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EVE Evolved: What's the deal with EVE's PLEX changes?

This week CCP Games announced that some big changes are on the way for PLEX in EVE Online. The PLEX or "30-day Pilot's License EXtension" is a virtual item that represents 30 days of subscription time and can be bought for cash and then sold to other players for in-game ISK. This simple mechanic has proven to be one of the most important innovations in the subscription MMO business model over the years, allowing players with lots of in-game wealth to effectively play for free while permitting cash-rich players to buy in-game currency without funding dodgy farming operations that can disrupt the game world. Dozens of games now support some kind of player-mediated currency roughly like PLEX.

The proposed changes are intended to simplify EVE's business model by merging PLEX with the microtransaction currency Aurum. Players will also be able to put their PLEX into invulnerable account-wide PLEX Vaults that are accessible at all times rather than having to move the valuable items manually by ship. There's been significant backlash from the EVE community over the newfound invulnerability of PLEX, plans to delete some microtransaction currency from the game without compensation, and the possibility that someone leaked the announcement to friends early in order to make a profit. So what's the deal with these PLEX changes, and why are some EVE players going nuts over them?

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at the upcoming changes to the safety of PLEX, the opportunities that more granular PLEX could have for EVE, and why players are up in arms over plans to delete Aurum from thousands of accounts.

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EVE Evolved: The consequences of a free-to-play EVE

This week we heard the unexpected news that EVE Online will be going partially free-to-play when the next expansion lands in November. Like many games that have added free-to-play options over the years, EVE will be using a hybrid model that provides a limited free option in addition to its regular subscription. The game won't change at all for subscribers and will continue to offer cosmetic microtransactions, while free players will be able to log in and play under a new set of restrictions. Free players will have access to only a handful of skills and will be able to fly tech 1 cruisers and below, and any subscribed players whose subscriptions lapse will be temporarily lowered to free player status.

The announcement of the impending business model change has seen a mixed but largely positive response online, with renewed interest from those who have been put off by the subscription. Existing players are looking forward to an influx of fresh players and getting free access to their old characters again but have warned of potential abuse cases if free users can be used for suicide ganking or farming. CCP has been engaging with the community to investigate these potential issues ahead of the expansion, and many prospective players have been asking exactly how much a free player can actually do.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I delve into EVE Online's hybrid free-to-play model, look at the kinds of gameplay a free user can get involved in, and highlight a few potential abuse cases CCP will have to address before November's update.

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