Don’t like where this is going, but it’s a great game.
Apple pays Arcade developers based on how many months you play their games, and how much of your Apple Arcade playtime is directed at that one game. So, this game encourages players to play more than they otherwise would, and to come back tomorrow, next week, and next month. To be exact, the game steers you into playing until you win 300 matches per month to maintain legendary rank, and now, with festivals, to play until you win 400-600 matches (20+ hours) every two months to get every cosmetic, with new usable items designed to be most effective for players willing to play for 3 hours at a time. These items are also designed to let players who compete in one season have a small edge in a following one, but never to let players get too far ahead. It’s obvious where the developer’s priorities are: in driving engagement, rather than perfecting the game itself. Otherwise, we would have seen all the fruits they teased six months ago before festivals. Come on! Intangibility! Speed! Teleportation! Tunneling! Give us new game mechanics to bring more variety! And more wacky maps like the set from a recent update! All those maps are great! (To be fair, there have been a lot of updates and the game is way, way better than it was a year or two ago, let alone at launch. Good job, Namco!) Should there be winning streaks? Let players who win a bunch of games in a row progress faster (in xp and/or battle league) than players who only win every so often? I don’t know — the feeling of losing such a streak is terrible, and may cause mid-match abandonment, but I’m willing to consider it as an alternative to the ridiculous amount of grinding for which the developers are asking, just to keep up with everything, The story of this game is fear of missing out right now, and I wish it were just a really fun, competitive/casual game. Should there be competitive matchmaking? Perhaps with higher stakes as you progress? Rank progress wagering? I’d be up for that! Should probably try to match players who win a lot with one another, and perhaps those playing on gamepad or keyboard with one another also. As far as I can tell, this does not currently happen, in favor of shorter matchmaking queues, which, to be fair, is also nice. What really bothers me about this game is that it’s designed to kill story-driven, play once and treasure forever games that were the majority mindshare in Apple Arcade from the beginning. Pac-Man will exist forever alongside converted Free-to-play games with the micro transactions removed, and it will compete well, but those developers just trying to make good games, for whom Apple Arcade was supposed to be a safe haven, now might lose that opportunity. Why make a game that’s a compelling ten hours when you can make a game that’s good enough 1,000 and make 100 times more money? Why put s game you can beat in a month on a subscription service which will send so much of its revenue to developers who make attention traps? It feels cynical to put into writing, but this game would be better without the metagames — festivals and ranks — and with more quality in-game content instead, like new wacky mazes, fruits, and power ups and downs. Yet metagames designed to addict players is what we get, because, money. The bones are good, and new in-game content could always be just around the corner, but I’m writing this to note that the game has taken two steps now — leagues and festivals — away from its original vision of just being a great, fun game, while new in-game content I still believe to be in the works has taken a back seat with this latest update. Now I’m not against the many cosmetics this game is adding, but there’s a far better way to let players unlock it. Let players unlock a cosmetic the first time they do fun, unique, crazy things in the game, like win while muzzled, or uniquely with each of the power-downs, or by bumping every other player to their doom in the same game, or using a teleporter 20 times in a game, or eating the same opponent three times in one game, etc.! Don’t make it all about how many rounds are won, with three-times-a-day side quests; make it all unlockable if only the player will look hard enough! The achievements in this game are an excellent starting place, so the devs already know how to reward weird, funky things. Let’s see them do it!