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How RMT broke EVE Online

I started playing EVE months ago, and with the complexity and depth of the game’s systems and setting, you’d think I’d be all over it. Weirdly, though, I’m not. I do enjoy EVE, and I’m still subbed to allow my characters to train their skills, but I very rarely actually play, and that’s because of a combination of two factors: offline skill training, and legitimised RMT.

A low-sec system in my Retribution

I’ve got a few posts brewing on RMT, F2P and related subjects, but the Cliff’s Notes version: I don’t actually have anything against microtransaction-funded gaming when it’s done right. The problem is that in the case of EVE Online, it removes the point of playing the game, at least for me.

I was first introduced to buying ISK, via PLEX, not long after I first subscribed. Naturally Kris mentored me through my introduction to EVE, and as someone with disposable income and less free time than he’d like, he’s the target market for in-game cash shops and RMT. As Dee once put it,

8. People who are time-rich-cash-poor can “afford” to spend in-game time grinding for benefits and bonuses. People who are time-poor-cash-rich don’t have this luxury.
9. People who are time-poor-cash-rich can “afford” to spend real-world dollars for benefits and bonuses. People who are time-rich-cash-poor don’t have this luxury.

Or, as Kris puts it, “I could spend hours and hours mining or running missions for forty million ISK an hour. Or I could spend half an hour’s worth of my pay and buy a PLEX worth half a billion ISK, and spend those hours doing something more fun than grinding for money”.

It’s hard to argue with that logic, if you’re cash-rich and time-poor, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.

So what do you do instead of grinding for money? Well, in most games you’d spend your time doing something satisfying – something that gives you a sense of progress. Unfortunately, you can’t spend time making progress in EVE, other than accruing resources or fighting other players. All your character skills are trained in realtime and nothing you do in-game affects them. Very little is gated by your corporate standings1, other than access to Jump Clones2, and everything you could buy with Loyalty Points3 you can buy on the market with ISK anyway. Of all the (PvE) things you can do in EVE, almost all of them are rendered pointless if you have the money to buy the ISK you need.

I’ve played other games with legitimised RMT – Guild Wars 2, for example, where you can buy gems with RL money and sell them on the Auction House for in-game gold. That didn’t break the game, because you couldn’t buy XP or reputation or Karma or any of the other “progress” mechanics in the game.

And I’ve played other games with offline skill training – Glitch, for example, where your skills trained in real time just like in EVE. That didn’t break Glitch, though, because you still had to play the game to accrue currants 4 and imagination and crafting materials and all the other resources in the game.

But that doesn’t work, in EVE. If I’ve broken the seal on buying ISK with real money, and there’s nothing I can do in-game to “skill up” my character, then there’s little left for me to do, and thus little reason for me to bother logging on. I’m not a PvPer, either by inclination or by ability, and anything I can do in PvE is rendered meaningless — if it weren’t for that offline skill training, I really would have no reason to remain subscribed. And sooner or later, the appeal of paying money to improve my characters in a game I have no incentive to pay is going to fade entirely.

Legitimate RMT? Fine by me. Offline skill training? Sure! Just not together in the same game, please.

My apologies for the six weeks (ugh) of radio silence. My work arrangements changed just after Christmas, and with a long commute and a busier week than I’ve been used to, I’ve had very little time or energy for personal projects. Hopefully things are back to normal now, or what passes for normal around these here parts…

  1. Factional reputations, basically.
  2. A means of getting from one side of the galaxy to the other very quickly instead of spending hours in transit
  3. A currency earned by doing corporate missions and spent on factional rewards.
  4. Currants-y. Get it? Glitch was full of puns like that. I miss it so.

Random spaceship of the day

The Amarr Omen Navy Issue

Say what you like about the Amarr, but they sure know how to build beautiful spaceships.

MMO communities aren’t a monoculture

I went for a low-sec roam with a bunch of my guildies in EVE tonight — we’re all in different corps because we prefer different playstyles in EVE, so we don’t get to play together very often, so it was a lot of fun. (And a lot less fatal than I was expecting!)

The Retribution I flew

Not that that’s what I set out to talk about; it just reminded me of an incident that happened last week. Kris cancelled a few of his EVE accounts, and we were discussing how much stuff he’d need to transfer out of their item hangars before the accounts shut down. And during the discussion, I discovered something about EVE I’d never have expected:

If you’re in a corporation, your corp’s directors can see what you have in your personal item hangar, in the station where your corp HQ is located.

I was stunned, because I can’t imagine a situation like that in any other MMO. Can you imagine the outcry from the community if, say, a WoW guild’s officers could see into the banks of any of their guildies who were sitting in Stormwind? It’s something that just would never happen, no matter how collectivist a guild was; I’m pretty sure that almost everybody would see it as an unreasonable invasion of privacy, and in no way something a guild should expect from its members.

And yet it seems perfectly normal in EVE; it’s just a given part of the game. More than anything, that’s a lesson that I probably needed — we bloggers talk all the time about “MMO players” and what they expect, how the culture operates, and how they behave. It’s worth remembering that different games do have different cultures that aren’t interchangeable, and expectations and assumptions that might be true in one game don’t necessarily apply to others across the board.

…and a partridge in a pear tree.

This afternoon the BF and I decided to go for a virtual spin and take our fleet out for a mining op.

The Mining Op

Twenty-two drones, three Hulks, one Retriever, one Hyperion, one Coercer, and an Orca. This is possibly a sign that we have too many EVE accounts between us.

Or not enough. It’s hard to decide.