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Mass Media on Gold Farming

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the publicity-is-a-bad-thing-for-them-right dept.

Role Playing (Games) 60

The International Herald Tribune, of all places, has an in-depth look at gold farming in China. From the article: "The people working in this clandestine locale are called 'gold farmers,' for every day, in 12-hour shifts, they are killing monsters and harvesting 'gold coins' and other virtual goods they can then sell to other online gamers. From Seoul to San Francisco, gamers who lack the hours or patience to work their way up to the higher levels of gamedom are hiring young Chinese to play the early rounds for them."

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Yawn (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 8 years ago | (#14212948)

Online commerce, that's all it is. People pay for labor, and they do it where the labor is cheapest. This just makes it very easy, since there is zero distribution cost for the product.

Why should the fact that the demand is driven by games make it anything different than it is in other industries?

Re:Yawn (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213165)

I think the fascination is that this is a virtual economy with objects that have no real value outside of that which we assign to them.

It's not quite right to say "the demand is driven by games". Xbox Live accounts are driven by games, demand for Xbox network cards were driven by games, etc.

Or most people just don't understand why anyone would be so fascinated by a game that they'd spend $$ to purchase in game cash. It's only a matter of time till some game as addictive as Snood shows up that involves in-game cash. Then people will understand.

Re:Yawn (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213248)

"I think the fascination is that this is a virtual economy with objects that have no real value outside of that which we assign to them."

Just like shares of stock. Or currency, for that matter.

Re:Yawn (2, Insightful)

zoips (576749) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213621)

The difference, of course, being that you own shares of stock in companies, and you own currency. In online games (that do not base their entire model around RMT, such as Project Entropia or Second Life), you own nothing. The company owns everything. Essentially, people who participate in RMT pay money for an item that is not only intangible, but is never even theirs; the company who runs the game can delete their account for violation of the ToS and they are out whatever actual real currency they paid with no real recourse.

Re:Yawn (1)

nelsonal (549144) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213702)

Contrasted with shares in Google, Dow Jones, Ford, News Corp, Comcast, or any of the other companies that have a majority owner with supervoting shares. Google in particular you basically bought a whole lot of nothing--the founders retain full control of the company, it doesn't provide any real benefit to shareholder directly from google, and the real assets are probably worth a small fraction 1/20th or so of the share price. There's a ton of value in the ideas of Google, but there aren't many real assets that back that value up. Google can't up and quit and leave you with nothing (you'd probably get $5-10) but if the three founders quit and take their PhDs to go play with rockets or something, there wouldn't be a whole lot left to Google.

Re:Yawn (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 8 years ago | (#14214040)

The difference, of course, being that you own shares of stock in companies, and you own currency. In online games (that do not base their entire model around RMT, such as Project Entropia or Second Life), you own nothing. Essentially, people who participate in RMT pay money for an item that is not only intangible, but is never even theirs; the company who runs the game can delete their account for violation of the ToS and they are out whatever actual real currency they paid with no real recourse.

You own a certain amount of currency, but that amounts worth decreases over time. Inflation eats your property away, meaning that you either spend it as fast as possible for, say, entertainment, or it is worth nothing. Not unlike the virtual gold in MMORPGs.

Stocks aren't guaranteed to keep their value, either - just remember Black Thursday [wikipedia.org] .

Basically, MMORPG gold is an investment like any other; perhaps more risky than some, but that also makes it potentially far more profitable than them. You pay for an ego boost, and have a chance of recovering your money, possibly with profit, when you get bored. A pretty good deal actually.

Re:Yawn (1)

Scruffeh (867141) | more than 8 years ago | (#14215277)

Very true. However, I think most online game companies are very reluctant to ban people due to account sales. Although it's almost always against the rules, the company is usually more concerned with keeping the subscription going for that account.

What is really risky is the constant changes to elements of these games. I remember playing Asheron's Call a few years ago and seeing a particular item go for $500+ because it could no longer be found. This item could be dropped if your character was killed and I remember more than a few people being left with nothing to show for their investment after being killed by other players. Even worse than this, the makers reintroduced the item to the game a year or so later.

Re:Yawn (1)

MBraynard (653724) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213267)

I think the fascination is that this is a virtual economy with objects that have no real value outside of that which we assign to them.

You could make an even better argument for the even greater millions spent on artwork each year, particularly certain modern works that go for seven figures or more. Same for historical artifacts - witness Antiques Roadshow.

It's really nothing new.

Re:Yawn (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 8 years ago | (#14215319)

Art is mostly an example of supply = 1. I'm not going to go any further than that. Some of the "modern" stuff that gets put on display baffles me.

Historical artifacts at least have a face value. If all else fails, I can sell a 17th century french chair as... a chair.

If [Insert Game Company] decides to close your account, you have absolutely nothing. Not even a fake certificate saying you made x amount of fake gold.

Re:Yawn (1)

droleary (47999) | more than 8 years ago | (#14216074)

You could make an even better argument for the even greater millions spent on artwork each year, particularly certain modern works that go for seven figures or more. Same for historical artifacts - witness Antiques Roadshow.

You don't even have to single out art for a sufficiently abstract "virtual" economy. Old standards such as gold and diamonds have only agreed-to value to most people. Back a truck up to Ft. Knox [wikipedia.org] if you like, but what are you going to do with all that gold other than sell it to someone else who is likely going to let it sit in a vault?

Re:Yawn (1)

MBraynard (653724) | more than 8 years ago | (#14216472)

You know, both gold and diamonds did occur to me as something to give as an example, but that would be flawed because both have extreme intrinsic value.

