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

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

TCF 2009 / InfraRed, part 2

Last weekend was the Trenton Computer Fair (with its 4th annual IT Conference on the Friday before). In short, the weekend summarized to ‘feh.’

Quick summary by points:

– IT conference was cool, just like last year. Wish I could have stayed longer, but despite leaving ‘work’ early (to drive down in time) I just could not stay the entire time like last year. This may have been in part due to being careful with caffeine and other stimulants over the weekend. [Note to self – bring a bag lunch for Friday from now on.]

– The storied ‘flea market’ of past years has now officially fizzled; It was easily 1/10th its former glory, probably smaller. I almost left right then, in utter disgust, but still wanted to listen to some of the seminars.

– First seminar was regarding the use of virtual worlds by those with disabilities. It was very cool, and I got a laugh out of the opening statement by the presenter: “When I held this in Cali, there were 200 people in attendance.” At the time I was the only one there, and my response: “You’re too far away from the NYC Metro area, which would have generated more interest.” Others did walk in eventually, and as I had more experience in SL than the presenter did, I ended up (again) fielding questions from the other attendees. If this keeps up, I’m going to have to create something that can be printed and handed out when I go to things like this…

– The other presentation was ‘Should You Upgrade to Windows 7?’ And the answer was a firm ‘maybe.’ The number one reasons were ‘more secure’ and ‘the Vista/7 core is more refined for stability and speed now.’ One great note was: “The number one reason Vista did not do well initially was the total lack of driver support – both 32 and 64 bit.” I had to agree with that, as I remember quite well the big uproar when XP was coming out – the drivers were going from 16 to 32 bit, so everything needed a re-write. The same has to occur here (in the name of security), but it was not communicated well (and I think M$ has started to learn about doing this correctly now, as people really *are* voting with their wallets this time).

Anyway, I did not need convincing, but it was good to hear the arguments and be reminded of Windows’ history; We (the PC world) have grown complacent overall, and things like Conficker are the current results of that. I really think Jobs/Apple has the opportunity of a lifetime to gain market share, by releasing OS X for ‘normal’ PCs this year. Too bad it won’t happen (and yes, I’ve heard of ways to get around the problem – that’s for another post).

—–

And that, in short, was TCF. The most annoying thing about the weekend was a complete lack of IrDA adapters anywhere (and, again, a number of people had no clue what I was talking about). So I gave up a few hours ago, fired up Amazon, and got an adapter that was reported as working great with my F55 (not Polar’s, since it cost 3x more than this one). If it works, I’ll get another as a spare. And I still need to get Windows re-installed on the Sager, but I’ve discovered the pains of using a 4800 RPM notebook disk…

/salute
–TSK

Two Anniversaries

This weekend, for most, marks one year since the MO:UL@Gametap shutdown. The past week I’ve been drawn more to this same (Easter) weekend two years ago.

That was the first time that I did a successful village takeover in Travian (this was on a server before the Gold system – or even a US server – existed). Wandering back to that game, I realize I still have good memories of Travian too, despite my problem with playing any type of MMO. I earned another new group of friends, and also had a chance to show to myself that I again can step up and lead (first within the local alliance, and then within the meta-alliance at endgame level). I just wish I can participate more in such things without getting so overboard about it; Not just in money, but in time…

Still, despite that, I did have fun. I got to see the Eder D’Uru project in SL for the first time, and am very impressed how far they’ve gotten. In particular, the heek table; I remember the original, which was coded in Telador and was functional shortly before the island was shutdown for other uses. One great quote on CyanChat regarding the project – can’t remember who at this point, sorry – mentioned how much respect they had for Cyan’s work, after having to use SL’s scripting system (a ‘joy’ that I experienced quite a bit myself ;-).

The meeting in There was mostly to chat; I didn’t mind, since it was still a chance to relax and meet folks I’ve not spoken to as far back as Mysterium 08. Plus, I was desperately in need of sleep by that point.

In all, a good weekend. And one where we, as a community, were able to come together despite how scattered we are right now. To repeat my toast earlier in CC:

*raises mug* To the Community.

[*One* community, I may now add – ‘fah uru’ I believe, which if so is fitting…]

/salute
–TSK

Yep, I’m Still Alive…

… And can ya guess what I’ve been playing lately? ;-)

Actually, it really was Portal until a short while ago. I made the mistake of downloading the demo of Bejeweled Twist (which, a few days later, I unlocked for the full version). I now have versions of the regular HL games that work with my current monitor resolution; And with steam’s version of the Blue Shift hi-def pack enabled, even third-party mods look nicer. It’s made me wonder why I didn’t get involved with Steam sooner.

Much like Uru, actually….

I’ve heard the news of course – Seemed like every other MystBlogs post talked about it for the weekend. And I first got word of it myself last Sat, through an announcement sent through the Steam community group ‘Uru Rocks.’ Still letting the news sit with me, and seeing what followup news comes from Cyan. I may post a response via an article to GoMe, or contribute to someone else’s ‘reaction request.’ Dunno yet, but whatever I eventually say it will be mirrored here.

The more interesting news is that I’ve begun to poke about with the Mysterium Committee, to see if I can help in any capacity. More on that once I get acclimated to the idea of helping others in larger scales again (something I stopped doing when I initially got disillusioned with Second Life – mid-2006 I think).

Work, of course, has been ‘interesting’ (Financial Sector, remember?). I’m half-tempted to tear down my earlier ‘relax’ post, since that looks rather lame now, but I still have my job – which, unnervingly, means something right now. 2009 is on-track to be even more interesting (which I’ll have to stop discussing now, as we once again hit my personal ‘ethics’ line which I refuse to cross).

*sigh* Ah well, I suppose we’ll just have to see what the future brings us all, eh? Lets hope its for the better…

/salute
–TSK