(or how I learned to stop worrying and love RMT)

This is a complete 180. Yup. Yessiree. I’m not ashamed to admit it. It came to me as an epiphany. No, I didn’t have to bang my head on the toilet and come up with a flux capacitor. But it was close.

I, like many many others, used to be quite opposed to RMT in more or less venomous terms depending on the situation and the company. I never hated the concept in itself, but I did have a lot of mistrust built up towards it. Years and years of seeing systems used and abused by the userbase will make one a cynic about promises of rainbows and pots with gold. That’s how it is.

But now? I saw the light, one might say. RMT is an inevitability, that’s where we’re heading. I knew this, but I also knew I didn’t have to like it. However, that changed. Count me in. I’ve seen the future, and it’s lined with silver thread. RMT is good, if you design around it well. I am now a firm proponent of RMT. How? Why? Read on.

Ask around your guild, or your gaming friends. Hell, if you feel adventurous enough, ask in the forums of your addiction of choice. What is the main concern we as gamers have regarding RMT? What’s the most common answer? The one we shoot from the hip with?

“I don’t like RMT because the game then turns into who has the most real money to spend on it. I don’t want real money to enter the picture and give some people better performance than others, just depending on how much they spend.”

The answer might change a bit in the wording, but the sentiment is the same. That’s what we think of, collectively and almost instinctively, when we hear RMT. I mean, if players that have vast amounts of time to hardcore it up in any game are bad enough (in the eyes of the general, more casual playerbase at least), imagine what they can do if we give them the tools to amplify their performance even more by being able to buy more powerful gear, better potions, more advantages and all that jazz.

I think it’s a valid concern. However, I’m also here to tell you about my epiphany, and how RMT doesn’t have to be related to any of that.

What’s the answer, then? Let them buy fluff. I mean, if you think about it, it does have a ring of being so utterly obvious… “If the main resistance to RMT is giving players the ability to increase performance with money, then the solution is not to never apply RMT altogether. The solution is to unlink performance from RMT”. Problem solved? Possibly.

The situation: Devs (or publishers, rather, in most cases) want more money. However, letting players buy their gear and items would give some people an advantage over others, using an element that’s not strictly game related, and that creates a really nasty vibe with the community. The solution is to still take those players’ money (after all, if they’re willing to spend it, we should be willing to take it), but not to let “performance” or “advantage” enter the picture at all.

An example: One of the most common and most desperate cries of the way too often underestimated and ignored Roleplaying micro-communities in your games of choice is that they’re simply not given enough tools with which to play the game the way they like to play it. Common bullet points? “Not enough fluff items”, “Not enough RP clothes”, “Not enough emotes/character actions”, “Not enough props”. Of course we can’t, under common player wisdom, introduce RMT to let people acquire ‘power’ items because it’d be bad(tm). But if we let people buy fluff items, then who cares? Where’s the damage? There’s no gain of performance and there’s no undue advantage obtained there.

Player housing? Sure, let’s include basic player housing since it’s always demanded. That ships with the game (ideally!). Every player that plays the game, just for being a regular paying sub, has the right and the priviledge of being able to own his own game house. That’s not in discussion. But that’s also where the rights stop – the houses come unfurnished. You want furniture? RMT for it, honey. Look, here we have the most basic, rustic collection of furniture for your dwelling. It all blends together, see? Cracking fireplace, bear rug, rustic chairs and charming wooden table. Get the set at the game store for only a dollar.

What’s that? Your character is a noble and doesn’t really go for the stuff the unwashed mobs of the realm go? No matter! Look, here we have the castle set. Now we’re talking! Get your stone walls, long dinner table and chairs (candles included), fine art to hang on the walls and a regal bed to die for. Only five dollars at the game store!

Not enough for ya? You want the absolutely top of the line collection? You wanna have a place to really impress your online friends and roleplay it up like the jet set every night? Then look no further than our “designer collection”, full of luxury items. No modern home can afford to exist without the style these props drip. We’re pimping your player house, one dollar at a time, and this deluxe set of awesomeness costs only ten of those dollars I know you’re just dying to give us.

Why stop there? Sure, let mobs drop useful gear if you want to. But if you wanna look good, then look no further than designer clothing (with no stats or benefits), available only at our game store. We also have the latest in jewelry and accessories, fine clothing for men, formal occasions. We also have a pet store a mile wide, specialty ales and wines and select dyes for your clothing… and all these in-game stores will gladly take your real money!

The sky is the limit. Wanna change your avatar’s haircut? One real dollar gives you a token to drop by your favorite in-game NPC barbershop – complete with quartet – to get that poor pixelated bastard feeling good about himself again. If the setting allows, you can also get plastic surgery: a complete makeover of your avatar’s appearance. The token for that is only worth ten clams at the store.

