Tobold's Blog
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Zen of RMT Design

Damion from Zen of Design wrote an excellent article about RMT and basic fairness. Quote:
Most current MMO players perceive buying power as cheating. Even the ones who are doing it do. These same players do not bat an eye at mailing some unused gear to an alt, or dropping a hundred gold into the mail for their girlfriend’s brother. But if the brother buys it from Goldfarmers R Us… well, that’s just DIRTY. At it’s core, it makes achievers feel that other achievers got handed what they had to WORK for.

Is it entirely rational? No. But the concept of what is right and wrong is, ultimately, a societal concept, and ultimately, while designers can try to change player perceptions of what’s fair, there are also times when the community makes the declaration, and the company is forced to respond, or risk becoming irrelevant.
Brilliant! He also mentions that "the debate about RMT is ultimately a debate between those who have money, and those who have time" and that the perception of fairness and acceptance of RMT could possibly change if the demographics of MMORPGs shift towards the over-30 players who have more money and less time.

I just want to add that the eternal "casual vs. hardcore" debate is actually very much related to a similar problem of perception of fairness as the RMT debate. If you consider MMORPGs totally objectively, they are not fair games. Damion has a comparison with baseball, but in baseball one team doesn't get to go out on the field and play and score while the other team is still sitting in their offices working. "Achievement" in MMORPGs is very much linked to time spent in game, and as some players spend a lot more time in game than others, comparing their achievements is inherently unfair. Of course RMT is still cheating, and overcoming one sort of unfairness by trying to balance it with another sort of unfairness is never going to achieve a fair result.

Lots of people call me pro-RMT, a label I can just shrug off. I'd prefer to call myself anti-pseudo-achievement. An epic mount or full epic gear is fun, but *not* a life achievement you should put into your CV, regardless of whether you achieved it by spending hundreds of hours or hundreds of dollars. Buying yourself an epic in-game "achievement" is like buying yourself a huge plasma TV: it'll cost you a lot of extra money without adding all that much to the entertainment value, as you'll still have the same TV program / game in front of you. Only that building that plasma TV yourself in hundreds of hours of work isn't any better.
Well, first of all, I'll have to point out the obvious:
RMT is considered "cheating" within WoW because it is generally agreed that it violates the TOC.

The attempted equivocation of 'Zen' is logically incorrect.
On the one hand you have a for-profit transaction, one that can essentially dip into the well of RMT gold (or power-leveling) as long as you have $$$.
On the other hand you have social interaction within the game, which is encouraged (it is a MMO after all), and which typically is both limited (players don't have essentially unlimited resources) and reciprocal (often acts of kindness in the game are returned).

Finally, the 'plasma TV' example is fallacious as well, because your plasma TV does not affect me.
But someone's RMT-geared character impacts my MMO experience in several ways, such as the gold-farmers spamming, over-farming resources, and causing AH inflation, and the gold-buyer potentially using that gold to gain a PvP advantage against me and other players or a time advantage such as purchasing an epic flyer then using that to find resources more quickly than others who do not have an epic flyer.

Don't fall for the "victimless crime" fallacy :)
At the end of a day .. WoW, LOTRO, EQ2, .. are all games. Don't get me wrong.. I love them. However only games.
I feel more MMO companies should embrace more ways to purchase in game items for real money.
I would buy a sword, armor item with real money. If it hurts someones feelings then they really need to go back and reflect on there life.
Good post
To me, RMT is more an effort vs money issue than a time vs money issue. While effort and time might go hand in hand in many MMOs, it's still a distinction.

To add to the baseball example: RMT is basically one team being on steroids vs the other not. Steroids can't help you overcome a massive talent difference (just like RMT can't kill Illidan for you), but given two fairly balanced teams, the one with the steroid edge will come out on top (or the guild buying gold to buy all the best pots/gems/enchants).

And while it's always easy to fall back and say 'its just a game', clearly enough people take it seriously enough to actually care about a level playing field. Even in a casual co-ed softball league, how would it look if one team was full of roided-out jocks while everyone else was showing up just to drink a few beers and have a good time? Would the rest of the league just say 'ah it's ok, they have more money, so it's cool they went out and paid a few players to guarantee them victory'.
clearly enough people take it seriously enough to actually care about a level playing field

If you look at it closely you will find that the people who call it a "level playing field" are actually those who have the most available time, and are thus profiting most from the fact that MMORPGs are not a level playing field. If you wanted a more level playing field MMORPG, you would need to create one which could only be played for one hour every day.

