Tamriel Infinium: The Elder Scrolls Online’s economy needs a casual friendly option

    
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A few years ago, I was introduced to the concept of trading guilds. Trading guilds are unique to the The Elder Scrolls Online as far as I know, at least here in West, and are reputedly needed because there is no universal sales hub within the game through which to sell items to other players. Through the guild store, players are able to sell items to other players in the guild.

Trading guilds take it a step further, though. Trading guilds actually bid for NPCs to act as an in-game storefront so that any player roaming around the landscape of Tamriel can wander up to a guild trader and purchase items that have been listed for sale by members of that specific guild. But guild traders are secured in an auction-style faction, with guilds placing bids on high-traffic locations in an attempt to increase sales, and potentially asking prices. Moreover, guild traders are not guaranteed. They go to the highest bidder, and until a recent update, a guild could bid on only one trader per week. So, if your guild was outbid, you weren’t selling anything to the outside world until the next bidding cycle. 

So, seeing as how it is the only way (besides spamming zone chat) of selling items to non-guildies, I signed on to a trading guild. It was a nice guild. It had no weekly dues and asked only that you fill up your listings as much as possible. Months came and went, I casually sold things here and there, and the guild slowly but surely changed from one that was content to take in new members interested in casual sales to one that wanted to compete for “the best” guild trader spots. I started getting friendly messages from the guild leaders asking for donations. We lost “our spot” a few times, leaving us with no guild trader NPC for the week. Other guilds were bidding more aggressively, so to compete, we were requiring more and more bidding capital from our members. Soon, the requested donations became mandatory. Subtle threats were sent guild-wide warning us that if dues were not paid, we’d be kicked from the guild. 

I didn’t pay, for a couple of reasons. This wasn’t the type of trading guild I’d originally signed up for when I joined. The goal of the guild changed, but my goals were still the same. Plus, I had run the numbers, and with the little bit of selling that I did, I would actually be losing money to pay dues every week. I figured that if they really didn’t want me, they’d eventually boot me, and they eventually did. 

This was around the same time that ZeniMax gave us the new, spiffy guild finder tool. So I used it to find a trading guild that did not require dues or a minimum sale amount. Then ZeniMax released Scalebreaker, which allowed for bidding on multiple NPC guild traders at once. This is great for the large trading guilds, who are able to throw millions of gold towards multiple bids. It virtually guarantees that they’re never without a guild trader spot. But the (perhaps) unintended consequence of the change is that smaller, more casual trade guilds are not as likely to snap up the lower-tier guild traders because the top trading guilds are able to bid on up to nine backup locations. Larger trading guilds with deeper pockets are pushing out the more casual trade guilds. 

Sir.

In fact, I got a message from my new trade guild just last week regarding this. They’d lost their normal trader spot because larger guilds have been moving in and bidding higher amounts. This time, I sent in a donation, hoping to help out a guild that was just trying to stay in the game. I wonder how long until even the most casual of trading guilds require payments from members simply to be able to sell outside of the guild. 

I know I’m not the first one to bring up the inherent flaws in ESO’s trading system. A quick search of the forums will pull up several animated graphics of a poor dead horse being beaten to death over this topic. I’m also aware of how divisive the system is. Some players love it – love it – because it’s so unique, immersive, and in-depth. Others find it less than optimal for the situation many gamers are in. I see merit to both arguments.

What seems a bit odd to me, though, is that a game that’s attempted to simplify systems and cater to the more casual side of the playerbase seems to actually be moving in the other direction when it comes to the in-game economy. Being shut out of guild trading leaves casual players little choice but to drop out of the economy altogether. I don’t know many casual players who spend time trying to sell in zone chat. Time is precious. There are dungeons to run, quests to turn in, entire rooms full of puppy destruction to clean up! Well, maybe that last one is just me. The point is, most casuals don’t play the game enough to sit around in a zone waiting for someone to reply to chat spam. There needs to be a more casual-friendly option for trading.

I’m not even sure a game-wide auction house is the answer. For one, it would greatly decrease the use of the current system, if not completely replace it. I would like to see something implemented that would give players the option of a “hardcore” economy or a simplified, streamlined sales opportunity. Perhaps ESO could deploy zone auction houses that charge a higher listing fee than the guild stores but that would be open to all players regardless of guild affiliation. Zone auction houses could be a place that lower-quality items could be found at a lower price, while guild traders, being supplied by hard-core crafters, raiders, and PvPers, would carry premium goods for premium coin. I’m sure those who have studied game economics could come up with even better alternatives; this was just one “best of both worlds” scenario that came to mind.

