Will Selling Resource Packs Ruin EverQuest Next Landmark?

Will Selling Resource Packs Ruin EverQuest Next Landmark?

Last week Director of Development Dave Georgeson unveiled SOE’s monetization plan for EverQuest Next Landmark, part of which includes the selling of resource packs on the Station Marketplace. That single aspect alone is drawing a lot of fire from the community with some even calling it pay-to-win. Is this just another way to play or an impending disaster waiting to happen? Both are good questions, and ones that we’ll be exploring today.

Let me start of by saying that I’m a bit of an old school gamer, so I don’t mind paying a subscription for a game if I feel that it’s worth it. I still prefer the subscription model over free-to-play even though that puts me in a minority. My reason for that is that I just prefer to pay one price and have access to everything that a game has to offer minus expansions without having to be nickel and dimed for everything extra. That’s not to say that I’m anti-free-to-play. But with the free-to-play model developers have to walk a fine line to monetize their game while at the same time avoid being (or being perceived) as greedy, pay-to-win, or cheapening the accomplishments of their players. Like it or not, that is a thing.

When it comes to free-to-play, publishers have to establish a system to get paid on the back end. After all, if we want to keep playing, the money has to come from somewhere. Nothing is truly free, even if the business model name says so. And while there’s no perfect system, SOE’s free-to-play model has gotten much better and less restrictive over the last year. They’ve walked the line in some cases, and maybe even crossed it in some player's eyes by selling high level characters. But selling boosters, starter gear, and cosmetics have always been a pretty solid and fair monetization model that doesn’t have a huge impact on the game world. And to me, that’s pretty important.

So what does all of that have to do with EverQuest Next Landmark? For starters, if you’re in the alpha, you bought a Founder’s Pack and dropped your first bit of cash towards SOE's grand new vision. But make no mistake, Landmark is a free-to-play title, and the monetization of that title is what today’s article is all about. Thus far we know that the usual suspects will be available to buy in Landmark on the Station Marketplace with cosmetics and boosters. But the big one that seems to have stirred the pot of community emotions the most is the intention to sell resource packs.

Resources. Currently, our progression game is limited by resources, so selling those resources may seem like we’re allowing you to pay for power. But our current game progression is not the intended real progression. Very soon, you’ll only need handfuls of resources to make picks and other tools. Tool and item progression will be limited by activities completed and achievements gained… not by resources. So, letting people buy resources is really just a time shortcut to let people build more easily. (NOTE: You can also trade with other players for resources, and, of course, you can go gather them yourself. The SC option is just a shortcut.)

Right now the main method of progression in Landmark is gathering resources and building, something that takes quite a while in its current form. Nothing else has been added at present. So to that end, we have no idea how the final progression system will turn out.

While an argument can be made that selling resources cheapens the hard work of players that went out and mined uphill both ways in the hot desert sun to get that pile of shiny gems to craft a castle made of rubies versus the guy that spent twenty bucks (prices pending) to buy the same amount from the Station Marketplace, it’s a far cry from pay-to-win. I’ve seen this tossed around a few times since the announcement, and having played some games that I consider to be pay-to-win, the selling of Landmark’s resources are a long ways from being that. But does it cheapen the work of others? Maybe.

Landmark player Packetdancer put together a pretty good post on the alpha forums explaining why some players might see this as cheapening the hard work that they put into their elaborate designs, up to and including the collection of the rare resources used to make it. Here’s a segment from the full post.

“I suspect the problem here is that "win" is ill-defined. You're speaking from the belief that "winning" in this case is progression in tools, and I'd say you're addressing that fairly well. But given that the game is currently centered around building things/creating things, many of us are looking at the 'win' mechanic as "build cool stuff".

Which, yes, is a pretty vague mechanic.

Still, right now, if I go and find an entire castle built out of obsidian, I know that this person engaged in in-game activities to get that obsidian. Whether they mined it themselves or traded for it, or whatever, it's an in-game achievement, and something they can take pride in.

If I'm someone who mines all that obsidian myself and then see my neighbor drop $80 of real money on picking up the Epic Obsidian Materials Pack and start in within a day of creating their character, it may well make me feel that my own achievement I was so proud of—mining 250,000 obsidian myself, by hand (uphill, both ways, in the snow)—feel cheapened. Who's going to look at my giant obsidian fortress and think "dang, she went and got all that?" Many people will start to go, "Pfft, that much obsidian? She must've just had cash to spare."