No the equivocation is correct. It simply boils down to if you twink your characters to bypass content for them because you can. You have effectively done exactly the same thing as a gold buyer. You can slink down into the mud with the lawyers and argue its only bad if the contract says so.

But at the end of the day you did the exact same thing there was just no real money changing hands.

No difference in outcome though.
I've done it. I've helped friends and family. But whether you think it should be allowed or not. Morally and Ethically there is no difference.

Just remember Legality and Ethics are not related terms.
Firstly, I studied this 'issue' for a long time and my personal conclusion (you may disagree) is: it's because of the 'boyscout psychology'. The whole scheme is the same: 'game gods'/adults give us 'tasks' and we need to progress, achieve 'badges' etc. etc. BTW, maybe that's why RMT is such a big issue in the US and NOWHERE else, scouting movement (and hence the psychology) is widely popular ONLY in the US (see wikipedia).

Now a couple of questions if I may:
1. How about 'escort' services? Are they fair in your opinion? The person 'was there have done that (in part)'? This is kinda opposite to 'not experiencing the content' as they say about purchases items, levels etc.
2. Maybe 'boyscouts' would appreciate a 'old-style/no-RMT preserves' when TENS OF MILLIONS new players who don't give a s...t about this 'issue' will come (in a year or two)? How do you think?
I think that game designers should be making an attempt to reward both people who are willing to spend time and people who are willing to spend money. You have to design for both sets of gamers, because if you snub one in favor of the other it becomes unfair. You should reward both of these sets of people equally, as much as possible.

This of course is quite a tricky thing to balance, but I think that Eve is on the right path with their current plan of allowing people to purchase game time with in-game currency. This automatically sets a sort of exchange rate, since it really doesn't make sense to pay more for isk than a certain amount (the equivalent of your subscription price in ISK == subscription price in dollars). It allows people who are willing to spend time in the game to pay for more game time effectively with the very time they put into the game, which sort of counteracts RMT. However, I'm not sure this strategy will work effectively without an officially regulated RMT system in place, which I don't believe Eve has.

Many MMOs right now are simply designed without consideration of RMT, or the extremely naive assumption that it's controllable or can be quashed, and therefore are fundamentally unable to address the "problem" appropriately. The next designers of the next generation of MMOs should take into account the fact that whether you want it to happen or not, RMT is going to happen in your game if it's at all successful. You simply have to design for it, incorporate it into your business model, and work with it.

WoW is a prime example of this -- Blizzard simply cannot stem the tide of gold farmers, no matter what they do. They've been trying for the entire life of the game, and guess what: the RMT market is still very active, and as long as people are willing to pay real money for gold, no amount of effort on Blizzard's part is going to do anything more than temporarily increase gold prices. In fact, Blizzard's response to this seems to be "well let's just make gold so plentiful that nobody even needs to buy it" with daily quests that give out tons of gold each day, but guess what? RMT is still around. They would have to completely devalue the currency to have any effect (which they're trying very hard to do).

Essentially the question is, why should game designers punish people who are willing to spend money on the game and not enough time to invest, and in turn reward people who have plenty of time to invest but not enough money to pay? Should you not reward both of these groups, since both are playing your game in their own way?
So wait Tobold, you are saying putting more time into something is considered unfair? Of course the people with the most time to focus on ANYTHING should profit most.

If I study longer for a test, should I not profit more than someone who did not study? If I put in longer hours at work, should I not expect to get rewarded faster than someone putting in 9-5 each day?

Why do we consider MMO's any different? Why do we feel we should be entitled to everything up front, without having to put in any effort? Again the whole 'its only a game' argument is a weak excuse.

And why should someone like you (just an example now), with a high paying job get farther in an MMO through RMT than someone working just as many hours, but in an underpaid field (say a teacher)? Now the barrier of entry is no longer time (someone everyone has access to on some degree), but RL personal wealth?

