The Tattered Notebook: An Appeal for PLEX

A funny thing happened on the way to the forum. There I was, sporting my Santa Glugg hat and all set to merrily report on all the Frostfell news, when the following two questions were posted on the official EverQuest II forums: Am I going to get banned for trading platinum in exchange for Station Cash items, and can we get platinum on the marketplace?

Surprisingly, Senior Producer Dave "SmokeJumper" Georgeson replied to both. Read on to see what he said and why I think it's time for EverQuest II to follow EVE Online's lead and add purchasable, tradable game time or PLEX.

First, let's look at SmokeJumper's reply to the question of whether someone will get banned for trading plat for gifted items from the marketplace:

"We really don't want to put a hard value on platinum to SC conversion rates, so we would probably only step in on this if we thought it was going to cause us legal headaches in the future. So... if kept on the low-down, it'll never cause problems. But if someone put up a website selling items officially with posted conversion rates, I have a feeling that legal might want to step in and stop it to avoid issues. Make sense? Keep it person-to-person and I don't think this will ever be an issue."

As for the chances of seeing plat on the marketplace, he replied: "No. Not anytime soon anyway."

You could almost hear the sound of the needle dragging across the record on that one. EverQuest II players have been conditioned to read between the lines, and justifiably so after such past statements as SOE President John Smedley's "We aren't going to be allowing RMT in any way, shape or form on the non-exchange enabled EQII servers. Period. End of statement" or Georgeson's "We will not be changing your subscription model." Players immediately skipped past the "No" and focused on the "not anytime soon" part, beginning to brace themselves for that apocalyptic day when players can legally buy plat with real-life money. While we don't know when or if that day will ever come, I think it's time for EverQuest II to follow EVE Online's lead and introduce a new, purchasable currency into the game -- PLEX.

For those who don't play EVE, let's look at how it works and why it was introduced to the game. PLEX, or pilot's license extension, is purchased from EVE and is basically an in game item that, when converted, provides 30 days of game time. What makes PLEX unique is that it can be carried around in space and traded from player to player. Players can sell it for isk(EVE's in game currency); it can be given as payment for contracts; and it can be gifted to a friend. Its purpose is to address player demand for RMTs and remove botters and famers from the picture. Since its launch in 2008, PLEX has been a successful part of reducing third-party RMTs and has resulted in fewer incidents of account fraud as well as less strain on the server from botting.

Why is it time for EverQuest II to adopt PLEX? Several reasons:

We're already there. PLEX addresses the illegal sale of in-game currency. Instead of giving money to questionable third parties, players can safely purchase a unit of game time and then legally trade it to another player for currency. That's basically the same thing as trading gifted items from the marketplace for plat. The only difference is that in EQII, the trade itself is not secure. Before that, players were trading Legends of Norrath loot cards for plat, which was even riskier because it involved trading the cards through the Legends of Norrath client and then trading the currency in game. Instead of the current scenario of trading on a wing and a prayer, the addition of PLEX would allow players to safely exchange it for plat using the in-game trade window.

There's too much plat and nothing to spend it on. Many veteran players are sitting on heaps of plat and would probably love the idea of being able to spend it on game time. In addition, it freshens up a somewhat dull economy, as some will play the market and try to "buy low and sell high."

It could reduce the wave of compromised accounts. Even though SOE's Customer Service team does a fantastic job of quickly restoring stolen items and stripped accounts, hacking is a problem in the game right now, and it's nearly impossible to prevent. PLEX renders third-party RMTers irrelevant, which hopefully would reduce the wave of hacked accounts and stripped characters.

It would help CS deal with potential nightmares involving scamming and failed trades. Now that it's officially OK to trade plat for gifted items, Customer Service will have to somehow deal with all the failed deliveries and player scams, because there's currently no secure way to complete the transaction. It's like something out of Indiana Jones -- "throw me the idol, and I'll give you the whip," only to find out that Satipo isn't so trustworthy. The addition of PLEX would eliminate hours of manpower dealing with problems from the newly condoned, unsafe method of trading.

It can be used for good. Some players have already requested gifting game time through the marketplace. It would make sense and help to streamline the current practice of buying game time cards and sending the codes to friends. I'd love to have the ability to surprise a guildmate or even entice old friends to come try out EverQuest II by giving them a little free game time.

Another great use for PLEX is using it to promote charitable causes. EVE has donated a portion of PLEX sales to such causes as aid to the victims of the earthquakes in Haiti and the floods in Pakistan. SOE has run a few charity events in the past, such as the bear pet for Child's Play or dueling Curt Schilling for ALS, so it would be a small step to organize these events using PLEX.

I know that some players are against the idea of being able to trade plat for items purchased with real money, but we're already there, and now it's officially allowed. Some argue that it's immersion-breaking, but it's no worse than logging into Guk on any given night and listening to Longirl spam public channels seeking to buy and sell Legends of Norrath cards for plat. The demand for purchased plat won't go away, and now players in EverQuest II have a way to legally carry out this practice. It's time to take the next logical step and allow tradable game time.

From the snow-capped mountains of New Halas to the mysterious waters of the Vasty Deep, Karen Bryan explores the lands of Norrath to share her tales of adventure. Armed with just a scimitar, a quill, and a dented iron stein, she reports on all the latest news from EverQuest II in her weekly column, The Tattered Notebook. You can send feedback or elven spirits to karen@massively.com.

This article was originally published on Massively.