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The Casual Life by Wintyre Fraust

An older, casual player's perspective on MMOG's in general and GW2 in particular.

Author: Meleagar

Solved: Gold Farming, Bot Leveling, Shared Accounts, Exploits

Posted by Meleagar Thursday June 10 2010 at 9:27AM
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The "efficient at-the-keyboard" leveling and "balanced participation towards end-game" model of current MMOGs imposes a severe structural and conceptual limitation on what an MMOG can be. That imposed structure, by its very nature, generates opportunities and reasons for abuse that would not exist otherwise.

For example, bot leveling and account sharing only exist as problems because players must be at their keyboard, under the current model, to advance their characters.  This means that people with very limited playtime can either (1) not play the game, or (2) find some means by which to advance their character even if they cannot themselves play very much. If a game offered 24/7 character advancement whether one was online or not,  then "botting" and "account sharing" become irrelevant.

An exploit, generally, is finding an easy way to level or gain in-game gold (or the equivalent); if any player can set their character to level or "work" for gold while they are offline, this greatly reduces the significance of most "exploits" that aren't just pieces of bad coding.  The same can be said of gold-farming; if the player can set their character to work for gold while they are offline, the value of farmed gold, which basically represents the time players don't wish to invest in accumulting gold, is diminished.  In essence, every player can have their own stable of gold-farmers if that is what they wish to do with their characters' time.

While gold farmers might still be able to make some money, the demand for gold as a correspondence to a lack of play-time to accrue gold goes way, way down. Gold would no longer correspond to a lack of time on the player's part to accrue gold, or an unwillingness to use one's valuable online time to farm for gold.

Many of the opportunites for abuse and exploitation only exists in games because of the structural inequalities that generate a market for "online time", either in gold or in character advancement.  Take away those structural inequalities, and the reasons and opportunities for much of that abuse disappears.

Also, if there is no set "end game" that is the funneled construct of at-the-keyboard leveling, unique distributor of best rewards, and organized around conformity-driven character skillsets, then the "goal" of most exploits and abuses is eliminated. The goal is simply to personally develop your character over time into that which you desire and interact with others in a setting that has many variant opportunities for interaction.

changyou writes:

This was an interesting read, and rather brilliant. As a Community Manager I'm on the ground floor for complaints about botting, gold farming, and other illegal actions. I think you're right about this strategy, as the players we catch cheating are almost always "power gamers" that want to reach the end game and hit the level cap, with great equipment too if they can. The players with clearly defined goals related to socialization, or creating game guides, or crafting/"life" skills, are less interested in cheating. That "finish line" is definitely a motivating factor.

The problem is that even in a game devoted to open-ended gameplay - even one that eliminate levels entirely - you'll have people who want to have an edge over others in PVP. Remove PVP, levels, and linear goals, and you've alienated a significant part of your audience. Not everyone would enjoy a game like you describe, though it would be much easier on CMs!!

- Lucy Song, Community Manager for Dragon Oath

Thu Jun 10 2010 11:05PM Report
Meleagar writes:

I appreciate the thoughtful reply, Ms. Song.

The game I've been advocating throughout this blog doesn't remove "linear goals"; it just expands the concept of "linear goals" far beyond what is currently available. In virtually all games today, all "linear" game goals lead to the same place: optimal character level, gear and design for end-game participation events, which are exclusively for groups of characters using complementary skill sets to defeat high-level creatures of some sort.

That "closed" end-game point forces all linear progression modes to - more or less - meet at the same point, or bear value and meaning in relation to that one goal. This system closes off the developmental capacity and direction of the game and thereby generates the opportunity and promotes the psychology behind the problems discussed in my opening post.

My proposed game broadens the number of dissimilar goals available through linear progression, thereby greatly expanding the number and type of linear paths available to the player. In my game, players can still attempt to be "the best" down any particular line of progression, but achieving such would be the result of focused progression management, not how much time one has to invest in at-the-keyboard gameplay. IOW, at any set date one can be the best of a particular kind of carpenter, or the best at wielding blunt one-hand weapons, but one likely cannot be the best at both of those very particlar skillsets (unless nobody else has particularly invested progression in either of those skill lines).

Also, there would definitely be PvP in my game, but there is absolutely no implication of balance.  One can excel in PvP just as one can excel in a diplomacy or blacksmithing.

At the end of the day, our currrently available MMOGs offer a very narrowly-defined linear progression structure that rewards those who spend the most time in the game pursuing that goal efficiently over everything else.  This means these games attract those kinds of players over everyone else, which in itself is gaming the customer pool towards those who are more inclined to attempt to abuse the system (IMO).  Thus, only a very few people can find themselves to be among "the best", which is a competition with very few winning slots available, and then only available for a very specfic segment of the player base - power gamers.

In my game, there is an almost infinite number of "the best" slots available, and they are equally available to everyone who plays the game, regardless of how much online-time anyone has available, making this game much more attractive and accessable, IMO, to a far greater number of potential players.

Fri Jun 11 2010 8:13AM Report

MMORPG.com writes:
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