Game talkDoes trading suck?

 Posted by (Visited 11027 times)  Game talk
Dec 212007
 

Over at Tobold’s, I seem to have set off a discussion for the second time in a week. It starts because Tobold asserts,

I think that RMT is possible to eradicate. You just need to make gold “bind on pickup”. That is, you need to remove all possibility of asymmetric trades where one player can give or send gold to another player. And you need to change the auction house system to make it anonymous and blind, so that players can’t buy a worthless rock for 1000 gold and transfer money that way.

Technically, you would have to make every item in the entire world bind on pickup. Eradicate all forms of trade. Remove healing. Remove grouping. Remove all forms of assistance between one player and another.

After all, the core premise of economics is “I give you something that makes you better off, you give me something that makes me better off.” Both sides get better. The RMT scenario is simply an extension on this: “I give you something in the virtual world that makes you better off, you give me money in the real world that makes me better off.”

In the case of RMT, one half is completely out of our control: the exchange of real money happens outside the virtual world. Therefore, to eradicate RMT totally, you have to cut off the other half. The “I give you something that makes you better off in the virtual world” bit. And that means you have to prevent all forms of assistance between players. After all, what is powerlevelling and escort services but Real Money Traded for grouping?

Oh, perhaps you could keep “randomized assistance” as Tobold suggests via the auction house, but I think with the loss of grouping that might seem like a minor concession.

Doesn’t sound like much of a massively multiplayer experience, does it?

To top it off, an anonymous commenter says,

Raph is wrong, yet again. I’ve yet to hear one good argument in favor of having tradeable goods in a mmorpg; especially currency.

Sure. Let’s cut the game while we are at it. *eyeroll*

The reason to have tradeable goods in an MMORPG is so that players can help each other. And in final analysis, the reason to make a massively multiplayer PvE game is so that players can help each other. Otherwise, what the hell is the point? By definition, a multiplayer PvE game is about groups of players helping each other overcome a challenge.

Now, if you want to assert that the only valid way to play a PvE game and help each other is to be there in the instant, at the moment that the monster is getting killed, then more power to you. You live in a vastly impoverished gaming world, but so be it. I suggest that we developers could streamline your experience and make it more fun for you by taking the following steps:

  • Remove the excessive and overdesigned lobby for matchmaking. Really, all these towns and shops and overland space is kind of overkill. A plain text one would do just as well.
  • Make sure that the key purpose, killing monsters with your group, is the center of the experience. This suggests removing those other pesky groups from the environment, except in the matchmaking lobby of course. Instancing may help here.
  • Clearly, we put too much design effort into guilds. Really, they could just be a friends list. Especially, all this stuff about pooling guild resources needs to go away. It’s over the line and clearly about cheating.
  • And obviously, grouping itself has got to go. After all, healing is an asymmetrical trade — I am gifting you with some hit points. There is zero difference between that and my giving you a piece of armor. Buffing is exactly like handing you a sword. That group member applying a DoT to your target — that could be paid for!

Look, here’s what it boils down to: an MMORPG isn’t about killing monsters. It isn’t about the moment of combat (or any other individual game system — the moment of swordfighting in Puzzle Pirates, the moment of assembling a structure in A Tale In The Desert). You can get that stuff anywhere else. An MMORPG is precisely about the fact that people interact and do things outside of the “game” that is the moment to moment challenge. In fact, a large-scale economic game is exactly the sort of thing no other game can provide.

“Tradeable goods” is just one of the ways in which people interact and assist each other. And if you remove this, and the other things like it, what you are actually removing is stuff that cuts to the heart of the experience: random acts of kindness, altruism, gifting, user creativity, strangers helping strangers, people interacting with people.

I suggest to you that if you cut that, you are in the wrong part of the industry. You shouldn’t be making this kind of game, because you are clearly missing the point.

Edit: this debate continued here.

  76 Responses to “Does trading suck?”

  1. such a big deal. But when real money gives someone an unfair gameplay advantage over other real people, it’s cheating. Raph Koster, am esteemed MMO game developer (who’s blog I subscribe to), has decided to defend RMT as an unavoidable outcome. Whenposedwith an anti-RMT solution of limiting trading possibilities, he counters by claiming that exchange of objects and services is the same, and thus the only way to prevent RMT is to remove all collaborative gameplay. I recognize that both of these are

  2. I think MMOs are going too far the other direction. I’m running through the woods with my healer character and see someone struggling with a creature. Send a quick heal their way and the next thing you know they are yelling at me for reducing their XP. I say get rid of assistance penalties. Let people help each other. I don’t give a crap how fast people level and if they get power leveled. It’s more FUN to be able to help each other no matter what level you are.

    Trading items and giving out money is an important feature to me. Some of my best in-game memories have come from making friends that have given me some special sword or a gold piece. Some have become long time friends. I love being able to hand a starting player a nice sword or a few coppers to help them out, should they want help. A good friend and mentor in Asheron’s Call 2 handed me a nice sword with a personal inscription on it. I used that sword for many months – it was special for many reasons. I only wish I could have displayed it on the wall in an in-game house.

  3. I agree to the point that I’m amazed this is even being discused.

    That said, touching on the previous issue of anonymity, I think the rule should be that anonymous commenters can’t address anyone in the 2nd or 3rd person. If the commenter’s name isn’t on the table, my name (or yours, or anyone elses) shouldn’t be a part of the discourse either.

  4. Agreed with Raph. I’m actually a proponent of making EVERYTHING tradable. RMT isn’t an issue because items are tradable, its an issue because more and more players are willing to spend cash to increase their character’s power instead of having fun and overcoming challenges while playing the game.

  5. “Clearly, we put too much design effort into guilds.” I’m a little embarrased to admit it, but Sherwood lacks guilds, grouping, friends list and trading. As a solo project and with the practical realities that go with that, I didn’t want to deal with the unintended consequences of putting in something half baked and having some potentially fatal consequences. I planned on adding more community features when I had bandwidth to do it right. The result? A thriving guild community with many, many guild sites, recruiting campaigns, wars, alliances, politics – all the stuff you expect from larger budget MMOs. Go figure.

  6. Forgive my ignorance here, as I have not played an RPG in years (MMO or otherwise), though I was once an avid player.

    How does “bind on pickup” work in modern MMOs? Is it purely a boolean thing (an item can be given away or not)? Or is there some subtlety involved?

    For example: After bind, only possible to give to guild members, to higher level characters, to same-race/class characters, etc., but to no one outside those boundaries?

    Is there any risk to a low-power character accepting a high-power item (that is safe for a high-power character to own/hold/use)?

    Is there a risk that an item may become useless if transferred? Or that the act of giving a powerful item from one character to another may have secondary consequences, like transferring a level or two in the process?

    Pen & paper RPGs taught me that balance is often found not in banning something, but in limiting utility or increasing risk ….

  7. The MMORPG’s I’m playing have “bind on pickup” items and regular “trade” items.

    The “bind on pickup” or “no-trade” items cannot be traded, period. There’s no subtlety on it at all. Either you keep it or you destroy it or you sell it to an in-game NPC vendor thus taking it out of the game anyway.

    As for other items… many of them are “level-restricted”. That means you cannot use it if you’re not of the correct level or higher. None of the games I’ve played restrict ownership of these items; a low level character can own a very high level/powerful item, but said item is just taking up space in inventory or “bank” or “safety deposit box” or “vault”.

