Author Topic: Membership Benefits etc  (Read 974 times)

Offline Mangala

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Membership Benefits etc
« on: September 19, 2012, 02:52:51 PM »
http://forums.station.sony.com/ps2/index.php?threads/planetside-2-membership-plans-the-what-and-why.20604/

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Hey all -

Membership and what benefits paid players have access has been talked about quite a bit on the forums this weekend. We're still working out the exact details on our membership model, precisely what benefits it will grant, but I wanted to give everyone a bit of a preview of what we're thinking on giving to members and why we decided to give those things.

First, a quick aside about "pay-to-win"

Ever since we first started working on this project, we've been dedicated to the belief that Planetside 2 is and must be a legitimately competitive online gaming experience. A large part of being legitimately competitive is confidence that the game is 'fair', for free-to-play games this typically boils down to the question of: "is it pay-to-win?"

As much as I want to give you the definitive answer that Planetside 2 is NOT pay-to-win, it turns out it's actually a fairly personal question and people define what exactly pay-to-win is in their own way. The viewpoints cover the spectrum from people who will opine that any advantage that paying players get at all is pay-to-win, to others who don't even see a problem when you can pay a dollar to instantly blow up someone's tank. Rather than try to convince YOU that Planetside 2 isn't pay-to-win, I want to talk about why I'm convinced it's not, and then talk about why we've made the decisions we have, for membership and microtransactions while being constantly mindful of the goal of creating a "legitimately competitive" experience.

In Planetside 2 we don’t restrict your character from any type of gameplay based on paying money. No weapon, vehicle, attachment, continent, class or certification is unavailable to you as a free player. Everything and anything that can affect gameplay is available to unlock through gameplay. This is a big deal. It would be extremely easy for us to make tanks and aircraft restricted to members only, it would be very easy for us to sell exclusive guns on the marketplace for Station Cash. We wouldn’t do those things because we have a commitment to ensuring that the game remains legitimately competitive.

Another thing that I believe keeps us pretty firmly in the “not pay-to-win” column is the way characters in Planetside 2 advance. Unlocking a new weapon or ability in the game should never make you straight up more powerful. Rather, a new unlock should give you access to a new gameplay style which has trade-offs. This is the concept of sidegrades, if I spend Auraxium to unlock a Skyguard turret for my Lightning, hell yea it makes me a lot more powerful vs. airplanes, but it makes me a lot less powerful vs. tanks. That’s not a power advantage, it’s a playstyle shift, and each and every thing you unlock in the game should offer similar choices to the player, rather than a undeniable upgrade. This is admittedly not exactly the case in the game right now (a notable example is unlocking secondary weapons for aircraft, these undeniably grant a significant power advantage currently), but we’re working on making this the case in as many areas as possible.

Yet another aspect of legitimately competitive is where you’re drawing the line when you define the competition. For me, when I say the game is competitive I meant that on a moment-to-moment basis your ability to compete with and kill my character is entirely based on our personal skill. I should never be able to acquire an item that makes it just straight-up easier to kill you, or makes it straight up harder for you to kill me. One exception would be for consumable items. Consumable items such as grenades, med kits, implants and even to some degree vehicles, do give a distinct power advantage in a moment-to-moment context – but, these items are available exclusive for resources which are exclusively earned in game.

Our goal is to make it so that any fight you have in the game with another player is entirely won or lost based on that player’s skill rather than how much money they’ve spent or how much time they’ve invested in the game. We want a player who is badass at shooters and has just jumped into Planetside 2 for the first time to kick *** at it without spending a dime, and they will, because the ultimate arbiter of your success or failure in the game is your own personal skills (be they driving, firing, teamwork, tactics, etc) and NOT which gun you bought. Now of course, if you walk into a room with a guy who has a kickass close quarters weapon out, and you’ve got an assault rifle that’s meant for long range engagements, he might crush you, but that is still skill in the form of choosing when and where to engage, it’s not an advantage that was bought or sold.

Okay, so “access to stuff” is out as paid benefit. So too is “more powerful stuff”. So what do we do to keep the team employed in these jobs we love creating games that hopefully you guys love too? There are two things that we are considering selling in the game: Cosmetics and Convenience. That’s it. Seriously.

Cosmetics are pretty self-explanatory, I think everyone “gets it” with cosmetics and won’t be too upset at buying camo patterns or decals for real money.

What about Convenience, what does that mean exactly?

