Fair Market Value: Lockbox ships, the Exchange, and MMO economy in STO.

Going into my second(?) week of being banned from the Forums now, and a discussion has risen that finds me agreeing with Repetitiveepic.

That is, that the RNG is a fair mechanic for acquiring “Lockbox” ships, gear, etc.

That’s right, it’s FAIR.  why is it fair, you ask? because, folks, it’s fair on the basis that nobody is guaranteeing anyone will win anything, no matter how much they spend, it’s right up front about it, direct, the amount you spend is equal to what you are willing to part with to make the try.  Meanwhile, Cryptic can use the funds from players willing to take the gamble, to provide the content said players are demanding (or to not provide it, if said players are PvP players or want faction-specific missions…)

A ‘naked cash grab’ does not automatically mean predatory business practices, nor does it mean unethical actions, nor does it imply malice, evil, foulness, nastiness, or insensitivity to the victim group of the week.  It’s a necessity to stay in business.  Money does not fall from trees unless you run an orchard and are growing something in demand.

nor can you pull it from your colon outside of certain medical testing experiments at certain universities.  to keep in business, they gotta get you to spend money, and Lockboxes are a proven, reliable, method-as are the newer permutations like the promotional packs (which often have things with broader utility than just some ship.)

It is fair, because it involves the consent of everyone in the transaction.


Something ELSE involves the consent of everyone in the transaction-the reselling of premium ships outside the exchange.

The Exchange in STO has a price-control of five hundred million EC.  In private trading (as documented in the linked thread) some ships resell for far, far higher values-off the exchange.  This, too, is not predatory, as the three-way transaction for the reseller is consented to by all parties.  it reflects what:

1. The final buyer is willing to pay for a given ship (Krenim, Annorax, Jem’bug, etc.)

2. the Original Seller believes he can GET for the ship

3. what the reseller is willing to pay the original seller for, and what he or she estimates the final buyer is willing to pay-which can be negotiated (unlike the Exchange, which functions as a one-price store).

This is FAIR.  It’s also allowed, STO has the mechanics for this built right into the game, it’s likely INTENDED  to work this way.  mind that this is NOT gold-selling, hte prices asked on all fronts are in EC-that is, in-game currency, except in the case of the lockbox key used by the original seller to obtain the item in question-he or she either spent lots of time, or a small amount of real-world money (or, possibly, a great deal of real-world money)-the point is, at the only point where real-world money is changing hands, Cryptic is the recipient.  It is up to the players involved whether that virtual good (which is just some code-strings delivered by random number generation) has value, but the price is locked to a value in ones-and-zeroes phake currency.  (Gold sellers require real-world money for a similar service-this is why they’re not allowed…they really aRE ripping people off.)

The economic definition of ‘fair’ is all about ‘consent’.  What I am willing to ask, what you’re willing to pay.  I don’t DO this, I really see no point to it, my needs aren’t that vast and I have yet to find a place of desire for non-faction ships built intentionally to be overpowered, but I can counsel respecting the rights of others to both waste their money, and their in-game-phoney-money, however they wish so long as it’s both allowed, and harms no one else-eg ‘lawful and consensual.’

In my humble opinion, those that condemn these practices are indulging in vices of Envy, Greed, Arrogance, and at times Wrath.  Just because you can’t afford something doesn’t mean it’s wrong for someone else to either charge for, or pay, so long as it is, as everything in this game is, a Luxury.


Likewise, if you want to spend a month’s pay on lockbox keys in hopes of getting a special ship or item-that’s your business, I can condemn your foolishness without demanding that someone sit on you and forbid it.


P1 talks about PvP…

and Massively OP has a nice article about it too-I say nice, because I happen to agree with Massively’s conclusions almost point-for-point.

Now, as I probably drew a ban (no contact from cryptic, but I can’t post on the forums…) for some of my saltier comments in a thread there, I feel an urge to discuss, instead of what’s gone wrong with STO’s PvP, what could be, or could have been.

We’ll start with the basics: addressing the main issues.


The Problem:
well, part of it, anyway…

The main issues with STO PvP is…lack of people.  The Queues are dead, even OPvP is slow-to-dead (and really only has the same twenty five or so people on it…)

This is NOT what it was like when I joined the game.  When I joined the game, there were two factions: Federation, and KDF.  at any given time on any given day, you had at most a fifteen minute window to wait when you queue’d up for a match on the Pug queues.

so…what happened?

