Spiral Knights: Just Another Knight in Wolver’s Clothing

Spiral Knights added a Heat Amplifier item for 800 crystal energy. This is about $6 in real world terms. I’ll note to supporters of the amplifier that it only amplifies 20% for two days, not 100% for two days. Anyone who’s making calculations based on 100% need to revisit them.

To some people, the Amplifier will be worth it, because they don’t think in terms of in-game money, only out-game money, and to them, $6 is spare change. To some people, $6 is like vending machine money to the rest of us, either because it really is vending machine money to them, or because they have no other expenses (for instance, if it’s part of a weekly $20 allowance). I’ve even seen someone spend the equivalent in revives in one run, because they simply won’t give up even when the revives start to hit 1000+ crystal energy.

In contrast, for me, $6 is half a meal, or 2 ounces of 5-star tea ((Or, often, tea that likes to think of itself as 5-star when it’s not.)); I remember a time when I had to make it stretch to a week. I’m upper middle-class without parents to give me an allowance.

And while it’s legal and all for Spiral Knights to make money off people to whom $6 is no great shakes, I can’t help but shudder a bit at the amount of money they’re spending on something that I can do for free just on T1 runs. But the Heat Amplifier isn’t for frugal players; it’s for premium players.

The label of “premium” easily makes the rest of us think that we, who don’t deserve any kind of label, will not be the primary focus for Spiral Knights’ future development. To those who don’t mind a $6 amplifier every two days, this is just fine, because the rest of us don’t really matter to most of them; to the rest of us, it feels like the cold shoulder from the Spiral Knights team.

I would feel better if a Spiral Knights representative could reassure people that this isn’t the case, that they care about all Spiral Knights players. I think that uncertainty is at the root of a lot of unhappiness, and that a lot of loyalty could be gained back by, not just saying that the Spiral Knights team cares about all players, but also showing that they care.

What does showing mean in this case? I think honestly it means two things at this point:

  • New content for T2 and T3, because if there’s one thing that F2P players and “non-premium” paying players are going to do, is grind for quite a longer time than premium players.

  • Extending the social aspects of the game outside of the forums and hacking things in the Clockworks; for a long time, the main extended social aspect was crafting, and during preview, it included the various PK arenas. Guilds should have been part of this extended social aspect, but they don’t seem to be getting the love that they deserve, that would make it socially rewarding to be part of a guild.

    Why is social so important? Because it gives people things to do, even outside of content, and allows them to find roles for themselves.

Both of these seem to be aspects of MMORPGs that the Spiral Knights team seems to think that premium players don’t care about, and so perhaps that’s why we haven’t seen advancements in them. It’s part of the perception that Spiral Knights doesn’t care about the non-premium players—and remember, non-premium includes people who would probably not mind a $5 monthly subscription, even some that wouldn’t mind a $10 monthly. After all, many people spring for the monthly extra weapon slots at 250 crystal energy each; with a maximum of two weapon slots, that’s 500 crystal energy, or roughly $3.75 a month. Add in the 2 extra trinket slots at 150 crystal energy each, and that’s a total of 800 crystal energy per month, and we’ve almost come full circle. I say almost, because the equivalent of having a Heat Amplifier for every day of a 30-day month would be 12,000 crystal energy, or $90 a month. For the weekends of a 4-weekend month, it’s $24 a month.

You know what would really be horrible? If Spiral Knights increased the amount of crystal energy for weapons and trinkets slots. I could see it happening, I could see it not happening, but the non-small possibility of the first option makes me worry. I wonder if the germ of this idea, floating subliminally perhaps, is bothering folks. Well, it certainly bothers me, but I’m just another Wolver-wearing knight.

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10 thoughts on “Spiral Knights: Just Another Knight in Wolver’s Clothing

  1. I have to admit I don’t understand why, instead of calculating the cost of gear/upgrades in real world money, you’re not calculating it in crowns instead. Currently, 100 CE is going for about 4,850-5,000 crowns (for the past week, since I’ve bought CE on average twice a day for several days running at about that range). That really isn’t a lot, nor does it take a long time to earn that much ingame with a good group and efficient JK runs, and taking advantage of ME.

    Setting a CE savings goal to be able to afford the necessary gear upgrades and working towards it slowly (and perhaps even pooling crowns to help each person buy their needed CE one at a time) seems like a perfectly viable alternative to spending a big chunk of real cash to do it all in one go. Heck, even just buying half or 2/3 of the CE with ingame money will cut down the cost in real dollars, if someone wanted to pay partly with crowns and partly in cash.

    I honestly don’t get how some people are feeling pressured to spend large amounts of real money in order to get a 5* set or afford weapon slot upgrades. And if some schlub wants to waste 6$ buying a heat amplifier, then good for them; personally I don’t see the point of it but like you said, for some folks 6$ is small potatoes. Whatever floats their boat. The lazy high rollers tend to bankroll the purely-free players in most F2Ps, so I really don’t worry about their spending habits, that’s their own business.

