of money. That's why most AAA titles can afford to sell at $60 per copy upon release, and yet less enthusiastic potential clients can still get it at a different price when stores lower them. I can't help but feel a small sense of arrogance from Gabe here, with his new price scheme as a sort of measure as to how "worthy" a player is of playing his game.

Although I've discussed this topic with quite a few friends, to obtain some extra perspective from a competitive AoS-style PoV, I asked ex-DotA vet Drayich and current Honcaster "The_Thrill" for their views on the matter, contrasting their views as well since they have rather opposing reputations in terms of mannerisms.

Sweden Kim "Drayich" Larsson

This idea is the best idea I've ever heard about. My only concern is how to monitor and follow it up. Because if people who deserve to have lower costs gets higher because of bad monitoring then it sucks. Also, some people might just pay for their account and then feel like they have the right to behave however they want to behave.

Let's take a look at their common ground here, which happen to coincide with the reason why almost no one has tried this before: the difficulty in execution. I've thought hard about it, but honestly I can't think of a fool-proof way to make this idea plausible, so let's just speculate a little bit on how this idea might be implemented.

Discretionary Game Masters. One of the most traditional forms of behaviour regulation in online multiplayer gaming, where a player's punishment is often decided by a select group of GMs. The only difference is that the consequences will be financial for the player this time rather than the usual suspension. Personally, I don't see Valve going this route, it's way too high a risk to place the financial welfare of your playerbase at the hands of such a small group of people. It might work if GMs weren't players of the game, hence have near to full impartiality, but then how would they have the knowledge necessary to say, tell apart a new player and an intentional feeder?

Power to the people. League of Legends recently implemented The Tribunal, a system where a reported player's fate will be decided by any player above a certain level through the ballot. It's pretty much the same concept as any karma or reputation system on some forum boards or browser games, but this turns the entire judgment process into a popularity contest. I won't lie, I completely facepalmed when I heard “it is ok to judge your friends as long as you do so impartially…” in the video. Not to mention that quite a few ragers / trolls within the community have quite established fanbases, especially the ones who possess the skills to play the game on a competitive level. So is being a douchebag ok so long as a significant amount of people are ok with you? The fact that they offer IP (Influence Points) to players who manage to reach the "correct" decision, in my opinion, distorts how a player passing judgment should be thinking, from "Should this player be punished?" to " What's the community going to decide on this?", introducing an external incentive a judge should not have. Phil also brings up a good point of how abusable a system like this would be, with lower-skilled players potentially exposed to unjust punishment. Quite frankly, this is the closest to how I see Valve doing this, since "likeable" is so hard to define and subjective that it will ultimately be up to the community. But what happens when a troll has an established fanbase who enjoys the constant drama?

some people might just pay for their account and then feel like they have the right to behave however they want to behave. - Drayich
Aside from all that, Drayich raises a good point which is a major concern in every game with a cash shop: the power of the IRL rich. One of the reasons why it's hard to take most F2P games seriously is how people who are willing to spend can easily catch up with the most dedicated players. It creates a sense of double standard, and basically drags the community backwards on the human evolution scale to the old days where the rich could almost literally do whatever they want. Yes, some might say it's life, rich people just get more stuff, but even in today's world, having money will only bail you out until your trial should you commit a crime. In a way, it sort of legitimises griefers, for those who can afford a higher price tag. Imagine asking a douchebag what gives him the right to do so, only for him to go: "Lol coz I paid triple the amount you did?" It will be hard to justify banning people who already paid a lot more to access the game, as there would be an obvious sense of double punishment, a problem which will undoubtedly emerge since the developers themselves, by charging a different price, recognise that every case will be handled on a case-by-case basis, with no sense of precedent or uniformity.

So yeah, while I'm confident in saying that majority would prefer playing a game with a nicer, more polite playerbase, I honestly don't see how this is an adequate solution. I understand how the behaviour of the community of this genre has always been a problem, growing together with the size of the community, and how Valve might see it as a problem if fixed, could easily tilt the scales in their favour in the race to pole position in the genre. C'mon Valve, I'm pretty sure you know how big the DotA community is, I don't see much of a chance of DotA 2 flopping in retail sale numbers, you don't have to take such a hasty risk, with a punishment system that has lots of possibilities for failure.

Having said all that, I'm fairly pleased with the positive side of Newell's proposal. Free copies of DotA 2 to popular competitive players, and rewards as positive reinforcement to players who contribute or behave well are definitely a plus. Go ahead, game developers have been doing that since forever. Sure, there will be some people bringing up stuff like equal rights etc to be upset about it, but giving someone perks is very different from depriving another from what he originally paid for, despite how directly opposing they seem to be. The only small concern I have about this area is that it takes the "good element" out of sincerely being nice, but I guess that's not too significant a concern in the grand scheme of things.

Newell has a reputation for talking about some of the wildest ideas without them actually materializing, let's hope this is one of those times again.

So what do you guys think about his idea? Yay or nay?