Wednesday, May 02, 2012

[Eve Online] PLEX and Cheating, Part II

I've been following Gevlon's comment thread, and I've realized that he and I are actually talking about two different aspects of PLEX.

PLEX versus Economic Simulation

From the outside, one of the main attractions of Eve Online is that it is this huge economic simulation with hundreds of thousands of actors. People harvest resources, refine resources, produce goods, trade, purchase and use those goods. Then you add on the player conflict overlaid on top of all that. It is a magnificent economic simulation and experiment.

It is amazing to realize that the ammo I purchase to shoot pirates was produced by another player, as is the ship I fly in and modules which the ship is outfitted in.

The thing about this economic simulation is that you can trace the flow of wealth, see how all the interlocking transactions combine into one harmonious whole. And each transaction makes sense within the universe.

But then, inside this beautiful simulation, you have some extremely large transactions that simply do not make sense within the context of the universe. Half a billion ISK transferred from one player to another, for no discernible rhyme or reason. That transaction weakens the economic simulation, warps it slightly, has trickle-down effects, and makes the whole thing less real than it could be.

PLEX as a Means of Skipping Content

Some people are producers. They enjoys earning ISK, either by harvesting resources or trading or producing goods. They do not enjoy being attacked by other players. But they deal with that inconvenience, and adjust their gameplay to defend or mitigate against that possibility.

PLEX buyers are consumers. They enjoy expending ISK, often on attacking other players. They do not enjoy earning ISK.

However, unlike the producers, the consumers don't have to deal with their inconveniences. They don't have to adjust their gameplay to compensate. They can spend real money to skip the part of the game they don't enjoy.

That is the part which is not fair. The situation is not symmetrical. One faction can skip the part of the game they do not enjoy, while the other faction cannot.

Consider the following hypothetical. Suppose CCP sold, for real money, an IMMORTAL module which rendered your ship immune to player attack (but disabled your weapons while installed). The module would have a lifespan of one month of real-time, after which it would self-destruct.

Would the Eve playerbase be okay with such a module? Or would using it be considered cheating?

After all, all it does is equalize the situation between producers and consumers. The consumer can buy PLEX to skip the parts of the game he doesn't enjoy. The producer can buy IMMORTAL modules to skip the parts of the game which she doesn't enjoy.

Yet I suspect that the Eve loyalists would howl if IMMORTAL modules were ever sold by CCP. But in many ways IMMORTAL modules are no different than PLEX in their effect on how an individual enjoys the game.

20 comments:

Gevlon said...

I was thinking about the same thing.

The reason why it won't be introduced is that the "consumers" are actually bad players. They can only kill unarmed enemies. The immortal module would force them to only attack other PvP-ers which would mean series of defeats and quiting.

Azuriel said...

That is the part which is not fair. The situation is not symmetrical.

It's really False Equivalence. By your definitions, Producers get to enjoy the game right out of the gate. Meanwhile, Consumers have a huge grind ahead of them, effectively playing two entirely different games (one of which they don't want to play). And as Gevlon himself demonstrates, the inconvenience Producers go through via ganking is overblown anyway.

I might also suggest that what a ganked Producer loses is merely time (time spent doing things he/she enjoys, no less), thus PLEX is the same as the IMMORTAL module. In fact, who really gets screwed here are the Consumers, who are subsidizing the gameplay of Producers (who like Gevlon are using the PLEX to run multiple accounts), and otherwise paying a premium to experience the one aspect of the game they enjoy. You pay $15/month for a fun MMO, and they pay $30+/month for the same.

Foo said...

Simplistically:

Those buying PLEX with cash are paying to gank those buying PLEX with ISK.

I have read that if you are not paying for a product, you are the product. It seems to apply here.

(edited to correct grammatical errors)

Cid Phoenix said...

It's worth pointing out also that the game, while it has several different aspects to it, is fundamentally about PVP. One need only read the commentary of any of the EVE devs to see this.

To an extent, perhaps a small extent, but an extent nonetheless, from CCP's perspective, the carebears are playing the game wrong.

Ephemeron said...

Some players start out alone and play solo. They have to earn ISK, experience and reputation the hard way, paying the full price for their mistakes. Other players, who happen to be a part of some external community (a group of friends, an internet forum, a guild from another MMO), can jump into the game and get instant support, good advice, free ships and ISK, and so forth. This is clearly unfair. The situation is not symmetrical. Therefore, CCP should make all players completely anonymous and place severe restrictions on transfer of resources between players.

Some players have very little time to play due to IRL commitments - an hour a day, or maybe even less. They have trouble fitting their playtime in organized corp schedule and have extremely limited opportunity to participate in the majority interesting events. Other players can play all day and thus have a much wider spectrum of available options. This is clearly unfair. The situation is not symmetrical. Therefore, CCP should institute daily and weekly caps on all in-game activities and their results.

Some players are, sadly, not particularly gifted in regards to intelligence. They have trouble wrapping their minds around the complex concepts of EVE gameplay. Others are blessed with a high IQ and good education, so they can quickly work out the optimal solution to problems that leave others stumped. This is clearly unfair. The situation is not symmetrical. Therefore, CCP should dumb down the game to the level of the most common denominator.

