How To Eradicate Gold Farming

Every so often the gold farming/selling/buying debate rears it’s ugly head and sparks off a series of blog articles throughout the Interweb. Recently Tobold and Gevlon got stuck into the topic again and even managed to necromance one of a series of articles I wrote last year about the subject (a self-confessed gold seller posted some interesting comments this morning about the actual legality of it all). So, when responding to Tobold’s buzz, I was visited by the Ghost of Inspiration and a cartoon light bulb went off over my head. Hear me now, for I’ve got the answer to completely eradicating gold farming from MMORPGs:

Remove all forms of tradable currency.

Done. Over. Finito. No more gold farmers. Simple eh?

Goblins are greedy. Fact.

Goblins are greedy. Fact.

Yes, I know, I can hear your outcry now about how currency in MMOs is an important factor to gameplay and crafting etc etc. But is it really? Maybe in sandbox games like EVE Online but what about in your classic, video game themepark fun such as World of Warcraft? I don’t believe it’s as necessary as some people think and, in fact, it’s probably just a hang up from the original MMORPG models back in the late 1990s.

Let’s look at WoW in more depth. Money is practically irrelevant and unnecessary in the game now and it’s only really used to purchase crafted items from other players and a few minor self-sustaining items. Mounts are exceedingly cheap, mechanics like the dungeon finder make it exceedingly easy to gear up characters, heirloom items mean twinking is a breeze and a huge percentage of the best items are bind-on-equip anyway and cannot be obtained through purchase. It’s so easy to get what we want, I can’t actually remember the last time I needed gold. How much of a stretch would it be to remove tradable currency from the game?

Obviously the biggest impact this would have would be on crafting. Even without tradable currency, I’m sure cunning gold sellers would just switch to selling crafted items for real cash instead of currency. I suppose mechanics could be put in place to try and reduce this but ultimately the only way to kill illegal RMT completely would be by making crafted items non-tradable. Yes, this would alienate a lot of diehard crafters and isn’t hugely desirable but would it have a huge impact on a game like WoW? Would a significant portion of its playerbase leave if tradeable crafting wasn’t an option? And even if they did, would it be a price worth paying if it meant completely eradicating gold farmers and gold sellers?

So, removing tradable currency… hair-brained idea or pure genius?

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  1. Arkenor says:

    When you remove tradeable currency, whatever is of value that can still be traded will become the new currency. You’d have to make everything no-trade. I don’t think folks would stand for that.

    Or maybe they would. But I think it would harm the game more than gold-traders do.

  2. Stabs says:

    In Diablo 2 where gold was pretty worthless players used Stones of Jordan as the currency (usually duped).

    As Arkenor says almost anything that can be traded will be.

    Time is tradeable for instance so people could power-level others in return for money.

    If you pare all the non-essentials away you need to have something compelling left. Bejewelled is immune to gold sellers and still pretty fun. That is because there is only one thing to do in Bejewelled – move the shapes about. If you reach the point you’d rather work an hour’s overtime to pay someone to move shapes for you there’s no point doing so because it leads nowhere.

    You could add considerably to complexity before you reach the stage where there are large sections of the game that people want to skip or cheese.

    But say you end up with something that is pretty much the WoW raid game but without the auction house, consumables, levelling, or tradeable items, Wouldn’t people still find things to spend money on to get advantage? Like buying raid slots for real cash? If anyone even played it.

    I think the answer is someone has to make it and see how it compares.

    We could all stop worrying about gold farmers forever if we gave up MMOs and played Chess but I don’t think most of us want to. That certainly doesn’t mean someone can’t make a new game as awesome as Chess and just as gold-seller free.

    • Gordon says:

      That’s a very good point about time… I guess there would always be something worth buying. I suppose gold selling etc can never be fully eradicated, only diminished, but I believe a step towards doing that is by reducing the need for it as much as possible.

  3. Dustin Moore says:

    You are right it isn’t important for an MMORPG to have a player ran economy, many don’t. Many of the old school games that I’ve played always had an economy, but fresh into WoW I haven’t really used currency for much. Nor have I really met any friends, I’ve been playing almost a month now. Does a lack of player currency/trading reduce socialization or is it just a coincidence?

