Tuesday, March 22, 2005

SWG: Move Trade Forums Into SWG Itself

The new portal makes it easy to see what message boards are enjoying the most traffic.

Here's the ranking I noticed this morning:





Bria Galaxy Trade



Chimaera Galaxy Trade



Ahazi Galaxy Trade



Eclipse Galaxy Trade






Corbantis Galaxy Trade



Bloodfin Galaxy Trade






FarStar Galaxy Trade





This makes three things very obvious:

  • Bria and Ahazi are the most active servers. (And Eclipse is probably a close #3.)

  • Jedi is the most interesting profession.

  • Players really, really want to trade with each other, but SWG doesn't support that activity.
It's that third item I'd like to discuss. Why are the trade boards on the external website so active?

As a programmer and software development manager, I always have my eyes and ears open to try to identify high-payoff opportunities to make my customer happy. (By "high-payoff" I mean small changes that are relatively simple to make but that have significant effects, often because they address a feature that a large percentage of users have to use.) If I can see numerous users doing some simple task over and over again, I recognize it as a candidate for making that feature easier to use -- it's a high-payoff opportunity.

By computerizing repetitive manual functions, I eliminate "grinding" (which makes my users happy), I increase productivity (which makes my bosses happy), and I make my software more valuable (which makes me happy). Everybody wins.

So when I look at the SWG board usage stats, and I see players who are so interested in doing something related to SWG that they'll actually go outside the game (to the forums) to do it, I immediately think: "This is a high-payoff opportunity."

Why in the world do SWG's players have to go outside the game to accomplish something they really seem to enjoy doing? And why have SWG's developers allowed this situation to persist, instead of recognizing this as a golden opportunity to make SWG more valuable to its users by adding code to let them do these trades inside the game?

We're not even talking cross-server trades here. We're talking about players on the same server who want to buy and sell legitimate items with each other at the best prices. The message stats make it obvious that arranging good deals is something players are really interested in doing... so why is it so hard to do in-game?

These markets need to be brought into SWG by moving each galaxy-wide trade forum from the official SOE/SWG website into SWG itself. The Auction channel in SWG is useful because it cuts down on Spatial ad barking, but its real-time nature makes it insufficient for making deals. We need an asynchronous communication mechanism just like the trade boards on the SOE/SWG website, but we need it in the game itself.

It would be great if this can be incorporated in a way that fits into the Star Wars saga -- certainly the mechanism by which goods are traded ought to have some kind of Star Wars "flavor" to it. But even if it's just as simple as an in-game public message forum, there's no reason why this shouldn't be added to SWG as soon as possible -- it's that valuable.

One suggestion has been to simply remove the cap on Bazaar sales. I don't think this is the best approach because the practical effect would be to kill vendors (and the Merchant profession). When everyone can sell anything at any price, everyone will put everything on the Coronet Bazaar terminal, probably overloading it into a smoking ruin. We need a way to allow buyers and sellers to easily find each other that retains (or even enhances) the value of having Merchant skills, and I encourage discussion of such ideas in this thread.

To get us started, I'm just stating the problem: Players should not have to exit SWG to arrange deals, then go back into the game to execute those deals. Through whatever means, we ought to be able to find buyers and sellers for our goods on our server within the game. That would reduce complexity for players (making them happy), improve the game economy by making deals easier to arrange (making SWG producers happy), and make SWG a more desirable game (making the SOE/LucasArts financial people happy).

Everybody wins.