Tobold's Blog
Friday, April 08, 2011
Fair trade gold farming

The World Bank issued a report saying that "virtual online currencies and digital work now provide real income opportunities to poor and unskilled workers in developing countries", offering jobs by "playing online games on behalf of wealthier players who are too busy to tend to their characters themselves". Ars Technica writes about that and proposes Fair Trade Gold.

Has gold farming become so widespread that this is now considered the norm? Do people now believe that it is okay to buy gold, as long as it is "Fair Trade Gold"?
Some people want to make evryhing better, whether the initial thing is good or not.
Is this not a little like saying; email scams provide income for third world countries.

The source of virtual currencies is not always legitimate. If buying virtual currencies did become the norm, then wouldn't the companies that run these games just sell the currencies themselves.

To me this sounds like the sort of nonsense that many offical bodies seem to be spouting these days. Or it could just be my age.
Time for the "max havelaar" system in gold farming: let's assure the bulk of our money goes to the gold farmer direcly ;-)
World bank quality work by digital immigrants who don't know much about what they are talking. From their pov (i.e. not considering the ingame impact of gold farming) its legitimate.
How much of the gold comes from farmers and how much from fraudulent scams? I might have some sympathy with the former but none with the latter.
There is nothing a company can do to avoid the black market. And I agree that people can work on a game and sell their stuff to others for real money.

The real problem, Tobold (a pro gold buyer), is that companies that do it will start to work better and harder to find out exploits, bugs, to create cheats and bots, just to make profit faster. And this ruins the game you are playing.

Chineses cheaters farmers are the first ones which had this brillant idea. They use VPNs to hide their identity and to bypass anti-territory block.
They pay a lot to the game company so they become unpunished in case they get caught in game doing illegal stuffs (of course, that it's only for asian game companies the ones which support illegal activities comming from other asians).

How do I know all this...I managed to get access to one of the most hack used in a certain popular MMO and I got access to its keylog files. In there, we can find tons of chineses accounts and in this game there are tons of chineses gold sellers, spamming like hell!

The best part is that they also use hack to spam the server when announcing their sites.
There so many counter things to talk about these cheaters that I will stop here.

If you prefer a game where you cannot train because there are 24h botters/cheaters farmers on a specific spot then you should go to F2P games. You will love to see how nice chineses cheaters are.
Tobold (a pro gold buyer)

Huh? Why do you feel the need to mar an otherwise intelligent comment with such a remark which is A) an ad hominem attack, and B) completely untrue? How would you feel if I called you Udedagu (a pro pedophile)?

I am pro Free2Play, which is not the same as being pro gold buying. I am not rabidly *anti* gold buying either, but rather observe the phenomenom with a broadly neutral, but slight negative stance.

In detail, my opinion is that you need to separate the principal phenomenon from the secondary phenomena. Like everybody else I am completely against hacking accounts, and when I recently tried a Free2Play MMORPG I was disgusted by the gold spam making chat completely unuseable. But the transaction between the guy who buys the gold and the guy who works in a Chinese sweatshop farming mobs to make that gold is just cheating in a video game, and a much lesser evil than the hackers and spammers.
Like everybody else I am completely against hacking accounts, and when I recently tried a Free2Play MMORPG I was disgusted by the gold spam making chat completely unuseable. But the transaction between the guy who buys the gold and the guy who works in a Chinese sweatshop farming mobs to make that gold is just cheating in a video game, and a much lesser evil than the hackers and spammers.

I guess you didn't get my point. In my previous post I talked about the fact that gold sellers will call professional people (such as programmers, crackers, etc) to work for them and to find out bugs, exploits, create cheats or bots, that give unfair advantage to them, so they can make profit faster. Such thing ruins the game.

Now you mentioned the hacking accounts...In fact I support TOTALLY the idea of these gold sellers to sell their stuffs to people and then hack them after some time. In this case, the cheaters who bought stuffs from the gold sellers deserved it.
In fact I support TOTALLY the idea of these gold sellers to sell their stuffs to people and then hack them after some time.

You are weird. Why on earth would the gold sellers hack ONLY the accounts of the gold buyers? The reason to not support hacking is that hackers don't care who "deserves" to be hacked, they will steal from everybody, regardless of whether he bought gold or not.
In all honesty, if buying gold was giving somebody a better life somewhere, i'd do it. Interesting idea.

