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Let's Talk About Membership

This is something I've been mulling over for some time, and I think it's a pretty touchy topic, but one that deserves a thoughtful discussion: membership benefits.

I love the game, as I think most people here do, and I have, for many years, supported the game via paid membership. I think this is pretty normal. A couple years ago I had some unexpected spikes in cost of living, and I decided to end my membership, while continuing to actively play the game.

It raised a pretty ugly truth, and one that isn't easy to sugar coat. Membership is an extremely pay to win system in Sindome. It's impact can vary wildly from being a tiny little weekly perk, to literally being a make-it-or-break-it, sink-or-swim thing that hugely shapes the progression and reach of your character, especially over the long-term view of a 6, 12, or 18-month membership. I'd like to put up a few numbers to illustrate my point here, because I don't think people are quite aware of the bigger picture since we play a very in the moment, day to day game.

If you are a mixer, and you have a fairly average apartment, you can expect to pay around 4-5k per week in rent. At 4500 chyen a week, that comes out to 18K a month, which is 108,000 chyen per six month membership. That's a lot of fucking money. That's the difference between owning a car, a nice set of armor, or a lot of plot gas for other people.

This problem starts to get significantly uglier when you talk about topside, because the game is balanced around keeping mixers out of topside by comically inflating rental unit costs and offering ways of discounting it to the 'appropriate' characters. There's some cheaper rental units topside, but there is a strong, themely culture of expecting corporates to act and dress nicely, and to not live in the topside ratty apartments more suited for service class salaries. If we say that an average, decent quality apartment runs you around 8,000 per week, you're talking about 32,000 chyen a month, and 192,000 per six month renewal period.

That's a lot of fucking money by any metric. It's more money than most characters will ever see in their life. That's 200 odd job tiny plots for others. That's a luxury vehicle. That's gearing out an endgame character and loading them for war.

I don't want to just focus on the big spooky numbers though, I want to also talk about the day to day. While subsidies do increase with job progression, said job progression is also tied to performance, and people can, and do get demoted for fucking up in their jobs. Not only do you lose weekly salary with a demotion, but you also get double-dinged by losing a higher subsidy rate. It is not an exaggeration to say that the difference between the weekly take home between a member and a non member in a corporate job is quite literally 70% of their entire paycheck. That's nuts, folks. Trying to compete against members as a non member is insane. Your ability to bounce back from a death can be a month, or it could be five or six months.

Now, to come up for air. I want to support the game. I want others to support the game, I want SD funded with a nice nest egg that grows so we have our little trust fund and a game to keep playing. But we need to uncouple tangible, serious in-game benefits from membership.

I still want people to be rewarded for being a member. Here's some ideas that I think are fun and neat, and don't impact the actual gameplay:

Give us fancy text in OOC channels.

Give us a cool forum badge to show our pride with.

Give us a free @redecorate once a year if we have a membership.

We could have members having unique emotes and socials in OOC channels.

Let us have higher-res, larger images, or fancier player profiles on the website and forum.

Let us have access to unique but not gameplay impacting in-game perks, like special car paintjob colors, or new makeup or textile colors.

There's a ton of things we can do to show our support and be cool and themely doing it, both in game and out, but please consider removing having more chyen every week as a membership benefit. It's really busted. I don't know how to fix the problems of wanting longer apartment rents, or what to do about about how the economics and recycling of apartments would look under a new system. I'm just asking for some sensible reform here on the way the game monetizes itself, and to do it in a way that is a fair, balanced and level playing field for all players, and not in a way that really heavily pushes membership, as it is now.

Thank you.

Two things to counter act this dealio.

1. You're mentioning a lot about jobs being the primary source of income. While I've exclusively played around in The Mix, my primary indication has often come that a characters money does not really stop at just what the job pays out but the quality of their side hustles.

