EvE’s Economy – Presentation at FanFest 09

I’ve been watching the various videos that CCP is publishing during EvE FanFest this week. In particular, their economy session was the most interesting to me; It was mostly focusing on the effect of their ‘Unholy Rage’ banning program, implemented in late June.

First, the video link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSgVeU7e9tU

I focus here on the first half of the video, regarding their economy model – a closed system. You put real money in (either US$ or Euro) and, no matter what you do, no actual money comes out to individuals (aka ‘cashing out’). This was generating some interest in what is known as RMT (Real Money Transactions); The video discusses it well, but in essence someone pays real money for in-game ‘goods’ (in Eve’s case, usually the in-game currency known as ISK). This, by CCP’s TOS and EULA, is illegal because (as above) they don’t want money going out.

So, in addition to the normal ‘waves of banning’ that every ‘closed’ MMO tries to do, CCP came out with an in-game commodity known as the PLEX – Pilot License EXtension. Each PLEX gives you 30 days of game time when redeemed, and are generated by converting a GTC (game time card/code). They are sold within the normal in-game market, which meant that players themselves negotiate the (ISK) price of PLEX over time; The only difference from other in-game commodities is that you cannot transport them (making PLEX trading applicable to the region-level only, instead of the entire universe).

I find this to be a very refreshing solution to the ‘gold farming‘ problem that plagues every currency-based MMO (rampant farming and grinding were the main reasons I never liked WoW and other PvP MMO systems). That problem is also why I was so attracted to Uru (pure story, no need for money) and Second Life (they gave up and tied themselves to RMT directly – but charged users in US$ on both sides of each transaction).

The PLEX setup has not been around for very long (less than a year), so I’m not willing to discuss yet its overall impact. But (after its own speculation bubble and crash) it appears to be having the desired effect. More interesting questions still abound, such as: Can you buy the *outside* services (related to EvE, but not in-game) generated by players for real-life currency?

I do think that its worth watching though, and am still keeping an eye on developments related to PLEX.

–TSK

(Almost) September Update

Well, if I’m not going to post as often as I normally did (due to work and other obligations), then I’ll at least try to update once a month. ;)

Anyway…

Mysterium – The return trip from Spokane was uneventful, though delayed a day due to the illness. There was a three hour layover in the Seattle airport and used that time to catch up on work (once I found someplace that gave me *wired* access for the VPN connection – yay!). As one of the ‘staff’ I’ve been involved in post-con discussion, though nothing major (from my end) that needs worrying about just yet.

Hoboken – Hot, humid, and recently raining again due to the remnants of hurricane season. *sigh* Things at least began to get cooler a couple days ago, and I’m enjoying what walking time I can get in.

There was also that little thing about the plane/heli crash on the Hudson corridor a couple weeks ago. One of the piers here was pressed into service by the NTSB for the following week, which was interesting – until I saw the mobile coroner’s office on-site. Gah.

Eve Online – My character is currently waiting 4 weeks, while two skills for a special mining ship get trained. In the interim, I decided to make lemonade out of lemons, use the (semi-useless) time card from the Atari box (called a GTC) and convert it into in-game currency for purchasing said ship. :) I’ve also been following the EBank crisis; Thankfully I was too new to have done anything with them, but its been very interesting – as someone who works for the Financial Sector – to watch a virtual bank attempt to struggle out of a crisis similar to the one RL banks are facing today.

During this interim, Steam has given me an opportunity to do a little ‘side experiment’ which is turning out pretty well. More on that later.

—–

That’s about it for now. Busy, as usual. :)

–TSK

On the Eve of Eternity…

When an old friend tells me “I know your playing style, you’ll like this game,” the alarm bells kick off immediately (I have no interest in repeating the Travian debacle back in ’07). In this case, however, its because he was right and I’m wondering how I may integrate this into my life. Anyway, onto a game review…

First, the general summary:

Game: Eve Online
Owner: CCP (Iceland)
Type: MMO (subscription), Space-based, Player-driven, ‘Sandbox’ model
User content: Partial (story interaction & PvE/PvP, no actual new items generated)
Advancement: Skill learning /w RL timings, tied to equipment use
Currency/Economy: Yes (ISK), tied to RL currency indirectly, RL Market system (commodity-based)
Month-to-month Cost: US$15 per month in US, costs are in Euros everywhere else; Standard multi-month discounts. Can now buy time extentions on the Market with ISK.

I am currently under the 21-day trial invite that my friend sent me. Within the 3.5 days of playing so far I’ve accrued a net worth of about 2.2 Mil ISK (their currency), which long-term is small but has included a lot of equipment that could be usable for the long-term as well.

The current equipment list includes five low-end ships, one of which I’m eager to fly (cargo carrier – useful for mining) but one required skill can’t be learned by Trial accounts. Since the ship in question was given out as end rewards for (essentially) tutorial mission arcs, I find this maddening but understand all too well why they did it. After all, a good MMO should give enticements to stay; Eve has decided to do this by handing you very nice carrots, but no way to ‘eat’ them without a proper subscription. That’s a refreshing change (and one that’s working *sigh*).

I need to add/stress that in some respects, I’m still doing the Tutorial. The initial ‘bootstrapping’ took about four hours; Anyone with a WoW or SL/There background can probably get to a pause-point within two, and continue on at a leisurely pace afterward. There are *many* aspects of this game that are like the classic board game Othello – “Simple to learn, Lifetime to master.” Therefore you probably need to plan out reasonably quickly what you’d like to do here, and thankfully the starting mission groups do a reasonable job of ‘getting your feet wet’ on all the major job types. I completed two of the mission trees – Industrial and Business – with flying colors, but the Combat tree is making me wonder if I’m interested in completing it…

Their economy is, in a word, insane. Its effectively a full-blown (perhaps fully implemented!) Commodities market, down to Gantt charts and detailed tickers. It frightens me more than the combat does, but I suppose working in the Financial Sector for 14 years has left a few scars in that department. Very recently, a direct tie to RL currencies occurred, through the creation and selling of subscription extensions within their Market. With this action, in theory you can now legally buy and sell ISK for RL currencies (though there is no facility to ‘cash out’ – the benefit given when selling ISK is free game time). This makes it the second multi-user environment I know of that does this – Second Life was the first – and I’ll be watching to see how this new twist pans out. It will be very interesting to see what the going rates (in ISK) of a monthly time extension turns out to be.

Anyway, enough rambling for one post. Anyone on MystBlogs (or perhaps from SL-related feeds) who are looking for me there can look up the name ‘Alain Kinsella.’

/salute
–TSK