Game talkDigging more into RMT

 Posted by (Visited 14663 times)  Game talk
Dec 232007
 

I made Tobold mad… not something nice to do right before Christmas, I suppose.

It started when he made this proposal for the eradication of RMT (bolding is mine, to emphasize the key point):

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. This is totally possible, but it would have a cost: it would also remove twinking (unless you program a shared bank) and sending money to friends or guild mates. But possible it is, the only thing that is missing is the will of the game companies.

Now, I was really prompted to comment by an anonymous poster in the resulting thread (on whom I unleashed some sarcasm), but my response specifically to this design was to say

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.

Tobold disagrees, and perhaps feels that the sarcasm was directed at him (it wasn’t, and if he 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 and all forms of cooperation from MMORPGs. Apparently he didn’t understand or chose to ignore the important word “asymetric”. A group in which one person tanks, another person heals, and other people deal damage is *not* asymetric as long as the characters involved are of roughtly the same level.

OK, to tackle key points one at a time…

1) Is this a new idea?

No, of course not. After all, bind on pickup, level limits for grouping, level limits for item usage, and so on are exactly this design, just now it gets applied to currency (thereby making it, well, not actually a currency). This is the natural extrapolation of that, in some sense, except that if anything it does not go far enough — many systems simply acknowledge that there is no “currency” and turn it into “points” instead, which is more accurate.

So, not only not a new idea, but not even radical. In fact, this idea is precisely in the midst of the prevailing current of MMO design, a simple step further along the “massively single-player” trend that is prevalent today.

Ironically, the systems we could point at include things like NeoPets, GoPets, and most of the item-sale driven Korean MMOs, many which explicitly bar transfer of currency from user to user because it suits their business model.

To go further, a much more rigorous design exploration of this idea than Tobold offered can be found in Randy Farmer’s three year old KidTrade proposal. In it, Randy lays out the actual chain of design consequences that lead you to RMT:

Twinking[1] is a design choice. Muling[2] is a design choice. These are built on gifting, another design choice. Gifting is person-to-person transfer of virtual goods. Just add private messaging (email or IM) and some trust, and gifting becomes trading[3]. Most designers figure this out (eventually) and implement a trading machine interface to remove the trust requirement. Introducing object scarcity increases the play value sufficiently that, when combined with a large enough target audience, you only need to reintroduce trust to create the incentive for an external marketplace to thrive, like eBay. GOM even removes the trust requirement again by implementing deposit/withdrawal ATMs in Second Life.

So, the steps on the virtual economy slippery slope are:

  1. Gifting → Twinking
  2. Gifting + Multiple Chars/Server → Muling
  3. Gifting + Messaging + Trust → Trading
  4. Trading – Messaging – Trust + In World Machinery → Robust Trading
  5. Robust Trading + Scarcity + Liquidity → External Market (eBay)
  6. External Market – Trust + In World Machinery → GOM

2) Can you actually remove asymmetry?

Tobold’s key point is that it is asymmetrical trades that are the problem. As he said in the comments thread here,

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.

There are some design assumptions packed into that sentence that need to be dug into very deeply. Let’s look at the key sentence:

You only have to make sure that people can’t trade nothing for big amounts of gold

People, trade, nothing and big, and gold. Each words that carry a lot of freight.

a) people.

Starting with “people:” even Tobold stops to make room in this word, to allow for a practice that ironically, used to be a bannable offense in many games:

Sending it to your own twinks could be enabled, for example with a shared bank account.

The word “twink” was derogatory in origin. In common parlance on muds, it meant “pathetic loser who can’t earn their own way,” not to put too fine a point on it. Then it became a verb, and it meant “to help the pathetic loser do stuff they couldn’t or wouldn’t otherwise.” The very core of RMT! It is somewhat ironic to make an exception for this case here, but the reasons why are subtle and interesting, and reveal why saying “people” is problematic.

Tobold (and others who twink alts) will rightly say “I am not pathetic because they are all me, and I did in fact do the work once!” The problem is that the game cannot necessarily tell. In short, all the RMT practices we dislike become not only acceptable but admired depending entirely on what two people are doing the trade.

Heck, it’s often not even fair: the recipient of the high-level sword may be seen as a twinked cheater, while the high-level who donated it out of the goodness of his heart might be seen as a generous soul. Sometimes giving to a stranger is good, sometimes it’s bad.

The computer cannot, by and large, tell the difference between people. It does not know whether there is a trust relationship between two characters or not. It does not know, by and large, what the difference is between two people who are the best of friends for years, and play together in the same guild and one gives a cool sword to the other; and a guy who just joined the guild temporarily in order to do an RMT trade to gift a high-end sword using a guildie exception in the system, or something.

Can this deeper knowledge be tracked by the servers so that it can tell the difference? Yes. But you will never get an automated system that fully works here.

b) trade

There is a misconception here that “trade” involves physical objects. It also includes services. Therefore, it may not go through any sort of server-visible process at all. If I pay someone to hang around me and heal me continuously, the server does not know why that person is doing so. They can be grouped with me, too.

c) nothing and big

The value of “nothing” is completely relative. The value of “big” is also completely relative. And this goes double in a level-based system with item limits, where the value of big is designed to obsolesce as you advance. Detecting a trade of relative inequity can only be done by imposing an external value system on top of the game. For example, measuring objects solely by their utility, or the level at which you first access them.

This, of course, ignores the many other areas in which we ascribe value, such as emotional content, collectibility, etc. Black dye tubs (worth about 1 gp in UO, like any other dye tub) would have transacted completely invisibly under a price comparison system, despite black dye going for hundreds of dollars on eBay at one point.

The fact that we can even contemplate the notion that objects within the game have a single fixed and universal value demonstrates that we have already moved well beyond any notion of normal economics whatsoever…

d) gold

There’s a long-established history within both the real world and the virtual that if you disallow one currency for free exchanges, players create a new one. It happened in muds when mudflation hit, it happened on Meridian 59, it happened on UO, and it will ALWAYS happen. This is why people who dig into this design issue don’t stop at disallowing exchanges of gold, but instead disallow exchanges of everything.

All that is required for an item to become a viable alternate currency is for it to meet the following criteria:

  • massively portable
  • available enough
  • scarce (not infinite)
  • freely tradable

This could literally be a bit of fluff from a bathrobe pocket.

Of course, there is also the mistaken notion that RMT requires any game-defined currency at all. Because it doesn’t — it works perfectly well using barter.

OK, so let’s go back to that sentence:

 

You only have to make sure that people can’t trade nothing for big amounts of gold

There are four glaring bugs right there to exploit. Let’s think about it. Tobold says we can preserve grouping. So,

  • let’s have an agreement that you pay me real world money for me to group with you, and I heal you when you need it.
  • Let’s say I heal you, but you give me a small amount of currency every time I do it so that the system doesn’t see it as “asymmetrical.”
  • Let’s say you give me pocket fluff, which happens to be collectible to some freaks who dig gathering items.
  • Let’s say you give me an item that the server says is of the right value, even though I know I am about to level to the point where its effective value to me drops to zero.

