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"Pay to Win": What does that mean, and Where do you draw the line? - Discussion

One thing we hear all the time in gaming circles has always puzzled me: “This game sucks, it is Pay-to-Win!”.
I just don’t get it.
I am probably not competitive enough, but the idea of “win” in an RPG is a completely alien concept to me. Especially in MMOs, it doesn’t make any sense.
In ARPGs, a little bit I guess: get higher up the ladder, reach higher corruption, or maybe get “better” (whatever that means) items?

Question 1 : What does “Pay-to-Win” mean for you in relation to Last Epoch?

Now, what could EHG possibly sell without being accused of the infamous Pay-to-Win? (Apart from the obvious cosmetics and non-combat pets)

Personally, I am all for selling quick-passes for levelling alts. $10, get level 50 and skip the campaign. $20, get level 80 and skip normal monos. $40, get insta level 100. Something like that.
It would be annoying in PoE where reaching max level is tricky, but in LE it is only a matter of time, so I see nothing wrong with selling it.
You would think that if you don’t want to play a game, you would just, you know, not play it. But no, as mind-boggling as it is, a lot of people are willing to pay to be allowed not to play a game.
Let them do it. (and use the money to make cool new areas for those of us who actually want to play).

What else could they sell?
Special stash tabs, like unique collections (I would totally buy this one)? Packs of random shards? XP potions limited in time?

Question 2 : What would you consider acceptable/unacceptable in a Last Epoch Store?

Thanks for joining the discussion, try not to bite each other.
:grin:

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paying to gain an advantage you either cannot get without money or would cost a lot of time to attain. like imagine in the visiongl tournaments where perry grinds for 3 days to get 300 waves and lizard buys a level 100 character and purchases a bastion with money and gets 500 waves 5 hours after the tournament goes live. that’d be a bs tournament to watch and an awful experience for other competitors. might as well edit save files at that point if you don’t have the money.

acceptable: cosmetics and pets (provided pets that aren’t like minions who collect gold and deal damage).

unacceptable: xp boosts, level boosts, gold boosts, lootboxes, low quality for high cost, in-game items, anything tradeable tbh.

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P2W is an interesting topic.

I like to view p2w as more of a scale then a black or white.

Every single game has some sort of advantage you can buy generally especially if its f2p.

Take league of legends, league has no direct p2w mechanics, but you can buy champions. That means two new players starting their ranked journey from 0, someone who spends to buy all the characters vs the person who has to grind them out has an advantage of being able to pivot and learn new and strategic picks for his team, to counter pick etc. This gives him an advantage, that does not mean the f2p player cant “win” or get to the highest ranks, but he has to work harder and longer to do so.

Now you might say “thats pay to progress faster thats not paying to win!”

Winning is a subjective thing as well, “Winning” a boss fight is winning in an rpg. And most PvE p2w mechanics are paying to skip lines if they dont give you direct power. I think these still count as paying to win, as “winning” can be argued is succeeding at your goals, which money can help you do.

p2w comes in scales, in path of exile you can buy stash tabs which give you massive QoL, if you have a race between two players to hit level 100, the player who can trade more effectively or has more space to hold resources has a direct advantage over someone who has default space. This is like a 1/10 on the p2w scale however as even purchasing a basic buy in of say 30 dollars, a midprice game, you get ample storage for almost all your needs and 10 stash tabs vs 1000 is almost a non factor unless you are trying to go absolutely bonkers in trade.

I dont think we have to worry about p2w in LE because the only things they could sell that would be p2w would immediately bomb their game, and any game in the genre. But things that would make people rage would be character boosters, skill boosters, etc stuff like that.

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I think most people who i talk to that play LE don’t like p2skip. They look past it in Lost Ark but appriciate that LE takes not being p2skip/p2w vary seriously. I also doubt based on EHG’s stated position that they themselves would every do something like p2skip.

One of the grey areas that stand out to me is would stash tab affinities be too egregious on the pay for convince spectrum consider we already paid a sticker price? I wouldn’t mind it especially if they more or less copied PoE affinities to near exactness. Sell the special tab and let every use the affinity on normal tabs.

Any feature/character boost that gives a competitive advantage when playing I consider Pay-To-Win… Level boosting, buying unique weapons/gear etc… All fall into this category for me. I loathe games that do this. If a game is multiplayer, where someone with real life money can simply bypass the grind/effort required for someone else to be competitive in game just compounds the issue for me… At all times I want a level playing field… Effort = reward… Using a credit card to bypass effort is not what I consider fair play.

