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The PLEX Idea Continues to Catch On as Darkfall Introduces DUEL August 5, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, Sony Online Entertainment, WildStar.
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4 comments

We have another entry in the PLEX-like game item arena, this time for DarkfallAventurine has been busy revamping Darkfall: Unholy Wars… or Darkfall 2.0 or just Darkfall, since the original isn’t around anymore… with class overhaul, a cash shop, a presence on Steam, and a rework of the UI.

DFLOGO B-450

And with the latest update, Aventurine has joined the ranks of studios offering an in-game item worth subscription time that players can buy and then trade for the in-game currency.  Called DUEL (Or as they style it, D.U.E.L, with three periods because… why?) it can be purchased with Selentine (is that the in-game currency or the cash shop currency?) and then used to wheel and deal with other players.

This scheme has been seen before with SOE’s Krono, Carbine’s CREDD, Funcom’s GRACE, and, of course, CCP’s PLEX, which was introduced into EVE Online back in 2009.

It will be interesting to hear how this works out.

As I have said often in the past, this sort of thing works in EVE Online because the in-game economy is not optional.  If you play EVE, you have to buy in sooner or later or just stop playing.  With the other games on the list… the economy is optional, which has always left me wondering if their economies could support such a scheme.

Unfortunately, I do not play any of the other games offering this sort of item, so I have to go by what other people are saying.  CREDD seems to have been a good investment in WildStar if you got in early.  Some Krono shows up on the market in EverQuest and EverQuest II, but seems to be more active on the Trade channel where it can be used for barter for specific things in addition to being traded for the in-game currency.  And GRACE hasn’t been in Anarchy Online long enough for it to have settled down.

So I am left wondering if Darkfall has the critical mass of players and an active enough economy to make something like DUEL viable.  I was interested to see that, despite its hardcore nature, Aventurine opted to make DUEL unlootable when you kill another player.  No headline comedy.  Of course, CCP started off with PLEX being stuck in stations, so maybe DUEL will change later.

And my final question is, what does DUEL stand for?  That isn’t listed in the FAQ or the forum patch notes.  They are clearly using it as a cute acronym.

PLEX stands for Pilot License EXtension

CREDD is the awkward Certificate of Research, Exploration, Destruction, and Development

GRACE is GRid Access Credit Extension

So what does DUEL stand for?  Darkfall Unholy wars Extended Living?

I think SOE might have been smart to just go with a name rather than an acronym.

And one question past my final question; who will jump on the PLEX-like bandwagon next?

PLEX and its new Daughter, GRACE July 24, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest II, WildStar.
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5 comments

I do not pay much attention to Anarchy Online.  Well, I don’t pay it any mind at all, really aside from the occasional industry lore aspects around things like rocky starts (“nearly unplayable” -GameSpy) and longevity. (It turned 13 just about a month back.)

AnarchyOnlineLogo

But some people do still pay attention to it.  There was a post up over at Massively announcing that the game had announced a new aspect to their subscription plan.

Called GRACE, for Grid Access Credit Extension, it is an in-game item that can be traded or sold between players that, once redeemed, turns into 30 days of game subscription time.  There is a FAQ.

Basically, this the AO version of EVE Online PLEX.

This is PLEX

No longer this cheap in Jita

PLEX itself has been live in EVE Online for just about five years at this point, where it has been a success thanks in large part to the in-game economy which is all pervasive in New Eden.  There are a lot of aspects of the game you can avoid, but if you want to play you are going to be part of the economy.

The economy is such a big deal in EVE that I was curious if MMOs with much more optional or fragmented economies could really make something like PLEX work.  World of Warcraft, with its large player base and need for gold sinks, seemed like it might be able to, even with the economy sliced up into three markets on hundreds of different servers.  And Blizzard dipped their toe in the water… sort of… with the kitten economy idea.  But they haven’t done much since.

It was left to Sony Online Entertainment to give the PLEX idea a try in the fantasy realm, introducing Krono to EverQuest II about two years back and then expanding it to their other games.

All About Krono

All About Krono

I really have no idea how Krono has worked out.  They still have Krono as an option, even after the big consolidation of game subscriptions into the new All Access plan back in April, but I have never seen more than a couple on the market when I have bothered to check, and the prices seemed wildly different on different servers, so I cannot tell if they just don’t get used or if they are so popular that they sell out quickly to the platinum barons of Norrath.  And the fact that the game is free to play complicates things.

Moving on, earlier this year we had two new MMOs announcing that they were all-in on monthly subscriptions.  First, The Elder Scrolls Online made its position clear, and then WildStar joined the subscription only parade as well.  But their business model also included something called CREDD, which is how they spell PLEX on Nexus I gather.  Because it was that PLEX model again, an in-game item worth game time, which Carbine seemed to be using as a loophole to claim some sort of free to play status since, technically, after you bought the game, you could find a way to play for free if you earned enough in-game money to buy CREDD.

