ZeniMax, the developer of The Elder Scrolls Online, had an interesting tweet just before the weekend started. I saw it, but didn’t really know what to think of it. Here’s the tweet.
Here we have a game developer not only supporting, but advertising a third party auction site for in-game items. This isn’t really all that surprising. I know 3rd party sites have existed for a long time. Sites whose only purpose is to facilitate the sell of in-game items for game currency. In many games I’ve played these sites are tacitly approved so long as they don’t cross the line into RMT territory. But ZeniMax has gone beyond tacit approval. They’ve actually sponsored the site lending spiritual capital if not hard cash. And I don’t think this tweet was an afterthought either. The first TESO bot bans were handed out on Friday. Tell the players about a legitimate way to trade, then the next day ban those who facilitate cheating. That’s a pointed message.
I expected this sooner or later, and I’m relieved to see it is sooner. I can’t speak to the efficacy of ZeniMax’s anti-botting campaign, but at least they seem to have one. That’s more than can be said for a lot of new games, especially those that are free to pay. I’ve always been a staunch believer in, “you get what you pay for.” No, none of this is surprising.
What I find surprising is this statement about the TESO economy by gameplay designer Nick Konkle in an interview with Shoddy Cast.
“You don’t necessarily want to do a global auction house for a game with one giant server because that generally leads to all the best gear being available at very, very cheap prices. A lot of times that can trivialize the game. You cannot have a healthy economy when there are no restrictions on getting the best stuff in the game.”
Whoa, really? The very first thing that leaped into my mine was EVE Online of course. I wasn’t the only one who thought that either by some of the comments I perused. Obviously EVE Online has a giant server. It may be the most giant server of any game company. I don’t know for fact. But it’s certainly very large. But obviously that has not led to, “all the best gear being available at very, very cheap prices.” Quite to the contrary, the best stuff is almost prohibitively expensive to all but the richest capsuleers. And some things are really only affordable to large corporations and alliances – you know, like Titans.
So what is the difference in ZeniMax’s game versus CCP’s game? Why do they feel they have to handle a mega-server economy so differently? That’s a very interesting question. Let’s have a discussion about it. Here’s what I think to get things rolling.
In EVE Online, it takes a long time and many, many resources to build a Titan. As for individual items, Officer drops are rare. Rare enough they don’t flood the market. Also, items in EVE Online are destructible. The only destruction I’ve found in TESO is to sell things back to a merchant. Even then you can buy it back within a certain amount of time, so the item really isn’t destroyed. I’ve checked. Things I sold days earlier were still available on the buy-back list. That certainly is NOT the way EVE Online works. That’s what preventing the “no restrictions” issue (see last sentence in quote above) means in EVE Online. Not limiting who can sell the items, as TESO does with Guild owned stores allowed only in PvP keeps. In EVE Online, the item drop is restricted. In TESO, it’s the player’s opportunity to sell that’s restricted. TBH, I prefer the EVE Online method. But I’ve precious little experience in the TESO method.
So, which would you prefer, and why?