Gold is the most malleable and ductile metal known. An ounce can be beaten into 300 square feet. It also doesn't corrode easily and conducts heat and electricity extremely well. It is required in many, many industrial applications.

Diamonds are similarly of tremendous and unique industrial value. Their unsurpassed hardness and and unique thermal and electrical properties.

I wonder how someone with such a _low_ /. ID number could be ignorant of that and make such a stupid post as you just did. Wow. I think you should surrender it and start at the end of the line for this. I will notify the Commander of this travesty.

Re:Yawn (1)

droleary (47999) | more than 8 years ago | (#14216930)

You know, both gold and diamonds did occur to me as something to give as an example, but that would be flawed because both have extreme intrinsic value.

And yet your post in no way supports your contention.

Gold is the most malleable and ductile metal known. An ounce can be beaten into 300 square feet. It also doesn't corrode easily and conducts heat and electricity extremely well. It is required in many, many industrial applications.

None of which matter one whit when it come to valuation. If gold were such an important resource in use, it wouldn't be locked up in vaults as an arbitrary measure of value. If anything, the inflated price of gold makes it less attractive an element for industrial purposes.

Diamonds are similarly of tremendous and unique industrial value. Their unsurpassed hardness and and unique thermal and electrical properties.

Which, again, as nothing to do with their valuation. You need look no farther than the cartels and their fear of artificial diamond production. An absolutely pure diamond can be produced in labs for a fraction of what a mined and cut diamond costs.

I wonder how someone with such a _low_ /. ID number could be ignorant of that and make such a stupid post as you just did. Wow. I think you should surrender it and start at the end of the line for this. I will notify the Commander of this travesty.

Oh, you do that, Chuckles. I don't wonder at all how someone with such a _high_ ID is such a terrible troll.

Re:Yawn (1)

MBraynard (653724) | more than 8 years ago | (#14222148)

what are you going to do with all that gold other than sell it to someone else who is likely going to let it sit in a vault

That is what you said, and that was an ignorant remark revealing your lack of understanding of material science.

You are hereby instructed to log out of your sub-50k ID account and create a new one, never to log into droleary again.

Re:Yawn (2, Insightful)

Eightyford (893696) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213247)

Why should the fact that the demand is driven by games make it anything different than it is in other industries?

Because it's a game! The exact same thing could be acomplished with a usergold+=50000 command... it's crazy! What a waste of man-power.

Re:Yawn (2, Insightful)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213969)

Yeah, just devalue the game currency so fast you'll lose all your subscribers.

It's entertainment. Just like so many industries we waste countless hours on, like literature, or movies.

Why doesn't everyone spend every minute of their time producing hard goods, after all, everything else is a waste of manpower? Do you think, then, that all service industries are a waste of manpower?

If I buy farmed gold in a game, I'm just trading my capital for their time. And since my capital is (unfortunately) derived almost completely from my labor, it just means I'm trading my labor for theirs, albeit at a rate of exchange that favors me... except that the same money will go farther where they live.

Re:Yawn (1)

StrongAxe (713301) | more than 8 years ago | (#14214473)

Because it's a game! The exact same thing could be acomplished with a usergold+=50000 command...

Yes, you could do this in a single-player game running on your own computer. However, in a multi-player game where you can't just go and patch your own character to have godlike powers, this is not a viable option.

it's crazy! What a waste of man-power.

Why so? If you actually consider the player's investment in time and money, it starts to make more sense.

If I subscribe to a game and have to pay $10/month, if I can spend 10 hours/day playing it, and it takes a month (300 hours) to create a high-level character, that may be worth my time. But if I can only spend 1 hour/day playing (say, because I have a life), it now takes me 10 months to create such a character, and $100 worth of gaming fees. It would be much more reasonable to pay someone else $100 for a pre-made character, and save myself 300 hours of time when I'm doing nothing but tediously whacking on target dummies and weaving cloth for virtual copper pieces in the market.

Re:Yawn (1)

droleary (47999) | more than 8 years ago | (#14216135)

Why so? If you actually consider the player's investment in time and money, it starts to make more sense.

I think the OP's point is that it is a waste because it is so easy for someone with "godlike powers" to flip the bits. It would make a hell of a lot more sense for the company running to game to have a public exchange rate for in-game currency and handle the transactions themselves. Of course, there is a handy insulation that having farmers provides.

It would be much more reasonable to pay someone else $100 for a pre-made character, and save myself 300 hours of time when I'm doing nothing but tediously whacking on target dummies and weaving cloth for virtual copper pieces in the market.

Yes, and the only question is who that "someone else" is going to be. Risk the fraud of a third party farmer who is also altering the game by being there, or pay the company directly to support the game as intended. That companies don't validate a secondary market for game items is telling to how they view their game and its players. If they charge you $50 just to buy the game, why wouldn't they simply sell an "Elite" version for $100 that included some extra game cash/items/levels?

Re:Yawn (1)

StrongAxe (713301) | more than 8 years ago | (#14216394)

Yes, and the only question is who that "someone else" is going to be

Once you start having real value involved (in this case, monthly fees), you suddenly have real-world economics being involved, whether or not the game manufacturer wants that or not. This could even be a dynamic in games without monthly fees, but in which much time and effort must be invested. Some companies are getting wise to this and actually offering additional in-game resources to be purchased for real-world currency. Some are even gearing their games to encourage this (and make it hard for players who do not pony up additional money).

