Chapter 10: Downfall
Updated: Mar 1, 2019
A recent blog post (https://theophay.wordpress.com/2015/05/13/11-things-we-probably-miss-from-the-old-maplestory/) mentioned about the good old days of Maplestory, of which there were strong community relations, as well as the mentally and 'physically' challenging boss raids and jump quests. Very much like Singapore, this is similar to how our kampong spirit disappeared as we entered the "industrial age" and embraced globalization, as well as prioritizing efficiency and economic growth. A huge mistake that led Maplestory's social interaction portion downhill was the introduction of the potential system, as well as the ability to reset potential. Like embracing capitalism, the introduction of the ability to make oneself stronger through insane injections of real life money into the game just simply caused a much greater polarization between the rich and the poor, extremely similar to how income inequality works in many countries.
As the disparity between the rich and the poor start to become more apparent, and demand pull inflation (will be explained shortly) ravages the economy, more and more newcomers or players who do not inject real life money into the game start to feel left out. Recall when Zakum in 2008 took hours of planning, a full expedition of 36 people, and a near perfect execution (pun intended) to take him down? Now a funded person can simply just waltz in, press a button, and he is gone in less than 5 seconds.
In order to ensure that the pros (aka donators) continue to inject money into the company (Asiasoft), every 2 patches ensures a boss that is harder than the previous one, in a very poor attempt to revive the community spirit of the past, whereby players actually needed a team to take down a boss. Instead of getting people together, many rich maplers just continue donating more money to Asiasoft, in the process getting insanely powerful weapons capable of taking down these new bosses alone. Seeing this as an excellent money making opportunity, Asiasoft continually releases weapons that are more and more powerful, from Bloody gears in 2011, Cygnus in 2012, Saltwater in 2013, Meister in 2014 and lastly Fafnir in 2015. What makes things more unequal would be that these weapons, supposedly obtainable from the most powerful bosses at that time, become obtainable from Gachapon, something like a real life slot machine that literally costs $1.50 per spin, of which getting the weapon has a 1 in 150 chance. By creating more powerful bosses and more powerful weapons, Asiasoft created a vicious cycle, one that was extremely profitable, but very unsustainable as well. They even went to the shameless extent of selling the in game currency for real money, though at a rate 50 times lower than the black market.
So this whole time I have been talking about what happens on the "Pro" end of maplestory, but how about the newcomers or the poorer majority who are unable to obtain godly weapons? Upon seeing the difficulty of getting such weapons, as well as the immense difficulty of killing bosses, these players simply just quit and move on to another more stable MMORPG like Diablo 3 or Path of Exile, perhaps even Runescape. Unlike real life, people in the real world can't simply leave life and go join a new life, there simply is no re-spawn button, and that is why the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. With more and more of the newcomers and "Noobs" leaving the game, the rich slowly lose their purpose of playing. Most people donate to show off, be it the numbers present on your damage or simply how cool you look, but when more and more people start to leave the game, you can hardly find anyone to show off to, and your motivation to continue donating starts to die down.
Another key factor as to why more and more newcomers find Maplestory boring would be because of the extreme inflation present, as well as the lower supply of items into the economy. One of the main problems the Maplestory economy faces would be Demand-Pull inflation. Demand-Pull inflation is caused by in short, a continuous rise in demand without an equivalent rise in supply. For example, the market has 10 fafnir equips for sale, and if demand matches the supply of the market (aka 10 fafnir equips are demanded), trade occurs at a equilibrium price and everybody is happy. However, as maplers get richer and richer due to the sale of basic items like ores that "pros" pay insane prices for, maplers start to demand better equipment, pretty much like how we want a higher standard of living when our income increases. As more and more maplers start to demand better, high-end items, without a proportionate rise of supply in these items, it is without doubt that the prices of these items will increase (In economics terms, demand curve shifts to the right, inelastic supply, prices of goods rise by a large amount).