To a lesser extent, Pay-For-Convenience things like increasing Stash size (e.g. in PoE) are annoying to me… I would 100% rather pay a box price for a game than have to pay for convienience on a piecemeal basis.

Anything cosmetic that has absolutely no bearing on actual gameplay would be acceptable… If someone wanted to look like a cosplay unicorn in game as was willing to pay money to do so, then go for it… If someone wanted a nice frilly username graphic or a glowy cosmetic added to a weapon… .go for it… If someone wanted little crusty goblin pets following them around,… 100% for it…

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Devs where mi goblins >:(

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First off, they already confirmed, they will never sell convenience or QoL
So special stash tabs will not be a thing if they hold true to that.

Trade-enabled environments are already competetive in it self, if you want to maximize the amount of ressources you want to make.

In trade-enabled environments this literally is pay2win, because you have access to items way earlier than someone who doesn’t pay money for that.
When a new cycle starts and you can start farming for specific things already, while other non-paying players need to level first, you have a clear advantage.

There are interesting dynamics in trade-enabled environments where certain types of items are very valueable early on, when everybody starts from fresh, but they will lose value very quickly. (For example level uniques or uniques that give a lot of power, but can’t be sacled as much into endgame).

We don’t know yet, if reaching a certain level will become harder in LE.
The devs planned for some kind of death penalty, but maybe this is already outdated- maybe not.

Paying for cosmetics, This i can deal with, as i dont need to buy cosmetics to play a game, im not that vain.

There is pay for convenience,(extra stash) This i can also deal with, as its upto me then whether i want to micromanage my stash space or not, obviously if stash space is bought for in game currency, just like here at LE, then its a moot point.

Then there is outright buying items to gain power and an advantage, I wont even give these games time of day, IRL money to be competive, no thanks.

I think what people really need to think about is this, what exactly are you winning? A dick measuring contest? crack on saddo’s.

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Here’s how I see it.

Pay to win is when you purchase anything that will have an impact on your efficiency. XP boost, pre-levelled characters, items, ingame currency, etc. I don’t like it but I think it can be somewhat acceptable if the game is purely solo. In a multiplayer environment, I’m totally opposed to it.

On the opposite, I find totally acceptable to pay for cosmetics. This is how publishers sustain their service (servers hosting, bandwidth, etc).

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I see where you’re coming from in saying this kind of thing isn’t “pay to win”, but I think often when people talk about P2W they’re talking about a broad category of harms inflicted by MTX, not just disrupting fairness of competition. Particularly, once a developer is receiving cash flows for a certain reason it can somehow compromise their vision for an aspect of the game and break their incentives to make improvements.

  • If there’s a serious market in cosmetics, they have minimal incentive to make the non-MTX equipment look nice

  • If there’s a serious market in stash tabs/inventory management, the devs have an incentive to actively bloat inventories and create arbitrary capacity problems to make you buy the tools to manage them.

  • If there’s any serious market in selling content skips, they have minimal incentive to improve the quality & enjoyability of the skipped content, indeed in the extreme case they may even be tempted to make them less fun & take longer.

All forms of MTX tend to make life worse for players who didn’t want to buy the MTX. It’s easy to see why cosmetics are considered the most benign form, since their effects don’t touch gameplay at all. Stash tabs can be tolerated with a dose of Stockholm syndrome, since it works out to be a small seasonal/one-off fee for full gameplay which is acceptable in F2p games.

However content skips have the special distinction of having some major negative effects that can’t be avoided whether or not you pay for it. What if someone liked the campaign or thought there was potential to make it more fun? Well they can forget it, 30% of players are skipping it and paying for the privilege, like hell the dev is going to waste time on that now. Anyone who wants to see improvements/avoid neglect to aspects of the game should be very concerned about skipping those segments becoming a possibility.

There’s also a more general argument about wanting devs to have a vision and stand up for it. If they turn around and allow players to excise huge chunks of their game arbitrarily, were they ever really serious about those elements being an integral part of their design? When you start letting players customise every part of the experience, the developer evades being committed to any specific “official” configuration. It gets difficult to hold them to a standard or discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their design because the “design” is becoming an increasingly ambiguous and indeterminate construct.

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The game has a leaderboard, has used that as part of its advertisement, it’s explicitly got some level of focus on the competitive side. If you can pay to skip parts of the game, your paying to win, because your hardcore character dying is significantly less of a cost than someone who isn’t paying.

I get that some people dont view games competitively in anyway, but pay to win is far more about competitive gaming than not, and you have to put yourself in that mindset when viewing it.

