Why Dust for PC and a F2P EVE are more likely than you thinkChance Ravinne
The following article is completely speculative, uninformed by insider information, financial data, or common sense. Reader discretion is advised.
Imagine a future where CCP’s vision for “EVE Forever” has become a reality. Players across EVE Online, Dust514/Legion (hereafter Dust), and Valkyrie share gaming experiences in one universe, on one account, and on one platform – PC.
It’s a beautiful vision, one that’s been alluded to, teased at, and even previewed in trailers as recently as 2014.
Yet the complete silence of CCP regarding its intentions to #portDust514 has kept this dream elusive. And worse, there are many other issues that stand in the way. Monetization discrepancies, player progress, skill point gaps, and the EVE economy all create barriers to the One Universe, One War paradigm.
But as I mentally combed through the laundry list of pitfalls and problems with making a shared EVE universe a reality, I began to realize that almost all of those problems were solved by the introduction of the TNSP – the transneural skill packet. In fact, skill point trading solved so many of these hypothetical issues I began to wonder if perhaps it wasn’t by coincidence… it was by design?
Wait what? You can trade skill points?!
If you haven’t been paying attention lately, TNSPs are a proposed new item that would allow the direct trading of 500k skill points from one
capsuleer character to another. They’re highly controversial (I’m not a fan… unless they make this crazy fan theory a reality), but they also have some unique properties that sparked the insane ideas to follow.
- Skill points are extracted and injected in a free, unallocated state
- TNSPs can be bought and sold on the open EVE market
- TNSPs allow SP gain outside of the normal subscription model
- TNSPs allow lower SP characters to “catch up” to higher SP characters
Perhaps you can already see where I’m going. But if not, let’s take a look at several design barriers that stand in the way of an integrated EVE Universe, and see exactly how the TNSP solves them.
How TNSPs Solve Dust’s Progression Problem
If you’ve never played Dust, you’re probably wholly ignorant of how mercs on the ground earn their skillpoints. Unlike EVE Online players who gain SP via PLEX or subscription (and boost learning rates with attribute implants), Dust players earn passive SP absolutely free. On top of that, they gain active SP for, well, first-person-shooting things (killing people and completing missions). They can also bolster their training rate with stackable learning boosters (which cost Aurum).
Directly porting this system into a persistent EVE Universe would be problematic, to say the least. Suddenly you have two hugely different progression and monetization schema on the same platform. It would be confusing, unintuitive, and needlessly complicated.
Solution: Remove Dust’s passive SP gain and boosters, and introduce TNSP trading.
Suddenly, the system makes a lot more sense. Dust mercs can still progress by doing what they do best – putting bullets into people – but if they want to speed up their learning, they’ll have to buy TNSPs from capsuleers… or other mercenaries. Likewise, new Dusties with more time than ISK could grind out matches and cash out their active SP gains for in-game cash by extracting SP and selling it on a unified EVE market.
You can already see how the introduction of Dust on PC, in tandem with skill point trading, would spark massive demand for TNSPs… and generate massive revenue for CCP. EVE players previously predicted TNSP demand would fall off after an initial market flood. But with the potential of unlimited F2P Dustbunnies hurting for skill points, there’s no telling how many buyers there would be.
A unified EVE/Dust TNSP market would also solve a few other issues for CCP:
- CCP could directly port PS3 characters to PC and appease faithful Dust players
- EVE-to-Dust converts concerned that PS3 players would have a huge SP advantage with ported-over characters now have the option to buy skill points and catch up
- The entire NPC-driven nature of the Dust economy could be reworked since Dust players could now generate something of value to capsuleers – skill points
- EVE players will play Dust (regardless of final port quality) to earn SP for free (via active SP gains) and trade/sell it for ISK gains
- A subscription is still not necessary for Dust to be financially viable
These advantages are, in my opinion, so significant that they must have occurred to someone at CCP at some point or another. This system would allow the company to port Dust with a nearly guaranteed install base of SP-greedy capsuleers while placating the now-restless (but still hopeful) PS3 community. And the company gets to make shitloads of Aurum-fueled cash. It’s win-win-win.
Hell, if CCP wanted they could then add the option of a subscription to Dust, which would reinstate the game’s theoretically axed passive SP progression. Dust mercs could cut down on grind with cash, or perhaps even buy PLEX off the shared marketplace, but they would’ve have to pay to play. Which brings us to the next topic…
This is how EVE could go free to play
So we’ve established it’s possible and potentially profitable to allow PC Dust mercs to play for free. They can shoot all the people they’d like, advancing more quickly via TNSP, PLEX, or a subscription.
So… why couldn’t that optional F2P model apply to EVE Online?
The answer is that, with the magic of TNSPs, the model most certainly can apply to EVE. All CCP would have to do is make the EVE trial permanent and rename it as some kind of entry-level account tier. The company could announce “EVE IS NOW FREE” to the gaming public, and dance with glee as millions of new accounts opened overnight.
There would, of course, have to be one major restriction on free accounts:
An account without active game time cannot be launched simultaneously with other accounts.
This caveat would prevent rampant alt abuse, or at least mitigate it to some degree. It would also maintain a real demand for PLEX and account subscriptions (though the generation of SP for market sale would also do that).
With no way to multibox and no means to gain SP passively, F2P EVE players would be enticed to subscribe or purchase TNSP from other capsuleers and mercenaries. What does this all mean for CCP?
- Massive influx of players to the shared EVE universe
- Exponentially higher number of gamers exposed to EVE Online
- Large revenue potential via TNSP versus manageable server load increases
- Greater content generation on the ground and in the skies via F2P players
- Increased social marketing via F2P EVE and Dust streaming
- Impressive advertising talking points of substantially high player counts
- The realization of their glorious shared EVE universe!
Jesus, even if CCP was in no way planning to take this insane course of action, I’m starting to believe that maybe, just maybe… they should?
But wait, there’s more!
To ramp speculation up even further, this entire theory works without the introduction of Valkyrie. We know from previous CCP statements that Valkyrie isn’t planned to have gameplay interaction with EVE or Dust at launch. But you can now see that with the commoditization of skill points, it’s possible to tie nearly any EVE property into the shared economy.
Even without any real gunplay between Valkyrie pilots and EVE Online’s drones and fighters, there’s no reason Valkyrie characters couldn’t buy and sell their SP on the same market as capsuleers and mercenaries.
This move would create a semi-stable long-term monetization plan for Valkyrie without having to test a solution from the ground up. And if/when CCP ever does find a way to integrate Valkyrie gameplay with that of EVE and Dust, they’ll have already established meaningful trade between these player bases.
Fuck it; let Gunjack players buy and sell SP. That way CCP could profit off you while you’re making a fool out of yourself during your train commute into the city!
Better rack up those skill points…
As I stated at the beginning of the article, this is all purely speculation. And yet, so many pieces align so conveniently, I can’t help but wonder if there’s a grain of truth in it somewhere.
We won’t know until/unless Dust is actually announced for PC. Hell, we probably won’t know until way after that point, when the final port is nearing launch.
But in the odd, remote, and hugely unlikely chance some of this becomes a reality…
…I told you so.