And so on.

At no point in the examples above any player gained any measurable, by the numbers increase in performance over another. At no point any item was acquired that gave one player a game advantage over another. Performance was not touched. At all. Yet the money comes rolling in anyway. And that’s the epiphany: Widespread opposition to RMT is not about RMT itself, but what RMT usually sells. What, you think people wouldn’t fork over real cash for items that really have no tangible, measurable, actual in-game performance? Think again. Need I mention Second Life? Habbo Hotel? All the other games/apps that swim under the surface of our AAA gaming, which have userbases the likes of which any of the big guys would kill for?

Repeat after me: It’s not about RMT. It’s what we sell with it. Start selling them fluff… fill that market need for fluff… and you’ll see even the most stalwart of RMT detractors quickly switch their tune, for the simple reason that there’s nothing to complain about anymore. I changed my tune, and I don’t mind admitting it at all. Bring me RMT for fluff please, and keep it out of performance. Everybody wins.

34 thoughts on “Fluff”

  1. Sounds fine by me…however, unless the items are bound to the player then the players are still essentially buying gold as the items will have high gold values.

  2. The term RMT implies trading real money for in game money. The in game money that you use to buy useful objects. You can’t just decide that RMT now mean trading real money for useless ingame money. This is nonsense.

  3. I made a reply over on Heartless Gamer about RMT and said the same thing: sell fluff, because fluff sells. Look what Free Realms will do: sell new clothes, new little pets, etc. Fluff. It won’t sell new gear that would actually give someone an advantage.

    I’m also fine with taking an EQ2/Agency approach to RMT for access to certain zones, or questline content.

  4. I agree with mark on this one. People are attracted to RMT precisely because they don’t want to hardcore grind or spend effort in a game. If you split the types of money in the game to one that gives advantages (be it stat, epic flying mounts or etc), and one that only gives fluff, publisher supported RMT would go on perhaps for players that wants fluff, but outsider supported RMT would still continue precisely because people want to cheat the advantage game.

    If you don’t split the types of money, then publisher supported RMT will end up causing advantage imbalance for the real life rich…

    I don’t think your arguments work very well. :p

  5. I also agree with Wilz and mark.

    One form of RMT that I do like is Eve Online’s system of securely trading Eve Time Codes (ETCs) for in-game currency (isk). While this still allows people to pay cash to avoid the grind, it allows legitimate players to also benefit. In essence, those who want to buy isk can legitimately do so by paying (via ETCs) the subscription fees of those who have extra in-game currency.

    I used this system to play two accounts for a few months without subscription fees, and someone else got to use the isk I generated to fulfill their larger goals like buying an expensive battleship. At least their ship was bought with honest in-game labor (rather than botting or near-automatic farming), even though they didn’t provide it themselves.

  6. I think what your solution is discussing is really alternate forms of payment for an MMO – which many games are already experimenting with.

    Some less-known MMO-style games do this, sell fluff and costumes for real money, example of the top of my head is Ragnarok Online, afaik.

    Kingdom of Loathing has an interesting system of built-in micropayments in the form of buying Mr Accessories. You don’t -have- to buy them to enjoy the game, but those who want maximum performance or a lazy shortcut will put down the money for the advantage. And they are tradeable, so there’s a burgeoning market for those too. Oddly enough, there’s no rabid frothing at the mouth opposition to the RMT going on in there, afaik, so perhaps it’s the player culture?

    Guild Wars has it built-in one level higher. Buy ‘chapters’ of the game for more content, more skills, more nifty systems. Don’t -have- to, but if you were seriously into the game, who wouldn’t spend the cash?

    And a bunch of commercial MMOs (WoW, LOTRO, GW and CoX, that I’m aware of) are hopping onto the bandwagon of ‘pay us more money, and you can transfer servers or get more character slots.’

    I think those are more or less accepted by players. Or by me, anyhow.

    My personal rabid HATE of RMT (or what I understand from the term RMT) stems from the perception that people who indulge in RMT are lazy and are taking shortcuts through the system / actual gameplay by throwing money at it.

    If you’re buying perks with real money, that’s fine, and that’s not RMT to me.

    But the instant you throw money at a ‘problem’ to ‘solve’ it and save you time actually playing the game, that’s RMT and that’s perverting what the game is supposed to be about.

    I might even propose that RMT that players hate, is usually through a third-party agency, so it’s not part of the games ruleset, so to speak.

    To me, it’s ok if you buy better gear by spending 24 hours playing the game farming for enough gold to afford it from another player. (Stupid and boring, maybe, but hey, some people like grind.) It still kind of demonstrates that you’ve mastered the game, or learned enough about how it works to be able to exploit it.

