Real Money Trading and Virtual Economics?

Discussion in 'General Gaming Discussion' started by Ryukouki, Apr 4, 2014.

?

Have you participated in the real money trade?

  1. Yes

    15 vote(s)
    35.7%
  2. No

    27 vote(s)
    64.3%
  1. Ryukouki
    OP

    Ryukouki See you later, guys.

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    I can imagine that a good majority has played an MMO game at some point in their lives, whether it was World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, Star Wars: Galaxies/The Old Republic, or any title that dealt with virtual economies. And, if you've participated in those games, you've surely seen the gold bots or hacked accounts telling you, the player, to go to their site somewhere in the shadier parts of the internet, and purchase gold to make your character stronger. It definitely felt like a good discussion point today as I had a really lengthy conversation with a few buddies who wanted to try their hand at this illicit trade, but did not really understand its consequences. ​
    So what exactly is the real money trade? The real money trade is a way to illicitly obtain goods, whether they be virtual currency or in the form of equipment, to expedite the game process. It is often mentioned as a forbidden activity in most game Terms of Service. People would essentially pay real money to fund a virtual currency, which is not unlike those in-app purchases that are on some mobile games. The only difference is that these illicit markets are often unregulated and even warrant safety concerns. ​
    I got into a discussion with a few friends the other day, and one of them mentioned wanting to get a head start and purchase the game currency online. I was highly against the idea as it took away from the fairness of the game by giving him an advantage that most players typically did not have. I mentioned the security concerns he could be faced with, the fact that his characters might be removed from the game if he went through with the purchase, and how it could be perceived as an unfair advantage. And then he argued with me (in broad generalizations) about how he was working full time, did not get to enjoy a lot of the game's content fast enough, and that it was no different than making an in-app purchase, and that by purchasing gold he was helping the virtual economy. Which leads me into the next discussion point about how this illicit trade has ruined many game economies.​
    The illicit trading of currencies and equipment has ruined many an MMO. There is no doubt that these markets will continue to exist and flourish so long as MMOs exist, but the impact that these black markets have had on the virtual economy is significant. These problems include currency inflation, equipment becoming much more expensive, and things being harder to come by. There are players out there who play the market economy in the games, people like me, and I have often felt occasions in which things became harder to operate with when these bots ran the market. In a sense, that is what happened with the original launch of Diablo III, which introduced the Auction House system, a feature that has since been removed due to player criticism. At some point later in the launch of the game, Blizzard for whatever reason introduced the Real-money Auction House (RMAH) that (speaking broadly) legalized purchasing gold. Currency became inflated. Money had no real worth anymore as a player could spend about six dollars and get dozens of millions of the currency. It became pointless to play the actual game as a player could sit on the Auction House and just purchase items to make their character better. Characterize that with weak itemization, a poor story, and lack of true customization, and you have a horde of angry Blizzard fans. The economy was ruined as some loot became tied to a physical worth, which could be hundreds of millions of gold or billions of gold. By saturating the economy with these real money markets, the ordinary players who played casually were the ones who were hurt the most. ​
    So, bringing this back to the community. GBAtemp is a community that likes to discuss issues that are, to say the least, on the gray side of things. Has anyone here participated in these illicit trades, and if you have, what did you learn from it? Do you find that it helped your gameplay? Do you find that participating in these markets had ruined the game economy? For those of you who chose not to, were there temptations to participate in the market? If you were tempted, what was the most tempting thing that almost got you into the trade? Humor me with your comments, and keep it civil, please! ​
     


  2. chavosaur

    chavosaur Austin Trujillo

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    I used to bot the shit out of runescape and sell the gold I made for cash to buy video games. And I have no regrets.

    I also know a certain someone (I'll wait to see if they reply here or not) who makes a substantial amount of money from selling Shiny Pokemon. I'll wait for them to share their story though :P
     
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  3. stefer

    stefer GBAtemp Regular

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    I find that :
    • It brings an unfair advantage
    • It's risky
    • Gold spam bots are very annoying
    • Gold sellers usually farm items that i require, or camp monsters that i need a drop from. They overcamp things and it makes it that much harder to get what you need to get ahead.
    • They do break the economy, making items selling for more and more gold. The more virtual currency on the market, the pricier gear and consumables get (inflation), and the harder it is for those who don't cheat (buy virtual currency with real money). Yes, i consider it cheating. You might not feel like it, but you're cheating the system, and making the experience for other players, slightly worse for every purchase.
     
