Some time back, SOE added balls-out Real Money Trading to all Vanguard servers. I think I might have mentioned this at the time, but I never really commented on it. I was, and am still, conflicted on the issue.
On the one hand, I am staunchly opposed to open systems of trading money for in-game goods. I think they’re a route for people with more money than time or sense to succeed at the game with an advantage over those without money to waste. I view these sorts of practices in much the same light as I’d view cheating via bug exploits or hacking – working around the established norms to ‘win’, even though these kinds of games (PvE-oriented MMO) aren’t really designed to be ‘won’ in a conventional sense.
On the other hand, there are schemes which are de facto RMT, but which are tightly regulated, to the extent that I don’t have much of a problem with them. EVE Online, for example, offers EVE Time Cards, which you buy in two-month increments and can then sell to other players. Last I heard, a Time Card for two months of play is going for about 300 million ISK, which is a very substantial but not galaxy-shaking amount of money. But all the ISK in the Galaxy won’t make up for a character without the skills to do things with it, or a player without the skill to execute those things. And character skill points and player skill are the two things you can’t buy with ISK. So while I think the practice is still somewhat shady and I’m leery of it, I think it’s okay in the case.
At the other extreme are some Asian MMOs wherein you can buy any item for some amount of real-world cash. People in those games have far exceeded the paltry $15 a month we westeners are accusomed to paying, even those with multiple accounts. People have literally pauperized themselves to succeed in such titles. In some cases, the cash expenditure doesn’t even get you a real item, but a chance at a random item. It’s like a lottery ticket with virtual goods as the prize, and like the actual lottery, the people running it have a house edge. You might spend your life savings on such tickets and end up with squat. Of course, this is of little concern to me personally; even though I thoroughly disapprove of such practices, I choose to exercise that disapproval simply by not playing these kinds of games.
On the grippng hand, I have a great fondness for Vanguard and am willing to forgive it many faults. The Vanguard RMT scheme is somewhat regulated, in that the transactions are processed through SOE, who then has the right (indeed, the obligation) to police those transactions, but the financial motive will be to interfere as little as possible except to insure that all transactions are fair. But it will have an impact on the game.
For example, many items in Vanguard up to the point of RMT’s introduction were bind-on-pickup, with reason. Does that reason now get overridden such that that new items tend to be bind-on-equip instead? Or even not bindable at all, so as to encourage continuous trading of those items? The binding mechanic now so common is an artificial constraint that I could live without, but doing so would have profound impact on the economy. Quality items would be passed around indefinitely without some kind of mechanism to remove them from play, and prices on those items, as they continue to drop or be crafted, would inevitably spiral downward, neccessitating a particularly dire form of gearflation.
Raiding might also change dramatically as powerful items befome available to people who haven’t done the raids yet. But maybe this isn’t important – raiding isn’t really the strong point of Vanguard, although it does boast numerous raid encounters and some extremely elaborate raid dungeons (I assume at this point that the Pantheon of the Ancients raid is live,) and while I know there exists a raiding culture in the game, I don’t know that it’s very large or strong compared to raiding-focused games like WoW or EQ. To me Vanguard is all about the wonder of exploring the world and not at all about leveling or gear.
Of course, at level 5 it’s not as though RMT is very evident. I played a little last night and enjoyed myself very much again, tweaking some settings down (while keeping them overall pretty high) to keep performance a bit less choppy. Tonight I should have a couple of hours to play, and I may make another new character for it, or maybe go right back to one of my numerous higher-level characters.