Greedy Goblin

Monday, November 10, 2014

The SRP-PLEX paradox

To play EVE, you need to be able to do two things: pay for your subscription (or you can't log in) and pay for your in-game losses (or you won't have ships). There is a theoretical difference between the two: someone pays real money for every subscription and someone farms in-game for every in-game loss. However this has no practical significance, since PLEX trade lets you pay both costs with real money or with in-game farming.

CCP told that 476T ISK was destroyed in New Eden in 2013. If we assume 300K accounts, that's about 3 PLEX-es with 2013 prices. My recent CFC loss reports show 3-4T losses for 40K pilots, if we assume 20K accounts and recent price, that's about 0.2PLEX/month (2.5PLEX/year). Playing EVE for a year costs 12 PLEX-es, so it's 4-5x more expensive than the losses.

We know that practically all large alliances have Ship Replacement Program, reimbursing the PvP losses of members. We also know that PvE players often provide tears to gankers. The SRP-PLEX paradox is that players hate losing non reimbursed ships, but they don't hate subscription costs, despite the second is much larger. If players would be simply poor and unwilling to cover costs, they would focus on the larger one: the subscription costs. The nullsec pilots would demand their alliances to subsidize their PvP account PLEX-es and players in general would flood he forums with "EVE is too expensive, go F2P or I quit". Neither one happens.

I can't explain why they behave so irrationally, I can only provide some guesses:
  • Subscription can be planned, losses are sudden. A poor guy can farm 850M or save $15 by the end of the month, but he doesn't have spare money to cover immediate losses.
  • He feels control over the subscription, but not over the ship loss.
  • He is generally mad for being defeated, in this emotional situation financial losses hurt more.
  • Players want to belittle their defeat by claiming "I didn't want that ship anyway". SRP makes it literally true.
Anyway, my guess is as good as yours, but the fact remains fact: players get mad for losing 100M while they pay 850M without being mad. So CCP could change insurance rules to greatly decrease player madness ("not crying/raging at the moment" is the CCP definition of a "satisfied customer") while removing a problematic ISK faucet. Currently the insurance is a welfare (you get rewarded for losing in PvP), but it's not big enough, hence the alliance SRP: it doesn't cover the whole hull, doesn't cover the modules, the implants and if you want to reship, you must pay insurance money for the new ship, so you still have to pay 40-60% of the cost of the ship from your pocket without insurance. On the other hand it cripples the bounty system since it must avoid profitable alt-killing.

In the real world your insurance costs cover your own losses (+profit +insurance company operation costs) over a long time. If you'd pay home insurance for a million years, your payment (-company take) would be equal to the total damage in your home. The point of the insurance is that paying $1000 with 100% chance is better than paying $100000 with 1% chance: you can live with losing $1000, but not with losing $100000 (literally, if we are talking about health insurance). So players should pay insurance automatically every day that is calculated from their past losses and the ships they fly. Miners losing a retriever once a year pay less than low-sec PvP-ers, titan pilots pay more than battlecruiser pilots. In return their losses (hull, destroyed modules, implants) will be fully reimbursed on Jita costs. The point: players pay for their own losses without welfare, but over a long time, in a plannable fashion, just like with subscription.

I suggest simple and easy to understand insurance system. The "target balance" is the price of your most expensive ship+modules+implants combo. You have to pay 1/100 of it every day until your balance reaches it. (700K/day for a battlecruiser pilot, 1B/day for a titan pilot). If your wallet is empty, you get negwalleted. This is a warning to stop flying what you can't afford to lose, sell your ship and you get money from the sale and your insurance limit decrease.

The loss (or multiple reship-losses) can be more expensive than your current balance. This case they all get paid and your insurance balance goes negative. So if you lose 10*50M ships with only 30M on your balance, you get fully reimbursed, and have -470M balance and a +50M target, so you'll have to pay 5.2M for 100 days to make up for it. Still, you were able to reship 10x when it was crucial.

To avoid abusing by losing a lot and biomassing, the balance can't be more negative than -max((SP/3M-1)*PLEX_price,10M), as you won't biomass a 63M SP pilot to erase a 20B negative balance, since you'd be better off selling the pilot. So if you lose a 120B titan with such pilot with only 20B on the balance, you'll get only 40B insurance payout. If you are in negwallet due to not paying, you won't get insurance payouts.

