Gordon Gekko, the Half-Elf

A quick check to the top left of the page shows Stan dressed again in his normal attire, and the festive snowflakes that once populated the area where we will eventually put up advertising for our favorite costumed dancing monkeys website now tragically gone. Make no mistake about it, the holiday Stan and hypnotizing snowflakes were devised entirely as a diversionary tactic in the hopes you wouldnÂ't notice how casual our posting was over the end of December. The theory went: you would arrive at the website, and before noticing that the page hadnÂ't been updated you would become beguiled by our upper-page festivities and proceed to the forums, which is really why youÂ're here anyway, none the wiser.

Well, gentlemen, as Certis so astutely noted, break time is over. And nothing kicks off the new year like exaggeration, hyperbole, unnecessarily complex sentence structure, and, of course, costumed monkeys.


So, anyway, this is an article about Everquest and how to take it way too seriously.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned – and by 'mentioned', I mean admitted in a very meek fashion – that Everquest was inexplicably back into my play cycle. This really wasnÂ't all that troubling a development from a time consumption standpoint, considering IÂ'd never actually leveled a character past the low twenty-somethings, so I wasnÂ't supposed to play for more than a few days. IÂ'm like the guy who quit smoking, but still bums half a pack at the bar. For me, playing EQ is much like reading Robert Jordan Â"… you want to love it, but after ten or twenty hours you begin to realize youÂ're no closer to a resolution than you were when you hefted the book out of the store. The problem IÂ've always had is that I played essentially the way it was constructed to be played, meaning that with each new level I reached, I would immediately turn my focus o­n achieving the next.

This is, of course, the worst way to play Everquest.

Now, I know the general statement to be made about the futility of the game is that itÂ's a pointless time sink. What does reaching level 30, 40, or 50 and above get you? My answer to that has always been, o­nce you figure out what to do with all those Shines in Mario you can come tell me how pointless my level treadmill is. IÂ'm well aware that thereÂ's no productive end to any time spent playing video games in general, much less the specificity of Everquest, so how it matters whether that time is spent farming Bone Chips in KurnÂ's Tower or completing Halo o­n Legendary, or doing whatever the hell people were doing playing Animal Crossing is beyond me.

Still, as I mentioned before, my EQ history draws a rather stark and inevitable trend of me playing for a few days, growing increasingly bored, and finally having some déjà vu moment of epiphany where I realize Certis calling me as weak as a crack monkey sitting o­n a big pile of crack was, as they say, a little o­n the nose. Except, that didnÂ't really happen this time, not o­n schedule. Not yet. Something is different.

At the risk of bringing an undesirable real-world ideological element to this discussion I will reveal – as is widely known by a majority of our community – that IÂ'm an irrationally unrealistic liberal. I o­nly bring this up to counter-point how very much Everquest has become the rich teet upon which my inner-conservative suckles. The reason IÂ've stuck to EQ this time is not to explore the perpetual execution of adding arbitrary numbers of experience to an already arbitrary number to achieve a level ranking of X+1 where X is whatever level I currently have. No, I play EQ to amass wealth.

WeÂ're not talking actual money here. I have no desire to try and parlay my virtual riches through the digital transmutation of Ebay into small pieces of green paper that I can exchange for goods and services. I mean I want plat, to buy phat loot at a low price which, instead of using in its traditional way of bashing rats of varying size, I will in turn sell for a higher price to accumulate Â"… you guessed it, more plat. What am I going to do with that plat? The same thing youÂ're going to do with your Shines. Like life itself (not really) the reward is not the accumulation, but the journey itself. Either way, with each platinum piece that I turn through the player economy into two or three others of its kind, I reveal an ever so sly grin hidden behind my dubiously steepled fingers. It fosters my desire to grow a wiry moustache which I can twirl between my fingers.

Everquest, for me, has very little to do with swinging swords and shuffling monsters loose the digital coil. It now appeals to me in the same way that games like SimCity and Railroad Tycoon 3 did, but o­n a much more epic and realistically changing way. Where I love the careful manipulation of ever escalating black lines representing my presumed wealth in these games, in much the same sick way that I devour statistics of ever increasing numbers from this site (oooh todayÂ's page-view hit sessions per referral for OS2 users is up like 5.4 percent!), I always realize that the structures and trends of the economic landscape is entirely artificial, a random function here, a scripted event there, some clever math and voila my stock split 3-to-1 again! Not so in EQ; it is a massively multiplayer economic simulation, and it may be the first and last of its kind.

I suggest that this economic element born of suppliers, farmers, traders, brokers, scammers, and so o­n is the real secret behind EverquestÂ's longevity. Even before the Bazaar, which really was a small stroke of genius, before the tunnel of East Commonlands and a thousand debates about price over OOC, and before websites dedicated themselves to tracking ever changing prices across servers, from the very first day people created a capitalist economy where prices were regulated by market conditions. And, letÂ's not forget that this is an economy that genuinely rivals o­ne of a small nation, or a large American state.

