Attitudes to RMT

At State of Play V in Singapore, Joshua Fairfield and I had one of our regular arcane discussions about the various merits or otherwise of real-money trading (essentially, the conflict between financial capital and gaming capital in these environments).

That's not what this post is about.

What this post is about is our different perceptions of the extent of RMT in today's virtual worlds, in particular WoW.

In Josh's experience (Horde, PvP server), RMT was endemic, being treated by the players as little worse than driving 10% over the speed limit in real life. Sure, if you went 50% over the speed limit you'd expect to be punished, but if you were pulled up for being 10% over you'd feel aggrieved.

In my experience (Alliance, PvE server), RMT was rare, being treated by the players as the equivalent of driving 10% over the alcohol limit in real life. Even if you were 1% over the limit, you'd expect to be punished if caught.

Are we both right? Or are we both seeing what we want to see? Are game-style virtual worlds going through some kind of paradigm shift, in which RMT is regarded as part and parcel of playing them, or is resolve stiffening? Is what people say about RMT in public at odds with what they do in practice? What might their reasons be?

Remember, I'm not asking whether RMT is good or bad, I'm asking which way the tide is flowing (and, if you like, why).

Richard


Comments on Attitudes to RMT:

Shava Nerad/Shava Suntzu in SL says:

I think you've implicitly pegged the difference -- for PvE environments, equipment is not a critical edge. If you don't have the best equipment, your progress is slower, perhaps, in leveling.

But in a PvP context, those at comparable levels are only differentiated by the statistical edge of equipment and sufficient consumables (potions,...) to get through a fight.

In PvP, also, you might have a completely separate set of gear if you know the kind of opponent you are facing (caster vs. tank, say) -- so you need more specialized, diversified sets of equipment.

As a result, you cheat^h^h^h^h^h^h buy up or you fail to thrive in a PvP game. So RMT will be tolerated as bad behavior, in the same way people "understand" that you have to be a bastard and gank the other guy in business or you'll "never get ahead."

Do you want to personally deprecate the terms of service, or do you want to be a sucker?

This is why my only PvP game, ever, was SWG, where I played a rebel trandoshan (female!) TKM/swords/scout. Every Thursday was PvP night with my guild, and we dueled like crazy, and it was crazy fun. But I nearly *never* PvP'd with my opposite numbers in non-dueling situations, because I don't like the whole emotional charge involved.

When I did, I kicked a reasonable amount of ass, but I really only loved Thurday fight nights.

Posted Aug 30, 2007 5:00:45 AM | link

Luca Rossi says:

As you said: you both saw what you wanted to see". Maybe it would be better say that "you both saw what you were allowed to see". It's nothing new that the way you perceive the game is shaped by the choice that you make before/in the game. And PVP / PVE server is a huge choice that's going to shape your perception of "what's the game about". Obviously it would shape even the perception of what is deviant or not (within the game obviously).

Posted Aug 30, 2007 5:32:22 AM | link

unwesen says:

I think the difference is larger than just PvP vs. PvE. All the people I know that have bought stuff for real money have either been in high-level raiding guilds, where competition is strong. All PvE players I know found high-level raiding to be too uncompetitive for their liking.

On the other hand, the one person I know on a Roleplaying server claims that there is very little RMT to be seen there, in comparison.

So there appears to be a difference in perception between PvP players and PvE players (and roleplayers).

But I don't think that's the issue, I think the underlying issue is the motivation with which you approach a game. If you wish to be the best, or in the first guild to down a new raid instance boss, you're more likely to apply all your resources (including real-life money) to achieve that goal. If you just want to spend some time with people and take in your surroundings, you don't have that need.

Having said that, if that's the reason behind different perceptions of RMT, then Blizzard are fueling the acceptance of the whole thing. On the whole they concentrate a lot more on providing content to end game players or PvP players, that is, the more competitive-thinking of the bunch.

Now that's all not terribly well thought out or argued, I suppose, but that's my perception of the matter.

P.S.: I realize that the sample size of "all I know" isn't necessarily representative. Still, you have to base observations on something.

Posted Aug 30, 2007 6:50:06 AM | link

Douglas Thomas says:

I think there is another complicating factor, which is that people engage in RMT for lots and lots of reasons and have various justifications accordingly.

I've talked to people on three different servers who bought gold (two PVP and one PVE) and I have found that the reasons range from needing extra money to pay repair costs from raiding during a week when they didn't have time to farm. They didn't see this as cheating at all, but almost as a necessity and actually as a consequence of bad game design.

One person thought it was OK to buy gold for their lvl 29 twink for the BGs, but not for their main, which was mostly the result of insane prices for "must have" twink gear in the 19/29/39 level range (plus enchants, this was back when you could do that).

Another person saw it as a straight time for money trade off. I work hard, I make good money and WoW is my relaxing time, so if I use it to cut some corners, who cares?

Others bought gold specifically for profession grinding (a number of people in fact) and, once again, blamed farmers, bad game design, bad enforcement, etc. The argument was the current situation made it necessary to buy gold to stay even with others (who either gained an advantage when things were easier or bought gold themselves).

Perhaps the most interesting part of it was that people had very strong opinions in that it was either perfectly fine and even part of the game or that it was morally bankrupt (which was a pretty widely held POV).

So, I guess all I am asking is this: Is it perhaps a more complicated and dynamic phenomenon then we are parsing? Maybe not, it just seems that it gets read culturally and socially in some interesting ways.


Posted Aug 30, 2007 9:08:28 AM | link

Jack Volkhammer says:

I've found that a lot players, particularly those that have played from the beginning, have relaxed their attitude toward RMT. They've done the grind. They've played the game as the developers intended. But now they're bored and annoyed with the grind. They want to play the aspects of the game that THEY enjoy.

For these players the liberation from the grind that RMT provides is probably the only thing that keeps them from cancelling their subscriptions altogether. It wouldn't surprise me a bit to find out that there's a correlation between the tenure of the subscription and the subscriber's attitude toward RMT.

Posted Aug 30, 2007 9:44:12 AM | link

says:

@Jack:

That would certainly be my perception as well. I have continued to find that RMT-ers are high-functioning late-stage players, who are seeking to access final content. In addition, they tend to be high wage earners IRL with high opportunity costs for their time, as demonstrated by the decision to trade money for time.

So, are both Richard and I wrong? Is the right rule that people like *some* RMT, a little bit, but not rampant? And they like it to be private, not publicly declaimed?

If so, how in heck can we write rules that map to that desire? I posited in "the conversation" that this is in fact what game companies are doing: by banning only egregious offenders, they enable a certain segment of their market to stay in the game (those who work 60 hours a week, say), but can put the reins on things if they get out of hand. If so, isn't it interesting that the "no RMT" rule is actually being used to generate optimal levels of RMT.

That seems to map with both the state of affairs in games, AND to map with our general preference in the real world. We prefer to allow ourselves the freedom to do certain things, but ask that they be done behind closed doors.

I have been thinking a lot about this problem of the efficient level of RMT, and will post on it later, but this divide between public statements and private behavior is both what makes RMT so hard to measure (a poll asking "Do you like RMT?" is a terrible idea), and so fascinating.

Posted Aug 30, 2007 11:02:10 AM | link

Joshua Fairfield says:

The above post was me. "Name" for the win.

Posted Aug 30, 2007 11:02:58 AM | link

Tim Howgego says:

One aspect of trends in the WoW RMT market you are overlooking is "Learn2Play". So rather than buying gold, players buy the knowledge of how to make it themselves.

Paid subscription guides for MMOGs have been around for years. What's new is the degree of specialism, and the volume in which these are selling. For example, a typical WoW gold-making guide will contain a hundred pages just on the art of making money. As (effectively) a seller of such guides, I can confirm this is a real money-making business - one that pays the real-world rent for some of those involved.

While the Learn2Play market is still tiny by comparison to RMT, it is growing at a time when RMT has probably declined slightly. Examine the terms "wow gold making", "wow leveling guide", and "wow gold" on Google Trends, which records search volume over time. You'll find the first two increasing, while the last has declined somewhat in the last 12 months.

I think this trend partly reflects changing attitudes to RMT:

1. Fear. Growing worries of having accounts banned for interacting with gold farmers, as Blizzard becomes progressively more proactive against RMT.

2. Pragmatism. Why repeatedly spend money on one-off purchases, when you can just buy the ability to make your own gold, over and over again?

3. Being a good player. Generally knowing how to play the game, pushes you up the MMOG social ladder.

4. Ethics. Buying gold is dirty, like cheating "a little bit". But buying a guide is more like buying a book, or even an education - culturally very acceptable.

Posted Aug 30, 2007 2:02:00 PM | link

Dmitri Williams says:

We have a large survey data set on this topic. As soon as I can motivate Dan and Ted into action, we'll clear the data and share with the class. I hope to share both the % answer to this question (I can say that it's not one extreme or another) as well as what kinds of players and RL people lean which way.

If anyone wants to make bets or suggestions for where to dig, i.e. what kind of people lean which way, fire away.

FWIW, my experience mirrors Josh's, and my personal opinion mirrors Richard's.

I don't know if anyone caught the XFire debate last week in which several pointy-headed thinkers and devs and peddlers hashed the topic over:
http://www.xfire.com/cms/xf_debate_transcript7_main/

Posted Aug 30, 2007 7:24:17 PM | link

Token says:

So much text and none of you got it. It's all for epic mounts. Epic mounts are life or death on a PvP server.

Posted Aug 30, 2007 7:55:41 PM | link

Elle Pollack says:

@Jack:

Wheras, the standard anti-RMT cry seems to be from people who embrace the gospel of the grind, combined with a dose of old fasioned "No fair!". The usual line goes: "I had to work my butt off to get x item/all that gold/level 60. That guy got an unfair advantage because he had money to go out and buy it! ZOMG Banzors!"

I wonder...in Eve, there is a noticable animosity between PVP and PVE players; keeping in mind that Eve is designed for PVP, the dedicated PVE players get looked down upon. Opinion: perhaps for good reason, as the PVE play that does exist in EVE is repetitive, best taken in small doses and with groups or if one needs to stock up on cash, and it's hard to immagine how anyone could stand doing it as their main occupation in the game. Yet grind they do. Now I don't know much about the RMT situation in Eve except that those who provide the service - gold farmers and the marco strip miners - are generaly detested, but could PvP vs PvE have a consistant corelation with atatude torwards grinding and therefore atitude torwards RMT?

Posted Aug 31, 2007 12:07:39 AM | link

Richard Bartle says:

Josh>they tend to be high wage earners IRL with high opportunity costs for their time

Alternative interpretation: they tend to be high wage earners IRL because low wage earners can't afford to buy gold.

Being a high wage earner doesn't mean you spend more time working than a low wage earner: it means you get paid more than a low wage earner. A high wage earner has just as much time to spend playing as a low wage earner. They may indeed have less.

Richard

Posted Aug 31, 2007 3:27:48 AM | link

Richard Bartle says:

Token>So much text and none of you got it. It's all for epic mounts. Epic mounts are life or death on a PvP server.

So once you have your mount, you stop buying gold? In pre-BC days, paladins and warlocks never bought it? Nowadays, druids never do?

Richard

Posted Aug 31, 2007 3:29:47 AM | link

Peter Clay says:

I think the social perception is a bit like illegal drugs: banned but widespread, and lots of people doing it clandestinely. Bizarrely, I think this may actually be what the players want. It functions as a sort of sumptuary law: if someone's waving their bought wealth in your face, you can report them for it.

In the case of EVE, there is "game time card" RMT and there is goldfarmer RMT. The former is granted more legitimacy and people are seldom condemned for using it, because it's the CCP way to do things. It seems that people object to third parties making money out of the game.

Posted Aug 31, 2007 6:18:14 AM | link

Wolfe says:

The popularity of RMT activities is inversely proportional to the volume of punished RMTers, as well.

Look at it from a guild leaders perspective. When you finally sit there with 18 level 70 raiders and have with some help from unguilded friends been able to take down your first raid boss you will be unhappy about your Main Tank getting banned for selling eBay gold. This type of annoyances make community profiles paint RMT as bad to drive their people away from the activities.

Once the guild leaders know that anyone who sell gold can walk safe and keep on tanking their raids reliably the opinion shifts towards RMT being good, because it allows your Tank more time in game and less time stuck at work. (Or the RMT profits can be used to win dinner table arguments about playing habits which mitigate risk from parents or wives.)

In some games back in the old days my guilds often had to "manage the RMT business" generally by kicking anyone we could find who dabbled in it to avoid contaminating the guild with bannable offences. In WoW it seems like only RMT noobs get into any type of trouble and it appears to be a safe activity to the game population.

Posted Aug 31, 2007 7:18:08 AM | link

Artheos says:

I think in the end, it's about rationalization. The real driving factor comes in 2 parts:

1) Does the offender (let's not mince words here, it is cheating), know that engaging in RMT is cheating?
2) Does the offender care enough about his personal integrity (that which defines him when others aren't looking) to not cheat?

Everything else appears to be complex rationalization for violating the rules of the game.

Most people didn't carry monopoly money in their pockets when they went over to their friends house to play with them for an 'edge'.

Posted Aug 31, 2007 7:39:45 AM | link

Wolfe says:

In practice no one seems to care that other players "cheat". A player benefit greatly from a friends getting easy loot through eBay. Very few mmorpg's set me back just because other players advance, in theory I should feel the effect of eBay in a PvP scenario but in practice I dont. Moswtly because the thing players buy with their eBay trading is of minor consequence and still fails to come even close to gaining enough practical influence (such as increased DPS or HP) to matter.

The ceiling is always set by hardcore gamers who get their gear and skill from resources which fail to be available through eBay, even if everyone else buy their way up as far as they can they will still be minor pawns compared to the major players.

The stuff you can buy through RMT is even if very expensive not an influence on the part of the game players care about.

The things you need to become a major player in an mmo are things such as reliable friends, knowledge of mechanics, experience with control systems. These things are not sold through RMT. Even if RMT drives inflation it dosnt cause trouble for players unless it becomes a problem for the developers first.

Posted Aug 31, 2007 8:00:08 AM | link

Jeremy Snyder says:

OK, so ignoring all the understanding about the motivations for or against RMT, and just focusing on the question "Are game-style virtual worlds going through some kind of paradigm shift, in which RMT is regarded as part and parcel of playing them, or is resolve stiffening?"

My answer is that games are undergoing that shift, and RMT is becoming more prevalent. I won't say more accepted, but the simple fact is that the cat is out of the bag, in way. People know that there is RMT out there, and there are people who will, for whatever reason, choose to buy and sell. Plain and simple - RMT is increasing, as are the tools for it. Witness the number of new RMT platforms popping up and simple increase in the market size.

PS: I enjoyed watching the bit of this conversation that I could IRL in Singapore :-)

Posted Aug 31, 2007 8:15:18 AM | link

Andy Havens says:

Wolfe: "In practice no one seems to care that other players "cheat"."

Uh... I do. Maybe I'm the only one.

I played WoW predominantly on RP servers; some time on a PvE, but not enough to have experienced much RMT. My personal belief is that the only reason to play a multi-player RPG, as opposed to an excellent single player one like Morrowind, is because of the chance to interact with others. You either, a) play the game with other people (RP/PvE), or b) against other people (PvP), or some combo thereof.

On the RP server I played on, we had one fairly new member of our guild who had joined us at about level 20. This was a small guild (around 30) that were dedicated to in-game RP. You needed to write a background story for your character, for example. Not long... many of the kids put up just a paragraph or two, but that's fine. You just had to think of your character as someone who'd existed in-world before you rolled 'em.

So the new guy, an undead warlock, had really good gear for a level 20. This was less then three months after WoW debuted, so nobody thought much of it, until one of the other guildmembers asked him, "Where did you get XYZ piece." He told us that he'd bought it with gold that he'd purchased from some website.

We were universally appalled. You know us heavy-RP types; easily universally appalled.

When we told him he had to drop the stuff or leave the guild, he said, "But my character's background was of an undead who had previously been incredibly rich. I should have come out of the grave to an unlife of ease, and a ton of material stuff at my disposal, not the crap that you start with just because the game sets you up like that."

Which is a really interesting argument. Except that in most pen-and-paper RPs, we explained, you pay a penalty in other stats for choosing an advantage related to money. He'd never played a PnP game... so this was news to him. He said he'd drop the stuff, but another guild member said, "If his character was rich in before-game life, then he should have parceled out all gold among the guild upon joining."

We ended up asking him to foot the bill for our guild tabbard (which we were about to buy), and split the gold among other guildies. We told the rest of the guild about the situation, and we agreed that there would be no more RMT, even if it was RP/RMT.

The opinion of almost all of those I discussed the issue with (which was not many... maybe a dozen) was that RMT was fundamentally "wrong" for an RP environment, as it brought in stuff from outside the game. The point was made by one guildmate that the younger guys (being in college and having more free-time) essentially "brought in" their leisure time differential as opposed to us old, be-familied types; the whole, "John can play for 8 hours a day, I can play for 8 hours a week, but can afford RMT" argument.

The consensus among our guild was, essentially, "tough titty, kitty." You play the game to play the game. If you can play it more, you get more of everything; more XP, more stuff, more time with friends online, more cred among the people. If my RL doesn't let me do that, well that means my priorities are different, and me having more money shouldn't let me play as an "equal" to someone who puts the time in.

During the 8 months or so that I played WoW the heaviest (only ever reaching around level 40 with my main), we had at least a dozen new guys join as noobs and zip past me in just a couple weeks. I was the 2nd in command of the guild, and any respect I had from members had nothing to do with my level or gear, but with the interactions and creativity I brought to the guild. Frankly, because of the limited time I could spend in-game, I was probably in the bottom 25% in terms of fighting ability. But I was the one who'd come up with the guild "story," the website, did the most recruiting, etc. Because of that, if there was something I needed and couldn't afford, guildmates would often help me out. Yes, I used gold I hadn't earned through loot or craft... but I'd earned it through in-game relationship building; call it twinking if you like, but at least you have to earn it by not being a dick.

So... at least in my limited experience, on the RP server I used the most, the consensus was that RMT made it less fun, specifically because it took away chances for player-to-player interaction.

