Thursday, July 7, 2011

CCP Foot In Mouth Disease: PLEX For Neural Remaps A Possibility Again?

Apparently my statement yesterday in which I stated that CCP had not stuck their foot in their mouths again during the press conferences held Tuesday was a bit premature.  In my defense, I did say I was waiting for DJ Funky Bacon to post a podcast of the event on the Eve Radio website before feeling better about CCP learning to communicate better.  After listening to the podcast, I'm glad I put in the qualifier.

According to the crew of the Funky Bacon show, when asked about what a "game breaking item" was, Eve Online's Senior Producer Arnar Gylfason (aka CCP Zulu) could not define what a game breaking item was.  To be fair to CCP Zulu, I'll post his answer from Brendan Drain's coverage of the press conference over at
"That's actually a very interesting question. For the second half of that question, I want to take the example of PLEX. PLEX is something that you can take out of context and say it's a way for you to buy ISK with money. People buy PLEX for money, sell them on the market and get ISK out of it. If you were to put it up like that, I imagine most people unfamiliar with the subject would say  'This is game breaking! ' and that it's definitely 'buying win.' However, it's important to note that there is arbitrage through the player economy and this is done through the player market. There is no magical ISK spawned when it is bought, and you are not buying ISK directly from CCP.

"When you go through that thought process and when you see the level of public acceptance that PLEX has today, I think there's a lot of those things to be mindful of. Yes, you're absolutely right, we can't really go against the player-driven market or the player-driven socio-economic state of EVE. In terms of what is game breaking, I don't think I can answer that in an hour long interview, not to the extent that it really deserves. But it's important to see the CSM for what it is here, as we were able to have that conversation over the period of two days. [We discussed] what is acceptable, what isn't acceptable, what are the gray areas, what will we never do, and what will we possibly do at some time."
But the grey area in the micro-transactions, at least according to the Funky Bacon podcast, was in the area of account services.  According to the crew, and they all agreed, CCP Zulu stated that selling neural remaps made sense to do.  Other items that may also emerge on the NeX are purchasing enhanced skill time (similar to EQ2's bonus experience point potions) and double-training time (being able to train two characters on the same account at the same time).  I should note that The Mittani brought up the double-training time idea, not CCP Zulu (minutes 8 to 10 of the podcast).

Open mouth, insert foot.  Again.  For those who might need a history lesson (like CCP Zulu), the neural remap for PLEX issue was basically the opening salvo in the player uprising over micro-transactions in Eve.  The outcry against the idea forced CCP to pull the feature off of the Singularity test server before it was ever deployed live and required CCP Zulu to post a dev blog about the retraction of the feature in November.  Here is the meat of the dev blog:
"First, we've decided to shelve all the changes to neural remaps we had planned. We now have no plans to change things from the way they are currently on Tranquility. No PLEX for remaps, no ISK for remaps, nothing. All code has been reverted, no new code has been written. Nothing will change.

"Second, we wanted to explain our thinking a little more. It‘s always been the intent of CCP to continue diversifying EVE Online's business model and we‘ve been looking at various options to do so. This started with the introduction of PLEX, which was an innovative way for players to exchange in-game assets for subscription on a fully player driven marketplace. Since we introduced the PLEX item we've monitored its trading, price and velocity closely. It's now time for us to take the next evolutionary step.

"It‘s clear that it‘s the will of the community to keep virtual goods sales outside the spectrum of what we classify as the 'merit economy. ' That refers to skills gained over time or items that have a gameplay impact. So after discussions, designs, brainstorming and all sorts of processes we‘ve come up with a strategy that we‘ve already polished with the help of the CSM and would now want to present to the larger community.
"Virtual goods sales in EVE Online will evolve through sales of vanity items, first in Incarna but later in-space features. The scope will be (and there‘s no design has been done around this, we‘re just talking strategy now) that anything that doesn‘t affect gameplay directly can be, potentially, sold for PLEX or other means. Ideas that have come up include Incarna clothing and furniture, logos on spaceships and swapping out portraits. This is by no means a comprehensive list, nor is it a commitment that said items will be available for sale, I mention these as an example for what type of items we‘re thinking about."

The words written above are what made the leak of the Fearless "Greed Is Good?" newsletter so damaging.  While I think CCP Soundwave has gotten a bad rap for his part in the "virtual goods sales argument on monetization versus design integrity," the fact that the debate was still occurring after CCP Zulu seemingly posted that the decision had already been made helped send players off the deep end.  The Scott Holden article I think really contradicted CCP Zulu's public statement and helped light the bonfires.

But things were about to recover.  The CSM went to Iceland and scolded CCP for being terrible at communications.  The Mittani continued on the theme throughout the press conference and I encourage you to read the transcript of the press conference with the gaming press.  All was sort of okay in the world, which was a huge improvement on last week.  And then CCP Zulu has to bring up neural remaps again.