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An Open Discussion on the Growing Gacha Mechanics in ProtRP / Their Impact on the Average Player

plane

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Hey all, I am plane. You may or may not have met me on the server, regardless, I am not an incredibly well qualified person to discuss such things, but am a player who has in the past spent a good chunk of money and time on this server. I am going to discuss firstly what it means to be Pay To Win (referred to often as P2W) in the context of a Garry's Mod DarkRP server and what that means for a player who does not intend to spend money and their experiences roleplaying on this server.

Section 1: Defining What it Means to be Pay to Win

Let us begin by defining what pay to win means in an actual game environment. Pay to win can be defined as any option that allows a player to pay money to progress or receive an advantage against players who have not spent the money they have. This area can be hard to define for many online games. Is a game pay to win the moment you can purchase an XP boost to obtain levels faster than other players? Not necessarily depending on what mechanics exist to allow players who do not pay any money to earn the same exact amount of XP in the game.

Some developers will take note of this, saying that free players can spend additional time on their game to obtain the same exact levels as the player who paid to obtain the aforementioned boost. The idea here is to find a line drawn in the sand, so to speak. In this scenario, how much time does the player who is not paying any money have to invest to obtain the same amount of levels obtained by the user who paid money? You want to reward players for purchasing (we will touch on the word "donate" later) items like an XP boost while balancing it out for players who are free to play. At least, that is what developers who intend to make a healthy and fun game for players would do. However, the oh so mighty marketing department of many major corporations crashes the door down with their eyes popping from their skulls and their tongues dripping, salivating violently at the thought of making more money.

At this point many developers are held at a theoretical gunpoint having to implement many additional more manipulative and predatory money-printing mechanics, micro transactions, and mechanics like battle passes. A good example of this is artificial scarcity, of which we will touch on later in how this relates to ProtRP. For more information on Pay To Win, please click here to review an article providing several real examples of it in modern gaming.

In a brief summary, pay to win is paying real money gives a player a significant advantage over those who do not spend money.

Section 2: What is a Significant Advantage and Touching on Gacha/Lootboxes/Pay2Win Elements

A significant advantage is tough to properly identify as the word significant is mostly subjective. However, in the case of ProtectionRP, we can partially quantify some of the advantages garnered by spending money. The most obvious of which is the weapons obtained through Gacha mechanics, or lootboxes.

Quick side note regarding the difference between Gacha and Lootbox monetization systems (in the context of video games, not real life gacha collectibles): There are arguments as to whether Gacha == Lootbox or not. They are at the very least very similar, both offering a player to spend some form of currency on a chance to obtain a piece of virtual content. I will be using the words interchangeably in this thread, just wanted to get that out of the way.

Some of the crates in the shop currently, of which you can click here to view the menu to access them, contain weapons that cross the line of what is considered pay to win and I will explain why I feel that this is hard to object. The issues lie in many of the crates, but the best example I can give is the "credits" cases listed. You can click here to view their prices currently. It is worth noting the Poseidon crate has seen at least two price increases, going from around 100 credits give or take to now a whopping 825 credits.

Let us discuss what credits are worth in USD and also discuss what in game money is worth in USD. Click here to view what the cost of credits are in USD. Click here to see the price of credits when buying it using in game currency. These links are here to provide proof of their current pricings (as of writing).

Let us break it down into math.

$4,250,000 in game = 100 credits

2500 credits = $16.50 USD

So to obtain 2500 credits as a free player, you must obtain 25 of the 100 credit packages for $4,250,000 of in game money. That equates to $106,250,000 of in game money. Anyone who has played DarkRP understands this is not an easy feat. However, let us be fair and determine very roughly how much time may be required to obtain this in game.

We will assume our end user is doing something that is currently incredibly profitable and to my current knowledge (which would be much further reaching than an average new user likely due to my experience playing consistently) fuel refinery is a job that can generate tons of cash but does have a rather expensive starting capital to purchase the higher end upgrades needed to make it extremely profitable. I am cutting printers out of this as well, take that as you will.

