When the English translation for Recettear was announced, I found myself liking the game in a heartbeat, before ever having played it. The reason for this was because I had played this type of game before. Ragnarok Online has a very rich economy metagame, one that still draws me in despite lots of other good alternatives.
One of the questions I asked when I first played Ragnarok Online was “why is there a Merchant class?” You have the Swordman[sic], the Magician, the Thief, the Archer, and then you have the Merchant, which had few battle skills and mostly passives. Not a very adventurous career, is it? But as I played further, I saw their usefulness–they could buy goods from NPCs at a discount, sell loot for a higher price, and vend items while AFK. Pretty soon, my friends were making Merchant alts to take advantage of these benefits.
Every Merchant-class character is playing this “game”, a deeper and more complex version of Recettear. You acquire items, rare or otherwise, by hunting monsters in various locations. Once that’s done, you can sell your goods for money, or trade them for a deal. Somewhere along the line, you get better gear to make your hunting easier, or buy cute hats to outfit your sprite (hats, while giving mostly marginal benefits, are highly-valued in the game). Or start buying things low to sell them for a profit.
Theoretically, you could go from rags to riches without never even leaving towns to hunt monsters. Of course, that would take a lot of time, luck, and business sense. This promotes shrewdness for players–after all, who wouldn’t want to wield that super-strong armor without needing to bring down a very difficult boss? I guess this is why I never got into the WoW way of things, where you could only earn high-level gear by bleeding for it. (Not that it’s a bad thing at all!)
When I relapsed into a legit RO service two years ago (I needed it to stave off thesis-related stress), I would spend real money to buy special potions for guild sieges, and sell those to gain a steady supply of in-game cash. My friend, however, was shrewder and more patient–after amassing capital from the same method, he entered the lucrative buy-and-sell market. I might have been richer than him, but I spent more to get where I was; in the long run, he would come out on top.
In the server that I am playing on, you could raise up money by participating in Battlegrounds, which nets you badges that could be turned in for items, which I sell to NPCs. It doesn’t pay as well as hunting for rares, but the trickle of money is at least more consistent. Kind of a nine-to-five job, right?
A lot of people see this trading aspect of RO as a means to an end–get a good deal on that item you don’t need, in order to get the weapon you’ve always wanted. But I don’t doubt that there are some who just play for its own sake–maybe they just enjoy amassing obscene amounts of in-game currency, or they just love to move the market.
At any rate, isn’t it nice to make customers feel happy with dealing with you?
In that sense, I find Recettear to be absolutely charming. The pure-hearted girl, in danger of losing her house, still works cheerfully without a care. Recette’s enthusiasm is infectious, which is something that could always help in wrestling with other fellow cutthroat capitalists. Not that she has some competition to steamroll, it seems. The dungeon-crawling part is not bad either.
And it’s all good. In the meantime, I’ll continue to hunt rares in RO, while earning the trust of my customers in Recettear. Yayifications!