    RMT is a real problem. SWG is struggling with it right now. There seems to be a small resurgence in popularity, and the ease of making credits has the RMT sites sponsoring farmers in droves. It’s so bad that some of the more limited zones have a group of credit farmer characters at every spawn point, making quests in those zones very difficult to complete for normal players.

  8. RMT is a real problem. … It’s so bad that some of the more limited zones have a group of credit farmer characters at every spawn point, making quests in those zones very difficult to complete for normal players.

    Then obviously RMT is not the problem. You just want a quick fix, a workaround for problems inherent to the game design. Get rid of RMT, you say, and such problems won’t surface. But they’re still there, aren’t they? Just hidden away like the junk underneath your bed. The truth is: lazy designers design around problems; competent designers find real solutions.

    Let’s look at what you wrote again.

    It’s so bad that some of the more limited zones have a group of credit farmer characters at every spawn point, making quests in those zones very difficult to complete for normal players.

    Identify the problem.

    It’s so bad that some of the more limited zones have a group of credit farmer characters at every spawn point, making quests in those zones very difficult to complete for normal players.

    Design is the process of creating and arranging constrants in a creative manner that delivers specific, desired results. In this case, the level designers failed to account for increased player activity in the zone, and the quest designers failed to account for the limitations of the zone. Both failed to communicate with each other to account for future issues arising from population.

    Furthermore, the idea of static spawn points in dynamic worlds where players can stand still is absolutely ridiculous. Static spawn points worked in platform and side-scrolling games because the player was forced to move along. If the player is not forced to move along, then static spawn points will become predictable and players will take advantage of that predictability.

  9. Ruminating on the assumptions built into this whole discussion …

    It seems like the root problem here is that RMT results in increased “wealth” for the two parties to the transaction, but a net decrease in “wealth” for the rest of the world. This may be loss of enjoyment for players that define “fair” to not include weak players buying strong character(istic)s, or it may be problems like Tarek described in which RMT encourages behavior that is not so much overtly hostile, but rather more monopolizing scarce resources.

    But why does this have to be? What if every transaction gave something back to the world (game or real)?

    Imagine: Literal gold farmers. The “plants” that grow up to bear gold pieces are actually just visualizations of the farmer’s computer solving distributed computing work units. The farmer trades their personal computing power for in-game cash.

    Or perhaps giving (or receiving) a powerful item is not an automatic ability, but must be earned by performing a task that improves the game universe — e.g. creating a square mile of new game terrain in a level editor and getting it approved by the game operators (or a vote of players, or what have you)?

    Anyway, there’s much more there, and I know the simplistic descriptions above have many weaknesses, but the general idea seems worth some thought at least ….

  10. Design is the process of creating and arranging constrants …

    I meant “constraints.” Damnable high resolution obscures letterforms…

  11. We’ve been discussing this elsewhere as well. Seems to make the rounds this time of year. And the arguments never change.

    What is the real problem with RMT? That it exposes the underlying truth of mass acceptance of inequality. When you can just buy your way around it, you piss off those who get all old-school/back-in-my-day about how one “should” play a game. Nevermind the entire markets that collect revenue on microtransactions (“RMT” the legal way).

    You don’t solve RMT, because it’s not about the extra-game trading. It’s about the nacent inequality of these worlds, which themselves is just an extension of some people being better at games than others. The only real difference is that each game/genre/activity has its own unique rules for being “better”. Being better in an MMORPG is very different from an RTS and FPS and so on. It’s just that one can get better in an MMO by going around the contrived mechanic in some cases (RMT, powerleveling, twinking, buying accounts/characters, etc).

    So forget “solving” it. Design around it, like WoW has, with the items that matter mostly being BoP items, and very little else that’s worth any real amount of gold. And then chase down who you can when they get too public about their services/wares.

  12. If WoW tried to design around it, they failed miserably.
    Games like WoW, EQ, etc., all the level grind games, they can’t be built any better for RMT. The constant need for ever more powerful items, the ever increasing gold value by levels, what the hell? Tailor made for RMT. Don’t tell me that bound items help. All other items are not. What’s it matter if you have uber item ‘A’ being sold for $20, or ubernext item ‘B’ for the same because it’s the best you can buy through RMT?

  13. *agrees with amaranthar*

    One can obviously design around the RMT problem, thus reducing the impact. One option is to focus heavily on prestige. E.g. each guild is a hierarchy to climb with their own rules about how to climb the hierarchy and how to go about it, and it is supervised by guild representatives. So, you don’t eliminate RMT, you can still have RMT guild, but they would have less prestige. So it matters less. Players who don’t won’t to make the effort of worshipping a divine godess will have to settle for prostitutes, but only brats would want to brag about that…

    * Focus on how, not what.
    * Focus on collective achievements.
    * Focus on lots of tiny assistance, not one big one-shot favour.
    * No sex before marriage: Require players to spend time with people they receive major favours from.

    Of course, if game designers insist on designing soloable individualistic trading-card games they should expect RMT. So why not change the game? I believe Raph is wrong. Making RMT hard does not make a single-user experience, on the contrary: it is the individualistic single-user aspects that make the RMT market attractive.

  14. The core game compels RMT, but unlike earlier DIKU-inspired fantasy MMOs, the truly important and relevant stuff cannot be traded between players.

    The first time a player climbs the levels, they may think they need to min/max, get better gear than the game provides, all that. This is not the case. Between the recent changes and how the game was designed and balanced, you can go from 1-70 entirely on quest rewards.

    When you hit 70 though, the game changes. This follows the older model. You no longer gain levels, but are by that point so programmed to advance that you try and find anything to increase. Gear and reputation (for gear and buffs) in the case of WoW.

    But it’s also at this point that a) money begins flowing like water (because instead of XP you get more money; and, b) most of the stuff you would get to “advance” cannot be traded.

    Players still by gold from RMTers by the millions of course. But the actual impact on the shard-wide balance is negligible. Because what you can buy is far less in relevance than what people who play the endgame can actually get.

    That’s how I think they designed around it.

    Oh, and they still ban by the tens of thousands 🙂

  15. I assert that the problem is imaginary, RMT exists and annoys some players but also makes the game more enjoyable for those who use it. This is similar to PVP where a ‘win’ for someone = a ‘lose’ for someone else. MMO’s continue to be successful & fun, and my trip through Qorld of Warcraft wasn’t affected in the slightest by RMT…see those people who are better than me? I do not care how they got so deadly, all i care about is that I need to improve my character. It’s not such a major thing to max out a character by grinding…so it shouldn’t really be the idealistic badge of honor many players want it to be. If everyone focuses on playing uinstead of worrying about how others got to the top, then everyone has fun.

  16. I agree with you Raph 100%. I really love visiting Tobold’s but that was his worse suggestion -EVER-. I would be out of a freaking job if I approached my Boss and asked him to remove all trading I’m sure (or at least told to never suggest game design ideas AGAIN).

    Trading is very fun. Hell, I love just hauling cargo around in games like EVE Online and manipulating the market. I trained up many pure marketing/trading skills for this purpose.

    If anything, I say let’s get rid of Bind on Equip altogether. Make everything tradeable like in eVE Online. Devs can put in other ways to make us grind if they want but Trading is important

  17. * Focus on how, not what.
    * Focus on collective achievements.
    * Focus on lots of tiny assistance, not one big one-shot favour.
    * No sex before marriage: Require players to spend time with people they receive major favours from.

    Interesting. You disagree, but that’s about as good a bullet-point list of the design effects of economics as I have seen.