That sentence simply isn’t verifiable by a computer. What is verifiable is to be more drastic, and disallow all trading of any sort.

The fundamental truth that has to be confronted here is that all trades are always asymmetrical. That is the point of trading. You trade for mutual improvement. A successful trade is where both parties got something of greater value. The only way for this not to be the case is for you to be trading the exact same thing.

This is why we don’t speak of “equal” trade, but instead of “fair” trade.

Let’s consider some examples:

Healing is *not* an asymetric trade, as long as the healer is of roughly the same level as the person he is grouped with.

Nonsense. A person paid to stand in the group and heal you endlessly is certainly asymmetric. For that matter, it’s frequently aysmmetric even in regular play, if the other group members are not doing their job.

Class-based play itself is asymmetric. Everyone does something different for someone else. You are suggesting that because it translates to the same amount of XP, it is therefore symmetric. But in fact, the costs for the different folks to provide the service are different, the overall pace of advancement is different, the risks undertaken are different… Class-based — heck, team-based play of all sorts — is based on inequal contributions. We might say that everyone on the team is just as important to the final outcome, but they are not contributing the same thing.

And as soon as we say that, we have to acknowledge that they are not measurable on the same scale. 500 points of healing is not “worth the same” as 500 points of damage dealt to our mutual enemy. Heck. 500 points of healing to the tank is not worth the same as 500 points of damage absorbed by the tank. It depends on how hard it is to supply the healing, and how hard it is to be a tank with that many HP. To top it off, 1 point of healing when the mob is almost dead and so is the tank, and it makes the difference between the raid wiping and success is way more valuable than 500 points of healing under other circumstances.

Lets have a look at a real world example: A politician needs his house renovated, and the work to be done has a independantly estimated market value of $50,000. If the builder send the politician a bill for $50,000 and the politician pays it, we have a symmetric trade, and everything is fine. If the builder send the politician a bill for $1,000 and the press gets wind of it, everybody will assume that an illegal counterpart for this asymetric trade occured, like the politician getting a big city contract to the builder.

Raph saying that to prevent asymetric trade you have to eliminate all trade and cooperation in the game is like saying that a politician shouldn’t be allowed to renovate his house or buy anything at all. It is an invalid extrapolation, trying to make a reasonable request seem crazy by exaggeration.

In general, there’s two classes of folks who absolutely have to think like exploiters: exploiters themselves, and designers. Ordinary players don’t need to. Even a random glance at the newspaper headlines would show that the above scenario happens constantly, and that removing dollars from the equation would hardly solve the problem.

Even with currency in the politician example, you forgot to launder the currency, which is exactly what a gold farmer/RMTer would do — already does. But without money, there’s “mutual backscratching” agreements. There’s influence peddling. Even a no-cash system has plenty of vulnerabilities.

You have to be more evil in order to think of all the ways to circumvent these rules. After all, there’s a flourishing RMT trade in those exact same MMOs I referenced that have no currency.

The bottom line: the only way to eradicate all RMT is to eradicate player interaction.

Whew, all that to arrive at the philosophical part. The question for me is a “baby with bathwater” one. What are we giving up by trying to eliminate RMT?

As I have pointed out, one of the immediate consequences is the loss of altruism. We are so worried about preventing cheating that we forget that the line between cheating and generosity is invisible to a computer. We have gone from a virtual world where you donated excess items to the playerbase as a whole, to one where you cannot stop to help a stranger who is about to get killed.

We also have introduced incredible amounts of social friction, literally telling people “you are not allowed to play together” because we are worried about cheating. They can’t group, they can’t trade stuff, they can’t have a fun time together.

In the name of clear stratification of items and values, we have reduced personalization, user expression and creativity, and forced everyone into wearing “optimal” gear, or displaying their status via “complete sets.” We make it actively disadvantageous to look different from what the designers specify is the “right” look for a given level.

With the intent of reducing player interference with other players, we have gradually removed more and more ways of interacting with the world, so that indirect effects (good or bad) cannot happen.

Tobold said in his most recent post,

Over at Raph’s some commenters propose removing “bind on pickup” and “bind on equip” features altogether. That shows a disturbingly naive view of human behavior. To anyone with half a brain it should be obvious that if you make all items in the game tradeable, you would much increase RMT. Especially in a game like WoW, where raid epics are designed to be accessible only to a small percentage of players. Next thing you’d see would be the “Chinese Raiding Guild”, just keeping the most essential epics for themselves and selling the rest for dollars.

Let’s picture this world, actually. No bind on pickup, no level limits. There would likely be so many raid epics out there that they would be pretty worthless. You would certainly start seeing newbs with raid gear. They’d be better off, but not invicible, because they don’t have the stats and skills to fully take advantage of what they are wearing. They’d go after tougher stuff, and probably have fun. They’d be the classic fantasy hero stripling given the magic sword before they know how to use it.

They might last less time as subscribers. Because they’d get through the content faster. But they would have been able to spend that time with their friends, because grouping limits would not be there either. It’s a world where everyone is over the top, wearing garish stuff, merrily slaying five dragons before breakfast. Mudflation is insane, and probably the game admins have to do playerwipes periodically just to restore sanity.

There are certainly negative effects. But I’d argue that one effect is that there wouldn’t much RMT at all. There’s nothing there that is scarce. It’s a world of munchkin power-happy dragonslayers.

Is it “worse”? I don’t think so. Unlike most modern MMORPGers, I have actually played that world, because it was common on muds. It works just fine.

It is worth pointing out that while early UO was the location of the birth of the modern gold farmer, near as I can tell they had a much less pernicious effect on the overall game culture than they seem to in all the level-and-class based games. Perhaps because

  • real value in many of the most valuable items in UO lay in personal desire for them, not in stats: rares, not magic swords.
  • everyone was more equal. The original hit point spread was from 30 to 100, for example, and that was it.
  • there were no restrictions on trade, grouping, or item use whatsoever.
  • there also wasn’t the incredibly static spawn structure we see common today, along with the very static and item set, of course; farming is easier when your targets stay put and are so highly specific.

What sold for the big bucks? Gold was useful, but if you bought gold it was to buy a house, a rares collection, a boat, cool clothes. Maybe you needed a few hundred gp in order to get enough reagents for tonight’s dungeon run. RMT was a means to an end.

My problem here is that players do not even get the choice to prove that they would really prefer a game without RMT, because developers aren’t open to new ideas that could actually remove it.

Players can prove it right now by simply not buying anything. On the count of three. One, two…

Markets exist because of demand.

In the end, I also end up where Tobold does: that Darniaq is right when he says that RMT “exposes the underlying truth of mass acceptance of inequality.”

The disagreement between Tobold and myself here is that he is attempting to preserve the inequality, and therefore is working to find ways to more rigidly enforce it.

I just don’t give a crap one way or the other. I’ve had fun in worlds where everyone is equal. I’ve had fun in worlds where everyone is not. There exists a spectrum here. What I do know is that I want more fun.

And removing trade, currency, grouping with friends, gifting, altruism, and economics makes the game a hell of a lot less fun. It is a cure worse than the disease.

