One of the greatest assets of Star Trek Online is its single shard server technology. Not only does this foster a great sense of community but it provides several logistical benefits. The most practical of these is the in-game auction house known as the Exchange, which due to the games server structure offers a universal and comprehensive market place. If it can be sold within the game then it’s usually available on the Exchange. Like any market it is driven by supply and demand and fluctuates accordingly. The Delta Recruitment event in May saw a rise in both the availability and price of low level items. The recent announcement regarding the Admiralty system has seen the prices of Mirror Universe ships increase tenfold.
Although Guild Wars 2 launched with regional and game specific servers, the Black Lion Trading Company has always been across all worlds, providing yet another well stocked virtual market place. One of the most convenient touches that ArenaNet added to the game is the ability to access the auction house anywhere in Tyria. If a player is not near a Black Lion Trader NPC then the auction house can be simply be reached via the GUI. There is a minor caveat that transactions carried out this way require you to collect your gold direct from the nearest Black Lion Trader. However the game regularly drops tokens that can summon a Black Lion Trader directly to your location, therefore bypassing this minor inconvenience.
This progressive approach to auction houses and in-game economy is sorely missed when playing older titles such as LOTRO. The auction house system is server specific and very much reflects the current state of the game population. It is not unusual to find the auction house bereft of any significant gear at lower levels. Those that regularly play through old content either recycle gear or craft what they need as they proceed through the game. Therefore casual players will often find themselves reliant on quest rewards for their gear requirements. There are alternative options such as bartering skirmish tokens but farming such currency may not be deemed as casual friendly. Hopefully the ongoing server consolidations will result in more robust in-game economies.
Despite not being a World of Warcraft player I do envy the fact that the games auction house can be accessed remotely via mobile devices. Engaging players when they are out of game is a wise policy. Accessing the economy via an app keeps gamers involved and has obvious practical benefit. I have often played various MMO’s economies as a game in itself. When LOTRO use to have a thriving raiding culture I would often stockpile potions and other useful items, only to sell them at a higher price late on a Friday and Saturday evening, when they were in great demand. Lock boxes in STO have also proven to be a good long term investment. Remote access to both these markets would be beneficial.
I’ve often found gaming economies compelling because of the interesting effect upon the player base. It is fascinating to see different people’s reactions to the auction house system. As ever with gaming many players bring their own moral and ethical baggage along with them when they enter virtual worlds. I have been upbraided in the past by other LOTRO players for the item speculation I described earlier. I have also seen arguments start in MMOs over undercutting item prices on auction house. There are even some players who balk at the notion of selling crafted gear and loot drops, wishing to impose their own in-game work ethic upon others.
Auction houses can also be a useful barometer as to the health of a game. An active player population usually means a buoyant economy with essential items being readily available. Ageing MMOs tend to suffer from a lack of resources being traded. In such cases the only real solutions are to either consolidate servers to increase populations or to adjust the auction mechanics to allow cross server access. The latter is often too complex and expensive to implement. Bearing all this in mind, if I do decide to try any new MMOs in future, they’ll need to have a robust and accessible economy to secure my custom.