2. The Weekly biz cap in 'help weekly' offsets Rent payments, so side hustles like Crate Running and Candy Pedaling usually means you're making your rent. This is a copy paste from the help weekly article to explain it better.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

NON-MEMBER RENT OFFSET

For non-members, any money spent on rent each week increases the earnings cap by the amount spent

that week, allowing additional income to be earned, which levels the playing field with those that

do not spend money on rent due to a membership pad.

You only have the week you paid the rent (regardless of how much rent you paid in advance) to earn

it back using the weekly earnings cap increase.

Some examples:

- if you rent a place for 2500c, for the next 7 days, your weekly earnings cap will be 2500c higher.

The following week it will no longer be 2500c higher.

- if you rent a place for 2500c and then pay 3 more weeks of rent all up front, your weekly earnings

cap for THAT WEEK will be 10k higher. The following week it will be back to normal.

- if you rent a place for 5k, then payrent for a full year in advance, you only have the week you

paid the rent with a higher weekly earnings cap. It goes away after a week.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

If there are any issues with out it effects Corporate play, I'm not sure, again, as I've not seen the world from that view and have heard players mention in general that 'Going Corporate Often Means Making LESS MONEY'. Which, I'm not sure if that is the case or not with options available to Corporate folks, but as far as the system works currently and with Mixers, honestly seems fair to me. It's just a time to effort effect and even then, some jobs and side hustles honestly mean you make your cap in a single day.

HELP WEEKLY EARNINGS CAP was brought to my attention, and it's a great change.

However, many automated income systems that that change impacts are not usable as a corporate citizen. You lose access to many others after graduating from the corporate training period unless that change was reverted.

Mixers interact with automated income much more heavily than your average corporate citizen does. They're not blocked from using many of them in the mix, but realistically speaking, jane from HR isn't going to be trading in crack rocks to thugs for money on any consistent basis and living to tell the tale.

Membership is definitely a pay-to-win type thing. TBH I'm frequently limited on play time these days and I wouldn't play nearly as much (or at all) if I had to consistently dump IC money into rent. I don't always have time to run automated crates etc. to recoup those costs and my character would be out an apartment before long.

Even with membership, I have a hard time finding the funds to create plot while also keeping my character capable to physically engage in plots themself.

-----------------

As for topside and the rent diff even with subsidies...

I think players that don't want to use the membership need to be taking their corporation for a ride on reimbursements to offset those costs. Even if you work for one, the corporations aren't your friend and you're still a struggling peon - especially at the lower levels. You should be trying to rip them off every chance you get.

And reimbursements can also cover the cost of some or all of your plotting if you play the cards right.

A very fair point on corporate players, but I would mention that requisitions terminal stuff can be highly job-title specific, extremely frustrating to learn about when you don't have people directly teaching you how it's done, and subject to a hell of a lot of factors outside the control of the player. That isn't a dig at GM's either, but rather simply stating that things like timing, passing dice rolls and and a need for relevance and quality sometimes make doing such things very difficult.

I don't think the answer is to simply tell people to cheat their jobs harder, because that's also a very specific playstyle that not everyone enjoys.

My view is that, in terms of what's good for the game, is that more players with memberships is better but not because of revenue. Rather I think 100 players paying $5 for memberships is better than 20 players paying $100 in terms of community engagement (though obviously not community funding) because the more people who have memberships the more people feel invested in the game world and the more representation there is that this is something that appeals to a lot of people.

I also think having a lot of memberships serves to keep staff invested where their interest might not otherwise be there because, again, it shows there is a committed appeal by players to what is being built. This is, in part, why I was initially opposed to changes in rent structures because I felt like it could collapse memberships for not a lot of gain on the community experience overall -- even if things were made easier for individuals.

However from my viewpoint it's irrelevant what a membership gives, or even to a certain extent what it costs, as long as there is a reason for players to want them. However I struggle to imagine anything short of like, custom coloured character descriptions (which Johnny would never give in on) that players would want so much as housing. Players love housing and having their own custom pads to the point where everyone kind of takes it for granted you need it, because everyone who doesn't have it seems like the odd one out. Like believe me, you don't need it for gameplay purposes I have tested this to the Nth degree over the last several months, but I completely understand the deep appeal having a lot of space for everyone's mementos and stuff and character expression to be represented within.