Are gold farmers a plague? Sure. Fix the game design. Trading isn’t broken, your incentive structure is.

  60 Responses to “Digging more into RMT”

  1. Raph Koster, am esteemed MMO game developer (who’s blog I subscribe to), has decided to defend RMT as an unavoidable outcome. When posed with an anti-RMT solution of limiting trading possibilities, hecountersby 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 exploitable, but I definitely do not agree that they are equivalent. Yes,

  2. Digging more into RMTBy Raph They’d go after tougher stuff, and probably have fun. They’d be the classic fantasy hero stripling given the magic sword before they know how to use it. They might last less time as subscribers. Because they

  3. Some interesting stories about a possible but DENIED Sony Online buyout at various blogs, and one good read about IGE and the Florida Attorney General over on Stropp’s World. Other bloggers are havehaving some drama going on, so check them out if you can. I am due up for a TR entry on my RP blog which I have had not time to update as well as a report on the new area we have entered in that game. I will probably update after the holidays to see how things are going, so

  4. And removing trade, currency, grouping with friends, gifting, altruism, and economics makes the game a hell of a lot less fun. It is a cure worse than the disease. Are gold farmers a plague? Sure. Fix the game design. … full storyhere

  5. back to the intersection of RMT and non RMT players. I’m not sure how prevalent this scenario is, exactly, except that it’s an underlying current of annoyance in Vanguard. The second point is really the crux of this post, though. Here’s a quote fromone of Raph’s postson the matter, which I think is the absolute core of the RMT situation: In the name of clear stratification of items and values, we have reduced personalization, user expression and creativity, and forced everyone into wearing “optimal” gear,

  6. As part of myongoing discussion with Raph on RMT, I came up with a thought experiment, based funnily enough on Ultima Online, the game Raph designed. The one design question UO more or less “solved” was whether people wanted unrestricted PvP. It did so by creating two mirror images of the world, one

  7. I agree with your whole post, then had a bit of a chuckle when i saw the gold selling at the end.

  8. I said it in the other post, but I’ll say it again. RMT exists because of poor game design, the fact that more players are casual with limited time, and RMT thrives because games don’t provide people with a viable alternative.

    In today’s games you are judged by: LEVEL + GEAR

    Without the right GEAR, you are denied fun groups. Without the right LEVEL, you can’t keep up with your friends or use certain gear. Most games still prevent efficient grouping of higher level people trying to help out lower leveled friends.

    RMT services usually offer gold or powerleveling. Gold allows you to buy in game items most of the time, and powerleveling helps you to keep up with your friends. People who can’t keep up with their friends or are denied FUN groups due to inadequate gear that takes weeks to farm QUIT YOUR GAME.

    So I agree with Raph. Fix the design of games to higher level people can efficiently help lower level people, and design some casual player content so they can get items comparable to those who play RAID level content that takes several hours per sitting and a lot of lead up quests prior to that.

  9. I think you’re right in saying that the cure is worse than the disease. I’ve played a few games where, in an attempt to remove some form of RMT, they simply punish everyone. And, to me, the problem isn’t so bad that I would want key features removed to prevent it.

    I don’t care if other people buy or trade in-game currency. I don’t like it, but to me it’s not worth losing the ability to trade gold and items. I hate bound equipment and, personally, the measures companies go through to prevent RMT ruins the game for me more than gold farmers.

  10. I remember the 13-year-old son of a friend of mine, who begged for gear in EQ1 and got some wonderful armour — and then found out he was so encumbered he couldn’t move, let alone fight. Striplings, indeed…

    Trading isn’t broken, your incentive structure is.

    This is a really strong post and makes basic concepts clear to the most obtuse reader – until that comment! I’m hoping it’s a teaser and you are planning to elucidate that in a further post.

  11. While I certainly do not agree with the overly restrictive ideas on trade that Tobold suggests, I think that Raph you’re perhaps analyzing the issue from too theoretical a position.

    The goal isn’t to eliminate RMT entirely, I think we can all agree that is an impossible goal while still allowing any sort of meaningful trading. But rather the goal is to make RMT economically non-viable on a large commercial scale. While it’s true that there exist a wide gamut of possible asymmetrical trades that can occur, as in your example of a hired healer, they aren’t really economically viable or as damaging to other players experiences as massive scale gold farming.

    The same can be said of the viability of complex money laundering schemes, such as cyclical auction house purchases, which while possible and effectively undetectable are not going to be realistically used for consumer based RMT. And that’s the key word, consumer.

    People choose to use RMT because it offers an easier choice than acquiring the goods themselves. They buy it from an online shopping cart and expect prompt customer service. What they don’t expect and I feel most would be unwilling to do is jump through the numerous hoops you describe to get their purchase.

    So yes you have pointed out some very real flaws in Tobold’s argument from a theoretical perspective but from a real world one many simply ring hollow and contrived. Again, not to say that I agree with Tobold’s suggestions, they would cripple a good chunk of fun out of the system for what I feel is not enough of a return in fairness. But just because this particular set of ideas doesn’t seem to be the way to go doesn’t mean that we should all just throw up our hands and allow RMT to run rough shod.

  12. I took that last line to basically relate back to the way that progression and item worth is measured in games…

    Raph gives a UO based example of how RMT didn’t have the same sort of gameplay impact (at least pre-Age of Shadows expansion) as it does in some other games due to the way that item worth was based on non-gameplay related criteria. The incentive structure for obtaining items in early UO had very little to do with gameplay. In more modern level+gear games though, the incentive for obtaining an item is almost solely gameplay related. It becomes necessary to aquire gear and levels in order to progress at all. As a result RMT can become a problem, at least as far as the perception of a segement of the playerbase is concerned.

    Personally, I don’t see any benefit as far as inclusiveness in having a system that only allows progression over time anyway… since it’s just as biased towards a certain type of player as RMT is. Most MMOGs nowadays require absolutely hideous time sinks, though some, like WoW, are at least not painful about it. RMT simply replaces one resource, time, with another, money. Neither is inherently more valuable than the other, except in how much of one the player has over the other.

  13. Tobold wrote:

    Over at Raph’s some commenters propose removing “bind on pickup” and “bind on equip” features altogether. That shows a disturbingly naive view of human behavior. To anyone with half a brain …

    Didn’t anyone pick up on this insult? I’ve proposed removing “bind on” “features” in the past and I will happily do so again. I’ve also recognized that I am always naive today but wiser tomorrow. But saying that I (and others) have less than half a brain, simply because we have a different idea about how to go about, ultimately, crafting an immersive and enjoyable entertainment experience, crosses the line. I’m pretty sure those of us who have made those suggestions did not call him any names!

    I don’t normally swear, and I don’t normally justify this crap with a response, but… Tobold’s an asshole.

    Hades wrote:

    RMT exists because of poor game design …

    Well, I don’t know about that. One of the factors that contributes to RMT is the aging of generations of gamers. As gamers age, they will have increasingly more disposable income. If you enjoyed playing online games, where would you spend your money? I don’t think RMT exists because of poor design; instead, I think poor design is often highlighted by the flow of money. Or the flow of anything. A hole in a balloon will, similarly, be exposed by the flow of water.

