Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Is it efficient to be honorable?

Time is money, and in the end it all comes down to money. Is it okay to step on a few toes in order to advance your MMORPG character in the shortest time possible? Is it okay to use game exploits if it means saving a few weeks of hard grinding? Should gamers chose the honorable path by playing the game by the rules and putting in the hard yards even if their is a known exploitable short-cuts? This is a difficult question to answer and I believe the answer depends on the situation, but where exactly does the line sit?

Not so long ago, I had a discussion with Scott from pumpingirony.net in the comments of this blog about farming Zaishen Keys (z-keys) in Guild Wars. Traditionally z-keys are obtained by trading in Balthazar faction earned through PvP. They are used to open the Zaishen Chest and advance your Zaishen title rank. The z-keys aren't cheap and in most cases one z-key will cost you up to and over an hour's worth of PvPing (depends on how many wins you have). Naturally there is a second method of obtaining z-keys, which requires no PvPing. You can purchase a z-key with gold from another player (who most likely earned it through PvPing). So in theory, if you can earn gold in PvE faster than Balthazar faction in PvP, then wouldn't the wisest course of action be to buy the z-keys with gold? After all, nobody cares how you got the z-key and it would save precious gaming time...

Scott and I both had differing opinions on the issue. Scott's comment was:

"I know it doesn't matter to anyone else, but how I get the z-keys (or anything in any game) matters very much to me. I am a firm believer in earning everything legitimately, so I don't mind (well, I mind grinding but whatever) putting in the time so I feel better about it."

Since we weren't breaking any game rules or hurting anyone else, my opinion was to simply buy the z-keys if it was the easiest option. I don't think there is a right answer in this particular scenario, but if Scott wanted to be efficient it would have meant breaking his own code of honor.

I'm sure all MMORPG players have been faced with an efficiency versus honor scenario, as exploits are everywhere in online games. If everyone chose the honorable path when faced with such decisions, I think the MMO gaming world would be a lot more equitable and enjoyable to play in. Since this is never going to happen, I'm inclined to lean toward the path of efficiency if it means reducing the grind. Just as long as no other player's online experience is ruined as a result.

In answer to the question, no I don't think it is efficient to be honorable, but only the player can decide the best course of action when faced with such a scenario.


Chappo said...

now I don't really know anything about guild wars but isn't the situation exactly the same with anything else you buy in-game? Say if there is a rare drop on the auction house that is selling for a really good price, would you deny yourself buying it just because you know that it would take so much more effort to farm the drop yourself?
How can you buy anything for yourself in-game if you are constantly comparing how much effort it took you to earn the gold with and how much effort it would have taken to get the item itself?

Elementalistly said...

I am sorry, but some of the items needed for what you the player wish to have can be a bear to get.

Purchasing any of the "Prestige" armors for example and needing Rubies, Sapphires....ugh.
I am too Casual a player and do not have 3-4 hours a night to commit to farming areas in the hopes of getting these.

If the other person has committed that time to gain such items, they deserve the price we pay if we are willing to part with that cash.

Imagine a person who makes the wood frame for a bed...say a woodworker in the real world. I could do it, but just do not have the time. So, I "pay" this other person for that product.

They have a word for this...

It is called...an Economy!

Talyn said...

To be clear, I am not totally advocating (even for myself) to always take the long road to the destination. For the z-keys, they "just" give a title and a flashy emote. In that particular case, it's not important enough to part with my gold for a handful of keys. I can do a little PvP when I'm in the mood, and you were gracious enough to instruct me in the ways of placing bets (online gambling... whodathunkit?) for z-keys as well. To speed things up, I'll break out the spare account and place bets with that one too, doubling my monthly income of keys.

I do like to feel I earned my keep, and sometimes that means parting with the gold I put the time and effort in to earn, just like we do in the real world. But Guild Wars in particular, I can't think of anything in the whole game worth sitting around spamming trade for.

Crimson Starfire said...

Maybe I picked a bad example for this issue. The general argument was meant to be "Is it okay to use an exploit in the game if it means saving time?". I might edit this article and fix it up tonight. Apologies to Scott.

Scott Said:
"But Guild Wars in particular, I can't think of anything in the whole game worth sitting around spamming trade for."

I agree, the trading system sux. I've heard the GW2 will be fixing this problem. Still a long way off though.

Openedge1 said:
"If the other person has committed that time to gain such items, they deserve the price we pay if we are willing to part with that cash."

Very true, and you're right it is called 'economy'.

Thallian said...

efficient..no, better.. yes

Tesh said...

Supply, meet demand. So long as the game doesn't bar it, and there are willing suppliers and customers, I'm all for it.

Funny, I take the same stance on gold selling/RMT. Supply, demand. The core game design creates the demand, and creates the supply. It's their own fault that they don't capture the revenue stream before a third party does so.

Puzzle Pirates has a fantastic dual currency economy that revolves around microtransactions. RMT is dead there, since the company itself sells one of the currencies directly, and players can trade freely between each other in-game for the two currencies.