    However, I totally agree with you about the social interaction options for the game being lacking. I don’t doubt more PvP, Guild Hall additions, and lower tier stuff (like the upcoming T1 boss) are planned for the game, but they’ll take time to actually implement so adopting a wait and see attitude is all we can do at this point. I believe SK was in development for a long time as is, and perhaps there was some pressure to release the game in a more unfinished state than would be ideal.

    All I can do is look at 3R’s past track record with Puzzle Pirates to determine whether or not I feel they’re a trustworthy company who isn’t all about bleeding their customers any way they can. And they really don’t strike me as that kind of company (and I’ve played F2Ps from some pretty bastardly nickel-and-dime-you-to-death companies).

    • Hi Pai, thank you for the thoughtful comment!

      There are a few reasons I used real world money instead of crowns, from a personal point of view:

      In the past, I usually spent money to make up for a lack of time to play the game and bankroll all the crowns. If I didn’t work a job with demanding hours and a pager on the side, it would be different and I’d probably use both currencies; there were days when I had 20 minutes to visit the Clockworks and that was it, and barely enough time to cover a most of a Tier-1 run and only half a Tier-2 run (making it to Jelly King is not even to be thought of).
      Now I have to be a high-roller in order to play the same way in the same amount of time for advancement. I’m not a high-roller; in the end, that means spending a far longer time in calendar days without advancing than someone who can spend more than an hour per day.
      For someone with a lot of expenses (medical ones are really quite horrible for me, because bipolar 1 co-morbid chronic PTSD is not cheap to spend drugs and therapy on), money… hurts quite a lot. It’s a touchy subject. And people with expenses are much more likely to be in my boat, where the need to view things in cash is necessary.
      Three Rings, in the end, needs to make money. Apparently from recent actions they need to make more of it more quickly. Crowns do them almost no good; they need people to spend Crystal Energy in larger amounts than gate runs will give them. Who’s to say that, to force the point, they won’t raise CE prices yet again, and again?

      The last point is more of a trust issue, admittedly. Which is probably a bigger problem to most people than the CE prices, even for me. I notice that a lot of the threads, even the ones where CE price raises seems to be the main point, have a large amount of sudden distrust and betrayal running underneath. And that lack of trust makes the money issue an even touchier subject.

      I trust the dev/marketing/business team of Puzzle Pirates, who made the decision to stand up against Ubisoft so long ago; but the team of Spiral Knights doesn’t overlap with Pirates at all. I know from experience that different teams at a company, even a small one, can have vastly different attitudes; and for what it’s worth, there appear to be some lessons (mostly with game economy) from Pirates that are strangely not being applied to Spiral Knights, even though those lessons were agnostic to the type of game (puzzles versus arcade).

      Plus, SEGA. It’s hard to trust a big company, and SEGA isn’t a particularly easy one to trust. Personally, I think if there was anyone who forced the SK team’s hand at raising CE prices the way they did, it was SEGA.

      But you’re right—time will tell whether the SK team can be trusted, or not trusted (whether it’s because they’re bumbling around, or because SEGA is bumbling around and overriding them).

      • From how I see it, I think the changes to crafting were made in a bid to stop rampant item/crown inflation, something that could seriously hurt both new and steady players. But I think the problem was compounded by the fact that there aren’t any other things ingame that could be tweaked -besides- crafting — the binding was to stop the flood of cheap items into the AH, and the CE cost was raised to encourage more people to buy CE with crowns I think (supporting people who sell CE they’ve bought with money).

        I think the devs were restricted in what they could do to address the inflation, since as you’ve pointed out, there really aren’t content options in the game (or crown sinks) beside crafting, especially at endgame. So restricting easy/cheap crafting did the double hit of also angering people who enjoyed crafting for it’s own sake as a social/fun option in itself. This ties into the ‘maybe the game was released too early’ problem, too.

        I will admit I was a bit worried when they extended the Rose Regalia event… I wasn’t sure if I was to interpret that as the event NOT bringing as much money in as they hoped, so they were holding out longer in hopes more people would buy. I wrote that feeling off as being paranoid, but maybe it was closer to the truth. I really WANT SK to succeed, it’s a fun, cute game ad the devs seem like they’re cool folks. Problem is, they really can’t be candid with players about stuff like that, so… we can only speculate amongst ourselves. =/

        • All good points, Pai.

          I want SK to succeed too; there’s nothing else out there like it.

          We should remember that it’s fairly early in SK’s release lifetime. In a few months, we’ll see how it all pans out; I suspect that there’s a good chance I’ll be back in game when more content and social options are added.

        • The Rose Regalia stuff didn’t really worry me; it seemed exactly the same sort of thing as Three Rings’ monthly doubloon-buying incentives in Puzzle Pirates. And during the special, crown prices for CE went down a smidge, likely because more people buying CE with real money put more CE into the market.

          The crafting CE increase, plus the bound-item-remain-bound-after-upgrading, did worry me. My guild is made up of three neighbors who like to go to the local wifi pizza joint to play, and help each other get good gear as we go. We had a lovely almost potlatchy sort of leapfrogging exchange that ended up with our “youngest” member getting her Mighty Cobalt Helm. But we can’t do that anymore, at least not until they introduce an unbinding shop; and that will probably be prohibitively expensive.

