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Damn, I had no idea this was happening at anything close to this level. I'd heard of people selling off stuff they'd earned in an MMO, but not on a massive scale like this.

 

Reading it, I had mixed feelings, one of a kind of cyberpunk awe at how the real and virtual worlds are mixing and the lines between the two are blurring...the other sadness that people are being so exploited by the greedy few, but that is so common in a world with such huge imbalances of wealth. One man's virtual gold is another man's week of work.

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I honestly cannot believe that people pay real money for virtual items. That's sad and is fueling that whole industry.

 

Well really it comes down to how much money one's time is worth? I played WoW for months and the highest character I had when I quit was level 52. That character alone represented weeks and weeks of playtime to get to that level. Now I happened to enjoy playing the low and mid level quests necessary to get that high, but what if I bought the game solely for Battlegrounds, for instance, where I would really need to be level 60 to be useful? If my choices would be either to play a character for weeks to get him to 60, or pay someone, say, $30 for a level 60 character (I have no idea what they go for), I might think about paying the 30 bucks to save myself a month or two of "grinding".

 

Same thing with items...most of the really good stuff in WoW are rare drops from difficult-to-kill mobs, usually at the end of long dungeons. I ran my shaman through Maraudon at least 6 times hoping for a specific shield and I never got it...each of those tries probably took two hours. If someone offered me the shield for $10, maybe I would have considered it. Of course in this case the shield was non-transferable so that wouldn't work, but I don't think the idea of paying real-world money for virtual things is completely out of whack. Instead I think of it as paying real-world money to save a boatload of real-world time, much in the same way I might pay a kid to mow my grass despite having both the equipment and the ability to do it myself.

 

Note that I have never actually done so (pay for mowing or virtual items) but the idea of doing so isn't as outlandish to me as it was before I started playing MMO's myself.

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Same thing with items...most of the really good stuff in WoW are rare drops from difficult-to-kill mobs, usually at the end of long dungeons. I ran my shaman through Maraudon at least 6 times hoping for a specific shield and I never got it...each of those tries probably took two hours. If someone offered me the shield for $10, maybe I would have considered it. Of course in this case the shield was non-transferable so that wouldn't work, but I don't think the idea of paying real-world money for virtual things is completely out of whack. Instead I think of it as paying real-world money to save a boatload of real-world time, much in the same way I might pay a kid to mow my grass despite having both the equipment and the ability to do it myself.

Agreed Dave, and I'll readily admit to having payed real world money to acquire in-game gold in the past. The most money I ever payed was 20 bucks but I consider it money well spent. Most here know that I used to be an avid Dark Age of Camelot player and I worked two level 50 characters up over time the old fashion way. That meant farming gold for housing, items, etc. When I started my third character, I didn't see a need to bother going through all that again, so I paid a quick 20 bucks and gained 100 platinum in the process. Saved me hours of my time that I felt no need to spend in doing something I've already done twice.

 

Consider it sad if you like, I consider it a realistic solution to the ridiculous level of grinding most of these games require of thier players.

 

EDIT: It should be noted that Sony Online Entertainment themselves are changing thier stance on these issues. They now offer a service that allows players to exchange these items with real world money if they wish. They themselves are not profiting from this (aside from the service fees they charge of course) but they are facilitating these transactions.

 

http://stationexchange.station.sony.com/

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Poisenjam and Futurevoid said it better than I could but Poisenjam's #'s are a bit off especially for Everquest.

 

A Level 70 character easily goes for $200 minimum if not up to $1,000 and platinum goes for boatloads of $$$. Usually $20-$30 per 10k or so. The justification of course is the time saved. The More you paid, the more of a character you bought usually with rare hard to get items.

 

Now, I did sell my toon for a few hundred. Heck even if I got $1,000 for my toon, I have to look at it this way:

 

1. How many games net you this kind of cash once you are done with them?

 

The flip side of that is if you break it down to $$$ per hour you spent playing, it's pretty sad really. Then again point #1 usually comforts you enough that you atleast got something out of it and more than you paid for the game itself.

 

Some folks don't want to deal with the building of a character, they just want to experience the "high end" of the game then get out when they can. People did this all the time in EQ. It's no different for WoW or any othe popular MMORPG.

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Instead I think of it as paying real-world money to save a boatload of real-world time, much in the same way I might pay a kid to mow my grass despite having both the equipment and the ability to do it myself.

 

I just really don't understand this analogy. Personally, I hate to mow my lawn. To me, it's a chore that I have to do. If it doesn't get done (by me or a gardener), my wife will complain, the neighbors will complain, etc. Because it has to get done and I don't like doing it, I can see the "how much is my time worth?" question making sense. But what about if I enjoy mowing the lawn? Would it make sense to pay somebody else to mow my lawn for me and thus lose the enjoyment of mowing the lawn AND my hard-earned money at the same time?