Posted Aug 31, 2007 9:10:05 AM | link

thoreau says:

Andy said, "The opinion of almost all of those I discussed the issue with (which was not many... maybe a dozen) was that RMT was fundamentally "wrong" for an RP environment, as it brought in stuff from outside the game."

I play EQ2 so I'm not sure about the WoW game mechanics, but is it possible to share coin between alts on the same server?

If so, you can have a high level alt with lots of coin. You roll a new toon on the same server and allow that toon to 'inherit' an amount of coin to make for an easier start.

My question is, can you RP a high level alt giving coin to a low level toon? Is this fundamentally different than RMT in the context of the backstory of the particular toon?

Posted Aug 31, 2007 10:09:19 AM | link

Wolfe says:

I know a lot of player do care about RMT as it does have a severe negative impact on several player styles, the problem is that "nobody seems to care" in the sense that nothing noticeable is being done to properly slow down the advance of the RMT activities.

The general trend is going towards a higher level of acceptance, I think this comes from the genral influx of players also coming from a more diverse background. About 8 years ago you had to work hard to find an mmorpg player in the western world who wasnt at least somewhat experienced as PnP RPG gaming.

Today the majority appears to lack this experience and instead coming from various aspects of networked computer gaming. (CS/SC/WC3...)
This "new breed" is not very concerned about the RP problems involved with RMT and their numbers are growing.

We oldskool players who import some aspects of roleplaying into playing WoW are not having a very loud voice anymore and no one listen when we claim RMT is undesired.

Posted Aug 31, 2007 11:26:17 AM | link

Iris says:

RMT in WoW has a much lower impact on individual players because of the way the game was designed. Having a lot of money to buy gear, while an advantage, means very little because much of the best gear cannot be bought with just money (instance/raid/arena stuff, bind-on-pickup, bind-on-equip), and there is a perpetual moneysink in terms of repair costs/food/water which are NPC-provided, funneling money out of the economy to prevent excessive inflation.

The only points at which RMT severely drive up market prices are for twink items due to the rarity vs demand. An average player can level and play just fine without being aware that RMT even exists, much less feel the need to participate, as normal progression provides plenty of resources. It is also inherent in the game design: if I want Rare Item X from Boss Y, I take a group of friends and get my own instance of Boss Y, rather than lining up to camp it in the wee hours of the morning hoping nobody else is on.

Compare this to games such as Everquest or Lineage 2, where most anything is buyable and there is fierce competition for high end items, and resources comparable to level are extremely difficult to acquire. You cannot possibly fail to notice the RMT and farmers in those games, since they practically run the economy. The prices for items necessary for progression are inflated to the point where legitimate players have very little chance of being competitive, and rare so that they would not even exist in any quantity without the farmers.

I think WoW players have it fairly easy, comparatively speaking, in that if they choose to ignore the RMT scene it does not severely intrude upon their gameplay unless they are concerned about the principles of the activity or "keeping up with the Joneses". Sometimes I think the amount of concern is overblown - if I have done my part in not contributing to the problem (ie, not buying gold), then enforcing the terms of their EULA upon those who do is Blizzard's responsibility, not mine. If Joe Random decides he has more free money than time and buys gold, it's not the province of any individual player to enforce that.

I admit to being somewhat mystified by the RP argument. My guildies ran my alt through some lowbie instances, and said alt now has extremely good gear for her level. Does that destroy "immersion"? Does it make a difference if I had looked for PuGs and farmed the same instance 20 times to get that gear? Does it even affect other players, provided I'm not using that gear to gank/grief them?

Having more material resources does not put you on an equal footing with the people who put more time into the game. There remain player reputation, relationships, real experience (not your exp bar), knowledge of how the game world works, etc, that cannot be easily bought. If I PuG with a level 70 who doesn't know, say, that Polymorph breaks on damage, I can be pretty certain he bought his toon, and will remember to not PuG with him in the future. In that regard the player community self-regulates, and the less a game is entirely material resource dependent the more of an impact that will make.

Posted Aug 31, 2007 3:06:48 PM | link

Terence Chua says:

I had the pleasure of meeting and talking quite extensively to Josh in Singapore, and while I listened in to one or two of his discussions with Richard, I didn't have the same honour of formally introducing myself.

But to the topic: I know people in both PvP and PvE environments who have bought gold, although the likelihood of buying gold — or time, in the case of getting someone else to power level or grind honor for you in battlegrounds — is slanted towards more PvP environments. Oddly enough, the ones who buy time don't seem to consider it as morally egregious as people who just buy gold. I suspect it's got to do with the disconnect between the player and the avatar, in the sense that it's okay since the avatar's working hard, even though it's being controlled by someone else.

Josh has a point in that while you get people decrying RMT, most don't seem to really care except for the spamming. Richard's comparison of RMT to speeding is interesting to me personally (as I'm a traffic court judge), and I think he's right there, too — like speeding, or drink driving, people have this Crowleyian attitude that "if it harm none, do what thou wilt"... just don't get caught. So in answer to Richard's question, I think the trend is heading towards realizing that you can't catch the gold buyers, or stop the gold farmers, just don't ask, don't tell.

I seriously doubt most people have actually thought about the effects on the in-game economy, which really, if the devs were really concerned about that most of all, it's not difficult to fix. As I noted once or twice to people during the conference, if you really wanted to stop RMT in gold (as opposed to time), all you have to do is make everything bind on pickup. There are knock on effects on gameplay, for example (especially the trading of mats for crafting, and auction houses would be defunct), but for the most part, that will stop people getting money for the sake of buying gear.

I have this feeling that it's only a matter of time before RMT is truly institutionalized in MMORPGs in one form or another, either by the developers doing it themselves or allowing third parties to do it.