In Carbine’s world, you can play for free so long as they get paid.  But to their credit, I don’t think they have overplayed their definition of free to play… yet.

My first thought when they announced their business model, including the CREDD bit, was whether or not it had worked for SOE by that point.  That seemed like a reasonable question.  Yes, a shiny new game sporting a subscription-only model with a brand new, out of the box in-game economy might not be the best parallel, what else was I going to compare it too?

The question is still unanswered at this point as far as I am concerned.  The idea works in EVE, but I couldn’t tell you if it was worthwhile elsewhere.

And now Funcom is throwing its hat in the ring with Anarchy Online, which doesn’t help my understanding at all, because I am not even sure what their business model is.  I think it is mostly subscriptions, but they have had this short-term “Free Play” option that shows you ads in game since… what… 2004?  So does that make it free to play?  And how many people even play?  The late Game Data site tracked them as peaking at 60K subscriptions just after launch, dropping down to 10K by 2006, but nothing after that.

So who is out there playing Anarchy Online?  What do you think GRACE going to do for the game, if anything?

Or, for that matter, how about CREDD in WildStar or Krono in SOE games?

Conspiracies, Immersion, and the Secret Life of PLEX August 26, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, The Elder Scrolls Online, WildStar.
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36 comments

In which I attempt to set a record for insulting the most gaming industry professionals in a single post as I meander towards a conclusion you probably saw coming a mile away.

The business model announcements last week for WildStar and The Elder Scrolls Online have gotten a lot of people writing about subscriptions and free to play.  The subscription-only model, declared dead and buried after SWTOR got through with it, is now generally cast as a proposition that is all downside.  Any perceived benefits of subscriptions are illusory, or so says the man who failed to make it work.  So he ought to know I guess.  Just don’t disagree with him, he gets upset.

But then WildStar and The Elder Scrolls Online inexplicably threw in with the model.  And the question of the day became “What the hell are they thinking?” as people declared en masse that they would never play a subscription only game.

My completely uninformed opinion is that the TESO team is just hopelessly naive, though in an endearing sort of way.  Down there at the Hunt Valley end of the MTA light rail line, life is good, the air is clean, and the atmosphere just fills you with hope that it is still 2001 and you can launch an MMO that is simply better than the original EverQuest and have a winner.

Cynics… whose outlooks have no doubt been shaped by the industry… have opined that the ZeniMax Online team has an evil plan to launch as subscription, cashing in to the maximum amount possible, only to be ready to swap to a F2P model as soon as the sheep realize they are being shorn.  Then it will be flying pig mounts, pinwheel hats, and hotbars for sale all day every day, with regular in-game pop-ups to remind you of the latest currency specials.  Because fuck immersion… as far as I can tell only about 6 people on the internet believe there is such a thing… and these are just video games, so why not turn them all into a carnival midway?  Just crank the crap volume to 11 already and be done with it.

In my world view… and really, the only thing driving my world view in the regard is the TESO team’s seeming lack of understanding as to what drives the popularity of Elder Scrolls games… hint: It isn’t the availability of something like Barrens Chat… the team at ZeniMax is planning a picnic on a nice green median strip in the midst Interstate 83 and are going to get hit by a semi-truck while crossing the blacktop.

Irony demands that it be THIS truck

Irony demands that it be THIS truck

(Picture stolen from the EVE Online Facebook page, where they were encouraging people to suicide gank this truck, and then cropped and edited.  Don’t view the full-size version. Like people my age, it only looks good at a distance, if at all.)

And then all the subsequent drama will be the result of an emergency team trying to stitch things back together while the aforementioned cynics nod their heads and point out that it was all a setup.

We shall see how that works out.

And then there is the WildStar team at Carbine.  What the hell are they thinking?

You could easily assume that they, too, were just another start up in a self-contained reality distortion bubble where “we can make a better WoW” seems like a reasonable proposition.  They have the experience, the talent, and they have thrown in with the monthly subscription model.  Easy to dismiss as either misguided or, again, hatching an evil plot to bilk players out of money for boxes before jumping to a F2P model.

But then there is the whole CREDD thing.  The PLEX comparison is obvious, but just as easily dismissed due to the nature of EVE Online.

These guys aren’t dumb though.  Right?  This isn’t SOE with its seeming blind spot as to the obvious next question the moment they announce something.  Maybe they have a plan, maybe they feel they can build a player driven market with EVE Online-like participation levels.

And maybe, just maybe, they have their own model where running multiple accounts gives you a serious, tangible advantage in-game.

Because it is that, plus the advent of PLEX, that could be driving growth in EVE Online.

Think about this.

