Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
 
Preventing asymmetric trade

For years I have been accusing all major MMORPG companies of hypocrisy: The all lament the practice of gold selling, but are not using the means at their disposal to actually stop it. Especially Blizzard is famous for using gold farmer bannings as a publicity stunt, doing nothing for months, and then banning them all at once with a big press release [a technique I copied for banning trolls from my blog :)]. But if gold selling becomes actually illegal, governments might come down like a ton of bricks on game companies, and tell them that putting a paragraph in the EULA and banning a few gold farmers twice a year is not sufficient. So lets explore the other options game companies have to stop gold selling.

The principal problem with stopping gold selling is that half of the transaction happens outside of the game, beyond the control of anyone. Not even a government could know whether player A gave player B $50 in cash in a dark alley, in return for player B giving player A 5,000 gold for an epic mount in World of Warcraft. (Sorry if the exchange rate is horribly off, I have no idea of the current price of WoW gold, and no desire to visit a gold selling site to find out). The only thing which is visible, and easily controlled is the transfer of gold in game. The reason why game companies do nothing about gold selling is that they want to allow player B giving player A 5,000 gold for free, for example if the two players are friends or relatives. They just don't want to allow player A giving $50 to player B. Thus the illegal half of the transaction is the one that is invisible. That policy can't possibly work.

Thus if the game companies were pushed to actually get serious about stopping gold selling, what they would have to do is to prevent asymmetric trades. That includes not only player B opening a trade window to player A and giving him 5,000 gold, but also player B sending the gold by mail, or player B "buying" one piece of copper ore from player A for 5,000 gold. It also includes removing any other means of transfer of wealth, like shared guild bank accounts.

As I said in the post about the Chinese government banning virtual currency trades, it is certainly feasible to simply remove all these features from a game like World of Warcraft. WoW would be a very different game without mailbox, auction house, trade windows, and guild banks, but it would still be completely playable.

But there are less drastic options than to remove all forms of trade. It would be sufficient to remove only the asymmetric trades between strangers. You could be allowed to exchange goods between alts, and even between different accounts from family members, as long as they are linked to the same credit card or other means of identification. Note that Blizzard is already allowing character transfers between accounts based on such a rule. All your linked accounts could for example have a shared bank, thus enabling you to give e.g. heirloom items to your alts, or exchange trade goods.

Between strangers it would still be possible to allow symmetric trades. Instead of players being able to put up an item for any price they want on an auction house, players could sell that item to an NPC merchant. But unlike with a current WoW vendor the item wouldn't simply disappear, but would be stocked by the NPC merchant, for resale to other players at a slightly higher price. The more of any item the NPC merchant has in stock, the less he will pay for it, but the cheaper he will also sell it. So it would still be possible for some players to farm items and sell them, and other players to buy those goods and craft something from them, reselling the product. But as all the transfers are indirect via an NPC merchant, asymmetric trades are prevented.

Designing a MMORPG with a player-run economy, but no asymmetric trades, and no gold selling, is completely feasible. But I'm afraid that unless there is government intervention, it will not happen. Despite all what they say publicly, game companies obviously aren't all that interested in stopping RMT. Developers are absolute gods over their virtual worlds, and have far more power over their creations than any government has over their citizens. Claims that they hate RMT and are just unable to stop it are simply bogus.
Comments:
"Between strangers it would still be possible to allow symmetric trades. Instead of players being able to put up an item for any price they want on an auction house, players could sell that item to an NPC merchant. But unlike with a current WoW vendor the item wouldn't simply disappear, but would be stocked by the NPC merchant, for resale to other players at a slightly higher price. The more of any item the NPC merchant has in stock, the less he will pay for it, but the cheaper he will also sell it. So it would still be possible for some players to farm items and sell them, and other players to buy those goods and craft something from them, reselling the product. But as all the transfers are indirect via an NPC merchant, asymmetric trades are prevented."

