Have you ever heard of a ‘Bag of Crap’ from Woot.com? A ‘Bag of Crap’ is an item that Woot sells for $8 and has 3 random items from their storeroom. Almost always, these items are going to be worth more than the $8 you pay for them, and getting your hands on one is exceptionally difficult. Over time, I’ve been able to grab 2 Bags of Crap. The first bag contained a paper mache mask, a piece of string, and an iRobot Roomba Floor Vacuum. The second one I opened? A nice red backpack, a car battery jumper, and an Egyptian cotton bathrobe. 100% worth what I paid for them. I’ve even heard of someone getting a 46″ HDTV in a ‘Bag of Crap’. A lockbox is a similar concept.
Lockboxes. They’re one of the new trends in online gaming today. Not to say they haven’t been around before, they’ve been very popular in MMOs all around the world for a long time, now. It has been only recently that they have started popping up in more popular MMOs like Lord of the Rings Online, Star Trek Online, City of Heroes, and the upcoming Guild Wars 2.
To those that have never heard of lockboxes before, the basic premise is a locked box that drops as loot from standard kills, but the only way to open the box is a key purchased from the game’s store with real money. The contents of the box can be anything from potions and crafting supplies all the way up to other store content like cosmetic items, experience boosts, mounts, or jackpot items that you can’t even get on the store.
As Syp said in Massively’s latest Perfect Ten column, lockboxes are gambling, plain and simple. This is true. At their heart, they are a trade of real money for a chance at bigger items. However, I really don’t think they’re that bad. If I’m willing to spend money on a ‘Bag of Crap’, I’m willing to give them a try. Note: I do like to gamble from time to time. I’ve lived close to Atlantic City all my life and know more than enough on how casinos rope you in. The psychology is fascinating, but that’s getting off topic.
I’ve never felt compelled to open a lockbox before, but for the sake of experimentation, I decided to give it a try.
Star Trek Online Experiment
The first thing I did was purchase 4 Master Keys for 400 Cryptic Points. I then opened my inventory and quickly realized I didn’t have a single lockbox. I just hadn’t looted one yet, so I got to grinding. I was only looking to pick up 4 boxes, and I realize I could’ve just purchased them on the Exchange, but I wanted to see how long it took and how often they dropped. The truth was, it took me about 3 hours to find all 4 lockboxes. This may not be normal, but I found the drop rate to be relatively low.
Of the 4 boxes I ended up opening, all standard quality boxes, here is the breakdown:
Box 1: Special Requisition Pack – Deflectors and Armor and 2 Lobi crystals. The Requisition Pack contained a Rare MK X Neutrino Deflector Array - After opening the first box, I was disappointed. 2 Lobi crystals, which on the Lobi store, the items I would purchase are in the 30 Lobi range (with the big ticket items in the 300 range). 2 Lobi crystals, and a Deflector that wasn’t even close to an upgrade. I sold off the deflector for about 30,000 Energy Credits and went on to the next box.
Box 2: 10,000 CXP Bonus Pool and 3 Lobi crystals. – Only 3 more crystals? Aren’t these numbers supposed to be up to 100 Lobi crystals? Anyway, the Lobi crystals are really only supposed to be used as a consolation prize. The big thing here is the 10,000 Bonus CXP Pool. CXP is the experience gained from Duty Officer assignments to use for Duty Officers. This items is essentially the same as “rest” experience in any other game, and it adds 20% bonus experience to any CXP gained. Since I’m still pretty low level as far as my Duty Officers go, this is a nice boost. Its certainly not necessary to play as it would come over time, this just helps to speed up the process. The Cryptic Store prices this at 640 CP, so 100 points isn’t a bad deal. However, I probably would’ve never purchased this to begin with.
Box 3: Special Requisition Pack – Gambling Device and 3 Lobi crystals. – 3 more crystals. Okay. The Gambling Device, however… now THATs an item. Looking into it, though, it looks potentially game breaking. The device when used gives Increased dodge, +10% to critical hit, and +10% to critical severity. The best tribble I had only gave a buff of +2.5% to all damage and a +2.5% buff to shields. +10% to crit is ridiculous! Its called a “Gambling” device but there really isn’t any gamble. If it “fails”, it fails for about a minute. When it succeeds, which is about 90% of the time, it lasts for an hour. As far as I can tell, it is also possible to use this in PvP, too, which is utterly not fair. You add a huge critical hit chance to those lucky enough to get the item from paying store points? I’m waiting for the nerf hammer on this one.
Box 4: 10,000 CXP Bonus Pool and 2 Lobi crystals. – Another 10,000 CXP boost. Nice. 2 more crystals, though. They seem to be really stingy on these crystals…
Overall, I netted 30,000 EC (a lot, but nothing significant), 20,000 CXP Pool (C-Store equivalent of 1,280 CP), a Gambling Device that is killer for ground combat, and 10 Lobi crystals which I can purchase absolutely nothing with.
Did I win the big prize of the Ferengi D’Kora ship? Nope. Am I disappointed? Well… No. The Energy Credits are not important, and just playing the game will get you a ton of credits (I’m right now sitting at 4,600,000 EC, which is nothing in comparison to some players). The 10 Lobi crystals are relatively pointless. In the Lobi store I’m looking at either the Mastiff pup follow pet, 30 Lobi, or a Ferengi whip, 15 Lobi, neither of which I could afford. I also can’t trade the Lobi on the exchange to make a few extra EC, so the Lobi right now are useless. The CXP Pool is not something I would normally buy, because of its large pricetag in the C-Store. I will definitely use it, however, so this is a plus. Finally, the Gambling Device is well worth the trouble, although as I said, I’m expecting a nerf soon.
So there you go. It certainly is no ‘Bag of Crap’, but I will enjoy what I gained, so I’m calling the experiment a success.
P.S. – Here is a bit of the math, for all you interested out there. It cost 400 CP to do this experiment. This is equal to 1 month of subscription stipend, or 122,400 dilithium (D) (at the current rate of 306 D/CP). 122,400 D, at the rate of hitting the 8k D cap/day would take 15.3 days to acquire. Note: I’ve tried, and I haven’t hit the D cap once. Thats a lot of grinding. 1 Master Key you could purchase on the Exchange for 1,149,000 EC. This would equal 39 of the deflectors I acquired from 1 of the boxes purchased. 4 Master Keys would be equal to 4,596,000 EC, or about 154 deflectors. Or… $5. $5 will buy you 500 Zen, a Perfect World currency, which is equal to 400 CP. So, in Star Trek Online terms… $5 = 400 CP = ~ 15.3 days of grinding dilithium. Star Trek Online is free to play, and I applaud those who play it completely free, but expect one hell of a grind. Mathed!