    Makaze wrote:

    … I think that Raph you’re perhaps analyzing the issue from too theoretical a position.

    When available, Metaplace should enable everyone to experiment with all sorts of systems in a visual way. That said, when Raph talks about "theory," you can safely assume that he has made board-game prototypes of whatever he talks about. I do. 🙂

  14. Whew, I finally got through that read. Well said Raph and I agree with most everything you have to say.

    This line is golden:

    “And removing trade, currency, grouping with friends, gifting, altruism, and economics makes the game a hell of a lot less fun. It is a cure worse than the disease.”

  15. Metaplace itself is a great experiment. But RMT has the most impact when there’s the most amount of players in a single experience, driving towards a single, or very narrow set of, goal(s). RMTers follow the same efficiency models player do: greatest reward for least effort. Meta-worlds are probably going to be too much work.

    One thing I would ask people consider is that “average person” angle. We’ve got strong anti-RMTers, who I feel are mostly arguing from a position of emotion, for whatever reason. We’ve got veterans who accept that it happens but don’t otherwise care (except to point out that it happens and why). And we’ve got the masses who, when they do find out about it, by and large fall alongside the veterans. Everyone knows someone who’s RMT’d. Many people here probably have to, at least once.

    In short, and of course purely anecdotally, after almost 9 years of watching and being part of this debate, I find the anti-RMTers to be the minority.

    So who’s this “problem” really being “solved” for?

  16. So why not argue about how to work with it rather than against it? Coming up with a design to block it is probably going to fail. It’s like fighting copying with copy protection – people just break it, and very quickly.

    I guess to me it comes down to seeing this as as a threat or as competition. You eliminate threats, but you compete against competitors. So, why not actually create an MMO that out RMT’s RMT so players choose to “buy” from the MMO creator rather than someone like RMT? Why not treat it as emergent gameplay and get smart and work with it? For example create a new type of account for “trainers and levelers” where people can post feedback and comments (“AAA+++ TRAINER!!!!! WILL DEFINITELY CHOOSE FOR MY NEXT CHARACTER!!!!!”). Give trainers some kind of bonus where the more their clients play, the more they get some kind of reward – hence turning them into evangelists and salespeople for the game.

  17. This is primarily how a lot of Korean MMOs already operate. They’ve internalized RMTing, and it works so well they can give away the game for free, and not charge a monthly fee 🙂

    There’s also EQ2’s Station Exchange, and the various services various companies charge for (UO’s buy-a-character, various games name-change and server-move services, etc).

  18. Tim, why would the game developer do that? Selling premade characters = more profit.

  19. […] Edit: this debate continued here. […]

  20. The goal isn’t to eliminate RMT entirely, I think we can all agree that is an impossible goal while still allowing any sort of meaningful trading. But rather the goal is to make RMT economically non-viable on a large commercial scale. While it’s true that there exist a wide gamut of possible asymmetrical trades that can occur, as in your example of a hired healer, they aren’t really economically viable or as damaging to other players experiences as massive scale gold farming.

    A few things:

    – Tobold’s goal WAS to “eradicate” RMT.

    – The thing making RMT viable or not on a massive scale is scale of audience – e.g., scale of market demand. If you want a game without RMT, the easiest way to get it is to play a smaller game. Obviously, that isn’t a pleasant solution for most people.

    – There’s not sign that the design efforts made thus far have much of an effect. I already mentioned the thriving RMT trade going on in games without tradeable currencies, in Asia.

    – As you mention, there’s really two key factors to worry about. One is emotional, the sense of unfairness of it all. The other is actual disruption. You care less about the escort service because it doesn’t disrupt your play.

    So, let’s think about why gold farming disrupts play. The easiest answer is because of scarcity of spawn points. They hog ’em. So let’s fix that instead. Much easier and less impactful than removing all trade. I can think of dozens of approaches to that right off the bat. One would be “when in the region where X spawns, provide each player with a random spawn of X tied to the player and on a periodic basis, based on whether they already have gotten the reward.” So gold farmers would walk in, get a spawn and you would walk in and get your own spawn. No hogging. And then neither of you would ever get the reward again, once you succeeded. So no issues with the zone overfilling.

    Of course, you’d be unable to farm for gold yourself. Which is something players want to do — they just don’t want to do it competing against highly organized conglomerates doing it for profit.

  21. […] Koster has been talking recently about RMT (real-money trading, or buying in-game items and currency for actual cash, often from gold-farmers) […]

  22. Darniaq wrote:

    Metaplace itself is a great experiment. But RMT has the most impact when there’s the most amount of players in a single experience, driving towards a single, or very narrow set of, goal(s). RMTers follow the same efficiency models player do: greatest reward for least effort. Meta-worlds are probably going to be too much work.

    Metaplace is a development platform that allows for the creation of any sort of virtual world, which can use any sort of system with as many or as few goals, and thus allows anyone to experiment with any of their ideas for virtual worlds, such as whether adding or removing “bind on” “features” increases or decreases supported or unsupported RMT activity. I think you know that, so I’m not sure what you’re driving at here.

    I disagree that those who engage in RMT, either as buyers or sellers, always seek the greatest reward for the least effort. For instance, would you say that a construction worker, who lays concrete for a living, is seeking the greatest reward for the least effort when he spends money earned from his work on a nontransferrable and nonpermanent license to use data (i.e., virtual goods and services) for entertainment purposes only?

    How about a lawyer who earns US$300 per hour and who spends thousands of hours obtaining access to that same data via play? Or a doctor who saves a human life every hour? Every hour that doctor spends in a game, he could have spent saving a life. Entertainment is one of those things that people are willing to go to great lengths to experience.

    Another example: assume you had US$200 and “free” time to spend on entertainment right now. Would you prefer to pay $15 to go to an elementary school carnival? Or $150 to take your special someone to Cirque du Soleil? (Hypothetical prices!) Chances are, you’d opt for the most expensive opportunity to experience entertainment that you could afford. If you always sought the greatest reward for the least effort, you’d be addicted to cheap thrills.

  23. Odd analogies. I was more going with something simpler: if you’re focused on achieving a specific goal, you’re going to find the path of least resistance to get to it. This requires:

    – Being focused on a specific goal
    – Having a clear understanding of how to get there
    – Having clear measurable progress

    This is not about personal or career growth per se.

    I would think RMTers would find the most efficient method to gain gold/items while doing so under the radar of the devs. So even if they know of faster ways of getting gold/items, they might avoid them because they might include recognizable things like standing in one spot for hours, or exploiting code, or something.

    And yes on Metaplace 🙂 I am merely questioning it’s value as a testbed for anti-RMT techniques. RMTing is sort of a mass emergent behavior. So you need a lot of demand from a lot of people to naturally emerge in order to test some of the techniques to combat it. I’m not sure how fractured the mpWorlds are going to be.

