Posted by: mrrx | December 24, 2007

Masters on RMT, and the Pirates Broker

Raph decides to lay it out for all of us about how and why we have RMT issues in games, and what to do about them, or even not to do. Also gives us a link to a presentation he attended in 2006 by a seriously smart economist who layed out a great economic primer on MMO’s – look at this.

There’s so much meat there I’m going to digest that for possible comment after Christmas.

One thing caught my eye that Tobold was tossing out there, in the midst of a tempest related to RMT; the double-blind auction house, a la Pirates of the Burning Sea. I did get a look at this when playing the beta, and eventually concluded that it was too complicated to mess with until the game was live.

The Pirates “broker” is not a game-wide system, it’s divided up among the three nations. Sellers do not list a price and wait for buyers like in EQ2. Instead, the system reminded me more of a stock market with bids and asks. I come in as a new player, wondering what I should be buying for my ship, and what kind of stuff do people want to buy from me. I do a search on the broker and end up thoroughly confused.

I see information about some thing that might interest me, let’s call it a +1 sail. The +1 sail sold for as little as 20 doubloons, and for as much as 200 doubloons. So this means……. what ? I’m not getting any useful info about how much I should be paying for the thing. I don’t know how much I can get away with selling it for either.

The concept apparently, is to reduce the amount of information about markets that a person can get by simply browsing the broker. Instead, information becomes a valuable commodity all by itself. Buyers in Georgetown will pay 200 doubloons for a +1 sail; while sellers in some other port are letting them go at 20. If I know that, I can buy up all the sails, make a run to Georgetown, and get a great profit based mainly on knowing what’s up.

I went ahead and put in some bids for the +1 sails. What the heck – let’s try one doubloon. Fairly quickly, the system comes back and tells me “I’m sorry but none are available at that price”. OK – now I’m establishing a floor for the price at least; but only in that single region, remember, the brokers are separated by nationality.

Maybe……. 10 doubloons ? “None available”. OK then – 100 doubloons ? “None available”. Eventually I gave up and didn’t buy anything. Either the 20 doubloon sail-maker got wise, or he needs to make more. I don’t want to be the sucker buying the sails for way more coin than needed either.

Another source of confusion for me was the raw materials. In EQ2 harvests are “free”, you just have to gather them. The time spent gathering is not insignificant. By contrast, in Pirates I can mine iron in the game after building a mine. But it costs me money to mine, and happens instantly. You can only mine so much until you have to wait for your stored labor to regenerate. Talk about turning things on their heads !

Add to that my lack of knowledge about how to sell iron, how much it can go for, and I found myself walking away from it saying “I’ll try that later”. And I plan to – I’ll use Tobolds plan of two characters, one a freetrader for money, and one a naval officer.

I’m going to have to play more to understand how it would work out in practice. I wonder, though, how successful the whole system could be. It seems too complicated for the masses; maybe even for me, the guy who claims to *want* a deep economic game. It probably will depend on whether a person can get some beginning idea of how much things are “worth” in a relatively short time. Maybe only a very few things. My experience was I couldn’t even get started.

I sell harvests and shinies on the EQ2 brokers. That’s basically it; crafted items (other than last weeks products) don’t ever sell for a profit. The crafting levels are considered intrinsically valuable and thus finished products cost less than materials. Have the Flying Labs boys come up with a better, more intelligent system ? Here’s hoping.



  1. Hmms. Sounds like a confusing ‘broker’ system, though some of it mimics VG (VG’s brokers are split by the three continents, some things are cheaper on other continents then the rest, for example the Kojan ones are typically a little pricier, the land is generally less populated then the other two continents due to lack of 20+ content).

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