    But if you just bought the gold or gear with real money and didn’t actually play the game, then why even bother to get it to brag about? The ‘learning/mastery/status/prestige’ that one claims with the bought item is not there, it’s fake.

    That’s my beef with RMT. Fake in-game claims, paid for with real outside money.

  7. Let’s not get too hung up on semantics either. We still haven’t mastered the arcane art of sitting three people together and have them agree on what “MMO” is or should be… do we want to start tackling this one too?

    I pay $10 to Goldsellers.com for 100g and that’s RMT.
    I pay $10 to the game dev for a fluff item, and that’s not RMT?

    Come on now. There is common usage with the term, yes. But gold buying is not all that the term can hold.

  8. That or you can look at it as the exploitation that happens using third-parties for game currency trading:

    I don’t like normal MMO economies because the game then turns into who has the most time to spend on it. I don’t want time to enter the picture and give some people better performance than others, just depending on how much they spend.

    Great in concept for people who really can’t afford to grind gold for an hour or two a day, preferring to have quality play-time when they play, but the moment the host company starts selling the currency, creating it from nothing, drop rates will go down and requirements on “free” grinding time will increase.

  9. the primary game i’ve been playing lately is a free-to-play base with optional RMT funding.. anyone can play, for free, and can fully enjoy the entire game with no limits, with the exception of one area that you must buy a “pass” (which is account specific, can’t be sold/traded/etc in game) with real cash to access.. this area allows for better npc prices and one service npc that can’t be found elsewhere.. the other stuff that can be purchased by way of RMT is tradable and sellable in-game, letting players effectively “buy gold” (to put it into WoW terms) from the devs..
    one class of RMT-only gear adds a miniscule amout to your defense, while another RMT-only class of gear adds a 1% bonus to physical and magical attacks.. both are more for show than for performance. all of the RMT gear of classes available in-game just look cooler than the in-game varieties with no change in statistics (however they do cost significantly less to upgrade than in-game versions).
    also for sale are a wide variety of potions, performance enhancers (for both your character and your ability to upgrade your gear) and long-term mounts (compared to the time limits imposed by the in-game versions).
    since anyone can play for nothing, and if you play long enough you can earn enough in-game to get someone to trade their RMT items for your in-game currency, it all seems to even out.. while it does mean that the economy is a little stilted against the new player who spends nothing to get started, and towards the player with both time and money to pour into the game, it levels the playing field for players with more time than money and players with more money than time to a certain extent.. there is a bit more balance in-game with level requirements for gear and the inability to simply leech XP from a super high level player, but this just shows sensible design steps taken beforehand to keep the game from turning into a wealth-ranking competition, and no one whines that it’s unfair, at least not visibly..
    there was a movement over the last month or so to make the RMT items increase in in-game value, but since there was also a major patch increasing drop rates and kills-per-time-period, inflation was bound to happen anyway.
    my point? RMT for fluff alone is fine as an after-the-fact addition, but pre-planning and thoughtful balancing ahead of time can make RMT viable even for non-fluff items.

  10. I think you are missing a major point. Most games have soulbound items of some sort, so money only brings you that far – WoW is the obvious example; although there is quite a lot money can buy, for the very best items, you’ve got to raid. You can’t really buy a significant shortcut with gold. However, you can simply buy a fully stuffed character on ebay or wherever – the ultimate shortcut. And we’ve all seen the knights in shiny armor asking “HAY GUYS HOW DO I MINE?!?!!”

    RMT? Couldn’t care less. Buying accounts, that’s something else.

  11. RMT = Real Money Transaction.

    Buying fluff (microtransactions) or in-game currency are both considered RMT transactions.

    Paying a monthly fee for subscriptions is called a subscription based model.

    Free games with assloads of advertising in your eyes is called an ad-based model.

    RMT is a valid business model for primary revenue or as a secondary source of supplemental revenues.

  12. Actually that would be a great idea to actually get companies to put that “fluff” material in. They don’t want to spend resources on it – for whatever reason – but if they know people will pay extra then they might.

    As long as there are other ways (crafting, using in game gold, etc) to buy the fluff items as well, so you don’t HAVE to pay, but make the price low enough that people will be willing to pay.

    If Blizzard sold the murloc baby pet or other pets I’d sure have bought them when I was playing.

  13. I disagree completly for two reasons.

    1) I wholeheartedly belive in the general statement you made as being the reason to distrust or despise RMT. I don’t want money to be a factor in detirmining game success.

    2) Socializers and the gamer base that value fluff have as much right to accomplishment in that facet of the game, as do the achievers and killers. Thus, it would be wholly unfair to allow RMT to pervert their brand of game just as much as it is when you open the door of RMT in a PvP enviornment or a competetive PvE enviornment.

