Saturday, April 17, 2010

KingsIsle's Smart Move

In-game and out-of-game, when we're focused on short-term satisfaction, we tend to overlook the beneficial results of  the restrictions that are placed on us.  When our parents chide us for wanting and "needing" the toy the kid next door has, step back and consider the act mother and/or father are/is doing, perhaps to purchase you that video game you've always-wanted-ever-since-two-weeks-ago around the holidays.  Although that may not necessarily be the true reason they refuse to quench your material-envy, it at least opens a window in that direction; you can always play the "remember when I was good and listened to you when you didn't want to buy me anything?" card.  (cue Cassandra G's illustrated Bambi eyes)

Or, consider the rules in school or sometimes work that demand "NO FOOD OR DRINKS (OR GUM) IN THIS ROOM!"  While our initial impression may involve thinking about how uptight or strict the owners of the building are, remember to realize that because of that rule, we're not limited to sitting in the chairs that were left empty because someone happened to spill their Banana Berry Jamba Juice on the seat and--by some mysterious, silent agreement between everyone else--lack the necessary sanitation.

So, what has KingsIsle done for players that most of us fail to notice right away?  And why are we primarily against this "beneficial" action in the first place...there's got to be a catch, right?  Right.  Improved qualities of life involve that wonderful Death spell we all hope our Necromancer allies have in their decks: sacrifice.  In other words, to get something, you've got to give something, regardless of how much control we have over what's in the transaction in the case of Wizard101.  Let's look at the lack of a trade function for items between different accounts.

Consider what is distinctly missing from Wizard101 that is annoyingly present in a lot of other MMORPGs, in terms of the game economy.  Spam bots.  Buy/Trade/Sell spamming.  "Shopkeeper" mode (being AFK for hours upon hours, congesting up servers, with rip-off prices on display).  Farm bots.  Chaotic inflation of prices of items due to the spontaneous reaction of supply and demand in a virtual world.  Most of these, if not all, would be present in Wizard101 if given the chance, especially in our era of instant gratification.  A lot of people would not take the time to learn the game thoroughly via farming, but would rather purchase their Grand armor to create a false sense of accomplishment.  As a result, because these hasty players failed to give any decent farming time, they'll have to rely on a future purchase should they create an alternate that will also don Level 50 gear. 

Alright, but I've spent countless months, literally, trying to farm for this super special awesome fizzlestickin' item...and I still can't get it...can I justify for a merchant system now??  Keep in mind how drops work.  Everyone has the same chance at a specific loot, but that doesn't mean you will have the same outcome as others.  Every time loot is dropped, it is a completely separate event from the last and the next; not getting an item in Farm #1 is not going to increase or decrease your chances for getting that item in Farm #2.  That said, players will have different results than one another, and thus rarity of an item will vary from 1:1 odds to 1:1,000,000,000 in terms of perspective.  Here's the point:  with you in desperate demand for your item, anyone else who has it could fix the prices against your favor.  And exactly how much do you think that item should be worth?  Remember, because of different witnessed and experienced drop rates, you're going to find yourself in quite a lot of disputes over the item's value.

Speaking of fixed prices, imagine what would happen to KingsIsle's Crown prices.  If trading equipment was allowed, then the pool of fully geared Grandmasters would have little incentive to make purchases.  That then will lead to a revision of stats on Crown armor to the point of obvious imbalance, which would only lead to seemingly unfair spikes in Crown values.  Then we are facing a game that has unattractively become based on who can spend the most to obtain the best gear.  We can try to make the argument that the Company, as of today, is already a money monger, but if you step back a bit, you may see the bigger picture here:

Going back to what Wizard101 isn't riddled with, due to the lack of an exchange function, let us say that those game economy cliches do become a part of the game.  To keep the integrity and reputation as a family-friendly MMO, the Company would have more expenses to cover than necessary.  Wage expense, and hand-in-hand with that: tax expense, would increase as KingsIsle tries to survive as a business AND satisfy our endless demands, by placing some employees on a scam and spam watch.  Higher operating expenses (or the costs a business faces when carrying out their mission statement) would mean raised pricing models.  Instead of the standard $10/month base subscription fee, we could be facing an average extra $60 annually.

