|December 24th, 2007|
In the latest exchange, we see Tobold proposing a thought experiment on RMT. Catch up on the previous steps in the debate here:
In his post, Tobold suggests basically choosing between a WoW with limited to no trade, and WoW with an RMT service and a few other features — bind on equip instead of pickup, mostly — and labels this as his interpretation of my idea. FWIW, I don’t think he quite got what I was saying. I said in the previous post, the issue is actually incentive structures in the game design. That was pretty vague. So here’s my take on what would be needed to make these games more RMT-resistant.
- Remove all stats from all equipment.
- There is no step #2.
This design advice is worth exactly what it is priced at on the tin. But there’s some justification after the fold:
“People do things because they have incentive.” It’s a brutal way to look at the world. Profoundly discouraging, damaging to your faith in the goodness of human nature. Get used to it, it’s the default position of a game designer.
Near as I can tell, people RMT in these games because
- they want to complete collections, have a mount, etc
- they want to keep up with their friends
- they need gear in order to play the next bit of game — crossing a game gate
Problem #1 is about a self-directed game goal. This is not a problem. It’s a design opportunity. You should provide more goals, and ideally, change the ways of getting them to something that contributes back to the game community. Give them the mount magically when they reach the right level.
This is because you went and built a Diku clone. Don’t want to change that part? So implement sidekicking and mentoring. Allow powerlevelling a bit more — it doesn’t demonstrably reduce subscriber revenue, since the people are there for their friends. Accept that your game is not solely about content, and have faith in that to retain people. And you have faith in your endgame, yes?
To get rid of 90% of the obnoxiousness around RMT, fix problem #3. People want to play. You are not letting them. You are making them collect a plot coupon in order to get further in the story. A writing teacher would flog you publicly. But that’s what RPGs do. They gate content. OK, so gate it based on character progression. That is the point of an RPG. WoW has such an incredibly rich character build system that having any at all in the gear is kind of moot anyway
What is equipment for?
- It’s supposed to be tools, something you choose optionally. You are supposed to be assembling the right set of tools for the job, and a proper tool lets you do something you couldn’t before, it’s a new ability.
- It’s potentially also a trophy, so you can show off stuff you have accomplished.
- It is instead being used, in the land of bound equipment, as stats.
Remove all stats beyond the most insignificant from gear. Make equipment trophies and tools. If you can look at your game and say “more than 1% of my character’s ability comes from stuff that I am wearing” then your game will have RMT.
Would that change the Diku-based game beyond all imagining? No. Oh, players would need to adapt for a bit, because they are used to getting half their advancement from levels shaped like vambraces. Just give it to them in levels instead. Let them save the vambraces for the trophy aspect.
The thought experiment is simple. Imagine that gear gave no stats at all. Would anyone RMT in it? No. Would everyone still have gear? Yes. There’d even still be a thriving market on the auction house, because the gear is still varied in appearance, varied as trophies, etc. But it is now only a luxury good, instead of being in the gameplay path. The effect is to make all gear a matter of personal choice.