Nefarious Payment Schemes

There has been much angst recently over what we might can call “Lockbox Syndrome” among F2P titles lately.   Everquest II has jumped on the bandwagon.  There are clearly moral, if not legal, evils at work in the Syndrome.  And unless the sample size for the stats wasn’t big enough, the investment cost for the end game prize in such a scheme is fairly daunting.  I don’t disagree with any of that.  I’m not a fan of lockboxes or prize wheels or anything else that takes me back to that horrific childhood moment at Showbiz Pizza or the local arcade where I came flush from victory at the SkeeBall lanes to the prize counter…only to realize that my cash and hard work had combined to buy me a few plastic army men.
7000 tickets? Yeah, you can get any thing from those first 3 boxes on the top left.

But there is a scheme that is even more nefarious than that.  Even worse, its used not just by Free To Play games, but full bore Subscription games too.

It requires deep investment by the players.  So deep that it can often lead to those life problems that have been tied time and again to gambling, including throwing around that “A” word – addiction.

It is random, and sometimes you get nothing out of it.  You can save up your investment and go all in if you want to, but even volume investments may not net you any results.  That end game prize will continue to elude you.

Likewise, it is in the best interest of an MMO to have this scheme in place, because it nets them money and subscriptions.  Yep, that’s right, when the game is working off a subscription model, players have no way to say no to this scheme.  It is built into the game, and they are being charged for it whether they intend to participate or not. It takes chunks of developer time and energy in updates, and is a money generating hamster wheel.

Even worse, players that do not want to participate will be at a disadvantage in their stats and ability to engage in some of the games activities!  Its the most disgusting form of “Pay to Win” around, but nobody to date has had the guts to blow the whistle on it.

Well I do.  So lets just get it out in the open:  where is the angst and rage and protest around hardcore endgame raiding?  You know, the kind that requires hours of investment so that you can get a chance at winning a piece of gear that will make your character measurably better.  The kind that many players will never see and may or may not have interest in participating in.   The kind that provides the best of the best in the game, with no other possible way to get those same prizes or ones that are comparable to them for their game time?   The kind that brings out the worst in people – causing fights, racial and ethnic slurs, discrimination, and generally turns the part of the population involved into either a cesspool of brats or a flock of arrogant twits?

Where’s the angst over that?  Because compared to that, if Perfect World or Sony or whoever the hell else wants to sell lockboxes at a $1 a pop for items that aren’t any better than similar items already in the game that you can attain for free, and that I can choose not to pay for, I’m not sure what the problem is.

Upgrading My Ride

So I upgraded my ride yesterday, both virtually, and in real life.


In real life, I traded in my van, in its seventh year of life, and replaced it with something a little smaller and sportier.


What, you were expecting a Corvette?


Yeah, I’m still a family guy, and even though we now have a different family car to serve our travel needs, that didn’t mean our second car was going to be a speed demon. Still, the Suzuki is wildly underrated. Which is just fine with me, because that means its also wildly underpriced, especially in the slightly used market, which where I picked this one up at.


However, that does not mean I am bound by the same restrictions in my virtual life, now does it? I haven’t checked into STO in awhile, but I knew that some new ships were on the horizon for this Season, and my patience paid off. And, quite frankly, Cryptic/Perfect World delivered in spades. Behold the new Heavy Escort Carrier (HEC), the Armitage Class.


The latest Frontier Aggressive Negotiation Vessel.



Now, high praise needs to be given. From the launch of STO, a great deal of grumbling went on in the community that the deeply popular Akira class was only a tier two ship. The upside was that you could get into one fairly early on. The downside was that it was impossibly outmatched at endgame, and thus could not be your sweet ride for life. So kudos for finally stepping up and putting it alongside the other canonical ship retrofits for endgame awesome.


But double kudos because Cryptic actually called up the original designer of the Akira, Alex Jaeger, and talked to him about the intentions of his design. And, as most fans know, Alex had always planned for the Akira to be a warship, either a carrier or a heavy missile boat. Either way, it was supposed to be big, bad, and nasty. We got to see a few moments of them in action during First Contact/DS9, but on the whole they have gone criminally neglected in the IP.


So Cryptic saw this as a great opportunity to bring Alex’s vision to life. They worked with him to come up with a new exterior design, taking design cues from the Akira as well as their own next generation ships. And they gave it a hangar bay, so that it could in fact be a little bit of a carrier. But the final part was a little tricky for game balance reasons – how do you make it a missile boat? Well the solution was in the special console. Technically its a point defense system; in reality, its a special ability that launches torpedoes at the six closest enemies. It has a high cooldown (3 minutes), but when paired with your actual torp weapons, provides a nice DPS boost, as well as the cool factor of filling the space in a 360 arc around your vessel with lots of shiny red torps.


Now, the best thing about ships in STO is the ship configurator/customizer. So not only can you make that new Heavy Escort Carrier look like the new design, you can make it look like the original Akira if you are feeling nostalgic, or even mix and match, as creative types like me are want to do. So in the end, I’d like to show you my other new ride.


Meet the U.S.S Ranger


And since I don’t play around, my HEC has not one, not two, but three sets of Dual Heavy Cannons, of the plasma variety, because plasma fire. If you survived the first pass, I’m sure my rear-facing torp tubes and the Peregrine class fighters will finish the job.


Bonus pro-tip:  All STO ships except the HEC are on sale for 20% off through July 2nd.  Go get some.