 

This to me is my view on games. If a game becomes a chore to me, I can just quit playing it and play a different game that is fun to me. I don't HAVE to play City of Heroes. I WANT to play it. If it ever becomes a chore to me, I'll move on to something else, not pay real money for influence/enhancements/powerleveling.

 

By buying virtual stuff with real money, I am depriving myself of the experiences of attaining said virtual stuff. Say it's some rare item, if I just bought it with real money, then I would have missed out on the possible fun of questing for it and the players I fought met along the way. Say it's a high-level character/account, if I just bought it with real money, I would have missed out on all the battle experience I would have learned from working that character up from level 1 to level whatever in addition to all the other players I would have met along the way. As far as powerleveling goes, it seems pretty common for online games to develop some relationships with other players (e.g. join a clan/supergroup) who would be more than happy to powerlevel for free. And without the social aspect (i.e. interacting with other players), there'd be no need for online games, only single player games.

 

Now I happened to enjoy playing the low and mid level quests necessary to get that high, but what if I bought the game solely for Battlegrounds, for instance, where I would really need to be level 60 to be useful?

 

Wouldn't the battle experience you gained from leveling the character yourself be useful in the Battlegrounds? Wouldn't somebody who just bought the character be at a disadvantage against somebody who knew the in's and out's of the character because they had spent weeks and weeks of playtime levelling the character up?

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It sounds like this could be solved by the companies just cutting out the middle man and selling in-game currency and items themselves. I think companies have avoided this in the past for the liability risk (if you sell an item, it then has real value and you are liable if the data gets lost). But I'm sure the companies with their massive legal teams could cook up some kind of User Agreement to take care of this.

 

It seems the logical thing to do, the company pockets more money, those who want to skip the grinding can do so at a price, and those who want to play the old-fashioned way and earn all of their items and cash are free to do so. It seems necessary if you've basically got organized crime moving in which is going to give your game a really bad name at some point.

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It sounds like this could be solved by the companies just cutting out the middle man and selling in-game currency and items themselves. I think companies have avoided this in the past for the liability risk (if you sell an item, it then has real value and you are liable if the data gets lost). But I'm sure the companies with their massive legal teams could cook up some kind of User Agreement to take care of this.

 

But that completely undermines the natural game economy. If, say, Sony is selling 50 gold pieces for $10 in-game, it not only ruins the experience ("So this crystal shield is really only worth $3.50"), but it sets a price that would just be undercut by farmers.

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Secretvampire,

Everquest is going to start doing that.

 

Wouldn't the battle experience you gained from leveling the character yourself be useful in the Battlegrounds? Wouldn't somebody who just bought the character be at a disadvantage against somebody who knew the in's and out's of the character because they had spent weeks and weeks of playtime levelling the character up?

Not necessarily. If you are a skilled player at said game, it is quite easy to pick up a new toon and be comfortable with it and be skilled with it in a matter of time. With EQ, I could buy a completely unfamiliar to me character and be a master at it in hours. During the grinding times which all games have, it is usually easy to hide this fact that you are a noob at xyz character. Sure there is a disadvantage but it doesn't last for long.

 

Now this would not hold true if you were not skilled at the game in which you bought the character.

By buying virtual stuff with real money, I am depriving myself of the experiences of attaining said virtual stuff.

Yes but in the case of some games like EQ, some of these items are GONE and no longer available. Some are uber hard camps comprised of 50+ hr camps, do you have the time to do that? No. Sure you could do w/o but some of these items make your gaming that much easier.

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This to me is my view on games. If a game becomes a chore to me, I can just quit playing it and play a different game that is fun to me. I don't HAVE to play City of Heroes. I WANT to play it. If it ever becomes a chore to me, I'll move on to something else, not pay real money for influence/enhancements/powerleveling.

 

Yes, of course that makes sense, but what if you only enjoy the high level stuff and after five or six times you start to hate the grind getting there? What if you had a high level fighter, mage, thief, and ranger, but your guild really needs a cleric? The choice you have is to run the same damn quests over again for the next month, or plunk down x number of dollars and you can start playing with it that night. I'm not saying it's the perfect solution and I'm not even saying it's the one I would choose (frankly, I quit City of Heroes because I couldn't take the grind and I waas not willing to pay real money for a pre-built character), but I do understand why people do it.

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Not necessarily. If you are a skilled player at said game, it is quite easy to pick up a new toon and be comfortable with it and be skilled with it in a matter of time. With EQ, I could buy a completely unfamiliar to me character and be a master at it in hours. During the grinding times which all games have, it is usually easy to hide this fact that you are a noob at xyz character. Sure there is a disadvantage but it doesn't last for long.