    (and I just created “mpWorlds”. Could be “mWorlds” maybe, or heck, even “Metaplaces” I guess 🙂 ).

  24. Darniaq wrote:

    Odd analogies.

    I don’t think so. One of the first skills you learn as an entrepreneur is time management, and that means determining how much your time is worth. Google: "how much is your time worth". Try this calculator from MSN Money. (You probably know this stuff. I just want to make sure you understand what I’m talking about.)

    Without getting into all the deductions, if a lawyer earning $300 per hour plays an online game for 10 hours, he values that $3,000 worth of time spent on the opportunity to be entertained. If a doctor who saves a life every hour in surgery spends at least an hour playing games, then he values that One Human Life worth of time spent on the opportunity to be entertained.

    Of course, that’s assuming everyone works 24-hour days, so the lawyer isn’t actually spending $3,000 and the doctor isn’t actually allowing at least one person to die for the chance to be a hero in a fantasy world. The point is that people are willing to spend the greatest amount of effort for the opportunity to be entertained.

    I’m not sure if you’re understanding my analogy to entertainment, so I’ll explain that. What’s RMT? Yes, RMT is the exchange of real cash for virtual goods or services, but RMT also allows players to exchange their time spent working in the real world for opportunities to be entertained virtually. RMT products represent opportunities for entertainment because they provide access to data that has the potential to be more interesting than more readily available content (i.e., cheap thrills.) [Sidenote: In some respects, the "grind" is akin to the process of being hazed. You have to suffer through a series of cheap thrills before you’re trusted with the really fun stuff.]

    RMTing is sort of a mass emergent behavior.

    …assuming that all RMT is uncontrolled.

    I’m not sure how fractured the mpWorlds are going to be.

    I think they’re going to be as fractured as their creators want them to be.

  25. What if part of having RMT as an acceptable system was that you could know if it had been used? It would be an interesting experiment to say allow people to vendor things and specify, “only in-game earned money” for example. Or say let guilds preview the item acquisition and leveling history of a player before they were accepted.

    Again this smacks way too much of (some) developers just resisting emergent behavior rather than accepting it and figuring out how to work with it and channel it.

  26. I’m glad to see someone point out that the issue is implementing time sinks that can be entirely bypassed by a large sum of in-game currency. I seriously wonder what portion of WoW’s gold-seller population would go out of business overnight if Blizzard made epic flying mount skill free instead of costing 5000 gold.

    Unfortunately, fixing the problem isn’t all that simple, especially if that cash grind is a desperately needed soloable endgame timesink. The beauty of currency is that it’s up to the players how they wish to obtain it, which improves the odds that they’ll be able to find SOME way they’re willing to put up with. It appears to be “easier” from the industry’s point of view to throw money at support staff to treat the symptoms (people selling gold for real world considerations) instead of the underlying cause (timesinks that players don’t want to do).

  27. Maybe I’m biased since I’m subscribed to this site and not the other, but it seems Tobold is taking this way too personally. Both sides have valid opinions, no need to throw insults. Or maybe we’re all friends here and I’m just interpreting things differently?

    While I don’t think RMT can be eradicated, this alone does not justify removing regulations (just because cannot be eliminated does not mean we should legalize it). However, there are other valid arguments for an RMT system.

    I think the problem with Tobold’s argument is not that it’s invalid, but rather it’s not really feasible. Having a completely symmetrical trading system is an interesting idea, but with complicated MMO’s, it’s very close to impossible.

    Using Tobold’s example of Primal Waters (from WoW), when Burning Crusade first came out, they were worth a significant amount of gold. As more and more players got access to the elemental plateau (had to have a flying mount) the price went down a bit but stayed steady because of the high demand. Yet as more and more players reached 70, the demand slowly went down along with the price. While it’s been almost a year since I’ve played, if the price is now 20 gold as he said, that’s a lot less than it was before. I can only imagine what it will be when the next expansion is released.

    While keeping track of one item might be reasonable, keeping track of all of a game’s items is a huge endeavor. It’s the players who create the value of items, just like a real economy; because of this, prices will always be in flux. One solution might be to create a system around the average price of a particular item. However, this could be frustrating to players, especially when large events suddenly cause the price to fluctuate. If an item is suddenly in high demand, for a time players might be forced into paying a reduced price for it (nice for the buyer, but frustrating for the seller). Other events might have the opposite effect, causing frustration for the buyer who is forced to overpay.

    Ultimately, I think Tobold’s goals are noble, but it’s just not worth it considering the alternatives. You lose too much while gaining very little.

    I enjoyed SWG’s approach to items. I loved that crafters would get reputations for having the best items. Being able to quickly and easily trade and give items to other players (along with /tips) was part of the community. Furthermore, there are many players who thoroughly enjoy “playing” the auction house. Surprising to me, my girlfriend is actually one of them. The first few months of WoW:BC, she would spend 75% of her time on our bank mule buying and selling (the other 25% would be PvPing, bloodthirsty women ftw, I guess!)

    Ultimately, it comes down to the baby and the bath water as Raph said. While I think RMT should be kept in mind and avoided, priorities should be elsewhere. It just sounds as if these anti-RMT philosophies seem to be harming the community and other gameplay aspects too much for them to be justified.

  28. […] 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, for me, is whether […]

  29. Tobold’s goal WAS to “eradicate” RMT.

    A politician’s goal is to “eradicate” crime. All proposals you are likely to hear from him will at best “reduce” crime. You can’t argue that a proposal that will “reduce” something harmful is worthless because it will not 100% “eradicate” it. We can argue by how many percent my proposals would reduce RMT, but I’d take a 90% reduction of RMT and be very, very happy about it. Even your proposal to remove all player interaction wouldn’t eradicate RMT, as you could *still* hand over your UserID and password to a third party and have them play your character to earn gold, xp, or honor.

    So instead of the impossible goal of zero RMT, lets give people a choice between “low RMT” and “high RMT” in a though experiment on RMT in WoW.

  30. […] have been many discussions in places like Terranova, Raph’s blog and Tobold’s blog, but most designers seem to agree that RMT is an evil that cannot be eliminated […]

  31. Trenton:

    Surprising to me, my girlfriend is actually one of them. The first few months of WoW:BC, she would spend 75% of her time on our bank mule buying and selling (the other 25% would be PvPing, bloodthirsty women ftw, I guess!)

    I agree with your whole post in general but this part made me smile. Isn’t it great that a game like WoW exists? A game that gives so many people with so many disparate motivations a fun environment to “follow their bliss?” You can be the day trader of the auction house, a PvP monster, a PvE fan who thrives in groups, a solo quester, an explorer… I’m not playing the WoW fanboi (fangirl?) here, I just think it’s really cool that there are ways to play all these roles and more in just one game (some more easiliy than others, to be sure).

    That’s part of why I think the current state of RMT in WoW is not broken. At least not on my server.

  32. Morgan wrote:

    I’m not sure if you’re understanding my analogy to entertainment, so I’ll explain that.

    Sidenote: In some respects, the “grind” is akin to the process of being hazed. You have to suffer through a series of cheap thrills before you’re trusted with the really fun stuff.