This seems problematic to me. I agree to trade an item I have for gold with another player, but we have to use an NPC merchant? If you look at the vendor selling price of most blue items, for example, they are usually less than players are willing to pay for them. How does the seller of a blue that will fetch 50g in AH get 50g from an NPC vendor when the vendor values it at 7g?

In other words, how can I be assured of getting the price that was agreed on? How can the other player be sure he will be able to buy the item before another player swoops in and buys it?

And how does this keep gold sellers from using the AH to sell gold? Someone puts up a green item for a ridiculously high price, and the gold seller buys it, thereby transferring the gold to the AH seller.

I see this idea creating more problems than solving them, and it puts up a huge cockblock to the normal, legitimate economy where players trade among themselves.
 
You don't understand. There is no "agreed upon price". There is no Auction House, just the NPC merchant. You don't even need any interaction between two players for trading, in fact the prevention of asymmetric trades depends on there not being a direct link.

If one player sells some runecloth to the NPC vendor, the runecloth is added to the vendor stock, and the player receives the current market value of the runecloth. If he considers that is too low, his only option is to wait until the vendor stock is low, and the market value thus is higher. In any case, the buyer just buys "a" runecloth from the NPC merchant, and pays the buying market value, slightly higher than the selling one. The price is always a market price, given by supply and demand.

In the case of a rare item, where the NPC merchant has zero in stock, there is effectively a transfer of the item from a seller to a buyer. But the seller still can't set a price. The NPC merchant sets the price, and if that price is just 7 gold, the seller can only take it or leave it. If he takes it, then the NPC merchant has 1 item in stock, which he will sell for 10 gold to a buyer.

As there is no auction house, ONLY the NPC merchant, there is no way to put up an item for a ridiculously high price and transfer money like that. Every trade is symmetric, that is happens at the current market rate.
 
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I share your dislike of gold sellers, but this cure sounds significantly worse than the disease. For example, I regularly craft items for guildmates. (Guildies can't always afford the market price for crafted items). Under this proposal, I wouldn't be able to do that.

And here's another example: I remember once in WoW, as a young druid, I was involved in a giant PvP zerg battle. A high level warrior was angry because most of the other druids were running around spamming moonfire rather than healing. When he noticed that I was the only one healing him, he gave me a handful of gold as a reward (a considerable sum for a young player). It really made my day, but it was an "asymmetric trade."

And more generally, MMOs already feel like they're on their way to becoming massively-parallel singer-player games. Interactions among players, including strangers, ought to be encouraged.
 
I completely agree that removing asymmetric trades has several downsides. It is a policy choice. I'm just complaining about devs pretending they have no choice, and spouting out bogus claims on how they are unable to stop RMT. They are able, they just don't want to make the hard choices involved in that.
 
I'll note that Blizzard tends to do banning in waves so that it's harder for the abuser to tell exactly why they've been banned; being banned thirty seconds after doing X while doing Y for weeks would be a good indication not to do X in the future and that Y is okay, for example. It's mostly for the case of hacks and bots, but there's a lot of overlap between that and gold selling, and even obfuscating which in-game methods are (ab)used can be useful.

Granted, this is small consolation when visible botters and the like go for days or weeks without so much as a peep from a GM.
 
I've often thought about a similar solution myself. Yes it certainly has drawbacks but it would bring some advantages too, perhaps especially for crafters. Say that the cost to make an item is 50g. You can sell the item to the merchant for 75-100g depending on how large stock he has of that item, and he then sells it to others for 100-125g depending on stock. Of course this is just an example, the prices can be something completely else.

The advantage of this is that it actually pays a bit to craft stuff, even while leveling the crafting skill. As it is now the items you make while skilling is often already sold on the AH at a significant loss which has always irritated me. It also prevents overpricing by a lot when the stock is low so that people can actually buy at a relatively reasonable price as long as it is in stock at all.
 
