Thursday, October 26, 2006

RMT's Relationship with World of Warcraft

I've written my thoughts on real money transfers several times in forums but never on my blog. Its a very polarized subject matter and several online personalities I respect disagree with my views on the matter. If you read my post about keyloggers then you know that I've watched a professional gold thief loot a friend's account then advertise the site he was going to be selling the gold at. Nothing sends a chill down your spine like having a real life friend's game character speak broken english and advertise gold. You know that the next day he'll log in naked in the gutters of Stormwind with all his money gone.

Besides having a couple friends fall victim to keyloggers and being looted, I've also noticed a constant stream of gold selling advertising in game. They love to send messages in your mailbox, in your chat channels and sometimes just randomly send tells to you. Last night I actually had three messages in my mailbox advertising gold, a new personal record! Well the recent spat of gold advertising has made me put aside my reservations about such a polarized subject and get down to the nitty gritty of RMT. Most of the points I'm making are from inside the point of view of World of Warcraft but they can be applied to most MMORPGs.

RMT's effect on the WoW economy
One of the most argued about points in the RMT debate is whether it hurts virtual world economies. In World of Warcraft the effect of RMT can be seen in the auction house. Prices of items that are commonly dropped at level sixty are greatly reduced as farmers keep a constant supply of them in the auction house. This effectively lowers the value of these items much more then if just players were putting the items up for sale.
There is a inversely proportional relationship between supply and demand and if you increase the supply side much faster then the demand you get a lowering of value for the item. RMT effectively reduces the ability of players to make money themselves. What you end up getting is a system that encourages the buying of gold from farmers since earning it yourself becomes much harder then it should. Thus the cost of expensive items (like epic mounts) at level sixty become much more time intensive to get without buying gold.

RMT effectively creates chokepoints in content
Farmer accounts are usually in use 24/7 with multiple people working on the account in round robin fashion. Thus the account's characters are always in the game tying up content. While this isn't too hard to deal with if you are of the opposing faction it can be a real pain to those on the same side. Trying to complete a Kill Ten Rats (sorry Oz and Ethic couldn't resist) quest on mobs being farmed by professionals is almost impossible.

RMT encourages shady behavior
The only real penalty for breaking a company's EULA is the lost of your account. Thus any act that earns you more real world money then the cost of a new account becomes a good investment. This is why you get scams, keyloggers, and bots in World of Warcraft even though GMs suspend accounts that engage in such behavior. The amount of players is so huge in WoW that by the time a GM has started to investigate an accusation of shady behavior a profit has already been made on the activity.

RMT probably violates digital copyright law.
Virtual game items have not been specifically identified in any legislation regarding digital copyrights. The reason for this is that the last couple of laws on the matter happened before MMO games became popular. However, the laws that cover other digital mediums such as movies, music, and software can easily be applied to virtual game property. Basically the act of purchasing digital information doesn't give you the right to resell it since it is someone else's intellectual property.

RMT breaks the EULA
The EULA is a contract and is thus enforceable only as a civil matter and not a legal one. You won’t go to jail for breaking a EULA. The main purpose in having one is so that the company can avoid lawsuits when they cancel accounts that engage in behavior they disagree with. It will also probably be used the first time a virtual property ownership case goes to court. Mainly if you agree to a contract which clearly states you don't own anything in game then your position to argue ownership is greatly decreased.

RMT advertising is annoying
It appears everywhere in game and manages to get into any advertising space remotely related to a game. Half the time the ads that appear on my blog are probably for gold buying services. It breaks the immersion of the game and kind of breaks the fairness of it.

RMT spawns bad players
Its true and don’t you deny it. The amount of people who appear in World of Warcraft with Tier-2 armor and no idea of their class abilities is astounding. Now not everyone of them is using a bought account, I am sure some are just regular idiots. Yet the number remains high enough to convince me that a lot of account selling goes on. Normally I wouldn’t care but I love doing instances and pvp which means I occasionally have to make Pick-Up-Groups. If you’ve been in more then one PUG group then you know that there is a large amount of people who apparently made it to sixty without learning anything about the game. And not all of them are hunters and rogues either!

I have a decent job with good pay and I have a fair amount of free time since I am not married (hint hint ladies). So the reason I disapprove of RMT isn't because I can't afford to buy gold. Instead the reason is more of RMT's effect on the fun factor of any MMORPG. It introduces a lot of negative elements to the game and really does detract from the overall enjoyment you can pull from the game. People need to realize that you don't really need a lot of time to make money in a MMORPG and that every time you buy gold you are sucking away the ability of players to earn items w. I think my next post will probably be about some of the arguments people use to support RMT. If I get linked to a lot on this post I know there will be some in my comments.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

What is your opinion on powerleveling services? I have several friends that elected to use those services when we rerolled on a new server.

Now they weren't using the service to get to 60 before everyone else. A few guys just didn't want to get left behind by their friends and family. One other person is getting a PVP character leveled on a different account, so he can focus on raiding with his main.

I personally wouldn't risk giving my account info to anyone. I have way too much time invested in my various characters. I could see the second account option, but I don't want to pay for two subscriptions at this time. Just curious what you think.

Relmstein said...