In EVE Online I think we can all agree that playing multiple accounts gives you an advantage.

And that has been the case for quite some time.  Even when I started playing the game, way back in 2006, you were only really serious about your internet spaceships if you has an extra pilot in space.  Multi-boxing was common.  And hey, if you enjoyed the game, then one or two additional accounts wasn’t a huge stretch.

But then along came PLEX back in 2009.

EVE Online was growing before PLEX.  It continued growing after PLEX.  But I do wonder what impact PLEX had on growth.

Because after the introduction of PLEX, it was suddenly viable to run more accounts, so long as you could use them to create enough ISK to buy PLEX to pay their subscription.  Having two or three accounts gave way to having five or six or ten or a dozen.  Seeing formations of mining ships clearly controlled by a single person became more common.

Pretty blue lasers

One fleet, one guy

In fact, CCP has expressed concern about the rising price of PLEX at times.  A single PLEX was selling for over 600 million ISK earlier this summer.  That concern has always been couched in terms of being concerned with the in-game economy.  And it is hard to deny that CCP takes the in-game economy seriously.  But I have to wonder if there isn’t also some concern around the out-of-game economy; specifically the bit that pays the bills that keeps payroll going and servers humming.  Because, while some players play for “free” by buying PLEX, every active account is still paid for by somebody, and nothing says “winning” more than an always increasing subscriber base.  Grow or die, as they might say on Wall Street.

Is that what the WildStar team is hoping to achieve with CREDD?  Because if it is, they aren’t convincing me.

I have been through this before, but I would be hard pressed to name another MMORPG where the player base is as invested in the in-game economy as in EVE Online.  And the in-game is what drives PLEX and enables it to succeed to the point that it likely contributes noticeably to the subscriber base totals.  And WildStar hasn’t said a thing that makes me think that they can manage that.

So I am throwing in with the conspiracy group on this one.  Carbine must be making a cynical cash grab with this “buy the box and subscribe” plan up front, while readying the transition to F2P once the sheep are well and truly shorn.

Did I use that metaphor already?  I can’t help it.  I have seen sheep shorn, and they always come out looking pathetic, cold, and pissed off, in the same way certain MMO players do when their game makes that F2P transition.

Anyway, there is no other logical explanation for Carbine’s plan aside from a complete loss of grip on reality.  And the TESO team will probably claim they own that and sue.

But it sure has given us all a lot to talk about.

Oh, and Brian Green’s hair continues its complete and total migration towards his chin.

I felt I needed just one more insult to secure the record.  Did I make it, or do I need to bring up the NGE?

Has the WildStar Team Looked Into How is Krono Working for SOE? August 20, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, EverQuest Next, WildStar.
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6 comments

The big news so far this week… at least at the point when I started writing this post… seems to be the announcement about WildStar’s business model.

Wildstar_logoWildStar is going for the classic monthly fee subscription model, which means they had better have something new and different to offer.  Given what I have seen so far, I hope their secret weapon is still under wraps, because the MMO market is pretty harsh these days.  The masses have spoken, and they do not like monthly subscriptions and won’t tolerate them without good reason.

And Carbine, WildStar’s developer, is working for NCSOFT (Didn’t they used to write it NCsoft?), which means the gun will be to their head from day one to make this work and work well.  NCSOFT’s record of closing down games indicates that they either have no compunction about shutting them down or they have no clue about what works for MMOs and end up backing a lot of losers.  Neither paints a happy picture.

So, yea, no pressure there Carbine.  Hope you have your shit well and truly together.

The alleged mitigating factor in the WildStar plan appears to be a PLEX-like item which they are calling CREDD.  As they put it on their site, after you buy the box and use up your “30 days with purchase” time, you have two options:

Option 1: Monthly subscription

Option 2: C.R.E.D.D.

So, the buzz after that has been people sorting themselves out into the love/hate sides of the subscription model, attempting to decipher exactly how this is “hybrid,” and generating inapt parallels to EVE Online and its PLEX scheme.

You all remember PLEX right?

This is PLEX

No longer this cheap in Jita

PLEX has been around for about four years at this point.  It has added to the usual EVE drama.  You buy PLEX from CCP and get it as an item in-game, which you can then sell to other people for the in-game currency, ISK.  You do this if you really need some ISK.  If you buy PLEX, you can consume it for 30 days of game time or use it for various account services.

PLEX works in EVE.

It works for various reasons, the most important of which is that everybody who plays EVE with any level of seriousness has to be part of the in-game player economy.  EVE is not World of Warcraft where you can say, “screw the auction house” and go run through the quest chains that lead you through the game and which keep your level of equipment… well… I hate to say “competitive” in a game like WoW… but you can get the basic job done, the bar being set low and the equipment being handed out readily making keeping you sufficiently over powered.