Re:Yawn (1)

droleary (47999) | more than 8 years ago | (#14217023)

Once you start having real value involved (in this case, monthly fees), you suddenly have real-world economics being involved, whether or not the game manufacturer wants that or not.

The funny part is that it is not all that sudden (the world's oldest profession comes to mind :-), so you have to wonder why the companies are against it. It's the basic economics of exchanging goods and services, and it's no more "virtual" than the trade and currency exchange between countries.

Some companies are getting wise to this and actually offering additional in-game resources to be purchased for real-world currency. Some are even gearing their games to encourage this (and make it hard for players who do not pony up additional money).

I'm working on a MMO game myself and this is becoming a (potential) issue. In some ways you can make a case that those who use more game resources should pay for them. For example, if you want to be able to tell someone's alignment on sight (or see a greater distance, display a custom coat of arms, etc.), the server does have to feed you that extra information, so there is some real world crossover in charging extra for features. For other games were gold is a valuable resource, a company should absolutely look at the differences between what it takes to earn gold in the game compared to what it takes to flip a few bits on the server and let someone jump start from there.

OMFG! This is *horrible*! BOYCOTT! (3, Funny)

Seumas (6865) | more than 8 years ago | (#14212981)

I'm sure I will have the support of my fellow tech industry slashdot brothers when I say how horrible this is. Why are we, gaming geeks that we are, tolerating the export of good old American jobs to China?! There are people in this country perfectly capable and willing to earn a living farming our gold, but we ship it overseas just for a few extra bucks worth of savings and avoidance of OSHA ordinances? This is a TRAVESTY!!!

The best job they can get (2, Interesting)

tansey (238786) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213093)

My friend is an addicted WoW player and was friends with a gold farmer from a poor area of China. From what he has told me, the $20-$30 or so they make a day by gold farming is more than they could get working at a real job.

Re:The best job they can get (2, Insightful)

Pxtl (151020) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213482)

I find it rather odd that the machine they play on probably cost more than a year's rent for them.

Re:The best job they can get (1)

Gulthek (12570) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213641)

Internet cafe.

Re:The best job they can get (1)

Kingrames (858416) | more than 8 years ago | (#14214847)

"more than they could get working at a real job"

you work, you get paid, it's a job.
Don't say that this isn't a real job just because you don't like it, or wish you were one. It's very immature.

An Analogy... (5, Insightful)

Sugar Moose (686011) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213151)

Imagine for a moment that Blizzard ran an amusement park instead of an online game. While waiting in line for a ride, you notice when one guy gets to the front, he does not go on the ride. He sells his spot to someone else and that person goes on the ride instead.

From a legal standpoint, you know Blizzard made everyone sign agreements that they would not transfer their spot in line to anyone else. What's more, you know Blizzard does not allow customers to run any business of any kind within their park. When confronted, the "line-farmer" says that he isn't selling the ride, he's selling his time spent waiting in line. I'm not a lawyer, so I can't tell you who is legally right.

From a moral standpoint, you might be thinking, only one person went before me, what do I care who it was? You see the line for one awesome ride is over eight hours long, and you think, I can certainly understand why someone would pay a line-farmer to go on that right away instead of waiting. Eight hours is a long time, a lot of people wouldn't even be able to go on that ride without paying.

What you don't see is that there are hundreds of line-farmers waiting in every line in the park. Wait times for all rides have quadrupled because they are all bloated by line-farmers. Remember that awesome ride with the eight hour line? You could have gone on that after just an hour wait if not for the line-farmers. They aren't providing a nice service, they are screwing you out of a part of the experience you already paid for, and then charging you money to get that part back.

Farmers in online games don't just "give people a chance to experience stuff they normally wouldn't be able to." They wreck the in-game economy and then charge you real money to be able to play the game like you should. Do you want to know why that sword hasn't dropped after 100 kills? It's because some jerk item farmer kills 10,000 every single week, and the developers have had to drastically reduce the droprate to prevent the item from being common. You know why you can't afford to buy that pair of boots? Because gold farmers have driven the price of all items way up past what a normal player can afford.

People complain about $15 a month being too much, but they don't care that others out there are ruining that game experience to make a quick buck. That's just crazy.

Re:An Analogy... (1)

AHumbleOpinion (546848) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213314)

What you don't see is that there are hundreds of line-farmers waiting in every line in the park. Wait times for all rides have quadrupled because they are all bloated by line-farmers. Remember that awesome ride with the eight hour line? You could have gone on that after just an hour wait if not for the line-farmers. They aren't providing a nice service, they are screwing you out of a part of the experience you already paid for, and then charging you money to get that part back.

For those of you having a hard time understanding where the bloat comes from consider opportunity costs. The time you spend in line takes away from doing something else. The ride has to be more valuable to you than these something elses to get you to wait in line. If the line is long many people are going to opt for the something elses. Paying the line-farmer allows you to have the ride and the something elses. Long lines will no longer turn many people away, hence the bloat.

Re:An Analogy... (1)

maitj (933131) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213332)

I want to first of agree the idea of anyone farming for gold and selling it for real life $ is just dumb. I have been an avid MMORPG player since there was only BBS games, but enough of my history. I find that the $ farmers ruin the experience for others but from a legal stand point I am not sure if the selling of the $ is illegal for the person to do in the game, because as someone has already stated they can say they aren't selling the $ they are giving the $ to the purchaser but they purchased their time to get that $. hmm... I wonder would that work if a Hooker and a John are caught by the police? Couldn't she just say she wasn't selling sex but a very expensive condom with a free demonstration?