  18. […] Hope to rectify this while I’m in Hawaii and not catching up with family.6. Raph Koster’s points in this post are interesting but problematic, and possibly misguided. I’ll restrict myself to noting that City […]

  19. I agree with you, Vajuras. There’s a great reason to keep trading in MMOs, and that’s because a lot of players think it’s fun. They get all giddy and happy when they pertend to be merchants in a make-believe world. I’m one of them, so are you, and thousands of others are too.

    Another reason RMT is bad for a game is because it brings spam with it, as companies advertise their businesses using the game’s communication systems. People have been known to cancel subscriptions over that. (People like me!)

    That, in turn, devalues the game, because there’s a cost overhead that’s being circumvented. Advertsing costs money…unless you advertise via Blizzard’s servers! You don’t have to pay Blizzard any more than the usual subscription fee! Hot diggity! Meanwhile Funcom is making advertising bucks off of Anarchy Online. It’s true that Blizzard is making more subscription revenue than Funcom, but it seems Funcom is kicking Blizzard’s ass in terms of advertising revenue.

    And does Blizzard even want to enter that arena? I would think not. They don’t need to, and it would mean making new business stuff happen, and that sucks. They’re not an advertising venue. They’re a game company.

  20. Ola wrote:Of course, if game designers insist on designing soloable individualistic trading-card games they should expect RMT. So why not change the game? I believe Raph is wrong. Making RMT hard does not make a single-user experience, on the contrary: it is the individualistic single-user aspects that make the RMT market attractive.

    The challenge is that it’s being proven, year on year, that players like individualistic/personal achievement and do not want to be stymied from that growth by the vagaries of the schedules of others. We’re long past scheduled D&D nights here, though some still play that way. 24/7 persistent worlds allow people to come and go as they please, and achieve during their own playtime.

    I like how Eve, old SWG and some parts of EQ2 work, whether you have both personal achievements and meta/collective ones. The former is a requirement for a broader playerbase while the latter is for folks who band together looking for a deeper experience.

    But growing that interpersonal relationship into the realm of “requirement” narrows your potential market. This would be fine for a niche-y type game, which is fine and great, but not something that “solves” the “universal” “problem” of RMTing (all in quotes because I don’t believe there’s something that needs to be solved). But as Vajares said, it wouldn’t survive long as an idea in the bigun’s 🙂

  21. One of my biggest complaints over the years has been the loss of game play in MMOs. The loss was always because of various abuses by players.
    As a result, today we have these games that are boring as hell. Directed, level grinds, follow the pre-planned-paths, and nothing else.

    I could go through a whole list here. Just a few for the sake of time:
    -Guilds suck. They aren’t social, they are a sign-up list.
    -AC2 took out the act of selling your items for game gold. Just “wish it so”.
    -DDO took out the game world, by golly what an insight!
    -PvP is as meaningless as it can get.
    -World interaction is almost nil, unless required for specific items by class skill.

    Now we’re talking about yet another idea of subtraction. When do we get to the cardboard figures? When do they become bind on pickup?

    RMT is bad for a game as a whole. I firmly believe this. But it’s here to stay unless you make a cardboard game. As stated previously by a couple/three or so, there are ways to reduce it’s affects on a game. You can still have a very fun game, even more fun than todays offerings, while reducing the affects of RMT. But you can’t get rid of it completely.

    One of the biggest problems with people as a mass is that they expect perfection. Anything wrong and they trash it. Yeah, they still buy it though. Nothing is perfect. We need to recognize that first, and then look for the best alternatives.

  22. […] Raph’s Website – Does trading suck? Comment: “Imagine: Literal gold farmers. The “plants” that grow up to bear gold pieces are actually just visualizations of the farmer’s computer solving distributed computing work units. The farmer trades their computing power for in-game cash.” (tags: gaming thegamingofeverydaylife distributedprocessing visualisation virtualworlds virtualgoods virtualservices productnarratives narrativeenvironments narrativeobjects digital commons) […]

  23. Another reason RMT is bad for a game is because it brings spam with it … People have been known to cancel subscriptions over that. (People like me!)

    Again, that’s not a problem with RMT. That’s a problem with the design of the game. Does advertising have to occur via the in-game chat channels? No, but there’s simply no other more effective means of reaching consumers. RMT is not the problem. Advertising is not the problem. The problem is with the design’s failure to account for the needs of the playerbase.

    And make no mistake, those who engage in RMT as buyers and sellers are part of that playerbase. Even IGE representatives. All of them pay the same subscription fees and quite possibly even more than nonbuying/nonselling players. You can’t separate them as gamers usually do in terms of “us versus them.” They are all “us.”

    Trying to design out a certain segment of the playerbase is no different than revamping an entire game to attract a different market, or telling all your current customers to go away because you wanted a different sort to buy your product.

    They’re not an advertising venue. They’re a game company.

    …and Google is a search engine company, right? No, Blizzard is a business that provides goods and services.

    all in quotes because I don’t believe there’s something that needs to be solved

    Darniaq, you’re impossible to figure out. At one end of the spectrum, you seem like you downright oppose RMT, and then suddenly you’re at the other end of the spectrum. Of course there are problems to be solved. That’s the nature of design. I think what some people here have a hard time figuring out is what to identify as problems. RMT is not among them.

  24. The only time when I may seem to oppose RMT is when I don’t explain myself well enough 🙂

    I understand the reasons people say they have a problem with it. But I mostly find those reasons to be more about the root inequality of these games than in the specific actions of how some folks get around it. For years I’ve simply replaced “RMT” with any of the other methods of cheating that have inspired vitriol, like:

    Powerleveling
    Twinking
    Dual-boxing
    Logging in at server-up
    Bots of any type
    Joining a fresh server before others
    Getting into a game before launch

    All of these relate. They’ve all been called “cheating”. Some are just closer to being within the game model than others, but all are accessible by far fewer than everyone as well. So even if you remove RMT altogether through some magic algorithm, all you’re doing is changing the label of what’s debated.

    Inequality is the problem. But take that out and lose the label “Game”.

    …and Google is a search engine company, right? No, Blizzard is a business that provides goods and services.

    Hehe, yea. And given the things like that Dell laptop and cross-promo, the South Park episode, the board- and TCG, FingerPrints, the DirecTV partnership, and their 40% profit, they’re less a raw game company than their image professes 🙂

  25. Hey, lets not delude ourselves into thinking RMT doesn’t hurt these games.

    First, you have the majority (hopefully) who are just average players. Yeah, some of them buy through RMT sometimes, for various reasons depending on the game. But generally they are average players. It’s not a fair situation that they play these games at a handicap.

    Then you have the big time spenders, those who buy their way to leetdom. They didn’t earn it fairly, by playing the game. They didn’t put the time in, do what’s required, etc. Yet, they are leet. This is the other end from the handicapped players.

    Most of all, there’s the sellers. Here’s where the real damage is. They work in teams running comps 24/7. This normally wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t a job for them. If RMT wasn’t a business. Yes, there would be a few players who could do this, and more yet of guilds basically doing the RMT thing. But because this is a job, and they make money, there is an inestimable amount of this going on.
    This affects the game, it’s very design. Items, drops, gold, etc., everything has to be adjusted to account for the professional assault on the game in this fashion. Inflation cannot be checked. Surrender to busted or simply lame economics.

  26. When I saw the new post, this post came to mind.

  27. First, you have the majority (hopefully) who are just average players.

    Well, as you inferenced, this is an assumption. Players are normally told that RMT of any kind violates the terms of service and sometimes they’re told that RMT is thus illegal. Plus, they don’t want to lose their accounts, so why would they admit that they engage in RMT? Most data collected on the diffusion of RMT will be significantly biased.

