Category Archives: Editorials

This is where the editor articulates a little bit of everything from his own perspective.

The Future of the Multiplayer Online Game

Games have been around since times immemorial. Since long before humans appeared on the scene. Playing games is an archaic and primal activity. It’s something that the young of many if not all species do. At its core, the game is an exploration of the environment and oneself. The outcome is self-improvement. Improved skills and increased knowledge of the limitations and possibilities inherent in oneself and the environment. Every single game you have ever played in your life is based upon these fundamentals. From hide and seek to football. From Pacman to World of Warcraft. Explore, stumble, and improve are the three phases of a game and beyond them lies the alluring victory.

Everything about the game is not the same as it has always been though. In the information era we currently live in the game has become a business and as any business it needs to turn a profit. To generate profit the game need to provide the player with an awesome experience but it also needs clever monetization. Long gone are the days when gamers would buy unknown games in pretty boxes sitting on crowded shelves in offline stores. These days gamers expect a lot, have a lot to choose between, and don’t want to pay a lot.

Making an awesome game these days costs millions of dollars and turning a profit by pushing physical copies of a game has become virtually impossible for all but a few big brands. That’s why we are seeing a move away from offline to online distribution, from pay to play to free to play, and from publishers to crowdfunding. That’s also why we are seeing a move away from singleplayer to multiplayer games. When it’s free to play it must also be optional to pay – if there is going to be any profit that is – and this is where the multiplayer game wins over the singleplayer game. Few players are going to spend significant amounts of real money on virtual items and services in a game devoid of other players because it is obvious to the player that none of it is real. Add other players and persistence to the game world though, and everything changes. Suddenly it is real to the player and therefore worth spending real money on. And thus the potential for the microtransaction is born. And the microtransaction is the king of monetization.

The popular view of a microtransaction in the western world is a purchase of a useless in-game perk in a fully launched and playable game but this definition does not even begin to describe it. The microtransaction is there all the way from crowdfunding to finished product, from useless perk to pay to win, and from official market place to the grey market place such as It permeates every aspect of the persistent online multiplayer game whether it’s free to play or pay to play. And make no mistake, players don’t care much for useless perks whether they live in a western country or South East Asia. The more useful the microtransaction is, the more attractive it is to the player. The most popular microtransactions are always the ones with the biggest impact on gameplay whether we are talking stash tabs, extra experience gain, champions, pets, or better gear. Hardcore gamers and game developers alike tend to cherish ethical useless microtransactions and curse pay to win but their money tells a different story. The truth. And the truth is that players are just as goal driven as the game makers and pay to win is therefore the perfect monetization model.

But what constitutes winning? A game like chess has very clear rules for winning but things become muddy when you look at persistent game worlds like World of Warcraft and League of Legends where the goal is progression rather than closure. In this context where the journey is the true goal, paying to look cooler or to progress faster or to play expansions are all the same. It’s all pay to win or more accurately pay to progress, and it’s potentially very profitable for the game company.

So what does this mean for the future of the online multiplayer game? I think the game worlds will become more dynamic and volatile to prevent the player from getting bored and I also think there will be more black holes in the game worlds for the player to be sucked into such as sex, gambling, debates, political elections, and various legitimate ways of making real money. I don’t believe for a second that gamers play games to escape reality. I believe gamers play games to explore, improve and gain respect and that every hurdle, temptation, and encounter along the way is an opportunity for the game company to monetize.

A service worth paying for

The kind of services we provide at are appreciated by many gamers as evidenced by our steady growth. However, the very same services are frowned upon by many others who just don’t get it. They think it’s cheating to buy in-game services or at best a waste of money. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The truth is that most online games are more work than play and a player that has a life outside of the game simply does not have time to grind his way to interesting gameplay. That is, unless he pays a company such as ours to help him out.

We believe that games should be fun. They should provide a healthful balance between the known and the unknown, relaxation and tension, friends and foes. They should not be about grinding. That’s what real life is for.

We have put together a little video presentation of our philosophy. Feel free to watch, comment and share.

3 Reasons to Play Old School Runescape

Since its restoration on February 22 2013, Runescape the way it was back in early August 2007 has kept hundreds of thousands of players busy. With 449,351 players voting for its return, old school Runescape will be subscription only for the first 6 months (5 USD per month) and currently sports a small but dedicated maintainance team. So what’s the fuss? What’s so great about it? Why bother?

