Ambition, Money, Robots: ReRoll

A new game by the name of ReROLL has appeared and grabbed attention with
a monumental marketing gimmick: it’s mapping the world. The company that makes it, PIXYUL, a team headed by ex-Ubisoft and ex-EA developers, is in partnership with SenseFly, a company that makes unmanned aerial drones specially purposed for the scanning and surveying of large tracts of land. The partnership, although unorthodox, unlocks incredible potential.

The developers plan to map out a significant portion of the entire planet, creating “The Ultimate Open World Playground,” with huge open areas set to real scale, and in areas monitored for real- time weather. Then all of the info is fitted into a game engine to create accurate portraits of landscapes in which to murder other players. The project is enormously, stupendously ambitious.

Ambition and largeness are not new to the gaming world, they can be plainly seen in 1996’s Daggerfall, the 2nd in the prodigious Elder Scrolls series, games so well infamous for their size and depth that fragile relationships tremble and shatter upon the release of a new title. Nor is it at all rare in the new world; beloved Polish developer CD Projekt Red’s highly anticipated Witcher 3 is expected to be one of the largest games made in the past decade, yet its two predecessors are lauded for their depth and attention to detail.

With the development of gaming technology reaching new heights, ambition is in. But ambitions cost money. ReROLL’s ambitions are particularly grand, what with the whole plot to map the contours of the planet earth and then sell it to the video games community. As such it requires money, and it isn’t afraid to let you know that its funding comes from players becoming what they call “Gamer Angels,” people who buy extra packages to play the game.

Of course, the extra packages seem a bit benign: a katana, an ATV, a silenced pistol; cool but not game breaking. Except those are just the preorder bonuses. Want the base class for their game? Twenty bucks. Want a better class? That’ll be sixty dollars. Want the best class? It’s only a hundred bucks to own anyone who comes at you! Want all the classes? That’s available in a special bundle deal and it’s only 275 dollars! The already aging adage of “Free-to-play, pay-to-win” might apply very well to PIXYUL’s grand scheme, except the game isn’t free.

Recently EA’s new mobile Dungeon Keeper was reamed by the community for its pay-to- win strategy, and the influx of free-to-play games over the past four or so years have found themselves struggling to find a proper balance of incentives that will make them money without alienating the savvy members of their player base.

But ReROLL is still in development, and the money for huge projects, especially those produced by independent studios (even ones helmed by veterans), can be difficult to come by. Funding and diminishing returns plague the ever-soaring ambitions of modern gaming, (especially for the PC community and its huge piracy variable) and ReROLL is a fascinating study into the technology and economics of video games today.

pwasted@synthesis.net

Comments

  1. steven says:

    terrific essay