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Author Topic: Video game sweatshops
snopes
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Comment: Sweatshops for Gamers? I play a game called World of Warcraft. I
dont have alot of time to play and saw on E-Bay people selling gold for
the game. I do have money so I thought to purchase some gold. I inquired
to a freind about it who freaked out on me on told me it was evil. I
laughed about it, but he elaborated on his statement by saying that in
China they run gameing sweatshops where they get little kids to play the
game day in and day out and only pay them 14 cents an hour. It seemed a
little farfetched and I thought it might be worthy of a look into by Urban
Legends.

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BeachLife
The Bills of St. Mary's


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I don't know about the sweatshops, but search for World of Warcraft Gold on ebay. You get a lot of auctions which are pretty much full of engrish like this one:

1000 Gold WOW OF Warcraft World Any US Server nice A

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Sandman
Deck the Malls


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In fact there really are operations (based mainly in Korea actually, not China where internet access is strictly controlled by the government) that use people (not necessarily children) to play games like WoW in order to aquire gold and items to sell for real world cash. These are faily well documented, and a Google search will turn up a bunch of references.

These places probably would only be termed "sweatshops" by Americans, though. It is true that they are paid very little...according to a U.S. standard. By the economic standards of these places, the wages are sometimes considered quite good. Which isn't to say it's right (I'm not trying to pass any kind of moral judgement here), just that it's probably not a "kids being forced to work by men with whips for slave wages" kind of thing.

These people don't really get to play the game; bot programs usually do all of the normal stuff. The human being is only there to handle the occasional unexpected thing and to provide a live response to the inevitable direct inquiries of the GMs who notice the "bot" behavior. Many of these "gold farmers" are actually keeping an eye on 3 or 4 characters at a time as the bot programs run them through their paces.

That said, the real reason to not do what you are thinking of doing is that it is a direct violation of the EULA (End User License Agreement) you agree to every time you log into the game after a patch. Buying in-game items for real-world money is a one-way-ticket to permanant Ban-Ville USA. Blizzard is extremely aggressive about tracking down and banning anyone who violates their TOS (Terms Of Service), and although you many people get away with it, you CAN get caught doing this. If Blizzard catches a gold farmer, the first thing they do is go through the datalogs and find everyone who recieved an in-game mail package of money from that account. BANG! All those people are banned. Then they look through the longer datalogs and find everyone that was HANDED money or items by characters on that account. BANG! They are all banned as well.

Bottom line...you could buy the gold and get away with it. But there is also a good chance of getting your account banned. You rolls the dice and you takes your chances...


As a side note, most WoW players that I know consider people who buy characters/gold/items on Ebay or other places to be lower than scum. If it is publicized that you are one of these "Ebayers," prepare for a lot of scorn, abuse, and riducule. I know people who have deleted high level characters and rerolled from level 1 to escape just such a reputation.

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beaver_slayer
Deck the Malls


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A bunch of my friends had actually made a nice side income by playing Magic the Gathering Online, but WOTC doesn't specifically prohibit trading cards for money. That's why they invented "tix", afterall.
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Pac Man
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


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A lot of games have "side-economies" like this.

I'm one of those Magic Online players who has made a decent chunk of change. Over the 2-3 years I've been playing, i've invested less than $200 into the game, have sold well over $1500 in cards, and still have about half a dozen accounts totalling at least another 2 grand. And I only play about 3-4 hours a week. Some players make far, far more than that.

Do a search for some of the more popular games such as UO and WoW. Some people have made so much money doing things like "gold farming" and other forms of treasure hunting that they have actually quit their day jobs because they make more money gaming.

Some of these people have very detailed setups, and they know that it's against the TOS in some games to do what they do. However, due to the money that one could make if this is done properly, they consider it worth the risk of losing one account here and there, knowing that they probably still have 12 other accounts to fall back on.

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Just Me
Deck the Malls


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We've been dealing with it on FFXI - people are pissed and higher-ups do very little. I honestly don't think they care, banning their accounts means less money in their pocket at the end of the day.

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BeachLife
The Bills of St. Mary's


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quote:
Originally posted by Pac Man:
A lot of games have "side-economies" like this.