  4. Arras

    Arras GBAtemp Guru

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    What, no mention of Hat Fortress 2 and its insane trading?
     
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  5. FAST6191

    FAST6191 Techromancer

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    Never paid for an in game item (black, grey or "legit") and doubt I ever will, partially because I am a leech and partially because any game that basically forces it I will probably dismiss*. However I find the limited economic systems that arise in situations like those described to be fascinating from a lay economist perspective. Likewise I reckon micropayments and the like have a huge future, even if it is not going to be me doing it.

    *depending upon how you feel about demos there may be things that can be said.

    As you mention most attempts seem to end up incredibly broken, or maybe broken in the longer term which could be a more interesting prospect (if you consider most of your profits to be made in the short term near launch....). Now I might have to question whether such things can work short of a full economic model that mirrors reality. However things like http://www.cracked.com/blog/the-5-most-absurdly-expensive-items-in-online-gaming/ amuse me.

    Going a bit further it seems a lot of trade like this is not against TOS for "reasons" but because it is a legislative nightmare to manage -- small and big value exchanges, across country borders, said exchanges being of variable tax status, often conducted with a fair level of anonymity...

    I am not quite sure where I am heading with this so I will leave it there for now, I will say though that it is a pity things have not taken off properly.
     
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  6. grossaffe

    grossaffe GBAtemp Addict

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  7. Gahars

    Gahars Bakayaro Banzai

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    I'm for hollering for a dollering (I'm a Turk of the mechanical variety), but I think this sort of thing should stay out of games as much as possible. When you put serious cash on the line, the game has to get serious, and so fun is often the first casualty. It becomes all about the payout rather than the play-out.

    Not to mention that developers now have to design and balance the game to cater to the market first and foremost - see Diablo 3, where the game basically had to be online-only for the RAH to function.
     
  8. Sefi

    Sefi GBAtemp Fan

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    When I played FFXI I knew others that used bot programs and/or bought virtual currency. These kind of things were kept as secret as possible because they could potentially lose their account if found out. Plus, those that used bots or bought gil (the game's virtual currency) were looked down upon by most of the other players and treated poorly quite often. It was seen as an unfair advantage in a game where obtaining large amounts of money took real blocks of time to accumulate. You could spend entire days devoted to only getting richer, or you could spend that $20 for virtual money that might have taken you a month to get legitimately.

    At the time when I played the game, players that did these things had a huge impact on the game and other player's gaming experience. Those that bought gil were ensuring the RMT (Real Money Trade) industry revenue which in turn encouraged them to keep at it and ramp their tactics up. Prices on items would be much higher then they would have without the RMT's influence on the market. Bot users could claim monsters much easier making it extremely difficult for a non-bot user to claim. They could also change their movement speed, and move their character around on an X/Y/Z axis to get on certain parts of the map (this could save them great amounts of time). Real players would usually bot the "king" monsters of the game that dropped items that you couldn't sell, but were still highly sought after. RMT players loved to use claim bots on monsters that dropped items that sold well on the auction house, so if you wanted those items you either had to devote entire days/weeks/months trying to beat them... or pay an inflated price for the item knowing there was a high chance your gil was going to the very people you hated, RMT.

    Now, 90% of the time myself and most other players could not stand RMT in the game. However some great fun came when you found out you could either ruin their plans, kill their characters, or just piss them off. I still recall one known RMT player calling me a bunch of broken english slurs one day when a friend and I decided to kill the monsters he was killing over and over (literally every day, 24/7 in a small section of the game). It was great watching his character suddenly disappear due to us calling a GM on him.
     
  9. calmwaters

    calmwaters Cat's best friend

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    I have never had good experiences with these sorts of trades. There's a reason there's an in game currency: people can spend it instead of shelling out real money. Of course it would let me advance quicker in the game, but what's the rush? It's not like I have to finish this game before I start another one. But I would prefer it if my progress wasn't slowed down because of things like this.
     