Posted Aug 31, 2007 8:43:54 PM | link

Lavant says:

RMT Gift Giving

On his blog last November, Matt Milhaly asked the question about the difference between RMT and gift giving, both result of out of game factors, "why is [charitable exchange] acceptable when that out-of-game factor is friendship rather than money?" See post here. Despite fierce attempts to steer the conversation away from the usual EULA debate, seeking to explore the demand side of the equation: the practices of everyday gamers rather than Chinese professionals, his bloggers repeatedly came back to the EULA. However, it seems that by looking at "perceptions" towards RMT we are finally starting to delve into this interesting facet and I look forward to Dimitri's numbers (Although I believe anything too far below 30% as RMT user base will be a low estimate). How will RMT be measured first of all? What is RMT? Does charitable exchange cease to be RMT? The way in which the survey data is measured will be of concern. I am refering to references above and those transcripts found over at Xfire Debate. Yet moral perceptions of RMT is perhaps very relevant to the question I seek to explore here.

There is a clear rift in perception of moral capital: that resulting from the leveraging of material capital versus social capital. But what happens when material and social capital (across boundaries) are leveraged to gain material capital across boundaries? How is value created in and around games has been the fueling motivation behind my research here at UCI. It seems there is but one life remember, and I believe there is a quite fuzzy boundary that is not normally explored in these discussions.

A personal anecdote might help explain. Since I became a hardcore WoW researcher, I have found tremendously less time to "play" the game (at this point I really rather study the footage of old SoP debates than touch the grind with a ten foot poll). Some time back in May, I almost ceased playing entirely, but still needed access to the game for research purposes. Around the same time, a good friend became interested in playing, but not paying...a dime. Simply was not affordable and the subscription model conflicted with his sense of moral reciprocity. Very rational thinker mind you. A graduate in fact. Nonetheless, he decided to try my account one day, female human paladin, same PvP server. He became addicted (not in The Wall Street Journal sense of the word, but a much healthier fashion). As time passed he came to play more and more...and more (no surprise here). We had started to share an account. Please don't tell the account admin department ;) Nothing too interesting thus yet, but as time passed he quickly leveled and became quite a proficient farmer, enjoyed farming you might even say. At this point we came to a time share agreement: as I worked during the day he was free to use it during this time and after about 6pm, it would change hands, although I generally ended up differing that time allotment back to him. It seems as if we are sharing a summer getaway home, an escape from reality, maximizing gamer surplus. Efficient use of an entertainment medium. Parlaying value? Recently I received this letter in Wow stating: "I invested in a guy’s AH Endeavors and made 60 gold on my investment—no work involved. Pretty cool, huh?...Thanks to your being nice and letting me play a lot, I have accumulated a significant amount of gold that I would like to share with you, as I find the game more fun when I find all my items." Multiple levels of gift giving, RMT and reciprocity taking place here. We have social (friendship) leading to material (access to game) to social (investment in friend's AH speculation) to social (gift for sharing the account) to material (more gold for Lavant to buy rune cloth to quickly get Darnassus rep and explore the land on a frost saber mount---not the most efficient game method to reach exalted, but the most efficient given my adversity to the grind). So I ask Terra Nova, where is the line drawn between player run gift culture and RMT? Remember, NO FARMERS involved in this question. Assume them away for a moment. It seems the subscription model is a dying means of payment, at least in dollar form...

Posted Aug 31, 2007 9:19:19 PM | link

Lavant says:

Matt- Sorry bout that...should read "Matt Mihaly"

Posted Sep 1, 2007 1:51:57 AM | link

T.D. Risk says:

@Iris

While it is true that the better items in WoW cannot be bought, RMT gold can act as a lever in attaining those items. The player who raids twice a week, spending a day farming gold and supplies, can simply purchase his maintenance needs with that meta-influx of gold. He can now raid three times a week and gain that much more of the better items. The advantage to PvP competitors is similar.

To Richard's question, from my anectdotal experience I'd say yes, the tide is inexorably flowing towards RMT acceptance in MMOGs. From EQ, through half a dozen others, to WoW I've always been in the same kinds of RP-oriented guilds (more "immersionist" than strict RP, really). In EQ RMT was literally unthinkable and twinking was rare, only grudgingly allowed if the player came up with in-game justifications. By the time WoW came out twinking was unremarked and RMT was "don't ask, don't tell". Only one player was ever blatant enough to get kicked from the guild, and he would have probably gotten off a lot easier if the guild leader hadn't been a Blizzard employee who took the EULA seriously (he wanted to keep his job).

Same kind of "RP" guilds, often the same people, travelling down a slippery slope. Arriving at the bottom is inevitable.

I can't leave this without giving my personal opinion on RMT. I'll leave out the ethical considerations. My sensibilities were honed by 12 years of strict RP MUD playing prior to EQ. Perma-bans were regularly given to players who got caught "merely" twinking (gift-giving without in-game "RP" justification) in those MUDs. The attitudes of players who willingly played under those rules were different from those of today's MMOG players. It's a changed game atmosphere due to the progressive erosion of the in-game/out-of-game barrier.

I haven't played a MMOG since quitting WoW 18 months ago and I suspect I won't ever again. Not just because of RMT, but because of the player (and developer) attitude shift that has resulted in RMT as well as voice chat and other immersion-breaking intrusions. The magic has gone away.

Posted Sep 1, 2007 10:41:56 AM | link

Hellinar says:

@Thoreau. In the RP style I favor twinking and RMT would be vastly different. A big component in RP for me is looking at the word from the characters point of view. In the “twinking” case, you old dwarf buddy Hedrik Stoutarm gives a few decent weapons to a friends son to start him on his way. You know Stoutarm, and its just the kind of thing he would do.

In the second case, some elf turns up in fancy gear, claiming to have “inherited” much gold from a family you have never heard of, and doubt even exists. Knowing there are some dubious ways to gain gold in this world, who would you choose to adventure with, the son or the elf?

In the twinking case, you have seen, and helped, Stoutarm come by the gold honestly. In this second, there is no inworld history to support the heap of gold. If, like me, you RP to create a story, these are as different as a full glass and an empty glass.

Posted Sep 1, 2007 12:10:26 PM | link

says:

Posted Sep 1, 2007 3:29:38 PM | link

Richard Bartle says:

Wolfe>In practice no one seems to care that other players "cheat".

Well, that was kind of the question for this post. On my server (Alliance, PvE) people do care about it. Your experience seems to be otherwise. The question I was asking was whether the perception depends on whom you're gaming with, and to what extent. It's when people make blanket statements like yours that are at odds with the experience of other players that lead to my posting on the subject.

