Convenience features in MMORPGs

A recent news story over at Massively OP about Elder Scrolls Online caught my eye about two new summonable NPCs that will offer convenience to adventurers out in the field: one for bank access and the other as a vendor.  It sparked my interest not for the obvious reason of the price of said NPCs (~$5 each) but because I’ve been noting the presence or lack of such convenience features in the games I play.

When I played Elder Scrolls Online earlier this year I found the distinct lack of NPC vendors outside of big towns to be somewhat unusual. Bank or auction house access is normally restricted to bigger settlements but vendors, that’s usually pretty ubiquitous. Not so in ESO, I’d say vendors are a scaredy bunch in this game as they huddle behind stone walls for the most part. Certainly it’s easy enough to teleport to town and back each time my bags are stuffed with random junk I’ve found lying around (everywhere!), but somehow I resent paying such fees so often.

Vendors? Not so many...

Vendors? Not so many…

Maybe I’m too disorganised or maybe having convenience features, like your companion selling trash for you in SWTOR for instance, has spoilt me. SWTOR does this with a style I feel but other MMORPGs have long had convenience similar features – in WoW you’ve had summounable mounts with vendors in tow since the Wrath of the Lich King. Said convenience features were often very expensive to buy, required a ton of crafting materials (the various engineering bots) or reputation grinds so there was at least a modicum of achievement in owning them normally. I guess in the modern MMO era such conveniences are more likely to be attached to the cash-shop, although even in the ESO example there’s a quest-linked alternative it seems.

Vendors, mailbox, bank etc all marked on my map.

Vendors, mailbox, bank etc all marked on my map.

Other games obviate the need for such features either by having access NPCs all over the place or by offering always-on access. Vendors are pretty ubiquitous in World of Warcraft even if you can’t summon them – the game even has wandering merchants in some zones for you to offload all that vendor trash onto while out in the field. Lord of the Rings Online has plenty of vendor NPCs dotted around as well; bank or auction house access is rarer but not to point of real inconvenience (especially if you have access to personal or guild housing). Since the free-to-play model change for LOTRO some convenience features have become always-available options for subscribers: for example they have access to mail without needing to find a mailbox.

Are convenience features like these good in your opinion?

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