Tobold's Blog
Thursday, November 04, 2010
Buyable faster advancement coming to a MMORPG near you!

Warhammer Online started selling the Specialized Training Pack for $9.99, an item which makes all of your WAR characters advance one full level. Meanwhile EVE Online is offering the EVE Online: Commissioned Officer Edition as a new boxed set, which allows you to create a new account with a new character which gains skills significantly faster for the first 30 days (beyond the usual newbie bonus). As players have shown that they are very much interested in faster advancement, companies react by selling that faster advancement to them. Where will that lead?
where your leveling/advancement cannot be your endgame :) and about time!
I think this will just lead to bored high level/advanced skill players with a poor understanding of the game mechanics.

Oh yeah, and higher level Alts.

I think it will also make it easier to differentiate between those that play as if it is their job, and those that play because it is fun.
This will lead me to laugh even more at the "X-treme PvP" some EvE players are portraying. You can now buy skills and gear with real money..... hardcore game indeed.
Nah, you buy stats.
Skills are something you learn as a player.
"You can now buy skills and gear with real money..... hardcore game indeed."

Gear: yes, but it has always been that way. You can buy a set of 2 gamecodes (PLEX) worth a month of gameplay each for €35 and sell them for around ISK350.000.000 each. This is not a lot of ISK, a lot of higher tier ships cost a lot more, and are just as easily lost in pvp.

Possibly some rich kids sell a lot of PLEX to get expensive gear, making pirates happy. Most players make enough ISK ingame to buy them, so they can play a 2nd account for free.

Skills: No, it gives a new character a skill training bonus of 30 days, so after a month you've trained 2 months' worth of skills. As you may know, skill training never stops in EvE, so while you may get ahead of a character starting at the same time without the Officer Edition, you will never catch up on anyone who's been playing for a bit longer (like 2 months).

If you want to compare it to something: it's similar to the RaF bonus in WoW, but limited to the first 5 levels (I think RaF gives triple XP until lvl 60?)

To be honest, there is a way to buy skills: character trading is, and always has been, legal in EvE.

So, EvE-wise, I don't really see what the fuss is about.

The WAR Training Pack sounds fishy though.
In general I think that being able to advance to the level of your choice is a good idea, whether you have to pay for it or not, but I can see potential for abuse.

On the plus side it solves two issues - the problem of the new player who is forced to solo alone through the levelling content because everyone else on the server is already at the level cap. It also solves the alt problem - why force someone to grind through 80 levels of content they have already done just to allow them experience a different play-style.

On the minus side it could be argued that forcing new players to earn their levels the hard way is good for them and helps them learn the game. There is also the issue of fast levelling making content redundant.

Perhaps a few simple precautions could safeguard against the worst effects. For example you can only instantly jump to a level if you have already levelled up at least one character to that level already.
@mbp: I think WoW's solutions to both problems are a lot more elegant.

A new player doesn't need any bonuses really, the game is new to him and it's good for him to level at a normal pace, learning his abilities and exploring the content. Blizzard has boosted XP in the first continent sufficiently so even the new player levels reasonably fast.

If a new player has a friend to mentor him, they can use the RaF bonus, leveling both him and his friend's alt at a very fast pace.

Alts can use Heirloom items to boost their XP, combined with the boosted XP in the vanilla continents.

And on top of it all, all these things are free of charge to the players.
The Office Edition gives you +3 to attributes for 30 days, which is equivalent to buy 5 implants which does the same but permanently. So someone spending $12 on a plex can easily buy that bonus since Eve exists.
Nothing new there. The only new bonus the item gives is the 20% damage bonus for 30 days, making missions much easier for newbies
I like leveling slowly myself.

Having said that I'm a fan of these types of schemes. If people want to buy stuff that I never would it subsidises my hobby.

It might be nice though if fresh servers had a 30 or 60 day wait before these boosts become available.
It might be nice though if fresh servers had a 30 or 60 day wait before these boosts become available.

New servers? I don't think any of the games discussed here is likely to open new servers.

And on top of it all, all these things are free of charge to the players.

Yes, I think that is the key point. It might be totally okay to offer ALL new players faster leveling for free to enable them to catch up. Selling them a specific product or item shop virtual object which enables faster leveling for those paying for it is a lot more dubious.
Well I'd have to say WoW was one of the first to implement something like this. I find it kind of funny that Tobold writes about these features in WAR and EvE but forgets he purchased a 2nd account in WoW so he could get the Recruit a Friend bonus.

Of all three, I'd say WoW's recruit a friend bonus is by far much better than the other two by a huge margin. With that bonus you can make a level 60 in the blink of an eye.
yeah isn't this pretty much exactly what Recruit-a-Friend ended up for the majority of purchasers? These games are all old, I don't begrudge people wanting to fast-forward content they've done multiple times already (because let's face it, only veteran players will use these options). It'd be different if this was a brand new MMO.
While it isn't the "blink of an eye" leveling that RAF provides, the revamp of spells and talents is accelerating the leveling process even more.

To examine the phenomenon, I started a new paladin after 4.0.1 and have already reached the 30s - still < 24 hours played, and without heirlooms. This is FAR faster than any other alt I've leveled.