The barrier would be the equipment, as someone in a poor country probably hasn't got an internet account by himself. And the culture, i can't fathom well a tribal nomad playing wow.

So, the logical setting where this should occur is using qualified, but unemployed workers in developped (or semi developped) countries. In that case, i don't think it'll make their life any better, you can't use video game skills to get a better job.
Grrr. I posted a long, detailed comment and got the dreaded "unable to process your request" message.

Not going to type it all again. The gist was:

There is no need for any MMO to have a tradeabale currnecy.

Fully functioning economies can be built without any direct player-to-player trade.

Pretty much everything that makes gold-farming profitable and attractive to the farmer can be designed out of the game without negatively affecting the gameplay of the huge majority of players.

Why, therefore, are MMO designers so apparently unwilling to remove the problem by designing it out of their games?
"In this case, the cheaters who bought stuffs from the gold sellers deserved it."
Disproportionate retribution is one sign of a tyrant.

@Bhagpuss: Could you elaborate on that or link a post? I'm curious to see how to make a good economy with no player-player interactions, or even with no currency. In any good economy a currency is inevitable. It's just too damn useful to not have.

I meant that it's possible to put all player-to-player trade behind an NPC "firewall". It's already half of the way there in most MMOs. Generally, you hand your items to an NPC Auctioneer or Broker and he holds them until another player buys them, whereupon the money and items are distributed to you and your buyer by mail.

So why do we need the facility to trade items or money directly? Back in the days of Everquest's EC Tunnel or the DAOC Sunday Swap Meets, all transactions were person-to-person, but we haven't had that for years. Yes, you'd lose some convenience if you removed the ability to hand or mail items or coin directly to other players, but it wouldn't prevent an economy developing, would it? Doesn't the vast majority of economic activity already take place via an NPC intermediary?

Personally, I'm in favor of a much more automated system in which the server monitors and controls pricing, adjusting prices according to supply and demand within set maximums and minimums. Just because an MMO needs an economy doesn't mean that it needs a full-blown free-market one. It would be very interesting to see different economic models in play.

In the end, though, my real question isn't "would an MMO work without a full, free-market economy and tradeable currency?". It's "If goldfarming is SO damaging to MMO companies' business models, why do they continue to build MMOs that permit it to exist?". Is it because they think the cure would be worse than the disease? Or do they not really think the disease is all that serious in the first place?
I don't see how an NPC intermediate is going to block gold-selling. In fact, it can do the opposite, adding a layer of protection by allowing players to deny that they knew they were buying gold since they never directly interact with sellers. Or in the case of the neutral AH, it is the existence of the NPC that makes cross-faction trading practical.

Any economic controls would have to be done very carefully. Greed is notoriously creative. Just look at George Soros and the Bank of England, where he used the attempted price control to get a ton of money.

I suspect the damage of gold-selling is mostly on the player side, not the business side, so beside the hacking (which would happen anyway), Blizzard isn't getting hammered by it.
If there is no player-to-player mail or player-to-player trade, how does the goldseller you paid deliver your gold? The whole thing relies on gold/platinum/whatever being tradeable between characters.

If all the "coin" you ever gain is soulbound to your character and only useable through an NPC for purchase of another object, even if that object was being sold by another player, how would a gold farmer sell you his gold?

The most he could do would be to sell you items for a pre-arranged real-currency price (the Sword of Goldfarming for $10, for example), then attempt to sell it to you for a nominal fee (1 copper, perhaps) on the AH/Broker at a pre-arranged moment. Which, of course, would not only be much more trouble to arrange, but would lead to other people watching the AH/Broker like hawks and trying to jump in anfd grab items for free!

Please keep poking holes in this - I've thought about it for years and I can't for the life of me see why it wouldn't both heavily retard, if not stop, RMT and also have a minimal effect on an active in-game economy. But I might be missing something obvious. Hard to error-check your own ideas.
I want to buy ten thousand gold. So I arrange for the gold-seller to buy a piece of linen cloth that I put up for ten thousand gold buyout. No other player is going to interfere. What's the worst they can do, buy out my auction? That would just save the gold-seller some gold.

Selling items merely requires a second step to this: posting the item on the AH, which the player can then buy with their previously gained gold. The seller can post it at or even above market price to protect from AH-campers.

