Free for All: Introducing my trade route

There isn't a game in existence that will perfectly match every type of player. I have found that even my favorite games of all time could do with some tweaking, which is not the fault of the developer. No game-maker can read our minds, and there will always be limits on technology that will hamper the MMO creative process. But let's not forget the tools that are provided by developers, even within simple games.

In almost every game I play, I try to apply some section of the Immersion Rules, a set of guidelines I made a few years ago that dictate how I interact with the world and other players. It's not a rigid set, though, and I am always bending it to a particular game or style. Lately I've been determined to assign my characters, in all my games, some sort of job to make money with. It could be an adventurer, a collector, or in the case of Mabinogi, a trader. This week I wanted to show you how I do it, so that you might find some inspiration to assign your own character a task or two!

First of all, you must be realistic about what you are willing to do in the game. If you love to raid, make raiding part of your job. Perhaps you are an archaeologist, or a collector of some sort? Or, if you are a roleplayer and hang out in towns more than anything, you could act as a newsman or a teller of tales! The possibilities are endless, really, but you must be honest about your playstyle in order for it to work.

For my part, I love traveling and exploring more than anything. Combat is a side event, something that my character would rather not do. There are quite a few games that allow you to play without really ever needing to kill anything. Games like Ryzom, Free Realms, EverQuest II, WURM Online and others will give you plenty of choices as to how to make your living. And remember: if your character cannot make money since the chosen job doesn't pay well, there is always bartering

In Mabinogi I had to decide what item I wanted to sell, or what I wanted to specialize in. I noticed that making clothes is very popular, and that clothing items start with basic materials. If you wanted silk thread, you had to have cobwebs. Cobwebs fall off of spiders automatically, but most spider populations either do not produce cobwebs fast enough or are killed off while you are gathering. So, I went off into the wilds to find a secluded population.

One of my favorite things to do with my games is to print off a copy of the in-game map. You might be able to find a large version of the map in question, or you can simply take a screenshot of the map, print it out in sections, and tape it together. (This is what I did with Mabinogi.) Then, as you go around the world discovering things, you can physically write it on your map. It's a nice little touch that makes you feel more attached to what your character is doing and seeing.

Once I discovered my spiders, I marked the route on the map. Soon enough, I had memorized the location and how to get there, but it's fun to have the map to show to people or to mark as you continue to explore new areas. I had to find a location that was within an hour's travel, since my mount in-game would disappear after that amount of time. Sure enough, I found my perfect spot about 15 minutes away. I needed to take a boat to get there and only had enough time to fill up my backpack full of cobwebs, but I made it back in time with almost about a quarter of an hour left on my mount.

To explain a bit further, the idea is to work within the restrictions of the game: the day/night cycle, the hunger meter or the length of time before the mount disappears. These restrictions work as would real life obstacles and help to recreate, in a small way, reality. For example, I took a break when nightfall hit and built a campfire to rest for a while. The fun part is coming up with the reasons that the game restrictions exist, and a good game like Mabinogi seems to have been developed with this kind of immersive play in mind.

Keep in mind that this is not really a form of roleplay. In my experience, roleplay is acting as something or someone other than yourself. I have met players who have 200 page character biographies, and whose characters are polar opposites of themselves. What I try to do is to make my character on the screen an extension of myself, to act as I would if I were in that situation. Of course, if the game is set in a different time or setting than mine, I would use phrases that are appropriate for the time and place, but I would do it how I would, if my character had my personality.

After I successfully complete one of my routes, I set up shop and sell the cobwebs. After one hour of traveling and gathering and a few more tending my shop, I make about 60-80 thousand gold. Granted, I could make more like one million in that time if I sold other items or played differently, which I have done in the past, but I would not have as much fun.

To me, almost any game can be played in this way, being that even the basic social nature of these games allows for it. Trading is fun because it gives your character a foundation to build a story on, pulls you into areas of the world you might not normally visit, and introduces you to new people. Try it out. Give your character a job to do. Place some rules on how you play and see what happens. Remember to be realistic about what you will tolerate, and above all have fun with it. Try to keep in mind that, like life, an MMORPG provides many more opportunities than we think if we just take a minute to notice.

This article was originally published on Massively.