Powerleveling services tend to not effect the economy or tie up content as much as straight up farming.

The only thing it tends to do is get people in the high levels without knowing a lot of thier class abilities. Plus there is a risk of having someone know your account information.

Tobold said...

Relmstein, you fall into the familiar trap of attributing every possible evil in WoW to RMT. For example your last point of people in tier 2 armor not knowing how to play their class, that is certainly *not* due to gold farmers. Gold farmers don't sell chars in tier 2 armor, it takes too much time (and a guild) to get that sort of equipment. More likely somebody playing the char of his older brother or a friend.

People behaving badly, hogging farm spots, using cheating bot software, etc., is also not exclusive to gold farmers. Farming 1000 gold for an epic mount encourages such bad behavior, whether that farming is done by the person who will later ride that mount, or by somebody he pays.

I would like to see a game without gold farmers, but the only way to do it is not to have stupid money sinks. It is a question of game design, not a question of being able to police player behavior.

Wiggly said...

Rather like prostitution, one wonders who the users of gold services are - seeing as nobody actually puts their hand up and says "Yes, I buy gold".

Very interesting observations, I do wonder if gold farmers actually farm instances for loot, rather than just relying on a bot to wait until that mob drops the 0.1% items. Relying on sheer time played toget something, rather than requiring skill (and assuming you can't bot MC for example).

I also wonder if gold selling is more of a casual player's thing, rather than a hardcore player's - and does this really effect those raiding ? As Tobold says, can you really just buy all that uber gear without ever having done a raid, as most of it is BOP ?

So as such, is there really as much effect on keen raiders from RMTed up casuals ? Do the later not just tend to duel/PVP for a bit of fun - raiding for 5 hours is fairly boring. If you have cut out the "boring" grind by buying gold are you really likely to then do something boring, or do you just hoon around in your epics flexing muscles ?

Other than the "devaluing" of higher end rewards (as Tobold blogged), does someone using bought gold to buy an epic mount really change your game THAT much ?

Relmstein said...

Tier-2 equipped people not knowing how to play isn't a result of gold farmers but it is a result of RMT. I define RMT as people trading real money for in game currency or items.

High cost items don't encourage bad behavior in most normal players. They have an investment in their characters and a ban or suspension effects them. Farmers however don't mind the risk since they are simply concerned with the amount of money they made with the account not any sort of in game progress.

As to whether casuals or raiders support RMT more then the other, its probably about even. Some casuals buy gold to get bind on equip rares and epics, and some raiding guilds use RMT to supplement repair and potion costs.

Bill Gorman said...

"Thus the cost of expensive items (like epic mounts) at level sixty become much more time intensive to get without buying gold."

Gold farming does distort the WoW economy, but for individual players it's effect isn't as certain as you imply.

My opinion is that gold farming causes generalized inflation in the WoW economy. Gold farmers produce gold by farming infinitely respawning mobs, but "consume" little gold themselves, instead passing it to others in game. That leads to more gold in the hands of "consumers" which causes the prices of traded items to increase.

However, mount prices [your example]are *fixed* and their supply is infinite, so if you're after a fixed price item, the ability to sell other items at a generally inflated rate *helps* you get that item.

However, if you're after a traded item, and are farming to get it, the generalized inflation hurts you.

Also, and others have already commented on this, you won't see tier 2 epics on gold buyers, there aren't any T2 BOE items, and there are only 2 [belt, bracers?] T1 BOE epics per class.

Gold buyers can epic themselves up to a point, but only raiders can get most of the T1 and any of the T2 epics in the game today.

Not saying raiders can't be gold buyers, but T2 wearers *have* to have earned them the old fashioned way ;)

Kaziel said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kaziel said...

Gold farmers produce gold by farming infinitely respawning mobs, but "consume" little gold themselves, instead passing it to others in game. That leads to more gold in the hands of "consumers" which causes the prices of traded items to increase.
However, mount prices [your example]are *fixed* and their supply is infinite, so if you're after a fixed price item, the ability to sell other items at a generally inflated rate *helps* you get that item.

One of the points Relmstein brought up is that Gold Farmers also monopolize or at least limit "normal players" from access to high value mobs. As a result they have two options: Fight the Gold Farmers for claims on said mobs, but get less mobs over all, or go to less ideal areas and farm mobs at a faster rate, but with slower gain of items. This isn't a huge issue with WoW, but in other games, such as FFXI it is a much more noticeable issue.

Relmstein said...

Bill Gorman:

I find that farmers keep the tradable level 60 item prices down by keeping a large supply of them in the AH. Of course these are the same items that most players who are saving for an epic mount earn.

The gold inflation introduced by farmers really hit the prices of lower level items the hardest. Eventually it becomes so high that only twinks can afford any tradable item.

When I am talking about RMT causing Tier-2 players who nothing about the game, I am referring to account buying not buying gold to get gear.

Bill Gorman said...

"When I am talking about RMT causing Tier-2 players who nothing about the game, I am referring to account buying not buying gold to get gear."

I am 100% with you there. I have only encountered a few instances of folks who have bought epic'd accounts, but my playstyle wouldn't usually cause me to notice them, so I have no idea how widespread the problem is.