The Economics of MMORPGs – The Hidden Basis behind Fun?

By Darren Henderson (DizzyPW), OnRPG Editor-in-Chief

 WildStar Bull Durham

This morning I read through a rather lengthy but undoubtedly awesome look into the mind of Charles Durham at Carbine Studios as he discussed their initial plans for balancing the economy of Wildstar. Now anyone who has been gaming in MMORPGs for any length of time will immediately throw a red flag and ask just how much can be said on this subject. Gold sinks blah blah blah stop gold farmers blah blah blah botters blah blah blah taxes.

That’s about the jist one would expect a company to say on the subject since it’s not every day you’ll see a development company recruiting economists on their business page (though I hear Loremaster is becoming a more popular position!).

And as expected I slowly started to space out as I read through the introduction and saw the usual marketing terms meant to pacify their upcoming playerbase’s worries. After all, why would they be posting their tactics publicly for any reason other than that? Be sure most of the usual banter is touched on in Durham’s post.

Ragnarok Online Merchant Job Tree

But as I read deeper and began to wonder just how in-depth Durham intended to go on the subject, I was pleased to read some higher level game design philosophy not often exposed to the uninterested public. Not every MMORPG gamer you meet is going to say their favorite class in Ragnarok Online was the Merchant, but it can’t be denied that there is some level of satisfaction involved with learning the secret workings of a game’s economy and then utilizing your knowledge to profit off your lazier online acquaintances. If not Entropia Universe would never have built a large enough playerbase to actually run the equivalent of an MMORPG Casino.

Planet Arkadia Hall Of Fame

What worries me though is that while Durham’s words are an incredible distractor, they aren’t offering anything new that hasn’t been tried before. Granted the shininess of their money sinks is going to be bar none at launch, but as stated in the article, it’s a concept as old as Dungeons & Dragons itself. Loot monsters, buy shinies, get taxed trading with friends, rinse, repeat. The only remotely unique element (and I stress this because it’s a concept as old as arcades) is the paying silver for on the spot resurrection. Which is a topic I’d rather not even get into as I sincerely dislike the concept of paying for easier/more forgiving gameplay.

WildStar Economy

Still it’s too soon to be beating anyone at Carbine Studios down with a criticism stick. It’s clear that likely their next major reveal has been delayed and this piece is just a place holder to maintain hype while they flatten out the bugs in the next content update. As he says in the article, the game is still far from the point where definitive game concepts can be established, especially on such an abstract evolving concept as the game’s economy and how it will impact the overall fun factor. The rest of the feature reveals so far have impressed, the game is already solid to play, and with advertisements already popping up on Pandora to raise awareness for the game, I can’t imagine we won’t all be able to get the full picture of the game for ourselves in open beta testing by the end of summer.

And again for those wanting to learn the deeper workings of game philosophy, don’t miss out on Durham’s write-up.

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