Fox takes a critical look

dinsdag 20 maart 2012

Shining some light on a gemstone

The day has come. In a new blogpost Arenanet's President and Co-Founder Mike O'Brian takes a look at the system that will be used in the Micro-Transaction store of the upcoming game Guildwars 2. Since GW2 is a Buy-To-Play game, wich means you buy the box and then play for free, it fully depends on the box sales and on what is sold in this store. Before starting on the actual system the blogpost first takes us back to Arenanet's original design philosophy.
We think players should have the opportunity to spend money on items that provide visual distinction and offer more ways to express themselves. They should also be able to spend money on account services and on time-saving convenience items. But it’s never OK for players to buy a game and not be able to enjoy what they paid for without additional purchases, and it’s never OK for players who spend money to have an unfair advantage over players who don’t. Mike O'Brian, President and Co-Founder of Arenanet
When we continue down the blog we learn that next to the 2 currencies we already know, gold and karma, there will be another currency: gems. Gold is of course the normal tradeable ingame currency, karma is a non-tradeable currency that players have to earn themselves. Gems will be the currency that you can buy for real money and wich can be used to purchase items in the micro-transaction store. As we continue we come across the next statement.
We have a new player-driven market that allows players to trade gold for gems and gems for gold. If you want something, whether it’s an in-game item or a microtransaction, you ultimately have two ways to get it: you can play to earn gold or you can use money to buy gems. We think that’s important, because it lets more players participate on a level playing field, whether they use their free time or their disposable income to do it. Mike O'Brian, President and Co-Founder of Arenanet
Now this is probably the part where quite a few people got shocked. This effectively means that players can buy ingame gold. Important to note is that players can't buy gold for gems directly from an npc, but must buy this gold from other players in exchange for some of their tradeable gems. The upside for the player selling the gold is that he can buy things from the cash shop with the gems he just recieved. The major concern of this system is of course the enormous fear that Guildwars 2 will become a game where you can "Pay to win." This basicly means that you can buy items that have superiour stats, power or efficiency that in any way make your character more powerfull then a character from a player who hasn't payed any money. After reading trough the blogpost a few times, something i advise everyone to do before reacting to anything, i am convinced that Arenanet has done exactly what i was expecting and that, as stated by Mike O'Brian in the first quote, they have not and never will cross the line where players that spend money will have an unfair advantage. I am also convinced that this system will have no effect on the economy of the game in any way. Let me explain why.

I would like to start with the economy part, because it is fairly important for the rest of the topic. The reason i'm saying it won't be effected is simple, you buy the gold from other players. This means that the gold and gems will have player-set exchange rates and that everything depends on what amounts of ingame gold players will want to sacrifice to gain things that are sold in the Micro-Transaction store for free. Is it worth to trow away half of your ingame gold for a character slot that only costs 5 dollars? That is something everyone will need to decide on their own. This also means that their is no infinite amount of gold to buy and that the more people that actually buy gold, the more expensive it will become, as the demand would be high in that case, and you still need people who can supply it. In the same way if there are more people offering gold, the rate will change the other way around and gold will become cheap. Eventually it will balance itself somewhat in the center. Now when we look at who controls these rates, we see it's the community itself. Because of this player-set exchange rate item price will not be affected by gold buying, and insainly high prices so that only gold-buyers can get the item will be out of the question.
A second effect of the fact that players buy gold from players is that there will be no extra money added by this system, the money just in ownership. There is still the same capacity to buy stuff.
The last thing to consider is that there is only so much players will want from the Micro-Transaction shop. Even if new things are added to the shop constantly one must wonder if they are relevant to players and if they find them worth to farm for. If the shop doesn't contain anything a player wants anymore, due to not being interested in other things or simply owning all the stuff (these players will excist believe me), he/she won't be willing to spend his/her ingame gold for gems. So in a way this system is even encouraging A-net to provide things players (not just people with money) want to have.

Alright, with that out of the way let's see if we can bring some clarification into that other subject, pay to win. When we ask ourselves if you can pay to win in this game it is very important to look at the "win" part, since due to the gem/gold trade system you can effectively pay for ingame items that are not soulbound. It is thus logical that the question should be "Can you win?" or better formulated "Can you get an advantage by buying items?"
To get a better look let me break it down in some categories. The first one being gear. The only real effect gear is going to have is in leveling in Pve or WvW, since at max lvl the characters will have the oppertunity to get really cheap max lvl gear, and from that point stats are maxed and only skin can be changed. In structured pvp everyone is given max gear as soon as they enter, as this statement shows.
While inside the organized PvP area, all characters will be the same power level and will have access to the same equipment. GW2 FAQ
So does it matter in leveling, both in PvE or PvP? I personally don't think it will matter al that much, since lvling is set on a flat curve, and going a few levels up won't take that much time. Buying an armorset for a certain level will only help you for a few levels and will quite frankly not be worth to spend your real life money on. Getting this small advantage each few levels will take time to go buy stuff and a rediculous amount of money.
Next to gear there are possible boosts in glory, influence and experience. I am saying possible because nothing has been confirmed yet (except for what the collectors and digital deluxe edition have, but that's still a 1-time only purchase). The only thing we do know can again be found in my first quote of the blogpost: "on time-saving convenience items." When we look at experience boosts it is important to remember the Guildwars philosophy "endgame begins at lvl 1" wich is why i think this won't even be available. If they do include them are aimed at people with low time who want to actually get to certain things faster in the game, be it to keep up or for their own sense of achievement, if you have a decent amount of playtime and you are buying these i feel you miss the concept of the entire game. Glory boosts are fine because glory rewards only affect cosmetic appearance. Influence affects your guild, and buying influence points (if available) will allow guilds to unlock rewards faster. Some people say that it could affect WvWvW. 
Since i've mentioned it, i want to take WvWvW apart and look at how it could be affected. Guilds could in fact upgrade faster and could maybe get one little more upgrade. People have also been saying that buying gold will give you more siege weapons. Xp-boosts would also matter since a server would have more full 80-players, who are a bit more powerfull then players scaled to 80 because of gear/skills unlocked in WvWvW. I don't want to deny these arguments at all, but i do want to say that this is kind of rediculously small of an advantage are kind of redundant in "massive unbalanced pvp" Pay to win arguments in WvWvW are in my opinion entirely useless concerning WvWvW since your character won't matter all that much in the grand scheme of things. Spending money on this makes no sense to me.

Now that i've gone over the potential problems i would like to bring up something that is at least as important. The accesability of GW2 towards all kinds of players. If you are a student with a good amount of time but a lower income you can still get most items you want, even if from the shop. If on the other hand you are working with little time available but a good income you can also, if you want, get more invested into the game. 

The biggest question of them all is how do you want to enjoy the game? And what do you need to enjoy yourself? Do you care about someone leveling faster in a game where leveling is an experience? Do you care about someone being higher level then you in WvWvW if the difference is so small in stats, while skill is the most important thing in the game, especially when fighting other players? 
The Micro-Transaction store has been clearly designed not to affect the game eperience, and that is fine by me. 
Whether or not you are affected by it personally is entirely up to you.

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