Scott Jennings, the game developer who got his start as the ranting gadfly Lum the Mad, has a new weekly column at MMORPG.com and it’s proving to be consistently excellent. He’s writing about key MMORPG and gaming issues from his insider’s perspective, something like our own Chris Marks’ former column,.
In Jenning’s four (so far) articles he’s covered a couple of issues of special interest to readers of this site. The second installment, The Truth About Bugs, went into fascinating detail about how bug squashing is handled by the usually-understaffed, always-overworked programmers on a game’s support staff. If you’ve ever wondered why the gameplay bugs and feature enhancements never seem to make it into patches, this will explain it. (They’re always lower priority than critical fixes, which perpetually pop up. For example, D2X v1.13 has been delayed for months while the few available programmers are assigned to fix one Warcraft 3 technical problem after another.)
The third column, Real Money, Real Problems, is the one I want most to recommend. It’s about RMT, as you could guess from the title, and while much of what Jennings talks about is directly applicable to WoW, the general theories apply to Diablo 2 and Diablo 3 as well. He explains how RMT works, why game companies can’t just ban all the “Chinese gold farmers,” how ludicrous it is to say the devs allow gold farming since they get a cut of the profits, and more. A quote:
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Free trial accounts. If you?d like to know why you are prohibited from doing pretty much anything involving money or talking to people while on a free trial, this is why. Farmers would (and in some games still do) burn through an endless number of free trial accounts for games, naming their characters something nonsensical and spamming and killstealing their way through the game knowing (and not caring) that they would be banned quickly. Since that sort of behavior chases off paying customers fairly effectively as well, most developers that offer free trials have placed draconian limits on how much damage they can do in response, which then cripples new players who know the least about the game. This is why we can?t have nice things.