Welcome to 'Blogged Out', the news report that looks at the world of developer blogging and the conversations being had with the community at large. This week we visit Rob Fermier and the gold farmers of EQ.
Third Party Animal
In a piece that echoes last week’s consideration of WoW’s smart GUI decisions, Ensemble’s Rob ‘Xemu’ Fermier has posted about his experiences with raid dungeons. These 40-man sequences are challenging enough by virtue of the monsters found in them but, as Fermier points out, the real issue is one of human organisation.
Players go to some lengths to ensure their success in these projects, and much of that is about making other players perform their role with military precision. Fermier laments just how far these organisational antics go, including it becoming a requirement for players to download third-party software designed specifically to deal with certain raids – a benefit (or curse) of WoW’s manageable interface.
“Social pressures make it a de facto requirement to have these mods to participate at the high end,” Fermier explains. “It's fantastic that Blizzard has such an open UI format that such things are possible... but it certainly is not a decision that comes without cost. Just beyond the issue of being required to download this random third party software to play the game, it must result in a great deal of technical support and security issues for Blizzard. Yet, now that they have upped the ante, it is hard to see how any top tier MMO will be able to ship without that capability.”
And yet third-party software has long been mandatory for games in which large scale organisation of people is required. Battleground Europe, Eve Online and even games like Battlefield 2, in which voice-comms have already been integrated, all end up benefiting from the array of features provided by Teamspeak.
This app allows the management of multiple secure channels, with the option for ‘broadcast’ so that commanders can relay orders to multiple groups and ‘command channels’, so that the leaders of various groups can chat amongst themselves without confusing the majority of players. Perhaps this doesn’t add to the ‘fiction’ of the game, but in experiences which are essentially competitive, this kind of instant, versatile communication has become mandatory.
This kind of finesse has been seen elsewhere in the mod community – the European Quake III leagues made Orange Smoothie (official site now dead) mandatory for all players – since the mod allowed teams to have a single ‘coach’ player who could use the mod to see the point of view of all four players on his team at one time.
For players whose enjoyment was organised competition this kind of third-party coding was a godsend, and certainly not something most development teams would have time to refine. Instead of worrying about what kind of damaging implications these systems might have it seems sensible for developers to survey them, embrace them, borrow them, integrate them, and work out how the player-based experiments of today can aid the games of tomorrow.
Also thrown into light this week, via Terra Nova, was this discussion of how gold farming works. Surprisingly frank, it clarifies a lot of issues surrounding the subject that had been all-too popular on slow news days in 2005. Well worth a read. As user "concernedeq" explains:
“My tax return for that year which has salary from 2 months of my job which I quit to make this my full time business, showed $150,623.78 after expenses. By this time I had made another character on another server and bought myself another computer and was playing on two. I killed guards in everfrost and sold the weapons to vendors and then bought items from players, or sold the platinum. That's the entirety of what I did to make that income.”[Jim Rossignol is a freelance journalist based in the UK – his game journalism has appeared in PC Gamer UK, Edge and The London Times.]
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