As it stands, the rich continue to get richer while the poor are being slowly squeezed out of the market.

Traverse the troubled land of Tamriel in the Elder Scrolls Online! Larry Everett and Ben Griggs will be your guides here in Tamriel Infinium on Wednesdays as we explore together the world created by ZeniMax and Bethesda in one of the biggest MMOs in the genre. Larry and Ben welcome questions and topic ideas!

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Robert Mann

I guess I missed this when it dropped… but yeah, that’s what game-wide markets do. Whether via the whole vendor system, or via the central AH method. Either way you are going to see gold sinks that vastly exceed your ability to pay.

It also removes any potential, in either form, for a player to really run a specialty in any form of crafting, goods, etc… unless they spend constant attention buying up anything of that type and re-listing at higher price. Which some few do.

It is a problem with several sources, all rooted in convenience in other aspects of the game. The sad truth is that the more convenient travel and buy/sell worldwide are, the less convenient the economy will be for anyone but the hardcore market traders, or those who are in content that has items that sell very well (and don’t need said items).

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tami tate

I’ve been a fan of ES for about 25 yrs and I gotta say…… The whole system has become way to complicated & greedy. I’m spend more time googling & researching than actually playing.. The guilds are constantly here today gone tomorrow. From character build, crafting, to the economy & harvesting is difficult, time consuming & complicated…. You’ll need a PHD, Masters, Doctorate just to figure out 60%+ of the game…. Jeeez:o

And everyone uses acronyms when explaining anything & everything. … Good lort it’s exhausting, lol

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Alex Willis

Wiki MMOing is a growing problem. I say this as someone who LOVES to research this stuff, but even I have to admit that my time spent learning about a game is almost 1:1 how much time I spend playing it.

When it came to games like EVE, I might even have spent MORE time in wikis than in game.

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maydrock .

They might as well go to a central AH system. TTC pretty much broke the economy game and with the abundance of wayshrines one can be at any kiosk in less than a minute. Yes, I know there are limitations on central AH’s with mega servers, but still the current design is still shot.

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Adam Russell

What normally happens in a game with no auction house is it works up until the point where general chat is choked with people spamming their wares. So really – thats your solution.

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Robert Mann

Aye, sadly this is the counter problem. People want to advertise to the widest market possible. It’s possible to deal with each through various means, but those methods of adjustment will irk some people too.

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Toy Clown

Of the complaints that I had about ESO (had, in that I don’t play anymore), the way playing trading worked irked me the worst. Why? Of the three trading guilds I have belonged to over the course of ESO’s lifespan, each one of them kicked me. The first one kicked me, even though I paid my dues 2 weeks in advance and let leadership know I was going on holiday. I came back to find myself removed. The 2nd time I was paying dues and a percentage of sales, and got kicked because I wasn’t able to get my sales over some high amount each week. A last ditch effort and the last trade guild I joined, I actually deserved to be removed as I had finally had enough and just left the game.

I realize the system is too ingratiated into ESO and I wouldn’t think of requesting a change, therefore I made my merry way over to FFXIV where I can happily craft and sell away.

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Castagere Shaikura

I was reading somewhere that gold selling companies because of ESO’s guild trader system instead of a true AH make tons of money off ESO. It’s a shame that they thought this system was a good idea. A player would rather buy gold than pay dues to a guild to sell items to the player.

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Pakesso Mukash

As casuals, why does this part of the game bother you? You’re sort of refusing to get into the meat of the game, but you still want gravy. As a casual, do you really need anything golded out? You already don’t want or don’t have the time to invest in the game. Casuals don’t need to do Vet dungeons. Casuals don’t need gold gear. Casuals can maybe get monster helms. Other than that, casuals are passers-by. Why change the depth of the game just for someone who plays very little of it at a time? Go play a solo RPG maybe?

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Tobasco da Gama

Congrats on being everything wrong with MMOs.

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Lethality

But, how is he wrong, in any way?

