DUST off your wallet….
There has been no shortage of EVE development news of late, from CCP Snorlax’s dev blog on the Carbon UI framework, CCP Zulus dev blog on virtualgood sales (read: micro transactions) to the latest reveal by CCP Praetorian of DUST 514 as an exclusive on PS3.
Each of these individual elements could probably earn themselves a unique blog here of their own, but perhaps it is more illuminating to consider them in their entirety. At the core of these developments lies CCPs drive towards ‘micro transactions’ as a revenue source. Micro transactions are a oft derided revenue stream by many vocal players in EVE. We shouldn’t necessarily be surprised by this as micro transactions can be seen as a mechanism where by players with deep pockets could conceivably gain an upper hand by simply out spending their competitors. CCP have been at pains to stress that, within EVE Online at least, micro transactions will not provide a ‘game play’ advantage to wealthier players and will be for vanity items only.
The process of acquiring said vanity items is simple enough – purchase a GTC, convert into a PLEX, fracture the plex into a new in game currency called Aurum and proceed to buy whatever vanity items appeals to you. This process is somewhat cyclical as you could then sell said item onto the EVE market for ISK with which you could, in theory, use to buy more PLEX. Whether such a process is actually practical will largely be determined by how much value there is in the ISK trade of vanity items of course.
The argument regarding using micro transactions is something of a mute point considering a player could use GTC/PLEX purchases and sale to accrue ISK to then buy superior ships and modules at any rate. The cash wall is important however as the Carbon UI dev blog illustrates: From what we have seen on the Duality test server so far, transiting from “in space” to “in station” automatically places you within the new Captain’ Quarters. From here we will be able to view some rather shiny graphical UI elements and I have little doubt that within those UI elements a ‘Aurum Vanity Market’ window will feature very prominently.
From a cynical point of view it seems quite likely that CQ will, essentially, be a ‘point of sale’ UI. A mechanism by which every time you dock you are faced with a wardrobe of potential vanity items that you too could earn! – if only you’d splurge a bit on the credit card. Of course that in itself is another reason why micro transactions aren’t universally popular – we know we’re suckers for a good sales pitch and we’re already alert to the fact that resisting that micro transaction purchase is going to be hard work.
Now the mentally strong amongst us, who find the idea of being plunged into the virtual equivalent of a department store to shop for clothes and furnishings with our better halves a toe curling prospect may think they have nothing to fear. But CCP have thought of that too:
“DUST 514 will, as EVE Online does, have a dynamic virtual economy and market that offers the tools that will give you a competitive edge, when used skillfully. Players are able to purchase different gear to equip before deploying into battle, using InterStellar Kredits (ISK), the in-game earned currency of the EVE universe, or through real money currency, called Aurum (AUR). This provides players with flexibility and adaptability in how they approach a combat scenario. Certain items are only available through ISK transactions, while others are only available through AUR. These are then traded freely on a player-driven secondary marketplace”. CCP Praetorian
The key element here is that EVE and DUST514s markets are linked together, as are the players by existing within the same corporations. Want your DUST mercs to have more flexibility in capturing that planet you need for sovereignty? Well it looks like it will be only a PLEX purchase away. James Egan on the playstation blog writes that;
“we’re going to have a balanced system. There will be a secondary market with player-to-player trading. A player can buy virtual goods with real world currency, put it on the market, which can be bought by a player with in-game earned currency”.
So whilst buying a new sofa for CQ might not tickle your fancy, can the same be said for some form of attribute boosting for your team of Dusties?
From a purely personal perspective these factors probably won’t have a huge effect on my personal game play in EVE. Firstly I don’t own a PS3 and don’t have the funds to purchase one so that element of the ‘EVE/DUST 514 mesh’ holds less glamour for me, and secondly I don’t have the excess RL $£ to buy PLEX to convert into Aurum – be that for a new sofa or some T2 plasma rifles. My suspicion is that some elements of EVE will be a pay tier to high and we may see the EVE community fracture along similar lines: those that pay £$ for new “shinehs” and those that don’t /can’t.
Quite whether that division will result in a stratification of EVEs society remains to be seen. Will corps start filtering by those who can afford to wear the latests threads or fund DUST mercs? Only time will tell us – but it will be an interesting evolution within the MMO/FPS genres.