  10. FAST6191

    FAST6191 Techromancer

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    Most of the better content, guild arrangements, features... seem to be reserved for those at the end game, personally I would probably call it bad game design but that is perhaps a different discussion. In some ways it is similar to the generating pokemon thing we had a while back, though here it is a fairly long slog and some minor skill involved which changes things a tiny bit.

    Personally I saw in game currency as a reflection of real world practices and games tend to like to reflect the real world, or some facet of it.
     
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  11. Taleweaver

    Taleweaver Storywriter

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    I wished there were more options on this poll. That way, my vote would have been "no, and I don't give a damn about players doing it".

    Let me start by saying I don't play MMO's. I've attempted Icarian, but at some point it dawned on me that whatever you tried to grow on your island was essentially just plundering ground for higher ranked players. Perhaps unlike other players, I don't feel the need to overspend other players in a game that's pretty much or actually impossible to master without spending real money. I can't blame the makers that much either, as free to play games need to get their income from somewhere. All I can say is that I wasn't one of them.
    In that regard, I've got to agree with Gahars:
    Diablo 3 is a different matter (and I think WoW - which I played for perhaps half an hour total on a former girlfriend's account - uses the same system). To me, the game is fun for the questing, beating enemies, looting and gradually getting better gear. It has to be mentioned that 'gradually' is sort of a logarithmic curve (the first upgrades come easy, but it takes longer and longer...to the point that increasing one bit amounts to spending near infinity hours in the game), but that doesn't matter much to me. To take a lesson from sleeping dogs of all games: I don't care if the reward for beating up opponents is on a skill level that's already maxed out if the actual beating up of opponents is fun in itself. In other words: I'm not diablo'ing for the loot but because I want to wallpaper some walls with the blood of my foes.
    I think I traded some gold or silver for some rare item once, and felt kind of disappointed. What was the point of trading if I could just hunt for stuff myself? Sure enough, it would take longer. But if that was to become a drawback, that would have been an indication I wouldn't play the game anymore.


    I admit it: I don't GET people who pay for upgrades with real money, let alone the prices they sometimes pay. I honestly don't. It strikes me as exactly the same as going to a movie theater, buying a ticket, giving it to a bystander, let him watch the movie and receive the ticket back at the end with maybe an 'I was there'-certificate.
    "But Taleweaver...I don't have time to game that much!"
    "Yeah...me neither. But that seems like a good reason not to play that game, rather than paying TWICE."
    "But I am going to play. I just don't want to do all the boring grinding stuff."
    "So in a way, you're rewarding game developers who make their games intentionally boring at times?"
    "Y...no! I mean...sheez! You just don't get it!"
    "It's about status, isn't it? You want to have the highest level or highest armor or whatever on the server?"
    "Well...yeah. Sort of."
    "Ah, okay. So you're just 'sort of' pathetic. I get it. :) But hey...at least you're doing charity work."
    "Huh?"
    "Gold and item farming is actually a profession now. From what I gather, they're mostly poor people who need that income to survive. And while it's not exactly a top-end job, I'm sure it beats being a beggar on the streets. :)"
    "..."

    Okay, that last part may be a bit harsh. But I can't but applaud chavosaur for making real money for playing video games (hah! and I thought only tournament pros would be payed to play :P ). Honestly...if there are gamers who are willing to pay for not having to play a game...Who is wrong, exactly?


    Hmm...come to think of it, in a way I have engaged in virtual economy. I honestly don't give a shit about those steam trading cards you unlock at random points in random games, so I sell them all. Everyone seems to do it, as those things tend to earn 0.1 or even 0.01 euros a piece. But there must still people out there buying them, as it's actually filling up my account. Not fast and no way enough to make call it a profitable hobby, but at least I've netted two indie games right now.
    (but God, if there's one thing that the steam store needs it's a way to bulk sell all that garbage at market price).
     
  12. Ammako

    Ammako GBAtemp Guru

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    Haha same, I got GTA San Andreas solely from selling those Steam trading cards from last summer.
     
