The Thin Green Line

In a game environment where cheating, lying, stealing, betraying, and generally being an asshat is often celebrated, adored and even officially tolerated - where does the line exist between cheating and being a cheater?  Even worse Eve endorses a "meta-gaming" attitude outside of the virtual walls and often encourages players to work together outside the "game" for both good and ill-gotten gain.

No matter your personal perspective, it is a murky context.

And so, enter Aurum.  According to "leaked" documents and rumor, CCP may be considering moving vanity item purchases towards the land of buying in-game features, such as faction standings.  One doesn't have to be a genius to see where this might be headed, and such thoughts have many in an uproar.  Is buying ships, mods, and even by-passing the famous skill train far behind?  Will some near-future noob be able to purchase Caldari Battleship V without actually training it?

Shudder to think.

For me the line has always been obvious.  It can often be a thin barrier, but it nonetheless exists.  That protective barrier has always been game mechanics.  Whatever you are doing, as long as it works within the established game mechanics, you aren't cheating.  Obviously that line bends and screams sometimes, we all remember the POS mining fiasco, or more recently the un-probe-able ship thingie, examples are plentiful.  So plentiful they even have a name for it, they're called exploits.  And exploits bend the game mechanics, can cause you to get perma-banned and are fixed as fast as possible.  The line remains.

The trouble with the current state of affairs in my opinion.  Or, perhaps more accurately, the potential state of affairs is simple.  For the first time the game developers may be breaking the game mechanic line themselves.  

Allowing players to buy vanity items is fine in my opinion.  Personally I think it's a waste of money, but that's me.  It doesn't impact the game, much as someone buying a t-shirt from the Eve store doesn't.  But will it stop there?  Being able to circumvent established game mechanic controls to purchase faction standings pulls the line dangerously close to snapping.  Being able to purchase "game-skippers" will break the line.  Game-skippers is a term I just made up, but it means anything that would allow money to buy time.  Buying a completed skill, like BS V, would be a game-skipper.  In Eve time is money, it takes time to achieve things, things that cost money and that can be translated into money.  Time, in Eve, is the great leveler.  It makes us all the same.

Allowing anyone to purchase their way past that would be catastrophic.

It is a green line because sadly these decisions seem based solely on greed.  And while I fully support the ability of CCP to make as much money as humanly possible, it is their right, their product and their labor.  In fact, I have often said I hope they make billions, all the more so that Eve remains.  But not at any price.

Sell all the stuff you want, mine the player base till the cows come home.  A fool and his money are soon parted.  But don't allow money to buy time, to allow someone who hasn't put the time in to simply skip over the rest of us.  That is unfair advantage and in Eve you have to earn the right to unfair advantage.

My eternal hope is that this is all blue-sky thinking, bouncing ideas off the wall to see what sticks and what doesn't.  I do it all the time with companies and sometimes the ideas make no sense at all, but they often generate better, proper ideas.  You can't be afraid of ideas in any business, there cannot be lines you won't cross... and then again, there always are.  PUshing boundaries, or lines, is what a growing business needs to do.  But breaking them is dangerous territory.  You can often achieve new customers at the cost of old ones, and while that may be sound business if your new audience happens to be larger than the old one, the transition time can be fatal if not properly managed.

If WiS is intended to be the bridge to new worlds (like DUST), new players, less server lag, and more interactivity and higher profits, then so much the better.  But don't lose sight of those that have brought you here.  Don't allow non-existent potential customers that haven't paid you a dime yet, skip ahead of those that have.

Stay on this side of the line with us.