 

In my experience, if I play an online game enough to be good at it, I will invariably have made some friends along the way (maybe even joined a guild/clan) who could and would powerlevel a new character I created for free (particularly if they needed a character of that class/type).

 

Now this would not hold true if you were not skilled at the game in which you bought the character.

 

This is the scenario I was referring to (see above for why I think someone good at the game probably wouldn't need to pay real money). Someone new to the game (or with little experience) would be less likely to have in-game connections to help them out for free (unless they were part of a multi-game guild/clan beforehand) so I would think they would be the ones most likely to spend real money on virtual stuff.

 

Yes but in the case of some games like EQ, some of these items are GONE and no longer available. Some are uber hard camps comprised of 50+ hr camps, do you have the time to do that? No. Sure you could do w/o but some of these items make your gaming that much easier.

 

Camping is a game design flaw (and was particularly bad in EQ). I don't think the players should have to pay real money to get around things the game designers should be fixing (via instanced dungeons, random spawning locations, etc.). I played EQ for at least 2 years. When I couldn't deal with the camping, grinding, etc., I moved on to a different game. I have no regrest at all.

 

What if you had a high level fighter, mage, thief, and ranger, but your guild really needs a cleric? The choice you have is to run the same damn quests over again for the next month, or plunk down x number of dollars and you can start playing with it that night. I'm not saying it's the perfect solution and I'm not even saying it's the one I would choose (frankly, I quit City of Heroes because I couldn't take the grind and I waas not willing to pay real money for a pre-built character), but I do understand why people do it.

 

I would think the guild would help you out (give you cash, the best equipment, and powerlevel your cleric). The reason I like City of Heroes is that with it's sidekick system, I can create a new character and team up with people of any level. Sure I may not be nearly as effective as someone of that security level but at least I can help out (and will level quickly). Or they can exemplar down to my level.

 

Agreed Dave, and I'll readily admit to having payed real world money to acquire in-game gold in the past. The most money I ever payed was 20 bucks but I consider it money well spent. Most here know that I used to be an avid Dark Age of Camelot player and I worked two level 50 characters up over time the old fashion way. That meant farming gold for housing, items, etc. When I started my third character, I didn't see a need to bother going through all that again, so I paid a quick 20 bucks and gained 100 platinum in the process. Saved me hours of my time that I felt no need to spend in doing something I've already done twice.

 

I don't really understand this either. With two level 50 characters, I'm sure you had more gold than you could have possibly spent. Couldn't you have just asked another player (e.g. a guildmate, a friend, etc.) to help you out and transfer some gold/items from one of your level 50 characters to your new character (for free)?

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Camping is a game design flaw (and was particularly bad in EQ). I don't think the players should have to pay real money to get around things the game designers should be fixing (via instanced dungeons, random spawning locations, etc.).

I don't agree with this. This is just like real life. If you want the item, you will put in the time. They of course didn't see how people could sell stuff so they didn't think to make such rare items "No Drop". Such as life has it, if I can't put in the time to get xyz, I can buy it from zyq. Perhaps they should start repriting Mickey Mantle rookie cards too? ;)

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I don't agree with this. This is just like real life. If you want the item, you will put in the time. They of course didn't see how people could sell stuff so they didn't think to make such rare items "No Drop". Such as life has it, if I can't put in the time to get xyz, I can buy it from zyq. Perhaps they should start repriting Mickey Mantle rookie cards too?

 

I don't want my games recreating real life. I really don't need to have to have my characters take a dump or do their taxes. That's what real life is for. :D

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I don't really understand this either. With two level 50 characters, I'm sure you had more gold than you could have possibly spent.

Yeah, and when I made my third character on a different server (since I wanted to play on an opposing side of the war) the amount of money I had meant nothing.

 

EDIT: Also, let me add that it's apparent you haven't played Dark Age of Camelot at the high level stage back when it was released. Even in my early 40's I was farming for money. DAOC does not work like City of Heroes where you end up with 9 million influence with no issues. When housing was released in Dark Age, the amount of money to buy and own a house (you were charged monthly in-game fees) was ridiculously high. Smaller guilds could barely afford to keep a guild hall and single players could forget it all together. I would hope that mythic adjusted these particular prices over time but in my day, money was not an easy thing to come by, even for full level capped characters.

 

Couldn't you have just asked another player (e.g. a guildmate, a friend, etc.) to help you out and transfer some gold/items from one of your level 50 characters to your new character (for free)?

See above. My apologies for not being more clear on the scenario in question.

 

In my experience, if I play an online game enough to be good at it, I will invariably have made some friends along the way (maybe even joined a guild/clan) who could and would powerlevel a new character I created for free (particularly if they needed a character of that class/type).

