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World of Warcraft Economics, Population Control, and Virtual Gold

Posted by on Aug 26, 2015 in guides | Comments Off on World of Warcraft Economics, Population Control, and Virtual Gold

You may have heard of the popular computer game World of Warcraft (WoW), which recently released its fifth expansion, which adds more quests, dungeons, and other content, in November. WoW has over 10 million players and there are few signs of this slowing down, which is impressive for a game originally released in 2004. What you might not have known is that there are complex economic and social structures in place everywhere in the game. But do these systems mirror real life in any meaningful way? I’d argue that making profit in WoW’s auction house reflects on one’s understanding of a free market since it employs similar principles. One Manhattan College professor recently likened playing WoW to a religious experience since it “tests a person’s’ ethics and values, and also gets them to think about things like environmentalism and moral issues.” I’m not sure if I’d attend a WoW church service, but the game is a great example of a virtual economy and being kind (or unkind) to your neighbor.

How is WoW’s virtual money made? This “gold” is used to buy everything from player items to goods from vendors placed around the game. It is created and destroyed when players interact with the world. By completing a quest or killing a monster, players receive gold. In an interview with the Call to Auction podcast, WoW’s lead designer gave some insight on how the game controls money supply:

In addition to many of the challenges that real-world economies face, WoW’s economy has other complications. The amount of USD introduced into the U.S. economy is controlled by the United States Treasury and the Federal Reserve. In WoW, however, the amount of gold that goes into circulation is determined by our players’ behavior. Every monster that is killed, every quest that is completed, creates more fresh currency that is added to the economic system. Gold is taken out of circulation not by a central bank, but by how much our players choose to interact with NPCs (Non-Playable Characters) to purchase various items and services.
The Auction House

As the primary way to make virtual gold, the auction house is an all-out free market with few restrictions. Players sell goods like crafting materials, pets, gems, armor, and weapons that other players need. Items are posted for 12, 24, or 48 hours at a time with varying deposit costs depending on the quality of items being posted. These deposits exist to deter too many trivial auctions. Big ticket “epic” items that are more powerful fetch significant amounts of gold, and undercutting is the name of the game for selling items quickly. Supply and demand is in full effect on the auction house, and items that players use often are more liquid, especially as player population increases.

Player population in WoW is a great example of the benefit of increasing a market’s size and encouraging more people to enter a market. If you want to find an audience for your goods, simply having more people is the best things one can do to improve that chance. WoW bluntly shows us how population control is detrimental to everyone in a free economy. What happens when people stop playing WoW and don’t participate in the virtual economy? Each person serves a purpose in this puzzle. Christianity tells us that the human person (even one playing a computer game), created in the image of God, is individually unique, rational, the subject of moral agency, and a co-creator. Players of WoW have intrinsic value, both as people and creators of its virtual economy. Having more players means more opportunities for everyone and a flourishing virtual market.

Populations in WoW are a quaint example since the controlled gold supply guarantees everyone will have some, but it also shows the good of having access to important in-game items with an active auction house. I used to play on a WoW server with thousands fewer players, and important items were simply not available at normal prices due to price gouging by the few suppliers. On a very populated server these issues disappear and those with less gold find common items more affordable due to market competition.

As you can see, this one system provides an interesting outlet for players to practice free market economics in a mostly harmless environment. If you have some time on your hands I’d recommend World of Warcraft as a fun way to do some virtual value investing.

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An Interesting Development

Posted by on Aug 26, 2015 in guides | Comments Off on An Interesting Development

So there was an interesting announcement out of Blizzard yesterday, apparently they’re going to be releasing some names that have been parked with old characters. Specifically any characters that have not logged into the game since 13 November 2008 will have their names forfeited letting anyone snap them up once 6.0.2 hits live.
I know that reclaiming old names isn’t something new, you can already petition to have unused names released on a case by case basis. I’m not sure what the current requirements are, but I’m guessing the character in question will have to be thoroughly abandoned before a Game Master will give its name to you.
The date they chose is the release date for Wrath of the Lich King (yeah, that came out over six years ago now) so basically if a character hasn’t been played since The Burning Crusade, that name is now up for grabs. It’s a good date in my opinion, I mean if you haven’t played a character since then, it’s thoroughly been forgotten. Plus, the character isn’t being deleted, it’s just loosing it’s name. They’ve also given us plenty of warning, so if you are particularly attached to a name you haven’t used in six years, you can still save it.
Originally I didn’t think this would free up many names, but then I remembered that this game came out in 2004 (wow), and now I’ve had to revise that. This is going to free up a lot of names, especially the simpler and more generic names. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of them get snatched up again though, I know several people are planning on swooping up as many names as they can when they’re released.
The Godmother over at Alt:ernative Chat speculated that this may be a draw for old players with lapsed subscriptions, but I don’t agree. People who haven’t played in six years aren’t very likely to care about character names, and I don’t think this will bring them back.
No, I think this is just a logistical issue, Blizzard is running out of names. Think about it, especially since we’re no longer allowed to use characters outside the Latin alphabet, there’s only so many possible names. I think this is simply so new characters can be added to old servers.
Still, good move by Blizzard, I’m sure there’s a lot of people excited about this.

