SOE Adds RMT To Vanguard, Vision In A Corner Weeping Softly

SOE continued its adding RMT components to its games last week with the addition of LiveGamer support to Vanguard.

Notably, unlike Everquest 2 where Station Exchange (now operated by LiveGamer) was limited to a few new servers, Vanguard players were told that it was being added to the entire game. This is similar to the Station Cash item shop which was added to all Everquest and Everquest 2 servers last year; the differences being while StationCash is an “item mall” where SOE sells low-impact items such as decorative clothing and XP boost potions, Live Gamer is a player-to-player items-for-cash arbitrage. It was pitched as ‘voluntary’ since, you know, no one is actually forcing you to buy anything!

The ensuing discussion was somewhat heated. An SOE-penned FAQ which resulted from the thread had probably the clearest defense of corporate-sponsored RMT ever put to virtual print:

As several people have pointed out in the discussion thread, Real Money Transactions between individuals and 3rd party sites have been happening since the early days of MMOs.  What you may not know is that there are significant costs to game companies that result from homegrown transactions or unsanctioned 3rd party web site sales in our games.  Personal trades go bad (fraud) and 3rd party sites scam people and strip accounts, it’s a fact that SOE Customer Service been dealing with here since day 1 of EverQuest.

What happens when unsanctioned transactions like these go south?  Customers petition for help and sometimes it can take hours for a GM to research and get everything back to the way it was.  By providing a safe, secure, and sanctioned way for these types of transactions to take place for those that wish to participate, SOE is reducing CS costs while providing a little more to the bottom line.

So there you have it, RMT is here because you people keep doing it, so you might as well get it all sanctioned-like and save us some time.

The irony, of course, is that Vanguard, before its launch, positioned itself as the haven of the EQ hard core, standing bravely athwart the ramparts of history, watching the waves of easier gameplay and gold farmers break across the bow. In fact, IGE (back when they were the Bad Guys And Still Somewhat Relevant To The Discussion) actually funded buyouts of Vanguard player-run sites as a pre-emptive strike against… well, it’s not really clear what, any more.

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31 Responses to SOE Adds RMT To Vanguard, Vision In A Corner Weeping Softly

  1. geldonyetich says:

    I don’t like RMT, I think it violates the sanctity of a balanced game. It’s very much a “games as art” argument taken to its logical extreme.

    However, at about the point where I’m at the local branch library and see a book which is basically a tell-all from an RM Trader, and about the point where RMT is getting taxed, I have to accept that it’s firmly in the mainstream.

    In a way, what SOE is doing here is perhaps the best anti-RMT measure you can impose. By creating a single sanctioned conduit in which RMT can operate, they are essentially choosing to regulate. You may not like that abortions happen, but better they happen in the public eye by licensed professionals than forcing people into in back alleys where they can get exploited. By simply providing a public face to it, RMT loses a lot of mystique.

    Per usual, RMT remains a tax to those who are worldly enough to be employed but not worldly enough to realize that paying not to play the game in order to remain competitive in a largely artificial environment is largely a delusional gesture.

  2. Stormwaltz says:

    I understand prostitution is regulated by the powers-that-be in the Netherlands, too.

    *rimshot*

  3. Dolg says:

    Whether we like it or not this is a business and if they feel this is the best model to stay solvent and keep the share holders happy it’s their choice. Especially in this day and age when all the other MMO’s are fighting for the scraps falling off of Blizzards table.

    The thing is in-game advertising and authorised RMT is not wrong per se and it’s just older gamers moral code and the fact that it has been drummed into our heads that RMT is bad (mainly by the games companies).

    If people don’t like it they will leave and the game will fail it’s that simple.

    The sad fact is that I can probably guarantee that the majority of WoW players who ‘must have’ that latest flying mount or sparkly weapon would welcome some king of legalised Blizzard RMT exchange. Especially as they want everything to come easy to them.

    There are less and less of us old UO and EQ players around, as the younger generation start their MMO experience. And none of them will have ever heard of ‘hell levels’, or will ever have to camp a spawn for 48 hours to kill Ragefire or get those J Boots, let alone ever meet a true PK.