..and your speaking from the perspective of City of Heroes which is the dream game for power levelers since you can just stand there while higher level players gain you 20 levels in two hours without you lifting a finger. (I know as I’ve been the player standing there;) ) City of Heroes is an extremely well designed game in that regard as it is very open to those possibilities even to newbies who may not have made friends.

 

Of course the rub there is that Cryptic doesn’t seem to have any problem with this. Power leveling is possible in many MMO’s out there but for the most part MMO developers DISCOURAGE it’s use. Some go as far as to try and put a stop to it immediately by plugging up power leveling avenues as they don’t want their players gaining levels too fast and subsequently cancelling their subscriptions.

 

Let me be clear in that I personally wouldn’t spend a dime on a character someone else built up (hell, I wouldn’t spend more than 20 bucks on anything MMO related period). I kind of have a personal connection with the characters I play so coming into someone elses level 50/60 etc. just wouldn’t feel right for me. However, much like Dave I understand why someone would be motivated to spend the cash.

 

Camping is a game design flaw (and was particularly bad in EQ). I don't think the players should have to pay real money to get around things the game designers should be fixing (via instanced dungeons, random spawning locations, etc.). I played EQ for at least 2 years.

The problem is that years later, the MMO genre suffers from the EXACT same problems with very few exceptions. World of Warcraft has a grind but it hides it very well with some fantastic content that keeps the player going. City of Heroes works around its grind by giving players the ability to power level easily and ramping up money very quickly as you get higher level. Guild Wars lets you create a PVP character off the bat without even touching the single player game and outfit them with loot and skills. These are all exceptions of course and some of these examples are simply excellent ways to mask the underlying problem. A lot of these issues could be alleviated by the designers themselves.

 

Sony is taking a big step by providing a means to do these transactions. Sony also used to provide a character transfer service for a small fee. You could move your character to any server you wanted in that regard. So in those instances where friends start over in a different server, you could take your character there too. Dark Age of Camelot implemented a system where every player who had at least one level 50 could create alternate toons starting at level 20. These are all small solutions that can help to alleviate alot of these types of exploited transactions and grind avoidance by players. The problem is these are very specific instances that are not taken advantage of across the board.

 

The reason I like City of Heroes is that with it's sidekick system, I can create a new character and team up with people of any level. Sure I may not be nearly as effective as someone of that security level but at least I can help out (and will level quickly). Or they can exemplar down to my level.

Great! Not every MMO has that excellent, well thought out system. The world of MMO gaming would be far more pleasant if it did. See when I we sit down to play a game like World of Warcraft or Dark Age of Camelot there are level limits. If my buddy is 6 levels above me in WoW, my XP rate goes to shit. When I played Dark Age, if I grouped with a friend who was five levels higher than me, I would get barely no XP from kills. So in these instances I'm forced to try and keep up with my friends or else I'm screwed. No wonderful sidekick system to fall back on.

 

The reality is that the main goal of the developers behind these games is to keep you paying that monthly fee. If that means slowing down the amount of XP you get, nerfing skills, changing loot drops, etc. That is exactly what they are going to do.

 

Anarchy Online is a great example of this. When the game was first released folks were hitting level 200 in a very short amount of time. Funcom took huge steps to nerf the amount of XP awarded and do everything they could to slow down level gain to a screeching halt.

 

The fun behind the game should be in creating more characters and experiencing good content with those characters. In this case, the reality was a lot more harsh.

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I paid $11 for 100G in WoW when my character was lvl15, and it was a great investment. Contrary to the belief that it robs me of some play experience, it has actually increased my play experience. By having a wad of cash in the bank, I don't spend a lot of time worrying about looting, farming for items, etc... I just play the game. A lot of that farming crap is just in the game to slow down your levelling and increase your subscription length.

 

A side benefit is that it gave me 'seed money' for playing the market in the auction house. I'm lvl 37, and this weekend I made 50g in the auction house. This has been one of my favorite parts of thegame, and would not have been possible without a wad of cash to make some investments. Approaching 40, I'm in a position to help friends buy mounts.

 

I had figured that it was some high lvl character selling off excess money, so it's unfortunate to hear about what is going on. That said, I do take some offense it calling it a sweatshop. A true sweatshop is horrible. It's dangerous, works ppl (often children) to the bone, and pays almost nothing. This here, well, it's long hours and very little pay. But it's actually pretty decent conditions, and it sounds like they just click a mouse. And you can bet they chat in-game all day long. A far cry from a true 'sweatshop'.

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Yeah, and when I made my third character on a different server (since I wanted to play on an opposing side of the war) the amount of money I had meant nothing.

