One of the more alarming trends in MMORPGs from the past few years, to me anyway, is the weakening of in-game economic systems, and not just from themepark shortcuts.
My first MMORPG was Ultima Online, where personal trading and vendor malls were ubiquitous, where you could drop dead and see everything you’d held looted and carted away by players and mobs alike. And I remember the MMO community outage when EverQuest introduced “no drop” and “no trade” items as, it was understood, an attempt at combating gold and item farmers. Most of you probably know that concept better as “soulbound.” It’s commonplace now, but at the time, it was the kind of decision that literally forks genres.
We’ve come a long way down that themepark fork since then, it seems to me: We now have many MMOs where you can’t drop stuff, games where you can’t hand items directly to other players except by mail (if at all), games whose devs cap item values to interfere with the market, games that refuse to consider an auction hall, and games whose auction halls are basically toys for well-connected guilds and no one else, never mind the multitude of MMOs where corpses can’t be looted or crafting exists as a useless minigame to keep crafter types from noticing they’ve been demoted to second-class citizens.
I have long argued that the player economy is and should be a foundational element of an MMORPG, almost as important as chat for creating social intersections and community binds. It’s not that games that make trading impossible or crafting pointless can’t be fun; it’s just that they lean more toward ARPGs and murder sims than full-scale roleplaying games and virtual worlds. This is probably why I’ve been startled to see a number of our readers who are generally pro-community and even pro-sandbox turn on the concept of video game economies over the past year and support devs who heavily regulate them or promise to gut them, even if that regulation or interference is plainly born of those studios’ desire to make money from those choices, usually by vending cosmetics or gold through cash shops, rather than their desire to create a clean, fun, and fair MMORPG.
With all of that in mind, happy Monday, and where do you stand on the subject of player economies in MMORPGs? Just how important are they in 2017?