for me at least this started back during EVE Vegas when CCP announced that they were going to expand the range of skills that would be usable by Alpha clones. After about a year of these free accounts roaming New Eden, CCP felt they ought to be allowed to do more. So CCP said they wanted to unlock tech II weapons up to the cruiser level, add battlecruisers to the list, as well as limited battleship skills. Oh, and Alpha clones would no longer be limited to their own faction. If a Gallente Alpha clone pilot wanted to bring their Drake, that would be within the realm of possibility.
The interesting bit, for me, was how they were planning to do this.
Adding in the new ships and expanding support to all empires raised the skill point total possible to about 20 million. However, free Alpha clone training would still cap players out at 5 million skill points. If you wanted to get 20 million skill points you were going to have to subscribe and become an Omega clone to train them or inject them through the usual method.
So if I unsubscribed my alt, who has over 120 million SP, I would be able to use 20 million of those skill points to play as opposed to just the meager 5 million. This, to my mind, would create a special class of players who had paid CCP some money at some past date and were being given a minor reward for that support.
LOTRO has something similar in the past, where there were free players, VIP players, and then those who had paid for something and so were entitled to a higher level of support even if not VIP subscribers. I thought that was a good idea back then, and think so today. In a game where “free” is an option, people who show a willingness to spend money ought to get some attention.
After EVE Vegas there was a dev blog that laid all of this out again and listed the skills that would be included in the new, expanded, unlimited use pool. Good so far.
This was followed about two weeks later by an additional dev blog about New Alpha Training Options, the dev blog that introduced the Daily Alpha Injector.
This is where the slope begins to get slippery.
CCP had some criteria that this new injector should meet, which I will borrow from the dev blog:
- Alphas must be able to acquire training in small chunks (one day’s worth ideally)
- Training rate from new option must not be faster than Omega
- Must not activate Omega state or put character in a new Clone State
- New option must be easily traded and available on market
And what they came up with was the Daily Alpha Injector, which has the following specifications, again borrowed from the dev blog:
- Only one Daily Alpha Injector may be used per day, per character [not account] (resets at downtime)
- May only be used by characters in the Alpha Clone State
- Can be purchased in the NES for PLEX or purchased for your regions real money currency via secure.eveonline.com
- Can be activated to immediately to add 50,000 skill points to your character’s unallocated skill pool (roughly one day worth of Omega training)
- Can be traded on the in-game market
- Does not award Omega Status
While you can earn ISK to buy the 20 PLEX for your Daily Alpha Injector (DAI going forward) in game, you can also straight up purchase them for cash, which I have to imagine is going to be a likely course for many an Alpha clone player.
So what we have here is a clear attempt to monetize the free player by selling them skill points generated on demand.
Now, on the one hand, CCP is a relatively small company in the industry; they’ve only have, and have only ever had, the one successful video game and the company lives or dies by its earnings. They have also made something that is unlike almost all other games in the genre. Given that, my inclination is to cut them some slack, a position no doubt influenced by the fact that I have played and enjoyed the game for more than 11 years.
So an admitted blind spot right there.
On the other hand, a lot of us just had a jolly old time last week roasting EA for going so overboard on monetizing Star Wars Battlefront II that even Disney had to step in and say, “Whoa, dude, settle down!” And even though EA has shown itself to be bad to both its employees and its customers regularly and repeatedly over the years, there is still plenty of room for hypocrisy if I just say, “Well, CCP are nice people so they get a pass.”
CCP isn’t straight up selling a titan + fully skilled character package yet, but they are, as has been pointed out in a number of places, pulling skill points out of thin air and selling them for cash money. And while CCP is clear on their intent, embodied in this phrase:
They can only be used by alphas, and an alpha can only apply unallocated skill points to alpha skills.
That isn’t strictly true. If you pile up a bunch of DAIs, using them every day on your Alpha, but not spending the skills, they just sit in your unallocated skill points buffer. If you then convert the account to an Omega… which is to say, you pay the old fashioned monthly subscription fee, which is what CCP really wants you, so we all win when you do that… you can use those unallocated skill points on whatever you want. But if you go back to being an Alpha and you used those points on skills outside of the noted 20 million, you’ll lose the use of that skill.
Admittedly, that is a tiny and unlikely to be pursued loophole, but it does exist. And if I can find that one, I bet there are others I haven’t found yet.
And the loophole isn’t really the issue here, it is the willingness to change a long standing rule of the game. We got skill injectors because players could already buy skilled up characters from other players through an official process. Besides which, they were not introducing new skill points into the game, just reallocating those already present. In fact, due to the way the injectors worked, CCP was effectively removing skill points from the game. If I try to use a skill injector, which contains 500,000 skill points, I only end up with 150,000 while the other 350,000 disappears into thin air.
Well, now those skill points seem to be coming back out of the air and are available straight up legal currency, and no other players need be involved.
But its only for Alphas right? And it is in such small increments right?
I expect the usual cast of characters to express outrage. Gevlon and Dinsdale will point at this as CCP revealing their true colors or sign of the impending demise of the game. And certain Star Citizen fan boys who feel that EVE Online must die for their game to succeed will jump on this as well. But the current EVE player base seems… well… oddly restrained.
I mean, look at this thread on Reddit. Generally speaking EVE Online players cannot discuss the weather that politely. I mean sure, there is dissent buried in there, and the expected “This is the end, EVE is dying” theme pops up now and again. But the most upvoted comment basically summarized DAIs as selling Omega training time in daily allotments. (Which sounds a lot like the “selling game time in smaller increments” that Gevlon brought up in an ongoing comment thread with Raph Koster on Saturday’s post.)
I guess that is how you could look at it. I guess I could get comfortable with that. I mean, no Alpha clone is going to catch me at 185 million SP consuming DAIs. It would take them over ten years.
But I was also pretty okay with day one DLC and the whole Season Pass thing wasn’t horrible, but now look at where EA stands. If we’re fine with one thing it sure seems like a company will push things further. What follows selling skill points under very restricted circumstance? And can CCP, which has investors and shareholders to appease just the same way that EA does, afford to not press the envelope and find further ways to monetize the game?
The whole thing leaves me uneasy. I want to be reasonable, see the stated intent as the only goal. But I am a product of my environment and goals can change, especially when cash comes up short… or even when cash is flowing freely but somebody sees a way to eke out some more.
What’s a capsuleer to do? I suppose we shall see come December 5th when this goes live as part of the Arms Race release.