Should Gold Farming in Games Be Allowed


This is a hot discussion and different people have different opinions on it. While I would not say that anyone is necessarily right, and everyone is entitled to their own opinions, I do believe that the majority of people are looking at the situation the wrong way. My goal with this article is to help explain what the problem is and why it is or is not a problem.

I do want to stress that I am in no way discussing whether or not selling gold for cash should be allowed here. I will be saving that for a later article. Here we are only looking at farming from the game only side, such as you farming to get a new item you want. Please keep that in mind as you read through it.

What is Gold Farming?

The first thing we need to do is to look at what gold farming actually is. When we use this term, we do not mean that you simply save up the gold you earn while you are out and about, killing things and questing. What we mean instead is when you go out of your way to farm gold in the most efficient method. For example, you have found a dungeon that is fast to do and gives great rewards, so you keep running it over and over with the sole purpose of racking up as much gold as you possibly can over a short period of time.

This also does not necessarily have to be about dungeons. It could be that you have found a perfect raid boss that you can farm, or even a certain area for mobs that spawn quick or give great rewards. In any case, the point behind it is that gold farming is about the killing of things repetitively for one reason and one reason only: amassing gold.

Guild Wars 2

This is one of the first games I have seen that actually took a stand against the farming and created barriers to make it even harder to do. For example, there are diminished returns on drops. These were really bad at one point, but they have been altering and adjusting things quite often to try and get everything working better. Regardless, this is something I feel should never have been implemented in the first place.

Arena Net went in and started making changes to make farming harder to do because of the massive number of bots in the game. The theory behind it appears to be that if farming is less rewarding, less people will do it and it will help keep inflation to a minimum (as there is an increasing amount of gold being added to the market daily). While this is understandable, their changes really only affect legitimate players that are trying to farm for what things they want. Let us think about this for a minute, with a scenario.

I am looking to save up a thousand gold. I have found something I can do that rewards me two gold an hour for the work done. This means that I am looking at around five hundred hours, or twenty straight days worth of work to get the gold I am needing. I am going along, knocking it out hour by hour and day by day. All of a sudden, though, there is a new system put in to place that causes diminished rewards. Now instead of being able to farm ten hours a day like I used to, I can only farm for a single hour before it is no longer profitable. What happens? I stop farming.

On the other hand, we now have a botter. This person is going for the same thousand gold, estimated at the same twenty days worth of work. So this person sets up their bot and lets it go off on its own, farming items and they just collect the gold every once in a while. The bot hits the same diminished rewards now due to the game change, which effectively cuts their farming ability down to about a quarter of what it used to be. So now instead of twenty five days, you are looking at about a hundred days.

Here is the problem with this… the player no longer finds it viable to keep farming because they do not want to spend a hundred game days going for the gold. It is repetitive and boring, and it does not take that long to get burned out on it.

In case you are not seeing what the problem here is yet, it is that the bots do not get bored and can continue running endlessly (until banned) to earn things because they do not take any real work, whereas the players can not. This change, creating diminished returns, therefore only hurts the legitimate players and it actually helps the botters in that they are earning more than real players are, therefore while inflation is going up slowly, their net worth is increasing quickly. This puts them in to a much better position financially, and allows them to buy many more things, despite not having to do any work to get their money.

Diminished Returns – My Thoughts

We covered how Guild Wars 2 handles the diminished returns, and I want to point out that I see no possible way of these helping any game. When it comes down to it, the only people it affects are those who are actually playing the game. Bots can run twenty four hours a day without ever getting bored or needing to take a break, and they can always make the proper choices in combat (efficiency) as they do not get tired. This means that as long as they are left in a game, they will keep dominating its economy because there is really just no way to compete… unless you also run bots.

I will say that the theory behind the diminished returns looks great. If it were not for a ton of bots, I can see it working to cut down on inflation in economies, as it gets rid of the benefit of farming non stop. Along with this, it also helps cut down on the feeling that you need to be in the game constantly trying to earn more money, and instead you can take breaks while knowing that you are not losing anything as a result of it.

The hard part about this, however, is trying to balance the game between casual and hardcore players. For example, how much farming is too much? When should the diminished returns start kicking in? Should it be based on all mobs or just if you are farming the same types? Is there just a soft cap or a hard cap too, and at which point does the hard cap kick in if there is one?

Each of these questions is important as they can make massive changes in how the diminished returns system works, as well as how effective it is. Keeping things to where both casual and hardcore players are happy, though, takes a ton of refining and still usually ends up coming out with problems. As a result, my verdict (especially considering how many games have problems keeping the bots out) is that the diminished returns systems are broken by default and really serve no purpose other than to harass legitimate gamers.

