The character screenshot thread sure has been off topic! But anyhow, a topic has come up in it that I felt warranted a thread so here it is. At its root the whole thing is a matter of immersion vs. function. The specific topic in that line though is player owned and operated shops vs. an auction house system. I want to get the obvious flaw of the player owned shops out of the way:
Holy crap, right?
I see the function of auction houses and how streamlined they are. I don't deny them being a good thing. The thing I wonder is where player run shops fit into things and what it would take for them to be comparable. Or acceptable.
Just to use RO as a stepping stone, since its the easiest referenced, there's lots of ways to do that wrong. The big problem is you can't easily identify what players are offering in their shop (that is, weapons or supplies or armor, that sort of thing). The next big problem is how the shops just appear ugly in massive doses, going up and down the street. Another problem is how clunky that interface is; double click a shop, wait for it to load due to latency, check what is present, click a specific button to close the shop, and repeat that process.
I don't think having shops setup anywhere is a bad thing. It could provide the benefit of having supplies available outside dungeons. Hey, that's cool. The problem is in town. If it were done in a way that wasn't ugly like big bubbles over people's heads, would it be a problem? Aside from having a general marketplace for them to setup in towns or cities.
Being able to identify what shops have weapons so you can browse only them would be great. Or shops with items, whatever.
This obviously isn't a sort of function meant for every MMO. An auction house system obviously localizes and makes searching easier, and that's where you step into function over form and immersion. I'm one of those weird people who, with WoW, didn't mind the layout of Orgrimmar for example, which while still not a great design immersion wise obviously wasn't built just to cater to functionality.
Most of what I have to say about the whole thing is in response to others, so I'll leave it at that for now. The thing I'll immediately point out that having a preference for one or the other doesn't make you RAWR THE ENEMY like a lot of internet boards like to paint of others with differing opinions.