Tobold's Blog
Friday, September 18, 2009
Twinking and the economy

Gordon from We Fly Spitfires claims that twinking is a form of cheating, because it doesn't really matter whether your alt is equipped with gear financed with gold from a Chinese gold farmer, or whether he is equipped with gear financed with gold from your own main character. Spinks discusses the effect of heirloom items in that context, and also mentions morality. But even if you tried to apply somewhat silly "moral" standards and not use gold, items, or heirlooms from your main to equip your alt, or even create an alt on a completely different server, I'd argue that this alt would still end up having a lot of gold and being equipped like a twink.

The problem is that the economy of a server evolves with time, and with the average level of the characters playing on that server. The economy as a whole gets much richer, and even low-level characters can easily earn huge amounts of virtual currency by farming low-level resources, because somewhere there is a max-level character buying those low-level resources. In level-based games typically a high-level monster or quest rewards you with several magnitudes more virtual currency than a level 1 monster or quest. In World of Warcraft for example, where I recently made a low-level paladin on a different server, and thus have no heirloom items, I found that I could either do quests for 1 silver reward, or gather a stack of copper ore and sell it for 8 gold. Thus even without twinking, the trickle-down-economy of an older server automatically makes even low-level character rich. Of course prices for magic items on the auction house will also be affected by that inflation, but things like training costs or cost of a mount will not. And as Spinks remarked, because the other low-level characters around you will often have heirloom items, the previously very expensive twink gear items are now somewhat less expensive.

I always wondered why high-level mobs and quests had to give higher rewards. As discussed in the last thread, they aren't actually harder to do. If a level 80 character can kill a level 80 mob as easily as a level 1 character kills a level 1 mob, shouldn't the monetary loot drop and quest reward be the same?
There would have to be other changes to make if rewards didn't scale up; certainly in WoW, a character's expenses go up as he levels; repairs, skills, ammo/reagents, etc all increase in price. In theory, those prices could be adjusted downwards so mobs didn't have to drop more and more cash.

Just one problem. It wouldn't be as fun. *That's* why higher level mobs need to drop more loot.
No it shouldn't ...

It's a mmoRPg .. RP.
That fantasy immersion credibility .. a world ..

You character gains power and thus is able to kill dragons.
Maybe you also gain a little bit skill - but mainly it's you character that grows stronger.

The dragon at level 80 maybe as easy to defeat as the master rat at level 2, but it is a powerful dragon who owns more money than the master rat.

Now .. yes you're right. This kind of immersion is already dying a not so quick death in WoW, because Blizzard gives a xxxx about it. But 2% immersion is still better than 0%.

And, by the way:
Blizzard never touched any immersion as long as it helped with achievement. Achievement it the word that Blizzard writes really big in their games.
Hi Tobold, this is completely off the current topic, but I think you will find it interesting. It is a link to a post on a popular financial blog. The blogger goes through the same stage as you did in the summer - remember your two week vacation?

She probably never read your blog, but the arguments, the emotions and upset are so similar. Maybe it is some kind of professional hazard, your bloggers are exposed to?
If level 80 mobs dropped the same amount of loot as level 2 mobs, wouldn't the optimal money-making grind then be for level 80 characters to go speed-grind level 2 mobs? Why kill a level 80 mob if you can just port back to the newb areas and aoe all of the mobs that the poor level 2s need to level up?

I suppose there could be ways around that, like making loot scale with your relative level to the mobs such that they drop nearly nothing if you are too high of level... but in the current game design, I think more loot at higher levels works out well enough.
Twinking has always been considered cheating. When I began MMOs in 1999, "twink" was one of the strongest cuss-words that you could have directed at you, and it was commonplace on the EQ servers I played on for groups to refuse to accept twinks.

You are right, however, that it is possible to look like a twink even when you aren't. Mrs Bhagpuss had in-game comments on her "twink" just a few weeks after we started WoW. It was, in fact, her main character, who was wearing only gear which she had crafted for herself. Most of it was blue-quality, though, and some people obviously weren't aware that there was another way for a low-level character to have blue gear unless a bigger person gave it or sold it to them.
The increase in rewards, costs, etc. in WoW is one way that Blizzard produces the illusion of progression while the difficulty level remains constant. Where a quest might award you 1s at level 8, you'll get closer to 1g at level 60, and 3-4g at level 80.