I'm one of those Magic Online players who has made a decent chunk of change. Over the 2-3 years I've been playing, i've invested less than $200 into the game, have sold well over $1500 in cards, and still have about half a dozen accounts totalling at least another 2 grand. And I only play about 3-4 hours a week. Some players make far, far more than that.

Do a search for some of the more popular games such as UO and WoW. Some people have made so much money doing things like "gold farming" and other forms of treasure hunting that they have actually quit their day jobs because they make more money gaming.

Some of these people have very detailed setups, and they know that it's against the TOS in some games to do what they do. However, due to the money that one could make if this is done properly, they consider it worth the risk of losing one account here and there, knowing that they probably still have 12 other accounts to fall back on.

Umm, I thought you left the boards, didn't you?

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chillas
Coventry Mall Carol


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quote:
Originally posted by BeachLife:
quote:
Originally posted by Pac Man:
*snip*

Umm, I thought you left the boards, didn't you?
Psst, Beach ... the post you replied to was made four days before that.

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Communication Attempt
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It's amazing how economics apply on cyber goods just like real goods.I also played a bit of Magic Online and after my initial investment of 120$ I ended up selling all my cards for a total of 300$,not much compared to what some players make but I was still happy with it.

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Two Scoops
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How true it is I don't know, but almost every MMORPG player eventually hears tales about the sweatshops for games like EverQuest, EverQuestII, World of Warcraft, Lineage2, etc. It's referred to as the secondary market a lot of the time.
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Errata
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


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I'd say the main problem that most gamers have with buying in-game goods out-of-game isn't the effect it has on the farmers. The problem is what it does to the game, which may be important to other players of the game, but is probably low on the list of moral offenses in the real world. As far as the farmers are concerned its probably as good a job as any.
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Rehcsif
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Isn't this the hard way to go about it? I mean, it's not only 'soft goods', it's a fake, created economy. The game manufacturer, or some cracker, could easilly create and sell the money/points/level badges and sell them.

Why have people actually play the game to earn it pseudo-legitly?

-Tim

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Ulkomaalainen
Jingle Bell Hock


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I'm not entirely sure I understand your question, but for many, if not most, playing an online game with certain "rewards" for good and enduring play, the fun would be spoiled if you just spend bucks and get it "for free". It's a little like work and rewards. So the game manufacturer should be out.

Crackers would be possible, but this is getting a criminal thing - you may rest assured that the manufacturer would likely use all means possible to him to hunt down and punish them. Okay, them sitting in China may help from prosecution, but the same probably does not hold for buyers.

So your best bet would be small business between people who do not do this on a regular base. More difficult and less worthy to track down.

Having worked for a while as a so-called mediator (in fact, I was a hunting for cheaters) on an online board gaming portal with some (very limited) gadgets around it, I am amazed at the lengths some people go to get some bits corrected so people may look up at them (which they actually do not). I've had a few cases of some people cracking software (and being too stupid afterwards), which is of course illegal in Germany, some people doing repetitive boring tasks (instead of actually playing) for 5 or 8 hours, 7 days a week, for some weeks. (Yes, that means we did not catch them for months as well, but it's a non commercial site, so we've been doing it in our spare time, and 20 hrs a week was already enough work).

Ulko "Crack Mc Zaken" maalainen

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Panda_Marie
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Now, I don't like to admite this...but I enjoy WoW very much. My boyfriend got me into it.

And I would just like to say...man, I wish someone would pay ME to play WoW all NFBSK day long.

Seriously, does anyone know where I can get a job like that?

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GravyTrain
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The thing that bugs me is the things people say in game in order to try and justify their disgust for farmers.

"They ruin the economy". Wrong. They cite the inflationary effect this person has by playing so many hours a day. Many of the more "hard core" gamers put that many hours in. A farmer who puts in X hours a month has the exact same economy-ruining effect as a SAHN (Stay-at-home-nerd [Smile] ) does by putting in X hours a month.

"They're all jackasses". Irrelevant. Besides, I'll say that there exists just as many jackasses among SAHNs as well.

"They're breaking the EULA". Possibly, and possibly also irrelevant. The legality of EULAs is not exactly set in stone, and if I recall correctly, a court case in China recently set the precedent that online objects "belong" to the person paying for the account and playing the game, irrespective of what any EULA says.