PS: there are exceptions for everything. This minion of evil lost more than the monthly subscription.


lowrads said...

I doubt anyone ever buys anything between platinum level insurance and the base level. It would make sense to simply scrap the levels, and make a time based system. A short interval insurance costs less than the longer coverage period, but significantly more per unit of time.

I doubt CCP will do anything with a system that is working as intended though.

maxim said...

The reason people are not mad at having to pay PLEX is because they feel this money goes towards the servers and salaries that afford maintenance and improvement of game.

A destroyed ship goes nowhere.

Gevlon said...

@maxim: nope. They got very mad for Incarna, despite the money for monocles went for the servers and salaries.

Anonymous said...

SRP is so people can get told to do stupid stuff which will guarantee the loss of their ship without worrying about that loss. It makes the individuals feelings of loss irrelevant by shouldering the loss on the alliance. It's not a salary and so can't be treated like one.

Most people in null alliances can easily afford to plex their accounts too. In most alliances you can set up PI, contract that to your alliance from any station, and get paid more than a plex every month. When they do run to Jita, they take the PI with them, making a bit of profit themselves. Low effort winning all round, no PVE (in the regular sense) required.

Anonymous said...

Insurance: Everyone pays in, only a few claim, some of them with very big claims, and a small % are fraudulent.

Welfare: Everyone pays in, only a few claim, some of them with very big claims, and a small % are fraudulent.

Not entirely sure I see the difference ;)

maxim said...

In case of Incarna, player felt they were paying not for subscription, but for an in-game item, which clearly wasn't worth nearly as much.

PLEX is still largely perceived as someone's subscription, even if you can trade it on the in-game market. It is the "gold standard" of Eve, so to speak. Monocles were not perceived to be substantiated by any sort of real value and were pretty much just a cash-grab.

A very poorly executed cash-grab, at that. 75 bucks gets you a lot more show-off value in other game (f/ex WoW)

Denethal said...

There is the logic behind this, that gametime is supplied by one self. It's your gametime, noone elses. You decide what to actually do, while online.

SRP is, at least by me, looked upon as compensation for losses caused by participating in other peoples fleets or game activities.

It's basically like in WoW: Unless you're paying my subscription, you have no say in how I want to spend my time and effort.

Also, do keep in mind, that while there's often fleets to participate in, there's also quite an abundance of timeslots where there's none.


Anonymous said...

Losing more than you can afford promotes PLEX sales. Why would CCP offer protection real life wallet protection to dumb players when game mechanics make more money for them?

As to rational/irrational behaviour, it is because the costs fall into different types. It's sort of a hierarchy of needs.
Subscription cost/PLEX is deficiency based. No pay, no play.
Loss replacement is self-actualisation. You can always fly some ship, but the size of that ship and how much it costs you is your choice about how epic you want to be.

Ultimately, they both sub and replacements cost time/money but since they fulfill different needs, their cost requirements are weighted differently.

Anonymous said...

I do not like you idea. It works too well.
The fun thing of EVE is the fact that, even if all the time everyone tells you not to fly what you cannot afford to lose: the fact is that you can. (You shouldn't, but you can.)
And that's part of the thrill of the *game*. Like getting into that pirate mood your mother always told you to avoid (but feels so good in-game, well I suppose I've never tried that - yet - due to you refusing me to be your spy).
With too good an insurance system, you remove some of the thrill and replace it with mortgage-like calculations. So I do not like much the idea, honest.

Zyan said...

The thing why i don't complain about the "bigger" part of the costs is because (as you mentioned) they are known and calculated. You know: if you want to play Eve you have to pay. (the option to pay ISK for your subscription comes later)

But I'm ok with the monthly payment, in return I get a great game that in enjoy to play. If I go out on Saturday evening/night I pay a damn lot more for 3-4h of fun.
And this monthly payment secures "my" game, from all that "asshole-kiddis". If you pay for a game, it is an invest in your Charakter. The whole community is (my experience) much better, because you can't just create a new charakter for free. You have alreade invested a lot of money and time.

Anonymous said...