Re:An Analogy... (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213376)

When I go to the amusement park, I shell out the extra 50 to get the front of the line pass, offered at just about every amusement park these days. Well worth it.

Re:An Analogy... (1)

lowrydr310 (830514) | more than 8 years ago | (#14220182)

My former employer rents out amusement/theme parks for the annual company picnic. One year it was at Universal Studios (CA) where we were given wristbands and got to enjoy the park for the entire day. At 6PM, everyone without a wristband had to leave, giving employees of the company exclusive use of the park until Midnight.

The following year it was held at Six Flags Magic Mountain with the same deal. Regular customers had to leave at 6PM. I wouldn't want to be one of those regular customers on a family trip, especially if I had been visiting from out of state and only planning on going that one day! On the other hand, having exclusive use of two major Southern California theme parks was pretty cool. I don't think I waited longer than 5 minutes for any ride. I guess that's one benefit of working for a company that has a lot of political and economical power.

Re:An Analogy... (2, Interesting)

Wilson_6500 (896824) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213452)

Though I can't prove it, I'd be willing to bet that someone who purchases their way to the front of the line in your analogy will also have missed the safety lecture. Not knowing to buckle his harness, the rider will fly out of the car and injure or at least seriously inconvenience other riders.

It's hard for me to believe that someone who leaps over the early stages will be as competent a party member as someone who has ground their way to the top. What is there then for the level-99 newbie to do? With whom will this noob form a party, having not made any online acquaintances on the way up? How will he ever learn when he's constantly kicked out of groups for getting people killed? Even if he's an FFXI veteran, will that do him any good in WoW? As much as I hate to say it, the player is depriving themselves of the chance to develop the "skills" needed for an MMO, and won't have had that long, long, long period of time in which to find other players with similar interests.

I can understand wanting to subvert the underhanded treadmill design scheme, that stretching of level-gains and money by which designers milk every last play hour from MMO gamers. This really highlights a massive problem with the massively multiplayer game scheme: people are willing to pay real money to start at a different point in the game. Either grind away and hope the game starts getting fun after level 60 or so, or jump stright into the mess and start searching for something interesting left to do.

(I have lots of problems with MMOs that I shouldn't go into right now, but will anyhow. I think that any item that becomes recognized by the community as "uber" should suddenly randomize its appearance each time it spawns, so gamers can't just go hunting and hunting (or shopping and shopping) for the "Super Yellow Sword of the Graveyard Fist" so they can get their damage potential up by that extra .002 dps. This'd at least make player equipment have a little more variety, and mabye this effect could trickle down so that every level 11 Fighter isn't wearing Scale Mail. Frankly, I think a game should encourage a player to make do with what they have or can get their hands upon without Herculean effort--like the old D&D spirit of using role-playing and cleverness (_player_ characteristics) to overcome deficiencies in a _character's_ skills and attributes. MMOs that I've seen boil down to getting numbers up high in order to play the game the "right" way. Unless I have an understanding group of friends, I'll have to spend fifteen hours getting a marginally (or perhaps even significantly) better sword/spell so that a group of gamer-gunners can kill stuff ever-so-slightly faster. What if I _LIKE_ how my character looks in the "Rusty Leather Armor of the Ninja Puppy School," even though all the other Iron Chefs are using "Superb Hot Pants of the Damned" and I'm obviously a fool and a n00b for not following the herd?)

Re:An Analogy... (1)

valintin (30311) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213577)

Why couldn't that person then hire a party? Spend some money and go out a create some mayhem with a goon squad of 99th level players making 35 cents an hour.

Re:An Analogy... (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 8 years ago | (#14214344)

Frankly, I think a game should encourage a player to make do with what they have or can get their hands upon without Herculean effort--like the old D&D spirit of using role-playing and cleverness (_player_ characteristics) to overcome deficiencies in a _character's_ skills and attributes. MMOs that I've seen boil down to getting numbers up high in order to play the game the "right" way.

All computer RPGs have this problem. The reason is simple: the computer has no idea of what's going on. It simply manipulates data according to the instructions it has been given, without any idea of what the data actually means. This, in turn, means that the computer can only react to the things the programmer expected the player might do. Consequently, if the programmer didn't anticipate a clever solution (and one might argue that non-obviousness before being pointed out is part of the definition of cleverness), it isn't possible in the gameworld, even if it should be possible.

The limits of simulation on computer games are quickly reached, especially in MMORPGs where the server cannot spend much computing power on a single player. A more complex simulation with more interconnections is inherently more flexible (because there are more possible interactions between its parts), but it will also cost more in terms of server resources - and no matter how good it is, it will always fall shor of human imagination. A computer simply cannot replace a good DM.

Consequently, CRPGs try to maximize on what computers can do very well - keep a track of and manipulate a huge number of variables. Morrowind is a good example of this, and a good example of the problems with it - a huge world which the player can explore freely, but everyone just stands there and repeats the same lines. It is a very good game, but...

Then again, I've never played Pen and Paper RPG, or even MMORPGs, just single-player CRPGs, so maybe I shouldn't play the expert here.

Re:An Analogy... (1)

Wilson_6500 (896824) | more than 8 years ago | (#14216344)

It seems to me that besides the practical limit of the computer side of things, designers don't do much to try and "clever up" their system. But in a sense it really comes down to a problem with the players. The MMO player collective consciousness ferrets out the most efficient ways of doing things, and then the world sees a new expectation that everyone rise up to that standard. It's not a measure of the system reacting intelligently to the player, as if a real DM were playing--that's not even possible in NWN where there IS a real DM, mostly because you can't arbitrarily change the parameters of the game on the fly. I totally understand the whole "way a computer programs works" thing.