I can say from my personal experience having a base on an island with the proper fuel holes, working efficiently, and using the grapple to sell to the NPCs can generate around $250,000 in game/5 minutes. This is assuming you are working incredibly efficiently, and have no need to stop. We will not be using this figure as for, again, an average new user, this seems unrealistic. Frankly, even for experienced players this is unrealistic. For the sake of argument and ease of math, let us say 10 minutes per $250,000 in game. This is a relatively comfortable ground to reach and can be held consistently when grinding. This can also account for having people steal from you and or you being raided.

By taking our earlier figure of $106,250,000 in game (the amount needed to purchase $16.50 USD worth of credits) and dividing it by $250,000 in game, we get 425. That number is important as it represents how many 10 minute sessions a player would need. We can now (approximately and admittedly very roughly) judge what our time is worth.

(425 sessions) x (10 minutes)
(amount of sessions needed) x (time per session) = 4,250 minutes.
4,250 minutes divided by 60 is 70.83 (repeating) hours. We can round down here to 70 for ease of discussion.*

Do you think that is fair after reading this? There are events and other ways to make money, I am certain you can likely make that much money faster than 70 hours if you have the knowledge and experience to do so. I would argue once you get into a groove and have plenty of space you should be able to cut the time needed in half. 35 hours sounds much more in line with my personal experience making fuel. But I also have a large well made base, a set of decent permanent weapons from donating, friends to help defend my base, and donator level printers down during this.

So whether it is 70 hours, 35 hours, or somewhere in between, do you genuinely believe that grind is fair to an end user when factoring in the prices of the most expensive crates VS what they offer?

Let me cram this here, it is NOT a donation if you are actively paying to receive benefits. You are paying for a service. Anyone who has purchased custom class options can attest to this service being generally rather lengthy and painful despite paying a considerable amount of money.

Section 3: Manipulative and Predatory Behaviors that Cause Abusive Long Term Habits

To make your life easier and a bit more efficient, many players would likely want to grind for the grappling hook first things first, which as shown when you click here costs 2500 credits exactly. What a convenient price to implement. Probably a coincidence, right? Likely not. Similar to the "40% off sale" that has existed for (as far as I know) the entire time I have played here (over a year) these are intentionally tempting and subtly manipulative tactics. These, however, are but minor infractions on what the lootbox/gacha system is currently on ProtRp.

There are more and more weapons releasing (Mystifier, Railgun, many other Glitched weapons) in new crates that are significantly stronger than anything we have seen prior. The chances of getting these high end weapons are not listed in any location I could find (I will update this post if they are). If someone has these weapons and you are fighting them, you (unless they are not paying attention to their screens) will lose with even current Supporter+ permanent weapons. There is room here to drop a fat "skill issue" but you can analyze the exact damage each weapon does and come to this exact conclusion.

If these weapons are not considered pay to win in your mind, ask yourself why Smokey (the owner of ProtRP for those reading who are not aware) has accepted large sums of money for certain weapons on their custom job/classes. Is it because they look cool or are associated with a sort of "status"? Perhaps partially, but at the end of the day, weapons that 1-2 hit, are more accurate, reload faster, and provide a significant advantage in raw statistics are pay to win.

I am certain there are ways to raid these people if they are AFK, but if more than one of them raid you, you are boned. Especially if you are a solo player. So much for earning all that money in 35 hours, huh? Quick side note, candidly, I am part of the problem for having purchased and enabled this behavior primarily before it manifested into what it is today. I accept that and you can account it into my bias on this topic.

Another quick example, there are currently player models (looks only) that are Gacha / Lootbox walled. These are extremely rare and are also predatory, however, at least they do not provide any particular gameplay advantage. These I still believe to be unacceptable for players, but when games like Genshin Impact get away with significantly more and make billions, there is not much we can do beyond voicing an opinion and speaking more importantly with our wallets.

I am no psychologist, nor will I act like I am even beginning to be qualified to touch on what quantifies as an addiction, especially in a virtual space such as a Garry's Mod server.