Which is worst, having to grind out some rep in game to earn an epic, or having talent/luck in real life to afford the best gaming experience? Should we change the Kara key from a somewhat annoying quest chain to just a straight up $20 RMT charge?

So what you're saying is MMO designers should actively seek to reward only those people who can afford to put long hours into the game, and not the people who can afford to put more money into the game?

The fact of the matter is that games are successful because the players are having fun when they play, and continue to play. This doesn't mean they continue to play for 8 hours a day, it means they continue to renew their subscriptions over long periods of time. Only allowing players who have the ability to spend many hours per week in the game cuts out a significant segment of the potential population of the game.

Is that fair to the people who can't put the significant time investment into the game? I don't mean WoW, I mean a game which takes RMT into account and truly attempts to make it fair for people who can invest time AND people who can invest money.

Seriously, look at the adage time = money, and tell me why that shouldn't apply to a game that's properly designed for it?
Interesting discussion.

I play casually. I haven't raided past Kara. My (underwhelming) Arena rating has never exceeded 1500. I have only two level 70 toons and scattered alts in about 1 year 9 months of play.

But I care about a "level playing field". Really, I care about it more from a worldview perspective, a concept of fairness. I don't want to be at a disadvantage to someone who has 'cheated' - who has an advantage obtained by violating the TOC and using RMT. But I have in-game respect for one who has legitimately progressed farther in raids or wins at PvP or has an epic flyer etc. (Though with RMT hanging out there, valid accomplishments are tainted by the question of RMT.)

This concept leaks over into Sam's comment - yes, the TOC is important.

First I'll clarify that I hold to a view that absolute truth exists.

Second, legal rules matter as an overall concept for the simple reason that if they can be ignored, the ultimate result is anarchy. Morals and ethics cannot exist without legal rules, because without the legal 'lines' there are no boundaries by which to draw moral and ethical conclusions. (I understand that if one does not hold to an ideal of absolute truth, one may disagree with those general principles.)

It is a fallacy to assume that all ways of arriving at an end are morally equivalent.
Allow me to illustrate:
You have possession of prescription drugs. Is it morally equivalent whether I obtained them by buying them on the black market without a prescription, or through a doctor's prescription and payment at a pharmacy? No, of course it's not morally equivalent!
You have possession of WoW Gold. Is it morally equivalent whether I violated the TOC and purchased it through a RMT dealer, or got it handed to me from a guildie who farmed it by selling Primals on the AH? ...
To answer syncaine, No where in life does putting more time into something mean you'll do better. Skill is rewarded in life, not time. Studying more won't guarantee me a better grade than someone who is simply smarter, working more won't get me ahead of the person who works smarter and is proactive in taking care of problems.

Also most portions of these games are not competition. Why should I care if someone got something by buying it, or came later after the rules changed and had an easier time? It doesn't affect me at all, I am not a victim no matter how much some people tell me I am.

Obviously in pvp you wouldn't want RMT, but you also don't want the WoW time sink either.

However, your 2nd to last paragraph is correct. Just as WoW and other games currently favor kids in school who have tons of time, if EVERYTHING were RMT buyable, then it would favor adults with better jobs.

But that is the "missing middle" fallacy. It doesn't have to be everything buyable with money, nor does it have to be everything buyable with time. There can be a middle ground.
So many people want to discuss how fairness plays into this equation, but apparently don't consider the fact that ability to spend time more time in a game than another player is also unfair.

If you want a game to be truly fair, you either have to allow RMT to make up the difference in time invested, or limit the amount of time you're allowed to invest in the game. To make WoW fair, for example, you'd have to implement a time limit per character per month to allow people who simply cannot afford to invest as much time in the game to have a fair chance at advancement.

People like to pretend that time is free, but it's really not. Spending time in a game is really the same thing as spending money. If you weren't playing the game, you could have a job (or another job) and be off making money. Therefore, the time you're putting into the game is the same thing as putting money into the game, and therefore both of these investments should be treated equally, if you really want the playing field to be fair.

Otherwise, you're just saying "I want it to be fair for me, and I don't really care about the rest of the people playing the game unless they're in the same situation I am."
If I study longer for a test, should I not profit more than someone who did not study?

