Greedy Goblin

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Unequal payment MMOs will always be pay-to-win

I'm reading the Albion Online pay-to-win debate, where the devs try to make changes to the game economy to be not considered a P2W game. They were pretty unconvincing and unless the gold economy is changed, I won't even try Albion online.

The problem isn't simply what's direct: you can directly increase your farm performance with real money payment which is clearly pay-to-win. The problem is that in an MMO time is a valuable resource. I mean League of Legends (not MMO) is structured and limited, exactly in the name of equal chance. I have no reason to care if my opponent farmed or bought his full set of seals, lvl 30 hero and whatnot, because I also have a full set of seals and a lvl 30 hero and whatnot. The past is irrelevant, in this match only this match matters.

In an MMO, you can farm infinite money and also use time to PvP advantage like gate-camping for more kills, hellcamping a staging system and so on. Therefore in an MMO, anything that buys you time buys you power. Even if you don't buy the time from devs (get item from shop instead of farming it) but from players (get ISK for PLEX instead of farming it), you still bought time. You can buy more than 24 hours farming worth of time a day which can't be matched with playing. So PLEX-trading is effectively buying personal farmers for you. I understand that "one guy has 1 hours to play, the other has 12" is also unequal, but two wrongs won't make it right. The solution for no-lifing would be limiting play times of accounts or even the servers (server is only running for 3 hours a day, so no one can play more than 3 hours a day).

Finally, there is the invisible catering. The devs are motivated to change the game in order to make the paying players happy. Why EVE devs made this chart?
It seems to be awful lot of work for no benefit. Well, the benefit comes from the line which was not shown publicly: how much these player groups pay. I'm sure aggressors pay the most, followed by socials, professionals, traditionals and the enterpreneurs pay next to nothing. So they develop the game to make aggressors happy at the expense of everyone else. This is impossible in a non-MMO, as in other games there are no "playstyles". All players are doing the same they compete on better execution. There are no socializers in League of Legends who just sit in the base and chat.

This is especially vicious as I can't even choose to pay money to win. You see, I fully understand that CCP is a profit-oriented company and someone not paying them is entitled to nothing from them. But even if I'd start paying my accounts with money instead of PLEX, I'd still be classified as a worthless enterpreneur, as "my kind" doesn't pay and the designers would still feed me to the aggressors.

Considering that EVE players voted with their ISK that skillpoints are more valuable than gaming time (you can profitably run SP farmer alt on your account and play for free with your main if it gets no SP), there isn't even need for players to buy PLEX-es anymore, SP farmers will do it, all free players can quit without anyone caring. Anyway, this further convinces me that sandbox cannot be saved. I mean if I was a dev and my job would depend on income, I would also run an analysis on "which player group has the most paying customers" and cater to them, fairness be damned. This is hard to overcome.

I see only one way out: everyone must pay something. For example one subscription must be paid with money, and then alt accounts (linked to the main), multiple character queues, character services, skins can be paid with PLEX. This would not only make every player at least somewhat valuable to CCP, but would also remove lot of freeloading enterpreneurs from EVE, decreasing the supply of assets, making PvE worthy of the time of an 1-account, low-time "casual" paying players.


Hanura H'arasch said...

I'm confused. I agree with your overall point that being able to buy time (=power) for real money is bad, but how is Albion Online different from EVE in that aspect?

In both you can buy items for real money (PLEX and gold) and trade them for in-game currency (ISK and silver). And as playing without Premium in Albion Online is completely unviable, which can be purchased with in-game currency though, it has essentially the same subscription model as EVE.

I can't say I like this subscription-like system because the developers are essentially lying to their customers (no, you totally won't have to pay monthly for our game!*) but that's irrelevant for the P2W debate.

What bothers me personally a lot more is that people who bought the founders pack are starting out with quite powerful items made out of thin air (T2.5 armor + weapon, horse, ox).

So, what am I missing?

Niko Lorenzio said...

Then why did you support the skill point trading idea?

Gevlon said...

@Hanura: Albion is NOT different from EVE. But I'm leaving EVE exactly for going P2W.

@Niko: skillpoint (in-game item) trading for ISK (in-game currency) is fine. The problem is where real money comes to play.

Hanura H'arasch said...

Hmmm, unfortunately it's going to be (nearly?) impossible to find a sandbox MMO without this kind of P2W. At least all of the MMOs mentioned in the comments have a system in place that lets you convert real money into in-game currency.

I guess you'll have to develop your own game after all.

Cathfaern said...

I don't think there is or there will be any MMO which doesn't let you pay for "more time". Most players are casuals, so every developer will try to get cash from them. And casual's most valuable resource is time. The last big MMO which was not (in your definition) P2W was WoW. But since game time token you can buy gold (legally) from real money.
Would you also consider a game P2W where you can buy only vanity items with real money (which can be also get with grinding, so real money buys you time)?

Gevlon said...

@Cathfaern: a month ago I'd say, "no, vanity is fine". Now I'd say "the devs would cater to the vanity-buyers outside of vanity". I mean if it turns out that Catalyst skins are selling the best, then EVE devs will improve Catalyst-related gameplay (like suicide ganking) at the expense of other gameplays.