There is no escaping the economy in EVE.  You need it for your ship, for your fittings, for your implants, for your skills.  And the fact that ships and fittings and implants… and if you screw up, even skills… are constantly being lost to player action means that you keep going back.  You keep a few ships fit and ready to go.  You buy better fittings.  You change up fits that just are not working.  You spend a lot of ISK.

Or maybe not a lot.  If you are new, losing a frigate seems expensive.  Later on you’ll throw frigates away and laugh… if you last long enough in the game.

But another aspect of EVE that makes PLEX work is that the in-game currency isn’t an “I win” button.  Sure, it helps.  But if you can only afford to fly frigates, you can still find something to do.  And if a battleship lumbers up to you, you can run away easily.  Or, even better, you can tackle him, orbiting faster than his guns can track, and call in some friends to kill him.  Or kill him yourself and laugh, if you are skilled enough.

Look at Gevlon.  He has, through an admirable level of persistence, become quite wealthy in EVE Online.  He has made billions of ISK.  But has he “won” EVE?  Was all that ISK able to save TEST?  Is he powerful in-game in relation to his wealth?

I would say no.

Anyway, all of that is old news and has been discussed and argued over for ages at this point.  The take away from that is that WildStar does not sound like EVE, so the success of PLEX is not, to my mind, a reliable predictor of success when it comes to CREDD.  Feel free to correct me if you feel I am wrong.  I am no expert on WildStar.  But the two do not feel parallel.

No, WildStar’s CREDD seems like it might be closer to SOE’s Krono.

Krono has been out for almost a year now and it sounds a lot like PLEX and CREDD.

All About Krono

All About Krono

You buy it from SOE for real money and can turn around and sell it in-game to other players for in-game currency.  The last I checked it was available in EverQuest and EverQuest II.  While PLEX sounded like a viable plan in EVE from day one, I was a bit dubious about Krono.  (I was dubious about WoW supporting such a thing in theory as well.  Certainly the Kitten economy did not take the world by storm.) It seems like a decent idea.  It ought to work.  But it depends so much on the in-game economy, which can vary greatly from server to server, and which does not have anywhere near the buy-in you get in EVE Online.

I checked into the market price for Krono a few times early on, but haven’t heard much about it since.  So it isn’t clear to me if Krono has been a big win, a modest success, or is another one for the list of SOE science experiments that will never be spoken of again.  Did it get any mention at SOE Live?

The one ace in the whole that Krono had was the price.

Krono Pricing

Krono Pricing

A single Krono is $17.99, or two dollars cheaper than a month of SOE All Access, which starts at $19.99.  I looked into this pricing scheme in a post a while back.  It seemed like the one thing that might guarantee some Krono sales, since Krono can extended you SOE All Access plan by 30 days, just like it does a single game plan, and there are some price points where Krono wins for that.

Anyway, Krono seems like a much closer parallel to WildStar’s CREDD, so if I knew that Krono was a success, I think I would have more confidence in CREDD.

Of course, there isn’t a perfect parallel between any SOE game and WildStar.

Wildstar will be shiny and new, will be monthly subscription based, will have its own take on things, will presumably be different enough to stand out, and so on.  Meanwhile, SOE games are all free to play at this point and the games closest to Wildstar in model are pretty old at this point, with EverQuest standing at 14 years of age and EverQuest II at nearly 9.

On the other hand, some of the differences work in Krono’s favor.  The fact that some of the SOE games are older and have mature economies means that there are players out there with the cash in hand to buy Krono at a price that makes it worth acquiring Krono from SOE.  That might be an early days weak spot for WildStar.  Will its economy have evolved and produced enough wealth to make selling CREDD a viable option just 30 days after launch?  And if it has, if there is enough money in the market so quickly, is that really a good thing, or a sign that inflation will grip the economy?

That is a whole pile of questions and speculation without much in the way of answers.  Such is my usual method I suppose.

What do you think?  Is it going to work?

And, in another parallel, I do wonder where Krono fits into the EverQuest Next scheme.

Rift to go Free to Play on June 12 May 14, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Rift.
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8 comments

I was wrong.

Another subscription MMO caves in, unable to make a go of things on monthly fees alone.  Or they feel that the grass must surely be greener on the free to play side of the fence.

Of course, my prediction was back when Scott Hartsman was still on board and before they put the cash shop interface into the game.  And with WoW, the game Rift sought to out do by speed and emulation, dropping subscriptions in huge, game killing chunks (for any game except WoW), the subscription model takes has taken another blow.

Anyway, Trion has announced that Rift will go free to play come June.  They have a video and such on the official site.  And a producer’s letter.  And a FAQ.  And an interview over at Massively to reinforce all of this.

They will even have something called REX, which sounds remarkably like PLEX.  You think?

The beginning matrix of who will get what has been announced.