I’ll preface by pointing out that when I began playing STO, I shied away from the PvP activity.  I’d heard all the nasty rumours about what it was supposedly like, the spawncamps, the ganking, the abuse on chat channels, all of it.

really, it’s a miracle I gave it a try at all when you think about it.

Curiousity drew me in, and my first match was everything I’d feared it would be…right up to the end, when a helpful soul on the other team offered me a “You’re new to this, want some help?” message.  From that person, I learned of Hilbert’s guide.

From there, it was on to my first KDF character, and being challenged to a duel at Drozana.  AFter losing the challenge rather horribly, he sat me down and we talked builds, he explained tactics, and he helped me out.

this is what started to really change my view-I became a PvP’er, and for a while, it was good-especially once I’d hit the ‘cross faction missions’ and discovered they were retreads of the same missions I’d done as a Fed.

and life was good anyway.

but the power-creep was already under-way, exacerbated by the introduction of the Fleet Starbase system, PvP queues started emptying-players were working on their fleet holdings to the exclusion of all else, only looking up to run STF’s for dilithium, and a new abuse came to my attention-fleets were running “grind” challenges-where a group of players would get together, take off their shields, park with their engineering consoles emptied, and one player would blow them up in succession-for fifty fleetmarks every three times.

Naturally, Cryptic cut the rewards to almost nothing and revamped the PvP wrappers so that they didn’t provide that anymore, added timers, etc.  well, it ended the abuses because you could run Incursion or Colony Invasion and get more marks, more often, with about the same level of work.

From there, came the Rep systems-and Rep Passives, and by Rep Passives, I note the original, at release, effects of the Tier Four Romulan reps in particular.  These came with grinds-of incredible length for the time, and had apparently been balanced against…god only knows who or what.  one rep allowed you to ‘placate’ (break lock and even disappear from the screen of another player) with every critical hit, the other basically gave you ‘godmode’ shields and made you immune to damage.

what this did to PvP was like taking a sledgehammer to a china vase-it created huge disparities that required endless grinds to achieve-a huge ‘entry point’ increase for PvP as a whole, and, the reps also made it harder for people to build and field NEW alts-the lower level queues dried up, and at higher levels, if you didn’t run full rep, you were a drag on your team.

tracking so far?  good.

If you aren’t, the simple summary is this:

Entry to PvP became exponentially more expensive and difficult for first time players, while rewards for the activity were cut due to abuses carried out by ‘efficiency’ minded players that would not, under normal circumstances, come within a phone call of PvP.

To revitalize PvP, to make it something STO and Cryptic can be proud of again, to make it appealing to new players and maybe bring back old ones that have left, requires addressing those two things, and a third;

PvP needs to be ‘entry friendly’, provide decent rewards for actual PLAY, while guarding against ‘system abuse’, and it needs a ‘lure’ to make it attractive for new players to try out, and existing players to try again.

Maybe a Solution?

How to address this: we know Cryptic needs to sell things to keep the doors open-zen in particular, which is why and how we have so many dilithium sinks and a cap of eight thousand to refine per day, so attacking power-creep is out. They NEED IT to keep going.  Power creep in turn makes entry into PvP (and thus, new faces, new players to replace old ones, etc.) very difficult.  Because of prior abuses, rewards for trying it are…miniscule. Piddly, nonexistent (or nearly so).

PvP needs a functional reward system.  A functional reward system needs to provide decent rewards for the kind of PvP that is actually fun and engaging.  PvP’ing is a relatively simple beast-close matches are the ones that make you grin, that make you want to talk to your buddies about, that you want to make Youtube videos about, challenging opponents are the ones you want to go up against, and they’re the ones as a player you want to emulate.  Noobstomping is for douchebags trying to make up for having no life, and impotent real-world assets.

Functional rewards for PvP that might reduce the abuse, have to take into account the drive by players for the biggest payout over the shortest time.  aka it has to acknowledge that some will be abusive, and account for that.

