Micro Evils?

Well, I wasn’t going to write anything this week, but with the most recent micro transaction blog post, I feel like I should give me opinion on the matter.

I am not a fan of the system.  I honestly never really have liked the idea of micro transactions in any game despite my history with using them (I like my characters looking pretty, OK!).  There are few systems that work well, and few systems that do not and even fewer systems that work but have severe repercussions for using them.

The first system is the most common one and the most common among free to play games: Buy to Win.  B2W is a phrase coined because some of the free to play games have very powerful items only available in the shop that once you buy them, you essentially win the game.  Generally speaking, these items are expensive but give you the best possible stats until the next set comes out.  Essentially creating a vortex of endless buying by the few hundred people who continue to play the game after a month of this system.

The second system is cosmetic micro transactions.  Cosmetic is exactly that, purely superficial and has no real impact of the game.  This is my favorite of the systems and is the model for League of Legends.  In League of Legends, you have 2 types of currency, Influence Points and Riot Points.  Here is a list of what each gets you

Riot Points (purchased with money):
Champions
Rune Pages
Bundles
Skins
Name Change

Influence Points (earned by playing the game):
Champions
Runes
Rune Pages

As you can see, the only things that actually effect the game (runes) can only be acquired by means of playing the game.  Champions are something you can save your IP for or spend a few bucks to get sooner without having to spend your hard earned IP on them.  It is a system that works and works very well.

The last system is gold buying.  This is the biggest plague of any MMO game out there.  Nobody likes gold farmers but as long as there are people willing to pay them for gold, then they will forever exist.  Buying gold is highly risky as it can jeopardize your account’s security just by going to the site and getting a key logger virus on your computer.  MMO companies have been finding means of combating this problem for years and there is no real means of stopping the problem without doing it themselves.  But even then, they will most likely be undercut in some way.  Last note is that gold buying is only a temporary boost in power because the most valuable items have to be achieved (this is where leveling services come into play which is even shadier).

Arena Net is having a hybrid model and one of the first real stabs at the gold selling problem.  However, this has not been received well so far.  While I only want Arena Net to focus on providing cosmetic (costumes) and service charges (server, name, character remakes, etc).  I cannot honestly blame them for their actions.  One they they didn’t say is that selling gold by the company is a necessary evil.  Is it unfair?  Yes, to a large extent it is to those who do not have a whole lot of time or a whole lot of money to spend on the game.  But how will it really effect your game play?  We know PvP is completely balanced due to the lack of gear being a factor, so this doesn’t effect that in any way.  And chances are if you can buy it with gold, you can get better stuff later that is only found in high end dungeons.  Hopefully Arena Net won’t come out with their own leveling or farming service.

One major con to this type of system is it will destroy the economy.  When a market becomes flooded with gold, things start to get extremely expensive to buy.  The best example of this is Rangarok Online where the market is so flooded with Zeny (their gold) that anything worth your while will run you more gold than you can actually hold on your character.  15 billion zeny transactions are not uncommon in that game.  Ragnarok Online never had any gold selling though, its problem was a lack of gold sinks into the game (mounts, extra talent trees).  Without a direct means of converting gems into gold and gold into gems (meaning that it is player controlled), this is most likely going to be the case as the games continues to progress forward.  If there are enough gold sinks into the game, this shouldn’t be a problem, however, if there are not enough sinks in the game then this is a likely fate of the system.  Now, it is highly possible that this will not be the case, but it is equally possible that it will be.

At first, gems will be high cost with gold, maybe something like 5,000 gold per 1 gem.  The market will flood and the price will drop down significantly, and then it will continue to raise as gold becomes far more common.  The only real way to counteract this fate is to have NPCs who do the converting for you, it keeps the item worth a set amount without it blowing out of proportion.  Throw in a lot of gold sinks or even never increasing the amount of gold that drops and you have a system that works well and it keeps the economy growing.  Honestly (this is an off note) I would rather they release a ton of content without raising the level cap and keeping a sense of progression via gear.

That is my opinion on the matter.  Micro Transactions will always be a sticky situation and there is no real means of approaching it and nobody will agree on the same method.  What we do know is that gold selling will always be there unless the developers actually do something about it.

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3 responses to “Micro Evils?