Richard

Posted Sep 2, 2007 7:54:44 AM | link

Richard Bartle says:

Terence Chua>So in answer to Richard's question, I think the trend is heading towards realizing that you can't catch the gold buyers, or stop the gold farmers, just don't ask, don't tell.

Actually, they CAN do something about stopping it.

Suppose that in order for one character to give anything to another character, they have to be in the same guild for 2 weeks. This would cut RMT to negligible levels at a stroke.

As you were part of the conversation Josh and I were having, you'd have heard that part of Josh's complaints about attitudes to RMT was that the developers condone it (he suspects for money reasons, but I'm not that cynical).

That's another discussion, though...

Richard

Posted Sep 2, 2007 8:00:24 AM | link

lewy says:

@Richard Bartle:

The problem is that the measures required to prevent RMT in game would be a significant impediment to normal play. A while back I told a friend that I had a fool proof solution to gun crime in the United States. Set up a universal curfew of 10 pm and require citizens to have a special government permit to be out after that time. Ban all travel more than 50 miles away from your home without special government dispensation.

The problem is that everyone knows how to stop RMT (or real life crime). The trick is that nobody particularly wants to live in the kind of society where crime or RMT is impossible. If I have a level 70 with a couple of thousand gold and my brother-in-law, or a college buddy I haven't spoken to in years, decides he wants to play should I be able to give him a thousand gold to help him get started? And if the answer is yes and you still want to combat RMT in game how do you differentiate between my transfer of a thousand gold to a new character and that of a Chinese gold farmer's?

Posted Sep 2, 2007 6:15:46 PM | link

lewy says:

One more thing: this whole discussion relies on anecdotal evidence, and I think the consensus is that that is generally worthless. On the other hand we know that RMT is a huge industry involving millions or even billions of dollars and that it employs literally hundreds of thousands of individuals. That alone it seems to me is ample indication that it is a widespread phenomenon and for that reason alone probably has reached a level of significant acceptance among the MMOG player base.

Posted Sep 2, 2007 6:21:32 PM | link

Iris says:

@T.D. Risk

Yes, the players who buy gold won't have to deal with farming for maintenance costs, but what I was arguing for was that it does not really affect other players that much, unless you are talking about global pvp. The gold buyer still needs to spend the same amount of time raiding as other players, and would still need to be a competent player. The way that the raids are set up in WoW at the moment, a bad player, no matter how good his gear is, is a liability rather than an asset in a raid group, whereas a good player in slightly subpar gear would do a better job.

It's this balance between gear and actual technical skill (or at least knowledge of the game) which I believe affects the rate of RMT, because the former is buyable and the latter is not. Also, the game is designed to be of reasonable difficulty at all levels (not just endgame) with gear normally acquirable without engaging in RMT. In, say, Lineage 2, if you do not have the money to buy top grade gear for your level, you're stuck grinding mobs 10 levels below and will take about 5 times longer to progress as someone who does (said mobs will also have lower item drop rates, leading to less money, leading to a cycle of being perpetually gimped).

@lewy

I think part of it is that it's bad PR to ban the buyers instead of the sellers. I could never get all that riled up against the gold farmers themselves because to them it's just a job. It's the people who are creating demand, the end users, who are causing this problem, but the game companies are unwilling to penalize them because these are the same people who are paying their subscription fees. As a NY Times article quoted, if you ban the end users, these are the same people who're going to get angry, stop paying, and say nasty things about your company and your game, whereas banning farmers rarely leads to such consequences.

Posted Sep 2, 2007 9:51:49 PM | link

glenn says:

Posted Sep 3, 2007 12:11:32 AM | link

Richard Bartle says:

lewy>The problem is that the measures required to prevent RMT in game would be a significant impediment to normal play.

Well, they would be if RMT was part of "normal play". If they're not, well it depends what you mean by "significant". Back in the day, the idea of soulbound objects was considered a significant impediment to normal play, but nowadays people think it's just part and parcel of the game.

>A while back I told a friend that I had a fool proof solution to gun crime in the United States. Set up a universal curfew of 10 pm and require citizens to have a special government permit to be out after that time.

That's not foolproof at all - people could go out after 10pm and shoot each other just as they do now.

You could perhaps reduce the incidence of gun crime in that manner, but then there are other ways to do it, too. Here in the UK, gun ownership without a licence is prohibited, and as a result we get far fewer shootings than in the USA. If you don't want to ban guns, OK, make bullets cost $10 each. If you don't want that, well, what you're basically saying is that you want people to be allowed to shoot guns so much that you accept the level of gun crime which comes with it.

I agree with your basic point, though. With RMT, it's a similar situation: how much do you want to screw up the game world in order to avoid a few other people screwing it up even more? And if you let the screwers-up continue to screw up for long enough, how long before it becomes part of the regular culture instead of something aberrant?

>nobody particularly wants to live in the kind of society where crime or RMT is impossible.

Well no, they DO want that, they just don't want that plus whatever it took to get the virtual world that way. That said, today's virtual worlds are almost fascist dictatorships in comparison with the early ones, with heavy regulation implemented in software. You can't steal anything from another player, you can't attack them at random, you can't push them off cliffs... Yet today's players seem to accept that, and indeed to like it. Who is to say that if you didn't take a simple anti-RMT measure (such as only allowing one-to-one trade with people who have been in the same guild as you for 2 weeks) then they might not like it? It would certainly make guilds stronger.

>If I have a level 70 with a couple of thousand gold and my brother-in-law, or a college buddy I haven't spoken to in years, decides he wants to play should I be able to give him a thousand gold to help him get started?

Well that depends on the virtual world's anti-twink policy. Surely he could wait 2 weeks before getting the money, though?

Richard

Posted Sep 3, 2007 3:17:45 AM | link

Wolfe says:

The people who openly complain about RMT are in large the ones with the lowest powers in the political scene around the game.

The developers who are the highest in power only appear to pay token service to these complaints (even it they try to act it has no noticeable effect). The practical effect of the developers intervention is non existant, hence it becomes part of the game over time.

