The 3rd season of Rocket League began this week, and it came with one change that I really liked, plus another change that was unexpected and arguably deleterious despite its good aims.
The negative change affects the Premium Rocket Pass, the aspect that people spend real money or in-game credits to access. Previously, after reaching level 70 in the Premium Rocket Pass, players would receive a random item from the new series every time they levelled up. This item would be Painted (essentially a palette swap to one of 13 different colours), and it wouldn’t be a duplicate of any versions of that item already received from the pass.
This random item system was well-liked, especially by people who spend lots of time trading items on secondary marketplaces. I often collaborated with one of my friends – we would pool all of the colours we had of a specific item, so that he could sell its full set of colours to people who like collecting sets of items.
However, for season 3, the Pass system has changed. Now, every player receives the exact same items after level 70, and they can always see the next 30 levels upfront. Also, not all combinations of item and Painted colour are available, while Certified items (items which have an title, such as Scorer or Striker, that levels up to a better title as you score goals/save goals etc) are no longer included within the Rocket Pass.
The patch notes describe this change as “part of our commitment to removing uncertainty from in-game purchases”, which is interesting for me to think about. I usually think that initiatives that make in-game purchases fairer and more predictable are great. For example, showing the potential rarities of items inside a loot box, and providing % probability of getting items of specific rarities from a loot box, are both good ideas that should help people to stay aware of what they’re buying.
I think the idea of having upcoming items be visible is pretty great too. The static item list, however, doesn’t feel helpful or useful. For me its easier to see the downsides of where this might not work than any potential benefits.
For example, lets say there is a set of wheels that you like, and your favourite colour is purple, so you would like to have a purple version of those wheels.
Previously, you could either have those purple wheels randomly appear for you, or they could randomly appear for a friend who could trade them to you, or you could put a listing on a secondary marketplace and offer another item in return for them. The price for that item would be relatively consistent because aside from the two rare colours – Black and Titanium White – all of the other paint colours are roughly equally likely to appear and roughly equally-valued.
So, what are the options for getting your purple wheels, or any other specific item, now?
1) Those wheels might not exist in purple at all – developers Psyonix might not have included them in the list of available item-colour combinations.
This avoids one form of randomness (an RNG rolled on each level-up for each player) by replacing it with something that is still effectively random from a player’s perspective (what Psyonix staff decided they wanted to include or not include).
2) You find a chart online that shows you that the wheels in purple do exist, but at a really late level like 250. So you would have to play until level 250 if you want that particular item. (Or, you don’t find a chart, and just keep playing until you can see them appear on the list of upcoming items).
By making it easier for people to avoid the temptation of randomness, Psyonix have instead increased the chance that people will feel like they need to play obsessively or spend excessively to get the thing they are looking for.
3) You decide to look for the purple wheels on a secondary marketplace. However, anyone selling an item that they received at a high level like 250 can charge a lot for it, because they know that only the tiny proportion of people who have reached level 250 will be able to get it any other way.
This is still randomness, in a way. If you’re somebody who happens to want an item that is only available late in the pass (which you didn’t have any way of deciding), then you’re automatically going to have a harder time accessing what you’re after than somebody else who just happened to want something that Psyonix put at an earlier level in the pass.
If you have to spend more money/time than someone else to get the item you want, when you had no control over when that item was made accessible to you, is that really fairer than a truly random system?
One Solution – visible, individual Rocket Pass levels?
For me, the most logical way of making the system more transparent, while still letting items be more widely available, would be to randomly generate a visible list of available Rocket Pass items for each individual player.
This would mean that I’d be able to see my own generated list of available items, randomly generated from the entire pool of Item/Paint and Item/Paint/Certification combinations. My friends would be able to see their own generated lists from that same pool, and they would be different from mine and each others.
Using that approach:
1) If there’s an item I particularly wanted to have, such as the purple wheels, and I couldn’t see them in my list, I could ask my friends. If someone I know has obtained those wheels, I can trade with them.
2) I can check the secondary marketplaces, as some people will have received those purple wheels early in their Pass and will want to trade or sell them for other items. Each colour of the wheels will be roughly the same price, because they will all have been accessed by some players near the start of the season.
To me this seems like a good combination of transparency, novelty, and control over access to items – what do you think?