Deep Dive
March 22, 2024

Evolution of In-Game Economies

Let's see why the mercenary capital issue is not exclusive to web3 gaming only


One of the most common accusations against web3 gaming is that it attracts mercenary capital, employs exploitative strategies, and neglects the essence of gaming, where fun and quality time should outweigh financial gain. However, such critiques often come from those less familiar with the complexities of traditional gaming or the tumultuous history of in-game economies in multiplayer games that became the true goldmines of in-game economy case studies. 

What drove this evolution?

The answer lies in the very mechanisms that have led to web3 gaming being perceived as value-seeking rather than fun-providing: the widespread use of bots, exploitative behaviors, viewing the game as a source of financial gain rather than multiplayer entertainment, and, most importantly, blurring the line between in-game economy and real-world finances.

The fact that in-game economies in web2 gaming were shaped by the same mechanisms as most web3 games during the previous GameFi hype shows that the issue is not specific to a particular gaming area. Instead, the gaming niche must carefully consider how to deter groups that might engage with the game with dubious intentions, leading to the destruction of the in-game economy and game balance.

The new era of web3 games appears to be taking this challenge seriously, rethinking the very foundations of how in-game economies cater to players' needs and setting limits on what a player can do within the in-game economy itself. All this to prevent blurring the lines with the external financial world and reintroducing pay-to-win mechanisms that some players see as the main reason not to engage with a given title.

Let’s examine how game economies have evolved over time, especially in the most popular MMORPGs, where players eventually began to devise exploitative strategies that altered the economy. After all, not everyone enjoys spending hours just fishing, so why not create bots to do it?

The Rise of Mercenary Tactics and Bots

Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) titles such as Tibia and Metin2 have long enchanted players with their vast worlds, intricate economies, and the sense of community among gamers that began to coalesce into teams, guilds, and even larger social structures within the game, and in rare cases even outside of it. However, the rise of mercenary tactics and the widespread use of bots have significantly influenced these virtual economies. This situation has led to a complex interplay between players seeking an advantage and developers striving to preserve fairness and engagement. Developers have responded by either making it more challenging to use bots or by rendering them obsolete through the introduction of similar mechanisms directly into the gameplay.

In the early days of MMORPGs, the economies were primarily driven by players, with the value of goods and services determined by supply and demand dynamics within the game. However, as these games grew in popularity, so did the competitiveness and the desire for shortcuts to success. This environment led to the rise of mercenary tactics, where players would be paid, often with real money, to assist others in advancing through the game. While not inherently negative, these practices slowly began to distort the game's balance and economy.

Parallel to this, the use of bots became a significant issue and later on began to play a crucial role in the mechanics of mercenary capital. Bots, which are automated programs designed to perform specific tasks in the game, were used for various purposes and vastly outperforming the efforts of even the best players. These included farming resources - from the most basic ones to the rarest in the entire, grinding character levels by farming experience points, and even participating in PvP combat in rare cases. The efficiency and relentlessness of bots meant they could amass vast amounts of in-game currency, resources, and items, inflating the in-game economy and devaluing the efforts of legitimate players. After all, who can play 24 hours non-stop, without a single minute for taking a break?

Developers' Countermeasures

Faced with the challenge of preserving their games' integrity and economy, developers implemented a range of features and policies aimed at addressing the problem. Anti-botting measures such as CAPTCHA-like systems during gameplay, AFK (Away From Keyboard) detection mechanisms to identify bots, sophisticated detection algorithms, and harsh penalties for violators, including temporary or permanent bans from servers, were introduced. While these measures were effective to some extent, they often felt like temporary fixes to a persistent issue that frequently found new ways to infiltrate the game.

In a more proactive approach, some developers began incorporating features that made botting less necessary or appealing. For instance, they introduced daily quests and events that rewarded players with experience points and items equivalent to or better than what could be gained through farming with bots. However, this strategy soon became outdated as bots adapted and took control of these areas as well. Developers also created safer trading systems to mitigate the impact of hyperinflation caused by bots, such as binding high-value items to characters to prevent them from being traded or ensuring such items could only be acquired at certain levels as a reward. Needless to say, this also was only an inconvenience bot users managed to bypass.

Moreover, recognizing the demand for leveling assistance and resource accumulation, some developers launched official "mercenary" features, allowing players to hire in-game NPCs or even other players through controlled systems to assist in their progression. This strategy aimed to provide the benefits sought by players using bots or mercenaries while maintaining the game's economy and balance. Furthermore, developers began to introduce various "pay-to-win" mechanisms, where players could significantly boost their performance using real money. This led to bots becoming obsolete. Why spend days creating bots if the cost of acquiring a certain bot seemed too high compared to in-game mechanisms?

The New Norm?

These developments have led to a nuanced view of botting and mercenary tactics within the MMO community. While the use of unauthorized bots is largely condemned, the integration of features that automate or simplify gameplay aspects has become more accepted, if not expected, by players. This acceptance reflects the evolving nature of MMO economies and the continuous effort by developers to balance player satisfaction with game integrity. However, the industry can take action against environments dominated by bots, mercenary features, and pay-to-win mechanisms.

If you're interested in learning more about how the gaming world can change the status quo and introduce player-friendly mechanisms by rethinking core concepts, you should definitely explore our previous articles, where we delve into these concepts in detail.

Clash of Orbs - The Embodiment of Compete-to-Earn 

How Elympics Revolutionizes On-Chain Gaming 

Final Words

In conclusion, the use of mercenary tactics and the widespread deployment of bots in MMORPGs like Tibia and Metin2 underscore the enduring struggle between player innovation and developer control. This conflict has persisted for years and remains a subject not only of discussion but of active efforts to address the problems it causes.

As gaming continues to evolve, so too will the strategies utilized by both sides. For developers, the challenge extends beyond merely tackling unwanted practices; it involves innovating in ways that satisfy players' needs without jeopardizing the game's balance and economy. The future of gaming hinges on maintaining this delicate equilibrium, ensuring that virtual worlds are competitive yet fair, engaging, and, above all, enjoyable for players across all genres.

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