Note: I’ve been told the Backburner actually does have Compression Blast. Not going to change anything because the point still stands.

Alright, so I mentioned before that selling power is a very, very stupid idea, but then immediately gave the most well known example, Team Fortress 2, a pass on it. What gives? Did I actually go mostly insane, or was there a method to the madness? (I’ll give you a hint, it’s probably the last one. Probably.) So today, let’s look at the kind of micro-transactions that are happening in the gaming world, and which ones need to stop.

Like I said before, let’s have a look at the Manconomy store for Team Fortress 2. All they sell is weapons and silly hats! How is that not evil/ridiculous? Well, the silly hat thing is ridiculous, but it makes for a good laugh at least. As for the weapons… Quick, what are the basic load-outs for each class? It’s alright if you don’t know them all off the top of your head, but it thought “freaking amazing” then you’d be right. Every weapon in the starting load-out is incredibly solid, and is extremely useful. In fact, I’d be willing to say that the store is harmful to new players, not because of any power shifts, but because of the way the new weapons subtly shift the desired playstyle of the player in question.

He's still going to stab you in the back, however.

Since I main Pyro, let’s talk about him… her… it (Seriously Valve, I know you’re up to something here). The default weapon kit is the Flamethrower, a Shotgun, and a Fire Axe. The Flamethrower is only useful at extremely close range, but will shear through hit-points like, well, like a hot knife through butter. There are two main weapon choices you can then select if the main Flamathon doesn’t suit your needs: Backburner and Degreaser. The Backburner has a 100% critical hit chance on targets from behind, but lacks the alt-fire compression blast. What this means is you will be trading almost all of your defensive ability (Compression blast can reflect basically any projectile short of a bullet, and douse allied units that are on fire) for an insane burst potential. The Backburner literally turns the Pyro into a wandering assassin, melting anything in about 1.5 seconds… from behind. The lack of compression blast means that once you are seen, that’s usually  the end of it for you. The Degreaser on the other hand has 25% less burn damage, so you won’t be able to really burn your enemies to death with quick pokes like you could from the Backburner or Flamethrower, but the Degreaser also has a massive 65% reduction in weapon switch time. It synergies extremely well with another item, the Axetinguisher, that gains 100% critical hit chance on burning targets. Puff ’em once, then switch and hack away.

You smell like... burning.

In both cases, the core ‘feel’ of a Pyro remains in tact, but the intricacies change drastically based on which weapon you use. The default Flamethrower is arguably the strongest one of the entire set, proving reliable damage and unparalleled utility from a weapon. That Soldier just fire off a crit-rocket? Bounce that sucker back in his face. Someone going for a capture point? Douse the whole thing in fire, they’ll move and quick. It provides the most stable experience. Every weapon is like this, usually providing alternative ways to play a class that you should be familiar with at least the basics in. New players who fork out cash for the most recent weapons will be stuck trying to learn a complex strategy before learning the basics. Like skipping Addition and heading straight to Multiplication in basic math. Each weapon provides a side-grade, with the intent of layering in more strategy to the game, not simply forcing players to buy the most recent weapons because their best.

Let’s look at another game, EVE Online. Yes, I know CCP has recently added the most ridiculous micro-transaction shop possible, but we’re not going to talk about that one right now. Instead we’re going to look at PLEX, the in-game way to increase play time. PLEX, or “Pilot License EXtentions” is a way for players to gain 30 “free” days of play in-game, but it isn’t something you just buy and add to your account. No, PLEX is an in-game item, and fits in with the same rules as everything else in EVE. If you want to buy massive stockpiles of PLEX and then sell it, that’s totally acceptable. You will generate tones of credit in-game, and other players walk away with PLEX they didn’t play for. If you think this system is exploitable, you don’t really know just how cut-throat the economy of EVE Online truly is. When I started playing the game, I bought 2 pieces of PLEX; One for myself to use when my month of playtime was winding down, and the other I sold on in-game auction system. For about 3/4ths what other players were charging, and it was enough for me to buy and refit almost fifteen ships like the one I had. Fifteen free ships. Why did I do that? Well, I was a pirate. I had no other means of securing my income like that so early in the game, when my pilot skills were so low and I was not under the protection of any Corporation. Most, if not all, players do not choose to go down such a dark path, or at least not so early in the game.

Now would be a good time to panic...

Likewise, CCP encourages player behavior like I just described. In EVE Online, things like scamming or hunting and killing other PC’s for their cargo is the past-time of many players. Instead of banning the darker side, they embraced it and let the community grow with it. Think the pirates are a problem? Hire an assassin, or bounty hunter. Those guys make their living hunting down pirates and so on, the game probably has the most organic and responsive community out there, and with a robust economy, they have made it possible for long-term fans to play for free, basically. But what about new players, who stockpile massive piles of credits? Well, remember when I said I could buy and outfit 15 of the same model ship I had? Yeah, that was the only model of ship I had. I had only just worked my way into being able to fly cruiser-class ships before leaving the game. The money acts a nice buffer, but that is all. Even if you had, let’s say a fun number, 500 trillion credits (Note: you don’t usually sell PLEX for more than 400,000 credits) you wouldn’t be able to buy a better ship. If you had that much so early on, all you could do is fly better frigates, maybe a new cruiser or two, but there is no way in hell you could buy a Titan-class (the end-all class of ship) ship to fly. You would have to train your character for months before you could even get over Battleship level ships with any decency. The money is just a way to make your ship the best it can be, but it will never be able to just buy you the best possible ship. You have to research for that, and that takes time. A lot of it.

... too late.

Both of these systems are better than what we’ve seen in Blizzards new auction house system. It’s as if the Degreaser was better than all the other flamethrowers by a large margin on the store, or you could just buy a Titan-level ship just for being the minimal required level. Yes, CCP has the retarded $70 space-monocle, but at least they handled PLEX in such a way that lets the player base decide how much it is worth, and the money gained can’t drastically alter the power level of any one pilot. There are limitations in both games to keep power on a curve and allow everyone free access to the same materials, instead of just allowing who ever has the biggest bank account access to the best weapons and armor in the game whenever they wish.