  13. Kayot

    Kayot GBAtemp Fan

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    I used Marcoquest to farm zones that no one used anymore. It was easy to get hundreds of thousands of platnums in a night, however what I'd farm most often was drops for crafting. Some of the high end crafts require a lot of dropped items.

    For me, it was to ease the annoyance of finding hundreds of drops that had a rate of 1% or less. If it was camping a room for that one super ultra rare drop, or getting a thousand bear @s$es for some obscure quest item, it was time consuming and I was in college. My only other option was to join guilds that required full time weeks (40+ hours). I'm casual and I wanted to enjoy my play time.

    I'm totally against buying virtual goods with real money. The coins I farmed where used to buy in game goods from merchants. I wouldn't buy from the bazaar since it would cause massive inflation. Besides, if I wanted the item they were selling... I could just farm it :)
     
  14. Hells Malice

    Hells Malice Are you a bully?

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    The idea that it's risky is actually bullshit unless you are talking about risky to your own wallet (however there is a site that is very well constructed that is now used for general person to person virtual items/currency selling).
    The fact is that
    -You will not be banned. The chance of it happening are as great as being struck by lightening, twice.
    -You will not bring any harm to your account unless you're a moron and give them your password (some sites actually offer this method where they log into your character to pass the gold)
    -However if you purchase through paypal and they don't deliver? You're literally fucked. Paypal will side with the seller no matter what. It's impossible to get your money back other than through a chargeback and those are a total pain in the ass and generally not worth the effort. Most other payment methods will get your credit card information rightly stolen.

    Now I clearly and obviously HAVE bought gold before. Sure, plenty of times. Plenty of games. Why? Well I hate being poor. It's really as simple as that. More often than not I buy potions or weapons and armor. It's not actually too often I spend the money buying player items, but hell it's not as though I avoid that either.
    Honestly most MMOs these days are PvE focused. Not only that, but there's so much bind-on-pickup bullcrap in games that MOST endgame gear is gotten through raids and not bought with currency.
    PVP focused MMOs like Ragnarok Online I suppose you could argue buying gold gives a huge advantage, and i'd probably agree. But even then, i've roflstomped kids in amazing gear with my subpar gear. Skill still dominates gear in that game.
    I can't think of any other PVP focused MMOs. Casual MMOs like WoW or Rift, as I said before, their toptier gear is entirely PvP or raid gear.
    Most F2P MMOs are already pay2win so I really don't care if someone buys gold. The game is already decided by who spends more already.

    However if it was possible to kill gold trading (without screwing up the entire trade mechanic like Runescape had previously done, ruining the trade economy), I would greatly prefer it. Goldsellers are a plague and I would gladly give up the ability to buy gold if it meant never having those idiots ruin the economy. Sadly a solution is just impossible. The best things MMOs have come up with IS what I mentioned before, making endgame gear BoP or earned with a tedious-to-get alternate currency.
     
  15. Hedgehogofchaos

    Hedgehogofchaos GBAtemp Regular

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    I have to say EVE Online is one example of successful RMT implantation in an MMO. Basically you can buy a PLEX (Pilot License Extension) from CCP games. This PLEX is a token worth 30 days of game time and can be traded on the open market. Although in Eve the most expensive ships with the most expensive gear tend to provide marginal advantages of much cheaper alternatives. Also destruction of you ship is permanent, and some of your modules will drop for the victor of the fight to loot.

    I think allowing players to trade currency for game time purchased by others is a great way to legitimize RMT.

    As well PLEX can be used for other things such as tickets to events, donations to charity, and cosmetic items. They had a limited offer allowing the trading of PLEX for a new GPU in the past.

    Additionally, players may pay for out of game related services (website hosting, TS server hosting, article writing, forum signature creation, etc.) using ISK (in game currency)

    While this hasn't completely eliminated RMT, I'm sure it has put a damper to it.
     
  16. PlayerAuctions

    PlayerAuctions Newbie

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    Very interesting discussion. I created an account on gba specifically for this thread.

    My name is Jake, and I am effectively the equivalent of PlayerAuctions' Managing Director.

    Rather than craft a lengthy "position" on why I think RMT (specifically secondary markets for games) can be a good/positive thing (if don't right), I'll just stick my neck out for chopping: Ask me (almost) anything.

