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SMNC: Prudent Players Not Welcome

Uber Entertainment recently rolled out a new Pro character, Artemis, for Super Monday Night Combat. She’s a mutated woman from the Outland who uses an energy-based bow and radioactive-themed debuffs. She’s a sharpshooter with a kit that makes her great for focus-firing with her teammates.

I don’t like it.

I’m not opposed to Uber adding more sharpshooters, per se. Before Artemis, the only sharpshooters were the Gunslinger and the Sniper; sharpshooters were the last role to have only two playable characters. Enforcers have Cheston, the Veteran, the Gunner, and the tank. Strikers have Megabeth, Karl, and the Assault. Defenders have Leo, Combat Girl, and the Support. Commandos have Wascot, Captain Spark, and the Assassin. More variety and parity is a good thing.

So what’s not to like about a new Pro? Much, actually.

When you log on to SMNC you’ll be greeted with the following screen:

SMNC Landing Screen

Artemis was out for less than a day (that’s when I took the screenshot) and she was already a featured item? That makes sense, as Uber wants to make it easy for players to buy the new Pro. I get it, they want to drive sales. This is fine in my book, because they need to make money somehow.1

What pisses me off about this is actually Training Camp mode. Training Camp was added to SMNC in Rule Change 4 on May 4, 2012. The feature gives players a way to play around with Pros in a safe, non-hostile environment. You can see what skills do and get a feel for how the Pro plays. It also lets players learn more about bacon, Chickey, jump pads, the various bots, and more. It’s a learning environment.

Training Camp also allowed players to try out every Pro, even the ones they haven’t unlocked. It was a great way to get acclimated with a Pro before the next free rotation. Being able to play their first game with a new Pro competently without having to try and err (trial by fire? Which sounds better?) was a good thing. This also meant that players could give each Pro a “test drive” before committing to the non-refundable purchase.

With Rule Change 5 the following week on May 10, 2012, Training Camp no longer provided access to every Pro.

Before Artemis was introduced, Pros were priced in a very clear and logical way. The more difficult Pros would cost more, while easier Pros would cost less. This meant that the casual player could buy easy Pros so that they may always have their preferred character. More experienced2players could invest in the difficult Pros. That is no longer the case.3 Here’s a breakdown of pricing compared to difficulty:

 
Pro Diff. Cost (USD) Cost (CC)
Artemis 8 $9.99 11,250cc
Assassin 10 $7.49 9,000cc
Assault 4 $4.49 6,750cc
Cheston 2 $1.99 4,500cc
Combat Girl 2 $4.49 6,750cc
Gunner 2 $4.49 6,750cc
Gunslinger 8 $7.49 9,000cc
Karl 4 $4.49 6,750cc
Leo 2 $4.49 6,750cc
Megabeth 4 $4.49 6,750cc
Sniper 10 $7.49 9,000cc
Spark 10 $7.49 9,000cc
Support 2 $4.49 6,750cc
Tank 5 $4.49 6,750cc
Veteran 6 $4.49 6,750cc
Wascot 10 $7.49 9,000cc
 

USD: United States Dollar
CC: Combat Credits, the in-game currency used by SMNC

This pisses me off because it’s a blatant cash grab. Uber isn’t sticking to their own internal logic with regard to pricing; Artemis is literally priced higher because she’s the new shiny. Uber is advertising that new Pro on the landing page. The Pro isn’t available in the free rotation. Players won’t know how the Pro plays until they buy it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it’s highly effective and Uber knows exactly what they’re doing. They want to cash in on the impulsive buyer. However, if the player is dissatisfied with their purchase then they’re just out of luck, aren’t they?

The difficulty rating is completely arbitrary, as well. To clarify, Pro difficulty is a number assigned by Uber on a scale of 1-10, and has nothing to do with actual game mechanics. The Assassin is rated at 10, but she’s the easiest commando to play. Gunslinger is really hard to play, but she’s rated at 8. I can’t play a striker, despite each of them being rated at 4. The difficulty rating does not (and cannot) account for the player’s playstyle. What makes me such an effective Cheston player is that I use his mobility to: 1) get right next to my teammates so that I can buff and heal them with Roar, 2)  get in front of my teammates to act as a meat shield, and 3) turn tail and flee after playing meat shield for awhile. I couldn’t do any of this with Gunner, Leo, or Combat Girl, despite all of them being rated at the same level of difficulty.

So why did Uber change the way Training Camp works?

I’m guessing they didn’t like that players could make informed decisions regarding Pro purchases. After all, if you don’t like a Pro then you know not to buy it. If you don’t know you won’t like it until after you buy it, then you’ll have to buy it to find out. Alternatively, you could spend Combat Credits to unlock the Pro, and if you’re dissatisfied then you’ve only screwed yourself out of 14 hours of play.4 But wait! You can buy boosts and get those credits back in half the time (or less!)

You could also just wait for the free rotation to make the Pro available for that week, but you cannot rely on that for sharpshooters; Uber doesn’t put sharpshooters into the free rotation. Due to the ease of access for cheaters and aimbots, sharpshooters are prime picks for these players. Further, these hacks typically require subscriptions, and gating sharpshooters behind a pay wall deters those players.5 So if you can’t expect the Pro to rotate into availability, then how are you supposed to get a chance to try the Pro out before committing to the purchase?

I love Uber and Monday Night Combat’s satirical, albeit dystopian, mythology. I just don’t like the fact that if I want to try something new, I either have to live with buyer’s remorse—and resent Uber for it—or wait for the Pro to become available on the free rotation. I want to give them money because I love what they do, but I do not want to feel like I’m being strong-armed into it. And, I really need something new to do in SMNC since Cheston and Combat Girl just don’t do it for me anymore; a new Pro is exactly the sort of thing to rope me back in and get me playing again.

Artemis sounds like she’d be the kind of Pro I’d enjoy, too. I love annoying my enemies through denial.

  1. Note to Uber: I will give you money in exchange for music from Monday Night Combat, especially so if the track used in the Assassin scouting report is included.
  2. I dare say “hardcore”, on account of the no refund policy. Hardcore modes tend to be a fire-and-forget affair, where if you lose out then you just lose out; no checkpoints, no saves, and you just have to deal with the loss instead of getting to try again. A no refund policy is a pretty good metaphor for hardcore players, actually.
  3. The prices listed weren’t always that way. Uber gave out $15 worth of Uber Points (a now defunct currency) while the game was in beta. I spent $14 on unlocking the Tank, Combat Girl, Cheston, and two taunts. Using the current price chart, it would have cost me $15. I believe I also bought a boost or two, but I don’t have a receipt for this transaction. In any case, the price of Pros HAS changed.
  4. An average match in SMNC lasts about 20 minutes, though they could be as short as 12 minutes or as long as 40 minutes. On a normal win you’ll earn 160cc. Therefore, a Pro that costs 6750cc takes about 14 hours of play to earn. This figure assumes you’re winning every match too, so realistically it might be closer to 18 hours. Good luck and have bacon!
  5. Chandana Ekanayake, “Our Never-Ending Battle Against Cheaters,” Kotaku: http://kotaku.com/5920537/

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