Posted full of mistakes earlier so just removed. (Was waking up XD)

Anyway my theory is that to stop gold selling you could offer gold trade only through tied accounts. Recruit a Friend or you own account can trade between characters but not anyone else. If items were still tradeable in some way but gold trading was limited would the economy start using other means of cash like clams?... ok thats far fetched, but surely items would be used instead of gold simply to be auctioned off for gold. I'm not sure of a solution or even if that would happen.

So how would people take banning gold trade between accounts unless linked?
 
> "I completely agree that removing asymmetric trades has several downsides. It is a policy choice. I'm just complaining about devs pretending they have no choice"

I'm sorry Tobold, but giving as a choice a solution which is significantly worse than the problem is not a real choice.

Removing player-to-player trades is what you are proposing, and that will take a huge chunk out of WoW. From loaning other people gold or mats to having someone craft an item for you, trade between players is an integral part of WoW. Your system would completely kill it, making WoW much more boring and limited.

Consider for example, people sometimes spend significant effort to get BoE items in order to sell on the AH, e.g. level 19 blue weapons that sell to twinks for over 2k gold. Under your proposal this could never happen, as the NPC vendor would pay, what, a few gold at best?

There is no way to determine the "true" price of items based only on scarcity as you propose, since price is also driven by supply and demand. Level 60 enchanting mats have both become more scarce on the AH since BC and LK were released, and cheaper. There are many other such examples. Further more, the jump in perceived value (and therefore AH price) is *far far* from being a linear one. Consider only slightly better gems or enchants, which sell for *10 times* more gold, or even higher, than their lesser versions. Your system would kill off such lucrative trade in higher-end items, taking away a large part of what many people enjoy about the AH.

I'm sorry but to re-iterate, your solution is no solution and the choice you offer devs is no real choice. Ruining WoW trade will make WoW gold farming less of a problem since far fewer people will continue to play WoW...
 
There is a major problem with this idea:
The idea that a NPC who just increases prices for goods that are sold to him rarely and decreases prices for goods that are sold to him often could work like a merchant in a market. If that were true we would all speak russian today ;)
(Not that speaking russian is a bad thing, but I value my ability to trade with anybody whatever I and he like).

The NPC merchant would need to know every fact of the market (might even be possible in an MMO) and then calculate the correct price - which is 100% impossible even in an MMO.

Consequently he would be very easy to out-speculate:

For instance me and a friend could search for something almost nobody else trades. First I collect major amounts of that, then I sell all of this to him all at once. I gain a lot of money. Now my friend IMMEADIATELY buys it all (for almost nothing, because the merchant has a lot of supply).
A week later, when the price has risen again, we repeat:
Endless gold.

Why does it work? Because the NPC is dump. We can speculate, but he cannot. A real merchant would understand what we are doing and adjust the price.

IMHO the only way to elegantly remove goldsellers without removing a working market in a game is to only integrate those ways to earn money into the game that need the society (the other players) of the game to succeed at.

More specific:
Imagine the only way to earn (significant amounts of) money in WoW were dungeons or raids, or becoming a master enchanter of Orgrimmar .. :)

Alternatively, but similar: Imagine every charcter starts with X amount of gold and there are no other flows of money into the system other than this starting money, BUT you can trade.

Now the only way to become rich is to trade for money. Make all single player items of any value soulbound and all items gained via multiplayer activities tradeable.

What's fascinating about this ansatz is the fact that you could perfectly control the amount of money per player in the game and thus inflation could only be created by adding more tradeable items of value into the game.
 
By the way, the idea isn't really originally mine. There is an NPC merchant for trade goods working exactly like this in Guild Wars. You might want to consider this before proclaiming that this could never work, as it already works quite well for years in Guild Wars.
 
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Mmh .. there are ways around the problem that I described above.
For example:
The NPC could always set the same price for the first, the second, the third .. good of the same kind that he is buying or selling.
This would eliminate the endless money problem.

It would work then. It's cumbersome, but functional.


However, why don't you limit the ways to easily earn money (or valuable, tradeable goods) in the game?