 

My apologies to you, Romier. I did not realize you were talking about creating a new character on a different server from your level 50 characters.

 

EDIT: Also, let me add that it's apparent you haven't played Dark Age of Camelot at the high level stage back when it was released. Even in my early 40's I was farming for money. DAOC does not work like City of Heroes where you end up with 9 million influence with no issues. When housing was released in Dark Age, the amount of money to buy and own a house (you were charged monthly in-game fees) was ridiculously high. Smaller guilds could barely afford to keep a guild hall and single players could forget it all together. I would hope that mythic adjusted these particular prices over time but in my day, money was not an easy thing to come by, even for full level capped characters.

 

I did play DAoC back when it was released but I only played it for a few months (and my character was not high level at all). I know when I was playing EQ, plat becomes basically worthless to high level characters so I know it's not just a CoH thing.

 

..and your speaking from the perspective of City of Heroes which is the dream game for power levelers since you can just stand there while higher level players gain you 20 levels in two hours without you lifting a finger. (I know as I?ve been the player standing there ) City of Heroes is an extremely well designed game in that regard as it is very open to those possibilities even to newbies who may not have made friends.

 

I have also played EQ (for about 2 years), UO (about 1 year when it first came out), CoH (about a year and counting), FFXI (about 3 months), WoW (about a couple of weeks at the most), and DAoC (mentioned above). From my experience in those non-CoH games, twinking (with cash and equipment) can be pretty effective substitute for CoH-style powerlevelling. The various levels/mobs of all the games are designed (difficulty-wise) for a character with an assumed non-twinked range of cash and an assumed non-twink range of equipment. So getting twinked with cash/equipment can allow a player to earn XP at a far greater rate than they could with "average" cash/equipment. Even with minimum level requirements on items (to prevent say a level 1 from having a level 40 item), just having more cash is still a great boon for your XP rate as you could outfit your character with the best tradeable/buyable equipment he could possibly have for his level. Of course, you still have to kill stuff (you're not just standing around while someone else does all the work like in CoH!), but it will be at least be at a much quicker, and safer pace.

 

Of course the rub there is that Cryptic doesn?t seem to have any problem with this. Power leveling is possible in many MMO?s out there but for the most part MMO developers DISCOURAGE it?s use. Some go as far as to try and put a stop to it immediately by plugging up power leveling avenues as they don?t want their players gaining levels too fast and subsequently cancelling their subscriptions.

 

The reality is that the main goal of the developers behind these games is to keep you paying that monthly fee. If that means slowing down the amount of XP you get, nerfing skills, changing loot drops, etc. That is exactly what they are going to do.

 

I would think that players would cancel their subscriptions (possibly in larger droves), not from getting to the highest level, but from the increased grind (as developers "nerf" things to slow player advancement down) making the game no fun anymore.

 

The problem is that years later, the MMO genre suffers from the EXACT same problems with very few exceptions. World of Warcraft has a grind but it hides it very well with some fantastic content that keeps the player going. City of Heroes works around its grind by giving players the ability to power level easily and ramping up money very quickly as you get higher level. Guild Wars lets you create a PVP character off the bat without even touching the single player game and outfit them with loot and skills. These are all exceptions of course and some of these examples are simply excellent ways to mask the underlying problem. A lot of these issues could be alleviated by the designers themselves.

 

The thing I was talking about in my quote you used was specifically camping (is a game design flaw), where you have to sit there and wait (possibly for hours) for a rare spawn to come and everybody looking for that rare spawn had to do the same at the same spot (which is where EQ got some of its many nicknames, EverCamp and NeverQuest). Exile brought up uber hard 50+ hour camps to get ultra-rare items and I was responding to that. I think the grind is inherent in the MMORPG genre, but I agree with you about newer games like WoW, CoH, and GW better masking the grind and making it not seem like a grind. That's good game design (or at least much better game design).

 

Sony is taking a big step by providing a means to do these transactions. Sony also used to provide a character transfer service for a small fee. You could move your character to any server you wanted in that regard. So in those instances where friends start over in a different server, you could take your character there too. Dark Age of Camelot implemented a system where every player who had at least one level 50 could create alternate toons starting at level 20. These are all small solutions that can help to alleviate alot of these types of exploited transactions and grind avoidance by players. The problem is these are very specific instances that are not taken advantage of across the board.

 

To me, by continuing to play (and pay for) a game that virtually requires a player to spend additional real money to get by flaws in the game design, the player is basically endorsing the game design flaws with their silence. Why would a developer fix any problems in a game if the players don't hit them where it hurts, by cancelling their subscriptions (and moving on to other games)?

