To loot or not to loot, that is the question. Part 2.
The environment surrounding the state of Dual Universe Access Coupons (DAC) can at best be described as passionate. At worst, it’s nothing short of toxic. The sides for and against DAC being ‘lootable’ are each convinced that their opinion represents the interests of the game and the respective player base.
The word ‘lootable’ or ‘unlootable’ is what all the trouble’s about. There are two distinct camps in this argument. The first camp believes DAC should be an item within Dual Universe, exempt from risk mechanics. It represents the real money investment in the form of subscription paid for by a player at one point in time. The other camp is of the opinion that DACs, like all in-game items, should be subject to the same rules as befits emergent gameplay. In other words, if DAC is inside the game, risk must apply to it as it does to everything else.
DACs are purchased with real money. That presents a strong increase in its value. At a planned €18 per DAC, the item is more expensive than the standard planned subscription of €15. The increase in price must surely guarantee a risk free status in-game, then? I’m afraid not. There is no connection between the price and the risk – at least none from Novaquark statements so far.
What the ‘anti-loot’ camp wants, is the freedom to trade the DAC in-game – i.e. convert it to an in-game physical item without risk. After all, if DAC was to be lootable, how would children afford to play the game, seeing their subscription could be lost at a moment’s whim? The lack of NPC stations as there are in Eve seemingly provides no way for safe storage once in-game. Additionally, ‘theft’ of people’s real life investment is just an unnecessary freedom for the scum of the earth. If other items can be stolen or destroyed, isn’t there enough risk involved already? If DAC is purchasable with real currency, it is not equal to the other items in-game that only exist in the virtual world.
It’s at this point that the ‘loot’ camp takes another path. Should DAC make its way to the virtual world (and that it will), why is it exempt from the rules that govern the said world? Crafts, territories, currency and elements are subject to the rules of risk and reward. Putting DAC above the law is questionable, seeing it can be traded for any of those things in the game, through a medium such as currency (Quanta) or directly by barter. In other words, the ‘loot’ camp believes ‘non-lootable’ DAC becomes a resource interchangeable with any of the above, but free from risk. In essence, it breaks the game. That is where the Pay to Win argument comes in. It allows those with money to buy DACs and carry ‘premium currency’ that can buy everything without losing anything. Obviously, if it is tradable in-game, it will be subject to the price laws of supply and demand. Whatever the price, though, it will be much more expensive than anything else as it represents ‘access’ to the game itself. If everything else can be stolen or destroyed in-game, why disrupt the balance by making an ‘premium’ resource?
An emergent game is one that levels the playing field between wealthy and less-wealthy players as much as possible. Pay to Win, on the other hand, rewards the wealthy, granting them faster and easier progression than the rest of the player-base – effectively forcing you to ‘donate’ or face hell when you are up against those with money to spare. A game can be either, but not both. Dual Universe is an emergent game: there is no place for Pay to Win mechanics.
The difference in price between DAC and the normal subscription could, however, point to another thing. Novaquark has said that DACs are both subscription items and tradable in-game. DAC has another trick up its sleeves: it can be traded in-game and activated by another player for game-time. In other words, they are not soul-bound once in-game.
It’s important to note that purchased DAC and DAC in-game are not the same thing. In its ‘digital’ form, DAC cannot be traded, transported, stolen, looted or given out. It can only be activated for Dual Universe subscription. In its digital form, it’s as safe as the developers can make it. As safety is assured, the camp against ‘lootable’ DAC must be satisfied, no? No. It is not that the DAC isn’t safe – that it surely is. They want it to be safe, tradeable and valid for activation.
Firstly, Novaquark has stated that Dual Universe did not place minors as the focus-group for the game. Dual Universe, creative, innovative and exciting; requires a minimum amount of maturity. Whether it is to navigate the treacherous political landscape, communicate in a global shard, or understand risks and rewards, children will find it difficult to understand, let alone thrive in Dual Universe. Thus, the point on empathy for children that cannot afford subscription is null. Then, we have the youth and adults who understand, but cannot afford to pay the subscription fee on a regular basis – what happens to them if there is no safe zone for them to store DAC and it is lootable?