So I really think housing is kind of the perfect carrot to have players wanting to become full members, and there would really need to be something awesome to take its place if there was ever going to be a shift away from it. I don't see coloured names in OOC or profile pictures really hitting the same parts of the brain that custom player housing does, that is like the Holy Grail of roleplaying games.

I think you make a very good point about housing being an attractive thing for players both IC and OOC for a lot of great roleplaying reasons. I strongly resonate with the rule of cool of having a neat pad and the actual gameplay reasons you listed.

You also make a few points I'm struggling to connect the dots on in regards to staff investment. I think staff are staff because they enjoy the various aspects and duties of being staff. A builder likes writing new places, bringing toys and props to life and seeing all their neat creations being used and loved by players. A GM and SGM enjoy bringing the world to life with puppets and running plots both large and small. I would assume these people enjoy their jobs when people ask them to build things, or get invested and involved in the stories that they're trying to tell. Unless Johnny and Slither are like, holding cheer rallies for staff when they hit 10 new members, I fail to see how game engagement things have anything at all to do with credit card swipes.

I also want to see people supporting the game, as I said, and funding the game is a fantastic thing we all benefit from.

Perhaps we could open up a discussion and try and brainstorm ideas for ways in which a supporter pack model and incentive structure would work, being mindful that we both want to show our support and fund the game, but also not be giving people major IC benefits in doing so?

I mentioned things like reskins, fancy colors and the like, but what about actual content submissions? Path of Exile has, for many years, majorly funded their entire game studio by allowing people to pay for content submissions. That creates a whole different set of issues, which is why I didn't recommend it at first, but I'm trying to think of ways in which it could be done over here to drive funding and let people show support.

I could see something like being able to pay a donation fee on a very heavy lockout timer to submit an item design to the game. Perhaps once a year, that way the staff doesn't instantly get a 18 year design backlog. You can pay say, $50 and submit an item request. Balance would be entirely in the hands of staff, quartermaster and builders for items that might need mechanical balancing. You describe the broad strokes of what you would like to see added, and they handle the detail.

I think that would get people invested in the game in a big way. People love being able to say "yeah I added that cool thing to the game" and it has a similar deep emotional connection as something like a permapad you helped design, but without the very real and serious workload overhead of digging, describing and coding an apartment that's twice the size of most of the businesses in the game.

I think people would go absolutely apeshit for it, even if a lot of the more 'mechanical' object requests would be simple reskins. Like, who doesn't want to be able to brag about adding the DickBlaster 9000 shotgun to the game, even if it's a 1:1 clone behind the scenes?

I also think this could be neat for your staff engagement concept as well, because it can get the creative energy that being a staff member requires going.

I don’t want to have to pay to create custom clothing and props, and I don’t want builder time/attention to be based on which player has the most disposable IRL income.

I think the issue to address here, if there is one, is to find an equivalent for the “extra crate per day” higher weekly earnings cap that corporate characters can take advantage of.

Anyone can ask for a prop to be created, but making functional custom items for cash would never pass a staff vote, it would be basically a retread of perma pads and its taken years to unwind the legacy of those and probably cost as much builder time to prune them as it did to make them in the first place.

I really have a hard time thinking of anything that staff would agree on to a majority that players would actually want, housing wouldn't even pass that benchmark now it just got grandfathered in. Maybe someone can think of something but I do think it would have to be pretty novel compared to existing stuff.

I think memberships are okay where they are. We've reduced the financial divide between people paying for a membership and people who don't by allowing rent to be recouped in terms of weekly cap income. I recognize that it still takes time to earn that money, but I don't think that is a major blocker for most people. Being out and about doing things generstes opportunity for roleplay and interaction. As it stands now the system is fairly well automated from a staff point of view and low touch which frees the staff up to do puppets/coding/building