I don’t classify “casual” with the same disdain, but, there’s no reason to expect that just because you play the game you are entitled to the same thing as everyone else without putting in the same effort as everyone else.

If players cannot put in that effort, that is not the fault of the game.

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Alex Willis

The argument against trade in ESO as currently formed is not about “effort”, it’s about design and the inertia of existing interests.

For reference: every small business ever vs. Wal-Mart.

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Kay

“But, how is he wrong, in any way?”

That fact that ignoring the wants and needs of casuals is how you end up with Wild Star.

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Castagere Shaikura

Well said

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Akagi

And when you only cater to casuals is what you get in ESO and Retail WoW – a game that only caters to casuals and singles out players who want to feel like they are actually working towards something and there is a challenge.

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Kay

“And when you only cater to casuals is what you get in ESO and Retail WoW”

Two successful games that other mmos try to be. That also don’t “only cater to casuals”. See the article you are commenting in. ESO should listen to casuals more.

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Akagi

Really? Is that why people are frustrated with Retail WoW, namely WoD and BfA? Is that why Blizzard launched WoW Classic and it’s even more successful than Retail WoW?

Are you living under a rock maybe? Have you seen the queue times in Classic? I’m playing on a realm that isn’t the most populated and I wait in queues every evening to be able to play.

If ESO listens to casuals more, it will soon turn into a browser game. xD

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Utakata

As per usual Mr. Lethality, you want games to be a day job. More power to you if that floats your boat. But that’s least a big “Fuck no!” for me. So speak for yourself. Thnkx.

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Akagi

The problem is that now every MMORPG is catering to casuals and players who want something else have no place to call home. What Blizzard did with WoW Classic is what many other games should be doing as well – keep a casual version for the casuals and release a version of the game back from when it was launched that caters to everyone else who is a normal human being.

I also go to work and I’m tired when I get home, on work days I probably have like 3-5 hours I can invest into playing an MMORPG and most of the times I’m too tired and don’t last longer than an hour, so I only play on days off. I started playing WoW Classic after previously playing Vanilla only on private servers since 2012. I’m tired, I can’t play much, progress is slow, but that’s OK. I get rewarded based on what I invest.

Don’t you think your attitude is what’s ruining games for everyone else – you want to play 1 hour and achieve more than I do busting my ass for 5 hours? And then you get to do this, because the developers want to cater to you and I’m “kicked out” of the game, because it’s now so easy I don’t even see a reason to play it.

How is that fair. That’s the epitome of hypocrisy.

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Utakata

Why are you assuming that’s a problem? Asserting some moral narrative without evidence over something that’s not really an issue outside of a disagreeing opinion is an epitome of bad arguing. Just saying.

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Akagi

Just do a search on ESO’s forums and subreddit about “eso casual/easy/boring”

You will see people complaining that the game is too easy for them and they wish it was more challenging. Then the hordes of casuals jump them and literally tell them they aren’t welcome here if they aren’t enjoying the game as it is. LITERALLY.

I once made such post and proposed a mode like in Diablo 2 where you create a character and choose between Normal and Hardcore. With Hardcore (in ESO) meaning you deal less damage and mobs hit harder to the point where you struggle.

With the scaling system they have in place that scales each mob for each player they can easily achieve that for people that want a more challenging experience without affecting the casual noobs.

You know what kind of response I got?

That I should strip my character naked and go fight mobs like that if I want a challenge… These imbeciles are on a new level….

And not only that, ESO doesn’t even give you the freedom to do what you want in the game, it’s literally a love child of Skyrim and Retail WoW.

When I played games as a kid, I learned I should make an effort to get a reward and it felt good. Products like ESO where you sit on your fat ass, do nothing and fart all day and get epic rewards aren’t even games. xD

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Robert Mann

I rejected ESO post beta when the difficulty curve dropped from (probably a little too hard, as you had to really think outside the box for a few encounters on level, including solo main story quests) to “You can literally light attack and win, forget needing abilities for 99.9% of content”.

Where I hardly think that all of ESO and WoWs problems are from catering to casuals, I think the balance of things and the lack of variety are indeed problems. Sadly most people want every game to tilt to their own personal vision, and those demands tend to turn the games from anything interesting into either watered down mush, ultra-hardcore fossils (dead), or a mish-mash that dies because it has absolutely no clue how to please everyone (which makes sense because you can’t) and still tries until it dies.