    I’m sure I’ll meet some people in-game to keep in contact with, I’m in a guild but still feel detached from people in WoW. Maybe it’s all the random groups I get into, we’ll see.

    • Gordon says:

      In a game like EVE money is very important, however in a game like WoW it’s very unnecessary. I guess what’s surprising though is why gold selling in WoW is so rampant when cash isn’t all that important. So strange…

  4. Tesh says:

    Alternatively, sell your currency directly from the devs. Outflank the gold sellers. ;)

    • Gordon says:

      Yep! Certainly one way to do it. Funny thing is that gamers complain when their MMORPG companies introduce paid for currency and items etc (like with Station Access in EQ2) yet they don’t seem to complain so openly about illegal gold selling.

  5. ogrebears says:

    You will kill off some gold seller. But even with out a currency there is away around it. In eq1 on Kane Bayle i remember there was a guy who would 12 box a small raid force and go around taking out the raid mobs and selling the chest, (or kills) for real life crash (or in game gold).

    I’m not sure how common that will be in games today… but ya.

  6. Longasc says:

    I think you are right.

    Especially as most MMO economics suck anyways and the best rewards are by now tied to TOKEN systems of different kinds. Often even exclusively.

    Be it LOTRO, WoW, GW, STO, X,Y,Z – listing all the badges, marks, tokens, whatever and what one gets for them would fill pages.

    But this system would have be taken to the extreme, otherwise players would simply become “itembuyers” instead of gold buyers. And then I can still see people using “services” and let chinese doods farm them marks while they are away and so on.

    • Gordon says:

      After reading everyone’s great feedback, I’m not sure now we could ever eradicate it completely. However, I still think it could be reduced to the point it’s almost unnoticeable by introducing extreme methods like non-tradable currency and making most items bind-on-pickup. Although gold sellers could still offer services like power leveling etc, if it become unprofitable for them then they could die out completely.

  7. nugget says:

    Here’s a weird way to eradicate gold farming without having to remove gold or currency.

    Make it irrelevant. Make it stop mattering by the first 10% of your level cap… >.> I know that sounds really weird – but a game I’ve been playing lately (and really like), called Sacred 1 does exactly that.

    Unless you have specifically made a Shopping character (lol yes, there is a way to do that), currency piles up so fast beyond the first 20/150 (or is that 250) levels that it really doesn’t matter anymore.

    A fact I believe the designers were well aware of, because it’s not at all difficult to find gear with the mods ’saves %health, converting damage to gold’ (i.e. deducts a percentage of your gold, not health).

    Most of my Sacred 1 characters walk around with a 10s (to 100s for veterans I have heard, but i am not one of them) of millions. I don’t even LOOK at the gold counter anymore.

    But initially, when you’re just starting out… you notice it. It’s never a horrible horrible hardship. Or isn’t for long enough (what, 1-4 hours?) for you to really register it. But at the same time, it doesn’t take away the goldiegoldness of happiness.

    I found it to be a really freeing experience, not to care about gold AT ALL past the initial levels. ^_^

    (Sacred 1 is a single player game with LAN and open internet multiplayer options. I HIGHLY recommend it. It’s diablo-esque but very atmospheric, and a wonderfully crafted little gem. And you can get it for cheap on or Steam. Don’t bother with Sacred 2 though. It’s a disappointment in near every way, compared with Sacred 1. And it’s expensive.)

    • Gordon says:

      I think a big issue with gold selling is that MMORPGs try to deliver real world economies but unfortunately that just doesn’t seem to be viable. The only it’s really going to work properly is if you link it into real money like in Second Life but trying to have a purely protected currency like in WoW or EQ2 just won’t work.

  8. Sithinious says:

    I was a little shocked at the launch of Star Trek Online. On DAY ONE of the game, gold (credits) sellers and powerlevelers were already running rampant in chat.

