Jonathan Steinhauer's MMO ColumnSteinhauer's Opinion: Gold Farming, Part 2Jonathan Steinhauer's MMO Column - RSS 2.0
The root of the problem, stopping the farmers and the buyers, can really only be approached through the second and fourth steps: the shipment from farmer to trader and from trader to buyer. This, I believe, is where the most ground can be made. Unlike spammers, farmers are not expendable since they have to be high enough level to actually survive to farm resources. Banning such an account is a serious blow to an RMTer. Likewise, penalizing the buyer by pulling in-game gold from their accounts is terribly debilitating and makes it much more risky for unscrupulous players to consider buying gold. Unfortunately, however, attacking RMT at these steps is likely also the most expensive for game companies.
The key to finding the farmers and buyers is by tracking trade. Game companies could monitor for large quantities of gold changes hands, especially if it is either in exchange for nothing or items of small value. Once such a trade is identified, the company could monitor the trade to see if there are repeat occurrences, monitor for where the gold is coming from (to find the farmers) and where it is going to (to find the buyers). Obviously, game companies would need to be careful because they wouldn't want to penalize legitimate trades by honest players, but repetitive trends would point to farmers. Another quicker (but more expensive) method would be to actually purchase gold from a trader, then backtrack the gold's trade route to find both the trader and farmer. But, as I said before, this attack on RMTers, would likely be both expensive in programming hours and in the time it took to monitor and track such trades.
The ways to hinder gold farming are numerous, just like the workarounds that gold farmers will use to circumvent them. It's an ongoing battle with no realistic expectation of total victory, but that doesn't mean efforts shouldn't be made. Hindering RMT goes a long way toward making games enjoyable for the real consumer, the honest player. The above ideas are but a handful of possibilities and, I expect, none of them are completely fool proof. Each step that hinders farming without hurting the game is a good one, but ultimately gaming is bound by the rules all companies face: simple economics. The good news is that measures can be taken at all levels, from game publishers to game designers to the every day player.