One of the things about my return to Runes of Magic has been the complete lack of monetary expense to me so far. I have not spent any money on the game.
However, no game survives without getting paid and, while Runes of Magic operates under the banner of “Free to Play,” and more so than some games, there are clearly ways to spend money on the game and incentives, both subtle and overt, to get you to do so.
There are two RMT currencies in the game, diamonds and rubies.
And while I have not spent any money during my current adventures, back when the game launched and it seemed like the instance group might take a serious go at it I took up one of their special offers… they have sales and bonus events for diamonds frequently… and bought some just in case I needed to get myself a ten dollar horse or something.
However, back when I did that the game was suffering from some sort of credit card fraud binge so diamonds you purchased had to sit in a special escrow account for a while and you couldn’t trade or sell them to other players for 30 days. Since we ended up not giving the game a go, those diamonds just stayed where they were. I had stopped playing by the time I had free access to them.
This is part of why I was happy to get my original account back. There were about a thousand diamonds waiting for me. My characters were gone… they probably got purged during the server merges… but my diamonds remained.
As it turns out, the standard single person mount in the game is still about ten dollars, depending on what diamond package you purchase. 207 diamonds for $9.99 makes the horse about $9.60. If you bought the biggest diamond package during the current sale it would be about $2.60.
There are other mounts in the shop. There are more expensive, more exclusive single mounts as well as multi-person mounts. But that is the base price to get yourself a permanent mount.
Now, you don’t have to buy the horse. Mounts are obtainable in the game with gold, the in-game currency. They are just not permanent. You have to rent them for a short duration. And that is not riding time, or logged in time, but clock running duration. The rate is 300 gold for 15 minutes or 3,000 gold for two hours.
But if you want to keep the horse, it is time for diamonds.
The horse might cost you five to ten dollars… an amount that seems quaint to fret over in the current state of the genre… but at least you can keep it. Inventory space should be so fortunate.
You start out in Runes of Magic with two 30 slot bags and one tab in the bank. If you want more space, you need diamonds. The rub here for me is that you cannot buy them outright. I couldn’t find a way to buy more bag space. Instead, you must rent it.
Bank slots and bags both rent at the same rate. For 3 days it is seven diamonds, but the time/diamond ratio gets better the longer the duration of your rental. Thirty days, for example, is 31 diamonds. And the bags themselves are not physical items in the game, as with EverQuest or WoW, but permanent in size and association to you, as with LOTRO. You will never have more than six bags, and each bag will be 30 slots.
Two bags, at 30 slots per bag, doesn’t seem too bad. However, if you’re lazy like me and turn on auto-loot so you don’t have to click through each corpse to pick out the good stuff, you will find your bags filling up fast. The game drops a decent amount of gear, lots of items that are part of the daily quests, occasional recipes or other crafting related items, and runes, lots and lots of runes.
After all, the game is called Runes of Magic. Runes are items that go in equipment sockets in order to enhance them. If that sounds a lot like gems from WoW we can go back to the came coming into being as very much something of an Asian WoW clone during The Burning Crusade era when gems and sockets first became a thing in Azeroth. The cash shop has plenty of items that allow you to add sockets to current items, since runes seem to be a big deal, but gear seems to drop with zero or one socket.
Anyway, runes drop a lot. Your bag will fill up with them. And then there are quest items. When you accept a quest that is more than “kill ten rats,” one that wants you to, say, kill ten rats and bring back their ears or tails or some such as proof or for a potion or whatever, those item need space in your bags. And, as an added bonus, if you abandon a quest… say you were on a solo quest chain and it ended with a group requirement that you could no solo… whatever related quest items remain in your bag. And you cannot delete them either. As far as I can tell, they live in your bag forever.
I realize that the devs were trying to keep people from basically deleting their hearthstone when it came to quests, but dude, my bags! Also, it is often possible to get more items for a quest than it requires, so when you turn it in you have leftovers that you cannot delete.
So unless you are extremely diligent… or more so than I am… you’re going to need a bigger bag… erm, more bags, which means diamonds.
Now, you can buy diamonds from other players with the in-game currency. That was part of the game’s pitch, that those with more time than money could grind gold and buy diamonds from other players, while those with more money than time could buy diamonds for real world money and trade them to other players for gold. Everybody is happy and nobody needs to go deal with illicit gold sellers, or such was the theory.
That my diamonds of six years ago got stuck in escrow and were restricted for a stretch of time seems to indicate that all was not working quite as planned. And, as noted previously, gold sellers were thick on the ground in public spaces and on the world channel.
As part of this post I went to go check at the auction house to see how the gold/diamond market was going. I saw people on the world channel asking to buy or offering to sell diamonds, but figured that main market would be in the auction house.
However, when I looked, I didn’t see a single auction for diamonds. That section of the auction house was mostly taken up with experience orbs. Runes of Magic has experience orbs that seem to work along the lines of the XP Vials in EverQuest II, where you can buy them and they siphon off XP from your efforts and, once they are full, you can sell them to other players.
I was a bit confused by that. And then I found a vendor outside the auction house that offered to sell me gold for diamonds.
I expect that there is another NPC around that will do the same only exchanging gold for diamonds. I suspect that unfettered exchanges in an unbalanced economy led to rampant inflation and that the solution was to create a dev regulated currency exchange. Anyway, if I need gold I know where to go now.
Meanwhile, in going through the cash shop, I found that the devs will also sell you experience orbs. Full orbs, that is.
Again, I expect that this was done in an effort to put some sort of cap on inflation, but it still seems odd. This is akin to CCP simply selling you skill points in EVE Online.
I am also not sure how useful such an orb would really be. You could boost up your secondary class easily (more on secondary classes in another post) but what about the training points you need to boost up your combat skills? It wouldn’t be much use to have a high level character with skills still in the weeds. Or do training points come with levels when you use an experience orb?
And that screen shot above brings me to the second currency I mentioned, rubies. It took me a bit to figure out where rubies come from. You get them as part of buying something from the cash shop with diamonds. I noticed that I had 40 rubies, then ran back through what I did and came to where I bought a perm mount.
Buying the mount ran 199 diamonds, but also earned me 40 rubies. So they are sort of like S&H Green Stamps or Blue Chip Stamps, if you are old enough to remember such things, rewards for purchasing things that can be used as currency to buy other items.
And the cash shop has a selection of items that can only be bought with rubies, and they are a damn sight better than what you get for diamonds. The screen shot above shows a rubies-only “High Quality” experience potion and its diamonds equivalent next to it.
I am not sure how I feel about that sort of thing. I get loyalty programs, and things like trading stamps simply gave way to things like club cards and the like, but in a cash shop with no competitors it feels off, less in the realm of a reward for loyalty and more in the zone of “naked cash grab.” Not all the way there, but in that area.
The cash shop otherwise has a lot of the things you might expect. I mentioned writs to add sockets to gear. There are also the usual boosters for experience and training points, speed increases you can buy for you mount if you want to go faster, an array of cosmetic gear, lock-box grab-bags for things like runes, and the Wheel of Destiny, a straight up gamble to get something special for 99 diamonds.
So that is the state of the cash shop, such as I have observed it. The usual stuff is there. The odd parts… experience orbs and direct diamonds to gold via a vendor… seem likely to have come about as a reaction to what happens to an MMORPG economy over time.
Meanwhile, the strong push to get players to buy diamond… especially when it comes to bag and bank space… is part of what comes from not having any sort of subscription option. Runes of Magic is strictly cash shop supported. You cannot sign up for a $15 a month plan to bypass the annoyances.