    Thanks for clarifying. I think I mostly agree. I see a difference between the constant problem-solving that is a physical world career (doctors, construction workers, project managers, line operators etc) and the rather rote repetition of farming for ingame currency to then turn around and sell in bulk within a system someone else conceived though. In the former, each job assignment is different. In the latter, there’s a long series of exploitation that happens which only ever changes if the conditions themselves change (by the devs). The underlying formula of time-to-effort-to-reward is the same. But the actions vary wildly.

    This is ultimately why I don’t feel the designs of these worlds need to change in order to combat RMTing too. It’s not the reality of people buying ingame stuff for real world currency I think. That’s just an abstract really, and most people can’t tell where someone got their stuff anyway unless that person brags about it.

    Rather, I think it’s the associative actions taken by the less professional RMTers which cause the most problem. The farming of competitive spawn, the constant multi-channel spamming, the cheating, that sorta thing.

    And all of those I think can be addressed by features and loophole closures. We don’t need to lose the basis for these worlds, the very things that let people like Trenton’s girlfriend do what she did within the intended context of the world.

  33. Wow, that post was hackneyed. Christmas Eve and critical thinking don’t mix 🙂

    Have a great Christmas for those celebrating!!

  34. […] MMORPG Blog Monday, December 24, 2007   A thought experiment on RMT As part of my ongoing discussion with Raph on RMT, I came up with a thought experiment, based funnily enough on Ultima Online, the game Raph […]

  35. Developers and players confuse virtual worlds for online games. In virtual worlds, participants may have a wide range of goals within the context of the online environment and use a wide range of tactics to achieve those goals. Games are typically goal driven. When developers (and players) are “playing different games” in the same environment… we have debates about RMT, griefing, twinking, cheating, etc.

    You don’t have to go to Asia to see games that do not have RMT problems yet have trading – Magic Online embraces trading and RMT without disrupting game play at all.

  36. […] RMT (Real Money Trading, ). , Tobold ( […]

  37. Thank you.

    Amazingly clear post, and links to others, to help us all understand the RMT phenomenon and in-game economics.

    That will take a while for me to absorb.

  38. So instead of the impossible goal of zero RMT, lets give people a choice between “low RMT” and “high RMT” in a though experiment on RMT in WoW.

    Given your descriptions, I’d go for “high RMT”.

  39. […] 24, 2007 by mrrx Raph decides to lay it out for all of us about how and why we have RMT issues in games, and what to do about them, or even not to do. Also […]

  40. Isn’t it great that a game like WoW exists? A game that gives so many people with so many disparate motivations a fun environment to “follow their bliss?” You can be the day trader of the auction house, a PvP monster, a PvE fan who thrives in groups, a solo quester, an explorer…

    I’d be much happier to agree with you if it weren’t for the fact that WoW has about 10% the scope and 10% the depth of those playstyles that dozens upon dozens of games had 10-15-20 years ago. The disparity of reward structures and gameplay support for many of those goals (exploring…..gets what?) astounds me, sometimes.

    As for RMT, I’m going to go with the ‘market exists because of demand’ argument. If there weren’t folks by the tens of thousands looking for some way to skip poorly designed gameplay and fun-sucking time-sinks, it wouldn’t be a viable market. If the only folks doing it were just lazy and unwilling to put in the work (I don’t like RMT in models like WoW, but at the same time I don’t blame folks for skipping what is literally months at a time of time-sink), then it would still be a very negatively viewed activity. Every system is going to have different aspects that may or may not be compatible with RMT, whether officially supported or not. Cure the disease, not the symptoms.

  41. […] 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 designer/developer. And it’s an interesting argument […]

  42. Even bind-on-pickup gold won’t stop RMT. You can still hire someone in China or India to level your character while you sleep.

    And ultimately, what’s the point of all this? To force people to play exactly the way and frequency that the designer would want, or worse, the way of a pompous group of players who insist that their choices are the only choices? Screw that. I vote with my feet and go to another world where I can play the way I want, without necessarily imposing my choices on anyone else there.

    In particular, the people opposed to RMT are almost entirely 13-year-old testosterone-crazed males (whether literally or just psychologically) with too much time on their hands. They get upset because adults with money want to spend a little of their hard-earned money to move through the boring parts of the game, advance to the fun stuff.

    The best answer is to have separate worlds for 13-year-old testosterone-crazed males and adults. Let the 13-year-olds have their no-RMT, PVP-only, drop-on-death, permadeath hell world, and let them report each other like a Big Brother police state; they like that kind of interpersonal abuse, so there’s no need to waste customer service personnel on it. Let the adults play in a world where RMT is not a black market, where the Chinese gold farmers don’t have to camp out the level bosses to make money, and where grouping and helping each other in a group is expected. It’ll make everyone happier.

  43. In particular, the people opposed to RMT are almost entirely 13-year-old testosterone-crazed males (whether literally or just psychologically) with too much time on their hands. They get upset because adults with money want to spend a little of their hard-earned money to move through the boring parts of the game, advance to the fun stuff.

    Totally disagree! I won’t use RMT as I have already payed for the game and expect a level playing field to witness all the content. I am 36 and have disposable money to use… I’m just a little wiser with it I guess.

    RMT if linked officially with a game… where it has been suggested, on this site or T’s, that the game dev makes a cut will promote one thing.

    It will promote content that unofficially requires the use of RMT. For example make the epic mount in WoW 25,000 gold instead of a hard but tangible 5000g. Thus you have to buy gold, give more money to the game dev as a result on top of your monthly subs.

    Why stop there, why not make attunement practically impossible for some raid encounter… some faction needs a 10,000g donation in order to get access. RMT is how to do it!

    The accountants would wet their pants with glee and players would be fleeced for content they have already payed for.

  44. That’s a strawman argument, Eldric. I talk about choice, and you talk about a game developer FORCING RMT on you. That’s not at all what I said, and you know it.

    If you leave gameplay balanced so that it’s tough but passable by someone who spends 40 hours a week playing, and yet the boring parts can be fast-forwarded over with equipment you can buy for real money (whether sold by the developer or by third-party farmers), then everyone can be happy, as long as they’re okay with living with people who’ve made different choices.

    I’m tolerant of people making different gameplay choices. Are you?

    If you’re intolerant of people making different choices, there’s always the PVP/no RMT/13-year-old servers.

    There’s also the fallacy of “already paid for the game”. You pay for access to the game. You did not pay for the entire content of the game up front, nor did you pay to be able to control how other people play.

    Really, it’s attitudes like that, the self-entitled me-me-me 13-year-old behavior, that drives me away from WoW and the like, and keeps me in Second Life; I’d rather be with people who behave like adults, and are okay with people using their first-life income to fund some of their second life activities.

  45. […] the point when the fit hit the shan. The back and forth began, and Raph let loose what may be the most comprehensive article on Real Money Transfer I’ve ever seen. Make sure and read that one, and read on for a breakdown of the blow-by-blow back […]

  46. […] is no currency and turn it into points instead, which is more accurate. Read the rest at Raph’s Website. __________________ Cameron "Aelryn" Sorden Ten Ton Hammer News Editor My Gaming Blog: […]

  47. Whoo there cowboy, get off ya netherdrake and drink your milk (tongue n cheek), no need to be heavy handed. I’m not here for a fight but a discussion.

