Creating a player-based vendor system
June 30, 2009
While wrong about Aion’s lack of an auction house, Tobold raised an interesting point concerning player-run shops in MMOGs. Namely, that in games where players can “set up” shops, the marketplace becomes unnavigable, because there are simply too many vendors to go through in order to find gear that one wants. That’s in great part because gear in MMOGs is often class-specific, so only a small subset of the gear on the market can even be used by a given character. So, the auction-house mechanic is a good substitute for such player-run shops.
We think there’s a place for both, however, given very specific limitations on who can run a player-run shop. For immersion, there’s a reason we should allow player-run shops to operate, and serve as a viable in-game profession. In most games, however, the auction-house doubles both as an auction block, and as a global store. For player-run shops to thrive, this latter component of auction-houses needs to be removed, and all items at auction should not have a “buyout” option. This would force players who want immediate gratification to look at player-run shops, instead of heading to the auction-house as a one-stop shop.
The issue of having too many player-run shops seems a simple problem to fix: limit the amount of shops per city or city district, and make shop owners purchase a “license” for a storefront. Ideally, these storefronts would have physical, fixed locations, and the price of these storefronts would vary based on how ideal the location is for foot-traffic. In addition to requiring a license purchase, a would-be shop-owner would have to “submit” an inventory of a certain size and value, which would be proof that a vendor is serious about their chosen profession. Routinely, the system could query established shops to ensure that stores remained well-stocked, and the value of a store’s goods would further determine the storefront value of shops in the immediate vicinity. This value could also be used for players to filter shops on the local map, such that shops carrying mostly worthless goods can easily be passed over. The value mechanic would have to be based on the rarity, level, and NPC vendor value for an item, such that there’s a reasonable consistency across shops.
If the threshold for item numbers/values were set high enough, then the problem of vendor sprawl would be a non-issue, even if it meant that properly stocking a store for success meant that a guild effort was necessary. At the very least, this system would promote a greater community effort, and slowly move MMOGs away from NPC vendors for all but very basic items.