This subject is something I feel strongly about, and have for a long time. Mission reward systems in games as the sole way to reward players is a terrible system. I’m talking about Hearthstone’s system, about League of Legends’ new system. I’m talking about any game where 90% of your income is from a daily mission, rather than from actually playing the game. I’m taking about gating content.
Hearthstone launched with the system that I’m talking about. From day one, a vast majority of your in game gold was earned from daily missions. Missions on average give around 50 gold. The only other guaranteed way to earn gold is to play games, where you get 10 gold for three wins. So you play six games on average for 10 gold, or just log off and do the quest the next day for 50 more. And if you really want to grind out your games for gold, they cap the 10 per three wins at 100 gold per day.
A single pack of cards in Hearthstone costs 100 gold. They launch three expansions a year, four months apart. If you do your daily missions every single day you’ll have earned enough for around 60 packs by the time the expansion launches. Even if you grind out games and do all the extra events, you’ll rarely be able to break 100 packs after saving for four months. In order to get all the cards from a new set you’d need to buy around 400 packs. To get most of the playable cards you’re looking at around 250.
In this way, Hearthstone can control exactly how many packs their players can earn in order to ensure that competitive players are forced to spend real money if they want to be able to run every archetype. Your only option to make more gold is through the Arena, but that’s a gamble every time – especially for us non-professional players.
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League of Legends: Old
League of Legends’ original system was one of the best systems in any game. They didn’t mess around with any of the missions crap that all the other games were doing. You played a game, you got rewarded. Sure, you got bonus rewards once a day for your first win, but it wasn’t the focus nor was it necessary. The bonus was equivalent to around two wins, and there was no daily limit to other games. You want to make 1000 IP in a day? Sure, no problem. I myself did that many, many times.
The win of the day bonus allowed casual players to still progress, without penalizing players who wanted to play far more. You could earn every single champion in game without spending a dime on them, something I and most of my friends did. Of course we all dumped quite a bit of money into the game in the form of skins. They made their money, we got our feeling of progression, all was great.
League of Legends: New
Recently, League of Legends decided to entirely revamp their system. They went from their old route to a mission system. Now instead of getting rewarded for playing games, you get a single mission once a day to win a game. You don’t earn any gold from playing the game, you instead gain experience to your next level. Once you level up you are granted a capsule of “champion shards” which can be turned into that champion at a discount, or turned into BP (the new IP).
Why League’s New System Sucks
League of Legends in particular has a really crap new system. They assure us that you get the same rewards for playing. But even if that were true, the issue is that the new system lacks a feeling of progression. With the old system you were working towards the exact
price of the next champion. You hit 6300 IP and you bought your new champion happily. With the new system you would take 126 days to hit 6300 IP through just your daily missions, so the feeling of progression in that sense is nonexistent.
Instead, the feeling of progression is entirely tied to leveling up. That would be okay, except that you have no way of guaranteeing that you’ll open a shard for the champion you want. Sure you can disenchant all your other shards for the one you want, but then you’re losing a ton of BP because you dared to want a specific champion.
Sure we may be getting close to the same amount of rewards, but our feeling of progression and moving towards a goal is nonexistent.
Missions Are Evil
A mission reward system serves two purposes. First, it forces your players to feel like they MUST play every day or they are missing out. The “fear of missing out” phenomenon applies to video games just as much as everything else. I mean, if you’re not going to log in and do your daily quest, why even bother playing?!?
The second purpose that these missions serve is gating content. You can only get 60ish packs in Hearthstone per expansion, and you can only unlock one champion of your choice every 126 days in League of Legends. Your sense of progression is intrinsically tied to a system whose sole purpose is to slow that progression.
Do either of these reasons sound like they are even remotely consumer focused? Obviously not. And why should they be? League of Legends and Hearthstone aren’t games, they are businesses. Riot and Blizzard don’t care about your feelings, they care about how much money you are willing to spend. And do you know what is a great way to force your fans to spend money? Gating their content behind a missions system that won’t allow them to progress. Sure you can only get 60 packs after playing every day for four months, but for $60 (USD) more you can get another 60! Sure you’ll never open the champion shard you want, but if you pay $10 the champion is yours right now!
These missions are not our friends. They are horrible systems designed to prey on our emotional responses while rewarding us less. League of Legends in particular went from a perfect system to a horrid one, while pretending it was better for the player. There’s nothing better about these systems. And honestly, you know the best way to beat them? Don’t buy into them in the first place.