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Author Topic: Gold Mining in On Line Role Playing Games?
Silas Sparkhammer
I Saw V-Chips Come Sailing In


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Is it true...or just a silly UL...that hundreds of thousands of people in China play on-line fantasy rpgs in order to rack up in-game "gold pieces" which they then sell to cash-rich, time-poor westerners for real money?

I can see it as a very minor cottage industry, a side-line that some bored stay-at-home-mom or latchkey kid might do, but as a serious sector of the Chinese sweat-shop economy?

Exaggerated, surely?

Silas ("I never played the game")

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KeyLime
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


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It's true. They don't only do it in China, either. They do it all over. It's against the Terms and Conditions in most games, but they do it anyways.

Search for it on eBay.

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lazerus the duck
The First USA Noel


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I don't think the problem is if they do it or not but on the scale that they do it. I tend to agree with Silas, if it occurred on the scale the UL's claim no in game economy would be tenable.
It happens but only on relative small scale.

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UrbanReindeer
Deck the Malls


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I don't think Silas was claiming it *never* happens, only that it seems unlikey that "hundreds of thousands" of people do this for work.

In-game farming, AFAIK, is usually done by "bots". Easier and more efficient to write a program to do it for you, not to get online and do it all-day yourself. If someone wanted you to farm for them, they'd have to pay you - and a bot will do it for free. Even if you were working for yourself, you could have 20 bots farming, as opposed to just one you.

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Errata
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


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UrbanRenewal, some games are more bottable than others. Games like WoW really do have thousands of farmers working out of chinese sweatshops. What they don't have is hundreds of thousands. The only myth here is the order of magnitude.
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bulgarian_legend
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


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My ex used to do it in high school and he got 200-300 bucks a month of spending money from it.
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Silverbolt
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


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Usually, these shops will have dozens, if not hundreds of computers actually doing the mining by use of programs and scripts.

However, these shops are still staffed by several people making minimum wage. They have basic duties like rebooting a frozen computer, making sure the characters aren't interfered with by other players, and answering questions from system admins hunting for bots.

Yes, there are hundreds of thousands of computers doing this at any given time -- not just in China, but everywhere. Yes, the people running these shops collectively make millions. But the number of actual PEOPLE involved is much lower -- it only takes about 2-3 guys to make sure that 100 computers are chugging along 24/7.

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Silverbolt
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


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quote:
Originally posted by Errata:
UrbanRenewal, some games are more bottable than others. Games like WoW really do have thousands of farmers working out of chinese sweatshops. What they don't have is hundreds of thousands. The only myth here is the order of magnitude.

I think that most people are confusing "Hundreds of thousands of bots" with "Hundreds of thousands of people". They hear that some guy in China is running a sweatshop with 1000 computers in it, and they think there's 1000 people behind those keyboards -- they don't realize that there's relatively few actual people doing the work.

Hundreds of thousands of bots? Yes.
Hundreds of thousands of people? No.

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Midgard_Dragon
Markdown, the Herald Angels Sing


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Silverbolt, have you played WoW? I can't imagine it would be easy to write a program that could gold farm it. Now, a game like Ultima Online is *very* easy to do so in, but WoW just doesn't strike me as it being very possible. UO is possible because gold farming (by doing labor or crafting tasks) can be done through macros sent directly to the program in a repetitive way. I'm not very far into WoW, but I have yet to encounter something that's repetitive enough (without having to move areas every minute or so in order to replenish resources) to macro.

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Stoneage Dinosaur
We Wish You a Merry Giftmas


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From yesterday's Times:

Gamers' lust for virtual power satisfied by sweatshop workers

quote:
The room is crammed with Chinese workers stripped to the waist. Poorly paid and exhausted from their punishing shifts, they chain-smoke and rub their eyes, while their colleagues sleep two to a mat on the floor.

But this Shanghai sweatshop is not churning out T-shirts, trainers or children’s toys. Its workers are known in the computer games world as “gold farmers”. They are playing online games and winning virtual gold, which the owners of the gold farms then sell on to cash-rich, time-poor Westerners for real money.

Ge Jin, a PhD student at the University of California in San Diego, has filmed these scenes for a forthcoming documentary on the economics of internet gaming. He believes that hundreds of thousands of people in China are now dependent on gold farming for their income.



