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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
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    Gold Sellers Want You

    I've been giving this subject a lot of consideration lately. Gold farming is obviously a tremendous hit on your in-game economy, as well as a significant threat to security, a' la account theft, etc...

    The main purpose of this post is to get the discussion started about how exactly to deal with this issue. If this has been addressed elsewhere I apologize as it didn't come up in the search, or I was just lazy and didn't look very far for it.

    It seems to me the best way to address the issue is to define the problem and break it down. So..

    --Gold Farming is the exchange of in-game currency for real-world cash...obviously.--

    This begs the question, how can you stop something that you cannot control? Well actually you DO control half of the equation, which is the in-game economy.

    1. If the in-game economy is inextricably linked to the real world economy, then the obvious solution would be to break that chain, leaving your in-game economy isolated from the world.

    2.There are only a few ways to accomplish number one, and almost all that I can think of require placing restrictions on currency flow within the game, because you cannot control the actions of people without a valid enforcement method.

    3. Placing currency restrictions in-game can be subverted. A transfer limit can be got around by splitting the sum into parts. If there is to be an auction house or similar setup, one could transfer unlimited amounts in exchange for useless goods..etc.

    4.Restrictive controls on the economy might anger some players. Would it be enough to make them quit playing? I don't believe the majority of players purchase gold, so could you use it as a deterrent by creating a bandwagon effect and
    getting the non-gold-buyers on your side, thereby strengthening your position?

    5. What types of restrictions could be imposed that would limit gold sellers ability to move their products, but not be too harsh on the players? One might consider a no currency transfer from player to player except through a server-controlled escrow house. Excluding account to account transfers so as not to restrict a player transferring currency to himself.

    6. A one-day wait on auction house transfers might be enough to dissuade players from using that method to transfer.

    Of course you also have account suspensions and various methods for dealing with violators, after the fact, but I really think that there could be more thought put into deterrence first.

    I have some serious views on account security too....

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2008
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    Obviously the best way to get rid of gold farmers is to just to allow players to buy in game currency with real world money, but that just becomes and exercise in who has the most money and not really about playing the game.

    You say "leaving your in-game economy isolated from the world." by adding restrictions in the flow of in game currency between players; I'm not convinced any of your ideas would actually stop gold sellers, sure they would make their life harder and harder, and eventually you will dive them out of your game ... but I fear you'll just drive players out as well. If you could frame these restrictions in a way to hide their anti-gold farming roots, to make them seem like part of the economy then it might work out ok. But things like a one-day wait on auction house is hard to sell any other way, especially since even today I can jump on eBay, or Amazon and buy something right now using paypal, with no waiting period other than postage. I'm not saying "Well that would be stupid since you can do it irl!" I'm just saying it would be hard to sell to players as anything other than a pain in the backside to stop gold farmers.

    I'm not sure what the best work around is, even the likes of Eve have issues with ISK sellers. However what they have done is allow players to make money flow the other way. Gold farmers do what they do because they can make money from people's laziness when they themselves don't mind putting in the work (or are locked in a Chinese prison in some cases if you believe the news reports). In eve any player can amass enough ISK to buy a A Pilot License Extension (PLEX), an in game item that can be used to extend your play time. They can then sell this on, AFAIK this includes selling it for real world money without braking the EULA. Obviously this exact approach only works with a subscription model. If there is a supported system for players to get something they could sell for real world money it would curb gold farming.

    Doing both: making it harder for gold farmers to do their thing, while disincentivizing them will make good inroads towards stopping them. The real issue is how to implement any system. Deciding what kind of things players can trade for real world money will be a task, if it's too critical it will focus the game on out of game money, too frivolous and no one will bother spending real money on it.

    Saying that, TF2 hats ...

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
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    Portsmouth, England
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    436
    Quote Originally Posted by NATO_chrisjm View Post
    Obviously the best way to get rid of gold farmers is to just to allow players to buy in game currency with real world money, but that just becomes and exercise in who has the most money and not really about playing the game.
    There are at least two better ways of getting rid of gold farmers:-

    1. Design the game so that gold is not needed to do anything interesting in the game.
    2. Design the game so that it's easy for a player that wants gold to earn it themselves.

    Of course if your game is all about trading like Eve then these are not options, but WoW did both these things to some extent which reduced gold farming activity. I'm not sure why they didn't take it to the logical conclusion and just get rid of gold altogether because if you know WoW well and think about it, gold is largely superfluous to the game experience: the best armor and weapons have never been tradeable; expensive items bought for gold like mounts could easily be earnt and paid for with non-tradeable quest items for example. Potions and exlirs used to be a big source of farming activity, but they have been nerfed to the point where they could remove them from the game and noone would care much.

  4. #4
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    Good points well made; however the way things are going it looks like we're going with quite a complex, player focused economy.

    However I'd argue that by removing, or trivialising in game currency you could risk damaging longevity, and effectively make most kinds of economy moot.

  5. #5
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    Jun 2010
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    Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
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    im a firm believer in building GM tools, why can't you create tools to monitor your players transactions, create auto parsers that monitor your sql information, so when you see large amounts being transfered it can auto flag those for your GM's to review and investigate, the same could be done with a real profanity filter system...it could be automated so that if a message to a general chat channel contains certain words, it's not allowed to be sent.

