Greedy Goblin

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Veldspar isn't real

There is a common misconception among many players who play an MMO for free: that they are somehow needed for game mechanics to work. Good examples are the miner crying "we are making your ships" to gankers and those who "pay" for their EVE accounts by PLEX bought for ISK claiming that they are subscribers since "someone else paid for it with real money".

Their problem is being unable to distinguish real items and game content. A real item needs work to be created and/or be protected by the law. PLEX itself is a coupon that allows you to play the game EVE Online. You have legal rights concerning your game subscription that is governed by real world contracts between the game company and you, typically done by some EULA/ToS. If you buy subscription and cannot play, you can sue for refund and the jury will force the company to refund, unless they rightfully banned you from the game for breaking the contract you clicked OK on. Also, CCP couldn't just give out PLEX-es for free without going bankrupt. The game needs work to be created and maintained and without payment it cannot exits.

Veldspar on the other hand is game content. You have absolutely no legal right to "your" Veldspar. If you'd have lot of Veldspar in your hangar and CCP would remove it all for no reason, there wouldn't be a court that would care. It wasn't your property. Also, CCP could create Veldspar in endless amounts without effort. The claim that "the EVE economy needs you to mine to keep the ship prices OK" is hilarious. CCP could increase the yield of miners or just sell Veldspar as NPC seeded item. If all the miners would quit EVE today, it wouldn't affect the mineral supply, assuming CCP reacts to the market swing and creates some source. They did just that with Technetium, turning the once money print moons into common ones and the Tech in your hangar worthless.

This is true for any of your game activity that makes other players pay for your account: they are game content and CCP could replace you with an NPC without loss of income. The customer (the guy who pays the real money) would simply sell his PLEX to an NPC or in the item shop instead of to you. He would get the same thing for his money. Your Veldspar isn't better than the Veldspar sold by NPCs.

Of course it doesn't mean that free-playing players are worthless. Game companies are struggling making good content and having volunteers creating it is great. While CCP could provide fleet commanding service via a GM, it would cost much more than just letting Mister Vee, Shadoo or Progodlegend playing for free.

When you think you earned your subscription by playing, you are very likely wrong. The truth is that such content creators as the mentioned FCs earned it and you just sneaked in in their shadow. CCP would probably need too much resources to separate those who create content (therefore make other players pay) from those who just sell Veldspar or update market orders. However this can change at any moment and then you are out of luck. Every day when you play for free without actually creating content is a gift you should be grateful for and not a right you earned. You'd better face the fact that your contribution to the game could be replaced by a bot or NPC, therefore you don't worth more to the game company. Sure, you might cost less than a well-programmed bot. But don't forget these when you'd say against a game change "this would make many people like me quit". Who cares if you aren't a customer?

Check out this work of art that a soon-to-be corpmember sent to the miners he liberated from their badly fit ships:


Michael LeBlanc said...

While your statements that CCP could replace the content are true, doing so would not have no effect.

One major selling point of eve is that (almost) everything is player generated. CCP selling ISK for real dollars, selling veldpar, etc would have a vastly different feel and could drastically affect customer numbers. It's precicely because transactions like PLEXing don't magically create any in game items that gives EVE such a rich economy.

I don't know exactly how such things would change the number of players, but it would cost them at least one, me

Von Keigai said...

When you think you earned your subscription by playing, you are very likely wrong.

Well, CCP feels otherwise. So, that's one datapoint arguing the contrary. Now, who do you think has a better understanding of their playerbase: CCP or you? I am going with CCP.

I think you undervalue the content provided by real people, and overestimate the cost of PLEXers to CCP.

You'd better face the fact that your contribution to the game could be replaced by a bot or NPC

No. At least not unless your bot passes the Turing test.

Sure, you might cost less than a well-programmed bot.

Since the bot that would replace me is in fact not possible with current tech (cost: infinity!), and I cost CCP perhaps a dollar a month or so in electricity and hardware: yeah. Quite an understatement.

Gevlon said...