 

Great! Not every MMO has that excellent, well thought out system. The world of MMO gaming would be far more pleasant if it did. See when I we sit down to play a game like World of Warcraft or Dark Age of Camelot there are level limits. If my buddy is 6 levels above me in WoW, my XP rate goes to shit. When I played Dark Age, if I grouped with a friend who was five levels higher than me, I would get barely no XP from kills. So in these instances I'm forced to try and keep up with my friends or else I'm screwed. No wonderful sidekick system to fall back on.

 

I went through that with Everquest. You could all agree to play alts to keep everyone in the same level range. Again, this is trying to work around a problem with the game itself but if you're all going to stick with the game, it's something to try.

 

Anarchy Online is a great example of this. When the game was first released folks were hitting level 200 in a very short amount of time. Funcom took huge steps to nerf the amount of XP awarded and do everything they could to slow down level gain to a screeching halt.

 

The fun behind the game should be in creating more characters and experiencing good content with those characters. In this case, the reality was a lot more harsh.

 

I agree completely. A game is supposed to be a fun diversion. When it's no longer fun, there are too many other games and activities out there to enjoy instead.

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To me it dosnt matter if people pay for gold, weapons and so on. Thats there business. I can see why someone would want to . Pay some cash to save them dozens of hours of gameplay to get gold to buy certain items, so they can skip right to the story stuff.

 

capt

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I know when I was playing EQ, plat becomes basically worthless to high level characters so I know it's not just a CoH thing.

Sure, but you see my underlying point that not all games work on the basis of money being useless when you reach the end game. That's not always the case.

 

I have also played EQ (for about 2 years), UO (about 1 year when it first came out), CoH (about a year and counting), FFXI (about 3 months), WoW (about a couple of weeks at the most), and DAoC (mentioned above). From my experience in those non-CoH games, twinking (with cash and equipment) can be pretty effective substitute for CoH-style powerlevelling. The various levels/mobs of all the games are designed (difficulty-wise) for a character with an assumed non-twinked range of cash and an assumed non-twink range of equipment. So getting twinked with cash/equipment can allow a player to earn XP at a far greater rate than they could with "average" cash/equipment. Even with minimum level requirements on items (to prevent say a level 1 from having a level 40 item), just having more cash is still a great boon for your XP rate as you could outfit your character with the best tradeable/buyable equipment he could possibly have for his level. Of course, you still have to kill stuff (you're not just standing around while someone else does all the work like in CoH!), but it will be at least be at a much quicker, and safer pace.

Definitely! I certainly didn't want to make it seem like these games don't offer that. I even noted that there are many forms of powerleveling. I don't disagree with you there one bit. For the most part, it's a matter of how convenient a player finds that type of farming/leveling. You could twink/powerlevel a character for 15 hours to amass a bunch of gold for instance. Or pay 20 bucks and in less than hour get the same amount of gold to get you to a point where you can enjoy other aspects of the game. It's a decision and I don't necessarily think either one is wrong.

 

There's also the developer stance on twinking/powerleveling/buff bots etc. as I noted above. It's generally something devs try to discourage. That comes back to the inherent design issues of the genre itself.

 

To me, by continuing to play (and pay for) a game that virtually requires a player to spend additional real money to get by flaws in the game design, the player is basically endorsing the game design flaws with their silence. Why would a developer fix any problems in a game if the players don't hit them where it hurts, by cancelling their subscriptions (and moving on to other games)?

Where you're wrong is in saying these games virtually require you to have to spend real world money to get past these obstacles. This method of "getting ahead" is purely a convenience. You can achieve these same goals in-game by playing it straight and not spending a penny past your monthly fee (those are a whole other debate. ;) ).

 

I would think that players would cancel their subscriptions (possibly in larger droves), not from getting to the highest level, but from the increased grind (as developers "nerf" things to slow player advancement down) making the game no fun anymore.

 

I agree completely. A game is supposed to be a fun diversion. When it's no longer fun, there are too many other games and activities out there to enjoy instead.

It's not as cut and dried is my point Masta. I agree with alot of what you said in fact. The main problem is that many players see a great many things they enjoy about a game like Everquest for instance, but don't want to have to work through certain undesireable aspects to get to the fun stuff. Alot of players aren't just going to abandon the game without giving it a second look. That's the reality.

 

The main point I'm trying to illustrate is that these type of transactions exist BECAUSE of that. You said you didn't understand the reasons, and well I'm basically giving them all to you. ;) I don't agree with your assesment that on every occasion it's "sad" that someone resorts to using real money to get ahead. There are plenty of occasions when I can completely see things from the players point of view because I've played just about every single one of these games on the market and I've been there myself at times.

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Pay some cash to save them dozens of hours of gameplay to get gold to buy certain items, so they can skip right to the story stuff.

