Boss Alien's Jason Avent on F2P xenophobia, game accessability, and not encouraging a pay to win mentality

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Boss Alien's Jason Avent on F2P xenophobia, game accessability, and not encouraging a pay to win mentality

Jason Avent is fast becoming this year's most popular mobile speaker, at least in the UK.

It's a status underlined by his keynote at the F2P Summit in London, in which he labelled gamers who hate the freemium model as suffering from "xenophobia".

That wasn't the only talking point from his talk, however, which led us to quiz the Boss Alien MD on a number of additional points arising from the success of CSR Racing - the top grossing game it developed for NaturalMotion.

Pocket Gamer: What did you mean when you said gamers who don't like or understand free-to-play games are 'xenophobic'?

Jason Avent: Some people fear difference and are scared of new things.

Do you think developers take the criticism from the small percent of their user base that give 1/2 stars reviews too personally?

I don't think so. It's good to be aware of all flavours of feedback.

How much iteration did you do in terms of varying the length of time a tank of petrol lasts?

We did a fair amount of usability tests where different durations were tried. Even though we use scientific approaches, you still need to make an intuitive judgement to decide what feels right.

In your F2P Summit talk, you mentioned the difference between a finished and a completed game? Can you explain what you mean?

Well you can finish a game by getting to the 'end' of it but can then go back and collect everything, do side quests or similar and complete it.

For example getting a 300 point Gamerscore in an Xbox Live game might allow you to finish the story and play a fair bit of multi-player but to get a 1000 Gamerscore, you'd have to work a lot harder to feel like you've fully completed it.

You also said F2P games should be skill-based, albeit using a low intensity control interface, so do you think games can find a mass market if they require more than a couple of taps at the right time?

When I said that I meant F2P on iOS because that's currently my business.

I think that learning to play twin-stick shooters or strategy games takes time and dedication. iOS games don't generally demand as much commitment and the touchscreen interface suits a slower pace of inputs.

That doesn't mean that you can't have very sophisticated games though. You can still have a fast-paced, rich and exciting game but just with fewer inputs. The quality and timing of each input then becomes more crucial.

I was surprised you argued that neither the WWDC keynote where it was announced, nor App Store features were the reason CSR Racing got 2.5 million downloads in its first weekend. 

I think our WWDC and App Store features absolutely have helped us reach more people, but I do feel that another key success factor on CSR Racing's virality is that the game looks great and is easy to play.

People say, 'look at this', to their friends - wherever they are at the time. They in turn download the game and find that they're able to play it.

I think that accessibility is really important. CSR Racing looks good enough for people to want to show it to their friends. Then when they do, it delivers in terms of gameplay. It's simple but very effective.

How big a disruption will the additional of multiplayer be in terms of rebalancing CSR Racing to limit pay-to-win?

The key thing to understand is that paying to progress is not the same as paying to win.

To compete at the highest level of any sport or activity, though, you need a bit of everything: skill, the right equipment and experience. I think games can reflect that without feeling awkward or unfair.

Thanks to Jason for his time.

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.