Dual Universe, a vaporware competitor with Star Citizen that promises to be the first “build your own ship” space sim MMORPG with planetary landings and base-building has been making waves in the SciFi genre for a few months now since their Kickstarter success back in 2016. But despite failed promises made to deliver a playable alpha by Q1 2017, their fans are still cheering them on, even while they pull more and more benefits back from their backers.
To be fair, they do have demos they are not releasing yet.
— Dual Universe (@dualuniverse) March 1, 2017
But what became disconcerting was the email that every backer received this morning.
We made a few changes to make [our Kickstarter rewards] roughly equivalent to the original packs once the physical rewards are removed
This was predicated by a statement that players had been “asking” for this for the past week. But something seems off here. The game’s achievements seem to be centered solely on how big they can grow their community and how well they can hype their game.
— Dual Universe (@dualuniverse) February 20, 2017
— Brayden Hurrell (@Brayden_Anasasi) March 12, 2017
— Dual Universe (@dualuniverse) March 6, 2017
Also Congrats to @dualuniverse for now having over 4000 forum/community members!
— Brayden Hurrell (@Brayden_Anasasi) December 3, 2016
The @dualuniverse forums have reached over 30,000 posts today! 😀
— Brayden Hurrell (@Brayden_Anasasi) November 7, 2016
You’re now 9,000 to follow us on Twitter, guys! Thank you! 👍
— Dual Universe (@dualuniverse) October 22, 2016
They seem to be more thrill seekers for attention than actually producing a video game.
Other things seem to rub the wrong way such as the primary storyline in-game is being sourced by fans in competitions held by this developer. Basically, Novarquark gets out of paying $50,000 to each writer, while some fan toils away voluntarily at their keyboard for a few months and hand-delivers them a free-and-clear no-obligation story for the game.
Call it “gamer’s intuition” but something just doesn’t feel right here.
Dual Universe first went up on Kickstarter under the common knowledge that it would be a monthly pay-to-play cycle to help fund their servers, but late last year, they hit their backers with a huge blow when they introduced the use of DAC, or Dual Access Coupons, which is the equivalent of EVE Online’s PLEX effectively turning this game into the same soft-core pay-to-win scheme that turned me, a hardcore EVE Fan, away from the game entirely.
The developers at Novaquark spent days trying to argue with their players that this wasn’t pay-to-win, but is it? There is a simple litmus test for pay-to-win that I’ve employed for years. In any society you have haves and have-nots, I’m sorry if it is offensive, but it is my experience. The question boils down to one simple boolean statement (true or false): Will the haves have any advantage over the have-nots? In other words, if Todd who has a game budget of $30/mo, and his twin brother Tedd (equal in skill and tactics) who has a game budget of $30,000/mo, were to start this game at the exact same time, would Todd have any advantage over Tedd? True: Pay-to-Win. False: Pay-to-Play.
Update on April 18, 2017 @ 7:24pm EST
Because it has become apparent that fanboyism, by its very nature will attempt to do anything including changing the narrative by the changing of definitions and meanings of terms, I’m going to add some clarity to the abovesaid litmus test.
First, in any competitive PVE game or PVP game, you have losers, which means you also have winners. While the “win” in pay-to-win doesn’t directly mean “to win the game” it means to “get ahead” of your opponent. When a system is added to a game which allows any means of getting ahead to involve the use of real world currency to affect even the pace at which that can occur, it is paying to get ahead, which means it is paying to win.
So, in the case of EVE Online, where Tedd buys 40,000,000,000ISK while they both start the game and while Tedd then visits the market and buys all officer fit items, all skills books and injectors, ammo, and insurance, he will have a clear advantage over Todd who starts with no ISK. Only the most flamboyant fanboy would say otherwise. And on that note, Tedd can afford to lose any ship he buys or progresses to, as many times as his real-world wallet will allow, while Todd must take extra care and be extra conservative in combat which means that being sometimes the best defense is an aggressive offense, that means Todd would be disadvantaged. I see this in shooter games, I tried to play Battlefield once, but it became unnerving pretty quick to see players jump out of cover and rush a fortified position. In the real world where you don’t have the ability to “respawn” this simply doesn’t happen, and their ability to do this to a group of vets that hunkers down became advantageous to the players who had never seen combat.
To anyone unfamiliar with EVE Online, ISK is the in-game currency.
The developers of Dual Universe has admitted freely, “Yes, those who buy considerably more DAC for trade on the market would be able to purchase ships at a much faster rate”.
This is the same in EVE. Players, especially the fans, will argue this is untrue and that because DAC and PLEX can be freely traded on the market, allowing everyone ‘access’ to it on the in-game economy, that it somehow voids it from the Pay-to-Win stigma. The argument rails through as if ‘access’ is somehow a technicality and a loophole in the definition of Pay-to-Win while Pay-To-Win remains the spirit thereof and not a definition.
But there is an issue much greater than the moralities of pay-to-win vs pay-to-play, a real concern is born the moment you ask yourself “what if?”
As in, “What if I buy $30,000 worth of DAC, and they suddenly go out of business, do they have a Trust for that in accounts payables or am I just out of $30,000?”