Most people that lose a non reimbursable ship don't really care and shrug it off, the only time I see anyone getting mad at losing a ship is if they:

a) Are flying stuff they can't afford to fly (or lose)
b) Lost it because they were stupid (even this one they usually shrug off after a few minutes)
c) Someone did something stupid and caused the person to lose the ship
d) It was incredibly expensive which usually ties into all of the above

The motto is don't fly anything you can't afford to lose and for the most part people seem to follow this rule.

If you're personally seeing people get mad at losing a ship I'd dare say they fell into both a and b

Iiene of Kul Tiras said...

What I see here is that the loss numbers are absurdly low.

This tells me that the "Typical" player is not the person that has 10 accounts and plexes all of them... the typical player is not even the person with one account and can plex it easily every month with no effect on their PvP activities.

It tells me that the typical player is someone who rarely loses ships. Or if they DO lose ships, they lose ships so cheap they don't even really matter. "FrigLOLs" if you will.

If I worked for CCP I would look at this and see that the vast majority of players have no interest in the high stakes game of high end PvP combat.

I would also see that your "insurance" plan would only result in throw away alts that ride the cheapest ships until they can't get the insurance anymore.

If the "total destroyed" was 10 times higher, I would advocate the complete elimination of insurance, and reduce ship costs by the same amount, and implant costs by more than that. But since that appears to not be the case, I would assert that "insurance" as it is is working fine.

Anonymous said...

Subscriptions are like taxes, you can get mad all you want, they will still happen. Losing a ship is like getting your car stolen, it didn't need to happen and there's probably more you could have done to stop it, so you get upset.

Kaiser said...

Back in the old days of Eve insurance was covering up to 90% of ships cost.

It didn't change anything, people still were scared to lose their ships even if the actual loss was minimal.

Your idea, while good, won't have any effect.

Anonymous said...

@Gevlon: Incarna drama was because players felt CCP was devoting lots of development time to features that only served as a cash grab (the entire walking in stations engine).

Doubt too many were upset with the fact that a cosmetic item was sold for real money (hardly any outcry over ship skins for example).

Anonymous said...

How can you profitably alt-kill?

Iiene of Kul Tiras said...

Looking at this again, I gotta say...

These numbers can't be right. I mean, can't be right as in a business ledger that says you make 10 million a year on 1 million a year in sales.

I'm not saying the numbers are wrong, just that they don't support what "Eve" is supposed to be.

Total destroyed, 470 trillion. 300,000 accounts. That comes down to 1.6 billion per year per account. Or, 132 million isk per month.

But wait, can't virtually ANYONE mine for 10 million isk per hour? While essentially AFK?

So... the average person would spends 13 hours a month (26 minutes a day) to earn back the 132 million for that month, then lose... what? 10 million for some low end ship? So, 13 of those a month, totally uninsured. Or 1 T2 cruiser, also uninsured. If you were trying to find fights, how long could that take?

The only way for these numbers to work is for the vast majority of players to be really, really, casual players logging in a few hours a week.

Now I understand Gevlon's confusion. Why are people paying a subscription to play what is essentially modeled as a F2P game? If you're paying, you should expect a shot at that high end content.

Rasmus Forlorn said...

@Liene: if you have already paid for your subscription, it's not necessary you spend every waking hour in front of EVE trying to get the most out of it.

For chaps like me it's a hobby that goes through the regular fluctuations: sometimes I play more, sometimes I play less.

I don't have the impression I am loosing out on things when EVE is not running or the computer is shut off entirely.

Maybe I'm not the only one out there wired like that.

Iiene of Kul Tiras said...


A half hour a day plus whatever it takes to lose a few ships a week is hardly "Every waking moment." And that's the average, based on a PvP based activity list.

WoW players, on the other hand, play on average 27 hours a week. I would have expected similar play times with a LOT higher total destroyed value in what is ostensibly a PvP game.

Again, that's the average, based on spreading the total destruction evenly about the subs. So for every guy that loses a Titan in a year, 82 others sat around killing nothing. For every guy like Gevlon that contributes 40 billion a month to the destruction effort, there are ... like 300 doing nothing.

These are not the numbers of a vibrant "PvP" community, these are the numbers of a bunch of people afraid to leave the safety of the station.

At some point, you'll hit Ultima Online's "Trammel" moment.