We will give those who were not around back in August 2007 and those who have forgotten the glory of the past 3 reasons to play old school Runescape. Of course, there are as many reasons to play old school Runescape as there are players already doing it, but here we focus on the underlying reasons brought about by the game itself:

1. A fresh start

On the standard Runescape servers there are so many players with maxed out skills that making it to the hiscores just is not doable if you have a life outside of Runescape. On the old school servers anyone can make it to the hiscores within reasonable time, and even if it just lasts for a few days, at least you had your moment in the sun.

Furthermore, the old school servers do not have a warped economy with mass produced rares held by those who do not deserve such riches. On the old school servers everyone is given a fresh start and anyone can become someone who matters without too much of an effort.

2. Barter based economy

In August 2007 there was no Grand Exchange in Runescape. To buy from or sell to other players on old school servers you must find your buyer/seller and agree upon a price. The standard market place is Varrock in world 1 and 2. However, players tend to trade whenever and wherever an opportunity arises.

This may sound cumbersome to those used to the Grand Exchange but it adds so much depth to the game. In fact, it becomes a whole different game. It becomes a skill to know the price of items, where to trade for them, and how to read your fellow player’s mind. How much does he want the item in question? How much does he have to spend? How much of that can I get him to spend?

The value of items is subjective and changes not only from player to player but also depending on time and place. To become a master merchant you must master both prices, players, time, and space. The grand exchange rendered this entire skill set mastered by tens of thousands of players useless. But now it’s in demand again. And that’s the way it should be.

3. No Evolution of Combat

Judging by the polls held by Jagex, most players were ok with Evolution of Combat and the most prevalent view was an equal appreciation of the old and new combat system. And now thanks to the return of old school Runescape you can play either system whenever you like.

Evolution of combat was brought about to balance the combat triangle which was slightly dominated by melee, make combat less about items and more about player skill, and ultimately encourage a larger variety in equipment. That’s all commendable but let’s not forget that by making items less distinquished you also take away some common goals that players have shared for years. It is a good thing when players desire the same item. It sparks inspiration, admiration, cooperation, trade, envy, friction, and pking. All the colours of the world. It is the principal force of an MMO.

It should also be pointed out that there is always going to be a superior way of playing, regardless of the game and its mechanics. How else could anyone ever win? There is no such thing as a balanced game in so far as game mechanics. The true balance of a game is that between the known and the unknown. Throw too much of the unknown at the player and he is instantly turned off. Give him too much of what he already has experience with and it’s boring. In the end everything gets old, even old school Runescape, and there will come a day when not even gold can bring back the lost luster of a bygone age. Hopefully, Jagex will have some updates up their sleeve by then.

When Hero becomes Villain

Villain and HeroA world overrun by heroes leaves little room for villains. In modern entertainment ranging from movies to games, the villain is always a suggestive figure whose evildoing lies in the past and/or awaits in the future. In the here and now the villain has a plan, a past, or an evil look to him but does little to no evil. Before anything of significance happens, the hero always intercepts the villain, preferably in the villain’s own house, and administers justice in accordance with his own superior moral code.

This begs the question: is the villain really a villain? He is assumed evil while the hero is assumed good, but if he does no evil, then what makes him a villain? In the real world planning a crime is not a crime. The person must perform an action outlined in the plan before it becomes a crime. In the real world evidence is also required before someone can be convicted. Something that is illegal, on the other hand, is taking the law in your own hands and dispensing justice as you see fit. This means that by real world standards, the hero of our movies and games is actually a villain and the villain is actually a victim. The villain is not always innocent of course but in no way is his evil convincingly conveyed or the justice well served. It is tasteless.

In Lord of the Rings the poor orcs get slaughtered in their thousands just for walking in the woods or daring to step unto the plains of Rohan. Since when did existing become a crime? In World of Warcraft the local animals get slaughtered in their millions for XP while “monsters” are raided in their own homes and completely wiped out for loot and XP. What did they ever do to you or anyone else? The player is not only a mass-murderer, he is also a robber and a thief.

And the problem is not just the mono-directional violence. It’s the ridiculous scale of things. The hero lifts his hand and the villains die in their hundreds. The hero farts and the villains die in their thousands. The hero opens his mouth and the world turns silent. Whatever happened to getting your ass kicked over and over again by a laughing asshole that pisses you off so bad your head turns purple? Whatever happened to finding friends and love only to get them ripped away from you by your enemies? Imagine beating the crap out of that laughing asshole or getting revenge on those that took away all that you held dear. Only to realize that they also have friends and families. That would be self served justice with consequence.