    Which is not necessarily a bad thing (Sodding Cyclops).

    Times change, business models change. I just sometimes think we are now that older generation saying “Bah, things were better in the old days.”

  4. Bonedead says:

    Meh meh meh.

    If you rmt you’re a lewser lolzo

  5. Longasc says:

    Oh, what a thinly veiled argumentation. They forgot to add that they want to do RMT themselves.

    IMO they should make it that and ingame money and thus RMT becomes useless, e.g. people have to play themselves to get the really good stuff.

    Money destroys games. Buy the better gun from the item mall. Buy this or that item. Pay for this and that.

    People still want to pay money for this or that benefit ingame. That people do it is no reason to legalize it. It is bad for the game, it should be a game, after all.

    These “I have to work, I have no time to farm for item X,Y,Z … (basically, “I want everything… now”) arguments are rather disheartening. 😦

    Just make it so that everything that is cool and has some potential value to players has to be earned by playing the game, not by buying this or that…

  6. Gamelore says:

    RMT is an artificial enhancement to a competitive game. Therefore, it’s cheating.

    Not sure why anyone feels the need to blur the lines of morality with arguments like this, legalized prostitituion, legalized drug use, etc.

    Tired?

  7. EpicSquirt says:

    Competition in what please?

  8. hellfire says:

    @Gamelore: That’s easy in PvP (centric or exclusive) games, but what about PvE-only games with no competitive avenues? Do you feel that argument retains any validity?

    I can’t stand RMT on principle. Play the game or don’t play the game. It’s not string theory. That said, none of the touchy-feely philosophical stuff matters.

    Customers being defrauded, through their own stupidity or otherwise, is an issue. People making money off your IP is an issue. Your games having parts that are so mind-numbingly bad that people feel compelled to buy their way out is an issue. RMT is the new plenary indulgence of the nerd set.

  9. Adele says:

    I just love the title!

  10. yunk says:

    Gamelore, mmos aren’t “competative” real competative games are short repetative pvp where everyone starts the same and it resets, none of this “spend more time to get better equipment” crap. It’s no different.

    blur the lines of morality? It’s the exact same issues. Fighting vices costs money, and encourages crime, and people turn to shady characters that will rip them off online, or hurt them in real life. There is no difference here.

    In fact one of the main arguments for legalizign drugs is The cure is worse than the disease. Every time in history we’ve banned something it only encouraged organized crime to step in, and spread corruption of police forces, and got a lot more people killed than were dying before from whatever vice it was.

  11. David McGraw says:

    RMT in an online game is one sure fire way to keep this player out of that world. It irks me even more because I absolutely loved those games and I have my hands tied behind my back.

  12. Paks says:

    I think their underlying reason for going down this path is to try and recoup some costs for the lemon(s?) they have on their books. I’m not saying RMT isn’t costing them money but I think they’re trying to kill several birds and farmers with a hulking RMT store.

    And yeah that title is classic. I’m sure many gamers are still trying to get some of The Vision taste out of their mouths from where Brad kept trying to shove it down their throats. … ugh what revolting memories that digs up… /curls into a ball and cries

  13. Abalieno says:

    Who cares? Is there someone still playing those games?

  14. Fixer says:

    I hate to bring up the NGE dead horse again, but here we’ve got yet another player uprising because of a fundamental change in the game. Obviously, Vanguard is a more marginal game than SWG was at the time, the introduction of RMT isn’t as in-your-face as eliminating character classes and changing combat models, and no one is being forced to use Live Gamer. Still, it’s a cultural shift that players are being told to accept — and Vanguard, I figure, has a HIGHER proportion of players who equate spending money instead of time as “cheating.” I thought that the lesson of the NGE was, change and improve, but don’t introduce revolutionary change unless you know your existing customers will accept it.

    Here’s a funny thing: they misspelled “Vangard” in the official FAQ thread title (as of 2:30 pm EDT). Attention to detail in community relations: you’re doing it wrong.

  15. Bonedead says:

    Yadda yadda yadda, Darkfall is the greatest evar, etc etc

  16. Moorgard says:

    Players react negatively because they assume this change will impact the way they play the game.

    But Station Exchange proved that sanctioning RMT doesn’t significantly increase the number of people who will engage in the behavior. Sure, those who thought about doing it but were frightened of dealing with unauthorized third parties might actually give it a go, but it’s not as if the angry player is going to wake up one day to find that every other person has RMTed and is suddenly more uber than they are.

    RMT always existed in Vanguard. Sanctioning it will allow those who participate in RMT do so more securely. The Vanguard player who doesn’t engage in RMT will find that his gameplay experience is unchanged, unless he chooses to obsess and just can’t let the topic go.

  17. Naladini says:

    /nod Moorgard. And if the cleric you group with regularly does decide to RMT a bit, your own play experience may improve a bit in the process.

    The only major downside is for the handful of folks who view every facet of gameplay as competition. Truth be told, the ultra-competitive areas of the game are still mostly locked down. Unless you decide to buy a retiring character. Which is bad. Unless you’re selling the character, in which case you were a good player who dedicated a lot of time to the game and your guildmates understand you wanting to recoup a little bit on your way out. Please remember to /guildremove on your way out.

  18. @Moorgard: I would be very curious to hear whether there is any evidence to back up your statement that sanctioning the behavior does not encourage it. Station Exchange is only active on a pair of servers that a specific subset of players chose to re-roll on a long time after the game’s launch. The results of that experiment do not tell you what happens when you bring the RMT to the servers where the players who might be interested are already playing with their friends.

    It also doesn’t tell you what those players will do to their peers when rare drops can suddenly be sold for real world cash. In-game auction prices are already set in most games based on what a bored max-level player is willing to pay to twink their alts. The ability to cash out one’s in-game gains for cold hard cash may very well influence the way players treat the in-game economy, to the detriment of RMT-users and non-users alike. (We also may see players attempting to day-trade the in-game auction houses to make a living, though I suspect that the urban legends will outnumber the real success stories.)

    Unfortunately, we’re all just hand-waving here, the stats don’t really exist because it’s all a grey market.

  19. Freakazoid says:

    Before we can figure out RMT, we need to figure out the legal status of data in an MMO.

    Though in reality, there’s nothing to figure out. If you agree to an EULA, you are obligated to abide by it, insofar as they don’t violate any national/state laws. If the EULA says you can’t use RMT, you should either follow it or don’t subscribe in the first place.

  20. Jarnis says:

    Well, this move landed SOE to my permanent shitlist, and the name is now engraved in stone. I do not play Vanguard, so this doesn’t affect me to the slightest, but I have played SOE games in the past. I will not play games where RMT cheating is okay, and with SOE, apparently even games that do not sanction it at launch may get it as a “bonus feature” later on – apparently to save SOE some support costs. That means I will vote with my subscription fees and never ever subscribe to a SOE game. Ever. And hey, that way I won’t cause SOE any support costs either. Everyone is happy.

    There’s plenty of MMOs on the market that are not owned by SOE, so I’m sure the free market takes care of the problem over time. The funny bit is that many RMT cheaters abuse RMT only when it gives them an advantage over others. As soon as it’s okay and everyone is expected to do it, the incentive to gain advantage through RMT is greatly diminished -> cheaters probably move to other games where they can be uber and l33t by cheating through RMT. The only result is that those still hell bent on competing in the game end up paying considerably more than just the monthly fee, while the rest of the world ponders if the remaining players are sane as they keep paying for bits they don’t even own – bits that go poof as soon as the publisher decides to pull the plug (see: Motor City Online, Earth & Beyond, Auto Assault, Tabula Rasa…)

    Heck, I can’t wait for the shitstorm when the first sanctioned-RMT game closes and all those way-too-rich morons start demanding refunds for their “digital assets”. I’m sure the CYA EULA covers it all, but it will be amusing to watch the drama anyway.

    Anyway, SOE surely has it all worked out in their Excel sheets and now they are just waiting for the money to roll in. Good luck with that.

  21. Hermes says:

    I’m gonna regret wading in here, I know it.

    geldonyetich :
    I don’t like RMT, I think it violates the sanctity of a balanced game. It’s very much a “games as art” argument taken to its logical extreme.