No, you shouldn't, and you aren't. The outcome of the test should and often is determined by the students ability to answer the questions correctly (aka skill) and not by how much time he spent "grinding" for the test. Of course practice can improve skill, but that is not how it works in MMORPGs.

Imagine both me (who sucks at PvP) and a player twice as skilled as I am both decide we want the same PvP epic reward. And for some reason I have twice as much time as he does. Who of the two gets his PvP epic reward faster? The more skilled one, or the guy online more hours? The perversion of MMORPGs is that it's the guy who spends more time who gets the reward faster, not the guy who is more skilled.
Thier are several problems with the issue of RMT and "fairness".

one. Someone with more money ends up with less effort. One could argue thats ok. But the fact remains they bought thier way out of the boring stuff. I'd argue the RMT is bad but also as tobold has pointed out a symptom of bad game design. The fact that people want to bypass content is pretty damning.

Second. You can't equate time and money in the game because it gets all mixed up. What about the people with TIME and MONEY. They can bypass the content and have 40,000 g worth of stuff all at the same time. It really hurts the game. It hurts the casual guy that dreams of someday getting close. It hurts the hardcore guy that has time and can't figure out why no matter how hard he works at spending 80 hours a week he can't catch up with mr Rockefeller's son who doesn't have to work and can spend unlimited amounts of money. Then once you cross the line, If RMT is ok the what's wrong with powerleveling services. Bypassing content through money is ok whats wrong with getting someone else to level your toon. After all you've got money he's got time it's the same thing just taken a bit further.

I don't know what the solution is. I love playing the AH. I'd hate to see saleable Items removed completely but in the game RMT really hurts the casual player base and makes the items that should be expensive but in reach and a carrot to work hard instead purple rocks on Mount Everest that they'll never reach. On my server for instance I can sell level 21 BOE items for 100g. That's insane. But due in no small part to RMT.
Only in a 'everyone wins' game like WoW Tobold. In EVE you can spend all the time you want grinding, your ship will still be a wreck when you cross a skilled PvP player. Same went for UO back in the day. Even in your example, twice as much time will still be 1/3rd less BG marks than a player who wins. But the reason 'everyone wins' works in a game like WoW is because at it's base it's not a competitive game. If we remove competition, who really cares about RMT in a massive online single player game?

And the test example, if we assume two students with equal intelligence, one studies and one does not, who is more likely to get a higher score? Of course putting in time can not overcome every obstacle, but to think it does not have an impact is incorrect.
Imagine both me (who sucks at PvP) and a player twice as skilled as I am both decide we want the same PvP epic reward. And for some reason I have twice as much time as he does. Who of the two gets his PvP epic reward faster? The more skilled one, or the guy online more hours? The perversion of MMORPGs is that it's the guy who spends more time who gets the reward faster, not the guy who is more skilled.

OMG an epiphany.

MMORPG's are basically modelled after the same model as most Govt Bueracracies. He who has the most connections and time to play the system wins.

Everything that people hate about government is what you get rewarded for in an MMORPG.

"People like to pretend that time is free, but it's really not." That's a critical point. Time invested is as much a currency as Yen or Baht.

Theoretically, MMO fairness implies that your rewards reflect your in-game achievements, NOT your out-of-game situation. In practice, your RL situation has a huge effect on your MMO performance. If I have 12 hours/day to throw at WoW, and you have 2, your in-game experience versus mine is almost directly a result of your Real Life.

"Fair", in some sense, means everyone should be able to leverage their life circumstances, or no one should. Of course, if you're spastic, poor AND have no time on your hands - there are bigger issues than your avatar's gear.

I wonder...given that RMT is guaranteed profit at near-infinite margins, how DO the devs keep the accountants from mandating it?
The people with the RL Money can always buy the Time they need (Gold=Time because buying gold saves hours of farming time). Conversely, the people with all the Time but limited RL money 'buy' more gold by spending their Time in-game. The two resources are, essentially, identical: RL Money = Gold; Time = Gold.

So why are the Time people so resentful of the Money people for spending their resource on the exact same thing? The Money people don't care that someone else spends hours farming Gold, but the Time people sure seem to care about the Money people buying it. Maybe the Time people think it devalues their Time. Maybe they're right.

