Inspired by another topic in this forum (Discussion: Resource Gathering as a genre) I started wondering:
What if you eradicated all merchant NPCs from an MMORPG?
Lets assume you have a mechanic in place for players to make absolutely every item available in-game(classes or skills or whatever) and that looting from PvE only provided raw materials for equipment/potions/tools/etc.
Could you conceive a fully player driven barter economy to be sustainable? I mean removing completely the concept of money for trade. You need to exchange items for items or make your own from raw materials.
I'd appreciate your input on the subject. Limitations you see would cripple the game, interesting mechanics to complement this idea, etc are all welcome.
Some thoughts of my own on the economy:
This would require a lot of player interaction. Your progress as a player is bound to bartering with other players in order to acquire the equipment you want/need.
With a small playerbase this could be imposible to achieve. Item shortage in the low/middle tier equipment could kill the game.
I can see a lot of pressure being placed in the “production” players, a lack of a certain class could cripple the game (but prices should sky rocket for the unavailable items making the class more appealing so a balance should be achieved in the long run).
Some raw materials should cover some basic needs (meat is a very rudimentary health booster, a wood piece is a basic weapon, a rock is a ranged weapon, a bone is a low quality tool, etc).
A synergy between production classes could be achieved by requiring several different skills and steps to make a high tier equipment (eg: miner gets rock, lumberjack gets wood, smelter takes rock and melts it by lighting the wood making bars, smith turns bar into sword, encruster places gem into sword giving it x or y power, priest enchants the sword using z potion giving it another power, etc).
For the economy to be interesting a ton of modifiers should be available for the items. Otherwise every short sword is just that. (weight/strength/durability/range/stat boosts/damage/stat requirements/magic properties/etc).
Some thoughts of my own on game mechanics:
I see that if there is no greater calling than just PvP/PvE the players would find the system too demanding. Everyone would be keeping the best goods for themselves forcing high ranked players to have several production class characters just to provide for their main character. To avoid this the game needs an endgame that relies in collaborating with other players. This could be achieved by placing the players within a two or three way faction war. The players would battle over certain key places where high quality raw materials could be acquired. This would give them an edge over the other factions when the all out wars/invasions happen. (This is my way of creating a sense of us vs them instead of me vs the world fostering socialization and the sense that keeping all the good items /rejecting to build them for affordable prices actually cripples your factions chances of winning).