Wednesday, May 22, 2024

EVE's Player Designed Ship SKINs And Monetization

Another Tuesday, another video in CCP Game's promotional series hyping up EVE Online's next expansion, Equinox. In the latest installment, we find out, among other things, how the Icelandic company will finally monetize Paragon ship SKINs.

Equinox introduces the ability for players to design their own ship SKINs. Coming in June, designing SKINs is no longer restricted to decorating Upwell structures. The tools sound fantastic.

The new SKINR interface introduces a robust palette of design elements for your custom creations. These consist of basic and metallic nanocoatings in a wide variety of colors, as well as a selection of overlay patterns. Each SKIN design consists of five customization slots, four for nanocoatings and one for patterns. SKINR for ships can be found through the NEOCOM and is accessible anywhere in space, not just in stations.

The design studio offers unprecedented customization options and is where capsuleer creativity will truly explode. You will be able to move, rotate, and resize patterns around the hull, and apply different colors to separate sections of the ship, meaning that the smallest of variations applied through these tools will result in different, fascinating outcomes and designs. These options will open the doors to almost endless varieties of unique and distinctive creations.

CCP is introducing new gameplay elements associated with player-designed SKINs.

Paragon will supply all capsuleers with a starting library of nanocoatings and patterns, with more available through the new Paragon Hub, on the market, and around New Eden through event rewards, daily goals, loot, and more. Design elements will have different rarities and drop rates, presenting opportunities for enterprising pilots to acquire and sell them for a healthy profit, or create rare and desirable SKINs that may fetch an even more handsome price in the Paragon Hub. Designs can be given unique names and even added to custom SKIN lines that you create.

Once again, this sounds great. Sure, some ships can't have custom SKINs like tech 3 cruisers, special edition ships and capsules. But otherwise players can create SKINs for any ship they can theoretically fly. Alpha accounts can make SKINs for ships alpha accounts are eligible while Omega accounts can make SKINs for all ships.

Here's where the monetization occurs.

Once the design is ready, it must be sequenced into a SKIN license to be applied to a ship. Each sequence has a certain cost based on a tier system using PLEX as the primary currency. The sequence cost is based on the rarity and quantity of design elements used, and the sequencing time is based on the SKIN tier and your skill level. Specific skills that will be introduced with new skill books in Equinox will allow bulk and faster sequencing, so some training might be in order! These skill books can be quickly purchased directly from the skill window.

Players don't need to spend their own real life cash, but do need to acquire a currency that enters the game via the cash shop like PLEX to finish the process. But the process feels more like Final Fantasy XIV's glamour system than operating something like a skill point farm in EVE. I sometimes forget how player-designed ship SKINs fits into the entire Heraldry system

I wasn't reminded of the name of the system until I read about how Paragon Corporation, the in-game supplier of Evermarks, would experience its own expansion in Equinox.

An integral part of the SKINR experience is the Paragon Hub, providing a platform to showcase designs and find the ideal look for your fleet. The interface is easy to navigate, and the hub provides opportunities for budding designers to make a name for themselves, not to mention untold riches. As well as being a venue to buy design elements, the Paragon Hub allows SKIN sellers to list their creations for sale and choose either PLEX or ISK as their currency, as well as the length of listing, which determines the basis for the SKINR service fee and Hub listing costs.

After reading the paragraph I had to chuckle to myself. People thought CCP had no plans to monetize the Heraldry system because they were not going to charge money directly. But players who really want a SKIN can just pull out their credit cards, purchase PLEX from the cash shop, and decorate their ship. The creator is rewarded for making a cool item, the buyer receives almost instant gratification by spending real life money, and CCP gets a cut of the transaction. Win-win-win, right?

I'm getting Final Fantasy XIV vibes around this. In that game, crafters can make some really nice looking equipment rivaling what is available in the FFXIV cash shop. CCP signaled its intent to do the same.

At launch, the Paragon Hub will only contain sequenced (player made) SKINs, while prime (CCP made) SKINs will continue to be available through the New Eden Store and the EVE Store. Prime SKINs will also feature patterns, effects, and colors that are not available through SKINR, so the increased creativity afforded by SKINR will dovetail with the continuing presence of stunning prime SKIN offerings in New Eden.

Finally, continuing a very welcome trend from when I began playing EVE in 2009, a new user interface is included.

A new Collection interface is also being introduced, giving you a comprehensive overview of the sequenced SKINs and design elements that you own. This also features new SKIN icons, each displaying the SKIN adorning the correct ship, giving you a proper visual representation. Navigate your collection to seek inspiration for your next design as you browse your design elements or seamlessly choose the perfect SKIN for your upcoming adventures.

I'm hoping the interface includes CCP designed (i.e. "prime") SKINs so everything is in one place.

I've made the monetization of the new player-designed SKINs a major point in this article. But the subject doesn't necessarily have to have negative connotations. I wrote about the topic and CCP's plans to monetize the Heraldry system two years ago. Back then, CCP was looking at selling internet spaceships in the cash shop. As the company stated on day two of Fanfest 2022:


A new program will soon be introduced allowing you to manufacture or purchase items, making them available for other players to purchase. Players who participate will be rewarded with heraldry, which unlocks many cosmetic items that help you establish your individual and alliance identity in New Eden. This is all aimed to lean into EVE’s player-driven economy and provide more avenues to participate in the economy, and be rewarded.

I had the following reaction.

Yes, the plan to sell spaceships directly from the cash shop became clear. Players would acquire or build ships and trade them for InterBus credits to get the sweet, sweet heraldry items. CCP will then sell the ships in the cash shop for real world cash.

I would really like options to obtain heraldry items without engaging in primary market real money trading. CCP is still working through what the system will eventually look like. I expect to hear something in 5-6 months from now. Hopefully CCP isn't too proud to look at other games for ideas. 

I think, two years later CCP came up with a solution to monetizing the system without resorting to something as crass as selling ships in the cash shop. The EVE player base has always preferred when players created items and CCP just takes a cut of the action. So not only do players get nice things, but we won't face riots with players shooting monuments in Jita protesting CCP's latest moves.

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