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Ambre's blogroom on

A place to share my ideas, expectations, thoughts and impressions about my favorite gaming genre : MMORPGs. I plan to write articles about the games I play, the new MMO releases, but also some meta-theory about MMO design and virtual worlds.

Author: Ambre

I hate 'bind' items, I really do !

Posted by Ambre Wednesday September 9 2009 at 8:00PM
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Did I say I hate bind items already ? I mean all the bind on pickup, bind on equip, bind on your *** stuff, and whatever. I have already moaned enough about this on Teamspeak, as well as on forums, and apparently it wasn't enough so it's time now to expel all that bad frustration in a good written rant ! (and also to explain why I bring up this stuff secondarily)

A few months ago, I was testing a super-hero MMO closed beta, I'll let you guess which one, it's an easy guess. When I just popped into the game the first time, the first thing I saw on my screen was a NPC character with a yellow exclamation mark over his head. That was the moment I actually started to feel like things were going bad. After killing a few mobs around as the guy asked me to, I saw it turned into a yellow question mark : it was just going worse. But after looting a shiny item on a mob, I double clicked on it and a window popped in the middle of my screen with 'Are you sure you want to equip this item ? You won't be able to trade it anymore', this time I really started to want to kick somebody in the teeth !

Bring me the MMO genius who invented this stupid crap right now, I need to take it out on somebody !

Well, more seriously... I'm a trading guy. In every game I played, trading items with other players is my true pleasure. I remember something like nine or ten years ago when I was playing Diablo 2, I was spending most of my time trading unique items and I had a blast. At the end I had 3 or 4 accounts full of characters to hold the unique stuff (yes, Blizzard hadn't really got into the bank concept back then). Of course it wasn't a MMO, but one of my first multiplayer online experiences, and since then trading in multi-player games has always been for me a part of the fun.

Then came the party poopers, and the first big name to introduce this mechanic if I remember well was Everquest 1. You could still exchange most of your stuff there, but the very high grade stuff dropping from raid bosses was bound : that means that once you got it, it couldn't be sold or traded to any other player, nor to any of your alts. And that's when in-game economies started to go down. Blizzard took the idea from Everquest 1, as some of the main developpers from WoW were former raid leaders from EQ1 big guild names (thanks to Jeff Kaplan), and it became mainstream. Nowadays, you have to get lucky to find a good AAA title which allows you to trade anything meaningful from your stuff.



 The main idea behind this move has always been presented as a way to counter gold sellers and farmers, so that they couldnt sell you what is really worthy in the game. Seriously I don't give a **** ! I really don't ! Do I shock you ? But look at this from my tiny little perspective : since when gold sellers and cheaters are supposed to be lead designers of the games I play ? Is limiting the freedom of players in a game and what they can achieve the best thing to do so that the gold farmers have less things to sell you ? Following this thought process we should as well remove anything tradable from the game, even the money itself, so we'll be totally safe from gold sellers at the end. We would just have removed one of the most exciting features from a virtual world : a working and dynamic player-made economy.

What really comes to my mind about the 'bind item' feature, is that it's not only an answer to cheaters and gold farmers. But I tend to think that it's also a way to keep control of what is going on in your game. You want to be sure everyone is going to get his share of loot with the usual grind, exactly the way you want them to get it ? Don't allow them to trade items, as simple as that. What would happen if you allowed WoW players to sell and trade their epics ? How many thousands of gold would you need to buy the last tier 9 item ? Developpers don't know, and they don't want to know. They can't control this, and everything they can't control makes them afraid : it could drive some casuals out of the game if they saw prices they may never be able to afford. Or some players could make an in-game living on trading raid items, never put their feet into a PvE raid, and still have the best stuff available ?

How ugly would all this look to the 'bind on pick-up' police, and the 'pay your dues' raid regiment officers ! Yes, but that's what virtual realities are about : Freedom. Freedom to move, freedom to loot, freedom to trade, freedom to attack or defend... Freedom.

Can you make everything possible and everyone totally free in a MMO game ? Of course not, you can't. It wouldn't be technically possible, and would probably feel too chaotic. Anyway it's never good news when control gets the upper hand on freedom on almost every aspect of a game. At the end nothing really bad can happen... certainly, but that means also nothing great, intense and really surprising can happen either.


Am I ready to renounce to some of my gaming comfort for more freedom in the games I play ? I am, without a doubt. As someone famous once said, 'I would rather be exposed to the inconveniencies attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it'. writes:
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