          Speaking of guilds, I share the general concern here that guilds are getting little love from the updates. What we think would be awesome is a Guild Cookbook, such that individuals can commit recipes to a common resources such that everyone in the guild can use those recipes; or maybe a Guild Materials Locker where we can store and share mats. At the very least, we’d like to see *something* new in our big empty guild hall!

          But oddly enough the Auction House has made the higher crafting costs even out, at least for me. I think I saved up enough CE for my Radiant Silvermail (5*) in the same amount of time I would have before, because of selling materials in the AH. I’d have been quicker had I not kept getting distracted by shiny, shiny Brandish-line recipes.

          Since the market started creeping up into the low 5Ks, though, we’ll see if that holds.

          Like y’all, I’m torn between worrying that the developers are only concerned for the premium players, and recognizing that the premium players are necessary to keep the game financially afloat.

          I think the addition of a T1 boss maybe proves some love for the non-premium players? Maybe? Since it’s available to those who haven’t been able to afford T2/3 gear yet?

    • I have to admit I don’t understand why, instead of calculating the cost of gear/upgrades in real world money, you’re not calculating it in crowns instead.

      It’s an objective metric. It is how much it costs to someone somewhere. And as AJ mention, this is how we were doing things. There is also the fact that I had energy at the time of the upgrade, it lost a good chunk of its value and OOO hasn’t even made an attempt to deal with that aspect of the upgrade.

      That really isn’t a lot, nor does it take a long time to earn that much ingame with a good group and efficient JK runs, and taking advantage of ME.

      I happen to prefer to play games instead of farming mist energy for crowns to exchange for CE to eventually craft. There are much more rewarding things to work towards, that’s what I’ve been doing with my time instead.

      Setting a CE savings goal to be able to afford the necessary gear upgrades and working towards it slowly (and perhaps even pooling crowns to help each person buy their needed CE one at a time) seems like a perfectly viable alternative to spending a big chunk of real cash to do it all in one go.

      And reading a book is a perfectly viable alternative to grinding through the same levels again and again only to get into harder levels that, generally, are otherwise the same.

      I found my progress to be paced quite right, apparently 2 moths to assemble a set of 4* gear wasn’t slow enough for OOO.

      I honestly don’t get how some people are feeling pressured to spend large amounts of real money in order to get a 5* set or afford weapon slot upgrades.

      It would be required to continue playing the game I had been playing and enjoying so far, I honestly don’t see why that point is so hard to grasp.

      All I can do is look at 3R’s past track record with Puzzle Pirates to determine whether or not I feel they’re a trustworthy company who isn’t all about bleeding their customers any way they can.

      Puzzle Pirates is a different game and dubs were never as integral to gameplay as energy has been from the very start. I certainly don’t see a reason to weight what I’ve seen from pirates higher to what I’ve seen with knights in regards to knights.

      • Steamwolf, you bring up a good point about the fact that all Crystal Energy is bought via someone’s money. Thinking about the situation from a holistic perspective, the CE cost increases makes this collective pool of cash poorer—a dollar of CE buys less now than it did previously.

        Also, it sounds like from the forums that, in general, people need the promise of new content to make the game worth spending extra CE on—whether you’re F2P, a non-premium paying player, or a premium player. Which brings up a new concern to me:

        What will the SK team do when the premium players run out of content, as they’re able to do since they can proceed at the same rate of progress as non-premium players before (or even faster, if they buy up the limited supply of unbound 4* and 5* weapons)?

        This ties into my previously mentioned concern: if the premium players are SK’s cash cows, does that mean more premium features need to be prioritized over non-premium features?

        We’ll need to wait and see. Another month should make things clearer as to where the game is going.

  2. I will admit that i miss the way things used to be with CE prices for crafting ect, but i also feel like thats not the main reason i stopped playing SK for a little bit. Something about the whole attitude of the game and gamers changed. IT went from “im going to help my buddy out and get him down to tier 2 for better materials” to a more ” you cnat handle this im saving my CE for other things. So in short i feel like the game ahs gotten more selfish. I need a new arsenal upgrade or something excitingly new to get me back into Knights. (Possibly the mentioned T1 Boss? That’d be nice) But until then, my remaining $9 worth of CE sits untouched.

    Loving your blog more and more every day, its become a habit to check daily to see if you have any word on SK because i dont trust the site forums. Keep on Keeping on man.

    • I agree with you, Rekks. Until there is shiny new content, even the Aurora Isles aren’t going to draw me back to spend actual shiny CE, which is what Spiral Knights needs people to do.

  3. I’ve been having trouble getting the ce too. And I don’t have any money to be buying ce with. This may have to do with the fact that I help others a lot in this game, crafting them items and such for free. I don’t know why I do it, but I can’t stop. Either way, I do this once or twice a month because that’s how long it takes me to get enough ce with the increasing prices. It would be nice if the poorer of us could have something else to do other than watch as the richer ones walk around immortaly with their 90,000ce and arsenal that goes on for miles. A customisable guild hall, perhaps? Wait, that’ll be for the premiums…

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