I've a draft posting in work detailing the experience.
Yea, i know a bunch of buddies that "bought" themselves easy leveling in WoW. Just because it's not sold with a big red sign going "level easy, pay $15" , doesn't mean it's not exactly that ;)
@Foreststump - Actually it can be in the Blink of an Eye.

If you and your friend know a level 70+, you can have them run you through SM from 20-40 with pretty much each run netting you close to 1 level on average and taking usually about 10 minutes per run.

Also, if you're lucky enough to catch a WSG, AB or AV double xp/honor weekend, each win usually nets you a level as well.

The only downside to this insane xp gain is the fact your gold doesn't keep up at all with your leveling. I had to borrow gold from my friend just to be able to train skills.

Then you have the added bonus of the friend being able to GIVE levels to the recruiter. I pretty much got my friends mage from 1-60 just GIVING him levels. He did virtually NO leveling on his mage from 1-60, all I did was level him up using the stored levels my characters had.
Yes, of course WoW RAF and all other games in which you are encouraged to buy multiple accounts for faster advancement are part of the same phenomenon. I just mentioned the most recent announcements in this short post, and wasn't trying to give a complete history.

I'd really hate to see this develop into regular players starting at level 1, and rich players being able to skip right to the level cap. Not just because it is unfair, but also because you basically pay to NOT play the game, which is stupid.
Where's it headed? Not sure but such monetization schemes are the prevailing trend.

I find that trend disturbing because it makes the rules that constitute the game a function of monetary investment. These items/perks/unlocked systems/etc fragment the original game along lines of "$20 invested", "$100 invested", and so on.

This would be fine for single player experiences where the additional charges can be construed as a way of letting the player tailor the experience for himself. However, in any competitive game -and here I would include most PvE MMOs where vanity and personal prestige are important components -"game" loses its original meaning. Its no longer a set of interactions constituted and governed by a single set of rules. Instead it becomes a hundred different games held together by network connections.

Most people don't seem to care and ignore this dissonance. Each "game" is a close facsimile of the next, and I would wager that a lot of players treat MMOs as single-player or limited coop games to begin with. I vote with my wallet and try to ignore these monetization schemes; and, the fact that a lot of the players around me are playing different games.
You've been able to buy characters in EVE online for years now. There's no need to go through the training - just pony up the cash, convert to ISK (there is a "legal" way to do this) and buy yourself 80M SP character off the Bazaar.

C'mon now, get on with the program, this is neither shocking or new in EVE.

EVE is a slow burning *strategic* PvP game, not a twitchy 1on1 game. A bit like chess really. Anyone who thinks they will "get ahead" by buying stuff if probably throwing away money...
Be that as it may, but it makes sense for EvE Online. It is an unforgiving game with a hellish leveling curve. A player starting today will be nowhere near the skill point a 6-year old veteran (likely 100 Million+ skill points) will have. And in order to play competitively and get closer in terms of specific skill sets to those players, CCP's offer makes sense.

WAR on the other end SOUNDS wrong. But then you realize each level is $9.99, and I sincerely doubt that will have a very lasting or powerful impact on the game.
Why is it that when these issues come up, bloggers attach the word GAME to them in an attempt to establish some ideal of fairness as it relates to everyone else in the same virtual splace?

In a non-game setting "available time" or "availabale cash" do nothing to establish equality, so how are people(who claim to be gamers) making this distinction in the first place?

I'm never going to "win" WoW, nor would I ever be able to "win" playing EVE or any other online "virtual world", so I think it's time we focused the discussion around what exactly we are supposed to be accomplishing in these virtual worlds, because all of the energy being expended by bloggers and gamers on issues of fairness in virtual worlds is becoming a bit dated.
I still say that levels and a wide power band in PvP games are ill-advised in the first place. PvP ought to be normalized and based on player skill.
We all knew this was going to happen sooner or later with this trend of cash shops becoming more acceptable in games. I don't like it and I think it's leading the genre down a bad road for players.
The buyable character argument in EVE needs context though.

Mostly because people are forgetting that the 80 million SP character has insane clone costs in case they get podded, and past 10-20 million SP the ships you can fly cost more money than any new player can earn learning the game. Even buying PLEXes for cash makes little sense because when you start getting into battleships with a decent fit, the low ISK value of those PLEXes will make trying to PvP with them incredibly expensive in RL.

However the EVE training should just be given to all newbies so they can get to the usefulness threshold a lot faster. That training boost is not going to break the game in the long run, because past those 30 days you still have long times for any of the sub-cap and capital ships.
Isn't it obvious that a genre that is based around spending hundreds or thousands of hours of time to "advance" would eventually allow players to buy that advancement for a premium over the cost/subscription fee?

Ever studied history and how the Catholic church sold Indulgences to allow people to sin in the future without repercussions? It's the same thing. Capitalism + Good Ideas (or bad gameplay??) = Profit.

Some day I'm sure people will be able to buy full level characters, professions, reputation, gear, etc. The fanboys will cry and say that they'd quit, but just as many people would try the game because of it.

