Greedy Goblin

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

PLEX and RMAH are NOT pay-to-cheat

I found that microtransaction games are "pay to cheat", allowing the paying players to buy godlike powers over the non-payers, constantly farming them. I believe that such model doesn't support long-time playing as one can get bored with being unstoppable soon. Also, such games don't allow the forming of a competitive community as wins are determined by paying and not being good.

However EVE Online exists and thrives for years despite having a powerful item in the shop: PLEX. It means "pilot license extension". If you use a PLEX, you get 30 days of play time. It costs more than having a month of subscription, so why bother? Because you can sell it for ingame currency. In EVE you can buy all items with the currency, so if you buy enough PLEX in the item shop, you can buy the biggest spaceship ever built, equipped with the biggest guns available. Yet the game is stable and you don't see random morons massacring players with their money-bought power.

I look forward Diablo III too, and it will have a similar feature: real money AH, allowing players to buy gear and all other items from each other. One can gear his first character into the most powerful gear available if he pays enough. Yet I think the game will be huge success.

Isn't the fact that you can buy power from money makes these game pay-to-cheat? No, because the amount of items doesn't change! The item was there before the transaction, just in the hand of another player. If your gear was in top 10%, it will still be top 10%, even if more than 10% of players make purchase in the item shop as they could only buy the existing items, and yours is top 10% of the items.

Actually the existence of such transfer makes those relatively stronger who don't participate, because the powerful item moves from the hand of a skilled player to the bad one. Which is more threat? A top level battleship in the hands of a 3 years veteran Goon, or the same ship in the hands of Arthasdkol who just stole daddy's credit card?

Also, such system is self-correcting. Since the supply of items depend on good players, if lot of bad players start to buy PLEX or gear from the RMAH, the price of the game items goes up (the price of the PLEX go down), making the purchase more and more wasteful.

So, the transaction make those who don't participate a bit stronger, the buyer much stronger and the seller weaker (but he can afford it, that's why he sold it). This system also lets good players (who are often builders of the community) to play for free, so staying in easier/longer.

PS: the new Diablo III change that allows only 10 auctions on RMAH and also 10 on gold AH may make serious AH trading impossible and allow only trading of powerful gear between players. This is annoying to us, but doesn't affect the above.


Anonymous said...

I'm sure that Blizzard might eventually remove those restrictions. It's hard to tell at the moment, how many farmers there will be in game and allowing everyone to post as many items as they wish might ruin the market in a month. If you remember Diablo II times when items were sold at eBay for more than $1K, you might understand why Blizzard prefers to take things slowly. If there is some undiscovered exploit in Diablo III that allows one to get really powerful items in almost no time, then RMAH will be a constant undercutting war with bots.

I'm pretty sure if RMAH business model works, next MMO from Blizzard might use that instead of monthly subscription fee. The so-called freemium MMORPGs (and other games that use that model) just make me wish there was some fee instead as the amount of money you have to invest to progress in those games without hassle is actually bigger than a subscription fee in a premium MMORPG.

Clockwork said...

Diablo 2 players could still buy gear through sites with real money, it just wasn't supported by Blizzard. Though I am not sure exactly I am reasonably sure Diablo 3 gear will also have level requirements so it's not like level 1 characters will be decked out in the optimal gear for level 60+ just because they shelled out a few dollars.

The argument about RMT purchased items making the stronger players stronger only works if the only players using it are bad ones; whereas plenty of good players without the time or drive to farm have purchased PLEX to save themselves the work.

That and I am not convinced that the "good" items in EVE come from "good" players...they come from industrialists, mission grinders, explorers and deadspace runners who may or may not be good. In my experience in EVE the non-PvP areas of the game were not especially difficult.

Anonymous said...

"Actually the existence of such transfer makes those relatively stronger who don't participate, because the powerful item moves from the hand of a skilled player to the bad one."

I would dispute this. While it is true that I've seen and been on my fair share of hilarious PLEX-powered killmails, I've known many people over the few years I've played EvE who sold GTCs (and later PLEX) to fund their pvp ships because they calculated the time required spent grinding something out-of-game (their RL job) was far more ISK-efficient than actually earning it in-game via activities they didn't enjoy. Given that PLEX prices have gone up quite a bit since then (about 200 million) this line of thought has only become more justified.