The problem with this is that most if not all MMORPG's don't care about the story and most people playing it don't either. The story is window dressing at best.

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Instead I think of it as paying real-world money to save a boatload of real-world time, much in the same way I might pay a kid to mow my grass despite having both the equipment and the ability to do it myself.

 

What this says to me, rather than it being reasonable to buy your advancement with cash, is that you really need to go out and find a game more entertaining than lawnmowing. All grinding is evidence that the game isn't good enough to make it entertaining to play yourself.

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Sure, but you see my underlying point that not all games work on the basis of money being useless when you reach the end game. That's not always the case.

 

Yes, I do. I made an incorrect assumption about DAoC at high levels. Thanks for setting me straight.

 

Definitely! I certainly didn't want to make it seem like these games don't offer that. I even noted that there are many forms of powerleveling. I don't disagree with you there one bit. For the most part, it's a matter of how convenient a player finds that type of farming/leveling. You could twink/powerlevel a character for 15 hours to amass a bunch of gold for instance. Or pay 20 bucks and in less than hour get the same amount of gold to get you to a point where you can enjoy other aspects of the game. It's a decision and I don't necessarily think either one is wrong.

 

In my experiences with UO, EQ, and CoH, you just end up with alot of stuff that character may not need during normal play so you don't have to specifically farm just to get stuff for another character. Saving it and transferring it to another character (or selling it and transferring the gold) would only take a matter of minutes (assuming you had someone you could trust ready). But I do realize not all MMORPGs may not be like this and see your point about convenience. It does bring up this thought if we project out into the future... where does this real money for virtual stuff trend go in MMORPGs (particularly with first party-supported transactions like Sony's trying out)? Instead of platinum, gold, influence, etc., it uses real money in-game (PayPal/debit card/credit card?) to both buy and sell? I think there's already some game called Second Life (?) or something like that where players buy virtual stuff with real money and players make real money by leasing virtual land, etc. to other players (there was an article in the L.A. Times about this not too long ago).

 

There's also the developer stance on twinking/powerleveling/buff bots etc. as I noted above. It's generally something devs try to discourage. That comes back to the inherent design issues of the genre itself.

 

I agree. But I think they should always weigh that against the enjoyment of people who may not be doing that too. For example, artifiicially slowing down player advancement because some hardcore players hit the max level a month after launch only does a disservice to the average gamer who may not have the social connections nor the time to level at that rate. Those hardcore gamers are probably not the ones who will continue to play the game anyway (they will most likely move on to the next new game to "beat" it) and the additional grind will kill off the average player's interest in the game.

 

Where you're wrong is in saying these games virtually require you to have to spend real world money to get past these obstacles. This method of "getting ahead" is purely a convenience. You can achieve these same goals in-game by playing it straight and not spending a penny past your monthly fee (those are a whole other debate. ).

 

I think the people fueling this industry (and profiting from it) might disagree with you. And with Sony getting into this business (and all other MMORPG developers watching their success/failure closely), it may soon become the norm. Like you said, there's always an alternative (earning it the hard way), but if players don't perceive that as realistic or attainable by them, then perception often becomes reality and players either quit or pay real money.

 

It's not as cut and dried is my point Masta. I agree with alot of what you said in fact. The main problem is that many players see a great many things they enjoy about a game like Everquest for instance, but don't want to have to work through certain undesireable aspects to get to the fun stuff. Alot of players aren't just going to abandon the game without giving it a second look. That's the reality.

 

Obviously MMORPGs have an addictive quality that makes them hard to stop playing (the friends you make, the characters you've spent so much time playing, etc.). There's proof of that all over the news of MMORPG widows, babies dying because their parents were too busy playing an MMORPG, etc. But at some point (particularly with this trend towards paying real money for virtual items), I would think that everyone has to draw the line and say "This is too much money to spend to continue playing this game!", right? I draw that line at the monthly subscription fee. If I feel a game basically requires me to pay additional real money to alleviate the grind or other artificial dampeners of level advancement, that's where I draw the line and move on.

 

The main point I'm trying to illustrate is that these type of transactions exist BECAUSE of that. You said you didn't understand the reasons, and well I'm basically giving them all to you. I don't agree with your assesment that on every occasion it's "sad" that someone resorts to using real money to get ahead. There are plenty of occasions when I can completely see things from the players point of view because I've played just about every single one of these games on the market and I've been there myself at times.

 

Thanks for taking the time to provide the reasons, Romier. However, it doesn't change why I think it's "sad":

 

1) I feel players are depriving themselves of the experience and joy of earning something. Is the ending of a book still powerful without the preceding chapters? Is ultra-rare item X more or less valuable because it was earned, not bought? That may not be everyone's cup of tea, I'll agree, but it doesn't mean that I can't think that's sad (not just in terms of gaming but in society's whole march towards instant gratification).

