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On game features from a student game developer

As a second year bachelor student of game programming and development, there is nothing that interests me more than exploring game features, and discussing the effect they have on games and gamers.

Author: Dreamstrider

Gold farmers, and a reflection on currency.

Posted by Dreamstrider Tuesday August 19 2008 at 1:07PM
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Gold farmers are a big problem in most massive online games. These autonomus players who spend their entire day killing the same critters over and over again, to sell the loot for real money, has long been one of the most anoying additions to the gaming community, and a thorn in the side for any developer trying to run a proper in game economy. In this blog entry I give you my view on where I think the problem is actually coming from. As always, any input or idea is greatly appriciated.

When looking at the current in game economies of games like WoW, EvE, Everquest and so on, The main feature I see in all of them is that they are filled to the bursting point with repetetive tasks that bring the players little joy in themselves. These actions are largely known as Grind, and for most players it's the reason why they stop playing in the end. Gold farmers exist because there is a market for it. The reason why there is a market for it is because people don't find it enjoyable to get this money themselves, or they simply do not have the time needed to do so. It is my opinion that both are solved by solving the first. By solving the problem of tedious grind, you also solve the problem of time; not directly, but indirectly by making it enjoyable to get the money, they will no longer feel that they are wasting their time.

So, the main problem with the current sitiuation is that the grind is tedious, which I would assume does not come as a big surprise to anyone. So how does one make grinding fun? Well, one can look at what players enjoy doing, and then make that the grind. Obviously this is a lot easier said than done, however there are a few ideas that I can think of that would help incorporate this:

Increase the loot dropped from raid bosses:
This is, in my opinion, one of the most important features that should be changed when it comes to standard MMOs like WoW and Everquest. It is my opinion that raiders should fuel their raiding by raiding, and not by going through lots of mindnumbing grind to be allowed to raid.

Players should be able to make money by playing versus each other. When a player kills another, he should be allowed to loot money. If that is by taking money from the other, or by being awarded, would be up to the individual game. Also introducing bounties that would automatically set on players killing other players inside cities would be a good way to police said areas as well as give players an additional income.

Removing currency alltogether:
Is this really an option? I believe so, either by creating a system where you do not need money at all, or by having another trade solution that requires more cooperation to get a hold of the items viable for trading, making it less profitable for Gold Farmers. This is a very tricky solution, but in my opinion a truly viable one, if incorporated correctly. In the future I might write a blog entry on this subject.

These are a few of my ideas, but instead of making this entry into a design document, I would rather hear what you all have to say. How do you think we can change how the game economy works for the better?
Can you think of a solution to rid us of the economy destroyer that is the gold farmer?
As always, all feedback is appriciated. Thank you for reading.

-The Dreamstrider.

Kyleran writes:

1) Take the WOW approach and make all items of consequence Bind on Pick-up, therefore leaving little for players to spend money on except for cosmetic items like pets, clothing or minor upgrades to gear.

2)  Go to all out war on the farmers.  Hire staff to hunt them down, develop monitoring programs that can clearly detect movements of money and have above mentioned staff investigate them quickly.

3)  Sell the ISK yourself, for less than farmers can ever provide it for (or set up programs like in EVE where company approves selling game time cards for ISK


Tue Aug 19 2008 3:30PM Report
lath456 writes:

I know people in WOW who purchased gold because they didn't want to farm all the goods for crafting - but wanted high crafting skills... namely engineering and blacksmithing.  Cause / effect rules here - cause: people don't want to spend large amounts of time running around zones farming for goods.  Effect: they go to gold farmers.  Eliminate the cause, cure the effect.

Anything that's viewed as: time consuming, repetitive or boring aren't good ways to input money into an economy.  This includes dailies and farming for crafting goods, which happen to be a big part of WoW.  Developers need to realize that playing an MMORPG should include spending most of your time in groups ... and this should be how money is brought into the economy.  Most MMOs fail at this.

Look at what people spend the money the buy from farmers on...  mostly, I'd say it's crafting goods - including rare recipes.  If they double - even quadruple all crafting nodes throughout the game prices would drop... supply/demand.  Creating recipes that are BoP from high raid dungeons only excludes a majority of crafters, creating BoE recipes from high raid dungeons only creates high demand with very, very low supply...

It's basically impossible to have a game where certain things are meant to be rare - like Fel Lotus - without creating a market for gold farmers.  Fel Lotus are rare enough to be a major headache to farm, but they are common enough to have the price only be 20-30 gold (last time I played).   If I used 10 Fel Lotus per week I'd probably go insane... I don't want to spend time - that I'm PAYING for - flying around various zones looking for weeds... on a weekly basis.  I look at my game time as "fun" time, not "chore" time... dailies and farming are chores and, unfortunately, a prevolent part of WoW.

People who play games more will always have more money than someone who doesn't play very much - which creates a gap in wealth and eventually creates inflation which one person cannot keep up with.  Perhaps, an interesting experiment would be a finite money supply, or a money supply that grows with server population but always maintains a certain ratio.

Tue Aug 19 2008 6:06PM Report
cleve1970 writes:

I had this discussion with many in SWG back when I stilled played about the economy an the fact that it was going downhill fast. Now prices there are horrible. I now play Lineage II and its the same thing, 20mil for higher enchant scrolls, 5mil for dual C grade swords. That game is Mr. Grind and you still don't make enough money to keep up with the mega-inflation that exists there. Everyone tells me that the way to make money there is do raids and sell the loot, well I am a level 37 player and there is hardly anyone to do the lower level raids with so that is a hard option for me. Plus I only play on the weekends due to the fact that I work 40 hours a week. I don't know what the answer would be, get rid of farmers and see what happens to a game's economy or developers getting the economy under control that way getting rid of the need of gold farmers. 

Thu Aug 21 2008 5:27AM Report
Razure writes:

I like Eve's way of doing the economy. CCP set the prices at release and then let it go with the players. That was easy back in 2003, and I can tell you that it's gone downhill in certain areas. For example, the need for the materials in a type of ice for running stations is minable, but it takes a long time. Enter macro miners. So, the price of ice and everything in it has since flatlined a while ago, but here's one that's better: a ship that started as being 500 million slsowly dropped to 100 million, hell its going down 80. That would be the Hulk, and if you consider yourself an Eve player you'll know its the best mining vessel EVAR.

Anyway, Eve has it's ISK sellers, farmers and the like, but yeah CCP's counter is buy in-game time with ISK if you have it, OR buy the time then sell it. ETC's go for about 300-400 million. Shiny huh?

But before I try and convert zealots intent on defending WoW to their grave, let's remember something: CCP makes expansions for Eve. I'm sure SOMEONE here must've (excluding eve players....duh) seen an ad for the Trinity expansion last year. Yeah, we don't pay anything extra for that.

So, now cutting myself off typing this before I start to rant. Farmers, marcos and all those things are guarenteed to muck up a game's economy-no game has gone without them because someone won't want to level up and get that item, and there will be someone else willilng to it for them. And proft of course.

Sat Aug 23 2008 3:04PM Report
zeta4100 writes:

Heh, see for yourself how Runescape took a step forward with the Gold Farmers related problems. It was a drastic change, sudden too, but the game lives and opened up many new opportunities for the devs to incorporate new elements into the game.

I just felt like bringing up that case. 

Anyways, as long as there are players who wish not to work/grind, buying off G-farmers is always a solution for them, and it's not only cash that they buy. Yea, you can say whoever buys cash off websites will be tempted to also take some items along the way, creating a huge inflation in the item's price, which I've seen occur before.

Wed Sep 10 2008 10:36PM Report writes:
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