Lineage II

Lineage II had a good idea behind it. While you could farm mobs all you wanted, the real high value items came from raid bosses. What made this interesting is that the raid bosses were all out in the open world, meaning you had to compete with others to kill the bosses and get the drops. Along with this, they all had pretty high re spawn timers, some as high as ten days. This meant that you could not sit around killing the same boss day after day, and instead you would have to spend time doing other things as well.

This system is not without its faults, of course. After all, there are many players who would rather avoid an open world raid where competition plays a huge role in whether or not you get a kill and get drops. Along with this, throwing in the timer made things even more of a problem because if you were taken down right before one of the epic bosses were killed, it could be a week or longer before you would get another chance. This meant that you could not even rely on getting in the kills, unless you happened to be in a big enough guild or alliance that there was really no competition to worry about.

This was an interesting take to a pretty complex situation, and for a long time it worked out. The only period in which inflation started boosting up too fast to keep up with was when bots started flooding the game. This is because just like with Guild Wars 2, the bots can farm things all day long without getting bored or tired, so while they were earning significantly less than legitimate players that were doing end game content, their total earned over time was much higher since they never had to stop. Over time this problem got worse and worse, to the point where if you did not buy gold from the farmers you were never going to get anywhere; the prices of items were just far more than you could possibly farm on your own. Even if you were in a guild, you were splitting those drops with tons of others, so that still was not a solid enough way of earning.

Rift: Planes of Telara

Rift is interesting in this aspect because rather than allow you to farm up gold to get end game gear, it is all earned by doing raids and such. In other words, you can farm all the gold you could possibly want, but it still would not help at all when it comes to getting the top gear. Because you can not trade gold for the items you want (technically you can if you manage to find a guild or join a PUG raid, but in either of those cases you are still helping out with the raid so I feel it is you working for what you are getting) the farming has no real impact.

Prices on some items are quite high, but none of them are really necessary. Item upgrades (like runes) are important, but most other things are not. Even consumables can be obtained my just doing some chronicles or using active skills found within the Planar Attunement system, to really you do not ever have to rely on anyone else for your in game success. Because of this, farming has no real impact on the economy and has never been a big problem. Even if you had a million gold, it would not get you the best gear, and if you raided for what is the best, it would still take months to get your set.

This system, while it does fend off farmers quite a bit since the gold has no true value, does have its faults as well. For example, gold is essentially worthless in the game. You can use it to buy materials and consumables, but the materials are not needed and the consumables can be ignored in most fights anyways. While it does help to have those, it is not going to be anything that makes or breaks your chances of success in PvP or PvE. Because of this, the gold found in Rift is considered as low priority, in that you should worry about other things like progression. Gold will come naturally while doing that.

There is an interesting anomaly with this, though. Oddly enough players still put a lot of focus on earning gold in Rift, despite its lack of real use. It is hard to say why this is for sure, but I suspect it has a lot to do with the feeling of being rich in the game, regardless as to what the money can be used for.

Star Trek Online

Star Trek Online has a system pretty similar to that of Rift, in that the gold (in this case credits) have no real value because all of the end game gear has to be earned. This does have a little bit of a twist, though. In Star Trek Online, you can buy gear that is pretty much just below end game gear by using Dilithium, which can be earned doing quests or by trading in Cryptic cash shop credits. The Dilithium gear is not quite as good as the true end game gear, but it is close enough to cause a little bit of concern. For many, this depletes the purpose of even going for the real end game gear, whereas others will just skip it altogether. In any case, none of these nice items are going to be bought with credits, making them effectively worthless except for when leveling up or purchasing something from NPC's that is not that good.

Because of the low value of credits in Star Trek Online, one would expect that there would not be any real reason to go out and farm them. This would also mean that there are no farmers spamming the chat to sell their botted gold. In this game, both of these are correct; I honestly can not even remember the last time I saw gold spam in that game, because of its limited usage. You can use it to get some gear that will get you through the game, but nothing even close to what is going to be needed if you plan to be competitive against other players.

Why Games Try to Stop Farming

Online role playing games usually attempt to stop the farming because they think it is going to get rid of bots. The theory behind it appears to be that if you cut down on how much gold people can earn (or other items of value), you also cut down on the profit that bots and farmers would normally be getting. What this fails to take in to consideration, however, is that with each cut, the farmers become that much more in control over the market. The average player is not going to spend all day every day trying to farm just so they can get an item. Instead, they are going to start looking for alternate ways to obtain it. Farmers, however, do not really care about this and will continue to farm because it now has value; usually, the work around for these things is to just buy gold from others, which effectively funds their adventures. As long as this keeps happening, nothing is going to change with the bots, but with every limited action that comes out, the games become that much more difficult for legitimate players.

