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I've been playing MMORPGs since EQ released, and I've played most of the biggies along the way and been a huge fan of the genre.
For the majority of this ride, there have been several things that have clearly been cheating. Client-side hacks like teleport hacks or speed hacks, for example. Real money trading (RMT) for another.
Along the way the quality of MMORPGs has kind of slid into the toilet and so many games either end up F2P or start of F2P and switch to using pay 2 win cash shops to continue to make money. Sometimes part of that pay 2 win cash shop involves selling in-game currency for cash - which means the company is now the RMT provider and cheating is now part of the game. You get what you pay for. And somebody IS paying in F2P, you either "pay" by playing a crappy game or you buy a lot of game data for cash that you'd spend time earning in real games.
Players have pretty much come to expect pay 2 win in cash shops and even cash for game currency isn't really a big deal in F2P games anymore. We expect sleaze in F2P MMORPGs, we get sleaze in MMORPGs.
So then, what happens when games like EVE have plex? Now, I don't consider EVE to be an MMORPG the same way that EQ, or WoW, or FFXIV are MMORPGs. It's massive. It has subs. It's online. But it's not exactly the same style of game for gameplay or overall flow. So....the fact that plex is basically cash for currency doesn't much matter to me in that game.
Maybe it's because I'm older and not part of the steal everything that isn't being guarded by someone with an assault rifle generation that I've often heard, and believe that just because someone else does something bad/illegal/whatever doesn't mean it's ok to do a bad/illegal/whatever thing. So to me, the fact that EVE, a game I don't play and don't care about, allows players to pay 2 win with cash, doesn't mean that it's now OK in any other game that wants to include it.
To me, cheating is cheating. I'm not a jock but I used to play some sports, and played a lot of sports growing up, and played board games of all types, and card games, and then consoles (this is back in Atari 2600 times, before PCs were common), and eventually PC games. At no time in all of my sports or gaming life has cheating ever been acceptable.
And to me, RMT is cheating. As it has been in most MMORPGs since MMORPGs began. Paying cash for gold is just like using a console cheat code in a single player game - except the cheater is an even bigger loser because they're are PAYING to cheat (how dumb to you have to be?).
Another slippery slope shows up with a game like GW2. It had a premium box price at release ($60) but no sub. Buy to play. But GW2 also has a cash shop, with plenty of pay to win, and GW2 has the gem store, which is just a fancy way of saying you can turn cash into game gold. So basically you can do RMT in GW2 with ANet taking a cut instead of a chinese gold farmer, and you can pay 2 win. Back when I quit GW2 there was a bunch of uber weapons you could craft, if you grinded your everloving butt off to get the bazillion materials needed. There was no way I was doing that. Zero. But, since those items could be sold in the auction house, anybody could get one if they could come up with the insane amount of gold. Not so insane if you're willing to dump a bunch of cash into the game for the ultimate in pay 2 win.
To me it pretty much ruins the game and diminishes your accomplishments - thus the entire point of playing - when people can just buy their way thru the game with cash.
Now with GW2, since it's not a sub based game, and since it has a cash shop like a F2P, and since it involves pay 2 win via cash shop no matter how you slice it, I think players again accept it somewhat because the game is somewhat F2P. Players expect there to be some lameness involved when there's a cash shop. As with EVE, I also don't consider GW2 to be an MMORPG along the lines of more typical MMORPGs, because it's more of a single player game that happens to be online. You don't really do classic grouping things, you more share spaces with other soloists and call it a group - sometimes. So again, since nobody I know who actually LIKES more typical MMORPG gameplay could stomach GW2 for very long - I don't care if people cheat and pay cash for gold in GW2.
And again - just because some game allows cash for gold and pay 2 win doesn't mean it's something that we should tolerate or expect in all games.
Now we come to where I really have a problem with where this trend is going. WildStar. WildStar terms itself as a "premium game" and it does have a premium box price of $60, and it has a monthly $15 sub. It has all the typical elements of a more typical MMORPG (even if it's in the modern suck style of too much solo idiot mode and pointless instanced PvP).
