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The Quinquennial (or sometimes more often)

Various thoughts on online gaming, often pulled from articles I've written for other sources.

Author: Quizzical

The proper use of gold farmers

Posted by Quizzical Thursday January 15 2009 at 10:54PM
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Suppose that you’re looking to try a new MMORPG to play. Obviously you want to pick a game that you’ll like. You look through several games that are potentially interesting and compare features, reviews, and so forth.

One of the important characteristics of a game is how much grinding there is. This is something that you can’t pick up just by playing the game for a few hours. A lot of games have minimal grinding for the first several hours (or sometimes the first several dozen hours), but eventually degenerate into very painful grinding.

Professional reviewers won’t play until the point at which the game is mostly grinding, so they can’t warn you. The same applies to new player reviews. You can ask more established players, but different people often have radically different views on how much grinding is too much. Some players even like extremely large amounts of grinding, so they’re not going to warn you to avoid such games. Indeed, grindfests are likely to have many such players, and they’ll tell you that the grinding isn’t a problem.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were an objective source you could go to that would say, this is how much grinding the game has? Or more to the point, this game has a lot more grinding than that one, with comparisons of a lot of different games. If the comparisons include a couple of games that you’re familiar with, then you’re set.

Such sources that rate the amount of grinding in games do exist. They’re called powerleveling services. They could loosely be called gold farmers. Although powerleveling isn’t the same as gold farming, they tend to be the same people working for the same companies.

Suppose, for example, that a powerleveling service in Lineage II charges $2000 to get you to the level cap. Meanwhile, they charge $500 to do the same in EverQuest II, $300 in Final Fantasy XI, $200 in World of Warcraft, and $50 in Guild Wars. Which game do you think involves the most grinding to get to the level cap? What do you think the company selling the powerleveling thinks?

The real experts on how much leveling a game entails are the people who do it a lot. Few do so more than those who do it for a full time job. Furthermore, random players don’t have as strong of incentives to get the comparison right as companies offering to actually level accounts for a particular price. Charge too much and you get no customers; too little and you make no profit from the customers you do get.

Furthermore, since they offer to level you part of the way, that gives you a good idea of what the leveling curve looks like. A company will charge more to level you from 79 to 80 in Lineage II than to go all the way from 1 to 60. In comparison, the cost of going from 79 to 80 in EverQuest II or World of Warcraft isn’t enough to pay a company to level you from 1 to 20. The cost to get to renown rank 70 in WAR is many times the cost to merely get to level 40. All of that gives important information on the leveling curves in the various games.

There is, of course, more to the amount of grinding a game has than merely how long it takes to get to the level cap. In some games, when you reach the level cap, it’s basically game over. Others abruptly transition to painful grinding the moment you hit the level cap. Even this sort of information can often be learned from gold sellers. If a company charges $200 to powerlevel you to the level cap in WoW, but $2000 for the full set of the top epic armor set of your class, guess which of the two takes more grinding.

Before reaching this paragraph, a lot of people would probably say, but gold farmers are bad! I’d agree with that. So does the idiot who will reply to this post to denounce it as favoring gold sellers without reading it. Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not advocating actually buying anything from the gold sellers. To the contrary, I’d strongly advocate not doing so. If inclined to buy something from gold sellers, go play an item mall game instead and buy directly from the company.

I’m well aware of the problems with gold farmers. I don’t like getting spam messages from them. I don’t like having certain areas of the game world overcrowded with them. I don’t like the credit card fraud and stolen accounts that they perpetrate. I don’t like having company resources diverted to having to deal with gold farmers, instead of being put to productive uses like bug fixes, tech support, or new content. While their impact on the game economy is usually overstated, I don’t like that consequence of gold sellers, either.

That doesn’t mean that they don’t bring a silver lining. You don’t have to pay a dime to check their prices. Don’t discard the useful information they provide just because gold sellers are bad. 

Ciano writes:

I believe the proper use of gold farmers is scam bait and easy open world pvp kills.

Gold farming can only be prevented by two things,

1. Open world pvp systems where macroing or farming is dangerous. We all know gold farmers probably don't farm in large groups.

2. Games where money is essentially worthless. ALA, warhammer.


Anything other than that and you will find farmers constantly.

Fri Jan 16 2009 12:00AM Report
Quizzical writes:

It might help if you read the article, not just the title.  It's not what you think it is. 

Fri Jan 16 2009 12:20AM Report
Korhindi writes:

Hehe... I have done that myself, using power leveling prices as a guide for how much grind there is.  If the cost of such services are high it tells me there is uber grind and that the game is popular.

The popularity thing might skew it a bit, but yes, if you see a game with lots of gold sellers, but the gold is expensive, you can safely deduce that earning gold is more tough than other games.  Same goes for gear, leveling and rep farming.