  14. But what is the accomplishment of the socializers? Since we’re bringing Bartle into it, I’ll just quote Bartle:

    – Achievers regard points-gathering and rising in levels as their main goal, and all is ultimately subserviant to this.
    – Killers get their kicks from imposing themselves on others.
    – Socialisers are interested in people, and what they have to say. The game is merely a backdrop, a common ground where things happen to players.

    And we don’t even need Bartle. We know what those three groups consider as “accomplishment” is radically different. That’s why I agree with you that if you give the RMT way out to achievers and killers things will go downhill pretty quick, but at the same time I disagree with the idea that the same would happen if we offer RMT to socializers.

    The accomplishment of Socializers does not pass through the same lines as any other group. I’d even go as far as to say the ultimate accomplishment of socializers is all about the end and not so much about the means.

    If common RMT is an out-of-game shortcut to gain in-game advantages, then it stands to reason why Achievers, Killers and Explorers even would consider it a bad thing, since RMT is essentially allowing some people to ‘skip the road’ to the accomplishments of those respective groups. But the ‘road’ of the socializer I think it’s normally much different and much, much shorter. So short in fact, that I don’t think it matters much overall if Socializers ‘walk it’ in-game or via RMT.

    If we consider Bartle (and as much as gaming might have changed since Bartle, his basics still are sound), then what are the paths for each group? Exemplified:

    – Explorers: I’m interested in discovering everything about the game. get maps completed. Discover nooks, crannies and areas. If it takes 2 days to map an area, that’s fine by me.
    – Achievers: I’m interested in running dungeons, and get rare items in the process. I like titles for my character, I like to earn deeds through achieving game goals. The more rare the reward, the longer and more difficult it should be.
    – Killers: I’m interested in being the best against other players. I’m interested in achieving PvP rank, and these ranks to be prestigious and a good reflection of the time/effort/skill I had.
    – Socializers: I’m interested in interacting with other players, develop in-game friendships, take part in social activities, roleplay.

    If RMT is indeed a shortcut that lets people get to the same end point of their respective roads, but with less or no effort when compared to its peers, then yeah in that case it’s clear to see how RMT is bad in the contexts of the first three groups. But Socializers don’t really have a ‘road’ in the same vein as the other three. For Socializers, the end is the road. It’s a different mindset. So in that case only is where RMT is not really providing a shortcut on the road, because there is no road.

    In fact, many Socializers would see this “RMT for Fluff” scheme as a boon, since they wouldn’t be forced to Explore/Grind/Raid/PvP for the few fluff items that are found along the way in those respective roads? I don’t even know how many times I heard “Yeah I’m grinding (x) rep just to get (y) item. I don’t need it, but it looks cool and it’s good for RP”.

    Plus there’s also good precedent of “RMT for Fluff” already in place, working, and nobody really complained. Take Guild Wars for example. If you pay them $5 (is it 5 bucks? lazy to check right now), you can get another character slot. This is no shortcut to anything, because there’s no possible way in-game to quest/grind/raid/PvP to gain that extra character slot. It’s not a shortcut, it’s the only way to get that slot. And nobody complains. Nobody is taking anything from anyone. There’s a a guy in my GW guild that has I think 5-6 extra characters, in addition to all the slots he has because of buying each campaign. Another two guys are close behind with the number of characters.

    We also have offline examples in Oblivion’s armored horse that you can get with a micropayment. But even if Oblivion was an MMO, and that armored horse does not run faster than any other horse that anyone can get normally, does not give the player any advantages while mounted, is just a horse in another skin and there’s no way to achieve that horse by grinding/pvp/raiding, only via micropayment… then who cares? Where’s the damage? Where’s the shortcut?

    A player buying Rank Awesome of PvP without ever having set foot in a PvP area is a problem.
    A player buying raid boss loot without having to raid is a problem.
    A player buying cleared maps or finished deeds without having to go out and do it is a problem.
    A player buying a robe with no stats, a pet that vomits on demand(*) or a pair of sunglasses for the avatar when buying those things is the only way to get them is not a problem.

    That’s all, I think.

    (*) That’d be incredibly awesome.

  15. I also recall a story, perhaps last year?, about a WoW player who was also a businessman. He bought gold to buy his epic mount and to pay for consumables, etc. for the next raid. He wasn’t being “lazy” at all — he was still perfectly willing to put in the hours raiding that evening. He did the work, participated in the raid group, and earned his raid drops. What he did not have the time nor inclination to do was call off from work the next day to grind all day to pay for the repairs and consumables. Because in the end, that is nothing more than a timesink. Spending 8 hours grinding the same mobs does not mean you’ve mastered your class, it does not mean you’re better than anyone else, it just means you had nothing else to do and the gold has to come from *somewhere* to pay for that crap. Grinding is not a productive use of your time, period. It’s just a necessary one because the old school mentality is to “give them timesink after timesink so they have no choice but stick with our game month after month.”

