Stabs posted yesterday about the idea of liquidity in MMOs: that is, if you get a drop you don’t like, you can sell it for gold which you can then spend on something you like better. Auction Houses in game make this relatively simple. They also introduce the notion of a large, impersonal market into the game.
I have several friends who shy away strongly from this concept of liquidity, they prefer to use or hoard items rather than trade. For example, one of my kinship friends in LOTRO started a new alt just so that he could assign it a tradeskill that would ‘use up’ his unwanted mining byproducts. I said, “You could just sell the metal, you know?” (Metal sells well in LOTRO.) But even though there are plenty of crafters in the kinship who would happily make any item anyone wanted (and I know because they’re very nice about making stuff for me), he wanted to feel that he could use that spare metal to somehow progress an alt of his own. I felt that by suggesting he sell it, I was spoiling his hunter-gatherer fun of making the best use of all the items he’d acquired and wasting none of it.
So for some players, interacting with the market isn’t as fun as thinking of a way to use the spare stuff yourself (or hoarding it in case you think of a way to use it later.) And if you don’t /need/ the gold, it’s hard to argue that one way is objectively better. Stockpiling gold might make the game more flexible in some ways (it’s a currency, you can buy a lot of different things with it), but if you don’t care about the flexibility then it’s not necessary.
But the more important gold becomes in the game, not selling unwanted items gets to be a worse and worse choice. I think games with high liquidity – where just about everything can be bought or sold for gold – encourage players to figure out one good way to make gold and then just trade for everything else. Sim Capitalism, if you like. If you could trade every piece of gear, every reputation, every token in the game for gold, then actually playing the game (other than to find a good gold making strategy and then sticking to it religiously) would be a mug’s game.
I do have concerns that cash shop games will end up this way. It’s no skin off my nose if impatient gamers with money to burn pay their way through every grind in the game, but when the answer to “How can I get item X?” is always, “Just buy it in the cash shop/ buy it from the cash AH stupid” then you could end up with a fairly odd game. After all, they have to buy it from someone so you’d end up with farmers and capitalists.
You could argue that really that just means that the grinds should go. But as seen in comments last week, there are players who enjoy that type of play as long as it’s not forced onto them.
Or maybe a game of farmers and capitalists is what people want. It could replace the old tank/heals/dps role trinity. I’m just not sure that’s especially fun for anyone (although I predict D3 may end up this way.) But I think it’s truer to the nature of the genre to get back to the hunter/ gatherer mindset, encouraging players to find interesting ways to use items that they find in the world and keep industrialisation down to the cottage industry level.
And perhaps, in order to do that, the easy access world auction house would have to go. I always found it interesting in games like EVE or Pirates of the Burning Coast that as a seller, you’d be weighing up the costs and benefits of travelling to different markets. I think it made trading more interesting and less automated than the typical one market AH model.