    They didn’t put the time in, do what’s required, etc. Yet, they are leet.

    This doesn’t make any sense. Players are often not in competition with other players in a MMOG.

    I’ll quote Raph, “[T]he reason to make a massively multiplayer PvE game is so that players can help each other. Otherwise, what the hell is the point? By definition, a multiplayer PvE game is about groups of players helping each other overcome a challenge.”

    If you’re concerned about competitive PvP, the solution there is simple: either limit everyone to a selection of equipment (or opponents) determined by character level, or provide everyone access to everything, in an instanced competitive arena. Then you can let them loose in their sandbox to play with their tinkertoys without fear of twinking, RMT, etc.

    Isn’t this what happens in first-person shooter games? Your weapons, armor, health, and other enhancements don’t carry over to the next round or the next map. So what then do players compete on? Tactical and operational skills.

    When they return to the PvE world, their character returns to normal and they can develop their storyline cooperative-mode characters through time or money spent to their little hearts’ content. “Handicapped” players only exist in cooperative mode when they’re not cooperating or being assisted by other players. As I said before, RMT is not the problem; blame the design.

    Most of all, there’s the sellers. Here’s where the real damage is. They work in teams running comps 24/7.

    Those teams are hardly the majority of RMT sellers. I operated DiabloTrader.com awhile back for Diablo 2. I was one guy doing MF runs over and over to fill requests. (DiabloTrader.com was an item-finding service, not an item-selling service.) I sold the domain and website after a year of successful operations.

    I know, from experience, that there are a lot of people willing to engage in RMT and a lot of individuals who do this on their own time, too. Companies, such as IGE, lower the barriers of entry into the RMT business for individuals because they provide webspace, the store, and advertising. But I’d bet that those companies do not dominate the RMT industry.

    Just like in the real world, small business accounts for more than ~75% of commercial transactions.

  28. Advertising is not the problem. The problem is with the design’s failure to account for the needs of the playerbase.

    If players *need* RMT, they know where to look. They don’t need spam, and the designers certainly don’t need to accomodate it. Besides, there is a means to deal with unwanted advertising. Blizzard sued ’em. No problem there.

    …and Google is a search engine company, right? No, Blizzard is a business that provides goods and services.

    My point is…I’ve been an advertising representative, and I’ve been (and currently am) a game designer. Making games is fun. Pimping ad space is not fun. I want to make games. I don’t want to sell ads. I’m willing to bet most of the designers at Blizzard feel the same way; otherwise they wouldn’t be working at Blizzard, they’d be working for magazines and newspapers.

    Hehe, yea. And given the things like that Dell laptop and cross-promo, the South Park episode, the board- and TCG, FingerPrints, the DirecTV partnership, and their 40% profit, they’re less a raw game company than their image professes

    A lot of that is merchandising, which is a slightly different beast. 😉 The other stuff is easy, because there’s tons of stuff already set up for it. The corporate machine is in place to put Dell computers in Tabula Rasa. What’s hard is making deals with Spammerz4hire-dot-com because nobody’s really done that yet. And I don’t wanna do it so don’t ask me to. 😛

  29. And just to play Devil’s Advocate for a moment…I wonder, if it were possible to remove all RMT from a game, how much would THAT devalue the game? Would it be more or less than the RMT? What if 10,000 players quit a game because of the RMT, for whatever reasons? But what if 20,000 players would quit that same game because of lack of RMT?

  30. They don’t need spam, and the designers certainly don’t need to accomodate it.

    First of all, advertising is not spam. And, secondly, businesses should accomodate the customers they have instead of chasing them away in search of the customers they originally wanted. This is not a new, radical idea.

    I’m certain that the previous base of subscribers to Star Wars Galaxies, for example, can get aboard this notion. As an individual subscriber, you might not like what other subscribers do with their subscriptions, but the businesses should always be listening to their customers, including the subscribers of which you disapprove.

    You might not like that either, but in a land where the value of each customer is about equal to every other customer, there are few opportunities for businesses to play favorites. Unfortunately, some companies do play favorites regardless of the costs to their enterprise, often because such organizations believe the easiest way to circumvent the effort necessary to solve problems for other customers is less expensive. They’re right. Circumventing problems is less expensive, but only in the short term.

    Designers should solve problems. That’s why they’re designers!

    I’m willing to bet most of the designers at Blizzard feel the same way; otherwise they wouldn’t be working at Blizzard, they’d be working for magazines and newspapers.

    Face the facts: Blizzard is a business. A business sells products and/or services…

    I want to make games. I don’t want to sell ads.

    …and in business, you don’t always get to do whatever you want to do. Sometimes, most of the time, you do whatever you’re paid to do, which might include developing products—products that must be developed according to both the specifications for the products and the requirements of the business (e.g., value, growth, profit.)

    But wanting to do something is different from refusing to do something. If you refuse to do what you’re employed to do, then either you’re cast aside, forced to quit, fired, or you quit voluntarily to start your own business… only to discover that operating your own business also requires you to make sacrifices.

  31. The keyword here is asymetric. You don’t have to remove the ability for players to trade or help each other to remove RMT. You only have to make sure that people can’t trade nothing for big amounts of gold, which opens up the possibility of a real world counterpart of trade. You can have people of the same level group and support each other, but at the same time remove the ability of level 70 characters to powerlevel low-level characters.

    I do not appreciate you putting words into my mouth that I never said. Nobody except you suggested removing groups or guilds or other social aspects of MMORPGs. Healing is *not* an asymetric trade, as long as the healer is of roughly the same level as the person he is grouped with. Working together in a group is in fact highly symmetric, as everyone profits equally. That is why you don’t have to pay your healer real money to make him join your group.

  32. Even in a new thread about RMT discussed by veterans, all of the arguments and solutions are similar, as well as the insertion of resumes and experience. Why is that?

    Because news of the impact of RMTing is greatly exaggerated. As usual, this debate is largely emotional.

    Amaranthar wrote: Then you have the big time spenders, those who buy their way to leetdom.

    Only in the earlier games was this the case. Nowadays there’s a segmentation:

    – Sub-based MMOs, which WoW is far and away the biggest. The difference between level 70 drops and quest gear and the best stuff you can buy on the AH isn’t worth the real world cash. The truly best stuff is locked behind BoP instance-only drops.
    – Microtrans-based MMOs. Built-in officially-supported RMTing. Add the registered members of Audition, Maplestory, Habbo and Krazykart together. You’ve pushing a third of a billion accounts.

    Morgan wrote: This doesn’t make any sense. Players are often not in competition with other players in a MMOG.

    Sure they are. It’s not PvP competition though. It’s more the have/have-nots keeping up with the Joneses side of things. Most PvE-focused players in guilds will say “oh, no, I’m here because of community and fun”. But ask them again after 12 weeks of raiding with no drops. I can absolutely guarantee their tune has changed.

    It’s about the balance. You help friends who’ll help you if the loot is flowing just fast enough for there to be parity. RMT emerged because in earlier games the disparity got very big but there were mechanisms to exploit to play catch up. You can’t really do in this post EQ2/WoW world though once you hit or come near the cap.

    Tobold wrote: You only have to make sure that people can’t trade nothing for big amounts of gold, which opens up the possibility of a real world counterpart of trade. You can have people of the same level group and support each other, but at the same time remove the ability of level 70 characters to powerlevel low-level characters.

