Miracle Cubes, 2x EXP Coupons, Karma Scissors, Gachapon Tickets, Automated Store Permits, and the list goes on and on. I still remember the day the Cash Shop was implemented in October 2005. Excitement was in the air. One of the most anticipated features of MapleStory was finally arriving and with it, a partnership between Wizet and NxGames (which would later become known as Nexon America). With the Cash Shop came the promise, that users who chose to purchase NX Cash would never be given unfair advantage over users who did not. That promise, we can unequivocally agree has been broken.
I’d like to start this weeks Wolf Territory article by giving those of you who were not beta testers or users who joined before the implementation of the Cash Shop an idea of what it was like to play MapleStory so that you can better understand my mindset as I write this post.
I joined MapleStory in late 2004 early 2005 after I moved to a new street in my town in seventh grade. I quickly became friends with my neighbor across the street and after a few months of becoming friends he told me about a new game he had started playing called MapleStory. From the first second I played the game I was hooked. I was not a particularly big online gamer up to that point. I had played classic games like Icy Tower, Age of Empires, Diablo, and Runescape in Elementary School and my earlier Middle School years along with typical console games but something about MapleStory struck me as different. Maybe it was the quirky 2D graphics, the keyboard-based gameplay, but most of all I think it was the real-time interaction that was before its time and truly one of most successful “virtual worlds” to be released in North America in the early 2000s. It was nothing I had ever seen before and being an only child, the thought of playing with other kids whenever I wanted was something I couldn’t pass up.
MapleGlobal’s Beta Version was unique. Unlike today, MapleGlobal and MapleSEA were one in the same. You could either pick from a ‘Global’ server (Tespia) for anyone else who wasn’t from Singapore, Malaysia, or Thailand. There was only one server and the game was fairly primitive, but boy was it fun. It could just be nostalgia talking and maybe my memory of the Beta Version has slightly faded over the years, but when you logged on you were excited and just enjoyed yourself…you enjoyed exploring and meeting new people. Quite the contrast to MapleGlobal today.
Maybe it’s our world today or maybe I’m jaded in my old age. There’s nothing Nexon could ever do to recreate those memories or the way I felt when I was 12 and first joined the game, and I don’t expect that. But the whole vibe of those who ran the Beta Version and the, dare I say, was far superior to that of the ill-prepared and ill-advised company we know as Nexon America. Regardless of the fact that they claim to be “the same company”, when money got involved things changed.
It’s a business. I get it. But what many companies seem to fail to realize is how important it is to look at the whole picture. You can’t just look at the numbers anymore. Look at what happened to the U.S. and Global economies over the past few years. Just the sheer stupidity is staggering. I’m not going to try and get too detailed comparing the two because frankly that’s something that I am not qualified to do. But, what I can say is that Nexon has been taking the same approach that many corporations have been taking and are now starting to pay for. The game has become unbalanced and is collapsing inward. During Beta Testing, no cash items were involved. The goal was content and content alone. Addressing bugs was a major goal (which is that of any alpha or beta version of a game, obviously) and players were okay with that. They were glad to explore what there was to explore. Fast forward to the release of GMS and the wipe of Beta, and content again was king.
Now to the average mapler today, life without the Cash Shop appears to be a boring and hopeless one. Not many maplers could imagine playing the game successfully without the aid of the Cash Shop. But we did and we did it for a good long while. Instead of Cash Items, players would go to Lith Harbor and purchase beanies and other items and decorate their characters as uniquely as they could. Everyone was equal. Even when the Cash Shop was released it was still only “decorative.” If you wanted a new hairstyle or some clothes then you could shell out $5 or $10 and be on your way and if you didn’t, well, that was just fine too. Everyone was still equal. It wasn’t about whoever had the most NX Cash or the most money outside the game, but about the players who worked the hardest and were smarter than all the rest.
The 1% vs. the 99%
It’s quite ironic that what is happening in our country today is similar to what is happening in MapleStory. I believe, we are indeed engaged in a battle between the 1% and the 99% of the game. The 1% being those with the outside means to dominate the game. Whether it be a hefty bank account or hacking programs, these players are controlling the game and ultimately ruining it for the rest of us. The 99% has spoken out over the past few months and Nexon has started listening. Still, there is a long way to go. Although some issues are being addressed and some suggestions implemented, the major self-inflicted wounds that are killing MapleStory have not been taken care of and continue to fester. The game is broken. I don’t know how many times I have to say it. NX cash in my home server sells at a rate of 1,000 NX to 60 million mesos. Spend $10 on the game and you are rewarded with 600 million mesos. Nexon tried addressing this situation in 2006 by banning gifting and banning thousands of maplers who received gifts (myself included) alleging NX Fraud which was a complete failure and did nothing to solve the problem and let’s face it, only happened because money was involved. The MapleGlobal economy has been complete and utter shit for the past few years and only continues to get worse. Normal players can no longer sell items in the Free Market thanks to merchants who most of the time are hackers and control prices and the market itself. Closing the MTS was a step in the right direction, but preventing users from trading Cash Items and exchanging real money for items or mesos is not a lasting solution. The system has to be modified so that NX cash, which is essentially United States Dollars, does not completely unbalance the meso currency. Otherwise, what’s the point? A potential starting point would be to modify items like Miracle Cubes, Vicious’ Hammers, Pam’s Song, and Vegas’ Spells. Even non-Cash features like the Potential Item System have become corrupt and unfair to the average player.
The sad reality is that a ‘perfect MapleStory’ is something we will never see (not that it ever was). The damage has been done and you can’t go back to a pre-Cash Shop era. But things can be better. Things can be a lot better. The slew of new Cash Shop items released every week are not making things any better. It’s painfully obvious to everyone that they are all obvious cash grabs that in many cases are succeeding. And not all of them are bad, but I think I speak for everyone when I say that the 99% would much rather be seeing content added and the various issues plaguing the game fixed instead of a new “Cash Shop Permanent Item Sale!” or some new ridiculous feature you can blow $30 bucks on. How long is Nexon going to continue avoiding the real problems? How long is this impersonal charade of fucking bullshit going to continue? I’m sorry, but I’m not convinced . The praise from the clearly hollow “Oh, look! We’re listening to the community now by answering a few tickets and creating World Alliances! We care now!” stunts will be short lived. Just give it a few more weeks and you’ll have players bitching and moaning about the real issues.
Stop making it all about the money. If you haven’t noticed, people are fucking sick of it.
That ends my rant for the week. If you agree with any of the venom I’ve just spewed, like this post. If not, well, I really don’t care what you think!