posted: June 29th, 2006
So it seems as though this has been a week for topics to sweep through the blogosphere (I really hate that term. Can’t we call it something else? The blogoverse? Blogtinuum? That which is blogged? But I digress).
One topic has been crafting in MMO’s. I stumbled into that topic rather accidentally when I made a coincidental post to those made by the Knights of the MMO Roundtable. Amused at the coincidence I posted trackbacks to them with a little lighthearted jab to which Ryan Shwayder responded by throwing me into the incoming traffic of the information superhighway.
The other topic which has be racing through our electronic Zeitgeist is the subject of Real Money Transactions (or RMT for short). Started off by a post from Dan Reubenfield
which has been answered by Amber Night, Broken Toys, Tipa, Wizzel CogWizzleton CarrierCog IV, and apparently a rabid weasel.
Throwing caution to the wind I thought I would post my own thoughts concerning dealing with RMT.
First, let me just say that I disagree with Dan’s solution. I’m of the belief that one of the problems with MMO’s is that they aren’t closed economies. Mobs are killed and gold is created and enters the economy. At first this gold is used to buy items from NPC merchants so that the players can kill bigger mobs and get more gold. The money given to the merchants leaves the economy and the system runs along like a well oiled Peugeot.
After a while though players start to get to a point where they aren’t buying as much from the merchants because, let’s face it, the equipment the merchants sell sucks. They start using crafted equipment or, even worse, phat lewt. At first it looks as though players buying crafted equipment is OK because now the player is poor again. Unfortunately even though the player buying the equipment is once again poor all the money did was move from one player to another. Maybe a little of it left the system because of the expenses of making the equipment and maybe a little left for a transaction tax but a good portion of it simply moves from point A to point B and stays in the system. When the player uses teh phat lewts the problem becomes even worse because now not even the expenses or taxes leave the system.
Eventually this unspent coin builds up like the thick black gunk that accumulates on black gunk encrusted things, the economy collapses, NPC merchants lose their homes and are thrown out into the streets, and Ford Prefect talks about Magrathea.
So given this I think that trying to beat the gold farmers by generating and selling gold is sort of like trying to get rats out of your burning house with a flamethrower. (Don’t hold it against me, Dan).
On the other hand I think Dan does have a valid point. Gold farmers aren’t going to just go away. They’re sort of like roaches. Sure, you can kill the ones you see but there’s always more hiding behind the walls. So you get a holiday fogger and leave the house, but you forget to cover the fish tank and so your gold fish dies. What’s worse it turns out one holiday fogger isn’t enough to kill all the roaches, so you still have roaches and now you have a dead fish. So you buy two dozen holiday foggers and you set them all off to make sure you kill all the roaches, but you don’t know that in high concentrations the propellant from holiday foggers is explosive because your TiVo didn’t record that episode of Mythbusters since it thought you wanted to see the Will & Grace reunion show. So your house blows up and when the contractor comes out to give you an estimate he says “Didn’t you know that in high concentrations the propellant from holiday foggers is explosive?” and you say “No, because my TiVo didn’t record that episode of Mythbusters.” And in the end it turns out you still have roaches because pretty much nothing short of vaporizing your house is going to kill all of them.
Yeah. They’re sort of like that.
So given that you can’t get rid of them what do you do? Enter the
Dragon Exchange Server.
Now I know what you’re all saying: My God, will he ever get to the point? Of course I will.
By setting up an Exchange Server you create an environment where people who favor RMT can live without fear of being discriminated against. You create a place where they can stand tall without fear of the Ban-stick, where they can roam free in vast herds of people with more money than common sense and where they can proudly say “Yes! I did buy that on Ebay!”
You can create this for them and they will be happy and love you for it, but the best thing of all, the very best thing, is that you don’t actually have to play there. By creating this world you give them a place to be, and that place is somewhere other than where you are. Think of it as a sort of roach motel. It won’t kill them and you’ll know they’re in there getting room service, but at least your house won’t burn down again.
That’s the first step. The second step is to make it so that if they so much as stick one single small black chitinous covered feeler out of their little motel you crush them ruthlessly. Seriously, you’ve given them this lovely place (for them) where they can live and be happy, they have no excuse to behave roach-like in what is clearly marked as a ‘No Roach’ zone. If you catch them participating in an RMT outside of the approved servers you delete the character, ban the account, salt the Earth so nothing will grow where they were, and drive to their home and kick their dog.
Given the choice between a place where they can frolic and gambol to their heart’s content or the constant threat of having their schnauzer punted I think most of them will stay on the Exchange Servers.
“But Evan,” you say, “SOE set up an Exchange Server and you still have RMT on the other servers.”
I say to you in reply, “Don’t start a sentence with a conjunction.”
I would also say that SOE introduced the Exchange Servers after EQ II had already launched. By that time players who RMT were already scattered across the various servers. By the time the Exchange Servers were created they already had formed ties with friends and communities and many of them had joined guilds. I don’t believe they could transfer their characters to the Exchange Servers and even when they make alts they usually want to remain close to those connections. Combine this with the fact that the ruthless pogrom that so many non-RMT players desperately wish for isn’t occurring and you can see why there are still RMT players left on those servers.
So while it may not be possible to remove RMT players from established games I don’t think it will always be so. Sure, even when a game launches with something the equivalent of Exchange Servers and the most draconian measures of punishment known to man (forced listening to Whitney Houston albums) for participating in RMT on non-approved servers you will still have a few people who will break the rules and participate in RMT, whether it is to get an edge on all the legitimate players or because it somehow makes them feel like they’re sticking it to the Man (I payed real money for a virtual item in a game that I pay you $15 a month to play! Take that, Mister Man!) but with luck there won’t be enough of them to support a robust RMT black market on those servers.