I like sub-based MMORPGs for a couple of reasons. For one, I don't mind paying for some of the least expensive entertainment I can find IF it's worth the sub. Obviously many MMORPGs end up not being worth a sub - mostly the newer ones, because no single player game is worth a sub and they just fail to deliver on the whole MMORPG thing.
But more importantly, I don't like pay 2 win. I don't like cheating. I don't like CHEATERS or people who willingly pay 2 win (because they're incapable or unwilling to actually play...yeah...not a fan of lazy and/or incompetent). A major benefit of sub-based games is that we all pay the same amount to play. Period. Level playing field. We all have the exact same ceiling for success, and the same potential for success, and it's only limited by how we play the game.
IMO, as soon as you allow cash to be a part of the equation, aka cheating, you distort the playing field and the balance. Now it's not just how you play, but it's also how much you're willing to play. Maybe you're too lazy to gather crafting mats and buy them with cash, or can't be bothered to play the game to get enough gold to decorate barbie's dream house, or you blew all your coin and can't afford your mount now. Whatever it is, if you solve that problem by throwing cash at the game, by cheating, you're ruining the game.
So my problem with WildStar is CREDD. CREDD is a system where you can pay your sub with cash, or you can buy a CREDD token that "stands" for a sub for more than the normal cost of a sub and use that for your sub - if you're an idiot. More likely you use that CREDD token in the game, where you can list it on the commodity exchange (WildStar's 2nd Auction House - ie, player economy), and sell it for gold in the game. Some other player with extra gold can buy your CREDD token and use it for their sub, avoiding spending their cash. Either way, the sub is paid - Carbine isn't giving our free gameplay (but they kind of market it that way).
And the bottom line is that the person who buys the CREDD for cash and sells it in game for gold is ultimately paying cash to get gold. Which is RMT in most games, except here Carbine is the RMT. And in most games it's bannable cheating. But now, with the evolution of sleaze in MMORPGs, it's acceptable?
So how did we get to this point? Where what was bannable cheating a few years ago is now a game feature? And players don't care? And the gaming press doesn't care?
People are people, they come up with all kinds of justifcations for doing lame things. People will give you all kinds of reasons why it's ok to steal intellecual property online - when the main reason they do it is BECAUSE THEY can (with little far of getting caught and punished; those same people most likely do not shoplift all of their groceries or gun down everyone they disagree with since they'd be caught and punished).
People come up with lots of lame justifications for why it's now ok to cheat in MMORPGs, like how you can cheat via CREDD in WildStar.
I've seen people write that it's ok because EVE has Plex. Pretty thin.
People will say it's not really cheating. Um. No. It's cheating. If you dose with banned substances and compete in sports it's cheating. If you use a console command to give yourself piles of gold, resources, units, whatever in a single player game it's cheating - that's why they call them CHEAT CODES. The basic idea is that when you use external means to get ahead in an otherwise closed system, you are cheating. So using cash to buy game data in games that have virtual economies is cheating. That's why it's been a bannable offense thru MMORPG history and something companies aggressively go after. It undermines a game or sport when cheating is going on.
So I don't really buy the reasons people have for saying that companies selling gold for cash in so-called premium games is ok. Maybe it's tolerable in F2P garbage - if you play F2P garbage. You pretty much have to expect cheating in games that lie about being free (since, derp, nobody is making million dollar games for free, SOMEONE is paying, F2P is about higher profit margins for the bean counters, not about doing anything good for players or quality of game). But when a game bills itself as premium, when a game has a sub, when a game is theoretically as good as it can get for integrity in this currently lame MMORPG genre, isn't it a bit much for that so-called premium game to have some of the most blatant cheating built right in to it?
I guess I'm just wierd. It's really odd to me that this isn't huge news for the gaming sites. But then, it's not like many gaming sites actually DO news these days, they're mostly just paid review and paid advertising/hype sites for the big name games. It's pretty sad.
Premium MMORPGs do not feature built-in cheating via cash for gold pay 2 win. PLAY to win or don't play.