I’d also strongly advise looking into videos zizaran has done (and/or clips of it from his streams) about p2w stuff. He makes very very good points about why even things like stash tabs can be pay to win.

Thanks everyone, I love this thread so far, lots of interesting points of view!
You guys are great!
:kissing_heart:

A good point, well made.
If we get community time-based events, any pay-to-skip would become pay-to-win.

Precisely why I don’t really understand the pay-to-win concept in RPGs. I can complete the game without paying, so what is “winning”? Doing it faster? I don’t want to do it faster, I want to enjoy the game longer!
(ARPGs are a bit different due to the ladders and the infinite scaling)

Totally agree.
As I said in opening post, I can see pay-to-win in ARPGs, but it doesn’t make any sense in MMOs, which are designed for the (very) long run and with completely different objectives.
Also, I love the term p2skip, thanks for that!

I have to disagree on the term “trade-enabled environment”, what you describe is only true in systems with regular fresh starts, like cycles or seasons. In longer-term games with trade, the advantage of getting an xp boost would be hardly noticeable, if at all.
But apart from the terminology, as LE is expected to become such a seasonal system, your point is perfectly valid, and very interesting.

Brilliant.
I would never have thought of that. This is a very, very compelling argument.
Thanks.

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For other games, the acceptable things, to me, are:

  • Character Slots
  • Storage Slots (bank, not backpack)
  • Pets (no combat utility)
  • Character skins
  • Gear skins
  • Costumes
  • Armor/Weapon/Spell effect skins
  • Custom base appearance options (eye patch, for example)
  • Custom emotes & dances
  • Fireworks (or other harmless effects usable in town)
  • Character Renames
  • Server Moves (if possible, sometimes that’s actually ultra hard)
  • Anything that doesn’t affect progression, loot or combat in any way which I forgot.
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For me Pay2win in purest form is to obtain items/skills/bonuses you cannot get in the game from farming and only this way. I cant even name one game ive played or know that actually does this but I am highly against that

The other main pay2win is EXP boosts/‘crafting bonuses’ - although I dont directly care if other players partake in these as I dont play games competitive like that anymore I feel if a game has these its already got bad fundamentals

an example: I played Fly for Fun some weird MMORPG mob killer years ago, you could craft gear upgrades on pieces up to I think it was +3 100% of the time but after that you could fail and damage the item at +5, each time needed an upgrade material however the cash shop sold these protection items that negated damage to the item…which was basically like LE’s Glyphs/Runes except FlyFF had cash/ingame versions

So the issue here is a player can buy their way to a +10 item ingame with rl cash making the item itself extremely valuable thus they can sell that ingame for a tonne of ‘gold’ or whatever it was, Plus you could probably buy gold anyway. Not only that to ramp up their own sales the creators would balance their crafting around real life currency spending ie making it harder for everyone. I remember farming 80m gold in that game and buying a cash shop pet from another player that lasted 3 months and picked up items, you know at this point the developers just dont care and its just a money making operation only

D3 had a gold/cash auction house and I didnt care at all because all the items were ingame, I found a Crit Mempo of Twilight in D3 worth approx $200-250 but I ended up keeping it as I wanted the 6% crit

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The absolute worst example of pay2win is Lost Ark by far. You can buy chrystals and convert them to Gold and with that buy literal anything from the market you would normally farm for literally ages. Stopped because of the never ending grind and their besonders ridiculousness quest System.

The primary problem with paying for leveling skips/exp boosts is that it provides a perverse incentive. Take Lost Ark for example. Leveling in that game is one of the worst experiences I’ve had (leveling) in any game. Of course, the worse it is, the more likely people will pay to skip the campaign. Not a great incentive to give the developer.

On top of that, if you think the ability to skip a portion of your game is worth actual money to people then… Maybe you didn’t make a very good game? If people get to the point that they want to pay for an auto leveled skip the campaign alt, then I think you should really be looking at WHY they aren’t enjoying that experience, and if it’s even worth keeping in the game.

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You see, that is exactly what I don’t understand.
I can see “pay-to-win” in Last Epoch, and there were excellent arguments in this thread.

But in Lost Ark? Really? What do you try to “win” in Lost Ark?
PvP maybe? Do you get an advantage in PvP by paying? I don’t do PvP so that would explain why I can’t see the “win” concept.
In PvE, that simply doesn’t make sense. There is nothing to “win”, the game is about visiting different islands, completing collections, occasionally grouping for a dungeon or raid, and being in a group means it doesn’t matter if you have the bestest of all the bestest gears or not.
I just don’t get it.