The reason why goldsellers have a working business model is that people like to do boring tasks if they get € for it, but they don't like to do them in their free time. Thus they rather earn money in a real life boring job to spend it on virtual gold in their free time (yes, that's absurd).

By devolping interesting ways to earn money that need highly qualified people and especially need socially active people you could basically eliminate goldsellers.

The only way to be a goldseller would be social activity in the game and actually I don't care if the nice guy who successfully leads my raid sells his money for € on Ebay. After all he is actively participating in the game to earn those €.
This would happen rather rarely, however, because those who are socially successful in a game usually have rather good jobs in real life. And in the few cases where do not: They definately needed to speak German on a German server and not chinese ;)
 
Actually, it sounds like Wizard 101 is implementing something very similar to what you proposed. Up to now, inter-player trades were mostly prohibited (except for treasure cards). The new market system, as I understand it, will use an NPC merchant that sets prices based on supply on demand. Given the nature of the game the intent may be to control prices, rather than to prevent RMT, but it will be interesting to see how it works.
 
Goldfarmers only become a problem if regular players decide to quit playing because of them. Putting farm bots in all the major zones pisses of a lot of people. Walking through ironforge and not being able to read the general channel because of all the gold spam will too.

However, most people don't see much of these gold farmers. And they're bringing Blizzard tons of money. If there are a hundreds of thousands of farming account, they all pay to play. Other people buy the gold and are happy. They invested money in the game and thus are even morelikely to keep on playing. And if they ban a hundred thousand accounts all those farmers have to buy a new account. Even more money for Blizzard.

As long as people don't quit playing because of those gold farmers Blizzard only profits from gold sellers.

And of course I dislike the idea of an symetric trading system. Part of my enjoyment in a game as WoW is getting rich through the AH. And that's impossible without a free market.
 
Runescape did something like this, where the value of items traded between players was limited. It's had mixed results according to what I've read.

Randy Farmer also designed an eBay-resistant system called KidTrade a while ago. You might want to see what ideas an experienced guy in the are ahas come up with.
 
Proposals like these reveal how hollow the whole "RMT is evil" discussion is. So many players and developers pretend they would like to stop it, but in reality they'd only like to stop it at zero inconvenience cost, which is impossible.

The day the Department of Homeland Security writes a letter to Blizzard saying: "We found Al-quaeda laundering money by buying and selling WoW gold. You got until the end of the month to stop this, or you'll be persecuted for aiding and abetting terrorism.", asymmetric trades would quickly disappear. But until then the convenience of sending gold to your friends, or selling overpriced goods on the AH, beats the "evil" of RMT. Which, apparently, is not so bad after all.
 
I've always thought the way to stamp down on gold selling is to go after the buyers.

Although these game companies have repeatedly banned farmers they never go after the players who choose to cheat in this manner. The reason is probably that banning a farmer is profitable because he will just buy another sub whereas banning a player will probably see him uninterested in continuing.

It would probably also be a customer service headache. Most gold sellers probably don't petition customer support too hard but almost any player banned will object with every means at his disposal.

Nevertheless these practices are widespread and do blight the game. I wouldn't mind seeing companies take more action to stop the RMT black market.

Having said all that I don't like the idea of a government attempting to intervene in what is basically a massively private interaction. It's just made up gold in a game it should not be taxed or controlled by the state. What next? Tax inspectors raiding families at Christmas for playing Monopoly without declaring the transactions?
 
But until then the convenience of sending gold to your friends, or selling overpriced goods on the AH, beats the "evil" of RMT. Which, apparently, is not so bad after all.

I thought you are an econimist (?)
"Selling overpriced goods" is a contradiction in itself in a market that knows no monopoly and most MMOs don't have monopolies.
Don't tell me you are one of those people who think that there are evil people driving prices up in the AH. A price is only to high if there are no buyers. Pull stop.

Giving away money to my friends (or borrowing a few thousand for fast flying) is absolutely important for me. It is essential. It is part of the feeling to play in a living and breathing WORLD.

