Updated: Feb 21, 2019
In March 2018 we will be witnessing the closure of Maplestory’s free market, where the experience of manually changing rooms to browse the wares of other players will become a thing of the past. Does this mean that Maplestory is discouraging trade from happening? The truth is far from that as we see the once failed Maple Auction making a comeback. This time the auction will entirely replace the free market and the need to purchase shop permits from the cash shop.
What does this mean for maplers? Are we able to draw comparisons to real life economies? Firstly, this change serves as a shift from an older trading system to one that is not just efficient, but also anonymous. Let’s take a look at how one purchases things in the free market, and how one purchases things in the auction.
From these 2 pictures, we can see stark differences in the detail involved in the 2 different trading systems. The only way to search efficiently in the old Free Market was through a purchase of an Owl of Minerva (which costs 70 cents), and it is only valid for ONE search, leaving the developers at Nexon laughing their way to the bank. The Maple Auction however, allows you to do unlimited searches to find the item you desire, and also filters for you the potential of the item and relevant enhancement grades. In addition to that, you are able to sell your wares without having to purchase a permit from the cash shop (which costs $1.50 for one day), albeit at a cap of 10 items at one go. Still, it is a great system put in place for people who don’t invest money into the game, and it serves as a powerful stimulant to the once dying economy.
Another feature of Maple Auction would be that the identities of the buyers and sellers are anonymous, and the only records are the transaction of the item. With a veil of anonymity cast over sellers, it becomes even easier for hackers to enter the market and to sell their goods, with an example being the Yellow Cubes and the Rainbow Resurrection Flames above. Such goods are consumables and are in high demand, with Yellow Cubes being almost as good as Miracles Cubes (which cost $1.50). These goods are obtained from Elite Bosses, and what better way is there to farm these goods than using the help of scripts and bots.
If Maplestory does not support the use of 3rd party programs and outright bans hackers, why are they creating a trading place that makes cashing out for hackers so much easier? As we delve into the trading systems of more recent games (relatively), we can see why Maple has to adopt this new trading system.
Since the start of GW2 (Guild Wars 2), they have already adopted the Black Lion Trading Company, which allows unlimited transactions at a single time. In addition to that, buyers and sellers have the option to buy or sell instantly, or place their prices at a more profitable rate (though waiting for a bit longer). This is done by allowing buyers to view all available prices for the item he intends to get, and buy it instantly for the lowest offered price. A buyer is also able to place a bid (at a price lower than the instant sell price), for prospective sellers to sell instantly to. In addition to a stable and well-functioning trading system, GW2 also has an amazing foundation for merchants who intend to make a fortune via crafting.
With a total of 8 different crafting professions (9 if you count scribe), and each character being limited to only 2, there will always be a mismatch in supply and demand for certain crafted goods and people are either unable to make it by themselves, or are too lazy to do so. When such a mismatch occurs, players who seek to earn a quick buck can simply purchase the relevant crafting materials instantly, craft it, then sell instantly. In addition to that, the most powerful end-game weapons are not directly obtained via bossing, but through crafting with parts obtained from all over the game (I took 9 days to craft my ascended shield). The few reasons why Maplestory is still surviving despite the presence of such well thought out and developed games would be due to the fact that it started early, and is relatively easier to grasp. Despite end-game boss fights in Maplestory requiring a high amount of character control and boss knowledge, it is in no way comparable to the raids and dungeon runs in GW2, where most successful runs require in-depth knowledge of your party member’s abilities, as well as boss patterns. Most raids in GW2 such as Dragon’s Stand or Auric Basin require numbers of up to 150 people, with an appointed commander in charge of 50 players. With Maplestory’s old servers, there is no way such an event would ever be possible.
Guild Wars 2 was released in 2012 which was merely 5 years ago, but let’s take a look at our old school favourite, Runescape. The game itself brings back memories of my primary school days, where we would talk hours and hours about the items within the game, the best places to train, and how much one can earn by mining ores at the crafting guild. Runescape was where I first learnt the art of merching online goods, where I would bid for fire runes in bulk at 7gold pieces, and then sell them at 9 gold pieces (they are at 81 gold pieces now) at times when more people were playing. The grand exchange is similar to the trading system in GW2, where players are able to bid for their items, or buy instantly. What is extremely impressive about Runescape’s trading system would be how the main website itself features data of trades that occur, from highest rises to most traded items. In addition, they even provide price charts of each individual item over the past 6 months!
With such a developed trading system (and economy) in even an old school game like Runescape, it is without doubt that Maplestory has to remove their free market in search of a better alternative. As mentioned before, despite the virtual world being seemingly a world of difference (word-play intended) from the real world, there are still many comparisons that can be drawn. As we see a rise in the usage of crypto currencies such as Bitcoin and Ether, it is very possible that transactions 10 to 15 years down the line may very well be in the form of crypto currencies, rendering intermediaries useless and profitless. Furthermore, transactions will become increasingly difficult to trace with the absence of a middleman, possibly leading to an increase in shadier deals and trade volumes in the dark web. In comparison with Maplestory, the shift from the Free Market to Maple Auction removes the need for one to purchase a vendor from the cash shop, as he can make convenient and direct sales through the auction. In addition, when the buyer and seller no longer have records of who he is receiving/selling the goods to, it becomes harder for the developers to track the profits of hackers and obtain evidence of their wrongdoings.
Due to Maplestory being a relatively old MMORPG, the quality of their economy, the gameplay, the graphics and the community will continue to remain a far cry away from the more recent MMORPGs. However, the simplicity of it is what brings most players back to it from time to time, and perhaps being simple is what it should remain as. The Free Market was where most players made their first virtual profits, where players who could not afford stalls would spend their time advertising their wares, and where players got scammed and learnt from it.
As much as we appreciate the past and its simplicity, one cannot neglect the fact that the only way forward would be to improvise, adapt, and overcome (meme intended). Just as how many might have started out uncertain about Maple Auction, many will doubt the uses of cryptocurrency and its applications. With the increase in popularity of block-chain technology, I cannot help but ponder if about a world where cryptocurrency is the main form of transaction, and the new type of economy it will bring about.
Till then, let us all appreciate notes and coins before it becomes a distant memory.
End of Chapter 12
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