1950’s Peruvian Coke and Gacha

In the 1950’s, Peruvian inflation forced Coke to charge more per bottle of Coke. Unfortunately, their vending machines required updating to accept a new domination, a domination that was far too large of a price increase. Instead, Coke devised a probabilistic system: the machine would charge the same amount as before, but randomly refuse to give a bottle. This raises the expected price of a bottle Coke while forgoing any mechanical updating. But a miscellaneous software engineer has a better idea: raise the price of Coke, but instead randomly give the money back.

Our Surfer is ‘risk loving’

The increase in price for a ‘bottle draw’ would equal the expected payoff of of a lower ‘draw price’ of one that randomly refuses to give a bottle. This is an interesting experiment, as gacha is the number one player frustration in free-to-play games.

Anyone care to reckon which one would do perform better?

The Content Problem and the Death of Level Designers


Here we see the content problem in its natural habitat

F2P is as much of a design choice as it is a business choice. Given this, F2P has its own set of design challenges among  which is the content problem.

Developers will only continue making additional content until the benefits are greater then the costs. This is specified when

expected marginal revenue from content > development costt + opportunity costt


development costt is the cumulative cost by time of release (t)

but if

User Acquisition Rate (UAR) < Churn Rate (CR)

there’s a shrinking pool of buyers which only widens at t+1. This is the essence of the content problem: how do we create content fast enough to curtail churn and while minimizing development costs?

The genius of PvP (Player v Player) environments is how they necessitate the emergence of a meta-game. In mathematics, Player vs Environment (PvE) resembles the field of optimization where strategies are static – one and done. PvP environments, however, resemble game theory models where it has been shown strategies evolve in an evolutionary process. This means equilibrium in PvP environments is constantly being reshuffled with each balance change; the search for dominant strategies in an ever shifting equilibrium is the game itself.

It’s been 4 years since the launch of Clash of Clans and there continue to be oodles of strategy videos. Supercell is constantly debuffing and buffing different units which makes some strategies more successful than others and by trial and error players expose this.

Is it a paradox to watch mobile strategy videos on a desktop?

The push for PvP environments has seen the emergence of ‘Systems Design’ and the demise of a Level Designers. With few exceptions, linear and deliberate gameplay has gone the way of Spaghetti Westerns.

On the other hand, a different type of PvE has found ways to combat the content problem. For example, Trials Frontier adopted meaningful level mastery with a touch of PvP. This is achieved via quests that revisit locations, stars, leaderboards, mission rewards, and gameplay that rewards depth (back/front flips can improve my times!). That said, PvE shares a smaller piece of the pie than it once did. This trend will only continue as F2P marches into the console and PC arena.