Who here thinks that some day in the future, part and parcel of paying $60 for an older game includes getting a character pre-grinded?

Purists would be up in arms, I know. But there'd be people who'd buy the game simply because they don't have to grind for hundreds of hours before "starting" the game.
That is based on the horrible misconception that the game "starts" at the endgame. But if you can sell fully leveled characters for $100, you can also sell them fully equipped with best-in-slot items for $200. And what is left of the game once you reached that point? Nothing!

Players paying developers for the privilege of NOT playing their game is a bad idea.
The blink of an eye...

I started an RAF account to play with my son, we both made Pallies, me a tank and him a healer.

We're both level 46 with right at 15hrs /played.
That is based on the horrible misconception that the game "starts" at the endgame...And what is left of the game once you reached that point? Nothing!

At least with respect to WoW, I think a few million people would disagree with you that there is nothing to do at the endgame. I guess those people don't play in the Arena. They don't compete in Battleground weekends. They've never raided despite the curious fact that tens of thousands of guilds are tracked by sites like and

Likewise with a game like WAR. I guess no one is doing those epic city sieges and everyone hangs out in Tier 2, leveling slowly and doing scenarios.

You might prefer to focus on other parts of the experience (progression through leveling for instance) but that doesn't change the fact that a lot of other people prefer level-capped activities over anything else the game offers.
@Sean: In your usual way of making arguments by misrepresentation, you quoted me while leaving out the rather fundamental "once you have all BiS items" condition to my "there is nothing left to play" statement.

Players simply don't raid once there is no reward left to gain in a raid dungeon. Just look at Naxxramas and Ulduar for proof.
Players simply don't raid once there is no reward left to gain in a raid dungeon. Just look at Naxxramas and Ulduar for proof.

I guess I have a higher opinion of people than your characterization of them as shallow skinner boxes. I think people play these games for the gameplay itself, for the companionship of others, or simply to while away the time. You could probably extend reward to encompass most player motivations but in doing so reward loses most of its original meaning, at least as you have used it.

Taking you at your word then that people will only participate in these activities until they have BiS gear, how do you explain the phenomenon of so many guilds struggling to kill heroic LK 25 for months on end? So one person could potentially get one awesome item that will be sharded in a month's time? Alternatively, my guild cleared ICC 25 again this week and yet the vast majority of the people participating had nothing personally to gain in doing so, including myself, and haven't for months. We were doing it, ostensibly, to get newer members their 25 ICC drakes.

I guess the obvious response is "achievements = gear" now but the above hints an altruistic motivation as well. Why is it so hard to believe that the same sort of communal ethic that you have written exists in A Tale in the Desert, also exists in games like WoW?

I wouldn't argue that the leveling or item progression treadmills are major motivators but they're not exclusive. That was the gist of your statement; I don't think I need quote the entirety of it to make that clear. I'll let others decide if my representation of your argument is accurate.
@Sean: What I'm saying is that you could have presented your argument in this second form ("progression treadmills are major motivators but they're not exclusive") right from the start, instead of making the completely misleading claim that I'm somehow not aware of people in the endgame doing raiding and PvP. This sort of "official WoW forum style" argumentation isn't welcome here.
"That is based on the horrible misconception that the game "starts" at the endgame."

Ah, but for some people, it does. I'm not interested in the endgame myself, but there are those who just want to jump in and start raiding. Why not cater to those players with raid-ready characters out of the box?

Alternatively, make a game without levels at all and raiding from day one. It's more about the play, less about grinding through a leveling curve and rerunning dungeons to qualify for more dungeons.
For me, the interesting thing is how negatively the EVE players reacted to the plex microtransactions. EVE is already very RMT friendly - you can buy nearly any item in the game, second or more accounts are common and you can buy a new character with as many "skill points" (XP) as your budget allows. Yet there was a very negative reaction to removing the middleman and selling skills directly. I see this as a difference without a significant distinction, but many of the forum QQ warriors see it differently.

I think selling advancement for RL$ is liberating. There is no epeen in having a $50 ship if in fact a 12 year old can get one with their parents credit card. It also greatly reduces the motivation to grind; new players realize they can run 25 hours of level 1 missions or spend a dollar. Some people value their time at worth more than 4 cents a hour, some less. RM$ for grind puts a limit on how much people will grind. Or tolerate the (IMHO outdated) game design of EQ/"Korean" grinding - the only thing more annoying than grinding 200 hours of pigs is knowing some kid avoided it for cash.

The biggest XP change from Blizzard is not RaF but expansions: it is far easier to get from 1 - 60 than it was in 2007.

What doesn't get mentioned in the game comment is that this is an MMO. Nobody expects that a veteran player will get an in-game advantage in golf or poker or pool or nearly any non-MMO game. Yet EVE players are adamant that someone who has been training since 2005 should have 6000% skills than someone who has been playing for a month. And they "hello kitty/gb2" qq if there is any discussion of making the game more accessible to newer players. If you don't make it easier for new players to advance and you don't allow you to pay to catch up, then how do you get new players to join as the veteran advantage increases?
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