Ship SKINs

(Feature image by T’amber) Breaking news! You can SKIN any ship with any ship SKIN. A lot of people have been enjoying the bug, and have been getting much more out of spaceship dress up than one might think. Some people are running around Jita; others are just ship spinning. Many people have made very good looking screenshots. Personally, I’m looking forward to color coordinated fleets before the nerf. Enjoy it while it lasts though, because CCP is going to patch the bug as soon as possible. This bug is particularly amazing, because it proves how much variability the SKIN system has, and how gimped the version CCP is selling. It leads me to believe, maybe CCP has made the wrong call in how they go about microtransactions. The normal argument is that microtransactions are okay when they do not change gameplay; it is okay to pay for a subscription and add microtransactions on top when it’s just for vanity items. This would be an incomplete assessment. EVE is a game and exists because games make players “happy” for lack of a better word. We do not play EVE because we need to win fleet fights to put bread on the table. Games provide challenges, entertainment, diversion, etc. Winning makes people happy while losing can create other emotions. Still, an adrenaline rush from an EVE fight is sweet indeed. Claiming that there is a substantive difference for the paying player between pay-to-win, and paying for vanity misses the point entirely. In both cases, the player is paying for something that will make them happier. Pay-to-win is worse because of its effects on other players. Losing because of an unfair advantage that their opponent received by paying money to the game company makes people really unhappy. Pay-to-win disabuses anyone of the idea that a game might have sportsmanship. It lays open the lie that a game provides legitimate challenge or requires real skill. Take chess as an example of a legitimate game with incredible prestige—you cannot pay-to-win chess. Nor can you pay-to-win Starcraft or League of Legends. Pay-to-win makes a game more miserable for the losers, but it also makes winner’s victories hollow. Pay-to-win undermines the very happiness it proposes to create. CCP reasonably avoided pay-to-win. The problem is that I think they are badly off course with paying for vanity items. EVE is a subscription game. Subscribers have some right to content, whether that content makes them win, or that content simply makes them happy. This right is of course negotiable. As long as CCP does not lie about their intentions, they can theoretically do whatever they want as a business. They could charge a subscription, charge for vanity items, and also charge people for pay-to-win schemes. It would be within their rights. It would also be within our rights as customers to stop paying CCP if they made that kind of terrible decision. The reality is that businesses and customers cooperate and come up with mutually agreeable social contracts. The question of ‘who gets the better deal?’ comes down to who holds power. Supply and demand, trust, and market conditions are the factors to consider.

Y15sWp1 Image by miguidotcom on reddit

Right now, CCP does not hold a strong hand. In all likelihood, subscriptions are down from the 2013 peak. Certainly concurrent user counts are down. Have fun looking at some statistics here. Then answer me this: Would EVE be better served by hunting whale wallets, or increasing the quality of life for all subscribers? CCP does not seem to have learned from Monoclegate. They still overcharge like crazy for vanity items. This bug has made it blatantly obvious with regard to ship SKINs. Other games’ vanity items do not cost nearly as much for what they give. Other games’ vanity items take more effort to make than changing RGB values. They also have more visibility. For example last year I spent 20 USD on a League of Legends SKIN that turned my demon zergling thing into a missile spewing robot. Everyone saw it. Everyone commented on it. It was an entirely different character model with entirely new animations than the base character. Twenty USD would not buy some of the T1 frigate SKINs. Somehow, I do not think the brown Merlin or whatever is as cool as the missile robot. My suggestions would be: Drastically reduce the cost of SKINs for smaller ships so that people see them as a fun addition to the game, rather than seeing it as a cynical attempt to squeeze money out of the remaining userbase. Make SKINs more responsive to players by increasing their options with regard to what they can apply them to. Pick at least one or the other. Keep the SKINs at the current cost and let them apply to a wide selection of ships, or reduce the cost of each individual ship skin. Players would most like to buy into a color scheme that they can apply across the ships they fly. Any given player is going to switch ships a lot over their EVE career. Let them take their hat along for the ride.  For bigger ships, keep the cost. A couple billion ISK for the glory of a SKIN is a good deal for a super or titan pilot looking to display his wealth. Just give them more options, and open up the number of different color schemes that are available. Make good content, and have people subscribe for that content. Keep the Aurum profits, but let that be a side thing rather than the main event. Every SKIN does not need to go on every ship. I can attest to some of the gold plated things being monstrosities. Avoiding that is okay. Maybe SKINs should only work on a given race. Whatever CCP does, they need to get the art director to (wo)man up and stop worrying that the EVE aesthetic will be ruined. The fact of the matter is, fleet fights look like purple boxes fighting red boxes over spreadsheets. That ship has sailed long ago. Compared to the purple box spreadsheet war, a neon pink Thorax is an improvement. Sure, we can do without the neon pink Thorax if they insist. Keep the SKINs as corporation style color themes, and don’t make a neon pink corporation. CCP’s art department have a legitimate worry that variants of the same hull will not be distinguishable if SKINs can be applied to them. In a visual inspection of an Ishtar and a Vexor with the same SKIN they will look the same. This would be a much bigger problem if the overview was not the main way of differentiating ships. Fixing this by changing the actual model of each type of ship so that each ship has a slightly different silhouette would make sense. It would also help the color blind. There have also been arguments over whether inappropriate SKINs would really cause lag. The consensus seems to be that loading the textures should not cause lag, but certain lighting issues might be difficult. Taking these points together, it seems reasonable to let CCP have time to work on the system. I don’t know CCP’s financial details and I am not an expert on microtransactions. It might turn out that my suggestions would not make CCP the largest possible amount of money. They are a for profit business; I am interested in keeping EVE healthy. We are going to have different interests at heart sometimes. The thing is, I thought CCP and I were on the same page with regard to how players get treated. CCP wants EVE to do well because even they have decided that long term loyal recurring subscriptions make more money than cash grabs. Not to mention the fact that whales need commoners to swim amongst. True EVE whales already exist. They buy stacks of plexes so they can fly supers, subscribe multiple accounts, buy characters, and make ALOD wrecks. There are also the people who buy sweet EVE branded items, models, and collectibles. An aesthetically minded whale is going to look at the current selection of SKINs for EVE ships the way CCP intends it, and be disgusted. The peacock whale is going to be annoyed by the fact that he cannot paint his Thorax pink. I have seen some super pilots buy SKINs at huge expense, but even they are going to be disillusioned by the lack of choice after the bug goes away. We should all be on the same page. CCP, make SKINs better by not making them worse.   Read this week’s CZ Minutes on the subject of SKINs.
Tags: microtransactions, Mukk, SKIN

About the author

Mukk Barovian

Mukk is a long time skirmish FC with a penchant for overpropping his ships.