Yaggle said...

I do not have a problem with it, because they also let you buy game time with in-game currency. I would have no problem with Blizzard selling gold for real money, as long as they let you buy game time with gold. The reason is, otherwise, it would cause a lot of inflation, both for people who buy currency, and people who don't. And that would not be fair to people who don't. But allowing people to purchase game time with plex/gold counter-balances the inflation.

Peter Petermann said...

two corrections:
a) you cant be certain it transfers from a skilled to a lesser skilled player, most really skilled players don't do the npc grind.

b) your 3 year 'veteran' goon example is kinda funny, with 3 years in the game your by most standards not considered a veteran, also goons are known for being lesser skilled players who replace skill by masses.

basically you are right in so far that there are no new items created, which keeps the 'market balance' of eve.

looking at who buys isk through plex, you'll see that for example alot of pirate players do that, usually skilled players who can't be arsed to do all the boring things that you need todo to get ingame currency.

Gevlon said...

@Peter: those who buy plex are less skilled by definition. The "can't be arsed to grind" isn't better excuse than "I can't be arsed to gatecamp, so I don't PvP".

Anonymous said...

the universal currency is your time

You need to evaluate
hour/€ spend at work to buy plex
hour/isk spend ingame to buy plex

Especially for beginners their real work will be alot more time efficient

Parasoja said...


Pvp and iskmaking skill are very different things. A person can develop a high degree of pvp proficiency in cheap ships, and have very little understanding of effective ways to make isk. Selling a plex might put this person in pvp ships for months, while it might take them dozens of hours to make the same amount of isk using ingame methods.

Considering that grinding isk in eve has been described as a second job that you pay for, I'm not prepared to assert that such a player is inferior to me.

Io said...

Gevlon, I think you are messing up definitions:
Buying a PLEX = buying one in game for ISK;
Selling a PLEX = selling one to receive ISK and spend real money.

Gevlon said...

@Parasoja: I could raid in the WoW bleeding edge if someone would grind a top geared character from the previous tier by the time the new tier opens.

If EVE wouldn't have this kind of real money based transfer, these "skilled" players would be running around in frigates or quit.

Parasoja said...


I don't understand your wow analogy, but many of the most dedicated pvp players in the game do in fact fly frigates. Of course, they are members of the lowsec elitepvp club instead of winning wars in null, but they do what's fun for them.

This is eve. The endgame is what you want it to be, and only a few people (<1%) have gone with 'flying the most expensive thing there is'.

Bozzor said...

I think the example with the Goon veteran was just an example.A 3 year old EVE veteran will kick any Arhasloldk in same ship with same weapons : the difference is in skills (as skill points) and experience.The Vet will know what to skill and how to pwn ass in pvp.

Also, you should read about patch 7 beta of Diablo 3.It is huge and diferent from BOTH wow and eve AH / market.Basicaly, anyone will buy at LOWEST price what he needs and buy from diferent sellers.The game does that, all you need is to insert the quantity of the item you wanna buy and the game will choose the cheapest ones.

No more spam or item wall and sellers will post all of their items in one auction.No need to post 10 times 1 by 1 and thus using all of your 10 auctions.Just post all of them and they will be sold when they will become the cheapest ones.

Diablo 3 AH will be like comodities market and will be much more stable, much more secure and much more faster than WoW or EvE Ah / markets...but also much more limited in terms of real money making (at least for most, the ones like you or me will do good enough).

You can remove the link if you want ofc.

Eaten by a Grue said...

Io, Gevlon means buying PLEX for real money, and then turning around and selling it for ISK.

But Gevlon, I would disagree with your general assessment of such PLEX buying. PvP and market work are two completely different skillsets. ISK is needed to PvP, but it does not matter where the ISK comes from. Let's say someone makes $100 per hour at work, which is about average for IT here in the USA. That is about 2.6 billion ISK per hour. It would be moronic to spend in game take to eke out a few million, if that time takes away from work time.

Though I would submit that economy is probably most of the fun of EVE, and if you do not like that, just don't play. But if someone like only the PvP, then buying PLEX may be a rational move.

Io said...

@ Eaten by a Grue

Yup, that's what he meant, and I told him the dictionary that EVE players use.

Casares said...