So where I support your desire for something different, I also think you are going too far with statements about things. I think the key to change will have to be indie, A, and AA studios, because AAA will only chase what they have seen already work.

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Akagi

ESO could easily implement a hardcore mode. They can actually put their level scaling system to good use for once.

Since level scaling scales to each player individually, they can create an option, where upon character creation, you can tick a checkbox that says “Hardcore mode” and unlike Diablo 2 where once you die, you can’t play that character anymore, this option scales mobs like 5-10 levels above yours (that’s just an example, it has to be better fine-tuned to be both challenging and also not impossible to kill the mob). Kinda like the mobs in Craglorn.

With such a feature, they can keep the game casual for casuals and provide people who want more challenge to have that challenge. Also maybe award them with slightly increased drop rates, like x1.5 … x2 or something to incentivize it and make Hardcore players feel like they are getting something else besides challenge, otherwise, many Hardcore players will feel like they are struggling and getting the same results as casual players who get the same results with little to no effort.

There are many ways to explore this thing, but I doubt ZOS cares about this at all. All they care is about their Crown store, their casual whale sponsors who buy costumes, pets and other dumb ass cosmetics so that ZOS can bust out more story content for the same crowd.

The story in ESO is good and intriguing, but the gameplay is so dumbed down and easy that I literally can’t be bothered to care about anything anymore. I uninstalled the game in January 2019 and I don’t intend to touch it again until ZOS decides to give some love to the more hardcore players like myself (I doubt that will ever happen, though).

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Alex Willis

Can’t tell if this is ironic, or just full of jackass.

Assuming the latter: the assumption that “casuals” are passers-by is not only ridiculous, it is against pretty much every trend the gaming industry is building towards. So not only is your sentiment misplaced, it’s historically defunct.

Furthermore, locking out “casuals” from an entire branch of the game (trading) because of 1337 epeen is laughable. Not even EVE does this. And I’m pretty sure that’s not even what ESO devs intended when they built this system.

Also: almost sounds like you don’t know the game. If casuals can “maybe” get Monster helms, then they definitely need to do Vet dungeons, as (other than Golden Vendor, who no casuals are buying from), that’s the only way to get them.

l2pkthnxbai

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

How would playing a solo RPG in any way help someone who is interested in trading with humans in an MMORPG?

What does trading have to do whether or not somebody does vet dungeons or accumulates gold gear?

Are we really going to argue that *checks notes* grinding to donate to help an uberguild monopolize an economy is “depth” or constitutes some of the “meat of the game”?

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Castagere Shaikura

The funny part is most people play it like a single-player TES game. Your right if you play like that you don’t need anything golded out but your weapons. A true AH is for players that like to play the market. It’s a side thing you can do in every MMO but ESO.

Larry Everett
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Larry Everett

There was a game that did a great compromise. In major cities there were bazaars. Players could individually sell items on the bazaar up to a specific amount, but anything more expensive and it had to be sold on a vendor. But even then, the bazaar would point you to the right vendor.

I mean to say that there can be a compromise that’s good for casuals and hardcore players.

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

Before the Dark Times. Before the Empire.

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Matt Lindsay

There is one part of the subject that has not been touched on here. That is the fact all big guilds are making multiple guilds around the same name to take up all the guild traders. A.K.A monopolizing ESO’s economy. Which IMHO should have never been allowed in the first place.

ESO has by far the worst economy. Everything is way overpriced in guild traders even low tier items. It is just a greed fest. Black Desert and Final Fantasy 14 both have the central market type set up for all players to use. ZOS should adapt to the ideas those two games have.

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Nathan Aldana

upside, ESO has designed a system that works just like real life capitalism

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Alex Willis

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Poker Brat
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Poker Brat

I Really enjoy ESO, but as your spot on article says, something needs to give with options for a player to casually earn gold off the market. Regional AH like what Warcraft had back in the day would be a good first step. Remember the Neutral AH in Tanaris? I think it was Tanaris….

Anyway, I’m one of those players that doesn’t need a ton of gold, but likes to play the AH and make a little bit. I don’t want to spend most of my limited game time with trading guilds ect. We’re 6 years in now, and very little movement on this.

I know there are other ways to make gold in ESO, and I’m doing those, but it would be nice to have the ability to post something for sale without the limitations.