Posted Sep 3, 2007 3:42:13 AM | link

lewy says:

Richard Bartle wrote:

>Well, they would be if RMT was part of "normal play". If they're not, well it depends what you mean by "significant". Back in the day, the idea of soulbound objects was considered a significant impediment to normal play, but nowadays people think it's just part and parcel of the game.

You could also ban all trades whatsoever and make everything bind on pickup, or make a completely skill based game where loot is worthless.

> That's not foolproof at all - people could go out after 10pm and shoot each other just as they do now.

Assuming zero enforcement, certainly. I was envisioning a program where being out after 10 pm is grounds for the police to pull someone over and question them and an aggressive program in place where the police to do just that. I would also imagine that the police could scan your license plate as you drive past them on the highway and pull you over if you're more than 50 miles away from your house to make sure that your government travel permit was correct. I don't imagine that I'd feel very comfortable living in such a society. Is hanging around in a virtual world where big brother is constantly monitoring you going to be very pleasant? I don't think that it would be fun enough to justify a monthly fee.

> Here in the UK, gun ownership without a licence is prohibited, and as a result we get far fewer shootings than in the USA.

On the other hand assault and burglary are also illegal in the UK and yet the rates for those two crimes are lower in the US. Also, the number of non-gun homicides in the US is much higher than the the total number of all forms of homicide in the UK, so I'd suggest it has more to do with different cultures rather than crime legislation.

> If you don't want to ban guns, OK, make bullets cost $10 each.

That only prevents a hypothetical criminal from practicing with his weapon, not using it.

Also, banning liquor in the 1920's only created Al Capone. Organized crime in the U.S. has a lucrative business running in cigarettes from Mexico to beat high tobacco taxes. And there's the whole drug war thing. Banning a product for which there is a sizable demand only creates a sizable black market--which is precisely what's happened with RMT.

> You can't steal anything from another player, you can't attack them at random, you can't push them off cliffs...

That depends on which game you're playing. In certain games you can.

> Who is to say that if you didn't take a simple anti-RMT measure (such as only allowing one-to-one trade with people who have been in the same guild as you for 2 weeks) then they might not like it?

At the cost of severely penalizing loners. Imagine an individual who lucks into a purple on a raid who would like to sell it to raise money for his mount. Now he has to go through at least a two week process to do so, and the individual who would like to purchase that item has to go through the trouble of inconveniencing his guild by inviting a total stranger into their midst. Now imagine that this hypothetical buyer is unscrupulous. He could say something like "You're going to sell me that item for 200 gold less than we agreed upon, or you can go find someone else and wait for another two weeks."

>It would certainly make guilds stronger.

Or it might make guilds much weaker. Imagine a "merchant's guild" made up of thousands of strangers with no affiliation with other another, whose only reason for joining that guild was to be able to trade with one another.

>Well that depends on the virtual world's anti-twink policy. Surely he could wait 2 weeks before getting the money, though?

That's assuming that he's going to join my guild. What if he wants to play with the guys from his workplace?

Also, does it make sense to have an anti-RMT policy but no anti-twink policy?

Posted Sep 3, 2007 5:36:57 AM | link

lewy says:

@Iris:

Yes, and that's why the current state of anti-RMT enforcement is a joke. If all of the risk falls on the seller rather than the buyer that basically guarantees that there will always be a demand.

Posted Sep 3, 2007 5:40:27 AM | link

Hellinar says:

>how do you differentiate between my transfer of a thousand gold to a new character and that of a Chinese gold farmer's? <

One big difference is motive. You acquired your gold in normal gameplay and now want to give it away. The Chinese farmer acquired it because the amount of gold he acquires in an hour is worth more in US$ than working in a factory. The RMT trade, like any trade, is driven by comparative advantage. In the case of RMT, it is driven by the differential between the average gold earnings per month of the average player, and the earning potential of an optimized farming account.

Soft cap the max amount per month an account can earn to a small multiple of the earnings of an average max level player. By definition, this would not affect the earnings of the average player. But it would severely drop the efficiency of the farming account, and make most current RMT trades uneconomic. Reduce the comparative advantage. Blizzard is actually trying this in a less efficient backwards direction. Daily quests are upping the average earnings of the average player, closing the gap a bit on the farming account earnings. I think capping the farming accounts would have a more positive effect though.

Posted Sep 3, 2007 11:08:04 AM | link

robusticus says:

My anectodal perception is that a small percentage of players indulge heavily and an equal percentage passionately view it as cheating. The rest of us don't care, falling somewhere in the middle between a mild dislike and buying gold rarely.

Again, Bind-on-pickup is quite possibly the worst game design method ever. Followed closely by p-random drops where the server falls into von Neuman's trap or the client gets hacked.

Bind-on-pickup could be valid for lore reasons, such as for a few sentient weapons. But as a general anti-inflation device? That's cheesy like Monday morning.

Players tend to talk about "earning" stuff, but the irony is that wasn't the intention, far from it. Were it the intention one would unlock the right to trade by being present for a kill. So if I've downed Lady Vashj once, I would have the right to buy the Glorious Gauntlets of Crestfall, and everything else in her loot table, dropped during somebody else's raid. Such a system should satisfy the achievers, but it wouldn't. They would cry hard at such a change, and would in fact mock me viciously for even thinking about it.

So that's not the way it works. There is no earning, only a twisted facsimile of the concept, at least not in the game you're talking about here. And so you have the endless controversy.

Posted Sep 3, 2007 11:15:52 AM | link

lewy says:

Hellinar wrote:

> One big difference is motive.

Yes, but my point is that from a technical perspective motive is useless. All the server knows is that gold is being transferred from character A to character B. How can it possibly discern the "why" behind that?

> Soft cap the max amount per month an account can earn to a small multiple of the earnings of an average max level player.

That only forces the farmers to deploy a group of toons, rather than simply relying on one.

I don't think RMT is "solvable" given the setup of a game like WoW, and I think the fixes that have been discussed will only end up inconveniencing legitimate players while the farmers find loopholes.

The salient point is that holds true for "a game like WoW". I don't imagine there would be much RMT in a superhero game. There powers are integral to the character--it doesn't make sense in the context of the setting to be buying and trading super powers. I can also envision an elves-in-tights game where there is no magic loot, just ordinary swords and armor which are lost on death but easily reacquired. Obviously it's possible to design around RMT, but clearly it's too late for WoW.