What I'm saying is that, at present, no matter how much developers try to obfuscate the mechanics behind the game--not giving concrete units for damage, for instance--there's someone out there with enough time and dedication to produce a reasonably accurate metric for the effectiveness of a weapon, spell, or whatever. The maximum among these is chosen, prices skyrocket, and players who don't come to follow this trend--whether or not they're actually that much less effective--are ridiculed as being ignorant of the proper way the game is played. The "way the game is played" should NOT involve a road map: "when you reach level 3, go and buy your Wolfram Sword and Quartz Pants." You hear of people who do the stupidest and most interesting things, like beat up Weapons using nothing but Cloud and the Nail Bat. But how much of that do you see in an MMO? Where are the Black Mages who cast no spells but instead fight totally naked with madly swinging fists?

Good character class balance prevents this effect from taking place as far as character classes go--for the most part. I mean, you might see a thousand Fighters or whatever running around, but you _need_ White Mages, no matter how rare they may be. What I'm really mourning is the fact that so much content does get or could be added to games that never sees any use because it's not maximally efficient for "winning." You never really see, I dunno, Fighter/Black Mages around, because they're just not that good at what they do, either Fighting or Black Magic. Or, like I said, there's the "copycat" syndrome. Using FFXI again, there were so few faces and so few good armor sets that you'd see thousands of dorks wandering around town in full Scale Mail armor, and sometimes even all having the same face. Tons of items sat around never being bought or used--like those slightly upgraded, slightly cooler-looking but much more expensive armors (admittedly a pricing problem, along with the fact that you had usually two viable armor choices for a given level).

In a very hardcore game of tournament-level Starcraft or whatever, where you pretty much have boiled off all the "game" elements to create a strategy/button-pushing-order simulator (I knew a guy who played with music and sound turned off just because it was a distraction--he took the Starcraft prize at ReCon in I think 2001), you don't do inefficient things because you're trying your damndest to WIN WIN WIN, and if you waste gas on Queens or something and don't have a secret master plan, you just lose and go home crying. You can't lose an MMO, and you can't win one either, (in-game competitions aside, which aren't usually the entire focus of the game) so I really don't understand the drive to absolutely maximize your character's potential... unless a person is just THAT desperate to get through the boring parts of the game, which means it's really less a game and more a chore. But everyone knows that.

I guess what I'm saying is that, in the ideal case, you basically want the number of "viable builds" to go to a high number. You want there to be many viable and well-accepted character styles or builds or whatever so that you stimulate cleverness on the part of the players within the bounds of the game mechanics. You certainly don't want to crush it by having OMG MUST HAVE items that no self-respecting paladin would be caught dead without... because then all your paladins will be using them. Unless there's some compelling reason for all your players' characters to look and act the same, they shouldn't.

Seriously, what's the point of an MMO if you look and feel like everyone else in the game, unless that's the point? It's like the opposite of the problem Fable supposedly had: that game had tons of options for customizability, but you couldn't SHOW them to anyone in the game! In an MMO, the opposite is true: all sorts of people can see your +3 Staff of Beatdowns, and--look! Here are six guys who have one just like it (only green, maybe).

Re:An Analogy... (1)

StrongAxe (713301) | more than 8 years ago | (#14214526)

It's hard for me to believe that someone who leaps over the early stages will be as competent a party member as someone who has ground their way to the top. What is there then for the level-99 newbie to do?

This makes sense the very first time you play. But once you have worked a character up from the cradle to superhero via months of painstaking play, and you decide to create a new character, should you be required to have to go through all that painful process again?

I used to painstakingly watch every single airplane safety lecture, and read through every plane safety brochure. But after travelling in the same area of the same kind of plane a dozen times, I know it all by heart, so I no longer feel the need to waste my time doing it over and over again.

Re:An Analogy... (1)

Wilson_6500 (896824) | more than 8 years ago | (#14216176)

Honestly, you make a pretty good point. I never thought any MMO stuck around long enough for people to be _so_ into it that they'd pay real money to effectively change classes. But that makes sense. Still, though--and I KNOW this is a truism--but getting rid of the grind would make leveling up fun again.

Hey, I guess FFXI did one thing right: job change! I always did like that about FFXI, even though all your levels besides your current first and second jobs meant nothing--no paralytic fear of spending four months making a really really crappy high-level character and then being stuck with his job. Sure, you have to grind your way back up, but at least you have a ton of gil to do it with, and maybe even some cool items.

And, uh, no offense at all intended, but how does a guy take pains to watch someone pull a safety belt snug and breathe into a plastic mask?

Re:An Analogy... (1)

StrongAxe (713301) | more than 8 years ago | (#14216423)

And, uh, no offense at all intended, but how does a guy take pains to watch someone pull a safety belt snug and breathe into a plastic mask?

Well, reading the same safety sheet dozens of times, and watching the flight attendants demonstrate how to fasten a seat belt dozens of times, etc. etc. does seem to be a waste of time after a while.

I also used to find this very annoying about arcade video games - you always had to start at level one, and play the same ridiculously easy and boring levels over and over again just to get to the more interesting higher levels. Some of them sensibly included warps that allowed you to bypass most of the lower levels, if you knew them well enough and didn't want to bother with them.

