Thought/s of the Day: RMT

Surely the easiest way for a MMO to make money out of a cash shop would be to get a gaming licence and open an in-game casino? Why not take a page out of the book of games that were actually designed around players spending real life money as part of the game?

RMT in WoW

Suzina raised a storm on Kill Ten Rats with her account of gold buying in WoW. She started a new character, got to level 40, wanted dual spec and got sticker shock at the cost. But instead of deciding to defer dual spec until she could afford it, she chose to break the rules.

So when I realized that obtaining 1000 gold by level 40 was unrealistic, I made the decision to purchase gold. I bought about 1000 gold for about ten dollars from the Microsoft of gold-farmers. You know, that company that owns Allakhazam, THOTTBOT, WOWhead and a bunch of other fan sites? They got my ten dollars.

As an aside, I think she’s very unaware of what the gold sinks actually are in LOTRO. As a lifetime player, with plenty of time to amass gold, she might not know how punishing the repair bills can be if you’re raiding or instancing regularly. Or how expensive it is to level a crafting skill. Or how expensive those second age weapons on the auction house look to a new player who could use them while levelling. I could easily imagine a new player in LOTRO facing similar temptations if they were in a hurry to do any of those things.

In any case, I wasn’t intending to discuss her choice (which I disagree with). But rather to note that WoW does offer legitimate RMT. If you buy a pet from the virtual store, you can trade it in game (or at least trade the item code). The barriers to doing this are  to do with trust between players, and the fact that not everyone with lots of gold actually wants another virtual pet.

The second factor could easily be overcome using a scheme like EVEs where CCP sell time cards (for cash) with codes that can also be traded in game. Every player in a subscription game will use a month’s sub so there’s a constant demand. And players who have amassed lots of virtual gold might find it attractive to be able to trade some for game time.

So it would be possible to make legitimate gold buying part of the game. However, it will never be possible to take the illegitimate source completely out of the picture. Never. If a game card sells for £10 and is currently trading for 1000g in game, the black market only has to sell 1000g for £9.50 to make themselves more appealing to any player who doesn’t care where the money goes and just wants their gold.

This is why I’m all for the gambling licence. The genius thing about gambling games is that they make the RMT (or the bidding in other words) an actual part of the game.

Thought for the Day: Why we need the grind

When we talk about the grind in an MMO, we mean some kind of repetitive action that a player must repeat for hours. Figuring out how to optimise the grind IS the basic unit of MMO gameplay. These are resource management games; the main resource is player time and the main gameplay is strategic. The grind is deeply embedded into the virtual world side of the game — it’s a way to simulate that an activity is time consuming in the virtual world.

This is why gold buying breaks the game conceptually (this is not a moral argument, by the way, it’s based on gameplay). You break the simulation by bringing real life cash into play, it’s like bringing a gun to a knife fight.

Every time a game introduces a buttload of new tokens with an associated vendor, players are  encouraged to strategise how to most conveniently get those tokens, and how they want to prioritise their purchases.

Every time a new reputation grind is introduced, players are encouraged to think about how to most conveniently get whatever level of reputation they need for the rewards they want. (This is why the most popular post on this blog is the one about how to get the Crusader title in WoW, it’s based on multiple reputations.)

Every time a player creates a new alt, they’re encouraged to think about how to optimise the levelling time.

Every time a game introduces a large game world, players are encouraged to think about how they plan to minimise their travel time.

Every time a game introduces a new gold sink, players are encouraged to think about how to most conveniently get enough gold in game to buy the whatsit-du-jour.

If the grind is removed … is what’s left really an MMO?