The CEO of Silent Hill: Ascension developer Genvid has defended the game’s transactions, and said they were there to allow people to “skip time” in gaining in-game currency rather than being a way to “game the system”.
CEO Jacob Navok’s comments come after the game’s second night of new content, and amid backlash to its monetisation scheme.
Navok posted last night on X, formerly Twitter, to respond to a wave of complaints about the game and attempt to explain Ascension’s economy, which consists of in-game currency earned by playing mini-puzzles and completing live-service style tasks, whilst also providing context on the removal of global live chat.
“It would be very difficult for a single person to change a decision,” Navok began his explainer of how the monetisation isn’t pay-to-win. Players can cast their decisions by using the game’s currency, influence points. One decision costs 200 points, and currently the options have millions of points behind each one. The currency packs, which range from 6000 to 26,400 points, won’t give anyone who buys them any pay-to-win influence, Navok stated. “It’s only useful if you don’t want to do any puzzles,” he continued. Each pack can presumably be bought multiple times however, as there’s no limitations mentioned on the game’s store page. It’s worth remembering that time skips are a common method of predatory monetisation in mobile games.
Given that some puzzles are locked behind the £20 season pass, Navok admitted Genvid “went too aggressive on puzzle locks”. Rather than opening up all available puzzles to all players, the developer will now allow free puzzles to contain old levels, giving players a “wide backlog” of puzzles to farm influence points from. “Ironically the thing that will really help the characters is hope,” Navok continued, which is a separate mechanic which players can affect by getting good ratings on puzzles (of which a good majority are locked behind a paywall). In what seems to be a contradiction, Navok confirmed QTE sequences can affect the hope mechanic but “aren’t part of the story canon”.
They aren’t part of the story canon. They’re bonuses. But they can effect Hope score.
— Jacob Navok (@JNavok) November 2, 2023
“The intent is for people to not have to spend money to participate, and that intent is proven to be true from the data,” Navok claimed, citing the game’s leaderboard. Ascension shows you the top voters for each decision and how many points they’ve contributed. Navok estimates the average player will accumulate 6000 points by the fifth day of play for free, but some of the top voters have spent as much as 50,000 points on decisions, which would suggest they bought points. Navok claims these high spenders shown in the leaderboard represent a small fraction of the points, on the scale of 0.05%. This of course doesn’t take into account the fourth or fifth highest contributors, or the total scale of people who have bought some of Ascension’s microtransactions.
Players are equally unconvinced with Navok’s words as they are upset about the loss of global live chat. The system, which functioned like a 24/7 Twitch chat, was taken down last night before it was reinstated without text input. “We have a 24/7 moderation team in multiple languages,” Novak said, “they were moderating the chat, and that moderation was not showing up in the stream”. Navok confirmed Genvid was using an AI filtering system which “was breaking in really weird ways” in a post-episode livestream, which is what prompted them to remove text chat for the time being.
Some have reported they were unable to type Hideo Kojima’s name into the chat for Ascension but slurs were allowed to be published, while others were simply going for unhinged content. Regardless, it’s clear Ascension’s moderation was not working well and the one part of the game where people were finding fun has now been removed.
Navok’s attempts to clear things up has prompted more questions and confusion. Why monetise influence points if it has so little an effect on voting, as Navok claims, and if the hope mechanic is more important to the story? Why are QTE sequences not considered story canon if that’s where hope can be affected?
The next episode of Silent Hill: Ascension airs tonight, but the real drama will likely be in the aftermath.
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