Some players have only recently started playing. They have to acquire ISK, skillpoints and other resources from scratch. Others have been playing since release and have near-limitless resources at their fingertips. This is clearly unfair. The situation is not symmetrical. Therefore, CCP should carry out periodic "gear resets" to place everyone back on even footing.

Life isn't fair or symmetrical. Neither is EVE, and therein lies a significant part of its charm. As you can see from the above examples, trying to turn a game into a perfect escapist bubble that is completely isolated from external influence makes the game worse, not better.

spinksville said...

I would wonder (if I was a designer) why is it that the consumers can't cut a deal with the producers, ie. to get funded in game by producers so that they go can blow stuff up.

Maybe the core of EVE isn't as solid of a PvP game as players would like to think, maybe the economic incentives for PvP actually aren't that high. Because a large part of the incentive is 'blow stuff up because it's fun' and not 'blow stuff up because it will help me meet goal X'.

So I suspect that a pure simulation game would have less fighting in than EVE, because players would be less willing to lose. And without adding that real element of risk (what risk is there really if you can bung some more cash at the game and replace your losses?), people will be far more willing to fight than they would otherwise.

So by allowing this to happen CCP is trending EVE towards a more shmup crowd.

spinksville said...

Also the carebears aren't playing the game wrong really, I think Gevlon is right about economics being the basis for it. But CCP needs to talk up the shooting war as if it's all war all the time because that's what attracts new players -- shoot stuff! in space! is a different proposition from 'oh yeah, we started a war because we were bored and there was nothing else to do.'

Helistar said...

This entire discussion is turning insane.

Do you still realize that you're talking about a game (= played to have fun) and not a social experiment designed to showcase your superiority?
BTW Gevlon has went this way a long time ago (more or less when he was supplanted as WoW AH resource by the now-defunct Marko's JMTC), which is why I suggested to start ignoring him.

Face reality: EvE may have that "ultra-competitive" fashion look, but it's still a GAME, and will be approached as such by the majority. This also means that making money is not rocket science, especially since this not the game's "final objective" (in a sandbox, there are none...), which means that it will be treated as a non-priority by a lot of people.

On your "IMMORTAL" example: just the fact that you wonder if it could be considered "cheating" shows how off the mark you are. Cheating is very well defined, and using for its intended purpose a service sold by the company making the MMO is definitely not cheating by any stretch of imagination. It can only be interpreted as "cheating" if you use the game to feel superior to others thus viewing any shortcut (even a perfectly legal one, like PLEX), as a threat to your self-image.

Qu said...

"Half a billion ISK transferred from one player to another, for no discernible rhyme or reason."

"Edvard Munch's iconic artwork The Scream sold for $120m" http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-17926519

In any economy, large amounts of currency can change hands for seemingly inexplicable reasons. I'm not suggesting Plex is art however, but it doesn't have to be.

This argument has been going since MMO's have been going in one form or another. Some people are cash rich and time poor, some are time rich and cash poor.

I had a similar debate many years ago before MMO's ever got started. A friend of mine was a windsurfing instructor and was envious of the nice car I had whilst he had some old jalopy. At the time I was working 60+ hours a week and only got chance to windsurf on a Sunday afternoon. I explained I was envious of him because he spent all day every day windsurfing!

Very few people are both cash and time rich, and we're all envious of them otherwise we wouldn't buy lottery tickets.

These days I'm envious of the people that get to play Eve for several hours a day, manipulating markets or getting down and dirty in universal politics and war. I only get to play a few hours on a Sunday afternoon. On the plus side I'm cash rich, so paying someone else's monthly subscription in exchange for him earning me some Plex seems like a good deal.

It's naive to think the only currency in a game is isk/gold/plat etc. The other currency we all bring in from outside the virtual world is TIME.

Anonymous said...

The ammo you shot is likely not made by some player. The game's market is populated with "NPC" sellers for all base items. This keeps prices from wandering all over the place.

Rohan said...

@Helistar, if you want, substitute "good for the game" or "fair" for "cheating". Your definition of cheating is technically correct, but very boring.

When discussing rules, the idea that Rule X is a rule because it is in the rulebook is correct, but it doesn't say anything about whether Rule X is correct or good or should be changed.

@Ephemeron, Life isn't fair or symmetrical. Neither is EVE, and therein lies a significant part of its charm. As you can see from the above examples, trying to turn a game into a perfect escapist bubble that is completely isolated from external influence makes the game worse, not better.

That's completely true. Eve Online should stop coddling PvP consumers and make them earn ISK the hard way. If they can't handle that, tough. If they don't have the time or intelligence for that, too bad.

Somehow I expect that's not what you meant. But it's the logical outcome for that line of thinking.

@Qu, I disagree with the example of art. I may not agree with the valuation, but it does make sense and is internally consistent within the universe. The buyer exchanges a large sum of money for a unique artifact which will probably increase in value as well as provide status and enjoyment for purchaser.