    So instead of big-ticket trades you make a 100 small ticket trades.

    But that’s not the point.

    Taken through the next logical steps, your proposal devolves right back to scheduled weekly small group D&D events where you can’t do anything else but play that character with that group, and then build a library of different characters to play with different groups.

    That wouldn’t work on a mass scale today. People like the openness of anytime gaming.

  33. […] not open to new ideas In a typical example of how little developers are open to new ideas, Raph tries to discredit me by saying that my proposal to remove asymetric trade is equivalent to removing groups and guilds […]

  34. […] of RMTs and ways to "solve" it. Plenty of links, but I'll just go with Raph's.I've personally never had the hate for RMTing, or, I don't recall every having it? I […]

  35. Runescape is currently making changes in the game to stamp out RWT; including limiting inequal trades between players. They’ve also got an exchange that’s blind and anonymous that influences prices.

    There’s been a lot of screaming and whining about it on thier forums, of course, since they also had to change a lot of other things in the game to try to close holes gold sellers would otherwise exploit. And though there’s lots of threats of quitting, I for one actually paid for another subscription after a LONG lapse. (Still playing WoW, too.) It’ll be interesting to see how the changes play out.

  36. Jagex is the grinch. Last I heard the exodus was reported to be 35% of subscribers they could lose over this change. I like how multiple threads with like 50,000+ posts are dismissed as par for the course.

    About contested PvE zones. I suppose you can’t go back and change it all but really they do suck, RMT or not. Spawn camping contested style has died a cheesy death, one it deserved if there had never been a dime of RMT. Talking about RMT in this context is treating the symptoms.

    Oh, and Morgan, the analog for RMT in non-persistent FPS land is… HAX! But I always ask my pure-of-heart friends, would those people play without the HAX? Probably not. And I like oldschool PC shooters so I need every player I can get, handicap or not, to make matches. It’s like taking steroids to be good at pickup sports down at your neighborhood park. More power to you, really.

  37. Morgan, I’m in complete agreement that the problem lies in game design. At least as far as what designers can do, what they have control over.

    As far as player not being in competition, that’s a direct result of the choices made in design. Those choices may or may not be a result of RMT, but I think often are to a large extent.
    But trades especially are all about player competition. And it’s exactly that competition that causes players to join up to help each other out. It’s also what makes trades so much fun, in an overview sort of way. Yeah, you could say that some players just want to make things and sell them, competition not required. But most really enjoy the game play associated with competitive pricing, buying low and selling high, etc.

  38. […] might have seen that Tobold prompted Raph to post about real money transactions, which in turn elicited a clarification from Tobold again. The […]

  39. an MMORPG isn’t about killing monsters. It isn’t about the moment of combat (or any other individual game system… . You can get that stuff anywhere else. An MMORPG is precisely about the fact that people interact and do things outside of the “game” that is the moment to moment challenge.

    Nonsense. WoW isn’t so popular because of extra-game interaction, but because of the game systems. MMOs succeed or fail first and foremost by their gameplay.

    The fact that you can get combat and that sort of content anywhere is beside the point. Socialization is a factor in a person’s decision to choose an MMO over a single-player game, but how often does one select a particular MMO based on the community and not the game features? What makes an MMO an MMO is that gameplay can be shared with so many other players, but that doesn’t make the players themselves primary to the appeal of any given MMO. The activities players can share are primary.

    Few people go to football games or themeparks by themselves. Socialization is pivotal to enjoyment of those passtimes, but it isn’t the focus of participants. Socialization is something that occurs while focusing on the game or ride. It doesn’t happen “outside” of the game. It is continually shaped and qualified by gameplay experiences.

  40. It’s not PvP competition though. It’s more the have/have-nots keeping up with the Joneses side of things.

    Now add on the fact that min/max is the standard around which many ‘cooperative PvE’ challenges are balanced. The players will set the standard for what is an acceptable level/gear/stat mod balance. There are a great deal of players who are concerned about being denied access to a certain level of gameplay because they haven’t spent enough money.

    Now, personally I think the root of the issue is an unhealthy concentration on levels, gear, and stat mods.

    When ‘progression’ only comes in these forms, when seemingly infinite, linear power creep is the only form of gameplay being endorsed, RMT is probably just going to cause the bar to be set higher than those who don’t participate in RMT can keep up with.

    Advertising should perhaps be handled in an ‘opt-in’ way. Provide a channel for traders to advertise in, perhaps even multiple channels for different market segments. The problem with allowing unregulated advertising include not being able to hold a conversation with other players in certain places in the game world because the area is absolutely covered wall to wall in text bubbles, the chat window scrolling faster than you can read it, and the general feeling of frustration with having to put up with the blitz of marketing in an environment intended for entertainment. The advertising needs a proper venue, controls (for both advertiser and audience), and penalties for circumventing them. I have no right to tell advertisers they can’t play the game they enjoy (trading/marketing), but in the same way they shouldn’t get to shove their marketing in my face if I’m not currently in a shopping mood.

    Then there’s the ‘buying one-shotting’ fear that a lot of folks have. We can hope, and its quite likely, that the game’s designers would not allow such a wide imbalance. That doesn’t change the fact that there is likely only a tiny segment of players who would be okay with being any kind of second or third-class citizen. We spend quite enough of our lives ‘keeping up with the joneses’, if the game is just a big land of ‘he who has the most toys wins’ virtual materialism, I’m not interested.

  41. […] thinks so, I apologize). In a typical example of how little developers are open to new ideas, Raph tries to discredit me by saying that my proposal to remove asymetric trade is equivalent to removing groups and guilds […]

  42. You disagree, but that’s about as good a bullet-point list of the design effects of economics as I have seen.

    What do you expect? I am trying to sustain the discussion… 😉 No, what I disagree with the assertion that designs that enables cooperation will be less resistant to RMT than those that don’t.

    Take Metaplace as an example: if 10 players band together to create their own world then they are playing the game “Metaplace” which includes challenges like LUA etc. The main focus is collective achievement, because if the players focus primarily on invidualistic achievement then the world will fall on its face. Is there are market for RMT? Well, maybe, they could of course hire programmers and purchase premade components and some might disagree with that, but since that would mean social fracture the world might again collapse unless everybody agrees with the decision. So I’d say your collaborative design is less vulnerable for RMT than your average MMORPG. 🙂

    Some might argue that other world-groups in Metaplace are offended by the RMT created worlds, but then again, how bad those that hurt. They’ll just brand their world as “100% custom” rather than a “DIKU clone”. So, a collaborative design with few significant dependencies between groups is somewhat RMT resistant. 😉

    Darniaq: The challenge is that it’s being proven, year on year, that players like individualistic/personal achievement and do not want to be stymied from that growth by the vagaries of the schedules of others.

    Yes, but that’s related to:
    1. Cultural expectations.
    2. Self-fulfilling prophecies, (assume that dabblers don’t play games and make sure that when dabbler purchase a game they most likely buy the wrong game for them, thus they stop buying games).
    3. People with lots of free time tend to be young and insecure and need a game that strokes their ego.

    There is nothing wrong with designing a game that only 3% of the current gaming population want to play.

    Few of the big commercial games cater for dabblers, but all hobbies, including “pro-sports” like golf, have a reasonably sized population of dabblers. So those dabblers who now chat and play simple flash-games (or non-computer games) can be catered for by well-designed sociable dabbler-friendly virtual worlds. And some are. No doubt.

  43. Nonsense. WoW isn’t so popular because of extra-game interaction, but because of the game systems. MMOs succeed or fail first and foremost by their gameplay.

    Wow, we disagree almost completely. WoW became the largest MMO in the world before anyone got to play it, on the basis of brand loyalty.

    I’ll make the case that there are MMOs with better gameplay than WoW (Puzzle Pirates, let’s say) and WoW does better simply because it has more people in it. Classic preferential attachment — we play where our friends are.

    WoW has not hit on the ultimate formula that appeals to every sort of gamer — it is virtually guaranteed that MOST people playing WoW would prefer different game systems, simply given the huge size of WoW’s userbase. But they are kept there by their friends.

    This does not mean gameplay doesn’t matter. Of course it does. Groups don’t stick where things aren’t fun. But groups do stick at moderately fun stuff because it’s where the group is. Basic human psychology.

  44. Raph wrote: WoW became the largest MMO in the world before anyone got to play it, on the basis of brand loyalty.

    I disagree. They certainly had a leg up on the competition with their twin brands of everyone-loves-our-games “Blizzard” and gamer-relevant-IP “Warcraft”. But that did not shoot them through various records.

    I agree with you that attraction breeds attraction. And the media (both enthusiast and mainstream) gushing over the records broken added to the overall awareness, tipping some folks over.

    But it can’t be ignored just how many veterans went to WoW too. For the same game they were playing in EQ1, DAoC and CoH. With the same problems (competition for spawns/guilds, RMTing, all the other issues with DIKU-style games). And three years later, they’re still there. There’s only so much friends-following-friends can be used when that spans a decade and at least four games 🙂

    Some people just pick genres and never leave, transcending from “Gamer” to “Hobbiest.” Others still bounce around and have one game as their mainline.

  45. RMT thrives because:

    1.
    You are no longer judged by the skill you have as a player, but the gear you wear. If you have subpar gear, then you can’t do enough DPS, healing, etc and you don’t get in the FUN groups.

    2.
    You can obtain gear by buying it for in-game gold, or real life cash. Once uber gear is obtained, you will have 1000% better chance to get into the FUN groups.

    3.
    Without RMT services you will have to slog for hours upon end dealing with crappy pickup groups, or begging your friends who have far outpaced you to help you. The casual gamer who is 30 years old, has a life, and other responsibilities simply can’t spend 3 hours in one sitting several days a week to unlock the quest sequence needed to obtain most uber items. Instead he’ll pay someone 10,20,100,etc bucks to bypass all the boring and frustrating crap to get said item.

    4.
    The same thing that applies to items also applies to powerleveling services. The casual gamer who can’t keep up with his friends is going to quit the game or pay for PL services. He has to do this because he doesn’t have the hours on end to catch up to his friends, most game mechanics prevent efficient lowerlevel-higher level grouping, and he’s no asset to a higher level group so they don’t want to bring him along anyway.

    Modern game design is all about LEVEL+GEAR. Obtaining both of these are royal PITA’s for a casual gamer who only has 1-2 hours to play every other day, and he doesn’t want to take 1 year to finally catch up to his friends. He will pay for RMT services or simply QUIT YOUR GAME instead.

    So here’s a clue. Make games easier to play for the casual gamer, and give him the tools to help him catch up. I wrote an article that is popular over on Guildcafe about how to make Guild Friendly Games, and with some decent tools then it might be more viable for someone’s friends to help them out instead of relying on shady RMT companies.

    As long as the industry fails to help us, we will continue to seek outside solutions.

  46. […] thinks so, I apologize). In a typical example of how little developers are open to new ideas, Raph tries to discredit me by saying that my proposal to remove asymetric trade is equivalent to removing groups and guilds […]

  47. Trying to be more clear: I don’t think RMT is as much of a problem if those who object to RMT can choose to view RMT as failure. The problem with MMORPGs is that the fixed template equals success. There is only one Marilyn Monroe, but lots of silicon-breast RMTed copies, they do not lower the value of Marilyn Monroe’s self perception. On the contrary the copies are flattering. People who bake their own cookies don’t have to envy those who RMT cookies in a store, they see the “flaws” of their cookies as a quality. It is sufficient that they and their friends know that these cookies are truly home-made. You might get away with a lie once, but you probably can’t sustain it over time with non-strangers.

    More importantly, roleplayers and artists don’t suffer from RMT. For an artist the template is a failure, breaking away from the template is (partial) success. Everbody in a group can be “an artist” within that group’s culture (a great moderator, a great leader, a great joker etc.)

    So perhaps the ultimate solution to RMT is not to make it impossible, but enable participants to view RMT-possible outcomes as failure or at least “lesser” successes. I guess my overall position is: reject templates.

  48. Raph Koster on RMT (Real Money Transfers) for services/items in MMORPG’s…

    There has been a lot of talk this week about RMT’s due to the recent announcement about Livegamer.com. Lum had an article up about it that got a lot of comments, and Raph Koster decided to bring it up for additional discussion on his site. The devel…

  49. I disagree. They certainly had a leg up on the competition with their twin brands of everyone-loves-our-games “Blizzard” and gamer-relevant-IP “Warcraft”. But that did not shoot them through various records.

    Actually, I meant it kind of literally. Their day one sales made them the largest MMO in North America literally overnight. The vast majority of those people had never had the chance to experience the game.

  50. what I disagree with the assertion that designs that enables cooperation will be less resistant to RMT than those that don’t.

    Hmm, but that isn’t my assertion. 🙂

  51. I agree with Darniaq. None of the gamers I know who have returned (some, multiple times) to WoW after a hiatus did so because of friends. Friends are a powerful force in MMOs, and people do commonly return to particular MMOs and remain with them to be with friends, but WoW offers a cumulative gameplay which many savvy gamers prefer.

    I only played WoW for a couple months and have no desire to return. But, as a veteran MMO gamer, I find aspects of WoW preferrable to other MMOs. It’s not a symbol of the genre’s future, but it does excel beyond the norm in a number of ways. Boring activities only become common settings for socialization when nothing better is readily available or convenient (i.e., not too expensive, too taxing on the user’s PC, too time-demanding, etc). For people who are satisfied with the status quo of the genre, WoW is a great game.

    In short… it’s the game, man! 🙂

  52. Morgan, the danger with what you propose is ultimately, you’re asking coders to become ad salesmen. Some coders might know how to sell ads, and some might have a natural gift for it, but I wouldn’t bank on it. And then when all your coders are out selling ad space, you have nobody to code your game.

    And you’re partially right; not all advertising is spam, but some certainly is. (The difference? If the ad brings in revenue, then it’s not spam. 😉 ) Seriously though, what I am talking about is spam; flooding my chat space with so many ads that I cannot play the game because the combat text has scrolled off my screen.

    Now off the top of my head, if you want to sell banners that appear in the game’s central chat hub, that would be great. If you want to hire ad reps to do this sort of work, that too would be great. But again, don’t ask your coders to become salesmen. While I don’t have any data to back up my claim, I’m fairly certain this wouldn’t produce good results.

  53. None of the gamers I know who have returned (some, multiple times) to WoW after a hiatus did so because of friends.

    Anecdotal… and I can muster dozens of “I went back to WoW because that’s where my friends were” posts on forums. 🙂

    But it’s beside the point. It’s not about returning after a hiatus. Nor am I saying WoW is not a great game — it IS a great game. But it’s not a great game for “everybody,” and yet “everybody” is in it.

    WoW the single-player game, however, would not be nearly as popular and long-lasting.

  54. Ola wrote: There is nothing wrong with designing a game that only 3% of the current gaming population want to play.

    Absolutely. That’s why we have indies. But we can’t expect the largest companies that deliver the biggest budget games to do so with risky unproven new concepts either.

    And RMT operators go to the indies too 🙂

    Completely agree. It’s like any other mainstream game.

    Hades wrote: You are no longer judged by the skill you have as a player, but the gear you wear.

    That’s the game itself, not RMTing, because it’s the gear itself, not whether you purchased or looted it. And the good gear in modern MMOs can’t be traded anyway. And I don’t just mean the stuff that’s relevant to the elite endgame.

    Raph wrote: Actually, I meant it kind of literally. Their day one sales made them the largest MMO in North America literally overnight. The vast majority of those people had never had the chance to experience the game.

    Not to continue the derail, but both their prior stress tests (think it was Sept and Oct 2004) almost equaled their day one record.

  55. Oops, “Completely agree. It’s like any other mainstream game.” was meant for Raph’s comment about WoW 🙂

  56. Raph, sorry if I put words in your mouth, but I read your post as basically saying: “limiting RMT means limiting the social potential of the design”.

    That I would disagree with, but then again, I’ve never liked DIKU for its cookie-cutter flavour. (Knowing that LegendMUD is a DIKU, I’ll hastely add that the artistic scene descriptions and the userbase make up for it’s heritage 😉

  57. Ola, I don’t think these two sentences say the same thing:

    “designs that enables cooperation will be less resistant to RMT than those that don’t.”

    “limiting RMT means limiting the social potential of the design”.

    I think that most solutions to limiting RMT limit cooperation in various forms. Certainly the no-trade solution does. I also think it limits the social potential in certain specific ways.

    But I think the real underlying issues, as I said, are in the incentive structures. As long as having that gear or good is more highly incentivized than something else, then you’ll get RMT.

  58. Hmm… I think americans sometimes overestimate the importance of trade, but maybe it is me underestimating the desires of the american user-base? Too often economy is seen as a synonym for society… (Second Life!)

    I agree with your last point, though. And gear and goods are easier to design for, and perhaps also easier to convey to “users accustomed to current games”, which is why we have what we have and no doubt will get more of it.

  59. 3. Without RMT services you will have to slog for hours upon end dealing with…all the boring and frustrating crap to get said item.

    4. The same thing that applies to items also applies to powerleveling services…most game mechanics prevent efficient lowerlevel-higher level grouping, and he’s no asset to a higher level group so they don’t want to bring him along anyway.

    I agree, a lot of RMT right now is ‘popular’ because it is seen as a more attractive alternative to poorly implemented, linear, uninspired, and unimaginative gameplay.

    Really, its not different than the current ‘boycott’ of Alterac Valley on several battlegroups in WoW. In these battlegroups, the horde have managed to subject the alliance to a ~600-0 honor, 45-minute to 1-hour battle 95%+ of the time. Other battlegroups see a fairly evenly split rate of wins and losses with a decent amount of honor going to the losers in 15-20 minute battles. The alliance in those battle groups aren’t boycotting AV, they’re just going to the other 3 battlegrounds where they get decent honor gains for their efforts, win or lose.

    They’ve chosen a superior alternative.

    I think you have a serious problem with your game design if people would rather pay real money to skip your game than play it. If RMT has limited effectiveness on power disparities or if power disparities aren’t even much of a factor in the game itself (i.e. wide ranges of intellectual challenges rather than a linear progression of gear checks), then RMT probably could have a place without much fuss. But mixing power disparity/power creep games and RMT is just asking for an unhappy (and eventually broke :9) playerbase.

    WoW has not hit on the ultimate formula that appeals to every sort of gamer — it is virtually guaranteed that MOST people playing WoW would prefer different game systems, simply given the huge size of WoW’s userbase. But they are kept there by their friends.

    I’m in this boat. I left….a previous game (:9) for WoW when it and several others I’d dabbled with all seemed to jump onto the ‘instant gratification, kill, loot, repeat’ bandwagon. I had a half a dozen friends playing, never really got any meaningful time with them (level disparity), and found another group of folks with more social goals to focus on when my previous friends left. We know the game isn’t really suited to our interests, but we’re still there….waiting for one that does. A number of them also suffer the fact they run on Macs and have significantly fewer avaialable game clients (another argument for client-agnosticism).

  60. I dunno if it’s a cultural thing Ola. Microtransaction-based games are basically legitimized RMT environments, and that business method is far more popular in places like Korea than America.

    We here like our flat fees, and then pay extra to cheat at it 🙂

  61. Oh Darniaq, I didn’t mean RMT, I meant in-game economy. 😀 I think scandinavians and americans have the same expectations from a game-company, appreciating the magic circle and all that. Though I am quite confindent there are some cultural differences (perhaps weaker now than before) between say chinese and americans. I’ve heard chinese kindergarden assistants had trouble understanding the purpose of games like Monopoly. (I also had a chinese friend who was frustrated because people in her sportsclub took the games too seriously so she ended up taking care of all the newbies for social fun. E.g. a more inclusive collective mind-set and different sense of duty.)

  62. I dunno if it’s a cultural thing Ola. Microtransaction-based games are basically legitimized RMT environments, and that business method is far more popular in places like Korea than America.

    We here like our flat fees, and then pay extra to cheat at it

    I find that a really odd trend to see developing, as well. Americans, it is typically assumed (and true enough, I suppose) to pursue materialism and power positions as signs of status and influence, where the eastern cultures are generally more communal and place value on individuals who benefit the culture/community above themselves. Are their micro-transactions and RMT offerings the kind of things that benefit more than themselves, or even ‘fluff’ as opposed to self-promoting gains?

  63. Ola, one point to clarify is that when I say “trade” I am saying “exchange of goods or services” — which applies equally to communitarian sorts of things, not just capitalistic economies…

  64. Darniaq wrote:

    It’s more the have/have-nots keeping up with the Joneses side of things.

    I was referring to competition in the sense that players compete for the highest score in Counter-Strike or football.

    I wouldn’t call “keeping up with the Joneses” competition. Competition occurs when two or more participants knowingly engage in an activity designed to propel them toward certain results.

    On the other hand, an individual’s materialism is inherently personal and does not require the participation of another. An individual’s purchase of bigger, better, and more property to outshine another individual or group often occurs without that party’s knowledge of the activity and thus without that party’s consent to compete.

    Basically, when you equip your character with fancy equipment, snap a screenshot, and post that on a message board, you’re not a competitor; you’re an exhibitionist.

    Slyfeind wrote:

    Seriously though, what I am talking about is spam; flooding my chat space with so many ads that I cannot play the game because the combat text has scrolled off my screen.

    That’s what I was calling spam, and suggesting that such spam is indicative of game design problems. In Ultima Online, you could literally place signs around your place of business, as well as shopkeepers. That’s user-generated in-game advertising and user-managed businesses. As a player, you did not depend on a central auction house.

    I’m not really suggesting a separate “Trade” chat channel as I believe most online games already have that channel. I’m not suggesting that developers become salespeople. I am suggesting that developers provide their customers the tools they need (and have demonstrated that they need) to make their commercial activities work in the context of the game world.

    Developers can create an immersive commercial environment for players. They can provide players the tools they need to create in-game pamphlets, direct mail and billboards, etc. (I played on a free Ultima Online shard awhile ago. I suggested that they add “scribing” features that allow players to craft and share their own books.)

