20 Oct. 2007

What is Gold farming? Simply put, gold farming happens in a MMO when a player camps a favorable spot to kill a mob (mindless ominous brunet) repeatedly to accumulate gold. It is normally extremely tedious and repetitive but effective, in particular if your spot is well chosen, the mobs spawn fast and drop generous amounts of precious coins.

There is nothing bad in farming gold, I mean, is atrociously boring but licit within the terms of all the MMOs I can recall. Problems arise when someone, namely the gold farming industries, farms gold in a game (let’s say World of Warcraft) and sells it through the internet to other players for real money; for example 5000 shiny doubloons for say 100$. Well, that is not only against the rules and terms of many games but it’s also very bad for the economy of the game as (virtual) money value gets deflated and the cost of items, at the AuctionHouse for example, can get out of control. This is just the tip of the iceberg considering that in fact, gold farming (GF) has many other impacts on the gameplay in general.

Nonetheless it can also be extremely tempting to buy virtual gold as it allows overleaping a sometimes boring gold accumulating phase often necessary to buy a mount or expensive whatnots. That’s why many players fall into temptation and the plague spreads.

The ways a GFer can pass the money to a player in game are actually 3 basically.
a) direct transfer from player to player;
b) through the mail system;
c) through the Auction House (less practical).
All strategies have advantages and disadvantages for the GF companies. The ideal for them would be a fast and untraceable transaction with no risk of loosing the high lvl character used for farming. This is why very often the transactions are carried by expendable freaking-named lowbies characters. (xxhyfgggmmy anyone?.

Many strategies have been suggested to eradicate this evil weed and multimillionaire companies (Blizzard) invest money and human resources to systematically track down and ban gold farmer accounts. But why do not put an end to this with a dramatic and decisive stroke? Why not making gold soulbound for example? This would certainly stop any possible traffic of illicit virtual gold as there won’t be anymore possibility to pass the gold from the hands of the farmers to the hands of the player that actually buy it. We know that this would be unfair and unpractical as it would impact dramatically and negatively on many aspects of the game: players who just want to gift some gold to a newbie friend or need to gather gold to buy potions before a raid, just to make a couple of examples.

I want here to suggest an idea that could be practical to implement and would not impact the gameplay (I have WoW in mind) significantly whilst reducing dramatically the impact of gold farming or at least facilitating the traceability of the illicit transactions.
The idea is composed of 3 modifications of the gameplay:
1. making the amount of money a character can carry function of its actual level (for example a lvl1 would be able to carry no more 10gold a lvl2 20 and so on);
2. making money storable in the character bank instead of allowing character to carry all of their money with them.
3. controlling the buyout price on low level items in order to minimize or eliminate the use of fake AH transactions as a money transfer method. That’s it.

The advantages of such a strategy are obvious. Lowbies could not carry more than a certain amount and consequently could not be used efficiently for the transfer from character to character. This would solve in a shot also the mail transfer as you would need a high lvl character to take the money and of course a high lvl character to send it. Character would be allowed to use all the gold they have stored in the bank at the AH.
A minor drawback is for example that you have to go back to the bank to “empty” your pockets when (if) you reach the gold limit for your lvl but, hey, that already happens with items. I realize that there are also slightly major drawbacks in this idea but I think they are acceptable compared to the advantage of possibly remove gold farmers from the game. What do you think?