20150414080637

Accessibility Microtransactions?

Mortal Kombat X came out late last night, and I took some time to mess with it. I was having a good time, minding my own business with the story mode and enjoying myself. You know what? This is a pretty good-looking game, I must say:

It looks great, plays well, and has a fairly interesting character selection.

During a match, I paused the game to get a look at the movelist for my character, and I saw this:

I like a lot about this. I like the quick reference to the special moves. My eye moves down, sees “Easy Fatalities.” I remember hearing them talk about this on one of their pre-release streams – simplified button inputs for the series’ trademark ultra-violent finishing moves.

You know what? That sounds pretty cool. Not everyone has the ability to put in those commands within the timing window available. I think to myself, “That’s a pretty cool feature.”

There’s a red skull icon next to the commands; I think nothing of this as there’s also an icon that’s to the left of some of the special moves because they are limited to a specific character variation. No biggie. Later in the night, I’m wrapping up and I’m sitting at the main menu.

I figure I’ll take a look at the Store and see what’s in there; I already have the DLC pass as I bought the special edition at discount. Wonder what else is in there?

Oh, OK. So they are going to take lazy people’s money. That’s fine; I’m not lazy so I won’t bite, but sure – go ahead and take what you can. I’m sure some people will throw down an additional $20. (BTW, this would make the game cost $110 at this point if you also bought the season pass.)

Next page:

whhhhhaaaaaaaaatttttttt

This causes me to double-take. And I look at the pause screen yet again:

It’s not just an icon. It’s a consumable. OK, I guess, sure, I’m not going to use this, but that’s a bit dodgy that you put the command inputs that make people spend bits of money on the pause screen and hide the real deal behind another button press, but sure, whatever—I’m starting to expect this out of AAA games.

This morning it hits me—they are putting a microtransaction price on accessibility. The simplified button inputs, combined with other system and button-level changes on the PS4, would definitely help people who need accessibility options play this game, but this is a pay-to-play lock on content for people who might need the command assistance.

You (and everyone else) should be angry about this. Games already have enough of a problem with being accessible to everyone. Now we need to put something that would be honestly helpful behind a paywall?

WB Games/NetherRealm Studios, I urge you to do the right thing and make Easy Fatalities a non-consumable feature. Charge for other things. I know I and probably a lot of other people would buy some skins for the fighters that have some nostalgia or other hook to them. I’m willing to bet there will be purchasable characters beyond the season pass, just like you did with Injustice. And I’m perfectly OK with that; it’s part of the business now.

Accessibility shouldn’t be something that goes behind a microtransaction paywall.

The Billionaire’s Typewriter

Matthew Butterick with probably the most astute and complete takedown of Medium as a platform for your writing I have read:

In truth, Medium’s main prod­uct is not a pub­lish­ing plat­form, but the pro­mo­tion of a pub­lish­ing plat­form. This pro­mo­tion brings read­ers and writ­ers onto the site. This, in turn, gen­er­ates the us­age data that’s valu­able to ad­ver­tis­ers. Boiled down, Medium is sim­ply mar­ket­ing in the ser­vice of more mar­ket­ing. It is not a “place for ideas.” It is a place for ad­ver­tis­ers. It is, there­fore, ut­terly superfluous.

“But what about all the writ­ing on Medium?” The mea­sure of su­per­fluity is not the writ­ing on Medium. Rather, it’s what Medium adds to the writ­ing. Re­call the ques­tion from above: how does Medium im­prove the In­ter­net? I haven’t seen a sin­gle story on Medium that couldn’t ex­ist equally well else­where. Nor ev­i­dence that Medium’s edit­ing and pub­lish­ing tools are a man­i­fest im­prove­ment over what you can do with other tools.

If you use it, I would personally urge you to leave Medium and take control of your writing. WordPress is easy-to-use, easy to set up, and you can put together a basic site on a host for around $100 a year or so. (If you want to give this a shot, for most beginners I usually recommend DreamHost.)

Or if you don’t want to worry about hosting and all that stuff, come host your site on WordPress.com. You own your content, you can take it with you if you leave for a self-hosted WordPress installation, and it’s backed by world-class support. (I work there; I know these people and they are the finest.)

(h/t to Matt for the link)

Hard at Work, Part 2

My daughter tagged along to CrossFit with me on Tuesday. She ended up snapping pictures with my phone; I suppose this is the least embarrassing-looking one.

My body has a great sense of humor in that my legs have slimmed down a good bit but my belly fat stubbornly refuses to go away.

Reciprocity

A couple of Sunday nights ago, I was crouched over my laptop in a rental house in New Orleans working feverishly to help launch Women’s Wear Daily on WordPress.com VIP. It was (and still is) a huge undertaking, and to get it in shape for a successful Monday morning launch, I realized pretty early on Sunday night that I was going to have to pull an all-nighter to get it done.

I did, it launched, got the thumbs-up from all the personalities involved, and I collapsed into bed at around 7:30 a.m. on Monday morning. I was in New Orleans for a team meetup, and spent the majority of the time I was there focused on making sure the pre-and-post-launch processes went as smoothly as possible.

It’s my job, and I take great pride in what I do.

That kind of “crunch” isn’t abnormal in today’s working culture. Long hours, little sleep, and work focus are common. We all know that fatigue and long work hours end up causing less productive work, but sometimes the tasks just need to get done and require sacrifice. What I described may sound like something you have experienced in your work life, and maybe all too recently or all too often.

What I haven’t said yet is why I’m happy to put in those kinds of hours at work when it’s needed. And that’s because I’m happy to work somewhere that respects my time and my life the rest of the time.

When the project was launched, several of my colleagues nudged me and made sure I knew that I should take some time off to make up for the sacrifice of that weekend (and the weeks leading up to it). I was only too happy to oblige, given that I’d already marked today and the two previous days as time off. But it’s notable to be somewhere that recognizes the extra work people put in and then not only allows, but encourages comping that time after the fact with time off to rest and recharge.

And I’ve had a great three days off with my family, spending extra time with them and not worrying about work projects, checking email, or doing anything more than housekeeping check-ins a couple of times over that period to make sure things I’m responsible for are still progressing.

It’s in the time between the days off that Automattic is really special, though. My time and my family are respected by my employer and my colleagues. We have an HR staff and teammates who understand the value of time away from work, even in the middle of the day. I’m very careful to guard my time during the work week. I try to be done for the day around dinner time to spend the evening with me family, I take an hour during the afternoon three times a week to go to the gym and work on my personal fitness level, and I spend my weekends not doing or thinking about work the vast majority of the time.

When my last child was born, I was able to take six weeks off to be a dad and help my wife with her recovery. I take at least two two-week vacations a year to do something fun with the family and not directly think about work stuff. I even take the days off leading into Evo weekend to just enjoy watching some high-level gameplay. If I need a day off, I take the day off.

And this all works because as a team we all know that when things get real, we’re all going to pitch in and do the work that needs to be done. We communicate clearly and often about when we’ll be around and what we’re responsible for. You may find this surprising, but when a company and an employee mutually respect each other’s time, it appears to lead to more dedicated work, less fatigue, and a happier balance.

I know this is something that’s rare—if not unique—and I’m super-appreciative that this job exists and that I’ve been welcomed into it. I’ve been doing this for over five years now and I don’t see myself doing anything else. I think more industries and companies should take a hard look at how we are doing things and think—really think—about changing the face of work for the better. And if what I’ve described sounds like something you’re interested in, maybe you could give our hiring page a quick glance.