Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
 
How WoW could ruin gold farmers easily

A commenter assured me that gold farming in WoW isn't so bad any more. So I entered "WoW Gold" into Google, got 5 million hits, and checked how prices are nowadays. On US servers you pay $80 for 1,000 gold, on Euro servers €40. Lots of supply, it appears the business is booming. Maybe WoW got less spammers now, but the gold farming hasn't gone away. Now some rejected my opinion that dev-controlled gold selling was better than black market gold selling. I respect that as a valid opinion, even if I think that Blizzard makes more money from gold farmers than SOE does. Just multiply all the bannings per year with the cost of a new account, it's effectively a tax on gold farming. But if we don't want to get the gold farmers out of business by sanctioning RMT, we have to come up with something else. How can we stop gold farming in WoW?

Well, the farming itself you can't stop, unless it's done by bots. A guy in the Chinese sweatshop I keep reading about in all major newspapers farming 5,000 gold to sell them will be indistinguishable from a guy farming 5,000 gold to buy an epic flying mount for himself. If we want to stop gold farmers / sellers, we need to stop them from getting that gold to their customers. And for once that is actually an easy task. Because all the gold farmers use the same method to supply their customers: The WoW mail box. So we have to ask ourselves:

Does World of Warcraft absolutely need the ability to send gold by mail?

I think the sending gold by mail option could easily be removed and replaced by options that don't help gold sellers. I don't know about you, but most of the gold I mailed went to my other characters. So why not have a gold transfer functionality on the character selection window? Hey, add the ability to transfer gold to all your characters there, even from Alliance to Horde, and the new option will be hailed as being more player friendly. The other legit gold transfer, to friends and guild mates, doesn't really need a mail box. You can give them the gold when meeting them. Yes, a bit less convenient, but you should be meeting your friends in game often enough anyway.

But for the gold sellers the removal of gold sending by mail would be a logistical nightmare. It wouldn't totally stop their business, but slow it down considerably if they would have to meet every single customer avatar to avatar.

Human nature is hard or maybe even impossible to change. RMT is a form of cheating, trying to get ahead faster by spending some money. Appeals to the better nature of 9 million WoW players will never stop RMT. But if buyers and sellers certainly are responsible for the existence of RMT, so are the developers. Game features like easy money transfer and big money sinks are aiding and abetting gold sellers. World of Warcraft shouldn't be designed for the maximum convenience of gold sellers. Removing the option of sending gold by mail would be a big step to reducing gold selling to a far more manageable level.
Comments:
Please correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the gold price roughly the same as before BC? 1000 Gold on the other hand does not have the same ingame value as before since it is so much easier to get. That would mean that gold is more expensive than before BC.
 
Tobold, first your idea is great.

But then, it wouldn't help to stop gold sellers at all.

They would simply create Characters in every Town, whose sole purpose is to hand-over the Money directly to the Player.

Since the "Work" of those Farmers is relatively cheap, i don't think it would be a big hurdle to make them spread out in the world.

They could even make a chain of distribution, since i guess there are several Gold Farmers that work together as a Team, they could just make multiple hand-overs to transport the money to the destination.

However ,the idea of having the possibility of transfer gold directly on the character selection screen between your own characters would be really handy for the players.
 
'In-game mail from Xghguuiuigh: Thank you for your order of 1000 gold. Please put up an auction of one piece of linen cloth with a starting bid and buyout price of 1000 gold under the name of the character you made the purchase with. You will receive your money soon after.'

Of course, there would be an auction house cut, causing the player to get less than he paid for, but there would be straightforward workarounds for that.
 
Yeah, I much prefer the anonymous auction houses that some other games have. If there are half a dozen linen cloth with a starting bid and buyout price of 1000 gold, the seller can never be sure to deliver his gold to the right person.

On the other hand delivering the gold to the right person seems to be difficult even with mail. My wife once found 2000 gold from Xghguuiuigh in her mailbox, apparently meant for somebody with a similar name. I told her to keep it, Xghguuiuigh's character was probably deleted 5 minutes after sending the stuff, so returning it wouldn't have worked. And if that gold farmer got problems with an irrate customer, that doesn't really break my heart. :)

In any case, even if there are workarounds, that doesn't invalidate the idea of making gold transfer more difficult. Maybe the auction houses need to be anonymized as well. But the current system is just way too convenient for the gold sellers. Lord of the Rings Online for example takes a cut from every amount of currency sent by mail to discourage it. There are always ways and means to make gold sellers life harder, but I don't see Blizzard doing much.
 
"A guy in the Chinese sweatshop I keep reading about in all major newspapers farming 5,000 gold to sell them will be indistinguishable from a guy farming 5,000 gold to buy an epic flying mount"

I have to disagree with you here. I was farming fire motes in Shadowmoon Valley, and every time I went there, I saw the same Lv 70 Hunter there doing the same thing. So I decided to check him out on the Armory.