    Could be fun.

    Cheers,
    jake
     
  17. Ryukouki
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    Ryukouki See you later, guys.

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    Oh wow, this is an interesting find. Nice to see you around here, Jake, and I'm very surprised that my discussion reached out to you guys. I have heard about your operations and am familiar with some of the details, but please feel free to explain this if you can.

    RMT is not exactly a purely legitimate business by any means. How do you guys protect your customers and in the case that a customer is banned for buying currency on your site, how is this dealt with? I see that you guys have a lot of sellers on board, but do transactions that take place get refunded to the buyer in the case of a banning? Your site makes a lot of bold claims about having high tech security and bank vault level encryption, but how does that stop the seller from getting away with the funds? Can't they just not deliver?

    For me, I'm just curious at this point, but how do you guys justify RMT to a customer who plays a game? What reasons could be given to get people on board? Security? Ease of access? Reliability?
     
  18. PlayerAuctions

    PlayerAuctions Newbie

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    > How do you guys protect your customers and in the case that a customer is banned for buying currency on your site, how is this dealt with?
    Excellent question. PlayerAuctions is very different from your typical run of the mill "gold selling site", which you can easily classify as "black market". Those companies go into the game, spam in-game channels, camp spawns, bot, etc. etc. Because they go into the game and produce the assets themselves, they become a part to the game developer's contract. PlayerAuctions is considered a "grey market", in that there is no actual legislation on the legality of secondary markets. In fact, some game developers actively encourage secondary markets for their games (check out the eBay section for Magic the Gathering). PlayerAuctions is based on the c2c business model (consumer to consumer) or what we like to call, player to player trading. Each user is responsible for their own trading activity when it comes to any contractual agreements they may have with third parties. We do not enforce third party contracts since we are not a party to them. In the event that a user is banned from the game publisher, this becomes a legal matter between that individual user and the game publisher, who has essentially infringed on their right to trade goods which they either produced or had dominion over. This has already happened in one of the world's largest game markets S. Korea (reference: http://www.pixelsandpolicy.com/pixels_and_policy/2010/01/south-korean.html). In Summary, two gamers sued the makers of Lineage 2 who were banned for real world trading. The courts ultimately sided with the consumers citing customer rights. In this case, the consumers won against the developers, wherein Korean courts ruled that the Publisher's TOS and EULA were unenforceable and against public policy.


    > I see that you guys have a lot of sellers on board, but do transactions that take place get refunded to the buyer in the case of a banning?
    This is something that rarely happens on our platform primarily because unlike black markets, most of our trades occur between actual gamers. We have a few "professional" service providers on the platform, but we enforce strict quality standards before allowing them to continue trading with our users. In the rare event a banning does occur, again it is between the user and the publisher. Alternatively, we have seen users communicate this issue with the seller directly, and many times the seller will re-deliver or offer some sort of recompense as a measure of retaining loyal customers.

    PlayerAuctions however will refund users who have had bannings as a result of actions taken by the seller however.

    > Your site makes a lot of bold claims about having high tech security and bank vault level encryption, but how does that stop the seller from getting away with the funds? Can't they just not deliver?

    No, this is not possible on our platform. While our business model is based on eBay, we take it a step further by deploying a proprietary escrow service which is specifically geared towards digital assets. We have been doing this since 1999, so anyone who claims they know how to do it better are either lying, or mad geniuses :-) As a result we are able to secure payment for the seller and protect against unauthorized payments & chargebacks, and we do not disburse payment to the seller until the buyers acknowledge delivery.

    As it is, our platform has a 0.2% average monthly fraud loss rate. And at last closure, 97% of orders that have passed through our systems have gone on to successful completion with both parties leaving positive feedback for each other. A lot of our new users comment on our Trustlink page, we are also highly rated with the Business Consumer Alliance.

    > For me, I'm just curious at this point, but how do you guys justify RMT to a customer who plays a game? What reasons could be given to get people on board? Security? Ease of access? Reliability?


