There’s a real stink brewing on the Neverwinter forums over bugs at endgame (the Epic mode 5 man dungeon[s]) that allow certain classes to farm monsters solo, there are also reports of people exploiting certain boss fights for easy loot.
This is nothing new of course, exploits have been found and abused in most online games if you look back through their history. Just one recent example is when Sony (SoE to be precise) nerfed the ‘exploitation’ of player made dungeons in EQ2 to power level. There have been high profile examples in WoW of exploits being used to defeat raid bosses.
What I find interesting about the Neverwinter story is the really passionate (in some cases raging) arguments on both sides over this. For sure real money is being spent on Zen which then translates to Astral Diamonds and in-game gear, consumable and such. So if the games economy is borked even in beta by exploiters mass-farming endgame gear then that could well have a negative impact on players wanting to play competitively in the market (trade PVPers as it were). Others would see this as a ‘ragequit’-worthy development if they care about effort for top rewards and those who ‘cheat’ to get this gear.
There are now several threads calling for a full character wipe to cure this economic malaise. I haven’t been following the Zen <-> Astral Diamond exchange rates to see what effect this is all having. But from my amateur perspective all MMOs generally have such a ‘borked’ economy. If you’re not in the game at the start, or there when a major expansion resets, albeit temporarily, the economy then you’re stuck in an awkward place. You can make money selling crafting materials for way above a sensible market price because endgamers have a glut of cash and nothing to spend it on. But by the same token you can rarely afford to buy gear for your first character on level because it will be put on the auction house for a silly inflated price. So generally new players have to “suck it up” and play to the level cap with little interaction with the in-game market. You can get ahead of the monetary leveling curve if you sell stuff as you go along of course, but that precludes doing any crafting for your own character (which I can never resist!).
So do we care that people are exploiting a game in open beta? Isn’t it better for this to come out in beta so that Cryptic can start plugging the holes up? Some of the forum posters are saying it’s already too late to save the game’s economy. I’m not so pessimistic, the raiding endgame is yet to be even released so a lot of the items gained through exploits will be invalidated (probably) by the eventual addition of a raid tier *if* said raids offer best-in-game gear rewards.
I also think the brouhaha over nerfing the Foundry rewards is no big thing longer term. The Foundry isn’t supposed to be replacing PVE progression in the game, nor the developer created campaign. It has wonderful potential for providing a longterm source of PVE content for altoholics, story-lovers, small group players and other niche groups. But I would argue anyone expecting top rewards from such a system is deluding themselves. I am just glad that players have immediate access to the full system; having seen the wasted potential of EQ2′s Dungeon Maker (where you have to grind to unlock creatures and items through random drops) the Foundry offers a better model for encouraging a community of content creators.