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"You learn something new every day if you're not careful" - Wilf Lunn

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Page Three
Deck the Malls


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One: Gold farming does occur on a bigger scale than people think, and it does play merry hell with the in-game economy. I have seen the difference between a massively farmed WoW server and a shiny, new, mostly farmer-less one. It's next to impossible to start a new character on the server that has lots of farmers; rare items are way overpriced because people buy gold, making money at low levels is next to impossible thanks to farming. You just don't stand a chance.
I seem to remember that at least one MMORPG was discontinued or at least had a massive market collapse thanks to gold sellers.

Two: Yes, it's possible to macro WoW characters. I believe there's a couple of videos on YouTube that show a bot in action. Set the character up to go from node coordinate to node coordinate, target the node, mine until node is exhausted, move on to next coordinate.

I really don't like what gold farming has done to some WoW servers. Anyone who has ever had a farmer in their instance party has experienced soul-crushing agony. The character doesn't talk, doesn't listen to the party, and mysteriously "needs" items that he can't use. Every time. Yes, it's not only gold farmers who do this, but once a server is overrun with them you just can't do decent instance runs anymore.

In summary: I can't stand people who buy gold. They're ruining the game for those of us who want to play the game fairly. No blame on the people who take a job that's available to them though.

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Midgard_Dragon
Markdown, the Herald Angels Sing


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I agree completely. I honestly have trouble believing (although I know for a fact it's true) that there are some people who would rather pay their way to make gold or level up in a game, rather than actually playing the game and enjoying the experience. One thing I was especially annoyed at and would have quit playing at the time if I wasn't already playing on a free server instead of a pay to play server was when UO started offering prebuilt characters for a certain amount of money. It's one thing when the players ruin a game's economy, but an entirely new level of stupidity when the company itself ruins its own game economy.

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Cuervorose
I Saw Three Shipments


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It's just as bad in Lineage 2. In most of the "newbie" villages you have a very hard time finding a hunting spot because the bots take over whole areas. They make it very difficult, especially when your doing quests where you need to be able to kill the monsters they hunt.
It's not just the gold they farm either. They're also looking for the drops so they can sell them. they usually sell them for outrageous prices which drives the cost of those items up. This essentially drives up prices on everything in the in-game economy.
As far as the number of them? I can personally say that I have seen groups as large as 10-20 at a times in certain areas. There are thousands of bots, but I'd have to agree, not so many people running them.

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You laugh, I laugh. You cry, I cry. You jump off a bridge, I'll miss you.

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Wolf333
I'll Be Home for After Christmas Sales


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On the flipside, I play WOW on 2 different servers; one has many gold farmers, the the second is relatively new so the farmers aren't as prevelent. On the heavily farmed server, items are much cheaper do to the larger supply. On the new serever - you guessed it - items and materials are much more expensive.
To be honest, yes I have purchased gold. I'll not try to justify it because there is no justification. Ahh... but karma is a fickle mistress. I recently had my account hacked; I logged on to find all of my characters, save one, naked and nearly penniless. Now, I get to go through the wonderful process of the character restore.

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"We take evil really seriously"

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KDS
I'll Be Home for After Christmas Sales


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Greetings,

As someone who’s been playing MMOs (Massively Multiplayer Online) since Ultima Online was shiny and new back in ’98, I can personally attest to the wide-spread problem of gold farming. For those of you who aren’t into online gaming of this sort, the idea of someone spending real money for gold in a game seems foolish but it is amazingly common among today’s gamers. As others have mentioned, the negative effects of gold farming are felt by all the players, not just the ones that buy or sell gold for real money.

Beyond the game and the massive amounts of money is the sheer corruption of the gaming environment: the companies that do this large scale have rooted themselves deeply in the gaming community, buying out webpages with forums and sites with information. Once they’re acquired they bombard you with advertisements for buying gold, moderate forums against negative publicity, and destroy communities. See what some serous research pulled up about nearly all the major gaming websites selling out to the gold buyers. If someone from the Nigerian Scammers Association walked up to Snopes with a six-figure check and they sold out, wouldn’t you feel betrayed?

The best comparison I can come up with is good old weed (at least as it is in the USA). If your friend is growing it out in their green house and the two of you take some home to enjoy (and making sure you don’t leave the house ‘till you’re sober, so there’s no chance of harming/involving others), no one really gets hurt, even though it’s illegal. If my buddy George works seven days a week and I play a MMO 10 hours a day, there is little harm done if I pass him some gold and he takes me out to dinner - even though we’re breaking the rules. The trouble starts when you contribute to the giant networks of illegal activity: buying weed from someone who’s just a minion of a guy in a dark black suit, who got their stuff on order from a fellow in south America, who’s taking kickbacks from a dictator somewhere*. When you buy or sell gold to someone like IGE you’re directly feeding into the undoing of game economies and ruining other players’ enjoyment. These companies aren’t here to even out the playing field a little, they’re in game because it’s a wildly profitable business and they don’t care who they step on to get there.