Were I not in incredibly bad odour with Cryptic, and were it not for…other factors…my proposal would be thus:

Higher Rewards for closer matches linked ONLY to the PuG/random queues.  How this works:

PvP specific rewards should not be earned (or earn-able) in private matches.  Private matches are for training, or pride, or duels-for ‘advancement’ and ‘big rewards’ it should be the PuG queues, whether the ‘singleton’ or ‘team-able’.  They should pay out higher for closer matches, the closer to a tie you get, the more…whatever…dilithium, or fleet marks, or ‘special marks’ or Skill points-something, it should be more for closer fights, 15/14 should be the IDEAL payout in a space arena.

What this does, is pushes the idea that ‘noobganking’ is BAD that spawncamps don’t pay out, that a PvP fight should be…well…a fight, not a walk.

Why Random Queues?

One of the big complaints/issues/arguments during STO PvP’s strongest period, was the practice of “Pugstomping” by pre-made teams, as well as the practice of, for lack of a better term, “Throwing the fight” marks and dilithium farming, (oh, wait…’Farming matches’…that’s a better term for it, right?) by linking directly to the queues alone, you prevent the “i disarms and waits to die” farming-matches that got rewards gutted back in the day to the frankly pathetic level they are now-if nothing else, private matches should be for ‘private’ reasons-honor, glory, making a vid, proving a point, or testing a build, or for training a team.  they absolutely should NOT be for farming resources, as that encourages seeking out and finding ways to exploit the reward systems.

by linking the best rewards to Pick-up-games or “Pugs” you guarantee a level of ‘freshness’, each match ends up being different, less predictable…

More Refinements to promote good PvP philosophy: Battlevalue and Match-making to help guarantee good matches.

I would refine it further by introducing a BV system-hey, hear me out here, I’ve got EXPERIENCE with Battlevalue systems! I did freelancing for Fanpro/Catalyst games and playtest work on ClassicBattletech when they were developing BV2.0.

A BV system should be an “objective” system, accounting for the defense and offense of any given unit in the game based on what elements were put into the build, and how many.  It should be able to represent as a points value that includes special abilities, and once queued, it locks your build until the match is over, or you forfiet and leave.

BV would tie directly into your matchmaking equations, so that no match starts until both sides have x-value BV within +/- 10% or so, but you’re not limited on force SIZE.  (up, or down).

BV does not account for keyboard macros, because the system can’t detect those, it doesn’t account for the guy behind the keyboard, because it literally can not do this-the internet is anonymous.  what it CAN account for, is equipped traits, equipped specializations, equipped gear, and the toon or ship that is equipping said gear-thus providing an ‘objective’ split of 40/40/20 where each side has a base (within 10%) 40% chance of winning on stats alone, and the deciding factor is that last 20%-which represents teamwork, skill, and random luck.

this allows for asymmetrical balance-the ability to have eight to ten ships on one side, and four on the other, and still have a competitive 14/15 match at the end of the fighting.

This would do a LOT for accessibility, but I’m not done yet.

Individual rewards: Because PvE is Not PvP.

match payout plus x percent where x=(Opponent’s level-YOUR level).  IOW if you have a Level 51 and Joe has a 59, and you beat him, you get 8 or 9 percent more of (Whatever reward) than you would if you were both 60s, and if he preys on your skinny ass because he’s got more rep, traits, specs or whatever due to being higher level, well, he loses that percentage from whatever the final tally for the match is, if he wants better payouts, he has to seek out better opponents.

Lures to bring the new kids in and the old players back…

Introductory Awards: Things to show “I PvP and I got this because I’m awesome”.  Bragging rights goodies-these would be ‘cosmetic’ or ‘low value’ things, stuff that in theory can’t be gotten by grinding argala or infected. By ‘Victory” I mean “Your team WON the match”, not your first kill.   These should start at low levels-why? because there’s less…stuff…to deal with at lower levels, no specializations, no ship-traits, a heck of a lot less ‘gear’ available, it’s a purer, some might say ‘vanilla’ beginning, and by luring players into starting PvP earlier, as in before the story missions are finished, they are more likely to develop the right ‘instincts’ in their builds,  styles, and methods. as a player advances, the things he or she does more than once, have an influence on the things they do at ‘endgame’.  It also encourages players to linger IN the game, and to try out things they might have bypassed that aren’t PvP in the frantic rush to level sixty.

First Victory at Level 10 in the Queues:

D’ktag (Klingon Dagger melee weapon ), MACO fighting knife (for feds), and Romulan Dagger. Ideally, this should be both a costume item when visuals are enabled, and a functional, if less-powerful, melee weapon useful in both PvP and PvE content.

