One of the more controversial characteristics of Path of Exile is the trade system, which is a feature of the game that has garnered plenty of mixed reactions from players around the world, regardless of their level of expertise and amount of time invested in the game.
When the developers over at Grinding Gear Games are in the process of contemplating adjusting the current system of trading and bartering PoE items, whether adding item-binding, or converting the in-game economy to one where item-binding is prevalent, we can expect plenty of complaints from the players.
Item binding is the process of locking permanently an item that has been acquired in the game to a specific account. This means that the item cannot be traded or exchanged between accounts. The accounts may be owned by different people, or the same person, nevertheless, item binding assigns an item to its original account for as long as the account is active.
On one hand, trade becomes easier and more accessible over time, as more players gain experience playing the game according to design, they become comfortable with participating in the economy. And as more players find the acquisition of Path of Exile items easier to accomplish via trade, a conflict of interest comes about where they would rather trade instead of playing the game to find the items instead.
Player reaction to this proposition is unsurprisingly negative, owing to the fact that in plenty of action RPGs, the implementation of item binding has had damaging effects on gameplay, made those games less fun to play, or made the economic systems within those games impossible to cope with.
One way to implement item binding without destroying the economic environment of Path of Exile would be for items to have a trading cap. This can be implemented as either a time constraint or a maximum number of occurrences of changing ownership. For example, when an item drops, allowing players to trade it freely for ten minutes, half an hour, or anything in between, once the time expires, it becomes bound to the person currently in possession of it.
This player would then the option to trade or sell the item to one other person, or keep it for himself. The catch? The only way to add an extra binding charge to an item would be to invest in the item, such as by increasing the number of sockets, links, or using items such as Vaal or Chaos Orbs to increase its value.
This would affect the game dramatically. Flipping items and manipulating prices would be less of a problem, since profiteering would cease to exist without careful planning, strategizing, or sacrifice.
Additionally, an item sink would emerge, as plenty of high tier and even middling Rares and Uniques would not be a part of the trading economy. This would result in players finding upgrades on their own instead of buying them. And they would be able to sell items for more than they have come to expect.
The possibilities of improving the in-game economy of Path of Exile present a number of interesting opportunities for player interaction and item acquisition, and we will all see how this plays out in future updates.