Here is an article explaining some dangers of Gacha in easy to interpret text.
Here is an academic paper explaining some background information on the incomes and factors associated with those most susceptible to these kinds of addictions.
Here is another (paywalled sadly) academic research paper, this one on how a group of Singapore people studied specifically associated the gacha items collected with their own self image and expression of their selves.
Here is another academic paper, this one specifically relating to how loneliness is correlated to VGA (or video game addiction).

Many of the examples above are relating to mobile games, but the same principles apply on all games. I won't act like I can interpret these large academic research papers entirely, so I will quote the part most can reference and understand. The abstract and or conclusion.

The final one I linked, discussing loneliness and its' connection to spending money and video game addiction as a whole has this conclusion:

"In conclusion, the findings of this study were able to fill the gaps of previous literature on the topic of gacha games and VGA. In reference to the findings, it was determined that there was a significant positive correlation between loneliness and VGA. Furthermore, those with high levels of neuroticism had a higher tendency for VGA, however, the same could not be said for the aspect of extraversion as those with low levels of extraversion had similar tendencies, albeit deemed insignificant. Lastly, it was determined that there was a significant correlation between the motivational factors that motivates a player to partake in in-game spending in relation to VGA; with a strong emphasis on character-related factors having higher priority. The current study serves to not only be an extension to prior studies but also as an opportunity for other possible avenues to be explored for a better understanding on VGA." (IDA F. ISMAIL*, MIMI FITRIANA, CHAN L. CHUIN)

Section 4: It is Only a Video Game, you are Taking this too Seriously

This is a preemptive counter argument to those who will inevitably say this in viewing this post.

You may not be the demographic this hurts, but there are many who are hurt by this and many more who will be in the coming future. Especially if Smokey continues down this route of adding more and more lootbox/gacha mechanics to the game. These can severely hurt the mental, physical, and fiscal health of an individual. Said individual struggling from addiction could very well be a child considering Garry's Mod's demographics and the amount of underage users on this server.

If I have to explain to you or break down why this is dangerous and unhealthy, you need to reassess what this is. This is a video game server for players to roleplay and have fun on together. This is not a fashion show, a contest, nor is it any kind of platform to display status or wealth. You reading this may not be hurt by these addictions, nor may you be at any risk to mental, physical, or fiscal harm. But some are, and the more predatory it gets, the worse it is for those users.

If it is pushed more and more towards this predatory model which is seemingly inevitable as Smokey lines his pocket with the sweetest of currencies from us users, it will hurt many users, beyond the damage is has likely already caused. I have not even touched on the various things custom classes can have (like constant access to breaching charges, 200 health, full armor, and amazing perma weapons) that essentially nuke any arguments against this server having massive pay to win elements. That might seem like a "No s**t, it's a Garry's Mod server, dude" moment, and while I agree, the aforementioned research articles and experiences from players can highlight exactly how this can be threatening to the health of the very same players that give this server the amazing community it maintains.

Section 5: Solutions and a Conclusion

How can we "solve" this? Not including features for Smokey to make money is ridiculous and unacceptable. Smokey deserves money for the excellent community they have manifested here on Garry's Mod. They should be able to make enough to cover the server expenses and pocket extra.

This is the part that I would love input on, how do you, the person who (thank you, DM me if you are here) read to this point think Smokey can implement features to generate revenue that do not risk any players mental, physical or fiscal well being?

I realize this thread is all over the place and not incredibly well organized. I could have spent an additional hour or so touching it up and making it really shine, but I do not believe I need to in order to illustrate my points. I welcome all criticism towards the words I have thrown here. I spew a ton here rambling, so it is only fair that you respond with whatever criticism you have and I hear you out. It is likely I will reply ASAP to all responses if any come in. I know there are parts I am likely missing or poorly explaining, so please, take time to reply. Even if you have a simple sentence of info to add, it is more than nothing and I wish for all who read this to interact with this post in some way shape or form.

Thank you for reading this, until we speak again, please have an amazing rest of your day.

*EDIT 01/24/23: I realized now through a reply down below that these figures are likely even more accurate than I thought. Fuel Refinery requires donor rank to be able to grind the most efficiently. I did not get into donor printers or upgrades, but understand that they too pressure users into spending money, and are unhealthy. Thank you, Tesco!
 
