Making/Money: The Origin of the Specie

Alexis Kassan
A. Kassan|06.29.08

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Making/Money: The Origin of the Specie

Specie (n) - any type of coined money, usually of metal. Also used to describe commodity metals.

The crafting systems of MMOs have taken their queues from many different sources to find minerals for mining professions. The usual, generally lower-level, metals such as copper, tin, or iron, are seemingly universal. But as you level you may run across some rather odd materials that are difficult or impossible to find in real life.

Today we will be looking at where the metals seen in games came from. Common or rare. Real or created for the sole purpose of sounding like it could be, these are the metals of our games.

The fantastic elements of MMOGs allow for great diversity of materials. Let's look at them approximately one game at a time.

The first game I'm looking at today is my old-school favorite, Ultima Online. Specific to UO are valorite and verite, which were the two most valuable metals in Renaissance. Verite is not a metal. The root of the word means "truth" in Latin and some of its derivatives. It was also apparently a truth serum in Dune. But no metallurgic references. Valorite came out of nowhere. It is certainly not real and does not have any non-UO significance.

Next up, World of Warcraft. There are several obscure metals featured in WoW. Here's a little irony for you (ha ha... irony...get it?) about WoW mining. Did you know that there are technically two of the same metal, available to be mined and smelted at different levels. Mithril was a creation of Tolkien in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. And its other name was True-silver. That's right. The rare spawn is exactly the same stuff as the common. Just don't tell the members of the Mithril Order that.

As you increase your mining proficiency you also encounter thorium and the associated Thorium Brotherhood. This is actually a real metal used in nuclear reactors and arc welding. Somehow getting a suit made of this stuff sounds like a bad idea all of a sudden. Plus, it oxidizes and therefore would require lots of shining after use. Maybe that's what all those repair costs go towards.

While adamantite is technically unique to WoW, there is a rather similarly named metal in Marvel comics. Adamantium is the stuff that Logan (a.k.a. Wolverine) has throughout his body in the X-Men. Sounds like similar stuff to me. Too bad it doesn't exist. That stuff is nearly indestructible.

Moving on to another game. EVE Online's only gathered resource is metal mined from asteroids. Oddly, some of these are real metals, just spelled slightly differently. For instance, the veldspar (spelled feldspar for the rocks here on Earth) you get in the training zone would be rather common to find on the ground around your home. Another example is pyerite (real life spelling: pyrite). You've probably held some of this at one time or another. It's common fool's gold. The stuff that looks like little gold flakes in an otherwise nondescript rock.

Possible other similar names include omber (amber) and hemorphite (hematite). This says nothing of the properties of any of the compounds compared other than pronunciation, but it provides an interesting parallel. For instance, amber isn't even a metal, it's a resin. And somehow I doubt that pretty little rings are made of hemorphite in EVE.

The commonly refined metal, tritanium, does not have a natural counterpart. It hearkens back to references made in Star Trek. Along with the duranium, tritanium was supposedly a metal used to construct spacecraft hulls. Makes perfect sense then why it would be in a space-based game and used to construct, well, most anything.

The minerals seen in Age of Conan are, to a greater or lesser extent, found in real life. Aurichalcum, alternately spelled orichalcum, was a legendary metal supposedly used in Atlantis. Several natural alloys have been identified that might be aurichalcum, but it cannot be confirmed. The locations where the alloys occur are scattered across the globe, each showing some of the aspects described as Atlantean society, and thereby providing no conclusive proof of the existence of Atlantis.

Another metal, supposedly similar to aurichalcum and also found in Age of Conan is electrum. Okay, technically this one is not gathered using the mining, but rather the prospecting skill, but these prospected minerals are still metals. Electrum occurs naturally as an alloy of silver and gold and was highly prized in ancient Egypt.

Whether the metals we gather are used to create stat-boosting jewelry or armor to tank in, the plethora of pure metals and alloys allows a customizable crafting experience even within metalworking. Thanks to some rare, but natural compounds and a bunch of imagination from different sources, we have the range of substances we need to craft a shiny, metallic MMO world.

What is your favorite metal found in MMOGs? Do you have any stories of the origins of other metals seen in game? Curious about the origins of other metals?

Alexis Kassan is a numbers nerd. She spends her days with statistical programs and her nights with spreadsheets and textbooks. She's also a MMORPG addict, having gotten sucked into Ultima Online at a formative age. In her time away from work, books and games, she can usually be found drowning in pools of sprinkles. If you have a question about in-game economics or how crafting fits in with them, hit her up at alexis DOT kassan at weblogsinc DOT com.

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