PoE Trading: A Beautiful Mess
Over the last 5 years Path of Exile (POE) has undergone some incredible changes, from improving the games stability and performance to fundamentally changing the way we play and progress our characters. Despite their best efforts game developers will never be able to please their entire player base, and in this regard, Gring Gear Games is no different.
Yes, you guessed it; we are going to be discussing PoE Trading, not just as it is but as it was and how no matter the direction it chooses to go Wraeclast as we know it will be changed forever. This isn’t meant to sway you one way or the other, but rather make you stop and think. Perhaps you’ll formulate an opinion away from reddit and the forum wars and put yourself into the shoes of a passionate game developer, who in a day and age where gaming is about keeping shareholders happy, is trying to stay on track with their vision and their dream of creating a video game.
Whatever you do or read to feed that insatiable hunger for knowledge POE leaves inside of you, no doubt you will be hard pressed not to find something or someone talking about the games economy and trade. POE has been featured in article after article over the years praising it for its player driven economy and how it has managed to capture the essence of what made Diablo 2 an ARPG that to this day is still being played. As of late, however, a darker shadow is starting to loom over the system that for some, defines the game and their experience with it.
The Marketplace for POE Trading
Right now it would appear that every trade related discussion is almost split down the middle with a pretty solid line drawn in the sand. Either you want trade to remain as it is (perhaps with very minor tweaks) or you are on the side of the implementation of an in-game Auction House, both hold points in pros and cons respectively. One thing everyone appears to be forgetting is that once a game developer makes a decision to change something on this level, there is no coming back.
Trade can prove frustrating; I myself have been on the whisper spam-wagon slamming person after person with trade requests hoping that the next whisper will be my last allowing me to continue the endless and addictive grind. I too have experienced the agony of having something drop only to find it has been price fixed into oblivion. Implementing a system where I could open a menu or talk to an NPC and simple search and buy sounds amazing, efficient and painless but at what cost? Websites that exchange real money for in-game currency and items such as PlayerAuctions, would surely benefit from such an efficient system.
Auction House Trade System
Chris Wilson has continued to reinforce that player interaction is integral to his vision of the game. Personally when I bump into a Bot, which is probably 8 out of 10 of my successful trades (as in someone replied), it is refreshingly accurate, precise and polite. There is no player interaction in this example of trade and I am praising the lines of script and code that allowed it take place rather than the human on the other side.
Every time a friend of mine informs me they are planning to give POE a try I give them the same disclaimer, be aware it’s largely a single player experience. This may ruffle a few feathers but really when was the last time you can honestly say you grouped for anything other than master rotations, beach head rotations or a carry? Sure there are those of you who have that one friend that loves to play an Aura Bot (someone who does no damage and is there as a support for damage and defense buffs) or the newer players who group to level or map in lower tiers. For the most part, we log in to play POE and get those juicy drops so that we can sell them to buy higher numbers. The last thing we want to do is share our precious loot and currency.
So with this in mind what are the real implications of an Auction House-type system outside of the supposed loss of social interaction? Something that provides instant gratification and as a result an instant increase in power, in a game that is already being led by a speed clearing meta with a power creep that doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon, could hold dire consequences. In fact, this can push people to the end of their build’s progression even faster. All of those little sales that keep your map pool flowing will decrease dramatically in value.
GGG have stated that with trade in it’s current form, only a small percentage of the player base are actually engaging in the digital exchange of items and currency. What this means is that if something like an Auction House takes shape in the form of an easy to understand and accessible in-game menu, market saturation for easy to obtain, uniques like Wanderlust and Goldrim, and probably even more valuable items like Tabula Rasa would be obscene. Higher ticket items would probably be safer to an extent but you would still see a decrease in value for anything that isn’t considered a “Chase Unique” (something every man and his dog is after).
There is a cost associated with every move a game developer makes and in the case of an Auction House I am worried that cost may be too great. While I feel something needs to be done in regard to the issues lurking around trade something like this is very drastic. As a community, we could never come back from should it take the game in a direction we aren’t comfortable. Perhaps this argument is more grey than the forums and reddit posts will lead you believe; maybe there is another alternative or a middle ground that we, as a community, need to find together. Slamming GGG with demands and statements as to how we want the game is not the right way to go about this. So please take a step back and remember to use this is just a game but to those at GGG this is their passion and lifes work, they aren’t backed by an evil corporation demanding change for profit. Believe me when I say they want what’s best for us rather than their wallets.