Toldain Talks

Because reading me sure beats working!


Toldain started as an Everquest character. I've played him in EQ2, WoW, Vanguard, LOTRO, and Zork Online. And then EVE Online, where I'm 3 million years old, rather than my usual 3000. Currently I'm mostly playing DDO. But I still have fabulous red hair. In RL, I am a software developer who has worked on networked games, but not MMORPGS.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Tales from the Vault

Online selling has been around for a bit more for a week, and I for one and glad to see it. Although it must be said that it works against me a bit, since I was one of the lucky ones in the Pacific Time Zone who could begin selling after the daily reboot and stay there all day long.

Online selling definitely increases the liquidity of EQII markets. More stuff is available more often. And usually at a better price, since there is more competition. That's good news for buyers. The good news for sellers is that you don't have to give up play time to sell. That's good news for sellers who don't have dedicated sales accounts.

But those folks can have a reason to be relieved, at least. There is still an advantage to selling with a character versus selling via the vault, namely, a customer can come to your room and buy from you direct and avoid the transaction costs. This means that your prices can be more competetive, at the same profit to you, your price is going to be more attractive to a consumer. Also, with another account you've lots more inventory space.

But it hasn't fixed everything. There are still opportunities for arbitrage, by moving stuff through time, buying when it's cheap, and selling when it's dear. I do this with commodities that I also use for my tradeskill, since I'm inherently interested in them. Of course, arbitrage is made easier by vault selling, too.

And there still seems to be a marked difference in the price/availability of one spell versus another. Some Adept 1 upgrades are abundant and cheap, while others can't be found.

I suspect this exists for two reasons. Probably not all spells of a given tier or level drop off of all mobs, there might be variation there. And certainly some spells are not valued the same either. Some, like Breeze for enchanters, are seen as core spells that are critical to performance, while others are seen as more peripheral. But I don't think this can account for the wide variations I've seen on the broker, since for example Daunting Gaze usually has many copies on the broker, and it's extremely valuable, one of the best tools in the tier 2 enchanter toolbox.

Vault selling serves the interest of the game designers in that it takes more coin out of the game. One of the problems with managing a game economy is that the money comes from nowhere. There is an endless supply of mobs, which drop stuff that can be sold to vendors for coin. Vendors will buy skeletal hands for the same price no matter how many people have sold to them recently, and they never run out of coin to pay. So, money flows into the game.

The game designer then is faced with the problem of taking money back out of the game. Buying things from other players doesn't take either the item or the money out of circulation. However, attunement does take things out of circulation. Buying permanent items from vendors, such as mounts, paintings, furniture, takes the money out of the game, but not the item, which can be sold, though often at a discount.

The brokerage fees simply go away, leaving nothing of value in their place. This is also true of consumable items, such as arrows, potions, food and drink. Spell upgrades are like attuneable items, only better, from the game design point of view, because attunable items can be sold back to NPC vendors for some coin, but spell upgrades (and tradeskill books), once scribed, cannot.

I took the position a few months ago that the lack of offline selling represented a point of view that espoused that if a player wasn't online, then they had no right to be making money in-game. An extension of the "a person must be sitting in the chair" philosophy. Only that isn't what I was doing.

When I wanted to sell, I'd set up the seller, and go off doing something else. Sometimes I'd be at home and be able to see my screen and hear the clink of coins when someone bought something from me. But I wasn't sitting at the chair.

In all fairness, it doesn't really seem appropriate that the timezone you live in should have an effect on how well you can be a merchant in-game, but it did. If you could start up your merchant after the daily reboot because you didn't have to already be at work, that gave you a big advantage. Vault selling just cancelled that out, and I think that's a good thing.


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