Meet Camryn Mallor: race: Human; class: Trader; a Star Wars Galaxies shipwright with a nerdy starwars-esque name and a dream: to build (and sell) the fastest star fighter engine in the galaxy.
Guys like me don’t play MMOs for the PvP combat. We don’t do it for the endless stream of quest-lines with the promise of gold at the end of the rainbow. I was after the coin… errr credits. I wanted to build a galactic trading empire and reputation like Lando Calrissian with a name (almost) as fly. To drive any ship I wanted. To own any house on any planet I wanted, and dress with a cape.
Keep all that in mind as the player-driven-economist argues against the way things have gone, the things you may like: those kickass quest rewards, your combat/craftsmen class-in-one, and yes, “free” online gaming.
Throw me a freakin’ bone here… please.
Don’t get me wrong, the player-driven economist enjoys an adventure with the promise of treasure as much as the next guy. Who doesn’t like gathering together a party of regular fantasy heroes and taking on some NPC bad guys? Or NPC good guys if that’s your thing… Who doesn’t like bringing home that shimmering sword that gives the ridiculous number of hit points so unique that only you and all your friends afterwards can get it once you’ve repeated the same quest-line 6 times?
It’s not that I don’t a enjoy it, but can you throw us craftsmen a bone, please?
Just a tiny morsel?
Why would you buy something simply worse from me when, if you apply yourself, maybe you can get it for free? (Thank you, George Costanza economics) Lo… that sword, that suit of armor, that space ship everyone wants (what the hell is an aluminum falcon?)
I know that questing has become an essential part of the MMO, as it should be, but when does it stop? When there is a quest reward answer for every class and race, for every look, land, and world better than the one you can buy from your local craftsman class vendor, why would you buy from your local craftsman class vendor?!
What’s more, when you offer quest rewards that are the superior products across the board, it starts to homogenize the universe. Instead of an eclectic world of crafted items, no two alike, suddenly every smuggler is wielding the same blaster, every bounty hunter flying the same ship. A trite world is a boring world.
The player-driven economist thought he was special.
Camryn Mallor, alone on a starry Mustafar night, kneels next to a lava flow extracting rare metals by hand (because you are not allowed to build mining facilities on the expansion planet). Mustafar has the purest metals and gases in the galaxy: the perfect pieces to build the most refined star fighter engine in the galaxy.
Fast-forward to a Cantina on Tatooine. In trade talks with a Light-saber wielding wookie, Camryn pitches the superfast engine.
“It’s too heavy.” The chat window reads. “Why would I buy it when I could just get my Trader character to reverse engineer a lighter one?”
Camryn’s heart sinks, tears well up in his avatar eyes, his cape wearing dream begins to fade… what was it all for?
The trouble with allowing multiple character slots or combining craftsmen with combat classes is, at the end of the day, your mother was wrong: you’re not special. You’re just like everyone else.
But if you must allow multiple character slots, fine! Just make it hard to be craft class. Make it long and arduous. Make it… boring.
Fortheloveofpete, don’t make it easy!
Take Galaxies and the case of the reverse engineering Jedi wookie woman. RE (as we shall call it) was a way for players to combine looted items (and only looted items), to create a single superior version of the item. RE gave the Trader a shortcut pass the very labor-intensive crafting process. One had to collect/harvest resources, acquire the skills, equipment and facilities to craft, and put their own signature touch on the finished product. And while RE was only available to Traders, with two character slots per universe, any combat class worth her salt could pair a Jedi and Trader class, RE any component she wanted from the vast sums of loot she gathered bulldozing through the galaxy, never needing to invest the time or the resources to learn and grow her trade.
The coup de gras: You-Pay-For-What-You-Get
When Disneyland opened in 1955 it followed a much different sales model than it does today, though one you’ve probably seen it before.
Ever been to the fair?
They lure you in with admission that’s cheap or free, but then you have to buy all those little tickets… those seemingly-inexpensive-but-when-added-together-enough-to-go-on-a-few-decent-rides-omg-I-came-here-with-a-100-dollar-bill-but-now-I’ve-overdrawn-my-account tickets.
So it was with Disneyland: a true pay-for-what-you-get experience. Want to fly high on a plastic Dumbo not unlike the one you could ride for a quarter outside of your grocery store? That’ll be one ticket please. Be serenaded by robot pirates on a pleasure cruise? 4 tickets please. The kind of experience was dictated by the amount of cash leaving the customer’s wallet.
At some point the Disneyland brass decided that a one-time ridiculous entry fee giving you the keys to the “magic” kingdom was a better (more profitable) way.
Why have I elevated this post to this new level of nerd, you ask?
Because the world of MMO did the same thing… in reverse. And in both cases, the player-driven economist wishes they hadn’t.
Pay-to-Play is being abandoned for what I call the “Pay-for-what-you-get” model. In MMOs today every virtual thing is for sale: color schemes, equipment, character leveling… even in game money itself. Instead of a one-time-fee giving everyone a level playing field, there is a class distinction between the spenders and spend-nots. And while I think this is a great model for the theme park going kid-in-a-candy-store with the parents who just want to eat, it is the death blow to the player-driven economist, and all of Camryn Mallor’s dreams.
I need not explain to you what selling in game merc outside of game does to the player-driven economies. You already know. The sellers of the game have cut out the middle man, and the middle men are the craftsmen classes. The influx of “bought” money means players don’t know the value of in game currency, putting the in game businessman at an impossible disadvantage.
Even Pirates of the Burning Sea, a libertarian created in game laissez-faire economy, and a dream of an MMO to the player-driven economist, wasn’t immune. Want more warehouse space? Pay more money. More plots of land? More money.
In short, in a world where you pay for what you get, the player-driven economist would much rather pay-to-play.