Yeah, it's silly, but that's the gamer mentality. We like to chase the shiny trophies and we want the shiny trophies to mean something. And right now, I think that the Landmark trophy we're chasing isn't necessarily the progression you think it is.”

And that’s a fair assessment. Georgeson’s response brought up another good point - resources will be flooding Landmark relatively early, so it’s unlikely that there will be a shortage of much of anything once an economy and trade have been established with thousands of new players adding their excess resources to the pile.

“I don't think this reaction is silly AT ALL. We've talked about it extensively. What we realized is...it's a short-term issue.

There are players that will play this game without building a single thing. They will fight monsters, explore, socialize, play PvP, or whatever...but they won't build. Those players are going to accumulate a lot of stuff...and they'll sell it.

So, for example, obsidian just won't *stay* rare. It'll always be more rare than stone and dirt, of course. But it won't take nearly the amount of time it takes to gather currently. Other players will make it readily available. (And as a matter of fact, it's not even supposed to take that much time right now! It's just that we don't have the T4 islands yet, where Obsidian and Alabaster are supposed to be a lot more common.)

Make sense?”

The bigger question here might be how SOE’s decision to sell resource packs will affect the in-game economy of Landmark given that it’s probably going to be the main method of commerce for some players that take on more of an explorer role. That’s probably a topic worth revisiting later once more of Landmark’s systems put in place.

As for the long-term effect of selling resource packs in Landmark, I think we’ll have to wait and see how the rest of the game evolves before we can say for sure. I’m certainly one of those players that prefer to keep item shop items limited to boosters and cosmetics. Adding anything that allows me to bypass your game’s content for a little extra cash in my mind gives me less of a reason to play your game. There are a number of mobile games that I refuse to play for this very reason. Games like that should just come with a message at startup that reads “pay us $5 and don’t bother logging in.” Luckily, Landmark is nowhere near that yet, and I don’t expect we’ll even be getting close to the same ballpark. If we do, expect an epic rant.

The pay-to-win argument is easily debunked at this point. Because if we’re going to declare a win option for Landmark in its current state, it will be based on player creativity. And no amount of money is going to buy you that.

All of that said, I don’t think resource packs will be as big of an issue in Landmark as some people fear. Building is really the main part of Landmark, and it’s far from a traditional MMORPG. If SOE does their job right we should want to go out and gather those resources ourselves. It should be both fun and desirable to do so. If not, someone on the design team should revisit their strategy on harvesting. When this system is further along, it should encourage us to go out into the world and explore areas to find harvestable materials; and they should reward us for doing so with things that you can’t get by dropping cash on a resource pack. Just a few things that they can do to encourage this is to add a special ultra rare kind of resource with a unique appearance to each node that can only be harvested, make special trophies or items that you can only obtain by gathering, add a gathering skill that can offer you specific new and random design options for becoming a skilled harvester, any number of things.

In closing, there are a few things to keep in mind. Resources will be getting balanced, so making things such as tools will cost much less in the future. And when the servers open to thousands of new players, all chipping and chopping away at resources, the market will probably be pretty heavily saturated rather quickly after launch, so the resource packs aren’t likely going to affect much at all and will just end up being one of SOE’s more lucrative Marketplace items early on for impatient players. For everyone else, we can gather, sell, and trade, so there won’t likely be a shortage of resources anywhere.

The pay-to-win argument is easily debunked at this point. Because if we’re going to declare a win option for Landmark in its current state, it will be based on player creativity. And no amount of money is going to buy you that. But it will get you the resources to make it.

Landmark’s PvE and PvP systems aren’t even in yet, so we can’t really gauge how big of an impact something like this will have on the overall game. The only thing that we can say for certain is that there will be plenty of options available to players that just want to build at launch. But if you’re still very much set on being against the selling of resource packs, you can add your concerns to the lengthy thread on the alpha forums. For now I’m willing to give SOE some leeway until we see where things are going in Landmark’s development. Just don’t expect me to be as flexible if the same topic arises for EverQuest Next. That’s a different beast all together.

About the Author

martuk's picture

Stacy has been gaming since the age of 5 and got his start in MMORPGs with EverQuest. Though he often prefers to play a tank class, his illustrious MMORPG career began as a cleric of Mithaniel Marr.