@Von Keigai: you are wrong in 3 points

- most in-game interactions aren't personal, but ship to ship. You can bot it very well. Actually they are often botted already. Unless he posts tears in local, I CANNOT tell if the miner I ganked was a player, AFK or bot (= passed the Turing test)

- you cost more than a dollar to CCP due to the opportunity cost of a lost subscription. I mean if no one could PLEX his account, not all of them would quit EVE. Some would become subscribers. If just 1/3 would be subscribers, then every free player costs $5

- paying players also create content to each other. I don't see how non-paying makes you a better content creator.

Anonymous said...

If people paying by plex are not customers, then if they stopped playing, CCPs bottom line would show no difference.

The "you could be replaced by a bot" can be applied to any game, or many human activities. Let's face it, there is no game so complex that only a human can play it, especially a game coded on a computer ^^

maxim said...

You are significantly downplaying the ability of humans to tell a bot apart from a person. You yourself posted just yesterday how most of miners you meet and gank are not bots.

Content created by humans carries with it a degree of human irrationality. There kind that is largely unpredictable, but still different from pure randomness. Also, by interacting with this content, you know that there is an actual human being behind it and therefore can cause said human being to laugh / rage or otherwise feel, even if the only indication you see of that is a sudden change in his bidding price protocols.

These two factors are what makes content created by humans so appealing, even if you are never actually interacting with humans directly.

There is no algorithm i'm aware of that can make an NPC selling Veldspar look as appealing.

There was exactly one game that achieved the effect of making computer-controlled characters act very human by clever use of randomness (combat AI in the original MS-DOS X-Com), but how they did it is a mystery even to creators themsevles. This effect has never been replicated in any other game i know, either.

From this, it seems that our ability to create human-like systems is not limited by tech, but rather our understanding of both systems and humans.

Finally, there really are no grounds to say who earned the right to play and who didn't. The only entity in the world with any authority on this is CCP. And if they didn't suspend your account, then you have the right to play - whether you purchased it for $$s, or purchased it for scammed ISK, or was provided for because of your brilliant FC services.

You can debate that a person who leads fleets creates more enjoyment for other people than station trader, and on this i'd agree with you, but this doesn't make the right of station trader to play any bigger or less than the rights of FC. "Right" is a very mechanical thing, and CCP is the one deciding the mechanics.

Lucas Kell said...

- You can't tell, but most of us can. Most of us play this game socially, not for some kind of statistical goal. Replacing players with NPCs would reduce the playerbase incredibly quickly.
Aside form their social aspect, NPCs simply can't react to subtle changes the same way. Thing like reacting to rumour wouldn't happen with an NPC, but happens with a real player.

- "you cost more than a dollar to CCP due to the opportunity cost of a lost subscription"
If you pay by plex, you are NOT a lost subscription. Someone else is simply paying for your subscription. When a player buys a plex from CCP, they are handing over 1 subscription worth of real money. They then take that plex into game and sell you their paid for subscription for isk. You are buying their subscription. Sure, CCP could create NPCs that buy the plex, but then you would be injecting isk into the economy. An ISK faucet that big would totally wreck the economy.
You have to remember that plex is an isk sink. It's a way for CCP to take isk out of the community and give gametime instead, all paid for by a player. Just 1000 people plexing takes 600b out of the economy every month. If they replaced it with an isk faucet, you would be injecting 600b/month, so you would be up 1.2T/ month on what we are now. How would you get that much isk out of the game?

Lucas Kell said...

Well that'll teach me to post first thing in the morning :D I got myself confused and made a pretty large error in my last post.

So to correct my previous post, it's not currently an isk sink, it's an isk shifter, moving isk between players. Plex buying NPCs would be a faucet. So still the question remains though, how do you keep that isk out of the economy? over 5000 plex were sold on the market yesterday across the universe. If that were to an NPC, that would be 3 trillion isk injected into the market yesterday. At that rate in less than 10 days, plex would inject more isk than any other faucet in the game.

Anonymous said...