    Thats half the reason I left wow, tired of all the stupid kids taking over trade chat and making it beyond filthy with vulgarities and such. Im pretty confident if you sit down and design systems to monitor and report you can ban those people doing real world trades, again its only a small percentage of the player base doing it. That will leave your dev team to focus on making the game fun without you having to gimp anything.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
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    Quote Originally Posted by rhm View Post
    There are at least two better ways of getting rid of gold farmers:-

    1. Design the game so that gold is not needed to do anything interesting in the game.
    2. Design the game so that it's easy for a player that wants gold to earn it themselves.
    As to point #1, Gold is required for upgrades and enhancements to your character ( as in the WOW model and others) where gems and enchantments do cost money. The only alternative would be to create enough different alts to be able to raise all the needed profession skills to max, so you could produce your own goods. This may not be a problem for a few people with time to kill, but for the casual player which I contend makes up about 90% of your base, it's just not feasible.

    I agree with your point though. But the question becomes "How do we trivialize the need for Gold (credits...etc) and still give the illusion of a vibrant and flowing economy? If you made it where Gold was a secondary issue, then what would be the incentive for players to level trade skills and pursue professions?

    Nato brings up a good point,

    "Obviously the best way to get rid of gold farmers is to just to allow players to buy in game currency with real world money, but that just becomes and exercise in who has the most money and not really about playing the game."

    Actually, it works very well, and is in practice right now in SECOND LIFE. I have never actually played this game, and I understand it has it's issue just like all the others, it very closely resembles the real world economy as I understand from reading about it. So much so that the main bank within the game had to declare bankruptcy. SL also has a very interesting real estate market that functions much like the real world. The one thing I havent read about is any kind of gold farming. Ebay has even refused to remove SL assets from auction because they haven't yet determined if the game is actually a "game" or an actual economy in it's own right.

    Which brings me to your second point. Making Gold easy to earn. Gold is easy to earn, it's more a question of is it FUN to earn or does it more resemble a job than a game at that point? I know people who sit around the WOW auction house exclusively and do nothing else but trade all day and they love it, and they are rich. So I would counter that Gold IS easy to earn already (In WOW as the example) and they make it easier all the time. But is it becoming too easy?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
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    17
    In A Tale In The Desert a few years ago there was a player that intended to start up a "Trade for real money" concern. The game admins were interestingly quiet on the matter. The player base on the other hand got up in arms and managed to eventually work the offenders out.
    The ATITD community is small (few thousand), so reputation is important. I suspect that the buying of "gold" would happen far less if there would be consequences if it became known that you did this. Of course this means that reputation must matter in the game. This is generally a good thing for the game for other reasons too. Having reputation as a tool to manage the community is highly desirable.
    Note that this is not "reputation" as in "faction standing". I mean other players knowing what your character did or tends to do in the game.

    Secondly the appeal of doing something wrong does not decrease as much with the size of the penalty, but rather with the likelihood of being caught. The basics of using a social graph is already well understood and widely used. If character A is doing a lot of transfer transactions to other players that have not been in their social graph long, raise a flag. If player B suddenly receives lots of transfers from unrelated players, flag it. This of course means that transfers need to be logged or monitored extensively.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
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    28
    I had not thought about this before but you raise an excellent point DeepFreezZA, and I would add to it with this. Back in vanilla WOW, before there were cross-realm transfers and such, the populations of various servers were very similar to what you describe in ATITD, small, and involved with each other. Everyone had a reputation, be it good or bad, and everyone knew who you were for the most part.
    So maybe realm transfers and things like dungeon finders that depersonalize the experience are a bad thing, and may actually lead to increased gold farming?

    Social graphs are also an excellent idea, and easily implemented through a friends list or such. In the OP I proposed a restriction on toon-to-toon transfers that could be set up through a server-controlled escrow agent. The way it would work would be similar to an in-game mailbox, in that they have centralized locations ( and you could cut down on the inconvenience by placing as many as you want within the world) where two players meet and exchange goods. The output from the escrow could be scanned a lot quicker and cheaper than making the server catch individual transactions, because the program would only need to be run when a transaction is occurring. You could also assign this function to a sub-server and get it out of the main game server's hands, like the auction house server.

    More research required. Thanks
    Last edited by dknewton66; 03-03-2012 at 08:01 AM.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
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    I'm in favour of implementing the feature of just selling money to the players, directly competing with the gold farmers as one of the main solutions.

    If we also limit how much money individual players can carry, that could also discourage gold farming without actually limiting the economy as a whole. Think the legend of zelda, ocarina of time(the last one I've actually finished in 3d). You have multiple wallets, which hold 100, 200, 500 and 999(probably a memory limitation) rupees. Once you max out, you can't get any more money, but once you have that much, you really don't care.

    So what if we do two things: firstly make individual players happy with with (relative to other mmos) a lesser personal limit.

    Secondly, for bigger player run clans, guilds, factions whatever, they can still access larger amounts of cash and even trade larger amounts of cash.

    I don't think there should be any need to stop individual players from having a bank account with more money in it, but if they can't hold more than 1000 money then they can't go sneakily performing large transactions. That way we can use that centralised transfer system which we can monitor better.

    This still needs more discussion, but I do think that allowing player run organisations to purchase money directly from us, that will discourage finding gold farmers to buy money from.
    I'm so negative, like an electron.

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