    What if, for example, we *BAM* kick things up a notch with our RMT examples. What if Blizzard offered an RMT where you can pay real money from your accounts page on their website and the next time you login your gear is repaired? Rather than forcing you to spend several hours grinding to do that, where even then you have to balance the income versus the repair bill from the grinding itself. Let’s take it a step further: let’s say someone like me who does not work 9-5 but instead is home a couple nights then on the road the rest of the week unable to play. I’d love to raid tonight but my raid timer still has a couple days. What if Blizzard allowed me to RMT to reset the timer for that particular raid? It’s not going to give me an advantage, per se, since *if* a piece of gear dropped for me it eventually would have anyway. I’m willing to put in the time and effort tonight. Maybe even have a choice:consequences effect where if I RMT to reset early, then the next reset will take even longer and it’s only a one-time RMT reset until the timer is back on its normal rotation.

    There are plenty of directions to take RMT that are legitimate, do not equate to someone being lazy or who sucks at playing, and do not give an advantage over other players.

  16. Easy way to test if people really want that fluff: hire a developer or two specifically to make it. The company will front their salary a few months to get them started, but after that, they must bring in enough revenue to make their employment at least break-even. If the players really want that fluff, there will be enough money. If not, it would have been a dang poor investment for the company to hire people (or divert people from current projects) to make more fluff.

    Alternate model: give players access to your tools. Let them design fluff and submit it. Have someone review it and make it available through the company’s RMT store. Of the money spent there, the player gets X% back, for use on subscription fees or to buy others’ RMT store creations. (I rather like this idea, myself.)

  17. I don’t see a problem with any RMT. It’s been in the MMO markets for years while players gripe about how it will “destroy” the economy of “insert game here”. It’s been years since EQ released and the only thing that screwed up their economy was bad balance on the part of the devs and a hearty ability of the players to spend mindless hours grinding away for thousands of plat. And hacks.

    All this happened before “gold farming” even became a phrase. I sold Tumpy Tonics on eBay seven years ago when EQ1 first came out (they gave a shitload of xp for turning them in). It didn’t ruin jack shit.

    Players by the millions farm gold everyday, the same as “chinese gold farmers”. They usually do it exactly the same way in the same areas, with the only difference being one player sees it as fun and the other as work. The players who buy the gold also see it as work, so they don’t do it. Some players don’t like PvP either, so they don’t do it. It’s personal preference and has nothing to do with what another player is doing. You all even out in the end. It’s likely that the player who hates the “chinese gold farmers” is the same person who has the free time to hunt them down, keep lists of their names, blacklist them from raids, kill them repeatedly for three hours and still have enough time to post 15 threads on the boards. The person who buys the gold likely has enough time to log onto IGE at work, buy the gold, come home and play for an hour, maybe two and log off to sleep.

    And the “buy your way ahead” is bullshit too. You need to be GOOD to get into a guild that will be able to raid for the REAL high end equipment. You can’t just go to the broker or AH and buy yourself a full suit of AAA armor and weapons. All that is earned by a level of skill only obtained by good players.

    RMT works, as a concept, however there are parts I dislike as well. Macro miners and bots are NOT part of a natural game system. They are invincible, sometimes hacking, always on MACHINES, not humans. They break down the system of normal play (such as playing less than 24 hours a day) and gather resources at inhuman speeds (especially at hour 9 or 10 :p). Sometimes it introduces a seedy element that breaks the law (taking someone’s money and running) and also burdens the developer with extra customer support because of stolen loot, characters and money. This can be solved with RMT only servers, which seems to have worked rather well with EQ2.

    Second to last comment, there is only one type of player I believe has a true complaint that I can’t argue against, roleplayers. RMTers purpose and playstyle does not fit in with roleplayers in almost any shape or form (unless you “inherited” money from a dead uncle…or something). They get their own goddamn server for their playstyle however, so they don’t get THAT much love :p

    Overall, RMT has done nothing but grow, and attempts at suing, breaking, stopping or stemming RMT has done a grand total of nothing to it. I suggest, unless your game has no ability to trade anything at all, that all developers stop fucking around spending money trying to prevent it, and start spending money how to USE it.

    Great article and comments guys :)

  18. Zubon: “Easy way to test if people really want that fluff: hire a developer or two specifically to make it.”

    Yeah. Well, still we can get some idea. Take the Oblivion Horse Armor…

    *ominous thunder*

    … right. As I was saying. I couldn’t find sales numbers for that damn thing even after googling for half an hour. All I found were mentions of the shitstorm it started, and how it sold surprisingly well despite it. But we can still guess a bit.