Re:An Analogy... (1)

Slime-dogg (120473) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213526)

The nice thing about WoW is that the gold farmers can only camp lines for the crappy rides. All the best things in the game require skill to acquire, as well as cohesive teamwork. If you haven't bothered to learn how to play, or pay money to "get stuff," you will *not* have the best gear, nor is it likely that people will want play alongside of you.

Re:An Analogy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14213629)

dont give me that crap, any idiot can farm for items in WoW. Stop making it sound like WoW requires more than a small amount skill.

Sure, maybe ebay 60s will struggle for a few weeks, but that's nothing new.

Re:An Analogy... (2, Informative)

Slime-dogg (120473) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213662)

My experience has been that the BoE blues that are world drops pale in comparison to the BoP instance drops. In order to get a BoP drop, you have to be in the instance, present whenever it drops. This counts for instances from Stratholme to MC to BWL.

Though the "lower" instances like Strat and Scholo don't require a whole lot of skill, the items you get from them aren't all that spectacular, when compared to an instance that requires a commitment of time and playing skill, like MC, BWL, ZG, and AQ.

Re:An Analogy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14214413)

NONE of the instances require skill, just time. keep trying though

They cannot ruin poor game design. (4, Insightful)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213605)

Let them farm gold, let those who want to buy gold do so. Farmers don't ruin games. Games are ruined by poor design and implementation.

Face it, the one commodity these developers refuse to code around is time. Those who can invest a large amount of time come out of ahead. The problem in these environments is the way things are implemented in most MMORPGs money is a driving force in the game. It only stands to reason that if you have more time to invest in the game the more money you can have. As such the ability of some people to play the game for long hours tips the balance of the game. Since the developers love to create money sinks and tweak them to keep the supply and demand where they want them they will invariably harm those with the least means. The in game economy is wrecked far before any farmer sets foot in the game. The farmer exists because people are trying to exist in this artificial economy and they don't have the one resource needed for it, time.

Gold Farmers merely point out the flaw of the game. If it so damn important that someone can make real world cash off of it the developers should instead find methods to reduce the importance instead of wasting time trying stop the actual sale. My analogy, stopping gold sales by going after the farmers is like closing plants to reduce the number of cars you build so you don't get stuck with too many unsold. The gold farmers exist because you failed to create a system where people with inordinate amounts of game time cannot dictate the economy. The cars remain unsold on the lot not because you make to many but because your goal wasn't to make them more popular and thereby sell more. Both ignore the hard issues. The gold farmer can be defeated by finding ways to remove the exaggerated affect "lifers" have on game economies and you can sell cars once you realize that that is the real goal.

Re:They cannot ruin poor game design. (1)

Sugar Moose (686011) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213867)

The sentiment of your post steps on two of my pet peeves.

First, the attitude of the "entitlement" generation. Most people of my generation seem to think that a job is something employers owe them, and their pay is something employers have no right to withold from them. The don't care if they help the business or not, if it fourishes or fails, and they certainly aren't putting in any effort they don't absolutely have to. When raise time comes around, they expect to be given more than someone that has been working there for less time, regardless of performance.

You seem to think just by buying the game, you are "entitled" to all the same things as a person who plays his character to 60, organizes raid parties, and spends the time getting the end game loot. This is just as dumb as buying a FF game and being mad that a hardcore gamer passed it before you did. "I can't play as often! It's not fair! This game should have an auto-pass feature for casual players!" It's not that you're being cheated, it's that you aren't as far along in the game. Who said anything about you needing to "compete" with them? You get all worked up just because you don't have the money and loot they do, but the only problem is the one in your head.

My second pet peeve is dopey gamers that think they NEED all new loot every 4 levels. You probably spend more time trying to get all the best stuff than it would have taken you to just play to the next level with normal gear.

Re:They cannot ruin poor game design. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14215670)

First of all, pay is something that employers have no right to withhold from employees once the employee has worked for it. Unscrupulous managers often try to withhold someone's last paycheck when an employee quits or is fired. Most people don't know that this action is illegal and can get the company in a lot of trouble with the law. And why don't employees care whether a business flourishes or fails? Because employees are rarely rewarded if the business flourishes. Profits are either rolled back into expanding the company, or into the pockets of the already wealthy people who own the company. Why should employees care about the company when talented and dedicated worker's jobs are replaced by lower quality work overseas when profits are at all time highs?

And comparing a video game to work is simply assinine. It's supposed to be fun, not work. Many MMOs simply are not fun at the lower levels. The interesting things only start happening at higher levels, and it becomes extremely tedious to level if you don't have the best gear available: you either keep dying, or are forced to play it safe and keep going on repetitious lower level campaigns. A game is not supposed to be tedious like a job is, and if in order to have fun with the game people are forced to hack the system by paying other people to go and get the loot or even power level a character up to where gameplay is actually interesting, then there is a problem with the fundamental game design. But cheats have existed since the very beginnings of MUDs, anyways. Trainers that people would leave on that simply played the game for the player levelling them up and getting gear. Paying someone to go out and do it for you is far more honest than running the trainers like people used to do.

You interpet very poorly. (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 8 years ago | (#14226899)

I don't think anyone is entitled to anything. Certainly not success in a game.

The key difference in my view and others is I do not think it is wrong to prevent people from buying their way through an online game by trading their money for the time they do not have. This has nothing to do with entitlement. Games are recreational. By default many recreational activities cost money. Some cost a large amount. Spending money on a game does not need to stop at the box or monthly subscription. It should totally up to the player what they choose to invest, their time, their money, or both.

