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Monday, November 12, 2012

A Case Study for EVE Free to Play?

I am going to break with my normal EVE oriented topics and do one that is only tangentially EVE related. There has been much discussion concerning whether EVE should remain subscription based or if it should be free-to-play (F2P.)

In my last post, I mentioned that microtransactions (MT) would be necessary to keeping EVE Online relevant in the next decade. We seem to think MT is only possible if the game is F2P, but Fluffy Hyena dispelled that notion straight away. He pointed out the correct math involved:

MT <> F2P ...but... F2P = MT

That speaks to the need to have a profit generating capability in F2P more than the actual relationship of MT to anything. It is completely possible to have a subscription based game with MT. But in the next decade, that is a losing business model IMO.

That was made abundantly clear to me this weekend. What changed? I decided to try a little F2P. Normally I am a one game person. That isn't because I don't love gaming. It's because I love the other things in my life like my family, my RL friends and my other hobbies too. But if I was going to write something like, "If CCP doesn't - EVE is dead. Given a choice of free-to-play or buying a subscription for a new game, which would you choose?" I needed to be damn certain that is how I'd feel.

I needed a test. I needed a game as Sci-Fi as possible because anything else would be a different kind of fruit. I needed something F2P. That really only left me with one choice.
It isn't Internet spaceships, but it is Sci-Fi with a future history, tons of back story and a large fan base. I know I'm one. I played every Mechwarrior game through IV. The 1990s was my Mech stomping decade. It was only the advent of the MMORPG, and my one game at a time philosophy, that separated me from my beloved Catapult.

Now Mechwarrior is back and in the medium that I've grown to love over the most recent decade past. And guess what, it was worth the wait. It was free to sign up for an account the creation of which was no more difficult than getting a Google Account or an Apple ID. It was free to download. It was free to fire up and dive right in. From desire to play to live action with 15 other human driven Mechs it was a 30 minute non-ordeal. Using standard keyboard controls (awsd, etc.) I was in my Mech dealing death!

So what does this mean to EVE Online? Well, how Mechwarrior Online (MWO) does F2P is very much like how Dust 514 F2P is done. You get a free account and perfectly serviceable Mechs. I got four to start with, one in each Mech class. My heavy was a Catapult!

But it was standard fit Catapult. It was not the fit of my beloved Catapult from the 90s. To get that, I would need to grind c-bills or I could just throw some real money on the table and go straight to buying my own Mechs. There are pros and cons. With a "training" Mech I get free repairs, and boy howdy did I need them. I can't customize them either. They don't suck, they just force me into a certain play style. I mostly intercept Gauss cannon projectiles on their way to customized Mechs. Actually, I'm rusty as hell and need lots more practice. With a little practice and good tactics, the training Mechs are quite capable.

This is how I see a F2P EVE Online working. It's not that you get restricted to small ship classes. As you train the skills you will get a free ship, and free repairs, and even free replacement - this is EVE we are talking about after all. These ships will work. But they will be standard fit. They won't be glorious.

You could have entire blobs made of these standard ships and they could roll over everyone given enough of them. But you'll have to grind ISK to buy "better" ships. Those that are specialized for particular roles. Also, these purchased ships will be the skinnable ones. The "training" ships will have standard hull configurations: no customization allowed remember.

Or, if you hate grinding, you can use PLEX to get straight to them. That's not pay-to-win (P2W.) That's pay to get your ass handed to you because you don't know how to fly it. I saw one of those last night on MWO. It was a customized Catapult of all things and it was totally owned by a Jenner. Oh, and you'll have to pay for repairs. When it goes pop, you'll have to buy a new one. That's the model for MWO and it's a good one for EVE Online. I am willing to bet that Star Citizen and Elite: Dangerous will be the same way.

The hardest thing for CCP will be what to do with us, the capsuleers who have dedicated years of our lives to becoming the EVE pilots we are. Would it be fair for CCP to strip away our wealth of ships and modules? Would it be fair to let us keep that advantage over new players? What do you think?

Fly Careful


  1. I have played F2P games in the past. The problem is that they have all fallen into the trap of design=store sales and not design=good game play.

    So every one gets to accumulate skill points for free?

    How hard is this going to hit industrialist?

    Just those two points off the top of my head. Would it work? Probably, but it would not be Eve Online or the complete sci-fi simulator CCP has always talked about and I believe are still working on.

  2. CCP wouldn't have to worry about what to do with the vets. They'd all leave.

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  4. If EvE became F2P and/or introduced gold ammo and ships I'd cancel my subs, sell all my toons with the exception of my combat main. I would then play until the ISK ran out my last act being to biomass (with regret) the character I started in EvE with and walk away forever.

  5. I have a pretty simple idea for EVE F2P : anyone can play, but if you don't use PLEXes / subscription, then you don't earn skill points, and you can't board capitals ships nor use cyno (to avoid free titans char and cyno). Also you can't loot nor fit faction / deadspace modules (to avoid super pvp fit, or good isk income). You also can't be director / CEO (to limit inudstry alts).

    1. Basically, allow unsubscribed accounts to play but with trial account limitations or something close to them but not as draconian (and anything that depends on unavailable skills disabled). This would be nice, especially if coupled with the introduction of microPLEX.

  6. MWO isn't an MMORPG. Your discussion of what EVE would be if it followed MWO's model doesn't sound even 1% like the EVE that we know today. Do you know what it sounds like? MWO. I understand that you are bored with EVE, you've played it for a long time. But destroying EVE as we know it, to make it into a clone of MWO, serves absolutely no purpose. MWO already exists, it's called MWO. If you're bored with EVE, and you want to play MWO, it's not necessary to make posts on your blog about how to turn EVE into MWO. Just go play MWO, man.

    Oh, you want to play MWO but with CCP's particular twist on game design? No problem: "Well, how Mechwarrior Online (MWO) does F2P is very much like how Dust 514 F2P is done." Play dust 514, you say yourself they're so similar.

    Your blog post reads kinda like someone realizing that recorded music was a viable business model, about a century ago, and predicting that everyone should stop giving live concerts and just record music for sale. Well, it's a century later, and live concerts are still phenomenally profitable, many of the most profitable musical groups make more on live concerts than they do off recorded music sales, and that's been true continuously for hte past 100 years. The F2P model is best for some genres/games, and the sub model is the best for other genres/games--and what's best for the gaming industry is to have both around as viable options, making intelligent decisions on a game-by-game basis as to which to use.

    "That's the model for MWO and it's a good one for EVE Online."

    Why? You don't even bother to argue your case, you just assert it despite the fact that the evidence lies contrary to this claim.


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