Subscribers, expansion, and free levels

Rift, Storm Legion, and free levels

People who subscribe will now be called “Patrons” and will get a set of benefits.  Will they be worth $15 a month to people?

Call me "Patron"

Call me “Patron”

That feels more like World of Tanks, what with the short term options available.  They are certainly trying to mix in all they can.

But still, the cash shop will now rule the roost and new content will likely falter while Trion begins the endless race to figure out what will sell best.  Those who buy from the cash shop will drive the game going forward.

Some people will be cheering, feeling that every game needs to be free, that there is only one right model.

Others, whom like me, have been unhappy with the rot that cash shops can bring, will be less enthusiastic.

Either way, it will change the game.  Nobody can deny that.  And it will likely bring in some new players to start.  But eventually the cash shop chase will begin.

What do you think?

Addendum: Green Armadillo has some thoughts on Rift’s new plan.

Krono – Maybe It Will Work… Maybe It Won’t November 21, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest II, Sony Online Entertainment.
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I mentioned SOE’s new Krono item previously, though really only in reference to an oddity in its pricing.  It is SOE’s version of EVE Online’s PLEX, an item that can be redeemed for 30 days of game time (or premium game time, in the case of SOE’s free to play model) and which exists in-game and can be sold to other players for the in-game currency.

All About Krono

(Krono screen stolen from The EQ2 Wire because we love them.)

I had wondered previously if WoW could support something like this, back when they were indulging in their half-hearted, and I would say ultimately failed, kitten economy experiment.  But now that SOE is attempting to emulate the PLEX model directly, I am very interested to see how it works out.

Currently Krono is only in EverQuest II, though there are plans to bring it to EverQuest and Vanguard should things go well.

But will things go well?

I have been watching pricing of Krono on the broker on a couple of servers and it seems to be all over the map.

Now, there are a couple of problems that cause this.

To start with, unlike EVE, EQII has no buy order mechanism built into the broker.  In EVE, the ability to set a buy order sets an effective floor on the price of anything.  No matter what you have to sell in EVE, there is somebody somewhere who will think, “I’ll take n of those if it gets down to the right price.”

Sometime buy orders are really low.  There is always somebody who will do a region-wide buy order for light missiles at half an ISK each.  Reprocessing them or reselling them near a low level mission hub will allow the buyer to turn a profit.

But in trade hubs like Jita the buy orders and the sell orders begin to converge and you can determine the real market price of an item, minus the geographic convenience multipliers.

Since you cannot do that in EQ2, sellers are flying blind.  Let’s say you buy a Krono and put it on the market for 700 plat and it sells.  Is 700 plat the real market price?  Did you simply price the Krono too low?  Did you just find a fat cat in a hurry?  Were you simply the lowest price at that moment on the broker?

None of that tells you what the real price should be.  It is one of the flaws of the EQII broker.  I certainly hope buy orders are on the list of features for the tentatively sandbox-like EverQuest Next.

The second issue is that there simply were not that many Krono for sale on the broker.  People seem tentative, and rightly so, about diving into this latest SOE scheme.

So on one server I saw about a dozen Krono up for sale.  They were priced between 700 and 2500 platinum, and except for the couple at the bottom of the price list, who were clearly in a price war, there were pretty wide gaps between the listings.  Anything with a commonly accepted value should be clustered pretty closely for the most part, with a few outliers looking for suckers.

This says to me that most of the people selling Krono on the broker are trying to sell at what they feel should be the right price.  This is how much plat they think $17.99 should bring in.  This, again, goes back to the whole lack of a buy order mechanism thing, as there is nothing out there to help determine a real market value.  Without that a seller cannot make an informed pricing decision, so we get stuff all over the map.

Meanwhile, I saw several people on the trade channel at various times trying to sell Krono for between 500 and 600 plat.  This is an off-shoot of the fact that the broker in EQII, unlike the market in EVE, is a completely optional feature.  You can go through years of playing and never buy anything off the broker and never feel the worse for it.  After all, the best items in the game cannot be bought or sold.  You have to go slay some beastie or another, or complete some epic quest to get that.

And unless you have a gold account, you cannot even use the broker to its fullest.  That is how non-essential the broker is.

So the deck isn’t somewhat stacked against outright, unmitigated, obvious success.

And I am not even including the calculations from old hands like me who remember the days when selling something for a gold… 100 gold is 1 plat… seemed like a major economic victory.  Something selling for hundreds of plat seems crazy insane, because I do not thing all my characters, if they pooled all their coins, could come up with 200 plat.  But I am still playing in the mid-tiers of the game, in content from 2005, so have no real sense of how readily available plat is when you are in the 90-95 zone.  The price of Krono might be quite reasonable to somebody at that level.

