Saturday, April 30, 2011


I wanted to write about trade for along time by now. Trade in a MMORPG without item teleports, in fact without character teleport, either. Trade in a MORPG with a player-run market; that is buy-orders and sell-orders that can be used by the casual player to buy and sell easily while also rewarding the dedicated player with a deep experience.

But the obvious problem with trade is that it is boring. While the thought might be "romantic", the actual process involves nothing but walking. This might be fun for the first few times, but then it becomes really, really repetitive. Or, does it?

Some time ago Bhagpuss commented on Tobold's blog:

I play MMOs for many more reasons than "fun". For example, I play because MMO gameplay includes a lot of repetitive actions and repetitive actions are soothing and reduce stress. I also play because I stand up all day at work and my feet hurt so although I'd like to go walking in the evenings I'm too tired; traveling through a virtual world works well to negate my conflicts over staying in or going out.
I have scores of these reasons for playing, few of which I would label as "having fun. I'm pretty certain that the success of MMOs relies heavily on satisfying other needs and desires than the simple quest for a fun time.

I like to use the word "fun" differently than he does. For me "fun" is everything I want to do in a MMORPG. However, his main point is of utmost importance, I think.

In the past, many people have thought about how trade can be spiced up. But that would be a grave mistake. One can never make trade as action-oriented as combat. Even if one could spice it up to be as action-oriented, players would probably still rather do the combat. The important thing to understand is that many people play MMORPGs for something else than challenge and action. More than any other genre, people play MMORPGs also to relax. Repetition is not detrimental to this, in fact repetition supports this play-style.

To advance your character or help your guild, doing something useful while you relax is a rewarding experience. Challenge or action are unnecessary and even harmful. That doesn't mean that MMORPGs should have no challenge or action. It just means that there can, and should be activities that are not challenging and do not focus on action.

Of course, trade can also feel very tense if the trade routes are in dangerous territory. And there is a demand for this kind of trade. But simple repetitive trade can also be feature. To allow players to choose how they want to trade, different routes should be available; dangerous and safe routes. Obviously, the safe ones need to take longer. That would be an interesting decision.

Added "The road much less traveled" and "How to recapture the wonder of MMOs" to the link storage on the right


  1. I think a trade based game would be awesome. It's a disappointment that Eve, broadly speaking, hasn't done regionally based resources. (With the exception of Technetium which mostly comes from moons in Northern Coalition territory).

    I think the way you need to do it would be to make trade the core of your game. So armour and weapons come from secured trade routes; ambushing and protecting caravans is a core game activity and so on.

    It would also go well with racially themed areas - the dwarves have all the mithril, the elves have the oak. It would in turn lead to racial class preferences that suit local resources, so dwarves use plate as they have good access to metal, elves use leather (from game animals) and wood.

    I also see this type of game benefiting from dispensing with illogical loot entirely. So a wolf "drops" hide bone and meat but not a stray suit of magic platemail.

    The best gear is crafted from rare components - to make Excalibur you might need an ultra rare component from every zone in the world and the best Weaponsmith on the server.

    The nearest thing we've had to this was Star Wars Galaxies.

  2. Good post. I think the "fun" part of a trading system would be the strategic part, i.e. identifying arbitrage opportunities. That might be fun even if the process of moving goods is fairly routine.

    I'd also be interested in your thoughts about designing games without teleportation. It seems like there are two ways to do it. One would be to remove teleportation entirely and require all transportation to be via land (or sea). The other would be do allow fast transportation of players, but not goods. Both EvE and PotBS do this, but I don't know of many fantasy games that do.

  3. I'd like to see a trade system where your storage mechanism is limited to the local area. Moving stuff to another area or customer requires it be shipped via a player or NPC caravan. Currency possibly being the exception. Although if the currency system is done well enough it might not be necessary, like 100 of the top level coins really representing a small fortune.

    You can pick your caravan according to route(speed and terrain), quality and number of NPC guards(odds of losing your stuff). All of those qualities would affect the cost of transport, which you could at least partially if not fully negate by riding guard on the caravan.

    Caravans travel in real time through the world and can be attacked by both players and MOBs for fun and profit. But participating in such an attack of course affects your varies NPC factions, some negative and some positive I would imagine.

    Make player crafted equipment the standard through out the game. Make mobs drop components that can improve crafted items either as addons after the fact or in the crafting process it's self.