One of the reasons why I enjoy the game is because we don't have that unnecessary distraction of worrying about biting off on the wrong end of the stick in a transaction with another player.  Moreover, it's a nice feeling knowing that almost any, if not all, avatar running around in our game is actually played by a human, as opposed to some fancy macro program.  The begging and scamming is reduced to, interestingly enough, "Wings for Treasure Cards"; when I first played, it used to be "Mount for Treasure Cards."  Heck, just seeing the way other players behave when it comes to trading items that we can obtain for free, craft, and buy with Gold or Crowns, my wish for Wizard101 parallels that of Jester's from Wizard101Central:

... When items are trade able and have a real dollar value, scams are RAMPANT. Cheating, (like I did) becomes the norm. Over powered characters (like mine) dominate(d) the game. People are out for blood. Because items have such value and are trade able, people found ways to hack the items and trade those UBER hacked items for untold amounts of money. Some people made millions.

It was/is a hostile environment for kids.

Personally, I hope Wizard101 stays the innocent game it is now. Once items become trade able, the game loses it's innocence and becomes a hostile place. I *think* the developers know this, as they are no strangers to MMOs.

Regardless if KingsIsle did consider the consequences thoroughly of allowing players to trade equipment or if they simply just left the system alone out of a fluke, it's unavoidable to say that they've done a great job thus far.

Though, this topic is truly volatile, and I welcome any arguments that support the side of why trading should be incorporated into the game.   I admit it would be nice to have another source of income and save time on revisiting Briskbreeze for the rings, but I can't rid that cliche: be careful what you wish for.

Thanks again for your time!

Happy hunting~


  1. Dude, when can we meet? And could you see the words last night I said to you? Menu/Text Chat etc... And why did you leave when I was right by you in-game?

    Talk to me more on twitter...

  2. This is really well thought-out, Kevin, and it makes a lot of sense. I wish I could have traded that high-level Fire gear to my alt on my husband's account, but if everybody did that it'd just be a big mess. Definitely not worth the trade-off, we'd lose a lot of what makes W101 the great game it is.

  3. Really good points. We sacrifice some conveniences in order to safeguard game safety and integrity and benefits.

  4. It really depends on what you want to consider "trading."

    If you are talking about trade between any random people that happen to bump into each other in-game, well then, I do think that never really needs to happen. Although I have seen at least one MMO least in my experience... never had so huge of a problem with it and it IS geared towards kids/teens, and it's way cheaper of a game than W101. Yes, there were people who would post in world chat that they would sell "item X" for so much in-game gold, but beyond that I never witnessed anyone asking for real money. Also there was a system of different types of chat: world chat, guild chat, chat with one friend at a time, etc., so you could pretty well ignore any spam out there if you just turned off one of the chat tabs. I don't know if their system is still that way or not as I rarely make an appearance there these days, but it seemed to all be fine when I was playing on there more. BUT, I do agree with you and many others who are happy to keep that much more spam out of the game, as well as keeping people from actually going to other sites and paying real money for what boils down to be a collection of pixels.

    Now, as for what KI/W101 called a "no trade" item:
    There is NO TRADING in the game at all between random people. BUT you can trade most items to your alts.
    I see no good reason why out of all the items that certain items can not be traded to one of your own alts who could use it. You DID earn it, so you should be able to use it.
    Furthermore I honestly wish there was a Family Shared Bank. Having such would allow family members and/or people who have multiple accounts to trade items between all the wizards under the main account.
    Many times I had wished I could give mom some of the stuff I had sitting around that was no longer useful to my higher level wizards. And many times I wished I could trade things from one of my own accounts to another when they needed it or when I got an drop on something that a wizard on the other account could really Myth would surely have the Shockblade sword by now if only that were the case. Also I would love to be able to trade pets around between accounts. My second account got tons of those Dragonblade pets for I don't know what reason, but my main only got a few and I wish I had one or two more for a couple of the wizards on the main. I also wish I could give my Danger Hound to my main account now.

    Another thing on the bank I would like to see, and I know this is beside the point but my old friend had actually come up with the thought of having a space for treasure cards in the bank...and how handy would that be to trade cards between all of your wizard accounts without going through all the stupidity of having to get both or however many wizards out(13 in my case...I and play "shuffle the treasure cards" for hours while trying to sort cards to the proper wizards?
    I would also LOVE to see a shared bank slot for reagents so that wizards that don't need them can drop them in there for wizards who do need them.

    So, anyway; I see no harm in letting one's own wizards be able to trade to each other as this doesn't effect other wizards in the game. In fact it may help other wizards because so-and-so won't be hoarding the Hoarder all day in every realm, etc. Instead once you got the drop you could give it to the wizard you want and then go on with your life. In my opinion the fact that some items are "no trade" is just being nit picky.

    They changed Malistaire's robes to be able to trade them between your alts, so there is no reason that your level 25 Life(or whatever) can't trade those snazzy looking storm boots you got on a drop to a Storm wizard on the same account or same family of accounts. You still earned it/won there is nothing to cry foul over there.


Let that thought out here: