Jun 222007

Virtual Worlds News has a liveblog of the panel I was on.

I am back home now and exhausted. Good night. πŸ™‚

Edit: another take here.

  11 Responses to “VGSummit2007: Making Virtual Economies Work”

  1. Hope you had a great time Raph! Looks like there were lots of interesting discussions. =)

  2. Quick newb question:

    You need to be able to trace the path of a coin and see where it came from

    Most newer MMOs don’t treat money as a world object like EQ1 or UO did. I always wondered if this was an experiential loss (I also like carry weight, for example), but that’s an aside. My real question is this:

    If every coin or coin stack was a world object carrying a unique ID number, would this create in time, in these fundamentally inflationary experiences, a database too bloated to be used?

    I ask (niavely) because it seems to me that nowadays it’s much harder to track transactions beyond one giver and one recipient because it’s just a number. Doing anything after that, to see the “flow of money” per se, would be more based on algorithms and heuristics than on actually be able to see the money itself move. Real world economy does this, but even there I imagine there’s some loss. And to your point in the talk, MMOs may need to become banks anyway.

  3. I simplified for the sake of the time pressure on the panel, but you basically have to track each transaction with quantity and source and timestamp. Then you end up having to treat each user account as “tainted.” It’s kind of annoying.

  4. But doesn’t that always start with a state of “new transaction”? That, of course, covers Point A to Point B. How do you track from Point A to Point D though? Can you, without some sort of guesswork?

  5. What you end up doing is linking them together. That is what is a pain in the ass. User A gets 100, gives 500 to user B, who gives 20 to user C, who gives 5 to user D. It gets ugly because User A may have already had over 100. Some of the “dirty money” might be in what D got, or it might not.

  6. Why don’t you just give money and items a code on creation, i.e. with every spawn and with every movement of location. A code that’s part identification and system check? Then, every time a new code is generated do a check on duplicate numbers and system codes that don’t match? Dupers would have to find a way that not only gives the new items a code, but one that doesn’t duplicate an existing code and also matches the system code. The system code could change randomly, and the server would be the only “one” to know then if a new number at creation is correct.

  7. That is what is a pain in the ass

    Which is kinda where I was starting πŸ™‚

    If every coin had a unique ID number (like the serial numbers on U.S. paper currency), it would seem to be able to track that exact coin, along with it’s buddies, pretty much for the life of that coin in the game world.

    But even to a DB neophyte like me, that seems like it could add up to a LOT of records, both to store and then to access during transaction. I have no idea what the upper capacity is of modern DBs. We talking normal amount of records here, Oracle required, or those proprietary things they use for DNA sequencing? πŸ™‚

    So would the net benefit of per coin tracking be worth either licensing some crazy DB backend or adjusting the economy to prevent inflation and have everything simply cost lots less along the way?

  8. No, it’s too many records, Darniaq, for any sort of reasonably priced DB for a game, anyway. πŸ™‚ A typical game DB getting used heavily will have billions of object records, but it will have trillions of units of currency.

  9. Darniaq, a decent DB engineer will never give IDs to objects that are indistinguishable. The only plausible reason for giving IDs to such assets, that I can think of, is if you need to track them over a distributed network for as a authentication measure (using some sort of encryption scheme).

    Raph, I guess what you are saying is that if a player finds a money hole then he should give it to all his buddies, telling them to purchase lots of expensive consumable level-up equipment from other players and waste it as fast as possible! Yeah, I can see the mess in cleaning up that, not to mention the social uproar. Better to just let it pass, then?

  10. Ah great, thanks for the info. I appreciate ya guys taking the time, and not laughing at me πŸ™‚

  11. Why can’t companies like SOE put together security tools that would look for behavior patterns such as giving large amounts of currency to another player who is not on their own account? Or for example look for bot-like behavior. If the account matches a profile of a farmer/botter then you get a security-GM involved to deal with the account?

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