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JesusOnTheKeys

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this is amazingly written I took the time to read it all and came up with a few ideas how Smokey can change the server albeit I don't think he will as this does line his pockets but I'm not sure if it is insanely profitable and only Smokey can tell us or not although the highest donator list kind of tells us .

1. Smokey could consider other monetization methods such as cosmetic-only items, which do not affect gameplay, and therefore does not create pay to win environment.

2.make sure that any in-game items or bonuses that can be purchased with real money do not give players an unfair advantage over others.

3. make sure for custom classes they aren't super op and restrict them slightly

my conclusion is that smoke's will not implement these as this is his job and cosmetic only items are not as profitable but it is what he wants to do with his community and i have seen servers fall from p2w stuff
Thank you for writing this Plane.
 

plane

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Hi JesusOnTheKeys!

I'll respond point by point to your ideas and give you my input on them.

1. Smokey could consider other monetization methods such as cosmetic-only items, which do not affect gameplay, and therefore does not create pay to win environment.
This would be acceptable to be so long as it came without the hook of having a lootbox or random chance system. These systems have time and time again proven to be addictive and manipulative to end users.

2.make sure that any in-game items or bonuses that can be purchased with real money do not give players an unfair advantage over others.
Well said! This would be amazing if Smokey could make it happen. However, I feel like that does not align with their current vision of the server.

3. make sure for custom classes they aren't super op and restrict them slightly
I did not touch on this much in my post except for one particular line:
I have not even touched on the various things custom classes can have (like constant access to breaching charges, 200 health, full armor, and amazing perma weapons) that essentially nuke any arguments against this server having massive pay to win elements.
But I agree! I (even though I own a custom class with a variety of fun stuff on it) really think custom classes are out of hand. I understand spending money deserves some kind of reward, but spending upwards of half a grand on having the most overpowered stuff added to your job/class feels really ridiculous. Things like breaching charges (which no perma that I have seen outside of CCs exist for) are limited to players who either self supply via blackmarket dealer, or find and pay for it through them. They have no real way of obtaining the same permanent breaching charges that players with them on a CC have.

It is upsetting to me to see players with custom classes that have tons of OP perm weapons on it surround a new players base, obliterate them into shambles, then laugh about in chat as they disconnect. Haha, you really got that new player. Spend a couple hundred more next time around, new guy!
 

plane

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Update 01/23/23

Smokey has added a another 69 credit crate titled as the "Jester Crate".
 

Cretin

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+1 Thank you for taking the time to make this I have one thing to point out. Most people who play Protection don't use the fuel refiner which is in my opinion the best way to make money if not it's close making the time needed to grind even longer to get to the figure you used in your example $106,250,000.
 

plane

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+1 all of it Smokeyy himself needs to read this
Thank you for your support, Juicy! It means a lot.

+1 Thank you for taking the time to make this I have one thing to point out. Most people who play Protection don't use the fuel refiner which is in my opinion the best way to make money if not it's close making the time needed to grind even longer to get to the figure you used in your example $106,250,000.
Appreciate your support, it makes me happy. I agree with you that many do not use it, however that could be due to a couple of reasons:
  • Newer players do not have the capital available to upgrade all of the equipment to max level and begin grinding money off of the job.
  • Experienced players may not want to learn how to do the job.
  • Players of all experience levels may not have a base available to safely do the job. The aforementioned expensive equipment can be destroyed relatively easily with most weapons available for cheap on the server. You can easily lose money and or have equipment/product stolen.
  • There are four (4) slots available to complete this job, this compared to the amount of real estate for fuel holes does not line up. There is enough holes for six (6) minimum depending on how efficiently those who do the job work.
A proposed solution I would have is to rebalance certain jobs to make them just as profitable as fuel. Lean received a change recently which removed the shaking aspect, which is perfect since the job was really rough without being able to utilize your physgun to shake / mix. Now the mix is automated and timed, but the price of each crate is still $28,000. Compared to how this was before, you cannot make enough lean to justify doing it over most other jobs.
 