I have felt this way for quite some time now, but I really believe that if things were easy enough to get that even the casuals could have great success, it would kill the entire point of people selling gold. After all, prices are always based on supply and demand, so if you are increasing the supply the demand should drop with it. There will still be some players that go out of their way to buy gold just because, but compared to what we face in these extremely limited games it is really nothing. The harder it is for normal players to get their items, the greater the chances are that they are going to buy in to the gold scene, and the more players that do that the worse the problems get.

Essentially, when it all comes down to it this entire thing is about trying to find a solution for a single problem: bots. We really loop the farmers in to this group as well, being that they farm using bots in the majority of cases. But when we look at the effects, we find that it is not making the problem better, but instead it is continually making it worse. It is a little confusing how game developers have not figured this out yet, as it is pretty clear just by going from one new game to the next, but I truly hope that at some point they realize what is going on and start working on better fixes, like being proactive in getting rid of bots. If this happens, everything about the game becomes that much better!

A Better Fix...

First off, we have to realize that the botting and farming is never going to end in games. No matter how worthless gold in a game is, as long as it exists people are going to buy it and people are going to farm it. This is inevitable. There are, however, some better ways of deterring people from farming.

The first way is to do something like giving out gear as people level up. Other items could be added to this as well, such as consumables. More or less take out the reason of farming for gold in the first place, and then there is not going to be that much of a problem. The best way to handle this would be to make the entire game based on what you earn off quests, with no way to trade with other people. This would be a very controversial thing, but it is also a good solution for stopping the farming and gold selling altogether. Of course, the markets are a big part of online role playing games, so how this would work out exactly is not known. It would definitely take a lot of planning to get it done properly, to help iron out any issues that may occur from a logic standpoint.

The second is to limit how much gold people can have to a reasonable amount. This actually helps out with inflation as well, since you can cap your gold but from that point on you will not be earning any more. While this could also cause issues, it would help from multiple areas:

  • People can still trade items and gold, as well as buy things as they want
  • It helps limit inflation because nobody can have a ton of gold (not more than everyone else), and it also limits the selling prices of things to below the maximum allowed amount
  • It allows you to spend your gold without feeling as if you should be saving it instead

This system would take some getting used to, but it would help out games significantly. For example, as you are leveling you will end up hitting the gold cap if you are not buying items. This would mean that you have to either spend gold (helping the market out) or end up losing what you could otherwise be gaining. The big effect of this is that the market in the game would be thriving, since you would have no reason to hold on to all of your gold. Because of the cap and all the gold being transferred from person to person, inflation would also hit a cap, which keeps it easier for new players to get involved with the game and be able to purchase things without playing for months on end trying to farm just so they can remain competitive in terms of finances.

This is not to say that there are no issues with a system like this, though. First of all, getting the community as a whole to agree to something like it could be tough. It would require educating everyone on why the idea is a good one, as well as all of the problems that it solves that can not otherwise be taken care of. Along with this, it would undoubtedly decrease the number of players willing to play the game because of why some play in the first place: to earn a lot of gold and feel wealthy. By limiting the amount a single person can hold, this would decrease that feeling and would over time put most people on at least a somewhat equal level as far as finances go.

Conclusion – My Thoughts On Gold Farming

I personally have no problems with people farming gold. The way that I see it, farming is kind of like a job and those who have more time should get better rewards. It just like going to work with others in the same job position; if you are working twenty hours a week and your co worker is working forty, you should expect to earn half as much as they do. It is basic math.

I do understand that casual players feel a bit left out when it comes to games and being able to stay competitive, but that is no fault of the more hardcore players. Those who spend more time in the game spend less time doing other stuff, which means that they are just rewarded differently. For example, the person working twenty hours a week may be gaming for the other twenty. This means that they earn more gold, whereas the person working forty hours a week would earn less gold. On the other hand, the difference in real life pay would also be separated about equally, so at the end of the day it is not so much about needing to be fair, but rather people evaluating what is more important to do with their time (based on the rewards they are hoping to get) and then choosing the best thing to do based on that information. If someone decides farming gold is the best use of their time, I see no reason to stop this. Just like I would not say that just because I work twenty hours a week means that this other person should only be able to work twenty as well. At the end of the day, it is nothing but a difference in opinion regarding priorities.


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