First Victory at Level 20 in the Queues:

Mek’leth/Fencing saber (as seen weilded by Mr. Sulu in “The Naked Time” on TOS)/Romulan “roman style” short sword.

(makin’ you drool yet?)

First Victory at Level 30 in the Queues:

Ridgeless Klingon skin/hairstyle unlocked, rippable old-series uniform (comes in yellow), TOS Romulan uniform/helmet (as seen in “The Enterprise Incident”)

(How many times a year to we see people asking for stuff like this?)

First Victory at Level 40 in the Queues:

RANK unlocks for “Colonel”, “Commodore”, “(equivalent Romulan not an admiral rank)”-this is another thing people ask for all the time- “Stop calling me ADMIRAL/GENERAL!!!” in missions.  This would basically be a means for roleplayers to skip around the rank-inflation problem of having their senior flag rank officers ordered around like spitboys by junior officers.

First Victory at Level 50 in the Queues-

non-combat pet Aide/yeoman/apprentice-a summonable gofer for roleplay (Customizable).

First Victory at level 60 in the queues-

KDF gets a Dahar Master’s Coat.  Something nice and appropriate for feddies and romulans.  (how long have people been begging for this?)


Those are the basic suggestions I’d make-the matchmaking system allows Cryptic to go ahead and keep on powercreeping the powercreep for the PvE guys making their frantic DPS runs, the reward structures focus on making the activity more accessible, and ‘training’ new players to seek out challenges instead of easy marks, and the ‘introductory reward’ system advertises the activity and provides non-game-breaking things that work to lure in new players and completionists without being over powering-cosmetics, new melee weapons (that may do less damage than a Batt’leth, but are quicker, or have other uses), silly pets that make you look cooler, and costume items people will look at the way they used to look at KHG armor.

(back in the day when you had to run all six STF’s to get a full KHG set space and ground, a guy in armor was someone you knew could handle himself in any of the ground STF’s at the very least. It had an ‘elan, or esprit, that is missing since you can do the whole thing in ISA now…)

I think if this sort of thing were adopted by Cryptic, we’d see a lot of KDF players with Dahar Master coats running around, and the fed equivalents would be…well…less common? of course, that’s just my faction-bias speaking through me.  The issue of “Romulans are OP” is something we’re all going to just have to hunker and deal with-as Geko said to Priority One, “Romulans are supposed to be OP”.  (though if there were a BV system, that would really help balance the pans some, don’cha think?)


Anyway, that’s my ranting.  I’ll also be dumping in some of the Fanfics I’ve done for STO here-as reposts, probably with some light editing, fairly soon.





well…that didn’t work so well. (but we can still have fun.)

Alright, so the idea of a set of PvP challenges didn’t work out-the public has spoken back, and it was ‘Yawn’.

It’s alright, I’m new a this whole ‘organizing stuff’ thing.  Some ideas just don’t have legs.

a recent test-run of the Pi Canis sorties showed a couple elements of strong promise.  Namely, SP values were high, and dilithium payouts had the first team of 4 limiting out VERY quickly.  The second team of 5 limited out very quickly as well, even without the wrapper.

As we approach the 11th of April and the second Festival, Pi Canis is definitely on the list of activities.

Preparing for April 2…”Plan your build”

yes, we have time to prep…and for you crafters out there, I’ve got an idea.

Make ‘sets’ to match your levelling plans.

It’s extremely easy to craft purple gear for low-level characters if you have a character that’s progressed in Cryptic’s rather…elaborate…crafting system.  This is something you can use, especially if you’re planning to ‘power level’ through the content to hit Cryptic’s ‘targets’ on a weekly basis.


It’s also dead cheap at low levels-which means your crafting mule can knock out several variations of ship-sets and ground-sets so you can pick and choose which ones to forward to your Delta Recruit. (whom can then turn the vendor-trash into EC instead of trying to make dissimilar parts work together!)


also, don’t grind up all your purples from Doffing-and don’t sell all of them either-you can transfer the un-bound ones through in-game-mail, along with skill manuals, to pre-plan your total builds from day one-this is something a lot of PvP and DPS folk already know.


anywhooo, as always, comments and arguments are expected and desired…