The thing about PLEX is that it is not consistent within the Eve Universe. It is consistent in the greater universe. But that weakens the simulation aspect.

Jason Ambrye said...

Um, no. There are NO NPC sellers for base items, just for BPO's, most skill books, and "trade goods". T1 meta0 items used to (also) drop as loot, but the latest patch removed those. EVERYTHING on the EVE market with a duration under 90 days is sold by a player.

Andrei said...

@Rohan That's completely true. Eve Online should stop coddling PvP consumers and make them earn ISK the hard way. If they can't handle that, tough. If they don't have the time or intelligence for that, too bad.

I think you missed the point Ephemeron is making. What your are suggesting is actually a step towards that "perfect escapist bubble". This is only a step as you are not suggesting to break other RL ties like out of the game Goonswarm activities that give them "unfair" advantage over solo players or smaller corporations/alliances. Let's limit their ability to use any out of the game tools and earn their success the hard way. If they can't handle it, tough.

As Ephemeron stated life is not fair neither is EVE. Trying to create artificial barriers and limit real life influence is Utopian at best and unless this influence is game breaking doesn't do EVE any good. PLEX trading impacts negatively only players like Gevlon who seems to find his mission in the game to invent ways of proving his superiority over other players he deems M&S. Gevlon complains about PLEX trading because it undermines one of the main metrics he uses to prove his superiority.

Anonymous said...

If there was no PLEX, people would use third-party ISK sellers. PLEX, combined with CCP's decisive and effective actions against botting RMT-ers, has helped the game. Removing PLEX would not make the economy any better. It would remove a line of revenue from CCP and add it to the RMTers instead. I'm not sure who that would help, except, of course, the RMT-ers.

Helistar said...

Your definition of cheating is technically correct, but very boring.

I'd say that it's very right. Words have a meaning, if you mean "bad for the game" just write it. Here you used "cheating" just to attract the attention. And "fair"? What's not fair? Paying to play a game you enjoy?

That's completely true. Eve Online should stop coddling PvP consumers and make them earn ISK the hard way. If they can't handle that, tough. If they don't have the time or intelligence for that, too bad.

Ah yes, a fine example of game design: people enjoy doing X and you force them to do Y. In case you didn't notice, all the rest of the games is moving away from this approach. It's not by chance.

The thing about PLEX is that it is not consistent within the Eve Universe. It is consistent in the greater universe. But that weakens the simulation aspect.

I would say that it's very consistent with the image of EVE: the poor farm, the rich gank them.

Surloc said...

It's also important to note that merely having the best ship doesn't mean you will win a fight. It helps but if you don't know what you are doing that guy in the rifter (or him and his 5 friends) will blow up your uber ship. This is why when people tell they have a shiny new Tech3 cruiser, and want to know how fit for pvp. I tell them to buy 20 rifters (or the like) and fly around in Low Sec until they've lost all of them.

Anonymous said...

PLEX isn't cheating in any way, shape or form, and insisting so is naive. EVE isn't about ISK, EVE's biggest currency is time. Time spent gaining SP. Time spent manufacturing and researching. Time spent hauling goods to better markets. Time spent creating false identities to gut a Corp or Alliance from the inside out.

By selling PLEX, all you are doing is exchanging your money for their time. In EVE, there is no cheating; it is everything goes. RMT is clearly allowed, since it has little actual impact on New Eden. Time cannot be stolen, accellerated, slowed or destroyed. And so long as that remains so, there are no unfair advantages, only natural ones.

Anders said...

Incorrect, I my self have bought PLEX to buy a hulk and to buy my ratting ship, PLEX buyers ($) are not just ($) rich gankers.

Anonymous said...

The immunity module is a horrible idea. I should not have to compete with players who are immune to combat PVP but can engage in market PVP. One thing that really bothers me now is the fact that players in NPC Corps can compete with me in the market but are immune from getting War Dec'd.

The plex thing is concerning because of the things that you've outlined. Recently CCP has been making announcements on assets including PLEX that have been seized due to botting/RMT activities. I think that is a large chunk of it but never did a comparison on the numbers so not really sure. Some people like PLEX because they want to PVP or whatever but don't have the time in RL to make isk other ways, I can understand that and have no problem with it. vOv

Hivemind said...

You're making a couple of assumptions in your original premise: a) any player who doesn't voluntarily seek out PvP must be against it, b) no "producer" players benefit from increased "consumer" activity and c) PLEX are only sold and only benefit "consumer" players. None of these are the case.

PvP is what drives the economy of EVE, so consumers who get to PvP more because they don't have to spend time producing increase demand for producers' products, and thus their income. Consumers who spend time killing producers decrease the supply of products and thus again increase profits for the producers smart enough (or lucky enough) to survive. As for c, more than a few producers, myself included, have sold a PLEX at one time or another to fund expansion of their own production activities; I used the cash to buy my first battleships for running L4 missions, which have since paid for about a dozen or more plexes, several replacement Ravens and a mining fleet.