Hello, my name is Mick and I am here to advocate that strangeloopgames creates an EULA for ECO that protects the future of ECO servers.
First off, I would like to explain where I come from on this topic. I have played the game Minecraft for years. I played it from it's indev versions through alpha, beta, and the current release. Since Minecraft has sold I believe around 120 million sales, I would like to think that many of you would be familiar with the game. If not, that is fine because the main component to the game I would like to stress is how the multiplayer works. It works very similarly to ECO's in a sense that any individual can launch a server for anyone to play on. The servers can also be modded. On the mechanics side of things, the only draw back was really anytime a server owner wanted to control some aspect of the game that Mojang did not anticipate and did not provide configuration for. Otherwise, servers ran smoothly. The downfall of the pleasant Minecraft community is in the freedom that was given to server owners to sell in game success to it's players. Mojang eventually realized this, and began requiring all servers be play-to-win instead of pay-to-win through restrictions in it's EULA. This measure however failed, not because an EULA isn't a powerful measure against pay-to-win, but because they issued it after they accidentally allowed the entire Minecraft user base to become used to and comfortable with pay-to-win. Lead by server owners, players continue to resist any changes Mojang/Microsoft makes to end pay-to-win servers. Hopefully for the sake of those that play Minecraft, more and more servers will abandon pay-to-win as some already have, but for me--I am moving onto other games.
This brings me to ECO, a far better game that I am happy to see is still in alpha and I look forward to playing it through the many versions to come. I have very limited experience in the game because I just bought it. I have however, gotten a feel for some of it's community and I love it. The helpfulness and enthusiasm for the game is very much what I have needed. Definitely brings me back to when I first started playing Minecraft as I cannot deny some of the similarities. I believe that their is a shared understanding of the fun a player ran economy brings. I think the most enticing feature of the game is that through teamwork, planning, and fun hours played you can achieve a lot. I fear that these things can be taken away if clever server owners trying desperately to increase their player-base slowly finds more and more ways to give donators an edge, unknowingly sacrificing their economies and game plays for an expanding server. Server owners after all are just players all the same, they are not evil--they are just trying to be successful in creating a large server for the game.
The opportunity to prevent this is now, and it is only a matter of time before this window closes for good. A EULA for eco would work if created in time. You can't stop players from trying to make large, wonderful servers (and you shouldn't), but you can influence how they do it. If from the beginning you make a clear set of rules preventing pay-to-win servers, they will never be tempted to add such features to their server to be able to expand it. If they are tempted to break such a rule, then you simply shut them down after a warning (add a feature to enable you to do so if you haven't already) and publicly post the shutdown so that everyone knows you are serious.
As far as worries to enforce such rules goes, I think it would be very possible to do so. In addition to the shutdown feature, I believe in the power of community. Just as Mojang accidently created a community that fought to keep pay-to-win servers alive, you can create a community to make sure a pay-to-win server never makes it in the first place. Giving players the ability to anonymously report servers through a form that asks them to present the evidence (like links to a "donator shop" ect.) would encourage them to speak up. Publicly shutting down servers does the same. Most importantly, simply issuing these rules now protects the current servers by keeping them the norm; thus any new server with a pay-to-win feature is against the norm causing players to avoid it and report it. You must solve the issue before it arises to set the standard for the community, they are much more powerful in protecting play-to-win servers than you, as the game creator, will ever be. You must make the first impression that says ECO will be a game that all people can play together on equal grounds in the name of fun and education. Do not make it a game that teaches people money generates success. This is your opportunity to set the stage for ECO's multiplayer, do this and the community will not just buy your game, but help it grow in a healthy way and protect the things that make it great. If you don't do this, somewhere along the line, one server at a time, players will sell it's features to other players to help their own community grow rather than just improving their servers quality in itself. I know which one you would want, and I know the only reason you haven't done this yet is because you are either blind to it's need or you are unsure on how to enforce it. All I am asking you to do is send a message and make it bold. Follow through with the tools you need to enforce it a little and the community will do the rest. Hopefully if you do this early enough, you will never even have to use the shutdown function.
Shaun "Mick" Coyne
For those of you unfamiliar with pay-to-win I would just like to walk through it's dangers real quick. First off, pay-to-win is when "donators" pay to receive some non-aesthetic in game item or perk. If this is not done then I call the game play-to-win meaning all perks or items are achieved though actually playing the game as intended. Pay-to-win servers are not very fun to play unless you are very affluent. For the average player, you have to progress through the game slowly in a limited way unless you can afford to buy things with real life currency. If you can't, someone may have an item you will never get to have, live in a place you can't live, or simply be able to enjoy some kind of event you are left out of. This is never fun. Worst of all pay-to-win servers are not just poisonous to themselves, but also other servers. When servers start to compete for players as they will eventually do once eco really takes off. The best thing they can do is simply find ways to make their server more fun to play. However, their is also the issue of machine costs to run the server. Better internet, better performance, and if eco's updates cause it, they will need more space for a larger and more complex game that requires even more server resources. In addition to that, to compete with other servers they need to advertise. I have seen online advertisments for game servers go well over one thousand US dollars. It is ridiculous. (also, depending on how modding goes and such, servers could end up having to pay modders to create unique mods for their servers.) Whether it is for machine costs or for some sort of advertisement, these things need lots of money. If pay-to-win servers are allowed, they will bleed out any other servers that don't get as many donations whom are play-to-win. I would also like to remind everyone that nobody that thinks up a possible pay-to-win feature is evil, they are just trying to expand their server so that more people can enjoy it. It is good intentions with a large, often unforeseen cost.
One last note, you should also consider the issue of "vote-to-win". Receiving anything for voting for a server on a forum or on a special voting site should be considered a trade between something outside the game for something inside the game and therefore a payment. This should violate the EULA as well.
Thank you for reading if you made it this far into my post. Have a good day and may "donations" always be donations.