What I do know (ok, what I believe) is that Blizzard are only anti-RMT because they haven't figured out a way to implement it without breaking WoW and destroying its inherent Timesinks, which is what keeps a lot of people playing and paying their monthly sub. Blizzard (& Vivendi) are all about making money, and if they could crack the RMT puzzle, they'd be all over it.

The misconception is that RMT drives up AH prices, but it doesn't. AH prices are high for one reason and one reason only...ok, two reasons. Supply & Demand. If there is an abundant supply of Silk Cloth on the AH and limited demand, prices will be lower; when Silk Cloth is in short supply and demand is higher, prices rise.

Lvl 19 & 29 BOE Items only sell for a small fortune because of the Twink industry; it has nothing to do with Gold Sellers. I know people who buy gold but none of them do so to fund Twinks; they buy gold to pay for consumables for Raiding and the subsequent repair costs, i.e., a Timesink created by Blizzard.

Lvl 70 BOE Epics sell for a King's Ransom not because of Gold Sellers, but because people are trying to buy their Epic Fliers, another Timesink created by Blizzard.

RMT exists because Blizzard filled their game with Timesinks in order to ensure people would keep playing.

The only reason Blizzard are anti-RMT is because their game is hinged on Timesinks, and they can't figure out how to sell gold themselves without breaking their game.

I want to hear arguments from the Time people when Blizzard finally crack the RMT puzzle and sell gold themselves, and suddenly the people with the RL Money can buy everything the Time people have, and more.

"Of course you have an Epic Flier; you bought gold from Blizzard. I spent months farming Ore and Primals for my gold; I earned my Epic Flier."

"I put in a few hours of OT at the office; I earned the money to buy the gold for my Epic Mount. Your point is?"

The guy who beats me to the Node because he has an Epic Flier may have farmed the gold, or he may have bought it from a Gold Seller, I don't know and I don't care. His having an Epic Flier only rekindles my desire to get my own.

The guy who buys gold to buy his BOE Epics, or buys his way into a Raid or onto a high-ranking PvP Team, or somehow uses his RL Money to obtain Epics for his toon, which he uses to crush me in the BGs is no different from all of the other Purple-clad Toons that also grind me into the dirt. I could care less how they got their Epics, it only inspires me to work harder to get Epics of my own.

I am not tempted to buy Gold of my own just to have my Epic Flier now, or pick up some of those BOE Epics on the AH, but it's not because I think it's cheating. The only reason I wouldn't buy gold is for the same reason I no longer play The Sims, it would ruin the game for me. I once used a cheat code to give my Sims all the money they ever needed. I built a huge house and furnished it with the best items I could buy, then I looked at it for a minute and felt nothing, there was no sense of achievement. I deleted the house but didn't feel like building a new one right then, so I quit, and that was the last time I played the Sims.

Everything my Toons have in the game was earned through playing the game which gives me ownership in my toon and their items. I don't care for buying gold and taking the shortcut, but that's just me. If someone else feels the need to buy gold so they can get their latest Shiny right now, I have no problem with that. Them having their Shiny doesn't devalue the self-perceived worth of my own Toons and items.
The misconception is that RMT drives up AH prices, but it doesn't. AH prices are high for one reason and one reason only...ok, two reasons. Supply & Demand. If there is an abundant supply of Silk Cloth on the AH and limited demand, prices will be lower; when Silk Cloth is in short supply and demand is higher, prices rise.

You forget the amount of money available also causes prices to rise. Thus inflation when governments just start printing money to cover themselves.

It's simple someone who is willing to buy money is more than willing to pay a higher price for something than the guy who farmed for 3 months for the same amount of cash. But the guy that farmed for the same amount will pay the same or do without because of RMT people spending freely money that they felt no pain to acquire.

Also for us older players the idea of cheating to win is generally considered pointless and unfun.

But most games, even consoles, these days are filled with things that no sane person could figure out on thier own. I've read interviews with devs where they admitted that they put things like that in games to sell the magazines,and cheatbooks. Our children have been taught that using thot, and walkthrough guides is not just ok, It's smart. Why work hard to figure it out when someone else can tell you how. I think that leads down the slippery slope to buying gold. If its ok to use someone elses strats and guides is there really much difference in buying gold to bypass boring content, or to catch up?
Is it really a problem that some people have more time than others? Suppose we have to grind 10 hours to get the resources for some epic. You might grind that 10 hours in one day, and I might grind it over the course of a week. But we're both putting out the same effort for the same reward and presumably having the same amount of fun.

