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