    Where’s the choice? You assume all adults want RMT. You want a game world where all adults are dictated to by your set of rules. As said, I’m an adult and I have no interest in RMT.

    I would also suggest your attitude is more me me me. You can’t get what you want in the normal course of things… so you want to level faster and earn quicker than those around you and you want it now!

    Am I tolerant of folk making game play choices… yeah of course I am, do what you want as long as you play within the remits of the game policy.

    Farming and leveling services in WoW are not in game policy, and for good reason IMHO. To allow an aspect of the population to power level or buy gold from third party sources destroys the game in many ways for players who do not or will not.

    Imagine where the game heads if a good number of a given server population decided to power level. An organised service get’s one of their level 70 characters to boost a lower level players via quests and instance boosting.

    Regardless of how many decide to do this, you then start to restrict the gameplay of players who don’t use this service to find groups to quest and do instances, and thus slow their progression down.

    It is bad enough at the moment to find groups to play with at a level lower than 60 and enjoy the game content the way it was designed. Obviously due to the release of the Burning Crusade, but to allow other pre 60 players to be boosted via a third party service would cripple the play for many players to a sad level.

    There’s also the fallacy of “already paid for the game”. You pay for access to the game. You did not pay for the entire content of the game up front, nor did you pay to be able to control how other people play.

    The way I see it, I have a contract with Blizzard. They take my money, I pay for a service, they provide it and we both have to live up to our ends of the contract.

    Have I not paid for the content up front? I think I have. I paid up front for a service that mentioned no other hidden costs to witness or partake in game content.

    I also paid to control the way other people play to an extent. As described, to protect my game content Blizzard have rules. I pay for them to not only abide by the rules they stipulate but ensure they are enforced. The use of Bots, scripts, gold purchasing and paid leveling services are not allowed in game… thus I pay Blizzard to make sure players that do this are either warned or ejected.

    I’d rather be with people who behave like adults, and are okay with people using their first-life income to fund some of their second life activities.

    I have no problem with you using your money how you want. Why would I? However if the game I am in stipulates rules… then I expect you to abide by them as much as I do. If you are not happy with that, then go find a Korean game that has legal RMT. I signed up to a game that has no legal RMT and happy for it to stay that way. I believe RMT will destroy the game. If it became legal… then all good for you. I’ll cancel my account along with millions of others and then watch your subs increase too.

  48. Ironically? ALL of these issues with RMT, and the idea of unbalanced trade…are actually going on with one MMO, which is going too far in its pursuit of stopping RMT. Look at Runescape–and its recent ‘Trades must be within 3k to 30k gold of balance’ sort of idea. The outlash against it by legitimate players is intense.

  49. […] corporations? That would be somewhat sad. I would hope that his experience could lead him to a more Kosterian reflection upon what he actually paid for, and […]

  50. Why stop there, why not make attunement practically impossible for some raid encounter… some faction needs a 10,000g donation in order to get access. RMT is how to do it!

    If Blizzard ever implemented such a crazy idea as a raid zone that required a significant gold investment to get into, I’d hope they wouldn’t call it Tempest Keep, and wouldn’t locate it in Netherstorm, and wouldn’t make it impossible to enter for anyone who hasn’t dropped eight hundred gold on a riding skill, followed by a hundred gold on a flying mount, and wouldn’t have introduced it in January 2007 with the release of The Burning Crusade.

  51. Eldric, if you were here for a discussion, you would argue in an honest manner, and not try to misrepresent what I say. Since what I wrote is right above it for everyone to see, it’s futile to lie the way you do.

    Where’s the choice? You assume all adults want RMT. You want a game world where all adults are dictated to by your set of rules. As said, I’m an adult and I have no interest in RMT.

    You are blatantly lying.

    I want worlds where people can *choose* to use RMT, or not. You want a world where nobody can choose RMT. YOU are the one who restrains choice, who is bigoted against players making different choices. YOU are incapable of living in peace with others.

    Since you’ve proven yourself incapable of honest discussion, no further communication with you is of use. Someday, perhaps, you’ll learn how to behave like an adult. Until then, you’ve done an outstanding job of proving my statement that most people who oppose RMT have the psychology of 13-year-olds.

  52. You know I find this quite funny… we are now discussing behaving like adults. If you want to do so why run away from the discussion?

    I want to restrain choice? Not really. I subscribe to a game that does not allow RMT. You, however, want to see that changed. At the moment I expect players to abide by the rules of the game, to reaffirm to others new to this end of the conversation I am discussing warcraft.

    That doesn’t make me bigoted. I am not against RMT, I just won’t subscribe to a platform that does use this system officially. In my opinion RMT is wrong for WoW, but my opinion is just that. If it were to change then I would find some other game, simple as that.

    The only restraint of choice I would like to see is that players use the system in the current framework of rules and gameplay.

    Break the rules of any system and expect to be penalised.

    You are arguing from this point of view… “I want to use RMT even though it is not allowed in game and for anyone to deny me that is either a 13 year old child or a bigot.”

    I am arguing that: “RMT is currently not approved of and is illegal in game. I am happy with this and don’t want the system intoduced.”

    So that makes me psychologically immature?

    WoW isn’t a world you can choose to have RMT, simple as that.

  53. RMT is a misnomer. Real Time Transactions (RTT) is a much better way of expressing what is occurring in game. Consumers trade their Real Time in the distilled form of a real world item (money) for in game time (or time distilled in the form of a good) provided by a 3rd party, which is real world time for the 3rd party. That said, I’m still going to use RMT as an acronym as it is the prevalent parlance.

    As long as real world inequalities exist and in game trading mechanisms exist, then RMT of one form or another will occur. If I make $30/hr and someone else makes $10/hr, unless I can farm 3 units for their 1 unit, there’s a beneficial trade that can occur (just a question of transaction costs). No one is suggesting that in game farming rates of whatever should match out of game market value of time, which leaves the eradication of in game trading (or interaction if pushed far enough) as the only method of stopping mutually beneficial transactions from occurring in game.

    People don’t play games in a vacuum, they play them because they improve their real world life over the no game alternative. The argument could be made that the more a game improves real world life, the more they will play it, as the marginal “value” in terms of fun of in game time is higher. RMT as a mechanism that improves people’s real world life above and beyond their life without RMT is a mechanism that should drive game usage with RMT higher than game usage without RMT.

    The negative aspects of RMT occur only when player comparisons are done. RMT in a game is a way to provide a more enjoyable life as if the trade occurs both sides consider the result better in terms of life value both in and out of game. In a game with comparable achievements, however, games with sufficient RMT (anything can be traded/bought), status as an achievements is potentially a comparison of money spent. The players that derive fun from in game status will find the game less fun as in game status is nothing special.