    Then again, perhaps that bodes well for the game, that the farmers and PL’ers thought the game would be popular enough to invest in right out of the gate…

  9. If you’re really interested in this topic, take a look at a fairly lengthy proposal intended to wipe out eBay economies (primarily for kid’s games) by Randy Farmer called KidTrade. It’s an interesting proposal, but also interesting to note that nobody has implemented it over 5 years later. It comes with some pretty strict drawbacks.

    • Gordon says:

      Awesome, thanks a lot! Will check it out now :)

      • Randy Farmer says:

        I’ve always thought that one of the reasons that KidTrade never got adapted for implementation is that game designers actually like the market dynamics that lead to gold farming! Or that their too lazy/risk adverse to try anything else.

        Doesn’t matter much now, “social gaming” is runing 100s of different currency experiments. all in real time. I’m betting no one is paying attention to the lessons learned there either…

  10. boatorious says:

    If gold is not necessary for anything anymore, then why are there still gold sellers and gold buyers, and why is that a problem?

    Anyway, as much as I hate gold-selling, economic interaction between players is more good than gold-selling is bad. Diablo II, for instance, would have been much improved by a meaningful marketplace.

    Though I would like to see game changes to make unscrupulous-yet-profitable behavior more difficult. There’s no need, for instance, to have both a “need” and “greed” option for Frozen Orbs.

    • Gordon says:

      It’s a good question and one that I have no answer too. I mean, there are certainly some items which are still purchasable but honestly I don’t understand the need for most of the money in WoW. You can gear up with the dungeon finder quite easily, heirloom items twink your alts and all of the best gear from raids or PVP cannot be bought with currency or traded. I’m honestly dumbstruck as to why gold selling is still so popular.

  11. Luca says:

    I think you meant bind-on-pickup instead of bind-on-equip, which can be traded or sold to AH.

  12. Well the question becomes… does killing off a huge part of player interaction through trading and gold outweigh the benefit of reducing gold selling (power lvling will still be active)? My guess is that the cost of removing such a huge portion of the game doesn’t give enough benefit. Afterall the biggest damage caused by gold farmers in today’s age is hacked accounts. If anything blizzard moving to require authenticators will strike a bigger blow to gold farmers and wouldn’t hurt a portion of the game that many people love.

    Could I play wow without in game currency? Probably. But it most certainly would be more dull. Not to mention all good rewards would go to those who have the time to grind for it… and not to those who are smart enough to avoid the grind through smart economic practices.

    • Gordon says:

      The authenticator issue is an interesting one and if Blizzard made it mandatory, they would likely alienate a fair number of players. Me personally, I don’t really want an authenticator because I like just being able to log into an account anywhere without needing some physical device with me to do it.

  13. Macabee says:

    Here’s a radical idea. SINCE most of the gold farmers in China, and SINCE they impact the games so much because their protected, RL economy allows them to hire obscenely cheap labor, THEN perhaps all “players” from China should be restricted to a China-only server. I’m not a network guru, but couldn’t this be done by detection of their domain origins? Let them farm gold for Chinese. West Euro and North American gold farmers never affected the game economies more than a fraction of the impact that home grown ones did. Any Chinese companies (or even legit players) who complain should be told its the fault of their own government. Their govt should prevent companies from profiting by violating contract agreements their “players” agreed to when they created their accounts.
    Problem countries should be isolated onto their own servers. That includes my own country. Any players wanting to “emigrate” should be considered on a one by one waiver basis, and watched closely for a “naturalization” period of time. Violation of any policy should result in immediate “deportation” back to their own “country” server.
    There, that should stir up the hornet’s nest of one-world globalists. “Oh, you have no heart. They just want to work. You’re so not fair!”

    • Gordon says:

      I think the reason it’s not done is because it’s not actually very hard to spoof your IP address and pretend to be from somewhere else. Blizzard to restrict localisation based on what copy of the game you bought but, again, that’s not hard to get around because you can just sign up for a US account and digitially download it.

      Still, it’s a very interesting idea! :)

  14. Macabee says:

    Er… actually I meant that European and North American gold farmers (homegrown) never impacted the game economies more than a fraction of what the *Chinese* gold farmers do. Pardon my failure to proofread. I think my point was understood, I hope. (So embarassing.)

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