I, myself, before I realized how horrible things had gotten (back in ’02 or so), had sold gold to a major gold-selling company that they resold at a giant markup. I know people who work long hours an bought gold or PowerLeveling (paying another person to play and progress your character) so they could keep up with friends that had more free time. I’ve had more than one friend as me to PL their characters, and as much as I could use that money (several hundred dollars to take a new character to max level), I turned them down on principle now that I have a better understanding of how things function.

The scale is enormous, even with only a few people working dozens if not hundreds of machines. I have no doubt that there are more than 100,000 people working in the gold-selling industry, although I know that they aren’t all in China of course.

*Ok, I know that’s a bit of a stretch, but there are giant international drug smuggling organizations out there, and I’m sure they’re rife with corruption on all levels.

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I dunno, I like the same qualities in a man as I want in a dog. Big, happy, friendly, and hairy. Not too much slobber either. ~Sue Bee

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UrbanReindeer
Deck the Malls


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I play an online game that lets you have it both ways. There are several pay-to-play servers; you subscribe and get access to the full game, or you can play a limited version of the game for free. Then there's the servers where you can buy in-game money with real money. The second set of servers started as an experiment which turned into a huge moneymaker for the company. They are most popular with teenagers. No work required! Be instantly rich!


There's an irony, in the end, to people purchasing a game - not to actually play it - but to get their character to "the top".

You have to wonder about people who want to be "power leveled", "run" (often from the beginning of the game to destinations 3/4 of the way through). I wonder about the people who beg "u giv me stuf cuz i pore". Well guess what pal, we all started out with nothing. Am I the only one who buys these games to play them?

It's like your online persona is today's pissing contest of choice. "Mine is bigger than yours".

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"He feeds the sparrows of the field, but He doesn't sit there and cram worms into their mouths." -- Mouse

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KDS
I'll Be Home for After Christmas Sales


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Greetings,

Not to hijack the thread, but I totally agree with this sentiment:

quote:

Am I the only one who buys these games to play them?

I view MMOs like any other hobby: the reward, to me, is seeing my hard-earned success and skill* pay off. Someone who enjoys handicrafts might show off their hand-made picture frames; I show off my screenshots of myself and 39 friends in front of a dead dragon. If you cheated to get to that point, where is the sense of achievement? Would you show off a ship-in-a-bottle that you purchased whole, and then claimed you put it together from a model kit? Why play your high-level character that you didn’t work* to level, or flaunt items and gold that you didn’t really earn?

I can understand people who don’t have enough time to dedicate to the game, but who want to play on occasion with their friends. It’s still not right, and not fair, but for and on the most part it doesn’t hurt anyone but the people directly involved.

*I know many people don’t consider the ability to play games a skill, or the time put into developing characters as work. Which in the end it is a matter of opinion, I don’t see how the ability to hit a ball with a wooden stick is skill but the knowledge and hand/eye coordination needed to play these games isn’t.

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I dunno, I like the same qualities in a man as I want in a dog. Big, happy, friendly, and hairy. Not too much slobber either. ~Sue Bee

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GenYus
Away in a Manager's Special


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If this is such a big issue, why not eliminate the ability to transfer gold between players? If you can't buy gold on the outside to use inside, then the gold farmers would disappear overnight.

If you want to do things like sell a weapon to another player, then the admins could set certain levels of acceptable prices to prevent this from being used to hide gold sales. For example, a plain iron dagger ranges from 10 - 20 GP. That way, a player who "bought" 100,000 GP could not hide the gold sale by selling a plain iron dagger to the gold-seller's character for 100,000 GP. Rarer weapons might be harder to set levels, but if a player who wants to buy gold has worked hard enough to get a rare weapon, they are probably not going to be as likely to buy gold.

If gifts are allowed to help out newbies, make it so that gifts can only be given to a character when they are in the early stages.

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IIRC, it wasn't the shoe bomber's loud prayers that sparked the takedown by the other passengers; it was that he was trying to light his shoe on fire. Very, very different. Canuckistan

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KDS
I'll Be Home for After Christmas Sales


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Greetings,

It’s an interesting idea to set limits, but it just wouldn’t work in the long-run:

quote:

If gifts are allowed to help out newbies, make it so that gifts can only be given to a character when they are in the early stages.