But suppose you can pay $10 to bypass the ten hours of grind. That's not a problem for me at first; I'm still having as much fun as I was before. But as more and more people start buying the resources, the market for those resources gets tighter. I'm competing with farmers, and it might take me 20 or even 100 hours to grind the resources. That's no fun. Now I need to buy gold just to get back to where I was when I started.

Gold-buyers are aware of this on some level. They don't want to play a game where gold-buying in sanctioned, because then they'd get caught up in a bidding war with all the other spoiled rich kidz. They want to play a game where they buy gold, but most of the other players don't.

(Twinking isn't as much of a problem. People will help out their friends, but they're not going to be distorting the economy by farming 8 hours a day.)
On my server for instance I can sell level 21 BOE items for 100g. That's insane. But due in no small part to RMT.

Actually I thought it was because of the dailies? It seemed to me the prices all skyrocketed after dailies were introduced and players are now flooded with gold. Of course that's just going by my memory.
"Is it really a problem that some people have more time than others?"

Not really...but the same question applies to some people having more money than others. Once you accept the fact that the game can't be equitable, does it really matter how you measure the inequity? Obviously, for a game where the target audience has more time than money, you'd take the route WoW and EQ have taken. But it's not hard to imagine a game where the primary mode of advancement is buying things.

I have always admired the road EvE took - they realized time is an asset, and they equalized things somewhat with offline training. Instead of allowing people to throw hours at a game to advance, they fixed the pace of advancement. Imagine a version of WoW where the time to 70 was fixed at 6 months. Now, instead of rushing to level, maybe people would take time to enjoy the journey, learn their classes, and PLAY instead of GRIND.
there are different sorts of games:
- competitive games (chess, tennis, baseball)
- single player games against "virtual" enemies (civilization, starcraft)
- single player games without enemy (minesweeper, solitaire)
- collection games
to list a few categories i made up in my mind just now.

in some of them its ok to become "better" by investing real life money, in others its not, in some its forbidden, in some just seen as unfair (cheating).

mmorpgs are often big games with lots of subgames build into it. of course these subgames fall into different categories. because of that i think its only natural, that some players find it normal to buy gold, while others find it disgusting and beside the point of the game.
for some a mmorpg is just a better chatroom, for others its their way of showing how "great" they are in school or to get acknowledged.

you cant just say "its ok" or "its not ok" to buy gold, because it depends on the very idea why the players play the game.
The misconception is that RMT drives up AH prices, but it doesn't. AH prices are high for one reason and one reason only...ok, two reasons. Supply & Demand. If there is an abundant supply of Silk Cloth on the AH and limited demand, prices will be lower; when Silk Cloth is in short supply and demand is higher, prices rise.

You forget the amount of money available also causes prices to rise. Thus inflation when governments just start printing money to cover themselves.

Sam, you're quite right, and again that's another problem caused by Blizzard (but not limited to them & their game). The amount of gold WoW players can make every single day in the post-BC economy is staggering, compared to pre-BC amounts. Once upon a time 1,000g was an impressive figure, now it's nothing. My 45 Rogue has over 400g from doing nothing more than Skinning and Mining and selling the occasional Blue BOEs. I will easily have the gold to buy my Epic Mount at 60 and my Flier at 70; I may even have close to the gold needed for the Epic Flier.

I would suggest that AH prices have increased not because of RMT and Gold Sellers, but because of the amount of gold available in the post-BC economy. Anyone with a moderately geared 70 in Quest Blues & Greens can make at least 100g in a couple of hours doing nothing but Daily Quests and a bit of farming, be it Skinning, Mining, etc. A lot of that gold is naturally made on the AH selling Ore, Leather, etc, so profits will not be realized until the next day or two, regardless, the ability of any post-BC 70 (yes, even Prot-specced Warriors) to make gold is so great that inflation was inevitable.

AH prices are not high because of Gold Sellers & Buyers, in my opinion the increased prices are a natural progression of WoW from pre-1.12 to post-BC.
Hmmm. Quite a diverse and interesting conversation.