    They can remove global communication channels from medieval/high-fantasy worlds, and force players to peddle locally. They can transform commercial activities into roleplay and minigames for merchant-class characters. But they don’t, and because developers fail to provide their customers what they consistently demonstrate they want, there are problems, and these sort of debates about what’s a problem and what’s not.

  65. Morgan wrote: On the other hand, an individual’s materialism is inherently personal and does not require the participation of another. An individual’s purchase of bigger, better, and more property to outshine another individual or group often occurs without that party’s knowledge of the activity and thus without that party’s consent to compete.

    Basically, when you equip your character with fancy equipment, snap a screenshot, and post that on a message board, you’re not a competitor; you’re an exhibitionist.

    Ah, yea, ok, I see where you’re coming from. And I agree. These games are all personal achievement where you need help (and therefore offer help) to achieve. Some games have higher levels, like guild achievements, corporation achievements, and so on. But the WoEQs of the world are personal.

    As to your points about the tools of commerce, I personally prefer SWG method of home vendors and subtlely-compelled commerce centers (UO did a fantastic job of this but was earlier, so less was figured out). I also think both WoW and EQ2 did a pretty good (but different) job of localizing the activity of commerce to those who expect it where they are, and within the context of the worlds.

    Funny aside. You said “I suggested that they add “scribing” features that allow players to craft and share their own books”. UO had that, I think at launch, but definitely during the year+ I played just prior to and after Renaissance launched. I used to keep my Reagent inventory up to date manually in one, and have visited a lot of player libraries stocked with stories, poetry and so on.

    So much lost to safe contrivances.

    Ola wrote: Oh Darniaq, I didn’t mean RMT, I meant in-game economy.

    Ah 🙂

    And I’d love to know more about the citizen-level of Chinese and other Eastern cultures. Everything I’ve read indicates some basic differences. But it’s a big blindspot for me. Monopoly is a good indicator for that I think.

  66. Darniaq, I don’t know much about chinese culture other than that what can be said in the intimate private sphere and the public sphere is like day and night. LOL. I don’t know how deep-rooted the public politeness and duty stick, but even if it is a facade (and perhaps it is to some extent) I think it is bound to affect a virtual world design. My friend didn’t want to play with newbies all the time, she ended up playing with players way below her level because the norwegian players didn’t care about other players being left alone, and I believe she quit over it. I’m not saying that chinese don’t care about winning, but that my impression is that they perhaps have a sense of duty/politeness that means that they cannot behave as selfishly in the extra-game-public as norwegians without feeling rude. (I’m not saying they’ll let the opponent win or play nice within the confines of the game.) My guess is that an online game fine tuned to chinese players would sink in my country… I am afraid my shameless countrymen lack certain sensibilities that make China’s clockwork tick… 😉

    Raph, ok, but I don’t think one have to trade goods and services either. In LPmuds and the open-source community there is nothing I would call trade. A common goal and shared vision “we all want this to take off” is sufficient. Or so I believe. You need to be able to prevent the whiners from sinking the ship, of course… Call me gullible, but I do belive that it is possible to build a community around a shared vision and (relatively) altruistic motives (not excluding a sense of superiority, which can be a quite powerful community force, I believe).

  67. I also think both WoW and EQ2 did a pretty good (but different) job of localizing the activity of commerce to those who expect it where they are, and within the context of the worlds.

    I think in-game market systems driven by only mail and auction functions are incredibly limiting. I would prefer a combination of the mail and auction systems from World of Warcraft, the be-your-own-shopkeeper system from Knight Online, the player-to-player trading system from Diablo 2, and the resource and property systems from Ultima Online.

    UO had that, I think at launch, but definitely during the year+ I played just prior to and after Renaissance launched.

    On the free shard where I played, you could only scribe spell scrolls and nothing more. I also proposed a more intricate banking system and a comprehensive in-game elected player government system, but the shard developers thought they were "too realistic." I still think being an in-game player government official would be cool.

    Imagine if players in Ultima Online had to acquire permit approval from the Brittania city council, or if players could bribe other players (like player government officials.) There would be special quests for players elected to the in-game government, such as orders from the King. Or if a thieves’ guild was having problems with player constable, they could post a reward for the assassination of the player constable. I believe some of this stuff was later in Star Wars Galaxies.

  68. Sad to see that your only response to a reasonable idea is a straw man argument.

    For reference http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/skeptic/arguments.html#straw

  69. Oh, please. It’s not a straw man argument. Here is the Cliff’s Notes version:

    Tobold: “You can eradicate RMT (his words) by making gold be bind on pickup.” Note the word “eradicate.”

    Me: “That wouldn’t work to eradicate RMT because it’s still full of exploits, you would have to go whole hog instead, including taking steps X, Y, and Z, and I think that’s a bad idea because of the following negative consequences… and by the way, this anonymous third party said this other stuff, so I am going to be very sarcastic towards them.”

    Tobold: “You just don’t like new ideas, and I never suggested doing X, Y and Z.”

    Me: “You’re right, you didn’t. I said that in order to accomplish your goal you would need to take those steps, and here’s why, again, at length, including past and current examples of people who have done what you suggest, documents giving detailed designs, and several screens worth of supporting argument.”

    How is that a straw man?

    Now, YOUR comment, on the other hand…

  70. Hmm.. Second thoughts: maybe the key difference here is different assumptions.

    I welcome an exclusive subculture which appeal to a narrow demography, as I don’t think putting opposing fundamentalists into the same environment makes for great enjoyment. I welcome elitistic thinking. If the majority of whiners and zealous competitors never join the world, then that’s great, IMO. I suspect many here assume a world that appeals to everybody, a world the multitudes of average-joes would enjoy, a mainstream game with whiners included… Well, then perhaps trade is the only interest these people have in common so that would be the only social glue that would stick..? But why aim for this? The only reason I can think of is… profit? *shrugs* Just a thought very late at night. Merry Christmas! 🙂

  71. […] was a bit of back and forth and back and forth recently between Tobold and Raph on the old RMT debate. What it comes down to, […]

  72. […] : His response to Raph’s post pertaining to Livegamer as well as to RMT curbing.Raph : In response to Tobold.Tobold : Again.Raph : Another response.Tobold is a game player whereas Raph is a game […]

  73. […] was essentially asking designers to remove the ‘Massive’ element from online games. He argued that the only real way to prevent RMT or power-leveling would be to disallow players from conversing, grouping, trading, or interacting in any meaningful […]

  74. k…RMT is not bad…RMT is a symptom of a broken system.

    -It’s easy to Farm…when you have an infinite amount of MOBs that are a hop, skip, and jump away…
    -Instances make it so that you can farm in peace…
    -Developers believe that they have to give worth to there money system…by creating out of control money sinks…
    -Creating items that only a small percentage of the world get to have…
    -Putting to much worth into a item centric design…It’s the easiest design element to hook a player.
    -you can not stop RMT…as long as there is anything of value that 2 people can trade (and remember value is relative to the individual)..be it items or services…there will be RMT.
    -As long as Time spent in MMORPG = Power…there will be RMT in MMORPGs…where in the Real World…people who have Money and no time…will trade a little of their Money, for some Power in the MMORPG World…

  75. […] a debate between two bloggers about the merits of the eradication or the endorsement of RMT. Part 2. (No need to read part 1 but it is linked in part 2) Part 3 Last part.(for now) The second is a very good translation of an article from a chinese […]

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