October 26, 2013

Autumn of RMT

In June of 2011 Incarna was released to the world. It was a colossal failure in most regards. If the expansion had been released in any other MMO, it probably would have been a simple footnote in the history of the development company, a blemish easily forgotten and easily overcome. But EVE Online isn't any other MMO, and its players have been bred in a cold, harsh universe. It was logical that CCP would taste that black, unforgiving bite from its players.

Luckily for us, CCP took notes from that whole event. They cut back on unnecessary staff and refocused what remained on polishing the already existing, yet long forgotten, elements of the game. Because of this, we've been fortunate enough to receive a lot of really great free expansions that focused on the core elements of what makes EVE great. The expansions were generally small things, often just number switches, but were well received and generally well implemented. But it wasn't an easy process to get CCP to this point. A quick Google search for "EVE Incarna" will pop up with suggested results of "Debacle" and "Riots". That's never a good sign. And what was it all about, down at the very core of the argument? Well, what it's always about, of course: money.

Players were upset over a series of misfortunate events. The less than stellar release of Incarna which provided nothing new, game play wise, the ridiculous pricing of items in the Noble Exchange store, and finally the internal newsletter titled Greed is Good that required some CCP developers to argue in favor of things like "golden ammo" and other pay-to-win items combined into a tidal wave of anger.

Now here we are again, on the crest of another wave. It's only just begun, but it's swelling into a big one. First we had the outcry of anger that the gambling website SOMERBlink was receiving rare items directly from CCP for their special contest. These including a Golden Magnate, a ship that had only been given out once before, and subsequently destroyed, and Guardian Vexors, a line of ships that included only fifty original runs. People were up in arms because not only was SOMER getting a pretty ridiculous deal since all those items were coming in free and players were still having to pay to have a chance to win, thereby becoming pure profit for SOMER, but it would cheapen the meaning of those ships. CCP backed down and changed the items they gave SOMER, calming the storm. But then, just as it looked like it was all over, there was the EVEmail.

In the EVEmail sent to all SOMERBlink employees, SOMER encouraged everyone to keep quiet about the fact that each employee of the website was receiving a free, rare battleship, an Scorpion Ishukone Watch. The Scorpion, CCP retorted, was practically worthless, mechanically anyway. It only refined to one tritanium and had worse stats than the vanilla Scorpion. But that didn't stop people selling them for billions of ISK. After all, rarity determines price many times, not stats. CCP claimed that this wasn't unheard of, and they eventually listed all of the organizations that had received the ship. CCP didn't ask or encourage SOMER to keep the gift under the table, either. But for a lot of people, the reputation of SOMER and CCP wasn't exactly sparkling any more. T20 was talked about a lot, the incident where a single CCP employee gave T2 blueprint originals to a member of Band of Brothers. Was CCP being intentionally biased with SOMERBlink? I'd say the evidence is pretty convincing they weren't, but all the initial cloak and dagger doesn't sit well with most people, me included.

But it didn't end there, unfortunately. When you sign up as an affiliate of Markee Dragon, for instance, you get 5% of ever every 60-day game time code, earning 1.75USD. DNSBlack wrote about cashing his character out in a lottery, and then Katarina Reid is doing it, then Carrey Winter from BL is auctioning off a Nyx. All of this uses the same affiliate model SOMERBlink uses. CCP has outright endorsed the gambling website, so unless they want to allow this kind of thing to continue, they're going to have to shut it down for everyone.

I can't imagine this will continue for very long, as I can't imagine the players will stand idly by. I doubt we'll see more monuments destroyed in trade hubs, but CCP relies pretty heavily on great PR and good faith from their customers. They can't really afford to have another tide of ill will right now, what with their financial situation looking fairly grim for this year (unless we see a major upswing in income next fiscal year - I'm looking at you WoD). It may not be the Summer of Rage, but I fear we may be looking at the Autumn of RMT.