Monday, September 23, 2019

Apple Arcade and the future(s)

Apple Arcade's launch is splattered all over the pundosphere, with every possible hot take from "This is pretty good" to "This could be a problem."
I haven't tried Arcade yet. I'm waiting for iOS 13.1 to drop on Tuesday. Also, I'm wallowing in new unplayed PC games already (Little Misfortune, Asshole Goose Game, etc). A free trial month of 75 more games feels like more of a threat than a promise. But hey, I can still blog about it.
Everybody(*) loves Apple Arcade for obvious reasons. "This is a really good deal for players"; "Apple pushes back against manipulative free-to-play crap." These are both true statements. They both amount to the same thing: Apple is investing a lot of money in iOS games and releasing them for way below cost.
This is great for the devs involved. I recognize a lot of names on that launch list and I am happy for them. But it also leaves us wondering how long the party will last, and who will be invited. Community nerves are already sensitized, or just rubbed raw, by the arguments around the Epic Game Store. Epic is also in its money-hose platform-building stage -- but for how long?
Thus the asterisk on the statement above. Investment dollars and free games buy a lot of love and a lingering whiff of fear. It's hard not to see Arcade as yet another stride in the race to the bottom. Is the "premium" pay-up-front game about to suffocate?

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The Zarfian Cruelty Scale, revisited

The Zarfian Cruelty Scale is 23 years old as of last month. That's not a numerically interesting anniversary, but it's respectable age for a offhand scrap of critical theory that still gets mentioned regularly.
I am pleased and amused by the Cruelty Scale's continuing currency. But I also worry that people might apply it more broadly or rigidly than it deserves. The Cruelty Scale has had caveats almost from the beginning; it embodies many 1996-ish assumptions about IF and game design. I think it's time to, at minimum, dig into those assumptions. We should make sure we know what we're thinking when we use it.