RMAH has the exact effect as gold ammo: the player buying top gear that he would otherwise never get (due to extremly low drop chances) will be stronger than he would be without those items.

It doesn't matter if it's a M&S who due to his overpowered items is now as powerful as a medicore player or if it's a top skilled player who will now be considerably stronger than other top players without the gear. He gained strength by paying rl money.

That's the very definition of "pay to cheat".

Gold ammo on a moron won't help a bit when the pro player just circles around him and never is hit in the first place. Gold ammon on a moron versus a mdecore player will suddenly give the moron a chance for a kill. Gold ammo in a clan match with pro players will give the edge to the side who pays.

Same thing: you pay with rl money to become _relativly_ stronger than you would be without.

nekomancer said...

Are you offering Buddy Invites, out of curiosity? Rewards seem to currently range from no additional reward to PLEX for invitee, with 200M - 300M ISK mid range.

Anonymous said...


It is not the same as the gold ammo. For this very simple reason, the items in EVE are already there and can be found or purchased with out ever performing a RMAH. The only way to get the gold ammo is by RMAH.


What the goblin phrase we hear all the time? "Time is money my friend." Those who buy plex are not by definition less skilled than those who do not. In fact buying a plex has no relevance to the skill of the player at all.

I have bought a few PLEX/GTC's in my time in EVE. The majority of the time were to launch industry ideas I had but did not have the capital to do so. Of the ideas that worked i subtracted the PLEX from the profit and bought game time. Many times i was able to buy them cheaper than what i had sold mine for. So the PLEX can be in itself a market.

Gevlon@Peter: those who buy plex are less skilled by definition. The "can't be arsed to grind" isn't better excuse than "I can't be arsed to gatecamp, so I don't PvP"

This statement is just all kinds of wrong. This is not WoW; you can say I will not grind or I will not gatecamp. You do not have to do either of these to be a skilled EVE player.

A lot of your ideas and theory crafting are being affected by your long study of WoW. The goblin has his place in the EVE market but your going to have to change or extrapolate on to your definitions.

By the way I sent you an email regarding an EVE proposal.


Boxington said...

As an EVE player and an IRL economist, I have to side with the people saying that buying PLEX to increase your ISK is most definitely not something that is necessarily for the low-skilled. In the least, Gevlon would have to define more clearly what assumptions he is using that this is somehow definitionally true.

To me, a real life analog of this situation is person A who starts a lemonade stand to get capital to start a lawn mowing service to get capital to fund ever bigger and more capital intensive enterprises (the key being they ground their way up from nothing). Person B, conversely, takes out a big loan and skips the first 5 steps of grinding to move into a smell/medium sized business. Who is more rational, A or B? It's unclear unless you define carefully your definitions, but in no way is it obvious that person B is somehow skill-less, lazy or cheating. In this comparison, person B is the plex->isk converter. One might argue that they skipped the grinding part of the game (going from frigs to destroyers to cruisers, on up) and that is somehow skill-less or cheating, but that would, again, require much more specification on how we ought to play the game (and that will probably be fruitless).

And finally, "time is money friend" is indeed relevant here. In this case, both the Plexer and the non-plexer can be thought of as "producers" of ISK. Rationality (which I believe is almost exactly the opposite of Gevlon's moron) for a producer is defined by economists as the choosing the cost-minimizing method of production. Time is indeed the most relevant input here as there are few other variable inputs (besides electricity etc), so the rational producer of ISK should indeed choose to convert plex to isk if they have a competitive advantage (defined in terms of time-factor input) at IRL work rather than in-game isk making. On this basis, one might go so far as to conclude someone who simply refuses to convert plex to isk is actually the irrational (moronic?) individual. But at the end of the day, the non-monetized values (i.e. fun, wanting to feel accomplished and not like you took a shortcut, etc) are too large a portion of this calculation to say who actually is the rational one.

Kristophr said...

Anonymous 13:17:

I can earn a PLEX in two evenings of murdering Sleepers in a class 5 wormhole.

Another evening will buy a shiny pirate faction cruiser for me ( and the rest of the folks in our wormhole-space Galt's Gulch ) to roar around wormhole space and use to amuse ourselves by terrorizing newbs ( yes, we go stir crazy in there, waiting for a highsec exit pipe ).