That is something that very often seems to be a difference between you and me. I value MMOs for presenting a coherent and (as credible as possible) world. You just look at it like a game of Tetris.
If there are no bots and only rarely spam in the chat windows I am quite satisfied.

Now to introduce an official RMT is something COMPLETELY different. Because it once again destroys the credibility of the produced WORLD. Now I often hear you saying that MMOs already are not very credible (Bosses respawning etc.) - but that is not a good argument. I'd like the companies to produce solutions to reduce incredibilities wherever they are encountered, not argue that there are already so many that even more don't matter.


But until then the convenience of sending gold to your friends, or selling overpriced goods on the AH, beats the "evil" of RMT. Which, apparently, is not so bad after all.


That's like saying that, since we accept not to live in a police state we are obviously quite satisfied with murder happending every now and then.

We are not.
 
Which, apparently, is not so bad after all.

Well, it certainly is bad in games that aren't designed for it. It can warp players' incentives, cause spam, inflation, monopolization of harvesting nodes, you name it. But some alternatives (like extreme restrictions on trade) are worse.

And I wouldn't be quite so cynical about devs' attitudes toward RMT. Many are sincerely trying to fight it. It's just, as you noted, extremely difficult.
 
I've always thought the way to stamp down on gold selling is to go after the buyers.

And how would you identify these? The problem is the same, you can't tell whether they are actually "buyers", or somebody sent them an unsolicited gift. You'd end up with an disaster like the time when somebody duped credits in SWG and randomly sent out the duped currency to many different players, who then ended getting banned and being understandably angry about it, having done nothing wrong.
 
Now many people reacting here are not taking the original problem into account... Some countries may outlaw, as China apparently does, trading virtual currency for real and enforce games to actually make it impossible to do so.

Tobolds solution is too harsh though.

I'd say, keep the AH (and allow BUY orders dammit... No market works properly without buy AND sell), but limit the prices. Not based on anything hardcoded of course. Just put in some simple rules. Orders cannot be put in at more than x percent from the last traded price. No more than Y percent from the price traded 24 hours ago. Etc.

This way you still get a player-driven economy, but you cockblock the goldsellers since the typical 'pay a ridiculous amount of money for Y' will not be possible.

Then you can still allow player trades as well, just impose limits as well. Don't let people trade things where the difference on both sides in value is more than again, some percentage, based on last traded price or average price over X hours or whatever.

Sure, gifts would become impossible, but... If the choice is between banning a game outright for being illegal, or restricting trading between players? Then there are not all that much more options than heavy restrictions.
 
To ban the buyers never works. US is just about to change strategy in Afganistan to no longer burn down the drug fields. This Bush-strategy didn't work (drug production has increased by a multitude) and only made the those people angry that US depends on the most: The 'normal' farmers.

It's really the same with goldselling. You need to identify the sellers of gold. That isn't even THAT hard. Just cap the amount of gold one account can send to other players without retrieving from other players per week. This doesn't eliminate gold selling, but makes it less profitable, since the goldfarmers need more accounts to sell the gold.

But the holy grail still is the removal of boring and simplistic strategies to gain gold, IMHO. If becoming rich in an MMO required you to have a sustained 2200 arena rating or to succeed in the most difficult raid dungeons or play the AH really well there weren't any goldsellers. (And this would also make the world more credible, by the way! Isn't it stupid that people who repeat to do stupid stuff like dailies over and over again are among the richest in WoW??)

There are goldsellers, because in Real Life badly educated people need to work no matter how stupid and boring (and superfluous) the activities are. Without a Real Life social reform you need to make earning gold in an MMO as hard as any other achievment that means something.
 
Everyone keeps talking about how these changes would ruin "WoW", as if talking about the game in the present sense.

I hope everyone realizes that under Tobold's proposal, you'd be talking about a completely new game, one in which the crafting, guild interaction, ect. could all be modified in a "new" game which would allow his proposals to work.

