Anyone Want to Unearth the RMAH Debate?Posted 12 April 2012 by Flux
A fan brought up the whole “pay to win” issue of the RMAH, and got a half-hearted reply from Bashiok.
Bashiok: It’s interesting to think about, for sure. There’s certainly a separation for most people in that obtaining currency outside of the game, and obtaining items worth currency within the game are exclusive concepts. That if you’re playing the game and obtaining items, they are of a higher value than having a job and being paid for it. Which is kind of strange as real world currency is by far more widely valuable and usable than an in-game item. Obviously there’s an exchange rate of sorts that will be worked out by players to match the two, but I think it’s interesting that conceptually someone who works to obtain currency in their job and buy an item is perceived of as less than someone who was able to obtain it by playing the game. Logically it’s backwards as a real world job is not the fun and enjoyment of playing a video game, but that gets turned around within the context of wanting to compare skill and aptitude.
I still think drop chance puts so much randomization into someone’s acquisition of items that there’s no true test of aptitude to be had, just luck and time. What’s to say working to earn money to buy an item is easier than launching the game and getting that same item on your first kill? Also, I love my job, but it’s still not as awesome as just playing Diablo III.
I don’t even know how someone can attempt to place value on the way someone obtained their items, at what cost, in what Act and difficulty was it found, what their magic find was, are they more skilled than me, are they using a ‘cheesy build’ etc. There’s too many variables.
In regards to PvP, that gear didn’t just appear out of nowhere. If my opponent bought his gear that doesn’t change the fact that it dropped for someone else somewhere. That gear was going to make someone beefy in PvP regardless of whether it was sold or not so what’s the point? Is it really worse that I fight someone in PvP whom bought all their gear versus fighting the player for whom that gear originally dropped before they sell it? If anything, the person that bought their gear is more likely to be at a disadvantage because they haven’t invested the time to get really good at their skills. Overall I think it’s a moot point.
Bashiok: I like the way this all makes sense inside my brain.
These read like the training wheels versions of this debate, which raged hot, deep, and nuanced last August, after the Auction House and the RMT aspect of it were first revealed. If you’re interested in a bit deeper discussion, click through; I briefly offer counters to the points made in this blue effort, and provide links to some of the better discussions of this topic from last year.
Here’s a quick summary of how the main pro/con RMAH debate points would be applied to the surface-scratching version of the discussion in this blue post.
The Anti-RMAH Argument
Bashiok’s wrong because a game world is not the same as real life. It’s a closed system, where where players are rewarded for their skills and effort in the game, not for having access to their dad’s credit card. That a player can use outside, real world resources to “pay to win” feels like cheating, to many.
An analogy I’ve read is that it’s like sitting down to play Monopoly with some friends, and one guy pulls out actual cash money and hands it to the banker, buying Boardwalk and Park Place right at the start. Though in the case of D3′s RMAH, I suppose it would be more like that guy throwing down a fiver to buy those properties from the other player who had earned them fairly. Fine for him and the seller, but ruinous of the game for everyone else.
The Pro-RMAH Argument
On the other hand, the argument I find most compelling for the RMAH is the time-is-money counter. Since item quality and character level in a game like D3 is determined on an almost one-to-one sliding scale with “time played,” many RMAH supporters point out the inherent unfairness of that system. (Bashiok’s, “You could get lucky and find super items in one drop!” is a logical fallacy.)
Given how the loot in D3 works, there’s simply no way an adult with a job and a family and real life responsibilities can compete with the stereotypical 14 y/o playing 14 hours a day on his summer vacation. So isn’t it “fair” to allow that adult to spend a small % of his real life earnings to buy gear that gives him some parity with the kid who plays all day?
One has the the advantage of time while the other has the equalizer of money. A game economy that finds a way to balance out those resources should be fair for everyone. And the RMAH system in D3 should do that pretty well… in theory.
The above is a very quick summary of two aspects of the argument. Checkfor much more, from back when the feature was first revealed and passions ran hot. A few of the better ones include:
- The DiabloWiki has very thorough coverage of this issue in Diablo III and more generally in online games, on the Real Money Trading article.
- We did a whole podcast debate on the RMAH, with Wolfpaq arguing pro RMAH, and Nico arguing against it. I moderated in my always impartial and fair-minded fashion. *cough*
- Bashiok and other blue voices joined in quite a bit of spirited debate with fans who hated the AH and especially the RMAH. See this post and this one, for example.
- This survey of opinions from other game developers (most of whom were jealous that Bliz could get away with it) stirred some debate.
- If you want a larger sample size, our vote on the RMAH issue had around 5000 replies and wild disagreement in the votes and the comments.