A comment on AH prices:
The effect of RMT on a virtual economy is rather complex. This wiki article discusses some of those factors in the "Inflation vs. Redistribution Controversy" section:
I have personally found that the section talking about "it takes money to make money" is particularly pertinent, because as I played a narrow segment of the AH and did daily quests I accumulated around 7000g (RMT-free) toward epic flying training for myself and my wife. I could quite easily control the price of the five items I was checking multiple times a day.
But the actual effects are often secondary, such as in the case of a raider who buys gold to pay for repairs and consumables in order to spend more time raiding, and getting drop or badge loot as a result (though it is likely that such a raider would RMT the gems and enchanting mats too).

Time is the currency of WoW. Now if you want to make RL $$$ the currency of WoW, then this 40-ish casual maybe-average player can suddenly have it all. I'm salaried and make a nice professional salary. I would not mind dropping some cash to deck out in full S3/Vindicator's, or full T6, with the powerleveled class of my choice. An epic flyer took a couple of months of real time, but I checked, and found that I could have gotten it RMT for less than a day's salary.

But then $$$ becomes a 'cheat code' that takes most of the challenge of the game away, and the game will become boring much more quickly. And what about the social aspect? If your guildie is undergeared, then you'll expect him/her to sell out the $$$ too - so guilds would probably become segregated by economic status.

Finally, people who 'beat' a game using a cheat code typically get bored with it pretty quickly, and rarely go back and try to beat it without the 'cheat'.
Interesting take, Doeg. I recall when I was leveling one of my toons that I was very briefly the “Silk Cloth” tycoon on my server. A couple of friends of mine had run me through Scarlet Monastery twelve to fifteen times over a period of about three days. Each night, I dumped all of my Silk Cloth on the AH to simply clear room in my bank and inventory. After the second day, I noticed none of it was selling and realized that I had inadvertently driven the market on Silk Cloth to just barely above the vendor price. I decided to buy up the competition and purchased every single unit under “my price” that I had set. I kept this up until I had cycled my Silk Cloth down to maybe 8 or 9 stacks and then just sold off the remainder. It took about a week and a half to sell it all off, but by the time I was done and had made five or six times more profit off the items I had purchased off the Auction House. The reason I believe this worked so well is that I drove the market down very considerably at the start by flooding the market and then brought it back up to where I wanted it. At that point, if someone effectively wanted to sell Silk, then they sold it to me. If someone wanted to buy Silk, they bought it from me. The initial buy-up of the flooded market is where I made the lionshare of my profit. After that, it was just a matter of continuing to control the market until I good sell off all my goods for the profit I wanted. What surprised me the most is that I was able to do this on something as “common” as Silk Cloth.
a couple of things. Daily quests were supposed to be the answer to RMT. And for people at end game with moderate amounts of time to play they are. But this fix only helps people at end game. And it helps them by causeing the inflation they screamed that RMT sellers were causeing. Its the same issue that the Mudflation of gear caused. Funny the RMT sellers are still there causing inflation and now we have Dailies causing even more inflation. I wonder how freaking far the carrot will be for a new player in WOTLK?
Tobold, I have to compliment you on being able to come up with a topic that aroused such an interest.

Reading through all the comments, I believe everyone has valid points, but what I found interesting is the focus on the fairness and equal playing fields.

I believe WoW is fair to everyone. We can argue availability of time and money and say how that has unevened the playing field, but I think the focus is wrong. Why are we attempting to compare my progress against yours? Why am I competing against you? Should I not rather compete against myself?

If people out there have the funds and wish to "enhance" their playing enjoyment by purchasing gold, then let them. Does it affect me in the long run? I don't think so. Perhaps it affects the economy and so eventually affects me, but how much has my enjoyment of the game been affected since RMT started? In no respect that I am aware of.

I believe that RMT is cheating. It is something I will never do. Every in-game cheat I have ever used on a console game has destroyed the game for me. I love WoW and won't do anything to jeopardize my experience with it. For me, knowing that I worked hard for it, although frustrating at times, makes the game worthwhile. Purchasing gold will just ruin that for me. For someone else, this may not be the case and more power to them.