    Players that find playing a status game fun will find RMT detestable as it diminishes their accomplishments. Players that have fun while playing, rather than have fun because of where they are in game, will be ambivalent about or even desire RMT. I don’t have the data on social dynamics to make statements about which is better generally. Likely, the prevalence of RMT depends on the type of game that is being designed.

    Should status be a source of fun? Discourage RMT, and make the game more “hardcore” and solo oriented (reliable in game trading mechanisms don’t exist and each character must achieve things on their own). Should playing be the source of fun? Let RMT flourish and work to design the game so that all aspects of playing are generally fun and while players will still individually find different parts unfun based on their personal preferences, overall they won’t utilize RMT much. (designing all parts to be fun to all might be too much work, RMT ends up covering the gaps)

  54. First… of course you can choose to have RMT in WoW. This was a fairly ignorant statement. Many people are more then willing to risk consequences when the alternatives are so painful in and of themselves.

    Some people will blame the game, other people will blame the players for the use of RMT. I see both arguments. If you look at the real world (it’s the best place to look for examples of why something is not working in an inherited/virtualization of it) ~ you’ll see similarities on what is deemed fair/unfair, what the laws of the land you live in are etc.. If you break these laws you are punished. The attitude by people in the real world on how these laws should and should not be follow is largely biased based on the benefits/experiences they have had within the land of those laws. The more someone has benefited, the more opportunities someone has been given within a set of laws, the more enjoyment the have received living within those laws, the more they will promote following those laws ~ the more people are subjected to bull shit on top of bull shit, the more they will simply quit caring about the laws and find their own means to happiness, sometimes that means moving to a new land, sometimes that means modifying your reality in the world you live.

    There are two quick points I’d like to make. First, I find it extremely humorous that the capitalists, the ones who in the real world have benefited most from free trade, the ones who have been handed the most freely in the real world are whining about in game gold/items being unfair. While individuals who do not experience the same luxuries, the same benefits (in the real world) are the ones working the shit out of an in game capatalistic environment. What kind of person out there who has worked hard for anything in their lives is going to look at a video game and concern themselves with how Johnny9823 is going to feel when he saves himself 200 hours by spending $2.99 saving himself nothing but grind.

    Which leads me to my second point. RMT is a direct result of unhappiness/lack of satisfication within an MMO. I would go so far as to say that the games which generate the most controversy and show the largest revenue generated around RMT (third party or direct) are of the worst design.

    I did not read this in any of the postings (I did not read them all 100%), but I do have a theory on what might work in an MMO. The problem in general is inequality or advantages people have given themselves through RMT. This exists because in todays MMO everything is about competition and struggle between who can be the biggest geek around (amazing the world has come to this). A quick suggestion would be to design an MMO so that everyones actions benefit everyone in the game directly. People work together towards a common goal, some work harder then others, but everyone benefits the same. Is it possible? Would people enjoy a game where they could not have a one up on another player? Would hardcore gamers feel it was unfair they spent 20 hours a day working towards a goal to have a new player join their environment only to receive the same benefits they have? Maybe this idea simply would not work, but it does seem to me to solve the delimna of allowing cooperation while at the same time eliminating RMT.

  55. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on a scarcity-free world.

    What would be the negative effects?

    And shortly after that, you say, “It works just fine” regarding MUDs you’ve experienced. Which is it?

    I’m pondering this because City of Heroes is my MMO of choice, and before inventions and a round of nerfs related to the impending ‘loot’ hit the scene, it did seem a world with very little scarce resources. Most anything was obtainable in-game, given minimal time and effort, with little reason to go out-of-game to RMT sites. Superhero munchkins were common, and people seemed to be having fun.

    Players who desired the one thing RMT could offer, increased leveling rate, soon realized there was nothing for them to chase at the end of the rainbow because level 50 was it. So they quit and self-selected themselves out of the game.

  56. While I certainly do not agree with the overly restrictive ideas on trade that Tobold suggests, I think that Raph you’re perhaps analyzing the issue from too theoretical a position.

    The goal isn’t to eliminate RMT entirely, I think we can all agree that is an impossible goal while still allowing any sort of meaningful trading. But rather the goal is to make RMT economically non-viable on a large commercial scale.

    Ralph wasn’t taking a theoretical position. Tobold’s initial reaction was overblown because he forgot how RMT doesn’t just mean gold selling these days but also powerlevelling and similar escort services. If you want to neuter RMT you are going have to convert MMOs into what Ralph amusingly phrased as massivley singleplayer online games.

    After taking some economics courses I see there is one easy way of nearly removing RMT that isn’t impossible. Petition your government to levy a hefty tax on RMT and if it is heavy enough RMT companies would be forced to raise their prices to a point that makes it unaffordable to the majority of their consumers.

    This technically should have no impact on the player population but I have my doubts.

    My first doubt comes from how pvp games have evolved. If the game rules are perceived to be too harsh players stay away or leave your game for aother game that isn’t as stressful.

    MMO companies who successfully get their country to tax RMT will probably face similar problems against companies that don’t. Gamers make use of RMT because they want to get faster access to the game features they consider the most important to them or gain a gameplaying experience that can’t be matched by playing the game without RMT assitance. Cut gamers off from that and your subscription numbers are going to be most influenced by three factors, how hard it is to get into the features of the game, how comparable other games are to your own and is their a net loss or gain from players not playing specifically because of the removal of RMT and the players joining specifically because of that removal.

    My second doubt stems from getting the various governments involved in the first place. If you are for this idea you have to hope you don’t get screwed because your gov’t decides to do something like make a deal with the nation the RMT company comes from and instead of using a tariff uses something else like a quota system. With tariffs we lose out as a society mildly but come out on top. With other options we wouldn’t gain as much as the other country or actually would end up giving our wealth to the other country. Additionally to ensure the tax works as intended your government would have to pass legislation that hinders anyone from within your own borders from creating a blackmarket.

  57. Make RMT punishable by death, this prevents RMT & allows in game asymetric trading/transactions.

  58. […] 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 news source that on the most […]

  59. I believe in raph’s well thought out position. i think all these games should embrace RMT and implement a system like EQ2’s Station Exchange where it is controlled by the game company and people can buy and sell to each other and the game company gets a cut of every trade. something like 10% and they do the trade for you so it saves you a bunch of time and effort. this is how Station Exchange works.

    the only problem with it is that they didn’t do it on all the servers. they should have used an existing server, they instead opened a new server and made it station exchange enabled. well of course it will be a low population crap server then.

    they should have done it on all servers or randomly picked half of them, then you would see the population slowly move onto the RMT servers.

    i am sure the only reason they did it on just a couple new servers was to test it and to placate the communist losers who want to tell people what they can spend their money on

    rock on raph

  60. […] control it and the company takes a percentage from all sales.here is a link to the article https://www.raphkoster.com/2007/12/2…-more-into-rmt/i know this guy was a key developer on Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies and shortly after he […]

  61. […] d’estimer de maniere a peu pres fiable l’indice des prix dans le cas de vente entre les joueurs. Digging more into RMT Citation: Post par Raph Koster Detecting a trade of relative inequity can only be done by […]

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