I still believe that most games are poorly designed. I stated my reason but I will repeat it. If a developer makes a system where time is the only true investment that pays off and makes the means for the payoff to be trade amongst players they encourage the behaviour they claim they don't want. In other words, they are trying to tell people to play the game one way when they designed it a whole different way.

As for your peeve over new loot every 4 levels. Sounds like you need to stay out of these games. The new loot syndrom may actually be governed more by ruleset than want. In a number of games even a few levels can mean lots of difference. Some games are more exaggerated than others. However in any game where you can only upgrade every X levels your power falls off as you approach the next breakpoint. This is as good as a guarantee that the player will have to upgrade to stay competitive or see progression.

Re:They cannot ruin poor game design. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14215165)

No, that's total asshattery. If there's no (or extremely weak) correlation between time spent and success in a game, you no longer have a game at all, you have a $50 "I win" button.

The economic issues you state as a flaw are exactly the factors that apply in real life: work more hours in a week and you get paid more for that week! Shocking. And your solution to the game "flaw" is what? Make there not be trade between players? Make money unimportant? Make time unimportant?

Re:They cannot ruin poor game design. (1)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 8 years ago | (#14215837)

"Face it, the one commodity these developers refuse to code around is time. "

And those who rely on monthly subscription fees (I believe everybody except AO and Guild Wars at this point) never will. Because the longer it takes to get to the top, the longer someone will keep paying their monthly subscription fee.

There's a reason it takes almost no time to max a character in Guild Wars compared to WoW.

Re:An Analogy... (1)

AnotherBlackHat (265897) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213682)


Farmers in online games don't just "give people a chance to experience stuff they normally wouldn't be able to." They wreck the in-game economy and then charge you real money to be able to play the game like you should.


IMO most game economies are "wrecked" in their fundamental design.
WoW, for example, forces players to create items to skill up.
Players want to skill up quickly, so they are willing to pay for the privilege of making stuff.
Thus, two effects; the price of raw materials becomes higher than the price of finished goods, and there is a glut of finished goods making the price even lower.
Gold flows in faster than it flows out, thus inflation.
Professional farmers might increase the speed with which this happens, but there aren't that many pros, and overall their effect isn't that great.
To use the line analogy, since farmers are only 10% of the people in the park, they can't make the lines more than 10% longer.


Do you want to know why that sword hasn't dropped after 100 kills? It's because some jerk item farmer kills 10,000 every single week, and the developers have had to drastically reduce the droprate to prevent the item from being common. You know why you can't afford to buy that pair of boots? Because gold farmers have driven the price of all items way up past what a normal player can afford.


Doubtful.
The designers are far more likely to make the sword no-drop/bind on pickup if they even bother to do anything at all.

-- Should you believe authority without question?

Re:An Analogy... (1)

pezpunk (205653) | more than 8 years ago | (#14214139)

To use the line analogy, since farmers are only 10% of the people in the park, they can't make the lines more than 10% longer.

unfortunately, the theme park line analogy doesn't hold up here. although they may only make up a tiny percentage of the population, the farmers (could potentially) create a large percentage of the gold in existence in the game world, thus contributing to the destruction of the game economy. firstly, the farmers are not constrained by trying to enjoy their experience. they will embark upon and repeat a task for hours on end that is too mundane and repetitive even for your most dedicated MMORPGers, if it gains them slightly more gold per hour. in addition, since they are part of an organized business, you better believe they have access to professionally-designed tools, bots, analysis, and (most likely) cheats and exploits.

Re:Hold it right there (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 8 years ago | (#14214230)

They wreck the in-game economy and then charge you real money to be able to play the game like you should. Do you want to know why that sword hasn't dropped after 100 kills? It's because some jerk item farmer kills 10,000 every single week, and the developers have had to drastically reduce the droprate to prevent the item from being common. You know why you can't afford to buy that pair of boots? Because gold farmers have driven the price of all items way up past what a normal player can afford.

The game economy is a closed system. Unless they are duping items, they aren't magically inflating prices and introducing things that wouldn't be there there in the first place. Sure you can trade real money for WoW gold, but that gold is still in the game nor does it add any extra gold other than what the players farmed off the mobs (sure they might farm less, but it isn't like people wouldn't do that anyones without being paid).

Secondly, I thought WoW instancing prevents this or at least makes everything accessible to everyone rather than camping out for unique items.

The only way you can remove gold farming is to remove the treadmill. Apparently if people are paying real money so that others do tedious tasks over and over again, then maybe they should remove some of those tedious tasks.

Make the game a game, not a job.

dont hate the players (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14213498)

MMORPGs, for the most part, revolve around fetching items. The reason items and gold are so rare is because time spend farming = money for Blizzard. This keeps people playing for months at a time, and gives Blizzard millions of dollars.

The main reason people play MMOs for any length of time is low drop rates. The games themselves are not that fun; for example, if a dungeon didnt drop anything no one would go. If you can advance your character you'll keep playing.

In reality players are "working" to have "fun". To me this isn't "fun" at all, and most people will agree it gives them "something to do" when they are bored of real life.

If farming for 10 hours for an item is fun, then why would someone complain that they have to spend 50 hours to get the item? They are, after all, having "fun" right?

MMORPGs are not all that much fun, but equipping a new item is. Most players put up with hours and hours of crap just to equip a new sword.

My point is this:
Dont be angry with the gold farmers or the people that support them, be angry with Blizzard and other makers of MMO's that create a system based on item farming and low drop rates.