But there appears to be at least one wild card in favor of the whole Krono scheme, and that has to do with the RMT gold selling sites.

I went to check some of those sites just to see if I could get a sense of the street value, such that it is, of plat coins in EverQuest II.

The basic response from most of the sites I visited was, to mix a reference, “Screw you and the crappy SOE game you rode in on!  We don’t serve their kind in here!”

Okay, maybe they were not quite so up front.  It was more like “We do not currently serve this community” or “We are currently out of stock and cannot foresee a time when we will resume sales” when it came to EverQuest II.

I went through six sites I found via Google before I was directed by one to a seventh site that actually had EQII plat for sale.  And they didn’t even have plat for all of the servers.  But on those that they did, it looked like $16.99, the cheapest price for a Krono, could get you about 300 plat coins.

Krono Pricing

Which, in the world of RMT versus PLEX, is mondo bizarre.  Go look at Nosy Gamer’s chart.  In EVE, you are paying nearly a 50% premium to get clean ISK via PLEX when compared to RMT.  In EQII at the moment, where I checked, you could be getting a 50% premium when buying clean plat via Krono.  Being legit pays, for the moment.

Of course, the problems I mentioned about the EQII market apply.  There is no saying if this will be the price range next week, or the week after, or the month after.  There is no way to get a sense of the demand, absent the buy order mechanism, so we are still flying blind when it comes to pricing on any given day.

Which is kind of a shame, because I would really like this to work.  And, I think in EverQuest, where inflation has led to people having huge stacks of plat coins around, it might be a viable way to spread out some of that wealth that is just sitting in banks doing nothing, to the betterment of the game.

Still, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

What do you think?  Is Krono, a good thing or not, and will it succeed?

The Interesting Thing About Krono and the All Access Pass… November 16, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II, Sony Online Entertainment.
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2 comments

Krono is a new item from SOE, currently available in EverQuest II.  The Krono page describes it as such:

When used, this magical krono adds 30 days membership time to the amount of the consuming character. This krono can be used only once.

  • Adds 30 days of game time to the account of the consuming character
  • Fully tradable and salable
  • No expiration date
  • Krono only redeemable in EverQuest II

So Krono is, essentially, the same thing as PLEX in EVE Online.

This is PLEX

I need to get a new stock PLEX screen shot.  That one is out of date.  PLEX is now just an object in game like any other and can be destroyed.

Anyway, Krono is an attempt by SOE to thwart RMT currency sales in EverQuest II by giving players a legitimate way to buy something that can be traded in-game for platinum.

And, on the flip side, if you are a player with lots of plat who wants to save some money on their subscription, you can fund your premium access with your game play.

As in EVE, generally a win-win, so long as the market can support such an item at a reasonable price.  In EVE the price of PLEX has been rising over time, hovering around 600 million ISK per these days, double what it was two years ago.

We will see how the EverQuest II broker handles it.  My own fear, if I were SOE, would be that of low demand and/or low or erratic price patterns.  PLEX works in EVE because everybody has to use the marketplace.  The same is not true in EQII.  In fact, free players are somewhat restricted in what they can access at the broker.  As I pointed out when I asked if WoW could support something like PLEX, market participation is a key factor.

I suppose we shall see how it works out.  I applaud SOE for diving right in with this.  According to the FAQ, if the response is favorable, Krono will be rolled out to EverQuest and Vanguard as well.

Also like PLEX, Krono are priced to be more expensive than a normal monthly subscription.  A standard game pass… what SOE calls a subscription these days… is $14.99 a month, while Krono is $17.99 per 30 day unit of time.

Krono Pricing

Clearly, nobody is going to simply buy and consume Krono just to keep their subscription going.

Unless you happen to subscribe via the SOE All Access Pass.

There is a long history to the All Access Pass, once known as Station Access, which was introduced just about the time EverQuest II launched.  In short though, it is a subscription plan where, for a few dollars more, you can have access to all SOE online games.

Pricing has varied over the years, peaking at $29.99 at one point.  But once SOE went all-in on free to play (and shed a few games), the price was dropped significantly.  Here is where the pricing stands today.

All Access Pricing

Nice, but what does that have to do with Krono?

Well, deep inside the Krono FAQ, there is a question about SOE All Access.

13. Do Krono work for game memberships as well as All Access memberships?

Yes. When a Krono is consumed, it will add 30 days of game membership time to the account associated with the character that consumed it. If that account has an existing All Access membership, the All Access membership will be extended by 30 days. If the account has a regular game membership, that membership will be extended by 30 days. If the account has no current membership, then 30 days of regular game membership time will be added to the account.

So using Krono will actually extended your All Access subscription.

And, in certain increments, it is cheaper than.  Basically, if you subscribe in increments of less than 6 months, Krono is the cheaper route.  At 6 months, they are essentially the same price.  Only if you buy your All Access subscription in year long increments is Krono more expensive.