Not o­nly has no other game achieved this complex and fluid a player economy, with the possible exception of Diablo 2 and o­nly then to a much-lessened degree, but in the interest of facilitating gameplay and artificially focusing player effort most similar MMOGs have discouraged it. From the elimination of market NPCs, to the elimination of non-crafting loot, to discouraging camping, to removing so-called uber-loot, and a dozen other such elements, every game save Everquest has shot itself in the foot o­n the point of creating a vibrant and exciting player economy. The point everyone keeps missing is that the many frustrations inherent to EverquestÂ's design not o­nly define the game, but appeals to most playerÂ's strongest impulse: stubbornness

What almost every other massively multiplayer game o­n the market has missed, is that the most loyal players want the game to be an agonizing time sink. For as much as the casual player claims their frustration o­n the matter, not o­nly is camping for rare dropped loot a good thing, itÂ's a necessary thing. The problem with creating a game around the casual gamer is that theyÂ're so frigginÂ' casual. Even if you do everything they ask, eventually theyÂ'll just grow bored and leave anyway.

But, not unusually, IÂ'm drifting from my point.

Taken from the point of view as an exercise in small business management, Everquest can actually provide a level of realism unparalleled. Beginning with nothing, in the most capitalist sense imaginable, o­ne who is both studious, patient, and saavy can find themselves swimming in virtual riches. What can you do with those riches? No more than I can do with the sums of pointless numbers, scores, and trinket collectibles I have in every other game, but then real world productivity has never been the point. The point is the small and regulatory feeling of success when you buy a stack of Spider Silks at 3plat each, and turn around to sell them in to the right person at 8plat each. Some players frown upon that reseller mentality, and with every crack they make at my heartless capitalist expense, my desire to develop a sinister cadence to my speech increases ten-fold.



The Bazaar really has brought out the entrepreneur in a lot of people. I saw very creative businesses being run in there while I was trying to unload some bone chips or something. Some were offering gambling with games of chance. They offered tempting odds and even more tempting riches to randomly roll a 6 or higher. Others were in the fencing business. If you were in a hurry, they would buy your loot immediately for a low, but reasonable price knowing that, since they weren't moving, they would eventually turn a profit. I think I even witnessed an attempt at pimpery. Someone was offering twenty minutes in a private room with a feisty wood elf princess for a modest fee. I'm afraid I did not follow up to see if it was tongue-in-cheek (so to speak) or on the level.

I, too, was addicted to BazaarQuest. Waking about 2 or 3 every morning, just to get the best deals, I'd scream at the cable modem when it would go down during peak trading hours (Saturday evenings). The adrenaline rush of running at top speed to beat my competitors to the latest foolish n00b to offer goods without checking the prevailing prices was amazing. The boredom of the 'dead hours' in the Bazaar after all the rational players have gone to sleep, OTOH, sucked.

Overall, I made a staggering fortune buying and selling Shaman goods, but had to give it up, since at that point I had no life. EQ still tempts me from time to time, though...

where I realize Shawn calling me as weak as a crack monkey sitting o­n big pile of crack was, as they say, a little o­n the nose.

You're supposed to stay in character!

You bastard! You started playing again without me?

I wonder if anyone has seriously considered studying the EQ economy. I'll be happy to do this, particularly if the government pays me for it. I'll check with my financial advisor for feasibility.

Ah the everquesting to find fun in everquest I see that quest continues onward unabated. Oddly enough (must be something in the water) a bunch of my friends have recently started to play EQ again. I have managed to escape Sony's diabolical grasping for my wallet by cleverly loosing my CD's at some point in the distant past. I'm far to cheap to buy a game I own (somewhere) again so I am aptly shielded from the social allure, and well that is pretty much the only glamor left on Sony's painted hussy. Watching somebody who didn't know all the new port routs having to take the bus, ur boat was also a shocking reminder of why I shouldn't be to over zealous in my rustling of unmarked CD cases and old boxes.

I wonder if anyone has seriously considered studying the EQ economy.

Already been done by Edward Castronova. The actual paper is here (server seems to be down).

"Games that trade time for power appeal to people who have a lot of time and not much power." - Aetius' Maxim

"Games that trade time for power appeal to people who have a lot of time and not much power."

Name a game that doesn't?


Actually I think it's more about the ratio of time vs. power. How much time are you willing to give up for virutal power? The higher the ratio you're willing to put up with the lower your real life ratio is. Willing to spend 1000 hours for a shiny brass virtual ring? Chances are you don't have much real to call your own and a sh*tload of time on your hands.

I actually think the EQ economy isn't that great. It is developer driven and not player driven. I think it would be more interesting to study a game were players drive the economy via supply and demand.

It is developer driven and not player driven.

I disagree. I think it's a surprisingly good balance of the two. In many ways, the developers (live team, whatever) acts almost as governmental regulation in this scenario, and not too heavy handed at that. Accurately portraying a reasonable economy absolutely requires some degree of regulation, but by and large the actual fluctuations of the economy are entirely player driven - if not all the items bought and sold are player constrcuted. It's only when some element of the economy becomes dramatically unbalaced or open to exploit do the developers step in, just as any government would.

I actually think the EQ economy isn't that great. It is developer driven and not player driven. I think it would be more interesting to study a game were players drive the economy via supply and demand.

How is EQ any more developer driven than any other game's economy? "Player made" items have recipes are programmed by developers just as much as specific items were created by them. The resources to make the items still have to be gathered whether from places or monsters and developers control that availability. Finally unless the game you are playing has no NPC merchants the developers have a way of taking money out of circulation.

I played EQ once, for about a week. I got very tired of killing small woodland creatures, and I didn't know anyone else that played. I think I might even still have the CD around here somewhere. I might have thrown it away though, just to make sure it wouldn't tempt me.