  1. ArenaNet’s system of Gold/Gems reminds me more of GW1 Gold/Ecto for currency, at least in the sense you can use a 2nd item for a set amount of gold and with NPCs help setting the price for gems(hopefully they take GW1 NPCs and make the price rise/drop based on how many people are selling/buying from them) From reading the ArenaNet description of their micro-transactions the only real difference I see is everyone can get gems it just depends on how much time you put into it. Besides the usual server transfers, cosmetic goods, and as time passes extra character; a player is never going to be in a position to HAVE TO spend any real money to succeed in GW2. We don’t know how heavy of a gold sink they will be but ArenaNet has already mentioned the trait changing and repairing. This repairing gold sink I think will be the majority of gold taken out of the system because you take durability damage in WvW and this is to try and stop people just riving inside a keep and zerging the invaders till they start to dwindle in numbers. I think the only micro transactions anyone would complain about are the “time savers” as ArenaNet described it, however without more info on exactly what they are I’ll hold back for a final verdict and just at the moment and in my opinion they would hurt the gamers experience rather than help. If the goal is to help maximize the players time in GW2, I think this actually shortens the games lifespan in the eyes of that player but I think we just have to wait and see exactly what each and every transaction is. I wish I could have had more time to make sure I got my ideas across clearly but I am being rushed for a friends birthday dinner so if you want me to express myself more on a certain issues let me know.

    • True, they really have not said exactly what will be available via the shop. One worry that I forgot to mention is that gems might become seemingly worthless if there is not enough sinks in the game to counteract the continual gain of gold as the game continues to age. Rangarok Online has been around for years and sometimes those huge purchases take multiple accounts just to buy a single item. Having an NPC do the converting means that a set amount of gold is what will be the cost for gems and vice versa, they could, however, also increase the amount with each expansion if the gold crisis becomes a problem and gems become virtually worthless (and thus means Arena Net will no longer make money off of gems).

      Eitherway, no matter how you look at it, this is a very slippery slop and Arena Net did take the simpler way out by doing the necessary evil by removing the chance of gold farming to become remotely profitable for games and thus lower the amount of people getting hacked for being stupid. Micro Transactions are one of those things that very few games actually ever do right. So far the only one I have ever seen do well, is League of Legends in that there is absolutely no way in which you can get more powerful the more money you have and the only way to gain the currency to spend on power means you have to play the game. With an in game currency like gold and an ability to farm for it (something you cannot do in League of Legends) makes this a very different beast to tackle all together and thus a system that is like League of Legends doesn’t really work.

      • I think a way till will keep gems being worthwhile is adding more vendors that use them, I can’t remember which ArenaNet employee said it but their plan is to do small content patches every week or 2 adding small to medium dynamic events to make the game different if you were to stop playing for a month. I think this is how they will adjust the vendors on the fly. An example I would think of down the road would be if gems start to build up they add an armor vendor that requires a huge amount (GW1 Obsidian Armor… thank god I don’t need that for my HoM) I also think/hope they follow GW1 way of currency where you were limited to having a low limit (100 platinum per character and 1000 in storage vault) which will make players sink gold into the gems and depending on the price value of the NPC will determine what they are worth. I do feel they are trying to copy the Ecto system.

        Now as for League of Legends being the only working micro transaction, I don’t think you can count that, because unless I missed something RMT (ya my favorite MMO was FFXI so I will always refer to gold sellers as RMT) can’t effect LoL because it is your money straight to Riot or your game play, and LoL has no trade feature so only way I could see RMT doing anything in LoL was to play your account or do a match while you AFK at base(which 4v5, rarely does the team with 4 win in my cases at least) once a game has items and a way to trade items between players RMT will always have some influence in a game. In my opinion I think GW1 has the lowest influence or maybe because of the gap of me playing I never saw a huge wave. My worst experience was Star Wars: The Old Republic, I actually got spam tells during the early access.

        Back on topic of Guild Wars 2, I think this system has the potential to do great. Gold/Gems will be a currency anyone can get either by real life currency or spending time in the game. NPCs will help keep prices reasonable and be a money sink for those spending. Also since you do not need to be level capped to enjoy PvP(structured or WvW) and in PvE friends can sidekick you up RMT “power leveling” will be worthless since you will be missing out on your story. The only concern we should have is just exactly what in game items will be for sale and what will they do.

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