    RMT has a negative connotation as it is so closely related to black markets. I peg PlayerAuctions closer in line with actual "gaming secondary markets" and "gaming services industry". This idea of "it ruins the spirit of the game" and "fairness" are all old ideologies that have been propagated by people who fail to realize that it was simply a method of control for game publishers to reduce competition to their own revenue generation. There were other issues of bad behavior from black markets which I recognize, but this is the beauty of secondary markets. On a player to player trading platform, sellers can make their own price points, rather than selling to black markets for 30% of the actual value of the commodity, and buyers therefore get on average 30% savings as well. Not only this, but a true player to player platform reduces in-game spam, hacking, and all those other things which negatively impact our virtual worlds. By taking business away from black market traders who engage in such practices, you effectively put them out of business, by supporting honest, player to player marketplaces like PA.

    Not only this, but there are inherent benefits to secondary markets. The first is psychological, in that something innately powerful happens when you allow a user to ascribe value to their gameplay. You become vested in that game. Secondly, secondary markets exist due to the way games are designed. The dynamics of which create a demand for secondary markets. If you have something so unappealing as repetitive, grinding gameplay, can you not expect gamers to want to bypass that unpleasant element so their interest in the game world can be retained? Thirdly, this also boils down to resource capacity. People in general have two resources at their disposal: time, and money. Some gamers are rich in time, and therefore can spend hours upon hours getting the "true nature of the game by grinding their way to success". If they enjoy it, more power to them. However some of us actually want our college degrees, or have full time jobs, or families, and therefore may not be rich in time as a resource. The basic goal of gameplay is entertainment, and playing to "win" so to speak. If RMT were off the map, then players who are poor in time as a resource are arguable "playing to lose" because they ultimately cannot keep up with gamers who are rich in time. This, I would argue, is unfair. Game publishers effectively isolate and alienate a large portion of gamers for which they could actually acquire/retain, by allowing them to enhance their gameplay and to dictate what the experience is like with regards to how they can keep up in game.

    As for our platform specifically, well... we have high aspirations of creating an environment where people feel safe and secure to trade their gaming assets, both digital and tangible. I can confidently say, that we are presently the largest c2c exchange for Western gaming markets. And with my taking things over in October, the focus of the business has been to move away from being a "tech platform" and more in line with being a "Customer centric business", hence... why I'm here engaging with communities. I love doing this. Digital asset exchange has been what has made China & Korea the largest gaming markets worldwide. Game publishers recognize that their audiences may not be so keen on restrictive subscription models, and instead allow gamers themselves to define their own gameplay experience. This is something that has been picking up momentum in the casual gaming space, and as you can see is migrating into more mainstream models (such as what we saw with Diablo 3... which is an example of the wrong way how to do secondary markets, but that is a different topic altogether). We are pretty rad, an international team, we run lean (only about 50 of us work on PA), and we really care about reaching critical mass for users worldwide who love to trade.


    Hope this answers your questions. I'm open for an interview if you guys would like to engage this further.

    jake
     
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  19. Hells Malice

    Hells Malice Are you a bully?

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    Oh hey cool. I didn't mention the name but I was referring to PlayerAuctions when I mentioned "however there is a site that is very well constructed that is now used for general person to person virtual items/currency selling".
    Awesome site that i've had nothing but success from.

    Nice to see you here. Definitely didn't see that coming.
     
  20. DSAndi

    DSAndi GBAtemp Regular

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    Real Money trade or pay to win destroys a lot games. Even a lot Mmorpgs died or bacame less attractive because of it.
    In my opinion someone who buys items or ingame currency with real money is just a cheater. Thouse ppl have a lot excuses why to do it in the end they only want get an advatage vs normal players because they are unable or just to stupid to do it legally.
    Same goes for bot users. Why they even want to play that game if the most time a computer plays for em ? A lot bots are also used to farm items and in game currency. So every person that sells such things in big scale is using bots or buy thouse things from bots.
    Bots are quite anoiying they also destroy the game experience for normal players, because they block hunting grouds.
    Take the infamous Lineage2 and log in to a server you see so many bots in the quests hunting grounds u cant even finish thouse quests and if it takes quite a while.
    They even reduced drops and stuff but this is only hurting normal players and so they loose a lot players.

    So yeah i think in game currency buyers, -sellers and also bot users are retarded low life people. Because they are the reason a lot games die or get destroyed.