Well you don't play for free. what ever you do to buy the plex for ISK you did not for free.
in our society TIME equally CURRENCY (doesn't matter what. it's a simple representation of various symbols ... mainly for example that you wasted your limited lifetime)

the real world flod currency out of thin air into the market. why shouldn't a virtual economy. and what ever numbers we are talking about it is all the same. people like biger numbers. and like crit-dmg in other games some do love to "crit" some billions of ISK.
other have A cars, B isk destroyed, C KB kills, D partners, E offspring, F insurances, G weapons, H newspapers, I books, J PhD degrees, K currency, L log entries, M phones, N food silos, O solar panels, P water containers, Q houses, R friends, S fetishes, T land, U diseases, V mails per day, W stickers, X stones, Y ideas and Z things.

Whatever they collect with a few changes it means nothing, something or all ... so yes it is all in our heads and pretty much illusion. But all of it takes time and that is not free.

If CCP want X subs and it doesn't matter right now that there are only Y online. so be it. Same like your veldspare example.

Does WGBWC do other ganks? it seems so miner oriented right now.
> "What do we do? We gank. We gank miners, missioners, haulers, autopilot-travellers."

Sceptical said...

Is this going to be something like a 'content creator' or 'real players pay with real money' religion?

Do you pay your accounts by using real money?
No... that means you are not a customer.
You'd better face the fact that your contribution to the game could be replaced by a bot or NPC
Your ganking corp could be replaced by ultra strong NPC spawns or by making barges take damage over time until they explode (like mining crystals).
You do not create content as your work could be replaced by game mechanics already implemented in game.

Who cares if you aren't a customer?
That's right, noone would care if you would get replaced by NPC.
Your gank isn't any better then a gank made by a NPC rat.

Every day when you play for free without actually creating content is a gift you should be grateful for and not a right you earned.
Keep that in mind as many of your readers (like me) pay real money for subscription - simply because I enjoy playing a game and don't want to grind mining barges for loot, roids for ore, rats for bounty or market charts for profit.
Be thankfull that you are allowed to be part of the game even if you don't do anything to attract new players.

If you believe that you are some kind of cancer to the game as you neither pay money nor create content, you should remove yourself from that game.
But maybe you just don't care what you are writing about?

Anonymous said...

I see your point, but wonder if you are taking it's business model out of proper context.

I for one, know that people have a harder time justifying giving more money to a company, that they already pay to play. But for some reason, even though it's almost identical, giving that money to another play in exchange for some bonus ISK seems to be more palatable.

I bet if you made plex an NPC seeded item, you'd see a lot of people more pissed off about selling it, considering it an EA-esque money grab. If prices change, it's because greedy CCP wants more money from you.

As it stands now, it's not CCPs fault, it's the players for driving the price up, and you are more willing to sub accounts.

As far as the player interactions being replaced by NPCs, totally right, and 99% of the time you'd never know the difference. There's not an interaction that exists that wouldn't benefit from it even (except solo PVP, can't really fake that)null warfare would be a RTS battle between FCs, and probably more dynamic.

but consider missions, the NPC vs Player content now thats the standard for NPC bots. Not very interesting, a lot of people play, but if they went that route, whats to differentiate it from the 100s of other grinding games out there? Eve has been doing allright with it's niche, and it's probably one of it's few selling features.

Because god knows it's not selling itself on:

replacing depth with complexity.
reward systems that modern games use
Intuitive functionality
Mesmerizing graphics
Server stability during the peak moments
or, a more mature, well educated playerbase

Von Keigai said...

Gevlon, your interaction with players is minimal, and you are interacting with most robotic of them. Almost anything beside mining, a robot would quickly become apparent. And indeed, it's pretty easy to spot even robot miners if you are willing to spend time with them. Just bump them and try to get them to talk in local (hmm, sounds familiar). BTW, the Turing test requires that an AI convince a person in textual conversation. So no, your bot-aspirant targets are neither passing it nor failing it.

On your point two, I agree that there is an opportunity cost to the average PLEXer. Perhaps it is your $5. But I will not pay a subscription for EVE. That's about me, something which I can speak about with considerable authority. In any case, you have to look at all sides of the equation. Removing PLEX (and thus PLEXers like me) from the game would perhaps in the short term increase revenue by $5 per PLEXer, as 1/3 of them subscribe. On the other hand, you would lose all the content being created by those that choose to leave -- 2/3 of the PLEXers. And because of that loss of content, you'd lose many paying customers. If the loss of 2/3 of PLEXers causes a lack of content which causes a small fraction of the current paying customers to quit, CCP loses money.