The answer is, you’re just out of $30,000. According to their Terms of Service, anything you buy in the game has no cash value. This isn’t uncommon and they’re not the only ones as CCP also does this with EVE Online’s PLEX system. For these companies, it means that every dime you pump into DAC or PLEX goes directly to the company’s cash accounts and carries with it zero liabilities unlike buying a subscription that carries many consumer protections under the MasterCard and Visa Merchant Agreements.
But what this boils down to, is you are buying a promise when you buy DAC or PLEX that, however much you buy, the game will be there for you to redeem it (or for your friends or trade partners to redeem), but it is just a promise, and judging by the way the Terms of Services are written, there are no plans or accounting to ever ensure that the receipts for DAC or PLEX sales will or could ever be rendered through service. In the world of accounting, when you pre-pay a service, it is a liability for the company and they owe that amount to you in the form of money or services rendered. However, for DAC and PLEX, it is a no-liability sale, there is no service that has to be rendered other than a virtual delivery of the item you bought. In every other industry, this is called overselling and is viewed in many countries as a fraud and it is illegal.
All in all, this is one of the broadest ways for a company to ensure that they are not accountable to you, the consumer.
The acceptance of this behavior by the fans of Dual Universe is called the fanboy’s paradox. A fanboy is an avid fan of any product or service. You can be a fanboy of a presidential candidate, or you can be a fanboy of a game or development team. The term itself is very broad and encompasses fans that go beyond basic fandom to prop-up an entity. Fanboys, by their nature, will do anything within their power to change the narrative of the community’s view of a game to inflate its reputation on a false platform of positivity. Developers, like a vicarious guardian to a child, inherently sees little wrong in their creations which fanboys unknowingly exploit creating a large, yet false bubble of acceptable development directions. As previously stated, fanboys will do anything including omitting the facts and truth to affect a false narrative of positivity about a game even while the development path proceeds in a very undesirable direction.
This bubble, however, generally pops when objective gamers notice they’ve been deceived causing them to publish factual reviews and findings in public. The deception that these objective players experience is often cause for their reviews to be overtly negative and more often than not, perceived as strongly disrespectful to the developers of the game. In fact, fanboys generally label these community members as “haters” of the game. This circular behavior then seems to cause the developers to ignore this feedback and use the fandom feedback as the go-to source for how they should implement changes in their development direction and roadmaps. Slowly, and sometimes quickly, the development budget begins to leak like a sieve. The game always suffers as a consequence while the developers of the game reel back, confused to how it all went wrong wondering ‘what’s next’ for their careers. All the while fanboys sit quietly in disbelief that their beloved game has failed, yet continue to viciously attack anyone who points them as the progenitor of the game’s demise, sometimes even pointing back to the devs with tired arguments of, “It was their game, they shouldn’t have followed my advice then”, while it was they, the fanboy that consistently repelled any critique about the game in which illuminated the game under any negative or neutral light.
All developers should be well aware of the fanboy’s paradox and ensure they steer clear of it to ensure a healthy deployment of their games.
Sadly, we have all bore witness to this paradox for many games that have hit Steam’s Greenlight. As the developers tend to latch onto these fanboys and allow them to steer their ship in development, we see games that become abandoned such as Miner Wars and Starforge on the heels of strong criticisms that begin to pierce the fanboy created bubbles and violently shake the developers back to a state of reality.
After a severe backlash from Dual Universe’s announcement on Kickstarter, showing the funding level drop nearly $200,000.00 USD in twenty-four hours, they drove forward on the advice of many of the fanboys’ word and barely met the goal that secured them their Kickstarter funding. I do sincerely send my congratulations for that achievement. I thought at this point, the community had sent a clear and loud message to the developers, but that was not the case. After reaching out to the Novaquark team, they responded to my inquiry of the bad experiences players have had with PLEX in EVE Online of fly-by-night PLEX’ed corporations:
Do you have something to back your declaration about PLEX system being inefficient besides your own words? If it’s the case, we are interested in this data.
And then continued:
[other than] your (unfortunate) experience on EvE Online.
EVE Online is the first and last, until Dual Universe to ever employ the use or plan the use of tradable game-time.
However, in my first attempt to reach out after I canceled my pledge to explain why they responded in kind calling my withdrawal a “threat” and hunkering down on the stance that DAC was there to stay:
However, loud voices and threats of unpledging without solid reasons will not affect game design decisions.
It is very obvious that the Novaquark team is very defensive about DAC, likely, over-defensive. The problem here isn’t game development directions, but the funding model that they have quite obviously already etched in stone. That is a bad omen for Dual Universe, as it may turn out to be a great game, but the loathers of Pay-to-Win that EVE Online lost will ultimately and absolutely avoid this game. And everyone should take note that EVE Online started considering Free-to-Play only months after the introduction of Plex. The math doesn’t look all that great for Dual Universe, but I do hope, for their sake, it is simply a calculation error.
Why is it a paradox? Fanboys are usually fans to a game, as explained. The last thing you ever expect from a fanboy is that they would sabotage the game that they’re a fan of. But under close examination, they do, which is gives us the paradox of an absurd and contradictory statement being a testable fact.