    Bethesda claims Oblivion sold 1.7 million units as of April 2006. Let’s be super conservative and say that from then until today, they only sold 300.000 more. So let’s say there’s an installed Oblivion userbase of 2 million units just to have a nice number.

    Of those 2 million, again let’s be super generous with the assumptions and say that 95% of those don’t give a damn about what you’re selling via micro-transactions. The remaining 5% (100.000 units) do. Say they all bought your horse. That damn horse was sold at several price points, starting I think at $3.50 and right now I think you can get it for free. Let’s pick a middle point of $2 for the stupid fluffy creature.

    $2 x 100.000 = $200.000 . Does it cover the costs of making it, testing it and helping offset the infrastructure you need to sell it? My guess is yes, but I’m no programmer, artist, CFO or back end guy.

    Those are super conservative estimates for the whole reason that a lot of people saw that diabolical horse for what it was – a ripoff. Or to put it in PC terms, “not enough value for the money”. Since then Bethesda got smarter and has been micro-offering more content with each package and they’ve been selling rather well from what I hear. My guess is that had they been losing money somethin’ fierce (damn, I’m old… who talks like that anymore?) they would have stopped doing it.

    That’s just one item. And a poorly-received item at that. Give the people stuff they’re interested in and numbers will go up.

  19. I think you’re still missing the point Julian.

    You’re saying that if we sell fluff through RMT, then RMT is good. Agreed.

    What I’m saying is that RMT doesn’t exist for fluff right now. It exists to cheat in achievements.

    As long as your game is based on achievement (levels, gear, speed of movement) and there is a way to translate in game money into this achievement (buying gear, auction house, mounts) then the RMT that serves to sell achievement (done through gold farmers), will continue to exist.

    How would you design a game to completely eliminate the relation between RMT and achievement? Eliminate transferable gear completely? Make mounts non-transferable drops? Eliminate repairs? The only way to do it it appears, is to eliminate the value of in game currency completely. If in game currency exists, then it MUST serve some purpose. If it serves some purpose, there MUST be some barriers to obtaining it. If there is some barrier to obtaining it, people will want to cheat that barrier. Not to mention the lameness of having to design a game while constantly keeping in mind how to avoid the pitfalls of RMT.

    We’re not even talking about leveling services or buying accounts containing epicced-out characters that someone mentioned above.

    You said that you’re now okay with RMT because you’ve found a way how RMT isn’t harmful. Designing for fluff doesn’t solve the real problems that you acknowledge yourself, and therefore isn’t a valid reason for ‘being okay’ with RMT.

    Perhaps it’s the way you phrase it.

  20. Zubon: “Easy way to test if people really want that fluff: hire a developer or two specifically to make it.”

    Easy answer to that test: any MMO with player housing. To the old SWGers, how much time did you spend picking *just the right spot* to place your house, then collect all those furnishing and decorations? Same with you EQ2ers?

    What about RPers who want clothes for specific occasions? WoW has wedding dresses and rings. For that matter, look at Chronicles of Spellborn where *finally* someone gets it right and your gear doesn’t have stats. You can wear any damn thing you want, you can tank in a pink bunny suit if you want. It’s all fluff.

  21. I agree that selling fluff is a good idea. But as other commenter already pointed out, that has nothing to do with RMT. The only way you could link them if you made a game in which fluff costs gold, and gold was unable to buy any power items. Which pretty much would kill the player economy.

    We will see western game companies selling fluff long before they sell in-game currency. Asian companies are already way ahead in that respect. But if you have a closer look what else they are selling besides fluff, it is very, very often some item which for a limited amount of time gives you double xp, thus making you advance faster. And that is more often than not the hottest selling item in the company store.

    Or to inverse your quote:“I don’t like non-RMT because the game then turns into who has the most time to spend on it. I don’t want available time to enter the picture and give some people better performance than others, just depending on how much they spend.” There is an old saying that time is money, and RMT is just about that equation, people wanting to exchange their money for something they could otherwise only buy with time, which they don’t have.

  22. One thing that bothers me. We used to call these games MMO R P G. You could argue that the “RP” part went out of these games a long time ago, but a core component of the player base is still a small group of role players. I’m not particularly a role-player myself, but I believe that there is a place in these virtual worlds for people who are. These are people that have been involved in these kinds of games since MUDS and before that, table-tops. I see them as part of our MMO heritage, in a way.

