EVE Online creates exotic financial instrument to combat gold-farming

EVE Online is trying to combat gold-farming (working on repetitive in-game tasks to amass wealth and levels that can be sold to wealthy, time-poor players) by tinkering with its monetary supply, creating a special instrument call the PLEX that entitles a player to an extra 30 days' playtime.

The idea is that the cash-trading will at least take place among "real" players as opposed to those who join up merely to farm (I suspect "real" is a synonym for "rich" in this case, or at least "first world").

The other half of the CCP Games offensive against RMT is the 30 Day Pilot License Extension, typically referred to as "PLEX."

A PLEX is essentially an in-game item that represents 30 days of game time. They can be traded or given to other players, bought and resold. Once an EVE Online player has a PLEX in his or her possession, all they need to do is right click and credit those 30 days to their account.

The principle behind this is what's already been established by some of the free-to-play games on the market. Those with disposable cash in real life but who are short on time can buy game time codes and convert them into PLEX, so they have ISK to spend in-game. (One game time code = two PLEX.) When they sell PLEX on the market in EVE, that's money that players injected into the game that didn't go into the wallets of aklfjalkfjd and his merry band of ISK farmers.

Likewise, players who have more time to rack up the ISK through gameplay can buy PLEX in-game on the market, and play for another month without having to pay a subscription fee.

The fight against RMT in EVE Online

the way of the plex

(via /.)


  1. This is interesting. In one sense, players ARE paying real cash money for their space-gold (ISK) through this system. But, they’re paying it to the company running EVE Online, not to the gold farmers.

    And the EVE guys aren’t just pushing the “make ISK” button in exchange for money, some other player is burning the time to farm it.

    The economic balance in EVE in some ways is more fragile than in other games simply because the developers have tried very hard to keep it as “authentic” as possible. Warcraft (and most other MMOs) have a system where infinite money and resources are generated whole-cloth by the computer; NPCs always buy items at a fixed price, and always sell items at a fixed price, so anything provided by NPCs or purchased by NPCs is price fixed. The Auction House is of course completely volatile, but the NPC purchase price (and where available, sell price) tend to provide a soft ceiling or floor on prices.

    EVE has a much more realistic system, with few places where NPCs just “spawn” resources; I bet the economy would be much more sensitive to the devs setting up a “swipe credit card here for ISK” system.

  2. Yeah, this doesn’t seem all that exotic to me – basically CCP is legalizing RMT. They’ve concluded they can never effectively “combat” RMTers, so “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” They’re simply using their position to dominate the profitable business for themselves.

    Sort of like when some US states ended prohibition by allowing alcohol to be sold only through government-owned and operated liquor stores. Or maybe i made that up, but it sounds familiar.

  3. Or you could, you know, just get rid of the parts of your game that aren’t fun so there isn’t a temptation to pay other people to play it for you.

  4. @ZIKZAK They’ve actually only implemented half the RMT transaction.

    Their system is only set up to allow real money to flow in to CCP – you can never take the virtual money out.

    So, in that regard, they’ve only addressed half the problem. RMT still thrives in EVE because there are folks wanting to leave the game who want to cash out, and of course there are Chinese virtual sweatshops doing virtual farming in game. (Interestingly there’s a group set up just to hunt those folks called UCAM – United Coalition Against Macros.) All the gold farmers need do to remain viable is to undercut whatever the CCP sanctioned thing is worth.

  5. EVE has a much more realistic system, with few places where NPCs just “spawn” resources;

    Meh. When you play missions for NPC agents in Eve, they just “spawn” the reward money, increasing the in-game money supply. NPC corporations don’t have a bank account. They do not need to make profit before they can afford to hire you.

    Not that the real world is any better, considering that all real money is borrowed from the central bank, or more likely, just a virtual artifact of fractional reserve banking.

  6. Three Rings Design has done the same for years with the doubloon system for Puzzle Pirates. You buy doubloons from them and trade those doubloons for in-game services or for pieces of eight earned by other players.

    @Sheetzam, #4 – they’ve also tried implementing the other half, with the ability to cash out, on Whirled, their game portal/chat room/meeting space.

  7. This *is* interesting. The company isn’t selling any virtual assets. From their point of view, 1 player x 1 month = 1 PLEX. If I buy a plex and trade it to you, they don’t make any more or less money.

    This might give parents an incentive to stop just buying their kids accounts. Now kids can earn their playtime themselves — by playing and exchanging their in-game assets for more playtime.

    I agree this won’t make much of a difference in RMT, for the reasons pointed out in other comments. …but it might draw a bunch of new players into the game or keep players playing that would otherwise quit. In that sense it’s brilliant.

