Stuff that caught my eye

 Posted by (Visited 5171 times)  Game talk
Feb 042008

MMO gold trading akin to prostitution, says RuneScape’s Jele //

The logic given is that it isn’t the activity that causes the problems, but the organized crime that builds up around it. Of course, the opens the question of whether legalization helps or not… And at the end of the article, there’s the oft-heard comment “and if the game were fun enough, this wouldn’t happen” — something I increasingly disagree with.

Is the Tipping Point Toast? — Duncan Watts — Trendsetting

A few years ago, I was deeply into network theory, which today of course is everywhere as “social graph” has become a bit of a buzzword. Well, this was a fascinating article looking to recent research by Duncan Watts — who was one of the researchers who kicked it all off — which seems to say that hits are mostly random, and attempting to target key influencers may be a waste of time.

The Four Viral App Objectives (a.k.a., “Social network application virality 101″) « FrameThink – Frameworks for Thinking People

I meant to link this article a while ago, but never got to it. Very very useful and illuminating list of the key things you need to do to enable (not necessarily achieve) virality. Much of it s what you do for any app that you want to grow, of course, but there’s some things there that are useful to those making any sort of product -> web transition.

 Justin Hall’s PMOG is out there a bit more broadly now

Such a cool concept. 🙂 Go, Justin, go!

And finally, congrats to my friends Cory and Alice on the birth of Poesy!

  21 Responses to “Stuff that caught my eye”

  1. Stuff that caught my eyePosted on February 5, 2008 by Raph

  2. Is the Tipping Point Toast? — Duncan Watts — Trendsetting

    I still refer to Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations, Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene, and Blackmore’s The Meme Machine. Distin’s The Selfish Meme will probably be good, too, once I get around to reading the book. I never see Gladwell, Watts, etc., talking about memetics.

  3. Hmm, even though he doesn’t use the term, I’d say a lot of Watts’ work is about exactly that. Have you read “Made To Stick” yet?

  4. Holy crap, PMOG is the kinda thing I’ve been wanting to play since…like, forever! Hot diggity!

    “and if the game were fun enough, this wouldn’t happen” — something I increasingly disagree with.

    Care to elaborate?

  5. Legalized gold farming is not the answer to gold farming. Period.

    1.) Even when gold farming is openly permitted, it encourages spamming, exploiting, and other forms of abuse, by its very nature.

    2.) Gold farming encourages the treatment of virtual goods as real property, and that is a mindset we must discourage, for liability reasons.

    3.) Gold farming reduces the overall perception of quality in a game.

    4.) Gold farming activities are distracting and disruptive.

    5.) Gold farmers are not usually participants in the game’s community or culture, and often behave in ways that are harmful to it in the long run.

    6.) Gold farmers like to use bots, which are extremely irritating to other players, and ultimately a waste of game host resources.

    7.) Gold farmers affect the economy and game ecology in drastic ways that ultimately run contrary to the game’s design. Designing for legal gold farming would mean that some kind of games and game experiences would become nigh impossible. I, for one, don’t care to have the gold farmers dictate what kind of play experiences are available to me. They aren’t game designers, and they do not have my entertainment in mind.

    Right now, gold farmers are driving all the players on Pirates of the Burning Sea clear out of their minds with spam. The worst part is, there’s not even any demand for their “product,” in this case. Even if you set aside the rabid, seething hatred most of the players seem to harbor for the farmers, the prices they are advertising are so absolutely atrocious that even the newbies make fun of them. The problem is, they don’t even care if nobody is buying. It doesn’t cost them anything to run an advertising bot, spamming people to death.

    Legalizing gold farming wouldn’t fix this situation. Oh, sure, you could keep spamming illegal, and bots illegal, but that just puts them on the wrong side of the law again, and they’ve already demonstrated that they don’t CARE about your terms of service. Some have theorized that legitimate player competition would drive the commercial farmers out of the market, if gold farming were legal. That sounds naive to me.

    If gold farmers are the future of MMOs, I think I’ll be spending my time elsewhere.

  6. Tess – I’m pretty sure when people talk about legalizing gold farming they mean something akin to what SOE did, basically get rid of the middle man and sell direct to the customer. If you control the market, and the game code, you can set the prices at a point low enough to drive out most competition. The real problem then becomes the other elephant in the room, Power Leveling Services.

  7. Oh, sure, you could keep spamming illegal, and bots illegal, but that just puts them on the wrong side of the law again, and they’ve already demonstrated that they don’t CARE about your terms of service.

    As a player, if they’re not disrupting my play with spam and bots I really don’t care if they’re violating the TOS.