    Doing what you are proposing is basically taxing role-players in-game. The effect of this would be to drive these people from the game, because who among us want RMT involved less than role-players? Sure, you would capture a lot of the “casual” role-players, people that are mostly achievers that want status symbols in-game, but the purchased items will provide less status in the eyes of many and thus be worth less than in-game achievements to most.

    You can’t really introduce RMT into a mainstream MMO without tainting it for some group of players. You would have to be really careful that the group that sees the game as tainted isn’t your core group of gamers.

  23. I don’t see it as an RP tax, but incentive for companies to actually pay attention to the RPers. Right now there is not nearly enough work dedicated to them to satisfy the demand. I suppose companies don’t see the reason, maybe they still think most of their players want to beat the game and consume content.

    The recent discussion at Broken Toys about the huge popularity of Maple Story and other fluffy games seems to me to point to a huge market where companies could be making money and also actually giving RPers what they want. Money talks more than whining forumers :)

    To a certain extent I disagree with Cyndre about Socializers wanting to “achieve” socialization. Maybe it’s just that so far all games have done a crappy job, but I hate having to grind rep or do tons of quests and turnins, to get a “fluff” item. This is totally anathema to the reasons I want the item in the first place, and discourages me from even trying.

    OTOH, I can see the argument being able to craft furniture and make a nice environment for housing, would give a player a feeling of satisfaction as well. That is why I was thinking both tracks need to be there, you can buy fluff, or be able to make it. Of course that would impact the market and crafters’ ability to sell. But maybe you could have a system where players could only buy from the game company as many chairs as woodworkers made and sold to vendors.

  24. What if the game had no crafting, though but still offered player housing and other social mini-games? You’d want the furniture, etc. right?

    Since you mentioned crafting, and since I just woke up and am not yet thinking straight (don’t ask) here’s a wacky idea (which *wipes eyes* I think is what yunk was saying in his final sentence?): what if the item shop only (or additionally) had an inventory of crafted items? If you have a master craftsmen, the item shop vendor could buy it for you and put it up for auction or flat-rate purchase. The item could *either* be purchased from another in-game character with in-game money *or* be purchased from the web version of the item shop for real cash. Either way, the buyer got the item he wanted and the crafter got the in-game money for his profession.

    Yes, players want to consume the content and “beat” the game. That’s probably where the stupid stupid term “end game” came from. Personally I think level-based games contribute tremendously to that mindset; I’ve lost count of how many people who basically said “ok, I’m [insert level cap] guess I’m done,” and they either re-roll and do it again or they mean it — they’re done and they leave the game. In their minds or their understanding of the mechanics, they “beat” the game. But that’s a different topic… :p~

  25. Okay, let’s go bit by bit, like Jack the Ripper used to say.


    I see where the misunderstanding is coming from now. I’m not suggesting “RMT for Fluff” as a ‘cure’ for “RMT for Power” because as long as your game has currency or items, and said currency/items can be transferred, you will have people taking out of game shortcuts to get there. That’s inevitable. The only ‘cure’ for power RMT would be a currency-less, item-less, reward-less game and do we really want to go there?

    What I’m saying is that not all of RMT has to be necessarily bad, and there are good applications for it that do not affect game performance, nor do they create power disparity between players.

    RMT as a shortcut (to anything) is a problem in itself because it lets people skip the road as it was designed. What’s worse, it’s an out-of-game element that affects things in-game. However, when there is no road to speak of, there cannot be a shortcut by definition. In other words, and to tie it with the fluff example: If I put 10 fluff items in the game to be gained via questing, grinding, pvping, whathave you and then I turn around and I make the same 10 items available at my game store, yeah that’s Scroogy. Hell, it’s almost Clintonesque. I’m just asking for it.

    But if those 10 items are only available via the game store, and there are no ways to acquire those items in-game otherwise, I’m not offering the chance for people to shortcut each other out of game.

    Mind you, I’m not saying “Eliminate all fluff items from the crafting and loot tables. Let the fuckers eat our cake.” and make players “an offer they can’t refuse” if they want the items. Have as many fluff items available only via normal in-game means as you want. However, in addition to this, have a different set of items that’s only available via the game store. There is no conflict. We’re not offering the easy way out for the same items. We’re offering some items in game, some others at the store. As long as we’re not idiots with the items we sell, we’re not pointing a gun to anyone’s head. And by being idiots, I mean don’t put up super awesome spectramagiculous items for sale. No, just color, just fluff.

    Another, almost stupid way of seeing this is: RMT will be implemented as default at some point. I think that’s borderline inevitable. However, do we want RMT where it matters, or where it doesn’t?

    If the term is so problematic, then forget I said “RMT”. Pretend I never said it, and instead that I’m all about devs having game stores in which they sell all kinds of rubber duckies.