Which makes me wonder if this was a deliberate action to help boost the sale of Krono, or if we are seeing yet another case of SOE not quite thinking things through, as happened with the $1.25 worth of Station Cash buying a 30 day subscription situation.

What do you think about that, or about Krono in general?

Opting Out of the Economy? Is PLEX Cheating? May 3, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, polls.
Tags: , ,
34 comments

I have written about PLEX before.

(And I have used that graphic before… look at the price of PLEX in the background!)

I have praised PLEX as a way to stem the illicit RMT market.  I have wondered if a game like WoW could support something like PLEX.  I have marveled at CCP allowing PLEX to be treated as an in-game object like any other, and how that lead to the inevitable giant loss event.

But I have never really bothered with the idea of it being cheating.

Primarily because, technically, PLEX is not and cannot be considered cheating because it is allowed, created, and administered by CCP.  They say it is okay and they make the rules, so therefore it is not cheating, QED.  And even before PLEX, CCP allowed the purchase of time codes with ISK, the in game currency.  PLEX just removed some of the complexities.  (You can still buy time codes and turn them into PLEX, which some web sites use as a way to get financial support.)

But that aside, there is the question of PLEX giving those with money an advantage over those without, and this is the aspect that Rohan appears to be wrestling with over at Blessing of Kings.

I have been reading Blessing of Kings for ages, it being a source for all things Paladin related in World of Warcraft.

But Rohan has recently ventured into New Eden, and I have been following his posts on the subject with interest.  Jaded after more than five years of exposure to EVE, it is interesting to read about somebody entering the game afresh and discovering its myriad complexities, especially somebody with a critical eye like his.

He has recently hit upon PLEX as being something that allows a player to skip content, or to cheat.  The focus seems, from my read, to be entirely on the economic aspect of the game.

He divides the economic sphere into “producers” and “consumers,” something I find to be a bit of a false dichotomy.

First, there is a lot of gray area in between the two from my point of view.  There are lost of people who just like the industry side of the game.  And there are, I am sure, people who just buy PLEX to turn pirate and hunt other players.  But in between?

What of the mission runner who focuses only on the mission reward and thus optimizes his efforts to completing them as fast as possible?  He never loots, he never salvages, and he certainly never stops to mine any tasty ore that might show up in a mission.  He merely consumes the mission content, adding to the market place approximately the same as the person who buys PLEX.

And what about me?  For the last four months I have been in null sec, I have ratted a little bit for bounties, but have pretty much steered clear of the economic sphere.  I have been in coalition fleets for battles, and when I lose a ship my alliance reimburses me the cost of my ship and sells me a replacement at a very good price, thus subsidizing my play.  How does that differ, in terms of economic impact, from the buyer of PLEX?  My choice has essentially opted me out of the production aspect of the game as well.

Second, the consumption side of the does, in fact, add to the economic sphere of the game.  Nothing keeps the production people going like some pirates out there blowing up ships.  The so-called consumer is in fact a very important aspect of the producer’s life.  Without him, the producer is done.

Third, there is the standard argument about how ISK does not translate into power in the game.  You cannot jump ahead in skill points to allow you to fly a more powerful ship, you have to train them one point at a time like everybody else.  Yes, you can buy implants, and those do help some, but the noob to titan training plan is still most of a year even with +5 modules.

More importantly, ISK does not impart skill.  Ships in the game are all vulnerable.  In WoW, a level 1 player in starter gear would be severely challenged to kill an AFK top tier raider in full gear.  There is a vast discrepancy in power between the two, imparted by equipment and skills that come with levels.  But in EVE, the wily frigate pilot can take down a strategic cruiser.  (The first kill in that post, which made Dabigredboat quite smug.)

Finally, the consumer of content that uses PLEX does add something to the game.  The person who buys PLEX for cash and sells it on the market for ISK gives the producer the option to pay for his game time via the fruit of his labors.  CCP still gets paid, the guy selling the PLEX gets his ISK, and producer gets a real life reward for his work.  For me, that is high on the list of “best features ever.”

Rohan then goes on to a horrible analogy, though in fairness, I should say that I think almost all analogies are horrible.  People who agree with you already go, “Yeah!” while people who disagree pick apart the points where the analogy falls down (and the analogy ALWAYS falls down under close examination… if it didn’t, it wouldn’t be an analogy) and nobody’s opinion is altered one iota. (See Scott Adams.)