As long as there is an economy, there can be exploitation. Only by careful monitoring can it be reduced, but probably never eliminated.
That's why you let the server control prices. Your cloth can sell for a minimum of 5 gold or a maximum of 20 gold. The server monitors all sales displays a current average sale price.

Players can try to game the price, allowing for sufficient gameplay to hold interest for people that like that sort of thing, but nothing ever gets *too* cheap or *too* expensive.

However, even in your example with unregulated prices, what that does at a bare minimum is make suspicious trades visible to all interested parties, which makes it one step easier for motivated game companies to enforce their own rules. Motivation which I find questionable at best.
One more thought..

What my method *doesn't* stop is the kind of farming we used to see back in Everquest circa 2003 - 2005, when farmers actually farmed the specific items that players were willing to buy for extortionate amounts. That, however, was a function of EQ's gameplay, where vast amounts of time or luck were required to get specific items.

That's easily remedied by making all specifically desirable "rare" drop BoP/Soulbound etc.
I wouldn't buy gold for 2 reasons:

1) I'd have to spend more money on the game, in addition to the monthly subscription.

2) I would be cheating myself. Since making gold is part of the fun, I would be giving that away.
How is the serIf the server is going to control prices, then you can run into all kinds of problems. What do we do between expansions, when material prices change dramatically? You could implement a system something like "market price over a one week average is X, allowed prices are X+-10%", but that would still allow for manipulation of price. If I keep posting at the high end, price goes up, and if it's a sufficiently rare item, I could be the one determining the price. Replace linen with trash, like rat teeth or some equivalent, and there is not likely to be anyone else in that market.

This sort of block also causes problems for legitimate activity. Why shouldn't I be able to trade gold to other players? One of the last things I did in WoW was to sell my tanking, a transaction which would have been impossible in this "no trading" system.

Making all the special items BoP is going to gimp the economy, reducing it to what, consumables? That would be pretty boring.
i could not earn any money in an economic model like you suggest, for one, i rely on multiple professions, 4 at minimum, to be able to make money with my main profession.

With controlled prices i would not be able to get my materials cheap enough to proceed, and i can't move my materials from one alt to another to actually process the materials produced on one character on another. Having to go through the ah where the prices are controlled would effectively remove the benefit of having multiple professions with a synergy spread out.

Your plan might work for players who don't actually make gold with their professions. The price controll alone will do that as those players are never capable of matching prices of a goblin that knows his markets. Everyone would effectively be reduced to poverty in that system. If you want fair prices in the ah, make sure there isn't any gold being sold at all. At the moment the players capable of affording the good stuff are either like me, spending a good 6 hours each day making gold, ( be it farming or using professions ) and the ones buying their gold. ( largest majority of the players with a lot of gold actually )

Since stuff still sells to those goldbuyers prices aren't dropping, and we remain in this status quo with more and more players buying their gold to get enough for their gear, mounts, flightskill, etc. The reality is, any lvl 85, can easily make 5 =- 10k money a day, simply by getting 4 good professions together, they have acces to a DK and you only need to lvl that a tiny bit to max out your professions on it. The reality is that players are too lazy, you're plan would fix that indeed, but you might aswell remove the player supply side from the whole of it and turn everything into vendors. At least that way you have a definate price controll.
I'd have more sympathy for the gold-farmer if the @!#$!%s didn't make all their money by hacking my friends' accounts.

It's not harmless. If someone's already on the edge of burnout, that'll push them over. They feel violated. They are unable to participate in raids til their gear is restored. The GB can be put out, sometimes.

For that, gold-sellers can all die in a fire. I used to be polite to gold-spammers, telling them, "No thanks, but good luck to you." Now I reply with something equally succinct, but far less civil.
'I'd have more sympathy for the gold-farmer if the @!#$!%s didn't make all their money by hacking my friends' accounts. " @CAM

if your friends have been hacked its 100% their fault.

in every case the user has been to a website they should of avoided or been very sloppy with ID\PWD
Sure Eugene. People who make that arguments are being dicks, just like folks who argue that leaving your back door unlocked means it's your fault you got burgled.

No. It's the burglar's fault. If you sleep out in the open and get rained on, that's your fault because rain is a force of nature. Hackers selling gold are not a force of nature. They are people - human beings making deliberate decisions to harm someone else.

If I made a deliberate decison to do harm to you and you suffered that harm because you went for a walk outside out of the safety of your home, who would be to blame?
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