Probably sandbox itself is the problem. It's much harder to sell one player to another in a more structured world. For example New Jita would be impossible anywhere but EVE.

Pashko Zpc said...

Try out battlecast choghat skin. Shortened and cancellable animation for a bunch of RP.
P2win compared to default Cho model!

Malthan said...

"I mean if it turns out that Catalyst skins are selling the best, then EVE devs will improve Catalyst-related gameplay"

That isn't always the case. In LoL often the characters that sell the most skins are not the most popular, and they don't get buffed. I don't play LoL anymore but when I did Teemo had the most skins while hardly ever getting picked in higher leagues, and being hated by a large part of the player base.

Cathfaern said...

Then don't even bother to look because you won't find any MMO now or in the future which doesn't have cash shop. It brings too much money to not monetize it.

Gevlon said...

@Malthan: LoL is not an MMO. No one identifies as a "Teemo player", so there is no point buffing him. Such case everyone would play/ban Teemo and the game would simply be worse, without actually catering to anyone.

The point of buffing Catalysts is that those who aren't into Catalyst play will still not be after the buffs (miners won't switch gankers just because it's easier), so a buff will remain exclusive to the "Catalyst players", the buyers of the skins.

@Cathfaern: On-rail and structured MMOs are somewhat protected from such favoritism, as players usually play the same way. You can't give exclusive buffs to raiders in WoW, since everyone raids, at least at LFR.

Hanura H'arasch said...

> On-rail and structured MMOs are somewhat protected from such favoritism, as players usually play the same way. You can't give exclusive buffs to raiders in WoW, since everyone raids, at least at LFR.

Which makes it even easier for the devs, because surely nobody can argue against wellfare epics for the poor noobs, right?

We can go as deep into this rabbit hole as we like, at the end of the day there has to be something that prevents devs from not just doing the easy thing.

Gevlon said...

@Hanura H'arasch: welfare epics are less harmful than 20T/month to PL, because the n00bs in welfare epics aren't an organized force that can crush you. They are just a big noisy background of idiocy. PL on the other hand evict and gank you just out of boredom.

Amarr-Zon said...

I am not sure about your order, who is paying more or less (aggressors --> socials --> professionals --> traditionals --> entrepreneurs).
I think, many aggressor alts are paid by entrepreneur alts.
And in my opinion CPP can evaluate, which alts are connected - at least for the majority (account data, IP addresses, ingame actions and so on).
They simply want the game to be PvP-driven, because it makes better stories. So, they try to force it (with all disadvantages).

I agree, that every player should pay with real money for at least one account.
That's why I'm doing it this way from my first day in EVE.

Tithian said...

To be completely honest, I don't think you can find any MMO that does not cater even a little bit to the crowd that uses its cash shop. And nowdays, every game has a cash shop, even subscription based MMOs.

I'd say go check out BDO. You probably won't last long, simply due to the fact that someone that no-lifes the game has huge advantages over casual players, but it's the only MMO left (other than EVE) that rewards intelligent play and has sandbox features comparable to EVE and AA (but without being as shit as AA).

Gevlon said...

@Amarr-Zon: the alts are irrelevant, because they are indistinguishable between different player's pilots. It doesn't matter for the economy, CCP or other players if the 2 pilots are played by one or two. CCP might know if they are alts, but has no reason to care.

No quarterly report ever mentioned "stories". CCP needs income and would never disadvantage paying customers.

They merely realized that PvP-ers pay so much more (evidenced by the PLEX purchases) than PvE players that the rest can be ignored.

Smokeman said...

The problem here is the F2P trap.

Let's face it, there is no "free game" outside of, perhaps, tic tac toe or Rock, Paper, Scissors that allows you to competitively compete for free. Chess and checkers are close, with cheap equipment (Heck, you can make a set with cardboard and a marker.) But the second you bring in IP with a current production cost that needs to be recovered, you're done.

"Demo mode" is not F2P in that there is a hard limit as to how far you can go. I think WoW allows you to get to level 20 completely for free. Eve gives you 14 days (I think) free. These are advertisement gimmicks.

The instant you allow in game cash to pay for a subscription, you upset the game's balance in favor of the "Farm for in game cash" play style. Even worse, inflating the value of in game cash, either through game time purchases or through P2W item availability, produces a need for RMT. Then what? Do the RMT yourself or watch helplessly as third parties do it?

Of course, F2P is highly profitable, but always results in a crooked game.

Anonymous said...

Two points:

It depends on whether this is a theoretical or practical discussion. There are many good things (vibrant local newspapers and bookstores) that the internet and modern economy have made not viable. So I don't disagree too much, I just don't see how that game is viable today. Marc Jacobs is a old game designer, already made his millions, so started up a Kickstarter for Camelot Unchained. Mandatory sub; no cash shop. But I just don't see games bigger than Darkfall being able to do that in 2016.

EVE: people were buying a lot of in game advantage in EVE; it was discussed about Russians in 2008. Yes until skill injectors, players were adamant that EVE was not p2w. Maybe a game can replicate EVE in being allowed to sell advantage in ways the customers except.