Good post on Broken Toys about a MMORPG game design concept that would eliminate annoying gold farming and intrusive RMT (Real Money Trading)… by incorporating those features into the game design. The author of the piece is Scott “Lum the Mad” Jennings, one of the better known MMORPG designers, and his argument is that since prohibition never works, some sort of legalization is a better system.
The biggest sticking point, as he sees it, is that most Western MMORPG players still have a fundamental prejudice against RMT, as the comments to this post will surely demonstrate.
Most Western MMO players will insist on prohibition. This is the “moral” position. Gold farming is cheating, cheating is wrong, players should not cheat, we will not enable cheating. And since most MMO developers are also MMO players, this is by default the decision they take as well. As Syp put it:
The problem lies with Mike[, a friend who purchased gold], and people like him. People who have no sense of morality or honor in online games. People who go ahead and buy gold to be instantly gratified, and a lesser extent, friends that see them do this and say nothing.
Those players will be enraged if you make the decision to legalize. Many of them will simply not play your game because of that one decision. Yet there are many players who will buy and sell in-game assets for real-world cash. And some of them are the same players telling you they will not play if you make that decision legal. Because it’s vice. And few admit to vice.
There is also the point that if you legalize RMT, you can make the effort to control it – and in so doing profit from it. Again, this will be considered evil by your players, and probably by many of your developers. Will you make a decision based on gaming morality to not serve a market for your game?
Read the whole post for all the details, and check out the comments thread too, where some knowledgeable readers bring up arguments about how Eve Online and Puzzle Pirates are already running in-game RMT systems quite similar to his dream design, with varying levels of success.
This is approach is unlikely to be embraced by Blizzard in D3 or any other game, since their strategy with WoW is complete prohibition. Blizzard doesn’t allow any in-game gold selling ads, and they have legions of customer service people working to stop gold farming and ban people for selling it. Blizzard has even launched legal action against gold selling companies. Despite this, any WoW player can find gold selling options with 3 seconds and a search engine, and many of the larger WoW fansites are actually owned by gold-selling companies. (Our sister site WorldofWar.net is one of the few exceptions.) This prevalence of gold sellers just underscores the futility of attempting prohibition, in Jenning’s PoV.