So I think we need to shift focus from rating ourselves and how we've done compared to others and look at comparing ourselves against our own expectations.

Back to the topic at hand, I do believe that RMT is cheating.
"I'd prefer to call myself anti-pseudo-achievement"

Not exactly, you yourself said you did PvP for the purpose of getting stuff (for example).

In a game like WoW, the point is the achievement. Achievement of stuff, levels, wealth and accomplishment is what the entire game system is designed and balanced around.
"If you wanted a more level playing field MMORPG, you would need to create one which could only be played for one hour every day."

The time parity argument is a red herring, and it is level, you just aren't thinking it through.

If player A plays for 20 hours in one week, and player B plays for 2 hours per week, Player B will reach (in a perfect scenario) the same achievements as Player A in 10 weeks.

However, both Player A and Player B will have invested the same real time in game. This IS parity.

RMT players want to remove the requirement for some of the play time, thereby reaching the same achievements in less play time, often citing calendar days as a false validation.

RMT is about skipping play time and instant gratification, not parity of time.
Players should have a choice. If I'm playing a game where RMT is not allowed then the developers should hunt down and bann accounts who RMT. On the other hand, if I want to play a game where RMT is allowed there are plenty of them out there. When you start playing a game, you should read the terms of service and the end user license agreement and obey them. Otherwise you are cheating. The game has been designed as it is designed. If you don't like it, then play a game that is set up the way you like to play.
Getting married and having kids leaves less time, makes it harder to progress in WOW. I have to negotiate with the family which nights I can play, generally 2-3 raid nights a week. Any other time has to be 'sneaked in', and that is when I have to try and get the raid consumables together.

It's really tempting to buy gold sometimes, just to keep the family together :)

It's not possible to create a totally uber char at the Auction House, that won't really get you further than a few slots and the epic mount, I believe Blizzard has that right.

The same thing can happen if you work in an office - suddenly you are competing with younger people who can still put in extra hours
when they want, and get full nights of sleep. Unfortunately I can't buy office-credit with raid epics .....
I thought about this issue for a long time and I came to 3 conclusions that render the thinking and debate about the issue within my mind a moot point. I would like to present to the community and let you guys pick them apart.

1. Some people are moral absolutes.

In a way, it is not possible to have a discussion with them since for these people, the game developers' intent and TOC are the final arbiter of right and wrong.

2. Ultimately, MMOs are sandbox games. People play different games within a single MMO title. Some people like to play resource gathering game. Some people just like to play Raid games. Some people think resource gathering is part of the raid game. People who just like to play the Raid game might not think buying gold to support the raid is a big deal. People who think resource gathering is part of the Raid game think those guys (who buy gold to support the raid) cheated.

3. People don't like to compete with professionals. This comes up a lot in any RMT debate. For example, gold farmers make it too hard for me to gather resource XYZ. The way the game is design, gathering resources is a competition between you and everyone else. That's why there are finite amount of resource nodes, and a non-zero spawn time. Without gold farmers, a resource gatherer still have to compete with other resource gatherers. Your ability to gather resources will depend on your knowledge of the spawn location and time. What gold farmer brings to the table is that they probably have better information about the resource spawn, and that's all they do. Resource gathering becomes gold farmer's job; they are professional resource gathers.

An amateur is most likely going to lose to a professional in any profession. And we all know losing is no fun.

To me, a MMO title developer can make the whole discussion obsolete by backing up their intent and TOC by game design, technology and strict enforcement. But I am not sure that would be a game any of us would like to play. Because I don't think a lot of Anti-RMT crowd thought about the unintended consequences of zero RMT policy in a game like Wow.

SO I am left with the conclusion that debating about RMT is just another part of the game that we get to play.
The time parity argument is a red herring, and it is level, you just aren't thinking it through.

If player A plays for 20 hours in one week, and player B plays for 2 hours per week, Player B will reach (in a perfect scenario) the same achievements as Player A in 10 weeks.

not true. simply the person that can put 20 hours a week will probably be in 60 hours of work where the person who can do 2 hours a week will be in 100 or so hours. Because at 20 hours a week you get steady groups and guild runs etc and your time is more focused. The player doing it 2 hours at a time has a lot more lost time everytime they log in and try to start.
Unless you are just talking about grinding mats....
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