So, yes, in Lost Ark, you can pay-to-get-the-ultimate-gear-and-therefore-kill-your-own-game-faster, but you cannot pay-to-win. Because you cannot win.

I entirely disagree.
The game is far too linear, I grant you that, but each island is very different and fun to visit.
I think the mistake people make is to believe it plays like an ARPG, and it is only about endgame.
It is a MMO. The destination doesn’t matter, just enjoy the journey. Don’t think about levelling, you will reach max level automatically long before the journey is over.

Now, you might not like the journey. But to me it just means you don’t like MMOs, which is absolutely fine.

I think there is a definition issue here… For me “Winning” in a game is completing the content / getting to the final level… i dont care how I compare to others only if I have done everything in the game to my satisfaction… entirely personal.

For others Winning may be getting to the top ten in a season event or hiscore or was the first to finish a game by killing a specific boss and this is where it gets tricky - even if its just a solo play type game like Donkey Kong… If someone can pay to get the level boosts and gear and then get to the hiscore months/years before anyone else who cannot afford to pay… Its sort of bragging rights when the player who actually said they finished the game/got the hiscore didnt really earn it - they just paid money for the priviledge… Its like someone who won the lottery to be a millionare vs someone who worked for it… sure they are both millionares, but I would be far more impressed with the person that worked for it… Sure the other guy is lucky as hell and I dont begrudge them that luck, but they better not say they earned it…

Sure in the greater scheme of things, if everything was in a sandbox and it didnt matter if someone paid to get to the end of the game or worked for it, then who cares, but unfortunately the human race doesnt work that way… people wouldnt want to put an asterix next to their high score that indicated that they bought their way to the top spot…

EDIT: and I am not specifically thinking of MMOs here where the enjoyment of the journey could be viewed by some as “winning” totally understand that… I still do not agree that a player should be able to buy in-game benefits in MMOs purely because it causes a fairness issue - I dont like it if real life priviledge - i.e. money - can be translated into priviledge in a virtual world where everyone ideally should be competing on a level playing field… but thats a whole kettle of fish I dont want to get into here…

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Great post, as always, Vapourfire.

Exactly my own definition, and much more nicely phrased than I ever could!
That’s why I don’t like the term pay-to-win, for me it is exactly the opposite: paying to skip parts of the game would mean I haven’t done all the content, so I “lost”. P2lose.

Dammit, I agree that it doesn’t fit this thread, but I might have to start a new one, this would be a great discussion! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:
I would start by arguing that the playing field can ony be level on very short events, like the 2-3 hours races PoE sometimes does.
Anything longer, and those with the real-life privilege of being able to play 12 hours a day while I have to work the same amount of time for a living get an advantage I can never compete with…

But as you said, that’s a debate for another day…

Just reading through some of the responses here I see a problem that exists in every discussion I’ve seen about Pay to Win. The conversation always ends up getting stuck in the linguistic realm and rarely actually discusses the conceptual crux of the problem. I believe this occurs because the term “Pay to Win” leaves it open to a large variety of interpretations. Simply put, players do not agree on what the term “win” means, and this usually creates a scenario where players end up talking past each other. If someone says “X game is P2W because the player can purchase Y with real money”, someone else can simply move the goalpost by either saying that Y either doesn’t lead to a state of winning, or just dismiss the concept of winning in that particular game by suggesting that some feature must be employed in order to reach a state of winning. An example of this would be that if the game in question is a PvE game, someone defending the game could state that “there is no PvP, therefore you can’t win at anything”, which assumes that winning can only occur when there is a competition between two players. In this scenario, the goalpost has been moved far enough to exclude any sort of winning that could occur when a player engages only with the ‘environment’ of the game, and therefore PvE games cannot possibly be Pay to Win.

Due to this problem, I prefer to engage with the discussion by getting as far away from the concept of ‘winning’ as possible. For me, the real concept we’re trying to get at has three important factors. 1) Being able to pay for things that other players who don’t pay would either have to acquire through playing the game, or could not acquire at all. 2) Those things being paid for affect the gameplay in a substantive way (this excludes cosmetics, as they don’t affect the gameplay outside of winning at fashion). 3) It is not expected that everyone will purchase this content in order to continue to progress in the game (This excludes expansions).

I hope that if we can boil it down to this far more basic discussion, we can talk about it in a way that allows us to get at the heart of the issue, instead of worrying about how an ambiguous part of language should be deployed.

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