    This is not taxing roleplayers anymore than IKEA, for example, taxes furniture lovers (I’m not talking about IKEA’s markup ;) )

    This is no barrier of entry for anything. It’s an option. It’s merely telling them “We have (x) number of fluff items you might like already available in the game via grinding rep/questing/raiding. However, if you don’t like that, we also have (y) number of *different* fluff items available at the store.”

    At the end of the day, roleplayers are still players and players are still people (sometimes). If someone wants the fluff item that’s found as a boss loot drop and doesn’t want anything of what you have in the store, he will raid for it. If they want what you have in the store, and is not interested in anything that drops or gets from a quest, he will pay for it if he really wants it. If you want a rubber duckie, there’s no way I can sell you a mickey mouse.

    The closest thing to taxing these roleplayers would be to eliminate every single fluff item they might conceivably want from all the loot tables and quest rewards and move them to the game store. That way you’re forcing them to come to you no matter what. But if you’re not a complete idiot and you’re doing this just to get some extra income and not nickel and dime your players to death, you will give them the option to get some fluff items normally, and keep different fluff items at the store.

    I’ll be the first to admit that there’s a very fine line to walk, as observed during the Oblivion Horse Armor debacle, between what you include in-game and what you keep to sell later. People might be stupid sometimes, but most people catch on when you’re trying to gyp them. As in, “Wow, you’re charging me how much for a crappy horse re-skin that you could’ve included in-game from the get go? Piss off.” But that’s the balance of the thing. Not just a balance of price – how much should we charge for this little thing before it turns into a ripoff – but also a balance of availability – should we put this little thing in the game only or in the store only.


    In hindsight I probably shouldn’t have used the RMT acronym because it confused a lot of folks. But I also think if it quacks it’s a duck. Like I mentioned above, spending ten bucks at a gold selling site and spending ten bucks at the official game store to get a couple more alt slots are *both* RMT, whether we like it or not.

    The fact that the acronym was hijacked in usage very early on to illustrate gold selling doesn’t mean it’s the only thing the acronym can comprehend.

    Oh hey, look… it’s a can of worms! *opens the can of worms* …

    … it’s kinda like guns. There are both legitimate and illegitimate uses for guns. Should we ban them outright just because of the illegitimate uses? I say no. I say combat the illegitimate uses as much as you can, while making sure the legitimate uses remain protected and thriving like any other human activity.

    At the end of the day, devs will implement RMT. We really can’t tell them whether they should do it or not (we can, but that’s not the point). But we can tell them to put it in places where it doesn’t destroy the game.

  26. Selling fluff items isn’t going to stop gold farmers though. And I think that’s a bit more of an issue for people than fluff.

  27. The only thing that will get rid of gold farmers is to get rid of the reason for them: ridiculous timesinks to pay for ridiculously expensive items. Period.

    Flying mounts cost *what* in WoW? You expect the *normal* player to spend that much time being unproductive and just grind, grind, grind to afford one? Now with Northrend continuing the “no flying in Azeroth” theme, flying mounts have turned into extremely expensive fluff: only useful in the Outlands.

  28. Like I mentioned above, spending ten bucks at a gold selling site and spending ten bucks at the official game store to get a couple more alt slots are *both* RMT, whether we like it or not.

    I’ll respectfully disagree. If you use a very broad definition of ‘real money trade/transfer/transactions,’ maybe it applies, ie. using real money to buy any sort of in-game perks.

    But if we’re going to take things to such a broad extent, then we may as well say that we’re all engaging in RMT because we paid real money for a virtual product – the actual game in the first place.

    And then hating on RMT becomes more than a little absurd, due to such a broad definition, doesn’t it?

    I think my particular disgust with RMT comes from outside parties using the game as a venue to make money.

    Real money exchanging hands between players, or third party gold/gear sellers for a profit. Usually as a way of gaining an in-game perk (be it performance or fluff, even.)

    Making fluff tradeable, though, is an interesting middle ground. I recently wandered back into Guild Wars to see what had changed, and found this whole series of ‘miniature’ collectable pets. On the one hand, it disturbed me, because I suspected a lot of RMT went on behind the scenes in order for collectors to complete the collection. But since there was no inherent performance hit in not having a complete miniature collection, I just sighed and chalked it up to part of the game I wouldn’t ever experience in its entirety.

    I don’t really oppose the game company itself looking for a venue to make more money. I accept it as ‘part of the game – we pay the company extra to gain whatever perks’ though I will vote with my feet and decide not to play the game if the cost of remaining competitive is unreasonable.

  29. Julian: Yes :)

    Talyn: You can use mounts in Northrend once you’ve finished the story. It is impossible to design a pathed storyline-heavy adventure if players can fly over everything that can serve as hooks or triggers for those adventures.

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