  8. The Duncan Watts article is also well-worth a read. I’ve been an opponent of Tipping Point thinking since it began. OTOH:

    1. Some nodes do amplify. Gladwell isn’t wrong about people being influential; just that it makes for better predictability.

    2. Much of the signals math reduces to frequency and amplitude for a given stimulus. The sensitivity of the network is the other piece. The idiot talent of marketing that makes some people very good guessers is their own sensitivity to the accumulated stimulus/response instances in some region/demographic.

    This is the sort of thing I’m telling Kerri in the other blog. A signal/stimulus may be a primary stimulus, eg., sex. Sex is a primary because no one gets in or on without it. That said, it is like yellow: too much and one is desensitized. Too little, one is starved and desperate. How the stimulus affects some population at some given time depends on the free feeding rates of previous near generations.

    Do a thought experiment: rerun “Buffy” in your mind and substitute “AIDS” for “vampirism”.

    But to launch a trend, how one mixes the primary with the secondaries (the analogy to a C Major triad vs a C7b5), creates the coupling or probabilities of what must lead up to and what follows. Inventing the future is possible. Controlling it absolutely is not. That is complexity control theory in a nutshell. Effects (simple input/output or first order systems) are too often, random. Controls (second order adjustments based on measusurements) are emergent. Third order controls (tweaks to the ranges of the second order controls) are highly deterministic.

  9. I meant my comment in the sense of “would legalization make a difference, positive or negative, in the amount of ‘organized crime’ around the activity?” Seems like this is debatable in the case of the prostitution analogy, and therefore debatable here. 🙂

    “and if the game were fun enough, this wouldn’t happen” — something I increasingly disagree with.

    Care to elaborate?

    In short: I am unsure any game can ever be fun enough to make everyone choose to skip it or not cheat. Just doesn’t seem to me to jibe with human nature.

  10. Well…I hate to say it, but just like prostitution — you can make it illegal but it’s always going to happen. Why not legalize it and tax it?

    I think there is a proper place for it. This doesn’t necessarily include whatever game you (the reader) is working on. I think this makes sense and we’re seeing very successful models develop in Asia.

    Let the flames commence!! =)

  11. I agree with Raph on the human nature bit. My take is that the grind, as much as it’s deplored by blogging game designers, is part of the satisfaction most people get out of an MMO. If you have real world money and you can use it to grind faster, chances are you will. I don’t really see this as a terrible sin.

    I actually feel gold trading is handled very well in WoW at this point. Not only are there excellent (free, obviously) third-party addons that completely get rid of the spam problem, the exchange ratio is high enough now and good gear easy enough to get through other means that it’d take a small fortune in US dollars to compete through such means.

    Not a philosophical answer, but then I think this is more of a pragmatic issue.

  12. But then we get games like Bejewelled, which as far as I know, nobody pays to buy someone else’s high score. It would be a waste of money, because that score is irrelevant to the game.

    I’m wondering if, maybe the more moving parts are in a game, the greater chance someone will want to avoid those parts. If you cut out enough of the boring parts, you could end up with Bejewelled. We’re seeing it happen already. RPGs aren’t going for 40+ hours of gameplay anymore; they’re shooting for 20 hours or less. WoW has approximately 10% of the level grind of EQ. The fat is being trimmed off. I think we’re bound to hit that sweet spot sooner or later.

  13. Gold farming activities are distracting and disruptive.

    Which is one of the two points I wanted to make. The worst experience I ever had in World of Warcraft was from a gold farmer hunting near us. He would “agro” and “tag” the “mob” and then lure it into the area my pick up team was playing. If we didn’t get it with an area attack then someone just plain attacked it becuase, hey, it was there. This happend over and over again. He wouldn’t talk to us, and his armor was common gear or fairly common bind-on-pickup. Never seens a max level player with such bad gear. And just like he didn’t care about the TOS he didn’t care if his grinding ruined our fun.

  14. And the second point is a bit more complex, and has been bubbling in my brain since I read Do levels suck? Part II.

    When you design content for a game, like a zone or an instance, some people are going to say “Man, that was really fun.” but some will complain it was too hard, and others complain that it was too easy. In games with levels one can control the difficulty by leveling up first. Some people might like to visit the Cave of Wonders at level 29, others might prefer to wait until level 31. But that only works until the level cap. Then suddenly my choices are much more limited.

    So no, I don’t think “if the game were fun enough” people wouldn’t buy gold to gear up the character. I think it’s a side-effect of ending the leveling game.

  15. My take is that the grind, as much as it’s deplored by blogging game designers, is part of the satisfaction most people get out of an MMO. If you have real world money and you can use it to grind faster, chances are you will. I don’t really see this as a terrible sin.

    Why would someone choose to accelerate past what they are enjoying?