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Anno 2205 constructs a Games trailer and screens

Posted by on Aug 20, 2015 in guides | Comments Off on Anno 2205 constructs a Games trailer and screens

Games brings an in-game (or close to it) trailer for Anno 2205, along with several more images and a few more details about the sixth entry in the city building series.

Anno 2205 is another installment based in the near-ish future (though further than 2070, obviously,) and once again puts you in charge of constructing a thoroughly marvellous city with a thriving economy. A breakthrough in fusion energy spells good news for running an efficient, energy-conscious society; with the slight problem that the necessary helium-3 isotope can only be found on the moon.

But hey, it’s the year 2205, going to the moon is well within the reach of humanity. As the Games trailer (below) and screenshots make clear, the moon won’t be the only place to expand – the Arctic also has resources aplenty available. Just ask Putin.

Anno 2205’s ‘Sector Mode’ will enable you to play on multiple islands, “instantaneously connecting different regions.” I’m not entirely sure what that means, but I imagine it’s to do with switching between your city, Arctic and moon areas. The islands are also said to be “five times bigger” than in previous Anno titles.

Cast your eyes below to see what looks to be in-game footage, plus a selection of screenshots.

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JOHN SMEDLEY RELINQUISHES HIS POST AT DAYBREAK

Posted by on Jul 28, 2015 in guides | Comments Off on JOHN SMEDLEY RELINQUISHES HIS POST AT DAYBREAK

VentureBeat is reporting that John Smedley has stepped down as President of Daybreak Game Company, the studio behind multiple MMOs, including the entire EverQuest franchise. Chief Operating Officer Russell Shanks will take his place.

A Daybreak rep told VB, “I can confirm that John Smedley will be taking some time off from the company for the near-term and transitioning to a different role to be determined. Upon finalization of his plans, further communication will be provided.”

Smedley oversaw the company’s transition from Sony-owned Sony Online Entertainment to Columbus Nova-funded Daybreak Game Company earlier this year. He made headlines this summer after he spoke up — forcefully — about his harassment at the hands of Lizard Squad e-thugs responsible for the bomb threat that diverted his plane nearly a year ago, among other alleged crimes. In apparent retaliation, the hackers assaulted Daybreak’s game servers with multi-day DDoS attacks and offered a $5000 reward for the defacement of Smed’s father’s grave.

Last week, he deleted his Twitter and Reddit accounts, saying he would “miss the interaction with […] players” but wanted to avoid distractions that stopped him from doing what he liked doing: making games.

It’s the end of a very long era for the company formerly known as SOE and Verant. Good luck to you, Smed.

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HOW TO PROGRESS IN SKYFORGE AFTER THE WEEKLY SPARK CAP

Posted by on Jul 28, 2015 in guides | Comments Off on HOW TO PROGRESS IN SKYFORGE AFTER THE WEEKLY SPARK CAP

Weekly limits in Skyforge are everywhere, putting a limit on how far and how fast players can progress in the game. In some ways this is most definitely a good thing, as it keeps even the most progression-oriented players on roughly equal footing, but it does mean that some players are hitting the weekly cap and wondering what in the world can actually be done to advance a character. Consequently, the developers have posted a new walkthrough of the Order system designed to highlight the fact that there is most certainly a means of advancing once you hit that weekly cap.

The Order system is all about sending out followers to promote you as a member of the pantheon and give you plenty of name recognition, which also contributes to the strength of your character (which gives you more followers, which… you get the idea). It’s one of the the three main ways to advance in the game, and it’s also a bit overlooked. The article helps correct that, but the developers promise that they will be keeping an eye on discussions to help identify problems with progress and perception alike..

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THE SOAPBOX: AN ODE TO MMO POSITIVITY

Posted by on Jul 18, 2015 in guides | Comments Off on THE SOAPBOX: AN ODE TO MMO POSITIVITY

I had a strange thought the other day, at least as regards the MMO genre. I’m kinda having fun here. I know, it surprised me too because it’s been an eternity since I found MMOs fun. Don’t get me wrong because free-to-play still sucks, people still love lockboxes, and you can’t click on a news article these days without reading about monetization or raving lunatics.

But funk all that! I’m in a good MMO mood. Join me past the cut and I’ll show you the games responsible.

OK, so this isn’t really an MMO. But it’s a really fun multiplayer game, and it’s put to rest the notion that all early access devs are out to kill your dog, sleep with your mother, and otherwise make your life miserable. It also boasts crafting and building mechanics that shame most modern MMORPGs, which is not nothing.