How many people PLEX their accounts? I would like to know. I have not seen any data on that. We can compute an upper bound. If we look at EVE market data for PLEX, wesee that there are roughly 7500 PLEX sold per day. Now, some of that will be market-making, use as money, dual training, etc. But assuming all 7500 are transactions from PLEX-sources to PLEX-sinks like me, that is 225000 accounts being PLEXed. Lose 2/3 of them, 150000 accounts, and you think people would notice?

I agree that paying customers make content; indeed some of them make more content than I do because they are PLEXing up large quantities of ships that would otherwise not exist and then going out there and getting blown up, much to the pleasure of the blower-upper. On the other hand, on average I doubt that the average subscriber creates more than I.

Gevlon said...

@maxim: people could be easily scammed believing that they had an interaction with a human. Imagine that CCP bot miners would send some "go fck urself fggot" message after being ganked. Wouldn't everyone be happy that he just made someone cry instead of go into statistics to see if he does any other things but going out to be ganked again?

@Lucas: the 1.2T/month ISK faucet would simply replace and IDENTICALLY big faucet: players on PLEX-ed accounts ratting in null. Also there would be a Veldspar selling NPC who takes out ISK and putting out Veldspar, just like the PLEX-ed account miners.

@Sceptial: you think I'm not fully aware that currently I'm leeching on CCP? I'm not social, I have no problem admitting that I'm not valuable, respected member.

Anonymous said...

How are you leeching on ccp? Your subscription gives them more money than if you pay with you credit card. You are a more worthy (in terms of money) customer than one not buying plex.

Gevlon said...

@Anonymous: I got my ISK for PLEX from trading. Market bots could do the same. And often do.

@Von Keigai: I do NOT want to remove PLEX or the free to play option. A free player creates content, which is good for CCP.

I'm just saying that the free player did not "earn the right" to play and his opinion can be ignored during game decision making. The paying players should be prioritizing. If you like the game as it is and tag along for free, fine! If you don't like it and want to leave if X isn't changed, there's the door!

Anonymous said...

" I got my ISK for PLEX from trading. Market bots could do the same. And often do."

It doesn't matter how you earn your isk. CCP still sells Plex and still earns more $ because you buy it. Pay with your credit card and they make less. That's why you are a more valued customer to them from strictly business perspective. You can combine that with botting and come to some dangerous conclusions, like Poe did. You may make content, you may just sit in a station - it doesn't really matter. You are not a free customer. You pay more for your subscription; just not with your credit card, but with your time (or your bot's time). In the end, it all comes down to $ traveling to ccp. You don't leech on CCP; you never do - quite the opposite.

Fengrar said...

From what I have read in your last couple of posts about your argument about replacing most players with bots being possible this is my ultimate conclusion: You simply want to play a single player game. If I am wrong, correct me... but you are arguing to turn every activity over to an NPC, which in turn makes it a single player game.

And your argument about PLEXers not being customers is very odd. You even admitted to having 11 accounts that YOU don't pay for. But that means that other people had to pay the roughly $165/month for you to play. And since you are PLAYING the game you in turn are a customer. And your argument that every PLEXers are worth only $5 also is bizzare, because last I checked (forgetting the current sale) 1 PLEX = $15. So if you lose that account because they unsub, the guy who bought the PLEX to resale for ISK has less people to resale to. So in turn he buys less PLEX which means less money to CCP.

Anonymous said...

..Imagine that, an anti-social stating he would be ok with playing an MMO with a player base made up entirely of NPCs.

But on to swiftly and completely destroying your entire point.

You, Gevlon, play Eve to observe, study, and teach other human beings, with a focus on promoting that the anti-social gameplay mindset is the most successful. Very good goal.

BUT! One must question, how long would YOU, Gevlon, continue to play Eve if all those miners that you blow up, and then try to teach, were not players, but bots?

You say it would make no difference.

Would those bots also read and comment on your blog?

maxim said...

<< people could be easily scammed believing that they had an interaction with a human. >>
Easy in theory. Near impossible in practice.

Anyone who actually tried doing that even once knows that.