It’s fortunate that movies and games are not real. They are fantasies for us to revel in. The problem is that a fantasy with no laws or rules except the impeccable right of the protagonist is utterly boring, uninspiring, and underwhelming. Sure, it’s fun to kick ass but without a plausible context it quickly gets old. Entertainment should stir up emotions. It should make you angry, happy, and sad. It should make you laugh and cry. It should overwhelm. A mass murdering self-righteous hero without past or future does not deliver.

The hero is the villain, and we are all so bored that we have forgotten what it means to be entertained.

RPGStash Retrospective

The website has been around since 2004 but our story does not start there.

A long time ago in a student dorm in Sweden, a Diablo 2 addict discovered that in-game items could be sold for real money. The year was 2000 and most of the orders were managed via MSN and paid in cash.

By the end of the year, it was time to move on from the dark of the student dorm to the brightlit Loads of items were sold via a few accounts that quickly reached power seller status and by the mid of 2001 it was time for our first website It was a simple html website that focused solely on Diablo 2 and the US market. Although simple, it was one of the very first Diablo 2 websites and a true online pioneer that quickly grew hugely popular. The main commodity was sojs until the expansion Lord of Destruction brought a larger variety of items into the game.

At the time, most of the trades were announced in the trade chat channels in-game and like with all repetitive things in life it’s easy to get sloppy. It was more rule than exception to stay in a publicly announced trade game and mule items after the trade was completed. When late guests arrived and found the encampment ground littered with Stones of Jordan, they never hesitated to help cleaning up and they never left without saying thanks. There was much one-sided joy in those brief moments that always ended with sojs cascading from the pockets of the gentleman thief. For no inventory space can accomodate the greed of a player in need. And when speaking of sojs and need, this little gem comes to mind:


In 2004, we decided to expand to more games and for this purpose we created A more modern PHP based site.

RPGStash v1

The first step was to expand Diablo 2 to Europe realm. After that we made our move to Guild Wars and World of Warcraft. Two games that, unlike Diablo 2, had player bound items and therefore were more or less restricted to currency transactions. Not our cup of tea so we kept on looking. Our next pick in early 2006 was Runescape, and this turned out to be a good marriage. A game with a completely player driven free trade economy without division into servers, heaps of items and a neverending demand for gold. As our Runescape shop grew, we brushed up the website as well giving it a fresh new look.

RPGStash v2

I still remember the early Runescape deliveries made by logging into customers’ accounts, transporting them to Lumbridge and then trading with a character of our own. I knew nothing of the game at the time and much hilarity ensued. Wolves snapping at my heels as I crossed mountains to enter free play zone. Slain by a random world event – in the form of pirates – in Lumbridge and losing my first batch of gold in the process. Another cherished memory is when I got lost in Draynor mansion with wights breathing down my neck and millons of gold weighing me down. Those were the days. Good thing that we now have live chat facilitating our trades, and that we can pride ourselves in our game knowledge.

MU Online was the next pick and although very similar to Diablo 2, it has never had the player numbers required for a significant game economy to evolve. Then we tried MapleStory – a game with a client clearly designed to keep players out of the game – and although a promising enterprise, game client aside, we never really hit it off. Simply too hard to aquire items on all those servers and just selling mesos is not really something we fancy. We want to offer all there is to players, not just currency.

Then we gave EVE Online a go, and this has so far been the most promising venture since Runescape with free player driven economy and a great community. At moment the majority of our EVE Online services are only accessible on an external website but all that goodness will be made available on in time.

Over the years, we have tried many other different titles such as Dofus, Everquest 2, FFXI, and Age of Conan, but they just don’t seem to flow with our business philosophy. We have always focused on quality, service and specialisation, and not all MMOs flow along with that. There will never be a lack of new games at RPGStash but we will only stick to the ones that allow us to perform those ground breaking quality services that you can’t find elsewhere.

The bottom line is that we don’t want RPGStash to be a run of the mill MMO gold site. It has never been such a site and it will never become one.

RPGStash is special and unique, and to help us stay that way we need more than just our own principles. We need your feedback. Please tell us what games and services you want us to feature. We have a brand new website and we are looking to fill it with content. 10 years from now, we want to write a new retrospective starting from 2013 and spanning over greater memories of cooler services and even better games. This may be a retrospective, but rest assured that we do not dwell on the past. We live in the present and now you know where we are coming from. Let’s make the future happen.