It's not like he's wanting to "change" WoW after 4+ years, which is ridiculous. I can see many scenarios by which what he proposes could work. I'd love the NPC trade economy if crafting was tied into it in such a way as to allow guilds to be self sustaining where guild members could use crafting to further their progression in game content.

Tobold is right, there are several methods by which RMT could be eliminated from MMO's, but people are stuck in the "omg, that would ruin my game" mentality, thinking what is being proposed is meant for current games, when it is not.
 
I'm pretty sure they mean this: http://www.e-gold.com/

and not in game "currency" which is realistically worthless on any scale that matters to a government. They do not give a shit if you dropped 10 bucks for 2000 gold in WoW; they are worried about money laundering and tax evasion using services like egold to move cash in an untraceable way.

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2009/06/e-gold/4/

WoW gold is not really money anyway. It is not backed by any government in any way shape or form. Blizzard explicitly says it is not currency, and it cannot be used to buy anything of economic value. It's Monopoly money in the truest sense. I doubt that the Chinese government will even connect this law with gold farmers, much less enforce the law against them.
 
Having only symmetric trades can be problematic. How do you value items?
How do you calculate a trade as symmetric or at least of similar value (ranging in the same order of magnitude)?

I honestly would think that best option is to have game companies and police to collaborate each other.
So when a gold seller start spamming inside the game (and get eventually banned), infos about his account could be used by police to eventually find who is behind it and act in accordance.

This would at least stop spammers inside the game. Won't stop gold famers and sellers but would at least stop their grouth.

Website are public and for their business they need to be found. So I expect that police could eventually find and prosecute them without game companies help.

As always, this won't make impossible to sell or buy gold. Casual buyers and sellers would be still there. But this could at least break the business of big companies.
 
If a company like Blizzard was serious about gold sellers they should just pay the $20 on ebay (or whatever the cost is for 1000G) and then ban the account that delivers the in-game gold. They've already gotten their money back from the gold seller when he paid to open the WoW account in the first place. So it would be a break even situation.
 
WoW money is much more than monopoly money, Toxic. It is easily transferable and has a value on it's own. The only reason that your employer didn't already ask you to pay only half of your salary in central bank money and the other half in WoW-gold is that WoW is not big enough (yep: WoW and 'not big enough' in the same sentence *evil grin*).

Just assume for a second WoW had 1billion subscribers. I guarantee you that your employer offered you to pay you like this and you would gladly accept (circumventing taxes). I am actually pretty sure that most developed coutries forbid to pay salaries in non-central-bank money (like apples).

Everything that is electronically transferable, of guaranteed value (scarcity and demand) and widely accepted is a currency.

Obviously the ECB is more trustworth when it comes to guaranteering the value of € than Blizzard is to guarantee the value of it's gold. If gold really became widely accepted a profit-oriented private company like Blizzard would start to 'print' 'gold' and sell it on the market. This would inflate away it's value. But it were extreme profitable for Blizzard in the short run (and if they were real good at it even in the long run :) )
 
I am actually pretty sure that most developed coutries forbid to pay salaries in non-central-bank money (like apples).

Oh, they totally allow you to be paid in non-central-bank money, for example receiving part of your salary in the form of a company car. They do, however, insist that you calculate the monetary value of that other form of payment, and pay taxes on it.
 
The "NPC trader" system you propose is already in guild wars for some items (runes, crafting materials), although the game itself still has character trades already.

I don't know exactly how they work, but what seems to happen is that the traders adjust prices if the items bought over time does not equal the items sold, and the price changes until they equalize (Am not sure of this exactly, but it does fit descriptions and behavior of prices).

Such a system could work for some commonly traded items, but for more rarely traded items it would run into difficulties if there wasn't enough constant trading for prices to reach a steady level. The markup would also have to be adjusted carefully, too much and the merchant would likely not be too useful.
 

Oh, they totally allow you to be paid in non-central-bank money, for example receiving part of your salary in the form of a company car. They do, however, insist that you calculate the monetary value of that other form of payment, and pay taxes on it.