Turned out that the farmer had no reputation higher than 'friendly' with any faction (very unlikely for anyone playing the game for fun, don't you think? You only need to complete a few quests these days to get an honoured reputation), and also he had no trinkets nor instance loot equipped. Most of his gear was greens, with the odd world drop blue, and of course he wasn't in a guild, and his pet was called boar.

If that isn't a gold farmer through and through, I don't know what is.
 
a few comments:

1) I wonder why there is a so big difference between US and EU servers (speaking on gold price). The game is the same, drop rates the same. So onl difference could be in how blizzard handle gold farmers on those regions. On how players are eager to buy gold. As price is based on demand and offer, pick one... Is it a lot more easy life for farmers in EU servers? Or it's that europeans buy much less gold?

2) I don't know if Blizzard is going to get a real cash cow from gold farmers. For spamming they (gold farmers) use throw away accounts, possibly trials or stolen. For farming they use real accounts but anyway Blizzard need a full time staff to handle bannings. So probably is a tie even

3) removing gold exchange via mail won't solve problem at all. Just think at Ultime Online. You can order and get gold within minutes and logistic had never been an issue.
 
I'm going to address the money issue presented in here. Gold in WoW is very much accessible to anyone and in abundance. I am a newcomer to the game, but I knew so much that money matters: so I made a mule who is actually my AH broker. I had 100g in less than 1 day total played time. 500 in 3 days played. Now, as I have 7 toons plus the mule, I have 1000 g with 8 days played, total.

Granted, my main is 'only' lv33, and only two of my other toons are over lv20, but the total played time tells something.

Money doesn't have to be bought, not even in the lower levels.

I am totally a casual player, and as such I totally, completely agree with Tobold on the subject, though. There is no need for money transfer by mail in the game. Really. But then again, the Gold Miners would use fences to transfere the money from a toon to a toon, just doing it more 'personally', naturally costing more and being more visible.

If I have 1000 g on lv33, and that is growing about 50 g daily without counting the money from quests and loot, why would I even consider buying gold? Am I just lucky or clever in succeeding in this? Of course there are those who sell their stuff too cheap... so I guess that answers that question!

Copra
 
Blizzard makes money off gold farmers. This is why the problem is never going away. Gold farming (and farmers) are working exactly as intended.
 
Turned out that the farmer had no reputation higher than 'friendly' with any faction (very unlikely for anyone playing the game for fun, don't you think? You only need to complete a few quests these days to get an honoured reputation), and also he had no trinkets nor instance loot equipped. Most of his gear was greens, with the odd world drop blue, and of course he wasn't in a guild, and his pet was called boar.

If that isn't a gold farmer through and through, I don't know what is.


So if you were to write an automated script to ban gold farmers, you'd buy anyone whose pet name was "boar", or who didn't have instance loot? I agree that what you observed suggests that the guy is a farmer, but we are talking about enough proof to ban a guy here. And if Blizzard banned everyone whose pet name was boar, besides catching a couple of innocent if unimaginative guys, that would only work once. Afterwards all gold farmer pets would be called "xjdjlsdjf".
 
tbh, i don't care about the gold-pharmers. they are just doing their job with a 'legit' company and get paid better than the average job in those countries.
watched a dutch documentary about it and it was about a young couple with dreams like us. the difference was they got paid for wow, not us :p

anyway, gold-buyers should be banned. that is the core of the so-called 'evil'
 
There are some solid ideas here, but perhaps I'm just oblivious to gold sellers these days and don't feel the need for a load of major changes for something that doesn't affect me.
 
RMT might have hit the big time in WoW, but it existed perfectly happily previously in games without an in-game gold transfer mechanism. In EQ, for example - and this is way back in the day - it was entirely common to see someone in the Bazaar (a place where PCs can be set to act like NPC vendors) selling Flask of Water for, say, 100k. These were people who had paid IGE (or whoever) real money, and were awaiting delivery by an IGE mule who would simply buy that flask of water for the 100k.

You can have a perfectly functional RMT industry without in-game gold mail. History proves it.
 
Would a legitimate player really level from 1 to 70 without doing quests, and then spend the rest of their time at Lv 70 grinding motes (one of the most tedious in-game activities I can imagine)?
Of course one tell-tale sign is not sufficient, but added all together it is obvious who is a farmer.
Automated farmers are even easier to spot. They run round in random directions, sometimes even away from mobs, or get stuck on scenery such as fences. You can fear their targets into other mobs, you can stand in front of them and block their view (try it while sitting on a mount), they will happily ignore you.
You can go to the Hinterlands and see 5 or 6 bots all running round in the same small area, day after day. They are all guildless, they all have a pet called 'boar' or similar, they don't have any reputation with any faction. These aren't casual loners saving up for an epic flying mount.
 
