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Ghosts In The Social Machine: Ghost Recon Commander

We know very little about Ghost Recon: Commander, so little in fact that I only just found out that it’s going to exist. I’d rather be a Commander than a Future Soldier or an Online so I was pleased about the prospect, but then I saw that it’s a Facebook/mobile game and my interest spiraled away like chocolate syrup down a motel shower drain. However, Chris Early of Ubisoft has told Pocketgamer.biz that playing Commander will unlock advantages in the other two upcoming Ghost Recon games, and vice versa. I suppose the idea is that spending a spare half hour on Facebook could earn you a gun rather than a dubiously rekindled acquaintance with a former sort-of-friend. Quotes and thoughts await below.

“What’s … important, I think, from a gamer’s perspective is you’ll have advantages in one game that you’ll unlock by playing the other game”

So says Early. Maybe Ghost Recon: Commander will be ultra-super but I’m not too keen on the idea of people gaining advantages in a multiplayer game by playing a social game elsewhere. I suppose it’s better than just letting them throw money at their deficiencies until they go away and perhaps no different really than the more rapid progression the time-rich can always make in games that reward persistence.

“The more you play each of those games, the more benefit you create in terms of the other gameplay experience. So, by playing Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, you’ll be able to unlock characters you can use in the Facebook and mobile game, plus currency, experience points, items etc that you can use in the social and mobile game. And – conversely – by playing the social and mobile game, if you’re playing at work at lunch, or in a break, you’re continuing the character progression. You’ll unlock items and experience points bonus and currency in Ghost Recon: Future Soldier.”

Similar will be true in Ghost Recon: Online, although with that game being free-to-download the money-solution will also be available.

“…you can go through everything through time-based play or you can pay. Our hope is there are going to be plenty of people who like it enough that they’re going to pay and consume, because we’re not a charity organisation. Of course, there will be similar benefits between Ghost Recon Online and Ghost Recon Commander so that anytime or any place the Ghost Recon fan is playing, they’ll have something to do with what device they have at hand, and it will all remain relevant.”

While I don’t particularly care for the idea, preferring a game to be complete in and of itself rather than part of a wider family, I’m happy to ignore it as long as it doesn’t impact on the single player or co-op game in Future Soldier. I don’t want my progress there to be tied to any of this friend-based malarkey, with my spectral soldier suddenly capable of buying a fancier gun or jumping higher than a kangaroo on the moon because I traded fourteen ClancyBucks with a friend earlier in the day. Provided there aren’t bottlenecks in progression passable only through extreme application of patience or money and time spent in a different game Commander may well be something I’m almost certainly perfectly happy to forget about.

“Our game premise so far is, for the most part, and I say ‘for the most part’ because I don’t dictate what every studio does – but our general guidance in what I see happening is you can do anything mechanically through time that you could do through money. And when I say ‘mechanically’ I mean through gameplay and game balance…there are things that are different from a vanity perspective with currency, but we’ve tried to maintain as little difference as possible from if you’re going to invest your time versus if you’re going to invest your money in terms of the same game experience.”

Call me old-fashioned, but in almost every case I can think of I’d rather pay for a full experience and enjoy that rather than feeling a game is something I have to invest in over time. Obviously, experiencing a narrative takes time but in a competitive environment I think I’ll always prefer access to all options straight away. Drawing parallels between investment of time and investment of money suggests the ‘time’ isn’t spent improving the player’s skills but instead unlocking features, whether items or abilities, that improve the avatar’s skills.

There’s a fundamental difference between my understanding of the game’s mechanics improving and those mechanics altering over time to make my character more capable. Being able to invest time or money means a good deal of progression is based on the latter. Imagine being able to pay to make a nailgun more powerful. Outrageous!

I’m glad that Ubi are thinking about how these new business models may or may not work, and the idea of engaging with a player across multiple devices and games isn’t necessarily a bad one. I prefer a self-contained experience though and hopefully Future Soldier’s campaign will stick to that model.

As for the rest, maybe it’s all just about friendship.

“You’ll want a lot of friends connected, and you’ll want to play with your friends, because you’ll actually need your friends to play the game.”

Let’s all be friends.

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Adam Smith

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