The only reason I say blame Blizzard is because the game starts off (for the first 100 hours) as a very fast paced RPG where your character advances fairly quickly. As you level up the game slowly turns into something else, something not fun (at least to me). At this point Blizzard relies on low drop rates to keep people interested. If you still want to advance a character you either have to start a new one, spend hours upon hours in the same dungeons, or buy items from gold farmers. It's hard to resist a gold farmer's offer when you've already invested 300 hours into your character! GG Blizzard, you asked for it.

In conclusion, hate the game, not the players!

Re:dont hate the players (2, Insightful)

Sugar Moose (686011) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213608)

My question is, once you've equipped your great new item, what are you going to do with it? Take a screenshot?

Getting the items IS the game, and buying them online is just fast forwarding to the credits. You obviously hate playing the game, why don't you quit? The better way to "stick it to Blizzard" might be to stop giving them your money.

I think it's just crazy enough to work.

Re:dont hate the players (1)

DontCallMeIshmael (877401) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213697)

Maybe you could get your new sword framed, or sealed in perspex, and mount it on the wall in your study. There could be a new industry in realising virtual trophies, someone could set up a sweat shop in China, and you could buy them from Blizzard, with the GUID engraved on the back...

Re:dont hate the players (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14213730)

did that first post sound like the post of a paying customer? sadly, it probably did.

i stopped playing the game 4 or 5 months ago.

Re:dont hate the players (1)

_xeno_ (155264) | more than 8 years ago | (#14214297)

My question is, once you've equipped your great new item, what are you going to do with it? Take a screenshot?

WoW has a PvP part - they'll use it to gain some small advantage in PvP. Or maybe some small advantage in PvE.

The items make your character more powerful, and in the end, that's really all there is to do in most MMORPGs. So people are willing to spend money to skip the "boring" time parts and just get the item so they can have more fun in some other section of the game.

Think of it this way: why do people by cheating devices for consoles? Some people would rather have the powerful item and could care less about playing the game to actually "earn" it.

Re:dont hate the players (1)

Kingrames (858416) | more than 8 years ago | (#14215951)

Some people perceive that PVP is the game, and getting the items is just an obstacle to their fun.

I distinctly remember that a long while back, populations were insanely high on PVP servers. in fact, 14 out of the top 15 most-highly-populated servers were PVP servers.

So evidently the "bump & grind" isn't for everyone.

Speaking as an economics student, I can only say that it looks more like there's an unsatisfied demand, and these "gold farmers" are providing it. The only "solution" is to make it easier for them to have fun playing the game, without the need - or the want - to purchase gold.

I don't think it's the epics on the auction house either, that drives this. it's the cost of respeccing talents, and the cost of leveling up tradeskills.

you could get Engineering up to 300 really frickin fast if you played a mage and spent around 90g. I should know, I've gotten up to 260 in it, and I'm level 35 after around 5 days /played.

But if I had a (relatively) unlimited supply of gold, I could have done so in 3 days, maybe 4.

truth is the quest items and the bind-on-pickup boss drops are FAR superior, but the auction-house purchased items are very useful for getting there. Not to mention Engineering (the same tradeskill I mentioned above) is incredible for a player, any player, as it gives extra power to your characters at the cost of inventory space.

In this way, greatly simplified, Money -> Power. Power -> Fun.
Think of it as purchasing a stepping-stone to get to the same point everyone else is at, it's just a crutch that allows other players to enjoy the game the same way we do.

Why not just fix the game? (2, Insightful)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213757)

To my programmer's mind the problem seems to be in the game rather than in the politics. If people don't want to wade through hundreds of boring hours of leveling up before they are allowed to do anything interesting, the logical solution is to fix the game so that they wouldn't have to. When will MMOG writers figure out that nobody wants to kill rats for a living?

Re:Why not just fix the game? (1)

Shad_the_protector (931920) | more than 8 years ago | (#14214182)

Well, Guild Wars did a pretty good job on this side. lv 20 max, and fast to gain. And you can even begin a pvp char that begin at lv20. You still have to find many special item to unlock with a real char if you want to equip those on your PVP char, but there is also regular equipment.

Re:Why not just fix the game? (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 8 years ago | (#14214444)

If people don't want to wade through hundreds of boring hours of leveling up before they are allowed to do anything interesting, the logical solution is to fix the game so that they wouldn't have to. When will MMOG writers figure out that nobody wants to kill rats for a living?

My thoughts were to copy what Ultima Online had going for its test servers for a while back in 2000. Players go through a gate and it allocates points for a template. No worrying about trying to gain stats... You just grabbed a weapon and starting killing people... Errr...I mean things.

But if I were to make an MMORPG, I'd give out all the stat and skill points at the start and let people create the player they want and then play the game. Gold would be important, but not so much that it is a task. There would be no superitems in which just by having it would make you 10x better than other players, but there would be unique items (mostly cosmetic).

Of course this would be more like original UO with PvP and the gold farmers would have problems dealing with the resident PK's ;)

In what? (1)

AnotherBlackHat (265897) | more than 8 years ago | (#14213977)

The International Herald Tribune, of all places, has an in-depth look at gold farming in China.


Really? I'd like to read that, instead of the fluff piece linked to in this article.

Re:In what? (1)

vmardian (321592) | more than 8 years ago | (#14214305)

I reckon that, by your standards, 75% of all articles are fluff pieces.

It was on Slashdot so you may have already seen it, but perhaps this might better satisfy your curiosity:

http://playmoney.blogs.com/blog/2005/10/wow_gold_f armer.html [blogs.com]

Shamlessly linked through my blog.

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