October 13, 2008

Junk Selling in MMOs

Every time I have started a new MMO, I have encountered the same way of giving me some starting coins : emptying my backpack on the table of the local vendor, watching his eyes lit with joy at the prospect of buying my junk : broken scorpion pincers, torn butterfly wings, and so on.

I have never understood their love for junk, but, as I needed cold hard cash, I was happy to provide them with it. And they would always buy them. Or perhaps it was out of pity for the fledging adventurer that I was, far from the god-killer I would one day become ? Or perhaps they were hoping that, since they bought my junk, I would come back to sell them said killed-god-kidney?

But I digress…

The question still remains: WHY would they buy this ?

And I have a second question: they see thousands of adventurers coming, many buying their equipment to improve their efficiency and/or survivability. How can they cope with so much demand?

I have found a modicum of an answer in a single player game. On the DS: Etrian Odyssey. In that game, there’s no crafting. There’s no finding a legendary epic double blade of poisoned fang in the rectum of a killed wolf (at least we know why this wolf was angry). In EO, the only things you find during your encounters are monsters’ parts. Or supplies like wood or plants. And, when you sell them to the vendor in town, it unlocks equipment to be bought.

So, there is a reason behind buying that junk: creating the supplies needed to equip all those starved heroes. And there is a reason for all those supplies: much junk was sold.

But, why not do it like EO does? Why couldn’t players unlock equipment by supplying vendors with supplies, following “recipes” where 2 “butterfly wings” and 3 “wolf’s hide” would unlock a “darkened leather suit”? And why (like in Etrian) should it unlock unlimited supplies? Perhaps it would enable 1 to 3 equipment to be sold next. That way, the economy would enter a crafting cycle somewhat like the original SWG, or so I was told.

Of course, crafters themselves would have access to other recipes, in order to let people choose their path.

What do you think? Would this work?


  1. Interesting point. :) I always wondered why they would buy my trash, and where they found the money to buy it.

    Your crafting system idea is a good one, yet not a simple one.

    On teenagers MMO such as WoW, we'll never see that. We'll probably see it in a few years, on more adult MMO, if they finaly appear.

    One question nevertheless : would the "unlocking" of new material be for ONE player, or for all the faction ?

    Imho, it should help to build a global economy. Which means this system should work for the whole faction. But if so, we'll face players who will gather material, and other who will simply wait and buy the advanced products as soon as there is enough material in NPC stores to craft it.

    ... and yet I'd probably like it, someway.

    Definitely, I like this kind of idea. Must just think more about it to improve it. :)

  2. Atlantica Online has a fascinating economy. I can't speak with impunity since I don't know everything in the game, but I'm at level 50 of 100, so I've played a bit.

    As near as I can tell, every single item that drops from enemies is either a crafting recipe ingredient or a collector's item. There are merchant NPCs who buy the collector's items. There are other NPCs who buy anything else, but at a baseline price of 10 gold per item. (A pittance in AO.)

    That effectively puts a floor on the market, since players know they can always sell an item for 10 gold if they find one of those NPCs. Even so, almost everything is thrown into the blind market. Players sell their stuff to other players, and prices can vary wildly depending on demand... but they are almost always better than the 10 gold from the NPC.

    At present, with plenty of players, the game's economy is humming, but there are spikes in prices as the bulk of players pass through certain level bands and content segments. Still, that's just a healthy player-driven market.

    There's no "vendor trash" with no function in the game, in other words. Some ingredient prices may drop below the 10 gold floor at times, usually as a function of price wars, but they don't stay there long because of the NPC. I suppose that their function is a "buyer of last resort", but because the price is so low, it encourages market action and player interaction through the crafting system and the market.

    It's brilliant, as players can just auction their stuff away at any town (the market is worldwide), and there are inherent uses for items if you feel like crafting. You can even farm and play the market if you feel like it. There's money to be made in the margins, as in the real markets.

    More than that, though, is the intangible goodwill bought by making everything useful. There's no sense of "broken spleen" vendor trash that you're carting around for the idiot NPCs. You feel like a part of a functional economy, where your work gathering stuff is actually appreciated.