In some odd twist of fate, October has evidently become the month of video game protests, with passionate players forming two substantial petitions to protest the choices of Psyonix and Mojang, the development teams behind Rocket League and Minecraft, respectively.
Psyonix announced they would remove player-to-player trading from Rocket League on Dec. 5. The statement read that “we’re making this change to align with Epic’s overall approach to game cosmetics and item shop policies, where items aren’t tradable, transferable or sellable.”
Like it or not, that tracks – Psyonix was bought by Epic Games in May 2019, and in December of the same year they proceeded to remove the game’s “loot crates” containing random cosmetics, instead implementing a “rocket pass” progression system for unlocking items – exactly like Epic’s other properties, such as Fortnite and Fall Guys.
Epic made this blanket change in order to stay ahead of legislation in the EU – Belgium, Netherlands and Slovakia have all declared loot boxes to be a form of gambling. While no government regulations have been implemented regarding in-game trading systems, there have been talks.
For that reason, it’s shocking it took Epic Games this long to remove Rocket League’s trading system. But players are understandably upset, as trading with other gamers is a good way to acquire items one might’ve missed if they took a hiatus from the game. Intentionally removing trading while enticing players with limited-time items – which Rocket League has hundreds of – is blatantly manipulative.
While Minecraft maker Mojang doesn’t abuse its players’ fear of missing out for profit, they’ve managed to create their own brand of manipulation, intentionally or not. This year’s Minecraft Live livestream event was held on Sunday, and played host to the increasingly-contentious “mob vote,” permitting gamers to vote on which of three in-game creatures – called “mobs” – should next be added to Minecraft.
The first Minecraft mob vote was held in late 2017 during Mojang’s “Minecon Earth” livestream, where the team showcased rough sketches of “the Barnacle,” “the Phantom,” “the Great Hunger” and “the Wildfire.” The developers gave a brief explanation of how these creatures would behave before opening a poll, eliminating one after the other until the Phantom arose as the champion.
On one hand, this sounds like a great way to incite additional community involvement, something Minecraft has always been renowned for. But then comes the fallout – the losers are shelved indefinitely, no matter how promising the concept was. The sole exception over the past six years was the frog, which was eventually added to the game three years after losing.
The mob vote also reeks of showboating. In 2017, Mojang only provided rough sketches of the would-be creatures and a generic description of how they might be implemented into the game. In recent years, they’ve showcased increasingly complete designs – it wouldn’t be hard to argue that most of the work had been done aside from programming. It’s not difficult to understand why this might rub people the wrong way.
Between this and the fact that Minecraft only receives one major update per year despite the title’s massive popularity and excellent funding and support from Microsoft, resentment is growing within the fanbase toward Mojang’s apparent incompetence.
Developers have explained before that adding on to Minecraft is exponentially difficult because of the open and procedurally generated nature of the game – every block, mob or item they add has to work in congruence with everything that already exists.
But that excuse falls apart in light of the efforts of Minecraft’s modding community – hobbyists have been creating their own renditions of the losers of the mob votes for years, sometimes releasing mere weeks after the votes are held. Unfortunately, these mods are only available for PC gamers, a fraction of Minecraft’s active playerbase.
As of writing, the “Stop the Mob Vote” Minecraft petition has amassed over 500,000 signatures, while the “Keep Player Trading” Rocket League petition has gathered over 17,000. According to ActivePlayer.io, Rocket League has around 91 million monthly players to Minecraft’s 174 million. As such, neither petition is likely to change how these developers conduct business, but they both showcase a growing resentment in each community that may need to be addressed before long.