Agreed, Tobold :)
 
Nils, no, WoW money doesn't have value as a currency.

It has value, yes, but not anymore than a bag of rice or a stick of bubblegum does. Sure, someone will pay for it to use it. That doesn't make something a currency.

Point being, China is not worried about nerds trading cash for WoW gold. Any attempt to launder money through WoW gold trading would be farcical for a variety of reasons. Not least of which is that WoW gold is essentially valueless, and sending 100,000 US dollars through the system would buy 133 million in WoW gold! Then you would have to find a buyer in whatever currency you want to convert to, which depends entirely on how many WoW players there are in that country and if they are willing to pay that much for gold... good luck turning that "currency" in Yen, or rupees, or any currency besides dollars and Euros.

My general point is that China and any other government worried about virtual currencies
 
And that assumes you can even transfer the gold to those servers somehow.

"Everything that is electronically transferable, of guaranteed value (scarcity and demand) and widely accepted is a currency."

WoW gold has no guaranteed value, it's extremely unstable. It also is not widely accepted. Its a specialty good that can only be used if you have a WoW account. Obviously most people don't have one and have no interested in ever having an account.

Pre BC a friend bought 5000 gold for 300 bucks. Today he could get 50000 gold for that much. WoW gold is constantly being "printed" every time someone kills something. In WoW, money does grow on trees (and foozles). It inflates at a gargantuan rate. If some poor fool had bought 1000 bucks in gold two years ago and stashed it until today, it would be worth a fraction of what it was then.

It's not a currency. Just flat out. It's monopoly money. Milton Bradley will sell you monopoly money.

http://www.unclesgames.com/product_info.php/products_id/631

But that doesn't make it a currency.
 
"And how would you identify these?"

There must be an enormous number of ways, remember the designers are capable of designing the system to catch people.

One obvious possibility is chatlogs. If a player tells another player using the in game communication functionality "I'd like to buy 5000g from you" and later sells a copper bar for 5000g that's a reasonably high standard of proof.

Many players openly talk about buying gold.

Marrying suspicious transactions up with the logs of what suspect players have said would allow them to catch large numbers of these cheats.

I find the SWG example specious. It's like saying the police shouldn't investigate murders because once upon a time some guy got hung for a crime he didn't commit. I do think it's deplorable innocent people were banned but the solution should be to devise more rigorous investigatory techniques, not just to give up chasing cheats.
 

My general point is that China and any other government worried about virtual currencies


I agree with you on that point.

However, they do not worry about WoW gold because WoW is just not big enough and Blizzard makes transfering large amounts of money, see Gevlon, rather tedious.

If half the people on the planet took part in one big monopoly game that never ended, we all valued monopoly money quite high. Depending on how easy it were to transfer and how guaranteed it's value were, it might be used as a currency.

The big difference between monopoly money and WoW gold is that monopoly money loses it's value everytime you restart the game. WoW never restarts.
 
I think there are reasonable intermediate solutions between the extremes of "allow all trades" and "forbid all trades". You can set the level of trade, a daily gold cap, between two characters, depending on their relationship. For example:

two characters on the same account: unlimited

two characters in the same guild: function of level (10g to a level 1, 1000g to a level 80)

two characters on mutual friends list: ...

two strangers: ...

And then supplement that with the proposed NPC-style of auction house.
 
Marrying suspicious transactions up with the logs of what suspect players have said would allow them to catch large numbers of these cheats.

I would assume that already in most cases communication between a gold seller and a gold buyer takes place exclusively outside of the game, on the gold sellers website, or by e-mail. Yeah, you'd catch the few people stupid enough to mention having bought gold in the first week that you implement that policy. But people would soon notice that mentioning gold in chat gets you banned, and simply stop the chat, without stopping the RMT.

And of course we all know that the real reason why Blizzard doesn't ban buyers is that there are several million buyers, banning which would considerably diminish Blizzard's revenue.
 