  8. This might give parents an incentive to stop just buying their kids accounts. Now kids can earn their playtime themselves — by playing and exchanging their in-game assets for more playtime.

    Why would I want my kid to be required to play more every month just to earn the next month’s playtime?

  9. Funny web-RPG Kingdom Of Loathing kinda does this.

    You can legit-RMT-buy a game item called a Mr Accessory, which can either be redeemed directly for special items (including a limited special Item Of The Month), or traded for in-game currency (Meat) with other players. The “Mr A” itself doesn’t do anything – it’s a trade-currency device like this PLEX.

    This works pretty well – the special items are fun and novel but not necessary to play the game, and as the game itself is otherwise free to play it works nicely as an extended donation-reward mechanic.

  10. @7: There is no way a “normal” user would be able to earn the amount of ingame money needed to buy the PLEXs.

    In EVE, the process of leveling one’s character up is not by grinding or doing special quests or anything like that – you buy so-called “skillbooks”, use them on your character and after a certain amount of real time (around 45-50 minutes for a starter’s skill and up to several months for advanced skills), the training automatically finishes and the character has learned that skill.

    This means that you can’t just create a character, grind it WoW-like to level 70 and start earning buckets full of money. Instead, it takes time and careful planning to create a powerful character.

    One unit of PLEX is about 330 million ISK (thats the ingame currency). To put that into perspective: A balanced two-month old character earns about 100.000 to 250.000 ISK per mission, each of those missions takes between 45 minutes to one hour and a half to complete. You have to play a LOT to finance your PLEXs with ingame currency alone.

    It’s complicated even with veteran characters – if you really want to earn that much ingame money, you actually need to acquire a deep understanding of the ingame market mechanics – and that takes a lot of time, too.

    So I don’t this “the kids earn their play time by playing” thing will work out.

  11. I apologize in advance if anyone else addressed this in the comments.

    To quote:
    “The idea is that the cash-trading will at least take place among “real” players as opposed to those who join up merely to farm (I suspect “real” is a synonym for “rich” in this case, or at least “first world”).”

    If you were to make a Venn diagram of first-world players and players who are playing purely for fun, enjoyment and as a hobby, you would probably find that those two groups overlap almost all the time. But when players, developers and critics of MMO games talk about “real players”, I’m very sure they mean the second group. I thought it was inaccurate of the original poster to make a first-world/third-world issue out of a term that is very useful in describing the different approaches of two sets of players: one who plays because they like the game, and the other who plays to repeat actions not for enjoyment, but for real-life profit. The intended purpose of MMO games is for people to play them and like them. The players who do that are the “real players” and the ones that developers want to stop from unbalancing the in-game markets are not “real players”. The issue of these “cash/gold/whatever farmers” in MMOs also being from third world countries isn’t part of their classification and I think it isn’t taken into consideration when people think of them in these terms.

  12. As a long time player I have a few comments.

    #2 zikzak:
    The problem with RMT is that 90% of them use stolen credit cards to pay for there account. This causes not only a charge back to CCP for the account subscribers. The other side is it is against the EULA and people who buy ISK from the RMT end up having there accounts banned or the bought ISK confiscated. This causes vast unhappiness.

    #10 denkbert:
    You are correct a 2 month old character can’t make the 300m But a 1 year old character can easily. I manufacture Freighters in the game. I produce 4 every 11 days and make about 100m profit for each. So after 30 days I make on average about 1,000 million ISK. Subtract 300 million ISK for a plex and I am playing for free.

    When I had a younger character I purchased plex(called Game time codes them) and sold them to get the ISK for my manufacturing start up.

    So yes once you are established in EVE it is possible to play to pay your account.

  13. That two-month old character can also greatly increase his/her income by salvagin the wrecks of the NPCs he kills and in other ways. Running missions isn’t the only option.

  14. @#10: I have a 1 year old character and I’ve been buying PLEX monthly since April. It only takes 10-15M ISK/day, which amounts to 1-2 level 4 missions and some profitable manufacturing. Not an option for a 2 month old character, no, but I could have done it at 6 months.

  15. It is easy for a player to get to the point they can earn a PLEX a month through mining. Using EveMon, I find it is easily possible to get into a Retriever in 11 days or less, which will mine nearly 2M ISK an hour with basic skills to run it. Training for a Hulk takes about a month and a half – at which point you spend 2-3 hours a day mining and there is your plex. It takes even LESS time as you work your mining-related skills higher. This is assuming you can’t get into a corp that does 0.0 mining and earn SERIOUS mining income.

    Then you can get serious about working on the skills to do mission running, which eventually generates a lot more ISK/Hour and is a lot less boring, but does take time to work your way up to being able to run a ship that can crunch through the lucrative missions.

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