Saturday, April 17, 2010

Coin-Op Mechanics

I'd forgotten about this, but it's relevant to the MMO's and money theme going. I had to review Data East Arcade Classics for Popmatters and ended up looking at it from a money making perspective. How much money did it cost to beat the average game? How did they ramp difficulty and flow to maximize profits per player? I'm intrigued by the idea enough that I'll probably expand it into a longer post and download a couple more arcade games to check my ideas. But here's the gist of it:

Truth be told, the whole experience became a lot more fascinating once I started keeping track of when I had to spend money. Bad Dudes cost me $3.25 to beat, Wizard Fire was $4.75, and Secret Agent came in at $3.50. The flow of gameplay always seemed to revolve around long periods of easy fighting followed by an intense choke point of difficulty. This is when you almost always dump another dollar into the machine. The last boss always involved some ridiculously unfair setup. The first level of a game was always beatable in one quarter, while the second was guaranteed to kill you. Some choke points were even designed to make me feel like it was my fault, like the platforming or maze sections in Wizard Fire. A lot of the things that I initially dismissed as bad design suddenly made a lot of sense from a money-making perspective. The game would get its claws into you and then kill you right when the game knew you’d be happy to drop another quarter into the machine.

Give the rest of the review a viddy if you like.

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