Au contraire: there is a safe zone: The Arkship. If converted to the in-game DAC, all risks must apply – unless we are to make DAC an anomaly. Will a player be able to store multiple DACs then? Imagine the risk if a player in a spurt of wealth, wants to safeguard his subscription for months to come. Can he do that without risk? Yes, he can. An unlimited amount of DACs can be bought, then hoarded – outside of the game in their digital form for an unlimited amount of time. Bring them in-game and you will have to deal with the consequences. I am yet to hear of anyone that withdraws all his money from the bank and takes it where he can be robbed, because he wants to keep his money ‘safe’.
I am more concerned about the precedent an ‘unlootable’ DAC sets as a premium currency. If you are familiar with War Robots, you will know how notorious it is for various kinds of currency (that is, by the way, a Pay to Win game). CCP – the developers behind Eve – dodged the bullet with the Aurum currency. Every item that Aurum can buy (cosmetics, mostly) is brought in-game and as you may have guessed, can be traded, ‘liberated’, or donated. Items, such as skill training licenses for characters (those can also be bought at a flat real currency fee directly from CCP), skill injectors, skill extractors and game-time (PLEX) are subject to the risks that govern everything in the Eve Universe. Aurum has no value in-game, because it does not exist in-game. It exists in the store. The items that it can buy, however, are in-game and are not above the law.
As stated by a member of the Dual Universe community, the value of DAC is explicitly tied to the success of the game. If more people want DAC, it means more people are playing the game or there’s too little of DAC and its price would rise. If less people want DAC, we can deduce that there’s a market saturation of DAC or too few people playing the game. Reluctance to buy DAC because of the risk implies a lack of sufficient need for it.
I believe there’s more sentimental value attached to DAC than actual gameplay influence. It does create – even if negligible – more options for gameplay, trade and opportunities for adrenaline pumped incidences.
Consider this argument below:
‘All other items are bound to risk. Why not DAC?’ the ‘loot’ player will ask.
‘It represents real life currency – investment. You are stealing people’s money.’ The ‘anti-loot’ player would reply.
There is something wrong with the above argument. It’s either invalid or incomplete. Incomplete, because the question fails to differentiate between digital (purchased) DAC and digitally physical (in-game) DAC. Invalid in reply, because the second question does not acknowledge the said difference in digital and in-game DAC. DAC ceases to represent real money once in-game because it cannot be converted back to cash. It ceases to be the same thing as a pure subscription as it represents Quanta until the point it is activated for subscription – and never for real currency.
I believe if players want DAC to be safe, they can do everyone the favour of activating it without bringing it in-game. Once in-game, it is an item – interchangeable with Quanta or anything else of perceived sufficient value – that cannot be converted back to the €18 used to purchase it.
The risk involved with how DAC is stored at The Arkship Zone is another question entirely, but an irrelevant question nonetheless, if DAC is initially bought with real currency and Novaquark creates the option of converting in-game DAC back to digital DAC. It is irrelevant, because in its ‘digital’ form, DAC cannot be stolen. It is ‘bound’ to the purchaser for activation – and the purchaser alone. Creating the option of re-converting it back to digital comes without the ability of redeeming it for real money in this suggestion. The freedom to re-convert it to real money validates the majority of the ‘anti-loot’ camp. Frankly, I don’t support that, and it will create significant legal hurdles for Novaquark.
Giving players the means of carrying – in principle – Quanta without the fear of losing it, creates an uneven game for those with less money to spend on purchasing DAC. All that said, I still believe the ‘lootable vs unlootable’ argument is more sentimental than actually important. Novaquark has provided a means for making Dual Access Coupons completely safe. Tilting the balance to favour either side is ‘unethical’ – however heated the resulting arguments will be. On the issue of the market mechanics involving risk and in-game DAC, I believe we have to wait for Novaquark’s reply on that. Whatever the official response on that topic, my banner will remain on the ‘lootable’ side of the battle.
Many thanks to the members of the Forums who have expressed their opinions on this debate. Your input has proved invaluable in writing this short article. Many thanks to the Novaquark staff who have answered the community’s questions regarding the issue.