Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Major changes to the glyph business

Blizzard decided to sabotage my project to blog less by releasing patch 4.0.1, bringing many significant changes to World of Warcraft, about which I could talk for hours. But in the spirit of not stressing myself, I'll first experiment with all these changes and post about them only slowly over the coming weeks. Nevertheless one change, which has been widely overlooked, touches a subject I've been discussing a lot: The glyph business. So I'll discuss that in this post.

The change appears minor, and probably won't even be noticed by the majority of players: Addons like Auctioneer or QA will in the future not be able to post multiple auctions at once. Every auction will require a "hardware" input, e.g. a mouse-click or keyboard press. If you are putting the three bind on equip items you found during your last dungeon run on auction, you will barely be affected. If you want to post 2,000 glyphs, that suddenly becomes a major hassle.

As I mentioned often, the glyph market is completely borked, because it doesn't cost anything to post a glyph, and the difference between the cost of making a glyph and what customers are willing to pay is so huge. Thus on every server I know, there are thousands of glyph auctions, with most sellers having hundreds if not thousands of auctions open, and prices wildly fluctuating between 1 gold and 100 gold for any give glyph, depending on who undercut whom when with what strategy. And that market is completely dependant on addons: It would be downright impossible to repost the same thousand glyphs every day if you hadn't got addons to empty your mailbox and repost the glyphs. The glyph business quickly went from being a game for many to being an industry for a few, with some participants being auction house gold farmers.

Sabotaging those addons is a good idea, and of course there is also that other major change to glyphs which makes that you only have to learn them once, and can later revert to glyphs you overwrote. But I'm not sure that this all will be sufficient to return the glyph market to anything resembling a player economy in a game instead of an automated gold making machine. The need for a hardware input is annoying, but not a hard cap, so some people will set up macros and keyclicking programs and hardware solutions that get around the problem. So we just get *less* people posting a thousand glyphs every day, without completely eliminating the phenomenon. What I would have liked to see would be a hard cap of lets say 100 auctions per account. That would be enough for every crafter who considers tradeskills as a game to post his goods, but would block the fully automated auction house gold farmers.

Remember: The player economy in a MMORPG is part of the game. The purpose is to provide fun to those players inclined to participate in that game. Automated trading only serves to diminish that fun, and due to the way the economy works there is no added value to the possibility of turning a few players into millionaires. As socialist as that might sound, in a game economy the entertainment needs of the many really should prevail over the exceptional cleverness of the few. There is no place for Ayn Rand in a game like WoW.

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