    Also, narrow the definition of ‘grind’. Practicing and exercising your execution of skills or puzzle solving is one thing, tedium and time-sinks between you and your goals is another. Its certainly subjective and the differences are subtle, but the effect on player enjoyment is huge.

  16. All potentially positive aspects of RMT which I in times past had some hopes for were crushed once the chinese farmers industrialized the bussiness.

    The first time I saw this in person was with Lineage 2. Before then the time of any player was “valued” equally high as any other, but with the farming sweatshops running full tilt no “real player” can compete on the selling market unless there are major exploits around, but thats a different and sadder story.

    Whats going on in Pirates of the burning Sea is just the farming organisations establishing a foothold in case the game becomes a hit for the bussiness. If there is a market you make the most money by being the first seller, so they are pulling a gamble to invest a little for a potentially great profit.

  17. On myth of the tipping point, what Watts says makes sense.

    No matter how much I hear about a product, no matter how good it looks, no matter how many people have/wear/use/hear it, what matters to me is whether it’s something I like, can use, or want to have.

    If it is, and I can justify spending the money on it, then I’ll buy it. If it isn’t, then I won’t.

    It’s out of the mass of individual decisions that trends are formed, which is what is, to me, the intuitively obvious truth. Influentials and word of mouth are “seeds”, yes, and it’s useful if you happen to catch someone like that in a marketing campaign, but they’re not predictors of what will really happen.

    After all, that influential person will probably go through the same process of elimination in deciding whether it’s something they want to use/buy/listen to.

  18. “something I increasingly disagree with.”


    Human nature is that people want shortcuts noy only to skip thingsthey see as “unfun” but to catch up with their friends, to look cool because they have a max level widgit and so on.

    It’s not as if the neo-prohibitionist approach has especially worked, the only thing I’ve seen which truly did work was Eve Online’s “sale of game time for in-game cash” – which crushed the ebay prices of their currency by over an order of magnitude without causing massive inflation (there *is* inflation, but that’s purely because of later design descisions…)

    There’s also a difference between allowing companies and individuals to play in your space, demanding a liscence with terms for companies for example could be quite effective legally, companies without are de-facto acting in bad faith…

  19. What the tipping point and influentials exemplify are Markov processes. If the influentials influence the decision makers, a product will be created and marketed. If the ground is ready, it can take off. In other words, the amplifying component types exist and if turned on, a cascade effect is produced. The quote ‘readiness is all’ applies. This is why it is Markovian. Given some set of conditions in a near prior region, the likelihood of coupled conditions in the next region is greater. This is and only is statistical. What the article says about mass marketing is right. You can prepare a ground to give greater yields if you understand the chemistry/conditions.

    IOW, understanding farming (crop rotation, when to plant, how to fertilize, how to sample ground, what crops grow in what climates), this is the essential understanding. There are marketing models for such analyses that consider the conditions that have to be present in a market. The analysts find different locales with similar conditions and apply similar models. An example from the literature is store chains noting similar environments in Texas and Florida who then sell the same products using the same aisle organization methods.

  20. Gold farming has two major aspects, one of which is a social ill:

    1- We live in a sweat shop labor based world. Almost everything produced is being produced, at least in part, by sweat shop labor. You can blame Neo-Liberal policies like globalization, you can blame the Military Industrial Complex and its role in fragmenting communities world wide, or you could just blame capitalism like good old Uncle Karl Marx would. The issue of sweat shop labor is ignored and until people recognize this transformed mode of slavery for what it is, we will continue to suffer from its ills.

    2- Things in the MMORPG world have monetary value and require labor to get. Until either the value of these goods or the labor required to get them is addressed, gold farming will persist

    Above I believe, are the two main reasons for gold farming. Legalized RMTs for gold will not solve this issue when sweat shop wages can compete with the legalized transaction (Just look at Eve Online, they have a legalized RMT with the use of time card for gold transactions and gold farmers still persist). So the solution lies in the vast reduction of real world monetary value or the vast reduction of virtual labor required.

  21. “Why would someone choose to accelerate past what they are enjoying?”

    Because they think (rightly or wrongly)that beyond it lies something they’ll enjoy more. Gamers usually believe that the “endgame” is where all the action is and where all the cool kids hang out, and the sooner they get past the lowbie stuff the sooner they’ll reach the promised land. That’s the big draw of powerlevelling and gold buying – to get to the ‘proper’ game, as the buyers see it.

    Whether the grass is actually greener at the level cap is another question, of course 🙂

  22. PJMRM, ETC’s deflated the Ebay price of Eve ISK by factor of 15, and reports of farming are wildly overrated, complete with harrassment of innocent players. You can argue that to successfully mine in Eve, you need to behave like a bot, certainly..

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