"They enable people to break the spirit of the game." True enough as is, but I have yet to hear one argument about how the ability of some guy with more money than time to purchase a character affects the "real players" in any direct, tangible fashion.

Having said that, I love WoW, and I love playing games for the sole purpose of "making it on my own". At the end of the day, I can see that the money and items in my account are solely the result of my efforts. That's the whole point - to me! - of playing such a game.

GT.

GT.

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Rehcsif
We Three Blings


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quote:
Originally posted by Ulkomaalainen:
I'm not entirely sure I understand your question, but for many, if not most, playing an online game with certain "rewards" for good and enduring play, the fun would be spoiled if you just spend bucks and get it "for free". It's a little like work and rewards. So the game manufacturer should be out.

But how is this different from buying from a sweatshop, which is the whole point of the OP?

quote:
Originally posted by Ulkomaalainen:

Crackers would be possible, but this is getting a criminal thing - you may rest assured that the manufacturer would likely use all means possible to him to hunt down and punish them.

It is not, at all, clear to me that this is a criminal offense. We're not talking selling illegal copies of the game -- we're talking cheat codes. To bring this to my generation, this would be like someone publishing a hack that gave you unlimited lives in Space Invaders or extra-long power-pill action in Ms. Pac Man.


Methinks people take gameing WAY to seriously, but just my own opinion...

-Tim

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Wizard of Yendor
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quote:
Originally posted by Rehcsif:
But how is this different from buying from a sweatshop, which is the whole point of the OP?

It's not, they're both bad. That's why game creaters don't do this, and make it as hard as possible for other to crack the game to do so. I'm sure they're not happy about the sweatshop thing (to whatever extent it really happens) either, but that's harder to prevent.
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Ulkomaalainen
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What I wanted to say is, being able to "buy" virtual goods stuff would strongly diminish the value of the game to the average user. So the game manufacturer will not do it on his own (I thought you meant to imply "why don't they do this themselves - I probably misunderstood, sorry). Of course, sweatshops like the ones of the OP would yield the same results, so the manufacturer will probably not like them, too.

As for the legal consequences, I think we have different legal systems in US, EU and China, so maybe it's not really worth discussing it, but (a) hacking (owned) software and changing code would IIRC be an offence in the EU, as was longevity in Space Invaders (not that I really cared back then [Wink] )as well as there are (b) goods you may own and that are legally yours, so they cannot be taken away from you, yet you're not allowed to freely pass them on. Prescription drugs would be an example.

As for GravyTrain, first - they are behaving differently economically from normal "heavy users", plus - if the implication is right that they are basically only employed for watching scripts run and interact sometimes with Real Human Beings (tm) if necessary. Another point (don't know about WoW, as I have never played it) is, that there often are different lists, rankings, scorings, sometimes limitations on how often certain goodies are dealt, and all players, if such things are in place, are in my opinion entitled to their just place they earned. This means, depriving somebody of Rank 321.456 and pushing him back to 321.457 would already influence him negatively. Silly? Yes, but still, it may be relevant to this guy, and he would have earned it, and where is the line to draw?

Plus, I actually dislike trying in-game EULA rulings like this in court. This is a NFBSKing game. There are rules. Play according to the rules, or don't play at all. If you kill my men in a game, I cannot go to court and claim that killing is illegal or that you deprived me of property I rightfully own, can I?

Ulko "way too much time spent on games anyway" maalainen

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Errata
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The best way for game companies to fight sweatshops is to make changes to the gameplay to require more interaction. In most cases a real human player wouldn't even notice the subtle differences and compensates without thinking about it, but little things can really throw off bots and make them far less practical. Farming would have less impact on games if they actually had to have one person per account actually playing the game reasonably well. As it is they use automation and exploits so that each human has an effect well beyond normal players (not counting the few nuts who do the same sorts of things to "get ahead" in the game).

There are some successful MMOGs out there that basically have no secondary market because it just isn't practical. Certain game design choices could put a larger proportion of games into that category, or at least cut back on the scale of it.