If you want to have a meaningful in-game economy, you can't ban asymmetric trades. In banning such trades you end up fixing prices and compromising the market. Items will becomes extraordinarily cheap because all crafters will be making significant profit at zero risk, leading to massive gold inflation.
 
Though it sounds interesting, symmetric trades wouldn't necessarily have to go through an NPC. What you're really doing is setting a minimum price per item, which could be enforced at the moment the trade takes place.
 
People really want a police state where every chat log is monitored for keywords?

RMT is a necessary evil at worst. It hardly calls for some bizarre heavily restrictive system to prevent abuse.
 
Regarding the discussions about trade and economics in mmo/mmorpg: At the moment which do you the think is the game with the best economic system on the market?
 
"Regarding the discussions about trade and economics in mmo/mmorpg: At the moment which do you the think is the game with the best economic system on the market?"

I think this question really is like asking "Which is the best fruit?"

I think most modern mmos do a very good job of maintaining an economic system that suits its players.

If you want something casual that adds interest to a game that is basically not about playing the economy then WoW does it to perfection.

If you want a highly complex economic system with regional variations in prices, everything player crafted and pvp pirate players preying on the trading ships supported by an economy complex enough to have massive Initial Public Offerings and player banks that's Eve.

Guild Wars, Conan, Warhammer they all have economic systems designed to enhance the game and limited in scope so they don't dominate the game.
 
"People really want a police state where every chat log is monitored for keywords?"

The chat logs are all monitored anyway, GMs have quite frequently referred to them and recently in EQ2 they released 5 years worth of anonymised chat logs to a researcher.

"RMT is a necessary evil at worst."

What? Why is this form of cheating necessary? Why is any form of cheating necessary?

They. Could. Just. Play. The. Game.

You know? From level one? By killing boars.

"It hardly calls for some bizarre heavily restrictive system to prevent abuse."

Did I suggest anything that would restrict non-cheating players in any way? You feel that infringement of your Right to Cheat (sic) is a human rights issue.
 
There's a difference between having a log kept, and that log being analyzed constantly for verboten content.


The reason RMT is a necessary evil and why Blizzard effectively tolerates it is that the gold trade is a release valve that keeps people playing the game by allowing them to play the game at a high level without having to spend their entire lives doing it. Without gold buying a lot of people would just quit, which is bad for the bottom line. Gold buying lets them afford raiding, while having time to take the kids to soccer practice or read a book or whatever (not to mention all those boxes and subs the gold farmers use of course).

In a game like WoW where you have to be present at the time a boss is killed to get that gear, the gold trade doesn't really give anyone a material advantage and even helps the people who don't engage in RMT because the inflation makes mounts and repairs relatively less expensive.

So I don't see the definite harm to it, and especially in a game where you can pay to change your gender, faction, get fast leveling, and who knows what else at this point or in the near future, seems hypocritical to act like its cheating to buy some gold when you can pretty much buy whatever else you want.
 
And yes, I would resent a system that was constantly looking over my shoulder and reading my mail, ESPECIALLY when I'm not cheating.

It ain't a constitutional issue, its just a I'm not paying you to treat me like a criminal issue.
 
"
Oh, they totally allow you to be paid in non-central-bank money, for example receiving part of your salary in the form of a company car.
"

They do allow exceptions and those exceptions have very clear rules around hem. Like company cars indeed.
 
This doesn't solve the problem of wanting to give some gold to a friend, who wouldn't be on the same credit card. It also makes it hard to pay strangers for various services rendered.

I think a better solution would be to either acknowledge that the problem exists, and either introduce your own RMT store that undercuts the gold farmers or (preferably) don't design a grindy game in the first place that makes people want to *pay money not to play*.

Also, FYI, Guild Wars has that exact system you described where you sell to NPC traders. It's a wonderful way to keep the market in check, although it could be improved since there are some items that the NPC's pay peanuts for which are very valuable to the players.
 
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