    I think this is fallacious. Wouldn’t a ‘balanced’ game have all the game’s tools and mechanics open to me after a reasonable period of time so that I can concentrate on building my skills with them? Most MMOGs don’t work that way and instead mete things out to you almost glacially. Cynically, this is solely because keeping you around longer = more subscription fees. Desiring to ‘skip over’ some of the massive time requirements to get to some of the more interesting game mechanics found within an MMOG seems entirely logical to me.

    I think the more interesting and very real arguments against RMT have to do with its legal implications (who actually owns those bits?), but that’s probably beyond the scope of this comments thread. I hope.

    geldonyetich :
    Per usual, RMT remains a tax to those who are worldly enough to be employed but not worldly enough to realize that paying not to play the game in order to remain competitive in a largely artificial environment is largely a delusional gesture.

    Or, and I’m just gonna throw this out here, maybe people play these games with groups of friends. Given that the current paradigm seems to dictate that not only is ‘time spent in-game’ the key method of advancement, but that only players at or around the same level of ‘time spent in-game’ can effectively group up, serious strain is being put on friends attempting to experience the game together. If the game is fun enough, I can totally understand people wanting to spend extra money to be able to play together.

    Now, that they have to spend this extra money in the first place to play with their friends is another issue. Let’s avoid opening that can of worms for now, shall we?

  22. Fixer says:

    Well, this opens up all of the classic endless debates about player skill-based MMOs, Why Doesn’t Another Game Have Sidekicking, and the capstone Why RMT Indicates Your Design Is Broken. I figure because I invoked the NGE I may as well run the table.

    I just hope the RMTraders are itemizing their profits for their taxes. There’s a recession on, after all.

  23. geldonyetich says:

    Hermes :
    I’m gonna regret wading in here, I know it.

    geldonyetich :
    I don’t like RMT, I think it violates the sanctity of a balanced game. It’s very much a “games as art” argument taken to its logical extreme.

    I think this is fallacious. Wouldn’t a ‘balanced’ game have all the game’s tools and mechanics open to me after a reasonable period of time so that I can concentrate on building my skills with them? Most MMOGs don’t work that way and instead mete things out to you almost glacially.

    I trouble with this is you’re basically saying that it’s okay to break what you can deem is already broken.

    What’s actually happening is you’re taking what’s unbalance along one means and doing something unbalanced to try to correct it, only resulting in something exponentially less balanced than you started because now it’s breaking on two separate tangents:

    Not only was the game something that arbitrarily forces a massive time investment to be rewarded, but now those rewards don’t need to be earned through play at all if you spend out-of-game assets (real money) to obtain them.

    I’m not saying MMORPGs are perfect, but I’ll take imperfection over wantonly obliterated anyway.

    Hermes :

    geldonyetich :
    Per usual, RMT remains a tax to those who are worldly enough to be employed but not worldly enough to realize that paying not to play the game in order to remain competitive in a largely artificial environment is largely a delusional gesture.

    Or, and I’m just gonna throw this out here, maybe people play these games with groups of friends.

    This is why many modern MMOGs provide a means for you to play with friends regardless of your character’s level or equipment.

    Even without, I won’t sympathize with cheaters even if they feel peer pressure drove them to do it.

  24. Tesh says:

    RMT means your game design is broken? And here I thought that it was gold selling that meant your game was broken. There’s a difference between third parties siphoning funds and the publisher capturing revenue.

    …shouldn’t the push be to fix the broken game design, not whine about it being monetized one way or another?

  25. J. says:

    The bit about GM’s is ridiculous. Of course players are still going to complain about it just as much as ever if not more once RMT is “legitimized,” but now GM’s are going to have to come up with a better response than “you’re banned” because they aren’t breaking the rules anymore.

    Yes, RMT means your game design is broken. Game design is always broken, and there’s only so much you can do post-launch to fix what’s broken. Hiring a third party after the fact to police the gray market does not solve any problems.

    But then again, if it brings more people to Vanguard and they spend more money, who’s to say?

    Oh yeah, and how does this not mean that a third party necessarily will have access to player account information, with SOE’s consent?

