Friday, April 11, 2008

DisgruntledGamer Interview: RMT in the eyes of a 30-something gamer



This week I interviewed Sean from Disgruntled Gamer (http://disgruntledgamer.wordpress.com/) - a self-described 30-something gamer, former programmer gone private investigator. He shares his advice for gold buyers, an outlook for the RMT industry and his personal experience and view as a gamer.

Can you give us some background on yourself, your gaming experience and to what extent do you play MMORPG games?

I am 36 years old and college educated. I have basically been gaming since the very beginning with short breaks here and there. Systems I have owned include Pong, Atari 2600, Colecovision, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, N64, Xbox, PS2, GameCube, Xbox 360 and the Wii. Computer Systems would include Commodore 64, IBM Ps/1 and then a new system every 3-5 years since then. Hat's I have worn in the computer industry would include BBS SYSOP, hacker, coder, and lead developer for a couple of small companies.

My first mmo would have to have been Neverwinter Nights on the AOL service. I beta tested Meridian 59, Ultima Online, Sierra's The Realm, and EQ1. Icontinue to play today but not like I had when Star Wars Galaxies (pre-cu) had first come out. I am currently in the betas for a number of future games, all of which are currently under NDA.

What is your point of view on buying virtual gold with real money as a gamer? Did you ever consider to buy gold (or went through with it)?

My point of view concerning RMT is one of indifference. I can care less what someone wants to do with their RL cash. I think the only person that it hurts in the end is the person that buys the virtual commodities because, that is all that there is to do in the vast majority of these games today. Without the "grind" for money or items the games get even more boring, because the grind is at least something to do.

I have not bought any myself though I know a number of people that have, and even one that had to have an operation on their pet and sold some virtual coin to a reseller to pay for said operation.

Did you ever personally get in touch with gold farmers? Can you describe the occassion (positive, negative, impressions)? What kinds of gold farmer behaviors that you think are most irritating?

I have spoken with a gold farmer from China, or at least that is where he said he was from. He had told me he was from some small rural village, that he had a number of brothers and that his father was crippled. As the oldest brother he had to support his family and this was the job he was able to get. The overall impression wasn't as bad as the majority of the interactions I have had in the past. Things like "YOU GO NOW", "U GO ME PK", and "USA PIG GO" are some of the things I had normally heard out of farmers in Lineage2.

What I have found to be most irritating is that they will, at times, prevent normal players from being able to complete legit content. They will farm a given area for hours at a time normally with characters far higher level than the mobs in an effort, I imagine, to maximize their intake of cash vs risk. Other times, in different games, their hacking and exploiting causes far more problems.

What is your impression on how friends and guild mates see RMT? Is it something that no one likes and yet everyone does?

Most people I know online have a very negative outlook towards farmers and the people that buy RMT. Some of it is holier than thou preaching without substance, others just have inordinate amounts of time and they farm in an effort to make themselves feel better by being virtually wealthy. I doubt that anywhere close to the majority of people I know would be buyers though there are some that I am sure have.

What do you think causes the gold farming business to get really big? Is it the game's design flaw? Or a feature for casual gamers?

I believe that it is an inherent design flaw of these games that allows for the explosive growth of the RMT business. The focus is entirely on items and grinding rather than something fun and enjoyable, which is what gaming is supposed to be about. I believe developers can easily circumvent the gold farming businesses but that requires them to be more creative in an effort to keep people paying subscription fees. This is something I do not believe that they are willing to do.

Being an investigator yourself, how do you see the gold farmers scam, ripping off innocent customers? What advice can you give?

As an investigator my advice would be to never deal with a company that is over seas and never ever ever give out direct credit card information to anyone that you do not know or trust. If someone has to, be sure to use something like paypal as an intermediary because they provide more security and a means of getting your money back if you are the victim of a scam. However, buying the virtual coin will hurt you in the end because without the grind there is nothing left for you to do in the game.

What do you think of the virtual asset purchase models in games that publishers sanction it eg. Station Exchange? It is quiet a successful model in Korea and game publishers are looking to adopt the model in the US, is it going to have support of US gamers?

From what I have read Station Exchange is relatively successful. It provides a safe way for regular gamers to sell off their excess or to buy things that they think they need. I know that a number of games have "item malls" etc, especially a good number of Korean games and that games like Dungeon Runners are following in that model. Whether or not it will be a success or not remains to be seen. As far as I have read there is a distinct difference between the way the majority of Asian gamers play their games and the way westerners play theirs. In the west the majority of gamers have systems in their homes and have more time to devote to things like the grind while in Asia, the majority of people play from coffee type shops, I think they are called pcbangs. They do not pay by a monthly subscription but pay on an hourly basis and they are in a far more social atmosphere.

I think that the microtransaction model can be successful in the short run. In the past couple of years pcgaming has been growing as a hobby. There are a good number of people in games like World of Warcraft that had never played a game before apart from solitaire. They do not know that there is more to gaming than going out and killing 100 rats for 10 rat tails. It is my hope that as these people start to play more games, become more experienced, that they will start putting more pressure on the developers to provide meaningful content. Even our single player games are starting to become infested with microtransactions, horse armor for $5.00 in Oblivion for example. In the long run I think that this will hurt developers and studios. Why would someone pay $50.00 for Oblivion, then another $50-$100.00 for tiny addons when, within a year, they will release a compilation for $50.00 that has the original game and all the additional content? Publishers and developers rely on the initial sales of the games to record a profit eventually people will stop buying these games until they are feature complete.

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