There's a second inflation going on here as well for characters who have hit the XP cap -- the XP from the quest is converted to additional gold, at about the rate of 1xp -> 4c. (So a quest that would award 20k xp awards an additional 80k copper=>800s=>8g) This ends up being a substantial part of the reward for a lot of quests. (About 2/3rds of the gold reward from daily quests at level 80 is converted experience.)

If Blizzard wanted to turn off that spigot of gold, they could easily change the xp->gold conversion rate. As it is, the rate is high enough that for most common stuff, players feel like they can earn the cost fairly easily -- you still see some players begging, but most level 80s have a flying mount, cold-weather flying and some fun stuff, indicating that they've been able to earn a few thousand gold.
Blizzard never touched any immersion as long as it helped with achievement. Achievement it the word that Blizzard writes really big in their games.

Socializing, crafting, and player killing are what you do when you aren't progressing.

Everyone is an achiever, to some degree. Blizzard gets this, which is why they are the gold standard in RPG and MMO development.

= # # =
Blizzard gets this, which is why they are the gold standard in RPG and MMO development.

It's a big concern for me that this causality is probably undeniable.
Twinking is a phenomenon caused by a rather goofy rule that devalues pvp. If pvp properly generated xp, twinking mostly goes away.
This is one of the things I don't like about Blizzard's expansions - each expansion provides more and more inflation by its very design.
Why do higher level monsters drop more loot?

There are a lot things in these games that are a carry over from the pen and paper days.

Here is a sample "treasure table" - notice there is more loot on higher level creatures:
Leveling my Shaman I took skinning and mining as profession witht he intent to sell as much materials as I could. Normally I level with one gather prof, and one crafter. And the crafting prof always costs more then the gathering prof makes. With this said, it is pretty easy to make decent gold at low levels doing this.

At level 50 I'm at 300g, and I also earned all the gold I needed for enchants (around 100g). I probably could of earned a lot more but I post stuff on the AH for super cheep as I'd prefer it sold rather then sit around.
IMO, without Twinking (or rather "playing alt chars") the player economy would break down pretty soon after the raiding population is tied up in the highest raiding tier and progress and therefore loot slows down. I reckon that 75% of a server economy is driven by people equipping alts. Without their constant need for enchants, gems, armor and weapons, everyone would stack gold and get richer and richer. That would unevitably lead to increasing inflation very soon. EQ1 anyone?

Without twinking, Blizz would need to introduce more ways to draw money out of the economy, like more expensive repair cost, higher cost for reagents, mounts, etc.

Apart from the fun factor of playing more than one toon, twinking is necessary for the WoW economy as it is right now.
My take is that while it might be good for the economy to have money making be leveled out between levels, it wouldn't be as popular. And that's because the dominant theme in MMORPGs is that you get stronger the longer you play. Even twinks are an expression of this.

On a related note, anyone think it'd be possible to create a popular game that doesn't have that as it's main theme? Not necessarily WoW-level of popularity, but maybe something on the order of a million subscribers?
You last point about rewards is very interesting. In fact, in a game like WoW, I'd say that it actually gets easier to kill mobs as you level up.

It used to be that the player was rewarded by killing tougher mobs but now it's just like we expect to get new, better and cooler gear as we increase. It's like items are a reward for time rather than skill.

Maybe I'm just being cynical but one could suggest that it's all just a hook to keep people playing longer and paying more as a result. If you could get cool gear at level 1, there's no need to put in the time to get the stuff at level 80.
Twinks also add to the economy. Using old world enchants, crafted gear, BoE gear, etc...otherwise its all useless when most of the population is sitting at or near level cap.

Saying twinking is cheating is like saying maxxing out your toon's gear at level cap is cheating in PvP. Someone who just farms honor or gets carried through Naxx can have some of the best gear in the game, and can 4 shot a brand new level 80 in quest greens and blues.

Allowing BGs to give experience now at least separates people who are there to AFK for levels, and twinks who are there to PvP at max BG level and max gear (without having to step on the never-ending treadmill that is level 80 PvP). Once your level x9 toon is geared and enchanted, thats it. Log on it, play, log out. No worrying about the new BG/Arena gear coming out in a month.

Ultimately, twinks are/were a very lively segment of WoW. Check your Battlegroup's forums, and count the difference between twink and non-twink topics. They have an active community, and contribute to the economy.

Why purposefully try to kill off a niche community within WoW?
I feel that the approach to twinking is entirely up the the individual. There has been numerous articles written on the subject of cheating and many things that were considered cheating aren't now. Twinking could be part of the gamers exerience and some might not even want a twink. I never had one until now...
I don't understand why MMOs even have the notion of character levels.
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