Improving Auction Houses

There are few improvements to be made on EVE Online’s economic tools. The more your system resembles that, the better.

Buy orders are a key feature. Most systems lack this, but it is the “Buy It Now” equivalent for the seller. It would improve economic efficiency enormously. Creating a market is hard, and letting either buyers or sellers make the first offer will encourage more use.

Auctions can sit alongside consignment sales and buy orders, although the buy/sell will set ceilings and floors for any likely activity (reference eBay). It is probably easier to pick one or the other; I obviously favor buy/sell instead of auction. If you are going “auction only,” at least apply the buy order principle and allow reverse auctions. Bob wants an Exceptional Cotton Cloak, and he has posted 50gp towards this. Which crafter is willing to make it the cheapest? (There are some issues here, notably that every bidder should have said item when bidding on the sale, which might lead to excess creation of these Cloaks, or few bids on items where the original creation is expensive. Who wants to risk getting stuck with an Exceptional Cotton Cloak, just for the chance at making a sale?)

History is valuable. City of Heroes hits the minimum for this, showing the last five sale prices. EVE is obviously the best, with great financial tools. Many dislike approaching the market in a state of ignorance. The only prices we can see are for items that have not sold. Any grounding will be useful, even if that tool can be distorted.

Apply this to items not presently on the market. I should be able to place a buy order for something no one is selling (or everyone has sold out of), and I should be able to see history even if no one is presently buying or selling. Again, starting markets is hard, and many will feel sure they just got ripped off.

Most auction houses abstract away geography. EVE does not: the need to ship between stations is built into the game. You can make your living as a trans-galactic trucker. For most games, having all auction houses linked is probably a good thing.

Some people may want to run their own shops, or higher NPC shopkeepers to do it for them, but most of us are happy to have a one-stop shop when one interface reaches everyone’s buy and sell orders.

For other notes on encouraging buying and selling between players, I recommend the official RMT market for Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates (and presumably Bang! Howdy). That works strictly on buy and sell orders, and you can see the margin between them. (Note for your own economics: the more active a commodity, the closer the buy and sell asking prices. Rarely sold items will show vast disparities.)

What are your thoughts? What do you like and dislike on the market?

: Zubon

5 thoughts on “Improving Auction Houses”

  1. This is not a new idea, of course — even Richard The Second Coming Bartle brought this up in his infamous “I’ve already played Warhammer” interview — but the more people voice an opinion in favor of improved market tools and resources for WoW, the better.

    This is only one example of the very basic things that people whose only MMO is WoW don’t know they’re missing. Blizzard knows that more of its player base cares about and understands new emotes and achievements than they do a solid market model; so the former make it onto the expansion feature list even though the latter would make for a better game. That newbies can’t enter the vastly inflated economy without first accruing a great sum of money from adventuring is glossed over because “no one likes crafting anyway,” and yet few people stop and consider why tradeskills are so unpopular.

  2. Provide regular injections of more valuable items into the economy, and provide an escape valve for low-value items. Most games have faults on these lines — World of Warcraft had a few stones types that were either not available or stupidly expensive for a few weeks just due to most players being underleveled for the content, Everquest still has stuff that’s hard to find since few people care to think about it nevermind sell it.

    City of Heroes is probably the worst about the matter : you’re actively encouraged to build things you can not sell to vendors and few players need in order to get badges, while a few devices become artificially rare just because few people are in the right level range to yank them. That’s not good for an economy.

    If you don’t have a major city or two that everything revolves around, make lots of different Auction Houses. Seriously, even in your game there are better things to do than stare at a mount’s backside for ten minutes because my inventory is full.

  3. It’s worth noting that the margins on doubloons (the RMT micropayment token du jour) in Puzzle Pirates between buy and sell orders is now so thin that to make a profit you’d have to sell (and buy) upwards of $50 worth of micropayments at a stroke to afford $50.25 worth.

    On the whole, PP’s auction house implementation should really fail. You can only see information about commodities for sale at the exact island you happen to be docked at/standing on, and while going to another island is free it’s also very annoying due to sluggish UI response when changing scenes. Items that aren’t commodities (which includes everything from clothes and swords to whole ships) aren’t visible en masse at all – you have to go to the shop specific to that item type to price-check, and you’re still limited to that island.

    All of this *doesn’t* fail because the game’s community has long since adapted. You can, with a little effort, get on a first-name basis with shopkeepers in a few types of goods, or make friends with a few well-connected captains and guild leaders, and through them do most of your price-checking and shopping. Depending on the server, it’s often considered part of guild officer duty to keep an eye out for good deals. The result is a lot of fun for the people who like market economics but find Eve’s excel-in-space implementation too dehumanizing, and it fits well with the game’s theme.

  4. I did not play EVE long enough to get to really touch the commerce aspect of the game, but what you describe sounds fantastic. I always hated in WoW and now LOTRO to go to Alakhazam or Thottbot to figure out what is a fair price for a good I am unfamiliar with.

    My favorite implementation I have played was Dofus. I loved the fact that there was an easy way to undercut prices and force the market to find the “fair” price.

    In response to the option of Buy Orders, that would be fantastic! I am a Scholar in LOTRO, and I never ever make bow chants or loremaster books… it just seems like a waste of time, but if I saw a few buy orders to change my mind…

  5. I agree Mr. Drugstore Space Cowboy. Blizzard has no incentive to build on their market system. It works and is accepted by their player base, and any changes could upset that current acceptance. One more example of why I believe WoW is a huge shell of a better game.

    It works as a wide attractor of players, but other games, such as WAR, will take the strengths of WoW and add the complexity that veterans seek.

    Plus, as WoW remains the fallback king, new games are not nearly as frightening to go off and venture into. But to maintain that, Blizzard can not do much other than keep on their straight and narrow path.

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