As an ARK private server admin, I sometimes get irritated with the frequency of Studio Wildcard’s patches. But then I have to step back and remind myself that this is how you’re supposed to do it. You’re supposed to listen to your playerbase, execute your vision in a timely and competent fashion, and update your game as often as new ideas and new bug fixes require it.

Apart from all that, ARK is just a fantastic freaking game. The crafting, the building, and the lush, Unreal-powered world that goes on seemingly forever simply never gets old. And oh yeah, those dinos are beyond spectacular, too. Seriously, I dare you to stand there while a bronto stomps by, shaking the earth — and your surround speakers — and making you feel rather insignificant in the game’s grand scheme.

2015-05-28_00021Grand Theft Auto Online
Er, OK. Here’s another one that’s not really an MMO, and maybe this little trend should cause me to reevaluate my earlier statement about having fun in MMOs again! But nah, I don’t think I will because GTAO, like ARK, takes the best parts of MMORPGs — namely, non-linear fun in a huge, immersive world — and strips out many of the worst.

GTA’s hyper-realistic recreation of Los Angeles and the surrounding desert can only be called a virtual playground. There is so much stuff to do, whether it’s stealing cars, racing boats, skydiving, or dozens of other activities, that I could play here exclusively and still not see everything.

Rockstar still has some kinks to work out when it comes to multiplayer bugs and exploits, but heists with a pre-made group of friends are an absolute blast and a refreshing departure from the usual MMO grind.

I went back to LotRO a few weeks ago, as I do three or four times annually without fail. It comes with the territory when you’re a Tolkien die-hard, and despite numerous missteps over the years, frankly there’s nothing Turbine could do at this point to drive me away from Middle-earth online for good.

The game’s environment visuals have aged exceedingly well, and there’s nothing in gaming quite like riding my warhorse over the fields of Rohan, fishing in the Brandywine, or inching my way ever closer to Mordor via the new Gondor questlines that aren’t exactly new but are still new to me on account of my frequent sabbaticals.

I typically loathe themepark questing, but LotRO’s has always been a different animal. On the surface, it’s the same silly level grind as any other MMORPG, but I do read all of the quest text and it is written well enough — and respectfully enough, vis-a-vis the source material — to elevate the experience above typical grindpark pop culture references and somewhere near the realm of immersive escapism.

And at this point, some eight years after its debut, LotRO is one of the more massive MMOs in existence in terms of total land area. Every so often I’ll disable my autorun and just wander along the road between Breeland and Weathertop. It takes forever, and it’s exactly what the doctor ordered to cure a case of genre burnout and remind me why I started playing these games in the first place.

SWTOR and I have a curious relationship. In some respects, the game offends almost all of my MMO sensibilities, and I continue to shake my head at how BioWare has gotten away with producing a single-player story RPG, slapping a gear grind and a cash shop onto it, and milking the ungodly contraption for incredible amounts of recurring revenue.

The IP continually draws me back, though, and BioWare’s world designers did well enough with it that I feel a satisfaction similar to the one I feel in LotRO. SWTOR excels at the sights and sounds of Star Wars, which makes up for the fact that it completely drops the ball on the combat (and the non-combat) of Star Wars.

The game’s ostensible raison d’etre, its MMO stories, are pretty underwhelming. They’re not horrible, in the same way that the recently de-canonized Expanded Universe wasn’t horrible. But they’re not why I’m enjoying myself here lately. No, I guess I’m just easy to please because there’s something oddly enjoyable about 30-minute Star Wars-based achievement hunting sessions a couple of times per week. I’m not really achieving anything, of course, because my Imperial Agent didn’t really save the galaxy or change the game world any more than yours did.

But I do love playing with virtual Star Wars action figures while listening to endless variations on John Williams’ signature themes!

This last one is a little bit premature because I haven’t dived head-first back into Norrath as of yet. On Tuesday, though, I am so there, and yes it’s all because of EverQuest II’s progression servers. I realize that they’re not actually classic servers per se. They’re missing the original racial starting hamlets, which is kind of a big deal since I played through them so many times in 2004 and 2005 that I could give you a complete guided tour from memory.

And for some unfathomable reason, Daybreak has decided to forego the actual unlocking mechanic that typically goes along with progression shards. For example, the Beastlord class will be playable from the get-go, despite the fact that it didn’t show up until the live game’s eighth expansion.

But whatever. It’s a chance to start fresh with what will likely be a big population of veterans and curiosity seekers on a virgin shard, and since EQ2 is far and away the most feature-rich themepark in existence already, a do-over simply sweetens the pot.

Everyone has opinions, and The Soapbox is how we indulge ours. Join the Massively OP writers as we take turns atop our very own soapbox to deliver unfettered editorials a bit outside our normal purviews (and not necessarily shared across the staff). Think we’re spot on — or out of our minds? Let us know in the comments!

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