Anyway, this analogy involved a theoretical immortality pod that would let you opt out of PvP for 30 days as the opposing side of the PLEX issue.  To my mind, this is absolutely not the case.  Said pod would be game breaking… opting out of PvP in what is a PvP game… and would literally remove content, as opposed to PLEX, which merely changes one aspect of a players interaction with the game.  Your PLEX buying gank pirate is still creating demand for production, still buying from the market, and giving the producer something special.  The immortality pod is a literal opt-out of the nature of the game.  It isn’t skipping the part of the game he doesn’t enjoy, it is skipping the game.  Enough people do that and the end result is the death or production as an ongoing concern.

Anyway, this is all debating society level discussion.  CCP is not going to take out PLEX and they certainly are not going to introduce an immortality pod.  But it is always interesting to try and hash out what PLEX means to the game as a whole.

What do you think of PLEX?

[Addendum: If you are looking for other ways to make ISK, read this excellent article.]

New Blogger Initiative pointers of the day that can be gleaned from this post:

-Taking long comment responses to other people’s blog posts and turning them into posts on your own blog is an easy way to come up with a post idea, and fosters a sense of community between blogs by linking them together in some sort of web-like structure.  (Link whoring)

-Link back to past posts you have made on the same subject.  It keeps you from having to repeat yourself, it gets people to look something not on the front page of your blog, and when some site steals your content, at least you’ll get a bit of traffic back with those links.  (Link whoring)

-Polls are an easy way to finish up a post when you aren’t clear where you are headed and you feel you need to distract your readers from the weakness in you argument. (Hiding your link whoring)

Deklein Will be Rid of Goons by February December 27, 2011

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
Tags: , ,
18 comments

Although I spent Christmas in empire space, thanks to the magic of jump clones, packing up some stuff to be shipped out to null sec, I have been keeping an eye on communications and other bits of intel that find their way to me, usually via Gaff.

It seems that White Noise had a meeting of their own which, like the last State of the Goonion, shortly found its way to the web in audio form and is posted, along with a summary, over at EVE News 24.

Some of the key items from that:

  • White Noise was “surprised” by the attack, despite The Mittani discussing everything short of a seating chart for the victory celebration to take place after the defeat of White Noise.  Winter is Coming was more than a meme.  Maybe White Noise only read the State of the Goonion summary over at EVE News 24, which was terse to the point of uselessness. (The subtitle for their post was “Too Long, Didn’t Listen.” I am told that EVE News 24 hates the Goons.  But then the fill in the blank statement “_______ hates the Goons” has a lot of potential answers I suppose.)
  • White Noise jumped straight to the Godwin’s Law moment and made the historical (hysterical?) comparison to Germany invading the Soviet Union in 1941.  White Noise certainly fit the bill when it came to not being prepared despite obvious intel that the blow was coming.  Can they trade systems for time until they get their act together is the real question.
  • White Noise is getting their allies together and plans to start their counter offensive on January 1st.  This includes borrowing forces from Red Alliance down in the south, which apparently has enough free time to ship pilots across the map just for a chance to kick the Goons in the nuts. (Because, of course, they hate the Goons.)
  • White Noise says that the Deklein region will be cleared of Goon forces by February.

So, with that in mind, here is the sovereignty map for December 27th, borrowed from here:

Null Sec Sov. December 27

If things go as planned for White Noise, most of that big yellow splotch in the upper left corner should be gone.  That little purple patch as well, which is where I live when I am in null sec.

We will have to see what the map looks like on February 1st.

Until then I have a bunch of mining equipment set to to be shipped out to Deklein.  I need to start making some money somewhere along the line.

Though, I suppose if it came down to a desperate moment (it won’t), PLEX recently hit a new all-time peak price.  According to the November EVE Price Index, PLEX was selling for nearly 500 million ISK per unit at one point before settling down a bit.  Lots of ISK out there chasing PLEX I guess.

And the war, in which I played a very small part one night, goes on.

PLEX – Available in Bulk Lots December 3, 2011

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
Tags:
6 comments

I got a pop-up from CCP that they were having a sale on PLEX, the 30 Day Pilot License Extensions that are essentially 30 day units of game time you can buy or sell with the in-game currency ISK.

PLEX - On Sale Now!

I was interested to see what constituted a “sale” price.  PLEX is generally prices at a point that you would never buy it for yourself to keep your subscription… unless you were paying in ISK.  So I went to the account management page where these things are bought and sold.

The PLEX Store

As I suspected, the PLEX prices were not all that special.  $17.49 for 30 days of a game that is $14.99 a month when you pay directly.  Not a deal, even if you can get it down to $16.50 a month by buying a batch of six.

PLEX Special Pricing

The surprising bit for me was the ability to buy PLEX in lots of 28 (or 30 with the special offer).

That must be the empire builder’s package.  30 PLEX can be turned into more than 12 billion ISK, with patience, which seems like a lot of in game currency for me.

But then a titan runs a lot more than that.

Still, you don’t put that option on the “Buy Now” list unless somebody is using it, so somebody out there is buying a lot of PLEX.