For us, convenience is purely the act of unlocking something faster, whether that means through buying a side-grade weapon directly with a StationCash microtransaction or earning certification points faster due to a boost or membership. That leads us to the real topic of the thread (which will probably end up being shorter than this “aside”, go figure).

Planned membership benefits

As I mentioned before, none of these things are set in stone and we’re posting them now so that we can hear your feedback and adjust if needed. We’ve spent a lot of time trying to model a membership that gives great benefits but does not gate specific functionality or gameplay and allows the game to remain completely competitive. The current plan is to have membership affect your character advancement in three primary ways, each of which will additionally be accessible via a “boost implant” available to all players – yes, this does mean that players who are members will be able to double down on one area if they choose to.

1 – Passive Cert Growth. This is often mischaracterized (by myself as well) as “offline cert points”. It’s actually just passive cert gain that works if you are online or offline. With the current plan all players will gain cert points passively over time at a set rate. Members will get a faster rate. The current penciled in benefit for membership is 50% increase to the speed which passive cert points are granted. This does not affect cert points earned via experience.
2 – Automatic experience boost. Members will accrue experience at a 50% increased rate. This will affect “active” cert point gain, as well as battlerank gain.
3 – Automatic resource boost. Members will accrue resources at a 50% increased rate. This will affect the rate which you can acquire consumables like grenades, spawn beacons and med kits, as well as vehicles and Auraxium unlocks.

Additionally:
4 – Increased resource pool caps. As Auraxium is uncapped, this only affects Catalysts, Alloys and Polymers, it’s a 100% increase to those pool sizes. This allows you to spawn some additional vehicles, grenades and consumables if you have no resource income on the map before you’re tapped out.

5 - NEW: Members will receive priority slots in the login queue over non-members.


All of these benefits are intended to enhance the speed at which you can acquire things in the game. That’s it. They give a lot of convenience for the guy who either wants to unlock all the things immediately, or to the guy who has a few hours on the weekend to play but wants to be able to keep up with his lottery winning buddy who games 100 hours a week. What these benefits do not do is give the guy who spends money on this game some overwhelming advantage that a free player has no access to. Yes, members, players who purchase boosts, or directly purchase weapon side-grades from the store will be able to in many cases (although not all, since time played and skill still counts for a lot in cert and resource accumulation) unlock items or certifications faster than non-paying players. To us, the competition isn’t who unlocks all the weapons first, it’s who uses them most effectively, and that is entirely up to you.

We think this plan is fair. We think this allows us to sell a membership that will really benefit Planetside 2 players without compromising the core goal of keeping the game legitimately competitive. As always, we look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Thanks for reading!

-
mh

Edit: 9/18/12 - 2pm PDT

Lots of fantastic feedback and ideas in this thread, thanks as always. Addressing a few of the top questions / concerns / suggestions that I've seen so far.

New membership benefit suggestion: Members receive priority in the login queue. We will add this to the membership benefits.
New membership benefit suggestion: Members receive early access to some cosmetic customization. Like this idea and we'll see what would be involved in implementing it. Stay tuned.
Boost implant clarification: Most of the benefits laid out above can already be purchased a la carte as boost implants, +50% xp, +50% resource and +50% to passive cert points will be available as 1, 3 and 7 day boosts. Pricing is not final.
RE: Alpha Squad boost: The Alpha Squad 6 month +10% resource / XP boost does stack with membership, but not other boosts. It uses the boost slot and is overwritten if another boost is applied. You may only ever have one boost active at a time.
RE: Resource gain = meta-power for teams: I definitely understand the basic argument of "If my entire empire is free players and the enemy empire is all members, they'll have an overwhelming advantage, therefore pay-to-win QED", but it's a fundamentally flawed hypothetical situation. We have to assume that that membership adoption will be balanced just like we have to assume that skill level, average played time, etc. across empires will be roughly equal. Most of the arguments I've seen against resource gain bonuses in membership come down to something like this. As I said from the get-go: definition of what "pay-to-win" is and sensitivity towards that are going to vary a lot person-to-person. To me, being able to spawn more vehicles with resources (which are just as powerful as a free player) or buy more grenades (which are just as limited in terms of how many I can carry at once as a free player) still comes down to convenience. Yes, the member would be able to field more vehicles once 'resource starved' and will be able to fill their pools faster once no longer resource starved. They won't suddenly have a super tank that lets them crush all the puny free player tanks, their success on the battlefield is still entirely player skill based, they'll just be less impacted for re-deploying to the battlefield. That is a huge benefit, no denying it. Is that "buying power"? Well, that depends on your definition.
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