Tesco

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Fairly new player here. When I first joined the server, it seemed nice to be honest. Only complaint is locking things behind paywalls (like weed grower autopacker and hydro pot, fuel upgrades on oil etc) as well as the mining boosts for donators. Imo, it's fairly p2w and I don't like that aspect of the server. Paying players have a very CLEAR advantage over new ones.
 

plane

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I spoke about this concept briefly In this thread:
https://protectionrp.org/index.php?threads/perms-crates.664/

But yes. Very organized presentation and I agree with alot of the basis this article has to offer.
I read through this prior and was sad it was essentially ignored by everyone. I felt I would cover some similar topics but did not even begin to propose these changes yet as I felt it would not go well with Smokey. I do not know how long you have played, but a year ago Smokey had a rotating permanent weapon shop with much of what you describe. Prices were still high and it brought in issues of its own. One of the main issues was it was weekly. Grinding for approximately 1000 credits or so per gun a week (give or take) can be really stressful on those with any other responsibilities or hobbies. Also, this is incredibly predatory as it brings in additional artificial scarcity and encourages unhealthy time spent online.

My point here is not to stop Smokey from having any P2W elements, but instead to balance it out where he can still make money, but be less pressuring and predatory to the general userbase. Let's be honest, a huge percentage of which are children. It is hard for me to imagine running a server like this and feeling comfortable allowing children to interact with these mechanics. I understand when a cold corporate entity like miHoYo (Genshin Impact) does it, as there are likely hundreds of little evil marketing representatives devouring the blood of children in their back offices, anyway (this is /s aka sarcasm if not obvious). But when a single dude running a fun experience for people in a cool community does it? It is important to call them out. I hope Smokey reads your post or has read it. I also hope they read my post.

I did not reply to your post as I figured it was already lost to time, but I will now to provide my own little chunk of insight on the topic and hopefully draw a tiny bit more attention to it. Thank you for your time reading and writing this. It means a lot to me as a person.

Fairly new player here. When I first joined the server, it seemed nice to be honest. Only complaint is locking things behind paywalls (like weed grower autopacker and hydro pot, fuel upgrades on oil etc) as well as the mining boosts for donators. Imo, it's fairly p2w and I don't like that aspect of the server. Paying players have a very CLEAR advantage over new ones.
See this is where I might start to sound a bit hypocritical and I welcome that argument to be levied against me, as I most certainly am to an extent. The upgrades to weed, fuel upgrades on oil (I didn't even know that was locked behind donor, are you certain it is? I swear I have seen non-donors use upgraded equipment. Maybe they're buying it from users like me? I usually just give it away to new people on the job when I show them how to do it) moonshine upgrades and printer upgrades are all technically pay to win.

But as many I have discussed this topic will attack back with, "this is a simple gmod darkRP server". Pay2Win is inherent, Smokey either needs the money from those sales for server maintenance (which while I do not run GMOD servers I have ran plenty of source and other game servers before, so I am certain if he does pay for this server, it isn't much alone compared to the amount he is making, it is likely the cost of plugins and other bits that up the price if Smokey and staff aren't writing their own plugins in lua.) or Smokey simply wants to make more money. Which if the latter is the case, I am not against him doing to an extent.

But the line needs to be drawn. Thank you for your reply.
 

Tesco

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(I didn't even know that was locked behind donor, are you certain it is?
The highest upgrades are yeah. Moonshine has dono upgrades and to get fastest upgrades for oil, it is too. I mean I feel that it takes the piss a little bit tbh, incentivising new players to donate to grind more efficiently which is downright predatory.
 

plane

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The highest upgrades are yeah. Moonshine has dono upgrades and to get fastest upgrades for oil, it is too. I mean I feel that it takes the piss a little bit tbh, incentivising new players to donate to grind more efficiently which is downright predatory.
Understood. Yes, I believe those actions among others listed here (and plenty others I have not even scratched the surface of) to be incredibly predatory and for the long term health of this community, poor.

Thank you for letting me know.
 

plane

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Update:

It has been 10 days without an upper management staff member replying. If this alone is not telling of the state of ProtRP, I do not know what else is. I will continue to update this, however, I have lowered my server activity and will continue to avoid playing and search for a new server to play on.
 
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