  26. Lovi says:

    There is interesting information about this new SOE scenario that is available on the web:

    First, the Station Exchange (SOE’s first attempt at maintaining a privately held RMT) failed and Live Gamer is seen as a “white knight” for SOE.

    Second, along with the Station Exchange failure, SOE paid over a million dollars in penalties for credit card fraud from people participating in auctions.

    Third, Live Gamer is a one year old venture capital based company that was given the SOE station exchange platform and coding and has at the moment, only two exchanges in existence. One for EQ2 and one for GoPets. Some of the members of its board of directors were employed by Sony divisions in the past.

    Fourth, there is a demographic debate on the economic factors of RMT as well as a debate about the most reliable means of making a profit from online games … some say the subscription model is a better longterm profit center that will be less affected by economic downturns; others say that RMT is here to stay and will be the only major way for games to make money in the future.

    Fifth, after Pirates of the Burning Sea, SOE acquisitions have focused on online trading card games (microtransaction and RMT based) and continue to do so. SOE game development has notably focused on Ft2P games like Free Realms and the Agency. SOE, as far as I can find, has no games of the EQ/EQ2/Vanguard style in the pipeline. It’s commitment to subscription based games is definitely questionable.

    Sixth, development on Vanguard is down to about 4 devs at last count. SOE made a stealth change in the EULA in favor of Live Gamer RMTs and a community manager made a small announcement of the Live Gamer Exchange on the forums. No other dev or executive comments have been made. SOE’s commitment to VG itself has become more questionable.

    Seventh, the community of Vanguard will be split into two playstyles. International players will not have access to the LG auction but will be playing on servers where US residents can buy and sell characters, items, etc.

    My personal view: Vanguard was designed and balanced for 3 spheres of play. Sigil made a commitment to its player base that this game would be one where items and status would be earned. SOE publicly upheld that commitment to the VG community on various occasions.

    Given the current items and prices available on the EQ2 exchange and given the small size of the VG player population, it’s hard to see how the fallout from the debacle of SOE’s bait and switch program, and its dishonesty to its customers would lead to worthwhile success on the LG Exchange.

  27. Technogeek says:

    Honestly, I’m interested in seeing what happens here — thus far, any attempts at legitimate RMT have been hindered by the fact that that (as with EQ2) they were not implemented on all servers or (as with EVE) they weren’t really RMT in the traditional sense.

    A forced implementation gamewide could provide some useful statistics on just how much of an impact it would have on the game experience. If it has no major downsides, then that’s useful data to have. And if it ends up destroying the game — well, who cares, it’s Vanguard.

  28. yunk says:

    This is oddly topical:
    http://www.reason.com/news/show/132265.html
    another form of prohibition, that of course didn’t work, and instead only exacerbated problems.

    banning doesn’t work, when will people ever learn from history?

  29. Drakks says:

    Whether it is guilds selling spots or drops, teams selling arena points, or farmers selling gold.. the shit isn’t going anyway, so you might as well get off the morality high horse and find a way to make it work *for* your bottom line as opposed to spending money specifically against it which is totally wasted.

    I know it’s a poor analogy when closesly looked at, but the RMT thing is like the war on drugs to me from a high level. It’s something you cannot stop regardless of the time and effort put into it because it’s just something people will do, and something you only truly fight against because of the totally subjective stand point that it’s “wrong” in the first place. Legalize it to a reasonable extent and you demystify it, and I’m wagering the world (of warcraft) won’t end up exploding in a fit of anarchist chaos for it.

    Hell, most games have such screwed up economies anyway I’m missing how it could possibly make things worse.

  30. […] once I’ve played through Book 7 in LotRO). The following week, they announced they’d be bringing in RMT, and my heart sank. I always said I wouldn’t play an RMT game. In the same way as I said I […]

  31. Muckbeast says:

    > So there you have it, RMT is here because you
    > people keep doing it, so you might as well get
    > it all sanctioned-like and save us some time.

    I think that’s a good argument, honestly.

    If players truly hated RMT, they’d stop doing it. It is a multi-billion dollar industry. I think the truth of the matter is many people don’t want RMT to go away, they want OTHER PEOPLE not to use it so they can maintain an advantage by using it for themselves.

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