I don't like this idea. It's like banning liquids from airplanes. It would only hurt normal people and would do nothing to really stop gold selling (or terrorism if you want).
 
A guy in the Chinese sweatshop I keep reading about in all major newspapers farming 5,000 gold to sell them will be indistinguishable from a guy farming 5,000 gold to buy an epic flying mount for himself.

That may be true, but the guy buying the epic mount doesn't then turn around and send the gold to other accounts.

Blocking gold transfer by mail is ok, though it does inconvenience legitimate friend transfer.

A script to ban everyone without instance loot and a pet named 'boar' is also a bad idea, sure.

But what about a script to find characters who are logged on more than 10 hours per day, every day, who aren't guilded, who don't do instances, and most importantly, who transfer gold on a regular basis to characters not on their account?
 
But what about a script to find characters who are logged on more than 10 hours per day, every day, who aren't guilded, who don't do instances, and most importantly, who transfer gold on a regular basis to characters not on their account?

The last of these is the only one that could work. Somebody logged on very much might just not have a life. And some real players are not guilded, while some gold farmers are. But being a cash cow should be detectable, triggering some alarm when more than X gold per Y days is mailed around.
 
I once reported a mid 50s Hunter in Winterspring for being a Farmer. He displayed classic farmer/bot traits. He ran into trees and took forever to "slide" passed them. He made beelines for dead Yetis killed by other players, sometimes running straight into trees and taking forever to get passed them to the kill, which he promptly skinned. He had a completely nonsensical name for himself and had the generic name for his Pet. And a look at the Armory showed he had taken less than a week to level to his mid-50s, and was wearing a very strange assortment of greens for a Hunter in his 50s. I reported him, stating his name was inappropriate and in violation of Blizzard's naming policy, and that I thought he was botting. I saw him a week later, now lvl 60 but still in Winterspring, still farming Yetis, still with the same name, still running into trees.
 
It's very simple to set up a trade system that would not be a logistical nightmare, else blizz would have done this a long time ago.
 
Now when someone sends you gold, it takes 1 hour for it to arrive. It used to be instant but now unless you are sending money from another toon on your account, it takes an hour. I had purchased gold in the past from several places that would mail it, and my last order never came, and after spending time on the phone with support, they said Blizzard can now monitor gold that is sent and delete it if they feel it was purchased. i did some research and found that many sites now will actually meet you in game and open trade with you and hand you the gold in person. So IMO taking away the ability to mail gold would do nothing, as my last 500 came from meeting a level 1 in elywn forest.
 
mmm doesnt matter now. all the gold traders meet you in game and trade so blizz can't track it.
 
More important than cheating, buying gold is skipping content, as you have mentioned many times in the past.

When your customer is using real money to skip game content, there isn't something wrong with the customer (other than why the f is he playing the game in the first place), there is something wrong with your content and game design.
 
I don't like the thought of blizz selling gold. Having the gold farmer doing it makes it somewhat ilegal. That means many players will not participate based on their own moral grounding. Kinda of like pot being illegal in the U.S. Lots of people smoke it, but they don't talk about it, and many law obiding people who would try it, don't, because of the legality of it.

If blizz started letting players buy gold, what's to stop them from moving to selling bopu? Hey that weapon drop from Gruul is nice. What? You can't raid? Blizz will sell it to you for $150.

The gold farming is wrong, but it happens in every game. I remember seeing items on Ebay when I played Diablo 2. I do think it is a necessary evil. I really do feel that turning a pseudo-blind eye to an underhanded transaction, really does keep it in the shadows. Asset trading will take place. Period. Blizz helped curp that with their BOPU and BOE system. All they left was the gold. At least this way, I know I'll never run into a tier 6 player that got there by buying it.

Unless of course they bought their account.....
 
easy to solve,

gold binds on pick up, gold transfer only allowed among characters of the same account and among Guild members of Guilds at least 1 month old...

I do not think this would impact dramatically the gameplay.

cheers
 
maxduro said...
easy to solve,

gold binds on pick up, gold transfer only allowed among characters of the same account and among Guild members of Guilds at least 1 month old...

I do not think this would impact dramatically the gameplay.

cheers


So you want to shut down the AH? And COD mail?
 
I think that having a gold transfer section on the character screen is a good idea. However, maybe a better idea would be just to pool your gold into one server-total. Instead of worrying about what character has how much cash just let them all feed from the same pocketbook. I guess that runs along the same lines as a shared bank too, which I would love to see in WoW.
 
What if they shut down mail gold-transfers AND made people flagged as attackable upon transferring large amounts of gold.

That way legal players could get some content from hunting gold farmers!?

I can see the sting operation now!
 
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