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Rehcsif
We Three Blings


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quote:
Originally posted by Ulkomaalainen:
As for the legal consequences, I think we have different legal systems in US, EU and China, so maybe it's not really worth discussing it, but (a) hacking (owned) software and changing code would IIRC be an offence in the EU, as was longevity in Space Invaders (not that I really cared back then [Wink] )as well as there are (b) goods you may own and that are legally yours, so they cannot be taken away from you, yet you're not allowed to freely pass them on. Prescription drugs would be an example.

I don't think we're comparing apples to apples. Consider the following multi-part scenario:

a) Game X has 50 levels, and you have to gather so much gold to advance to the next level. Since the game is very complicated, Game X allows me to save my game state at any time.

b) As I continue to play Game X, I discover an easter egg in the game: if I type "rehcsif is great", I get 1000 extra gold pieces. But it only works once a level.

c) Finally, I load up the saved game file into a hex editor, and with a little work, realize the gold is encoded in a few of the bytes, so all I have to do is zap in some numbers to get some gold.

Why would any of the following be illegal:

1) Selling saved game files that I've earned by completing levels in part a (this is essentially what the sweat shops are doing).

2) Using the easter egg (part b) to my advantage to complete levels and selling the resulting saved game files.

3) Selling instuctions about how to activate the easter egg as part of a 'tips and tricks' book?

4) Selling saved game files that I modified in part c?

Remember, at no time did I hack program code, or try to defraud the company of any money by pirating their game, preventing others from buying copies, etc.

I don't see how this is illegal. It would be like Microsoft saying I can't load .DOC files into a text editor and changing some of the internal settings of the file that way...

-Tim

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Ulkomaalainen
Jingle Bell Hock


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Actually, I am no legal expert, and of course my comparison is bound to fail. I just wanted to point out that there are legal scenarios, where you personally own property but are still not allowed to pass it on.

Your scenario would fail as a valid comparison in (a) that you could recopy that saved game as often as you like, while selling this Anti-Klingon-Magick-Spell in "Ultidoom of Warquake VII" could probably be done only once, plus (more importantly) (b) you are not playing a Multi Player game.

To put up another made up comparison that probably won't work: consider a scenario where we are playing a four player hot seat economics game at a computer (probably no one does this in the 2000s, but everyone who ever owned a C64 knows waht I mean). I know about getting 1000 Gold by typing "rehcsif is great", you don't. I win every game. Some day you'll find out. Since we were playing at your PC, you being the organizer of this "mini gathering", and you (rightfully) think, I was misbehaving, you choose to never invite me over again.

I think the same, or similar, rights should hold for whoever "organizes" a Multi Player Game via the net, saying "you shouldn't do this or that" in the game, otherwise kicking you out - even though you probably violated no "real life law".

Of course, it being a company it cannot refuse service to anyone without stating a good reason (at least that would be the case over here), but violating certain "rules", even though it may not be legally punishable, should be allowed.

The difference to your Microsoft comparison being, that you use .DOC files for "external purposes", while this "Broadsword +4" is really only usable in this game.

Ulko "but then, I was happy without that +4 sword, so what the heck" maalainen

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mnotr2
Jingle Bell Hock


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What would LeRoy Jenkins do?

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Alana
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Leeroy Jenkins is on the same server I play on, Laughing Skull, unfortunately, and his guild is outwardly racist against all non-whites and non-christians. Its pretty sick. Sorry for going off-topic. :X

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My friend said to me, "Man, this weather is trippy." I said to him, "No, man, it's not the weather that is trippy. Perhaps it is the way we perceive it that is indeed trippy." Then I thought, "Man, I should have just said, 'yeah.'" - Mitch Hedberg

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Two Scoops
We Wish You a Merry Giftmas


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quote:
Originally posted by Errata:

There are some successful MMOGs out there that basically have no secondary market because it just isn't practical. Certain game design choices could put a larger proportion of games into that category, or at least cut back on the scale of it.

Which ones are you referring to?
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Errata
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


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quote:
Originally posted by Two Scoops:
quote:
Originally posted by Errata:

There are some successful MMOGs out there that basically have no secondary market because it just isn't practical. Certain game design choices could put a larger proportion of games into that category, or at least cut back on the scale of it.