What about guild banks, where 40-200+ people send items to a single character, to be distributed to the guild (a necessary part of high-end raiding)? My SO and I both play, and for his birthday I handed him 800g (a large-ish amount) to buy himself an epic-speed riding cat. I know I’ve loaned/given my friends gold when they were just short for something they wanted to buy. There’s 1000s of valid reasons to be trading a large amount of coin for nothing in return (or handing off valuable items for nothing). It would destroy a large part of the free trade and community feeling, and solve almost nothing, as the botters/gold farmers would no doubt find a way around it.

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I dunno, I like the same qualities in a man as I want in a dog. Big, happy, friendly, and hairy. Not too much slobber either. ~Sue Bee

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GenYus
Away in a Manager's Special


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Yeah, I figured that was probably the case.

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IIRC, it wasn't the shoe bomber's loud prayers that sparked the takedown by the other passengers; it was that he was trying to light his shoe on fire. Very, very different. Canuckistan

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Troodon
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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I think the only solutions are to eliminate the sort of repetitive activities that allow for botting (and also make the games a lot less fun, IMO) or perhaps to allow an open PvP environment where players can kill someone they suspect of botting (and if they are really a bot, they probably won't fight back too well), and then have the death penalty result in gold loss (and perhaps gold gain for the PKer to encourage bot hunting).

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Fools! You've over-estimated me!

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Penguin Chips
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


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Its not the farming that breaks an ecomony of the game. The truth is, these companies pay big money for macros and hacks that can dupe gold. Farming can be done by you or me, so in essence we're all gold farming, but the real dealers go above and beyond to get thier cash.
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ravynwriter
I Saw Three Shipments


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Not to mention, sending things to yourself. I mean, look at it this way. I play WoW, and I have two servers, my horde chars and my alliance chars. Altogether, I have fourteen characters, five horde, the rest alliance. My main is a hunter, and one of my other characters is a bank for my personal use. All of my alts have different skill sets. One's a miner/engineer, one a herbalist/tailor, one a skinner/leatherworker, etc. etc. In essence, I have my own little economy. Whenever one of my characters gets something another one can use, I mail it to them. Like, if my tailor picks up copper ore, it goes to my smith to make bars out of and make use of. Whenever my smith gets linen cloth, it goes to my tailor to make bolts and clothes out of. My engineer makes bullets for my hunter, my hunter sends him tank drops that she gets she can't use. Any items, drops or raw materials that any of them get that they don't use, go to my bank who never leaves the AH save to run to the mailbox or bank. She lists and sells, finds good deals on equipment the others need, and sends them armor/money/items as needed.

I work hard to make my gold and I enjoy the feeling that comes from knowing that I've honestly made all of it. Beyond the occasional gift that friends of mine will send me (and I send them as well) such as a particular drop I can't use at all but they can, I've accomplished everything myself. My level 48 is well on her way to her Beaststalker set, has mostly blues and purples in the way of gear, and has no troubles paying for repairs. My alts, most of which are level 12 and below, are total twinks, decked out in blues and greens and upgrading their gear almost faster than their levels. They'd be higher level if I wasn't concentrating so hard on getting my main 60 before the expansion.

Nothing cheeses me off so much than to be at the AH or walking through Stormwind and having people beg me for money, or to be wandering about with my mage and people just automatically opening a trade window and then getting mad when I don't just 'give' them conjured bread and water (they never ask, just open trade and grunt 'food' or 'water'.

Seriously, play the frickin' game. If you don't want to play the game why are you even on it? Earn your own money. Yeah, it might mean a few hours of grinding and farming, but that's the point of the game! I mean, I don't buy Doom and use a cheat to skip to the last level, and then a cheat to kill the final boss. That wouldn't be any fun at all. Why then beg, borrow, or buy stuff you can earn on your own? To reach some end you never earned? It's pointless.

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Spamamander in a pear tree
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Oy. Farmers are the scourge of Lineage 2. Currently my clan is "at war" with a group of adena farmers, who originally demanded our players leave an area where a spellbook drops off of mobs, killing one of our players, and it's gone to hell from there *laughs*. 99% of the organized adena (L2 currency) farmers are from China, and you can often tell when the "shift change" is when the next player takes over the character. Early on in the game, they wore mismatched armor pieces and "botted" (ie, third party programs that repeatedly kill the same mobs in a certain area without an active player behind the screen) but now they are often very well-organized with high level players and overenchanted equipment to protect the lower levels who do the actual "farming" (often botted).