 

2) I don't think players should feel like they have to pay real money to "get ahead" when the actual issues are flaws in the game design. Working around it instead of letting the game developers know what they think (and are serious about) by voting with their wallets gives the game developers no reason to fix the issues or improve the game design at all.

 

I guess we will have to agree to disagree on this. But I do appreciate the time and thought you put into your posts, Romier, and always enjoy discussing things civilly here at LCVG. :)

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What this says to me, rather than it being reasonable to buy your advancement with cash, is that you really need to go out and find a game more entertaining than lawnmowing. All grinding is evidence that the game isn't good enough to make it entertaining to play yourself.

 

You have a point, but there is an arc to every MMO I've played, and some players may not enjoy parts of that arc and thus may wish to spend extra money to skip it. The arc goes something like this:

 

Levels 1-15 go fairly quickly and are usually pretty fun as you are constantly gaining new powers, equipment, spells, what-have-you. Quests are basic fetch-and-carry or simple kill quests that get repetitive after a while but are quick enough that the 12th time you have to run them you can just grit your teeth a little and get through them.

 

Levels 15-25 take a lot longer to go through, but they still aren't too bad as you usually start advancing towards the more powerful abilities your class offers. Missions take a bit longer and start to chain together, and there are often some "elite" missions thrown in whether it's task forces, elite dungeons, etc. Time-consuming, but fun for the first few times. Upon repetition, though, these can get pretty aggravating.

 

Levels 25-Max (usu. 50 or 60), each level seems to take twice as long as the previous, and in addition to the story-advancing missions some form of grinding is usually necessary to advance. Elite dungeons can often take a good party a few hours to go through, and going through them more than twice can get very aggravating. Story missions are more scarce and often at a higher level than what you can handle on your own, and you have to rely on random groups or guild mates to do almost anything. Soloing usually involves farming an area of mobs a few levels below you for experience, gold, skins, etc.

 

Max Level, the game changes from experience-grinding to item-grinding and depending on the game, high level PvP. Emphasis is on forming large groups to take on some kind of uber-boss, guild-building, walking members through lower-level dungeons, perfecting your crafting skills, playing the auction house, maybe buying a guild hall, etc.

 

Now, if you enjoy the max level gameplay but deplore the grinding necessary to get there, that's where the lawn-mowing analogy comes in. Ideally, yes, the game will be captivating from level 1 to level 100 every time you run through it, but the simple fact is no matter how much content is added and no matter how willing your guildmates are to let you powerlevel off of them, that middle part is boring as hell after you've done it a few times. Paying someone so you can skip that part isn't a big deal to me. Doesn't make the game bad, and if you really enjoy being a level 60 and doing level 60 type stuff it doesn't even mean it's time to find a new game. It's just a shortcut to reduce the part of the game you don't like playing in order to get to the part you do enjoy.

 

One can draw the analogy that it's like skipping to the end of the book and depriving oneself of the joy of reading it start to finish, but what I'm talking about is more along the lines of going to the final chapter of a book you've read all the way through several times before because it happens to be your favorite chapter.

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The whole gold for cash thing seemed like a good example of a free market to me. Something is perceived as being desirable and therefore it has monetary value.

 

As far as it wrecking the game's economy, I think that's a little blown out of proportion by the companies themselves. I'm sure it affects the economy, but it's not like they are creating hacked gold out of the air. Someone is sitting there 'farming' the materials just like anyone else. If anything, I think companies are pissed because a 3rd party is making a profit by allowing a customer to short circuit the leveling path and therefore shortening the amount of time they can milk that customer through those levels. Or another way of saying it is that the farmer is so efficient at making gold that his one account can help 5 other accounts skip months of playing by selling them his gold.

 

It reminds me of the scene in Casino where the mob bosses are pissed about the criminals they employ to 'skim' illegal money for them are 'skimming' some for themselves in the process. How dare they steal our money that they helped us steal in the first place! Who do they think they are?

 

If you really wanted to limit the farming, you could make it so that a character/account can only receive a set number of rare/super rare drops in a 24 hour period. Once you hit that number you are done for the day. It would really cripple a lot of the farmers (or maybe not as it might just drive the price of rares / super rares through the roof making it still profitable?)

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As far as it wrecking the game's economy, I think that's a little blown out of proportion by the companies themselves. I'm sure it affects the economy, but it's not like they are creating hacked gold out of the air. Someone is sitting there 'farming' the materials just like anyone else.

In EQ's case a chunk of money(several hundred million plat) was created by an exploit that was finally taken care of. It was too late though as it inflated the value of everything. Since everyone has pockets full of dough, prices went substantially up and never came back down.

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