I think that RMT is possible to eradicate. You just need to make gold “bind on pickup”. That is, you need to remove all possibility of asymmetric trades where one player can give or send gold to another player. And you need to change the auction house system to make it anonymous and blind, so that players can’t buy a worthless rock for 1000 gold and transfer money that way.
Technically, you would have to make every item in the entire world bind on pickup. Eradicate all forms of trade. Remove healing. Remove grouping. Remove all forms of assistance between one player and another.
After all, the core premise of economics is “I give you something that makes you better off, you give me something that makes me better off.” Both sides get better. The RMT scenario is simply an extension on this: “I give you something in the virtual world that makes you better off, you give me money in the real world that makes me better off.”
In the case of RMT, one half is completely out of our control: the exchange of real money happens outside the virtual world. Therefore, to eradicate RMT totally, you have to cut off the other half. The “I give you something that makes you better off in the virtual world” bit. And that means you have to prevent all forms of assistance between players. After all, what is powerlevelling and escort services but Real Money Traded for grouping?
Oh, perhaps you could keep “randomized assistance” as Tobold suggests via the auction house, but I think with the loss of grouping that might seem like a minor concession.
Doesn’t sound like much of a massively multiplayer experience, does it?
To top it off, an anonymous commenter says,
Raph is wrong, yet again. I’ve yet to hear one good argument in favor of having tradeable goods in a mmorpg; especially currency.
Sure. Let’s cut the game while we are at it. *eyeroll*
The reason to have tradeable goods in an MMORPG is so that players can help each other. And in final analysis, the reason to make a massively multiplayer PvE game is so that players can help each other. Otherwise, what the hell is the point? By definition, a multiplayer PvE game is about groups of players helping each other overcome a challenge.
Now, if you want to assert that the only valid way to play a PvE game and help each other is to be there in the instant, at the moment that the monster is getting killed, then more power to you. You live in a vastly impoverished gaming world, but so be it. I suggest that we developers could streamline your experience and make it more fun for you by taking the following steps:
- Remove the excessive and overdesigned lobby for matchmaking. Really, all these towns and shops and overland space is kind of overkill. A plain text one would do just as well.
- Make sure that the key purpose, killing monsters with your group, is the center of the experience. This suggests removing those other pesky groups from the environment, except in the matchmaking lobby of course. Instancing may help here.
- Clearly, we put too much design effort into guilds. Really, they could just be a friends list. Especially, all this stuff about pooling guild resources needs to go away. It’s over the line and clearly about cheating.
- And obviously, grouping itself has got to go. After all, healing is an asymmetrical trade — I am gifting you with some hit points. There is zero difference between that and my giving you a piece of armor. Buffing is exactly like handing you a sword. That group member applying a DoT to your target — that could be paid for!
Look, here’s what it boils down to: an MMORPG isn’t about killing monsters. It isn’t about the moment of combat (or any other individual game system — the moment of swordfighting in Puzzle Pirates, the moment of assembling a structure in A Tale In The Desert). You can get that stuff anywhere else. An MMORPG is precisely about the fact that people interact and do things outside of the “game” that is the moment to moment challenge. In fact, a large-scale economic game is exactly the sort of thing no other game can provide.
“Tradeable goods” is just one of the ways in which people interact and assist each other. And if you remove this, and the other things like it, what you are actually removing is stuff that cuts to the heart of the experience: random acts of kindness, altruism, gifting, user creativity, strangers helping strangers, people interacting with people.
I suggest to you that if you cut that, you are in the wrong part of the industry. You shouldn’t be making this kind of game, because you are clearly missing the point.
Edit: this debate continued here.