It destroys the game- not only because of the players who get powerlevelled and buy online currency to have the absolute best in gear and levels, but because it skews the economy horribly. For a while there was a clan called "Lord of Lords" on my server that farmed all of the raid bosses to get the high-end drops to sell. It not only deprived players of the high end content of the game, it also allowed the adena farmers to control the economy, as they were the only ones with access to the higher grade equipment drops. They had the spawn times logged and could have a group of high level characters perfectly suited for raid bosses at the location within minutes, and any other groups attempting to interfere were systematically killed off. With the new chronicle release NCsoft managed to ban the majority of the accounts from that particular clan but already new characters are in higher levels poised to take over. They also made raid bosses more difficult, requiring more people to take them down which is difficult for the farmers- but almost impossible for the player base sometimes.

I'm with ravyn on the NFBSKing beggars, anytime I have to take my main to a starter town I am immediately assailed by pleas for adenas. I often will give a chunk of cash to a player I can tell is truly new to the game and is asking questions about gameplay, but beggars can bugger off. I had to work for my stuff- and even with that, much of my high level gear is clan-owned. What's the point of playing if you don't even... play?

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"There is a race between mankind and the universe. Mankind is trying to build bigger, better, faster, and more foolproof machines. The universe is trying to build bigger, better, and faster fools. So far the universe is winning." -Albert Einstein

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MaxKaladin
The First USA Noel


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I've never bought gold, but my main in WoW just hit 60 last night and I have to admit to feeling a momentary urge to do so when I started thinking about what my epic mount would cost. I just won't do it though. I'll earn the money honestly* instead.

I've played on three servers now and honestly haven't really seen much of it yet. I'm sure it goes on, but it seems to be kept reasonably in check on the servers I've been on. I have some "offline" friends who have also played other MMOs like Lineage 2, Star Wars Galaxies and the Final Fantasy MMO and they describe the farmer problem being much worse there. One of them quit both Lineage 2 and the Final Fantasy MMO (XI?) because of the crazy economies it caused.

Why do people buy gold? I knew a guy in college (this was in the pre-MMORPG days) who would buy games, play them on the easiest level using all the cheat codes to beat them and then show off his accomplishment to everyone like it was an accomplishment. He evidently didn't think it mattered how he got there, only that he was there. I bet he's out there buying gold and max-level characters and expecting people to be impressed.

* Depending on your definition of "honest". Among other things, I plan to "play" the auction house (buy stuff that's priced less than what I think it will sell for then resell it at the higher price) and I've heard people demonize people who do that and say it's as bad as farming.

Posts: 716 | From: San Antonio, TX | Registered: Jan 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Spamamander in a pear tree
We Wish You a Merry Giftmas


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Damn... how can buying/ reselling be "as bad as farming"? In L2 that's one of the primary ways to make money for people who are skilled at playing the market- since there are no auction houses its all private sell shops, and a lot of my friends make good "adena" that way. I thought that was called capitalism?

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"There is a race between mankind and the universe. Mankind is trying to build bigger, better, faster, and more foolproof machines. The universe is trying to build bigger, better, and faster fools. So far the universe is winning." -Albert Einstein

Posts: 1058 | From: Yakima, WA | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
ravynwriter
I Saw Three Shipments


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I don't consider that farming. I don't do it often but every now and again if I spot something in the AH for wayyy less than I know it will resell for, I'll do that. I tend to price my stuff that I sell pretty low too (just barely making a profit on things like leather...I make my money by going in bulk, not by being uber greedy and jacking up the price...with three chars that skin, I've got an abundance of leather)...so I know people are out there buying my stuff just to turn and resell. Doesn't bother me in the slightest.

Last night our guild was talking about how the prices have dropped significantly in the AH, and apparently its due to Blizzard deleting about 170,000 'farmers' accounts and nearly 11 million gold from the servers. So they're not blind or tolerant to the problem. I say good going! It levelled the playing field significantly in a short time.

Posts: 58 | From: Seattle, WA | Registered: Mar 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Salamander
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


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Heh... WoW auction houses.

Go check out a mod called Auctioneer. From what I can gather, they're trying to incorporate tools in the next release to analyse trends and all that sort of stuff.

Personally I just use the thing to make sure I'm not paying too much for an item and getting a fair price for anything I try to sell. I suppose some may get their kicks from attempting to buy low and sell high but I can think of better things to do with my time.

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"victory thru self-deception"

Posts: 2211 | From: Western Australia | Registered: Jun 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
   

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