Without any government regulating the supply and demand of goods, the prices of middle-high end weapons and armor just skyrockets in a spiral, deterring newer players from continuing with the game. One full set of thief Cygnus equipment (Now 4th most powerful) costs a total of 16 billion-20 billion mesos. Cygnus equipment are level 140, so let's take level 140-160 memory monks as a baseline for how much mesos each mob drops. On average each monster drops about 1k mesos, and it would take a total of 20 million memory monks to be killed in order to purchase a full Cygnus set if you solely count by raw mesos. Of course these monks drop masks occasionally that can be sold for a tidy sum, so let's cut the number of memory monks required to be slain to 500,000. Assuming you take 10 minutes to kill 200, it would take you a total of 25,000 minutes to get one full Cygnus set, an investment I am pretty much unwilling to make. You might ask, why not just go kill Cygnus herself and get the weapons and armor from her? To start off, she has 16 billion HP and a kit that ensures that you either die or are unable to kill her within the time limit, even with a group of 6 unfunded members. So what is the only option left? That would be either donating to Asiasoft, using the Gachapon, and obtaining these sweet equipments, or playing around with the free market and coming out with elaborate business plans to speed up mesos making, of which I believe the former would be a much more favourable option for the large majority. It is pretty much like the vicious cycle between finding a job and getting work experience, you just can't kill a boss without having the equipment it drops.
However, as likely as demand pull inflation seems to be the root of all inflationary problems in the maplestory economy, it is actually due to the absurd amounts of mesos being produced in the system, without sufficient ways to remove it (In economics terms, the central bank continually prints money without removing it from the system). Unlike the real world, Maplestory does not have a Central bank or a government, and thus very little means of removing mesos. Economies in the real world have systems in place such as open market operations or liquidity ratios to ensure that money supply and in turn inflation is kept in check, Maplestory simply does not have that mechanism. One might say that the input of mesos is actually pretty low, and compared to the prices of the items sold by NPCs and the tax rates, the money supply would definitely be kept in check. That I would agree, but that is the maplestory of 2006, where people actually saved mesos they earned to buy weapons from NPCs, not from each other. Right now, the only thing that middle-high class buy from NPCs are mastery books, simply because they aren't sold in the free market anymore. Ok, one type of gold sink might have been lost, but that could not have been the reason why there is hyperinflation now, surely the tax rates should be able to suck some money out of the system, is it?
As mentioned in Chapter 8, hackers and botters have been all over the maple world, spreading their influence faster than the Black Mage, who rather sits in his throne staring at the grim fate of Maplestory. One underlying reason I believe for the huge mess the Maplestory economy is currently in would be due to these hackers causing insane amounts of mesos to be injected into the maplestory economy. Pretty much like World of Warcraft gold, they are of value in Real Life currency, and there have even been stories of how there are China sweatshops that focus on grinding these virtual goods. In World of Warcraft, one person is only able to concentrate on farming gold on one character at a time due to the dynamicity of the spawns and probably because it is 3D, but in Maplestory, spawn positions are fixed, everything is in 2D, and worst of all, their security system simply sucks. Bypass the Black-Cipher security system, and there is a whole list of exploits available at your grasp. With hacks such as vacuum hack and generic no delay (effectively 50 times increment of damage), as well as bots placed together with these "superpowers" across all 20 channels in over 50 maps, all controlled by a team of 10 people, it is without doubt that mesos is generated at an insanely fast rate.
So where do these mesos go? They are simply sold to the community (another factor of the Pay to play and Free to play divide), of which the money then gets circulated and continually drives prices higher and higher. Back in 2004-2006, security systems were actually up to date or even better than the ability of the hackers, but after the Big Bang Patch, it really just went downhill. When you start to realize that you just can't earn enough to buy the Raven Horn Baselard you always wanted, you either donate some money to Asiasoft, or just leave the game entirely. Apart from being a nuisance to the economy, these hackers also destroy the fun element of hunting with your friends, by being present in almost any map that give good experience or good mesos, making it very much harder for an ordinary mapler to get recipes to craft decent equipment such as the Angelic Blessing Ring in 2012.
A major dupe and rollback incident occured towards the end of 2013, which led to many maplers leaving the game for good. As this incident was really impactful, it will be taking up one whole chapter (which will be done in the perspective of a hacker and a normal player), and will not be discussed in this chapter.
Maplestory was once a great game with awesome social interactions, lots of joy and laughter, and most importantly, lots of beneficial trade. Right now, it is being plagued by extremely high inflation rates, hackers, as well as a record low number of people playing, largely due to the greed of the producers of Maplestory, Asiasoft and Nexon. In recent months, Asiasoft has realised their mistake and has made measures to lower inflation rates as well as to crack down hard on hackers, and even to go to extent to organize get-events, both in real life and in-game, but will this be enough to rectify the current state of this game, or is it already too late to do so? More on what should have been done, and can be done, will be discussed in the chapter, Rectification.
End of Chapter 10
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