Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Nobody minds EVE's legal RMT

I'm not a big expert on EVE, but I do follow several general MMO blogs which mention that game occasionally. So I was scrolling through my Google reader and in short succession stumbled upon two blog entries on EVE. In the first potshot proudly proclaims a new record for him in EVE, having reached 200 million ISK (EVE's currency). In the second Ancient Gaming Noob Wilhelm2451 reports on EVE's ingame game cards, called PLEX, which pay for a 30-day subscription and sell for 300 million ISK. CCP sells them for $34.95 for two. So in other words, if I started EVE now, I could buy two game cards for $35, use one for myself, sell the other on the ingame AH, and end up having more ingame currency than potshot after who knows how many hours of boring mining grind.

And unlike buying gold in WoW that would be completely legal. And unlike gold in WoW, you can buy pretty much everything with ISK, there are no bind-on-pickup epics or alternative currencies like emblems preventing gold buyers from reaching the best gear. And there aren't any xp and levels in EVE either, there are skills, that only real world time and ISK to train. Theoretically speaking, you could start EVE, fly to the next major space station, stay there forever, and still earn all the skills and gear the game has to offer. Without ever firing a single shot or mining a single asteroid. You don't even have to log on and play all that often. What is the point of EVE offline? And why does nobody seem to mind that RMT in EVE is legal?

I think the answer is that EVE simply isn't a game about achievements. In a game like WoW making your character more powerful or rich involves doing stuff. In EVE you can get more powerful by waiting (paying a subscription fee to CCP) and get rich by selling PLEXs (which you bought from CCP). That is obviously a good business model for CCP, but somehow unsatisfying for the achiever Bartle type player. Instead EVE seems to be very much about social interaction, politics, business deals, spanning from the honest to the downright scam. Which, like RMT, is legal in EVE. The advantage is that instead of the challenge being some raid boss, the strategy for which you can find all over the internet, including by video on YouTube, the challenge of EVE is in interpersonal relationships, which are by definition unpredictable. When you read about EVE, you rarely hear people talking about big fleet battles deciding a war; instead most stories deal with assassination, betrayal, scamming and treason. And the occasional multi-trillion ISK exploit.

And in a way, that is okay. It just means that EVE is a very different game than most other MMORPGs. There is no real competition between WoW and EVE, because those games would appeal to very different types of players. And it explains the different attitude toward RMT: Buying gold is equivalent to buying an achievement, which is a big deal in a game like WoW that is all about achievements. In EVE achievements are a side show, and if somebody decides to spend dollars on them, it isn't a big deal.
The bigest difference that you can lose items in EVE, so no one cares if you buy them via RMT. No matter how good your "gear" is in EVE, if you are an [insert Tobold-compatible word here], you will go down and lose it. There is no way you can lose your best in slot epic in WoW, no matter how bad you are.
Nice post Tobold - Don't forget that it is not just items that you can buy for rmt in EVE - you can even buy "skills" - CCP facilitates the sale of fully trained characters for in game currency. A complete noob with enough cash could in theory use rmt to legally buy themselves a character with several years worth of training and all of the gear they want.

This completely validates your point that achievements are a side show in EVE. However human nature means that it is hard for many players to accept this. Many EVE players become very attached to their ships and in game possessions regardless of how they came about them. It hurts when you get ganked and lose stuff. A surprising fact is that EVE has a large population of PVE only players who's main objective in game is to save up enough to buy shiny "faction" space ships that are far too expensive to risk in real pvp. This leads to regular trysts on the forums between the "Carebears" who think that they should be protected from losing their shiny stuff and the "PVPers" who take pleasure in blowing it up.
To expand on Gevlon's point: more ISK doesn't automatically make you more powerful in EvE. While 300 million can buy you a very nice battleship or two, using one properly still requires knowledge of the game. And because everything can be lost or stolen, PvPers positively savor the moment when someone with more money than sense wanders into their turf. That 300 million battleship can easily lose to experienced players who fly ships that cost much, much less. Case in point: the Bastards' recent Rorqual kill. Warfare in EvE is often attrition warfare. In fact, one measurement of PvP skill is the financial losses inflicted on the enemy versus losses incurred by your side. Wars against people who buy ISK are easier to win against, because they just can't keep acquiring more and more ships and equipment without a severe out-of-game cost.
For the nullsec alliance players, who put their ships in the line of fire constantly, ISK is easy to come by. A couple of hours of ratting, running complexes, or even mining in nullsec will make a player a huge amount of ISK (relative to highsec activities). If some people are daft enough to pay realcash to buy a timecode to sponsor a nullsec player's gametime in exchange for easily obtained ISK, then hey, great for the nullsec player.

@Tobold: Single fleet battles rarely decide wars - whole chains of them do as an Alliance is ground down and loses its space. The hourly, daily details are obscured by the fog of war, alliance politics, and campaigns tend to end in whimpers (as an alliance pulls back assets and retreats, or quietly ceases to exist) rather than a climactic terminal crescendo.

Single events, like assassination, betrayal, huge scams, are more easily covered by the media. They are perhaps EVE's most "shocking" feature, make good headlines, and are isolated well-publicised events, easily understood by readers - they're easily understood emotive events, instead of the technical jargon of fleet warefare. Long, protracted events like "War in south continues for fifty-third day, Oceania loses control of two more systems" is altogether less interesting for the media and blogosphere to cover.

As in EVE, so in life.
EVE's RMT is the reverse of most other systems. Normally RMT us used to get exclusive or more powerful items, while in EVE the RMT will buy you a 'starter set' of money. 300m might seem like a lot to a new player, but as others have said, it's peanuts for veterans. When someone can easily make a few hundred million in null-sec, why worry that some empire player paid real money to get 300?
I suspect the core reason is that power in EVE is far more determined by your alliances and connections than your money or gear. To use a real-world example, Barack Obama hasn't got a single epic to his name and he's far from the richest man in the world, yet he's still clearly the most powerful.

That kind of socially-constructed power is far harder to buy shortcuts to.
That kind of socially-constructed power is far harder to buy shortcuts to.
Funnily enough, that doesn't stop them from trying. Again and again and again. Protip: If a Goon asks you to make a "deposit" to be able to join Goonswarm, you're never going to see your stuff again. Unless that deposit consists of 15 dreadnoughts and their sworn enemy on a platter. ;-)
Achievers will find plenty to do in EVE, it's just the Preening Packrat subtype that won't be quite as happy.
On Goonswarm: Joining the goons is really no more difficult than paying $10 to register on Something Awful.

On RMT in EVE: As others have mentioned, it's really not so heinous. The reason for this is that ISK is not the valuable commodity like it gold, gil, plat are in other MMOs. In EVE, the most valuable commodity you have is the amount of time it takes your character to gain SP. The faster you can learn skills, the more real value you have in EVE. Going on the value of 300 million, it's very, very relative. To a one week old player, 300 million is a lot. It will buy just about any skill they could want, and is a lot of money to them. To someone who's played for a few months, 300 million ISK is nothing more than a week's worth of looting and salvaging level 4 missions.
eve is not about being able to get a kewl ride. it is about being able not to lose this ride on a first battle with some bored hunter or gank on closest jumpgate.
you can't buy real pvp skill with any $$$)
The other reason nobody is bothered by EVE's RMT is because it's legal and included by design. When you log onto EVE you know that it's part of what you're signing up for. A world of difference.
I think you are right it is the same as when someone opens a mmorpg like another one out there. Does that make it not as good or does it open up for a different persons ideas coming to life through someone else i think it is a good thing
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