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.

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8 Responses to “How RMT broke EVE Online”

  1. Vespers
    February 23, 2013 at 12:26 #

    Aww, I wondered why my Southern Wardens channel had just been me and Tork so often recently.

    I understand, though. That lack of any sense of progress was why I quit EVE twice, and why I don’t understand how *any* hisec carebears keep playing the game at all. Without the sense of a achievement generated by pvp.. whether it is the achievement of being a successful lowsec pirate, or of seeing your alliance’s fleets beat others into a pulp in null, or even just managing to hold on to a single wormhole to call your own.. there really isn’t that much content in EVE.

    There is one other source of content in the game, but it takes even more commitment and is mostly just as much player-generated.. the roleplaying. CCP does stir the pot, and there are things that actually happen in the game that are caused by the roleplaying, but that’s even harder to really get into than the PVP, imo.

    I think CCP knows that the lack of non-pvp, non player-created content for people to progress in is a problem. I hope they find the time to do something about it, because I know for sure it is a problem. I’d love to have more in the game for people who don’t like PVP, if only because I’m friends with you guys and I wish you’d be able to have more fun playing this game I love so much.

    • February 24, 2013 at 12:31 #

      There is one other source of content in the game, but it takes even more commitment and is mostly just as much player-generated.. the roleplaying.

      If I want to roleplay, though, I have an awesome roleplaying-intensive RL gaming group where I can play anything that takes my fancy; I’ve never had much interest in trying to roleplay inside an MMO, as a result. I can see EVE would be better suited to it than, say, WoW, but it’s still not what I’m looking to get out of my computer games.

      The problem with EVE and PvE really is, I think, that there’s nothing that’s gated by anything other than ISK or real-world time. If the stuff you could buy with Loyalty Points, for instance, couldn’t be sold on the market, then that’d be a start. Not necessarily a good one, but better than what’s there now. :)

      • Vespers
        February 24, 2013 at 13:05 #

        Oh yeah I wasn’t suggesting that the roleplaying aspect was in any way a solution to *your* problems with the game, I just felt that it would be unfair to the game if I didn’t mention it. I agree about roleplaying and MMOs.. I have a weekly tabletop game, probably another fortnightly one starting soon, and I’m running a LARP later this year so.. I don’t really have any intention of trying to roleplay in a game too, even one I like as much as EVE.

        The lack of reward specifically tied to progress in PvE is certainly a large part of the problem with EVE PvE. Of course, in my opinion at least, the fact that the PvE is basically all just ‘go here, blow up everything, come back and I’ll tell you where to go next’ is the biggest problem.. Even accounting for how much fun it is just to fly a ship in space and pew pew, the PvE is just boring.

  2. February 24, 2013 at 11:24 #

    I must admit, I don’t understand this aspect. To me, it seems that if you want to play EVE with a PVE focus in which the challenge is earning your isk, then buying isk would be self defeating. Why would you even buy it in that case?

    • February 24, 2013 at 12:24 #

      Because I didn’t realise at the time that accumulating isk *is* the only real challenge in PvE. It’s not that buying ingame currency is a problem per se; it’s only a problem when combined with a character improvement mechanic like offline skill training. If I encounter another game with the same combination of factors, I certainly won’t be buying currency there.

  3. Bob
    July 11, 2013 at 19:37 #

    My head hurts reading this..

    YOU should NOT play EVE!

    • July 11, 2013 at 19:41 #

      I rather thought that the point of this post was to say much the same thing ;)

      Though I’m curious as to what you find wrong with it…

  4. Joe
    August 18, 2013 at 09:40 #

    You forgot to mention that EVE Online has a very active and legitimised character trading system known as the Character Bazaar. It sounds like you should use some of that hefty salary to buy a competently skilled PVP character and go make a name for yourself, Daddy War Bucks. Otherwise, I suggest you go find something a bit more appropriate for your non-violent, pacifistic interests.

    Might I suggest this title?

    Honestly, if CCP permitted legitimised player-to-player RMT, it would be even better.

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