Good blog in that it makes sense that such companies would know, for it is their very business life that depends on it.

Fri Jan 16 2009 12:35AM Report
Ziboo writes:

 Interesting had never thought of 'using' Gold Farmers that way!  LOL!  Great idea.

Fri Jan 16 2009 11:46AM Report
MadnessRealm writes:

Same as Ziboo, never thought of using them this way and when I read the topic title, I thought it was going to talk about the anti-goldfarmer system that Chaos Online is currently using (when you report a goldfarmer, you gain 10% gold of the total the bot had on his account, and the account is then banned)

Fri Jan 16 2009 12:09PM Report
Aerensiniac writes:

Well, the amount of grinding wont tell you much about the game mechanics, wich again would be the more important point when looking for a new place to stay at. Just to throw up an example there is WoW Bc and WoW Wotlk. The grind amount between the two expansions is imense, while in wotlk you do grinds only for quest objectives and maybe for some epics (in dungeons) BC involved a lot more to that via dayly quests and quite a nice amount of fractions to wich you could repu grind till you got blind. However tossing away the grind made wotlk ultimately empty and boring. You get the best gear for mere tokens wich are collected by simply dungeoning and fractions sell next to nothing that would be even worth to think about it. So there you go. It has less grind and also less reasons to play because you cant achive anything it. You open your char sheet and look over the best items there are in game currently, however unlike in BC these items can be found now on every each damn noob.

There is no statisfactory in something that doesnt gives you the feeling that you actually achived something that most of the others didnt. What point is in joining something that everybody can do? Its something like capslocking on a forum "LOOK AT ME, I CAN WRITE!" sure, you can be happy about it because you can, but then again who cant?

Fri Jan 16 2009 2:07PM Report
Quizzical writes:

Is there more to a game than just the amount of grinding?  Of course.  But most other factors are easier to get information on.  If you care how the graphics look, that's easy to pick up from a handful of screenshots.  If you want to know how a game's crafting system works (or whether it has one at all), that's easy enough to pick up from reading the manual--and often easier yet from an outline on the game's web site or game reviews.

It's not a simple case of, this is the right amount of grinding for a game to have.  Some players prefer more, and some prefer less.  To know how much grinding a game has is useful information, regardless of which you prefer.


The accomplishment bit is a different topic, and perhaps one for a future blog post.  I think I have an old ATITD forum post that I could rehash here just fine.

Basically, I don't see having a lot of free time as being much of an accomplishment.  As a corollary, anything that is a pretty automatic consequence of using a lot of free time to play a particular game likewise isn't much of an accomplishment.

Congratulations, you have just slain Bob the Really Big Dragon!  You are the 319,084th player to do so!  The only reason you were able to do this is that the rest of the players in your raid were good enough that even if you had disconnected right at the start of the battle and never made it back, they'd have killed Bob without you.  Don't you feel special?


Fri Jan 16 2009 2:32PM Report
Aerensiniac writes:

I dont really see your point Quizzical.

What is better? That you are the 319,084th player overall who obtains the thing out of 10 million or that you are the 319,084th to obtain it from 320,000 players. Where does it statisfy you to carry something that 99% of the server uses as basic? Also in case of MMOs the amount of free time is still a detail question due to the social build up of the game. If you have got the wrong attitude, iq, mental state or are too retarded to comprehend things you might not even see Bob the dragon cause nobody on earth will take you in a raid.

No pain, no gain. If a game gives you everything for no effort then its worthless as an mmo. Ofcourse it works off fine for stuff like tetris or most of the offline games, but in case of mmo's people might just wamt to earn some "virtual respect" for themself.

Fri Jan 16 2009 5:53PM Report
dcostello writes:

@ Aerensiniac

  I mean I agree with the "no pain, no gain" mentality, but when the pain is boredom-like in most heavy-grind games- then I would have to disagree.  If you're paying to play a game, then there should be more content or more to do than fight 1000 bandits, level up and then fight some more.  A game should include difficulty even within leveling.  You should actually have to strategize when you fight NPCs of a similar level and one person shouldn't be able to solo 3 or more NPCs (of the same relative level) at a time.  No pain, no gain, but the pain should be effort not waisted time (on pointless grinding).

Fri Jan 16 2009 7:41PM Report
Quizzical writes:

Leveling games often have no coherent notion of difficulty.  Fighting a particular type of mobs may be quite challenging at a given level, but if the player grinds levels for a while and comes back, the same mobs will be comically easy.  In that case, it makes no sense to ask whether the mobs are easy or hard, but only at what level they provide a suitable challenge. 

Fri Jan 16 2009 7:48PM Report writes:
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