Which ones are you referring to?
City of Heroes, Planetside, Puzzle Pirates, A Tale in the Desert. Any big game has some people selling stuff, but in some of them it basically no impact on the game and no real market for it.
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Two Scoops
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Ah thanks. I haven't played any of those ones (though I did download A Tale in the Desert!). I assume there isn't much in the form of items or character progression for individuals in those games?
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Emy
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


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quote:
Originally posted by Two Scoops:
Ah thanks. I haven't played any of those ones (though I did download A Tale in the Desert!). I assume there isn't much in the form of items or character progression for individuals in those games?

Um... No actually. City of Heroes is one of the most customizable games online right now (except for say Second Life with its built in 3D development software) and also extremely fun with many different levels of progression and character interaction. Puzzle Pirates is just plain addictive with less character customization but I've seen some pretty incredible RPs going on in there. [Smile]
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snopes
Return! Return! Return!


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Ogre to Slay? Outsource It to Chinese

One of China's newest factories operates in the basement of an old warehouse. Posters of World of Warcraft and Magic Land hang above a corps of young people glued to their computer screens, pounding away at their keyboards in the latest hustle for money.

The people working at this clandestine locale are "gold farmers." Every day, in 12-hour shifts, they "play" computer games by killing onscreen monsters and winning battles, harvesting artificial gold coins and other virtual goods as rewards that, as it turns out, can be transformed into real cash.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/09/technology/09gaming.html

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snopes
Return! Return! Return!


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quote:
consider a scenario where we are playing a four player hot seat economics game at a computer (probably no one does this in the 2000s, but everyone who ever owned a C64 knows what I mean).

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ica171
Deck the Malls


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My husband plays WoW--so did I, for a while, but just do it sporadically now. People (on his server at least) tend to blame everything on the farmers. Price of whatever is high? Blame the farmers. Can't find a certain mineral? Blame the farmers.

I agree with GT, some of those SAHN (what a good term!) can probably do just as much as a farmer. I know there was recently an argument about people who don't devote 15 hours a day to WoW not getting the same loot. Apparently there's quite a few people who can devote that much time, which really surprised me.

Computer Gaming World just did a big article on this, but I think their server is down. I'll try to post it later. They found that, like Sandman says, it's long hours but relatively good pay for the area.

I agree with you, Panda. If I could make the kind of money farmers do I'd play nonstop.

ETA: Here is the link to that article. From June of this year.

Posts: 384 | From: Iowa | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
gizard
I Saw Three Shipments


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There was a joke a few friends and I started in Everquest- that we bought a Korean kid on eBay who was an excellent gamer, chained him to the chair and made him level our charachters. I'm not claiming to start the legend, but I'm sure others have misheard claims as fact as well.

The ability to purchase a high level player/currency shouldn't be a problem. I had a few charachters through my EQ life, one of them with over 2 years played time. That is two years of BEING ONLINE. IE whoever played it before me had no life whatsover, considering the game had only been out for a couple years. For people getting into the game late (years later than the first few) it is near impossible to compete with levels and items. Spending $300 to save yourself 2 years of real life experiences sounds like an easy choice to me.

Posts: 64 | From: Missoula, MT | Registered: Sep 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Draos
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


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quote:
Originally posted by Errata:
quote:
Originally posted by Two Scoops:
quote:
Originally posted by Errata:

There are some successful MMOGs out there that basically have no secondary market because it just isn't practical. Certain game design choices could put a larger proportion of games into that category, or at least cut back on the scale of it.

Which ones are you referring to?
City of Heroes, Planetside, Puzzle Pirates, A Tale in the Desert. Any big game has some people selling stuff, but in some of them it basically no impact on the game and no real market for it.
Not sure about the other 3 you metioned but City of Heroes stuff and powered leveled characters is sold a lot on sites like ebay. The fact is most MMO are going to have something that people with out a lot of time to play are going to sell people without a lot of time to play.

Not say it is right or wrong, but it is going to happen and although the game makers say they will do anything they can to find and ban bots. Most that I have played don't activly look for them, unless you report them they wont go away.

Posts: 30 | From: Brigham City, Utah | Registered: Sep 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
   

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