Tobold's Blog
Monday, February 22, 2010
 
MMORPG currencies

In yesterday's open Sunday thread Lujanera asked:
"I would be very interested in seeing something about the various currency systems in games. In WoW, this would include badges of frost/triumph/etc, honor, arena points, and gold. Some of these are easier to exchange for other things (loot, other currencies, etc). Do the differences in the different currencies reflect the differences between the parts of the game that each serves? In other words, why not make everything gold-based?"
I think the starting point for that discussion has to be to define what exactly a currency is. A currency is something which might not have any value in itself, but gains value by being accepted as medium for exchange of goods. Thus $100 in a shopping mall are worth more than a million dollars on a deserted island. Trade and currencies are one of the great inventions of mankind, allowing people to specialize in one activity, and exchanging the value of what they produce against the value of what other people produced.

The same principle holds for many MMORPG currencies. If you want a specific item in a MMORPG, in most cases it only drops at one specific place. Add a low drop chance and Murphy's law, and you'll be running the same dungeon 20 times before you find the item you were looking for. Items that can be bought with some currency have a wider flexibility of what you can do to gain the currency. So instead of running always the same dungeon for some item, you run a wide variety of random dungeons to get the emblems to buy some item. Or you do a wide variety of PvP activities to gain the honor to buy some item. Or you farm gold, craft, buy & sell on the auction house to earn the gold to buy some item.

That neatly explains why there are different currencies: The different currencies have different rules on how to acquire them, and sometimes the game developers want to exclude certain pathways to certain items. For example they might want that only PvP results in the currency to buy PvP items with. One big issue here is that many games have introduced currencies that cannot be traded, to avoid these currencies being trades for real money. If everything in the game could be bought for the same gold currency, people could buy that gold from gold farmers and buy themselves the rewards without having done the activity that is supposed to be rewarded. Thus they'd "skip" the content of the game, and end up quitting earlier, paying less monthly fees to the game company.
Comments:
If everything in the game could be bought for the same gold currency, people could buy that gold from gold farmers and buy themselves the rewards without having done the activity that is supposed to be rewarded.

This is one of the problems I had every time I have tried to play EVE Online. There is no gateway to acquire different types of currencies. Instead, someone can just sell a PLEX and get a huge jumpstart on the game compared to someone who isn't willing to spend real world money.

EVE gates content with the skill queue instead of with currency. But, I still wish it had more types of currency the way other MMOs do.
 
If everything in the game could be bought for the same gold currency, people could buy that gold from gold farmers and buy themselves the rewards without having done the activity that is supposed to be rewarded. Thus they'd "skip" the content of the game, and end up quitting earlier, paying less monthly fees to the game company.

I'm not so sure the devs would be mad because people would quit sooner; someone most likely buys the items to _do_ something in the game. Rather, they'd be upset that the player didn't spend the monthly fees grindi-- I mean, earning the rewards in the first place.

There's also a game ethics component, I don't know whether people would enjoy a game where real-world money so nakedly and openly = in-game power; RL is hard enough!
 
I disagree that a player will quit earlier just because they circumvented a grind for a particular item.

If for instance my main form of play is to PVP, yet I am forced to PVE for items I would much rather acquire that item through an RMT than grind for it.

My logic is, if you don't provide alternate methods to acquire competitive gear via means by which the players is mainly motivated to play then its is likely they will play less or not at all.

That said, I do agree that once I have maxed out my character I will continue to play although my motivation to grind content will be much less and I will bore of tedious and repetitive content such as BGs in WoW.
 
Entropia Universe (formerly Project Entropia) has everything buyable in real money. You can even upload one or more of your ingame skills to a chip and sell it - you lose the skills and the buyer gains them.

I played it for a bit a few years ago. The game had its charms, but I lost interest when it got too hard to break even on loot.
 
If you don't have some sort of usable, and thus abusable, "currency" like gold/ISK, then you can't really have my favorite part, crafting. ( The idea of having to barter everything in Barrens trade chat-channel is too painful to contemplate. )

If you cant buy useful stuff with your gold/ISK, then what is the reason for farming for ore and herbs or for leveling a profession?

As you discuss in another article, in a profitably-designed MMO, it is not like you do all the content. Getting to level 80 a week sooner usually would not affect the two years you are going to play as 80.

To me, the EVE way of allowing you to swap RL$ for time in game - and vice versa - makes sense. But a lot of people do feel differently. Certainly, it would be an unprofitable decision for Blizzard to formally change; many people would hate it. Although the upcoming extra charge AH feature circumvents the spirit. Certainly the RAF where you can dual-box two toons to 60 @ triple speed and then level a third from level 30 to 60 in a minute was allowing RL$ to influence your in game abilities.
 
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