Saturday, August 28, 2010

How Much Money Makes You A Customer

As many of you know, I quite like professional wrestling and on occassion I have been known to 'e-fed' - a sort of wrestling based group fanfic. I have also been playing a browser game called 'The Wrestling Game' for over two years now and nestle quite nicely in amongst the top 200 or so players in the game. Its fun, mindless and costs nothing apart from time and a little attention.

Years ago, I started playing a facebook game called 'Wrestler' which, with a little more interactivity, attempted the same thing. It was OK, but like many of these games it really only rewarded time-sinkable players and I grew a little bored and abandoned it. Cut to a couple of years later and I stumbled across 'Wrestler:Unstoppable' (essentially Wrestler 2.0) and started playing it. Its quite good, I enjoy it - mindless, free fun etc.

However, for some people it isn't free. As with most FB games nowadays, an area of the game has been monetised to generate income. By taking part in matches you earn coins, which can be spent on new costumes, training slots etc. However the really cool stuff costs Wrestler BUCKS which can be got in two ways: buying them direct or signing up to survey companies, installing (and deleting!) FB apps etc.

Its not hard to do the second method, carefully, and generate a few bucks. However its far easier to just push a few buttons and grab them using paypal, should you want to. Well, why would you? Aha! The roleplaying side of the game - the federations - costs bucks to set up. Thirty, I believe. In real money that constitutes almost £2.50 worth of investment. To get a few special items, a fancy nameplate for your character and a nice background - cosmetic things - will cost you around 120 bucks, or a wallet tearing £8.

Seriously, you would think people were mortgaging their homes!

"We cannot afford this!"
"You are forcing us to spend REAL money!"
"I cannot believe that all the cool stuff costs bucks!"

Its the same refrain that comes from the Zynga stable of games as well.

The fly in the Wrestler ointment however, appears to be that the player base quite liked v1.0 and were mighty miffed when it was closed and 2.0 was opened. All that time and effort into developing their characters has been wasted. Now they are 'investing' in this new game, they have a voice, some ownership, a 'right' as 'consumers' to have their words listened to.

And of course, because it is the internet, their 'word' means telling the owner - a guy called Jon - exactly what he should be doing to 'save' his game. His dying game. The game he is killing before them by his stupid decisions and moreover, the game they HAVE PAID REAL MONEY (£3) to take part in!!! That makes them PAYING CUSTOMERS (I don't know the mark-up for a trumpet volley, but it should accompany that phrase) and therefore they have RIGHTS and if you ignore their rantings you are BAD BUSINESS and you are KILLING THE GAME.

You know, his game. The one he has invested his real money - and probably a damned sight more than £3 into. And he should listen to all of you, the vast majority who are still, eight months on, demanding a rollback to v1.0....

I often wonder about the mob mentality of the internet. I often wonder what turns a rational human being into an entitled wanker just because they have a keyboard in front of them. If you bought a pint and some crisps for £3 would you then think that you had the divine right to bellow at the directors of the pub chain about their choice of juke box tracks? No, not really.

But you can on the internet. Bless it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Porn-acus is Over!

If ever a TV show got the award for 'Most Uninspiring First Episode Only to Create Awesomeness' then it would have to go to Spartacus: Blood and Sand. Or Pornacus, as we call it.

Mrs G. and I watched the first episode with almost detached indifference. It was there, doing things, but nothing really grabbed us. It looked like a Rated-R version of '300' done by someone as a college film project and really nothing to write home about. It was only as a freak of circumstance that the series had stayed on our SKY+ planner that we watched the second episode and then were hooked for the rest of the series. Once the show hit the gladiator school, it was addictive viewing.

Its hard to pinpoint what has made the show so good. Obviously it mixes action, intrigue, sex, romance and adventure into one heady rollercoaster ride, but thats not really it. Maybe its because it does it all with such gay abandon. The violence is truly viscerally violent. The action borders on superheroic on occassions, especially with the patended salmon leaps. The intrigue slips beyond twirling moustaches and becomes a genuine web of ambitions and lies. The sex is ... unforgiving. Brutal and wanton and omnipresent. The language is a mix of pseudo-theatrics peppered with coarse swearing. And it keeps you on your toes. Plot threads are raised and dealt with in blistering speed. Characters live and die on a whim, appropriately, and it has an almost Game-of-Thrones-esque disregard for the lives of popular characters.

In fact, its hard to see how they have squeezed so much into only 13 episodes!

The characters have also been a pleasure. Obvious props go to the scheming John Hannah as Batiatus and Lucy Lawless as his desperate wanton wife, Lucretia, flanked by her scheming (and equally evil) nemesis Ilithyia. The niaive Varro, noble Doctore, manipulative Ashur and fallen Crixus all made their mark. And of course, the title character is awesome as well.

What hit home to me in the last episode was that in the midst of the bloodbath, the real conflicts were essentially social.

- Could Spartacus persuade Crixus to be part of his rebellion?
- Could Spartacus persuade Doctore to cast aside years of servitude and rebel?
- Could Ashur trick Doctore to escape?
- Could Spartacus persuade Varro's wife that he was innocent?

The fighting was superfluous in the end - set dressing to the main event which were these conflicts and the one-liners between the various characters as they died, escaped or rebelled.

And in the end, only two of the main characters* died at the end of the show (and then, one was still twitching!) despite it appearing to be a complete cast TPK scenario. Genius. A true feat of televisual sleight of hand.

There is a prequel coming, Spartacus: Legends of the Arena, and then Season 2, now that the actor that plays Spartacus has recovered from cancer. Personally, I cannot wait. Oh, and DVD in Sept. too. Excellent.

* I don't count the Gaul brothers as main...


I have had the pleasure of sharing the Metro this week with two gems of Geordie football knowledge. They are only on the train for a couple of stops but the pundit style gems that have come from their mouths have made my day. For example:

Manchester Utd 3-0 Newcastle United

BBC View: Manchester United made the perfect start to their title bid with a comfortable victory against promoted side Newcastle at Old Trafford.

SuperMetroFootballPunditView!: Newcastle should have easily beaten Man Utd. With the squad Newcastle has, it should have been easy. If they cannot beat Man Utd away, they are doomed to relegation.

Or how about this one?

Young Boys 3-2 Tottenham Hotspur

BBC View: Tottenham's dreams of qualifying for the Champions League group stages hang in the balance after a first leg play-off defeat by Young Boys

SuperMetroFootballPunditView!: Utter disaster for Spurs showing them up for the relegation candidates that they are. Must mock my Spurs-supporting work colleagues about their impending Championship status when I get to work.

Its all totally without a hint of irony either - just two blokes talking very solemnly about football and they way they see the league playing out. Its addictive!