Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Let Me Say This About That

Wygg asked me in a comment on "Updates" post yesterday the following question:
What are your thoughts on the death of Ghost Training?
To which I responded off the cuff:
My thought is "its about time!" If people didn't abuse it, I could see leaving it alone.

But people were abusing the feature to the point of getting months of free training time. So fuck em, make them pay like the rest of us.
I figured I'd expand on my answer this morning.

Eve pilots are spoiled. Name another major MMO where your character's abilities progress when you are not logged in. I can't think of any. Every other significant MMO on the market uses the standard experience points / levels dogma. And I use the word "dogma" on purpose here as it practically has become an unchallenged religious point in MMO design that there are levels and you get them by earning experience points for your activities.

In Eve we are free of this limitation (amoung many others to be sure) in that our characters progress in ability even when we are off at work or busy with other hobbies. It allows a casual player like me to be able to fly a capital class ship like the Chimera carrier namesake of my blog. If you are smart and set up other sources of ISK funding beyond standard mission bounties and/or ratting, you can run your Eve career with minimal logging in to do only the operations and activities you want to do as opposed to those you have to do for the "grind". Imagine getting a WoW character to level 70 with the best gear by only logging in 2-4 hours a week. (NO ebaying!)

"Ghost training" was an unintended consequence of the training-whilst-offline feature. Since they didn't send an explicit command to your account to pause training when your subscription ended, the training continued to its logical conclusion as if you were merely offline. And for normal account activities this was not deemed a big deal.

But like power-gamers the world over, someone had to figure out the min-max solution to a problem that didn't exist. They get multiple accounts and spread their subscription money between them while the "inactive" accounts completed training of long skills, like how Caldari Carrier V would take 63 days for me or Advanced Weapon Upgrades V takes 27 days. In essence they would scam a month or more of free training for their accounts, only paying for subscription renewal when they needed to log in and start training a new skill (spending a month to train a lot of short skills and prep the account for another multi-week skill).

By going back and forth each month, you can essentially get the training of two accounts for the subscription cost of one. Multiply that by the tens or hundreds of players abusing the mechanic and you get, in essence, a form of major fraud. Its an exploit, an unintended advantage derived from game mechanics, and it had to be stopped.

I can see some counter arguements; although the account was training, the character could not be played, for example, or ... well that's all I can come up with to be honest. And its a stretch as I would counter with the point that skill training is a form of playing a character and hence one should pay for the privelege.

So, to summarize, I support CCP's decision to pause training when an account subscription expires.

Next thing for CCP to worry about: inactive accounts whose characters are still accumulating Research Points that, when the account is reactivated, are turned into Datacores and then ISK. For essentially free.


  1. Anonymous11:16 am

    The research element is part of it, as are market items put up for sale by inactive characters. In the latter those items still generate ISK for the inactive player.

    It's feasible that nixing either or both could result in an unintended consequence. What if, hypothetically, characters doing ghost research are effectively removed (ie having their research halted while inactive)? Those same players are probably either power-manufacturers or alts for big players in the industrial complex.

    If the "problem" is truly wide-spread and the players gaming the system are removed it could have a measurable inflationary effect on the in-game economy.

    Suddenly those earning and utilizing datacores for invention to make T2 BPCs and then manufacturing items would be gone. The supply of modules and ships would dry up and market forces would take over, driving prices up.

    Seems like everybody's economy is -- at least in theory -- on shaky footing.

    The up-side, of course, is that the little guy (ie you and me) would make a pile more money taking advantage of a newly created market opportunity.

  2. I find it hard to believe that ghost training / researching characters are propping up the low prices of the current economy. I grant its a possibility but if true it should be rectified and the market allowed to self correct much like removing the NPC shuttles were removed to take the artifical cap off tritanium.

  3. I'm fairly amazed at the uproar about this change...gee, too bad the people who train and sell characters for ISK can't do it on the cheap anymore. I pay for--and play--both my accounts and am glad to do it. I get far more entertainment value out of EVE than the $25 I spend on it each month.

    If this change is going to affect the EVE economy, so be it. Call it a market "correction" of sorts. Let the chips fall where they may.

  4. I don't think that ghost researching/selling is nearly as abusive as ghost training. The main benefit to the first two is ISK, which can be freely bought in the form of GTCs. Training still takes time, no matter how you do it, and to get that time for no real world commitment cheapens the experience.

  5. Anonymous11:56 pm

    True, Ryan, but datacores bought for a fee are far more expensive then datacores scored on a daily rp gain on an inactive account.

    I don't have the math in front of me, but someone with an 8.0 standing in a corp hooked with a lvl 4 R&D agent will generate a lot more datacores for the every-other-month $14 fee then you could buy with a lone 60 day GTCs were the character also to utilize said cores for invention.

    That's one long-assed sentence.

    Then again I'm not an economist, much less a forensic accountant. I'm more than willing to admit I could be wrong.

    The idea, though, that a single relatively straight-forward single-issue decision on CCP's part could have a wider impact on the in-game economy intrigues me deeply.

  6. Anonymous11:59 pm


    Not to mention I just found this:

    What's the venture about?
    Using multiple new accounts I intend to harvest Datacores with R&D agents.

    Current status?
    I started a month and a half ago with seven new trial accounts. I completed the trial period (14 days) and set a Learning skill to train another 14 days. I took advantage of the Wingman offer at the time and when I activated the seven accounts with GTCs (~1B isk invested) I gained an additional 14 days with each account, Cergorach gained 7x14 days of free time. I've spent an additional 700M isk on skills and implants for these seven characters. Around the end of June the first characters on the accounts will have an almost optimal skill set for Datacore production, I'll then set Research Project Management to train to level 5 when the subscription time runs out (not a very effective way to spend time, but it's effectively free). It'll take 40 days to train, after that the accounts will be activated with 30 day GTCs to train the 2nd character on the accounts. The intervening time will generate roughly 75% of the required isk for the 30 day GTC.

    I'm currently raising the standing of the seven characters. I miscalculated a bit how corp standing works with new characters, I expect to run an additional 10% mission to compensate.

    Where did all the money come from?
    I traded a LOT of Mechanical Datacores and was able to dominate the market in Jita for a couple of weeks, that made me a decent amount of money. Since then I've moved away from Jita, as the market PvP is moderately time consuming and I currently don't really have the time to spend on it.

    The future?
    It's going pretty decent so far, and with my trading I'm getting a decent amount of income. If all goes well I expect to create another batch of characters at the beginning of July.

    Sounds like someone thought of this before me.