Posted Sep 3, 2007 6:18:42 PM | link

Amarilla says:

@lewy : except for the case when Blizzard consider the " official RMT " a possible future option.

Posted Sep 4, 2007 2:25:25 AM | link

Richard Bartle says:

lewy>You could also ban all trades whatsoever and make everything bind on pickup, or make a completely skill based game where loot is worthless.

You could, yes. There are many ways to undermine RMT, and some would indeed be unpalatable to today's players (just as things like BoP would have been unpalatable to the players of 20 years ago). The one I suggested isn't all that hard to implement, doesn't have an intolerable effect on gameplay, yet would curtail RMT fairly effectively.

>Banning a product for which there is a sizable demand only creates a sizable black market--which is precisely what's happened with RMT.

Yes, but if you remove a ban then the take-up will generally increase, and then you get the social problems that led to the ban's being imposed in the first place.

>Imagine an individual who lucks into a purple on a raid who would like to sell it to raise money for his mount. Now he has to go through at least a two week process to do so

No, he just has to put it on the auction house. The AH mechanism would need to be able to accommodate this, though. Basically, the way that WoW works at the moment you could put a scrap of leather and the farmer would bid 500G for it (the 500G you bought from them). The system would have to be changed so that if there were identical objects for sale then the buyer would get the one offered at the lowest price. So, someone else puts up a scrap of leather for 3SP and that's the one the farmer gets (for 3SP) rather than the 500G one. Instant buyout would have to be on a (random) timer, too, to give other people a chance to step in with a lower price tag.

Yes, these things are always a little more complicated than the headline makes out...

>Or it might make guilds much weaker. Imagine a "merchant's guild" made up of thousands of strangers with no affiliation with other another, whose only reason for joining that guild was to be able to trade with one another.

The very fact that it's different to normal guilds makes it an attractive idea, to me at least.

>Also, does it make sense to have an anti-RMT policy but no anti-twink policy?

Sometimes, yes. There are people who don't like RMT but who don't mind twinking - the two aren't always equated.

Richard

Posted Sep 4, 2007 2:58:57 AM | link

Isaac says:

I wonder whether complete and total enforcement is necessary, especially considering that perfect enforcement is, under some analytical perspectives, infinitely costly. I would agree that given Blizzard's massive account eliminiations back in mid to late 2006 and the current vigilance they are showing, RMT is not a really big issue anymore. If you are competitive enough that you have to purchase RMT just to keep up with others, either in high level raiding or PvP, I would say that puts you in a very small bracket of l33t players who make up a niche market, the variations of which do not have a strong multiplier effect in the wider economy.

Certainly Blizzard has no incentive to fully eliminate RMT, not only because doing so would be costly but because there are probably a set of subscribers that only continue playing because they can make regular purchases of RMT without interference. As long as the level of RMT supply is not moving upward, and so long as there is not a great deal of volatility in the supply, prices will be stable and the existence of RMT will go basically unnoticed (so long as purchasers keep their mouths shut :), and its "negative externalities" will be minimal.

Posted Sep 4, 2007 10:07:03 AM | link

robusticus says:

Any plan that involves strengthening guilds should be ruled out. People don't necessarily want to be in a guild. Being in a guild shouldn't ever be a game requirement, it should be about who you want to play with, if anybody.

Posted Sep 4, 2007 11:51:44 AM | link

thoreau says:

Isn't in-game gold a fiat currency? Does any MMO bind its gold to some in-game resource?

I wonder if gold farming would go away if the amount of gold in circulation was capped based on some metric.

To handle item farming, make looted items a 'one time only' enterprise. That is to say, if you loot a Scaled Red Dragon Sword once, you can never loot that item again. If you sell it ok, but you'll never loot it again.

Posted Sep 4, 2007 12:37:12 PM | link

lewy says:

Richard Bartle wrote:

> Yes, but if you remove a ban then the take-up will generally increase, and then you get the social problems that led to the ban's being imposed in the first place.

Clearly though for some bans the cure is worse than the disease--the problems with prohibition the U.S. went through in 1920's, for example. Given the hoops we're jumping through trying to get an RMT solution in place, is it really worth it? It's extremely unlikely in my view that any solution can simply be dropped into place. It's more likely that there will be an arms race between developers and farmers which requires constant tweaking. And all of this of course represents time and resources stolen away from developers who could be working on fixing bugs and publishing new content.

> No, he just has to put it on the auction house. The AH mechanism would need to be able to accommodate this, though. Basically, the way that WoW works at the moment you could put a scrap of leather and the farmer would bid 500G for it (the 500G you bought from them). The system would have to be changed so that if there were identical objects for sale then the buyer would get the one offered at the lowest price. So, someone else puts up a scrap of leather for 3SP and that's the one the farmer gets (for 3SP) rather than the 500G one. Instant buyout would have to be on a (random) timer, too, to give other people a chance to step in with a lower price tag.

In other words, more hoops to jump through. Why can't your hypothetical farmer buy up the only yellow power crystal on the auction house? After that, seeing as there are no other yellow power crystals for sale, wouldn't your buyer be able to auction his yellow power crystal for 5000 gold?

And there is still the hypothetical where you want to gift 1000 gold to someone who is not in your guild...

> There are people who don't like RMT but who don't mind twinking - the two aren't always equated.

In other words, if I get 1000 gold from a friend for twinking purposes that's fine but if I purchase 1000 gold from a farmer it's not?

Posted Sep 4, 2007 2:23:38 PM | link

Hellinar says:

lewy>In other words, if I get 1000 gold from a friend for twinking purposes that's fine but if I purchase 1000 gold from a farmer it's not?<

Right. There is a huge difference, which seems “obvious” to me. Its relates to how the actions scale. Sure, at a one transaction level they look the same. But that is not the issue. RMT is a system level problem, not an individual morality one. While you might give 1000 gold to a friend for twinking purposes, you are not likely to give 1000 gold to 500 of your closest friends for twinking purposes. The farmer on the other hand, needs to give his 1000 gold to 500 strangers to make his business viable. It is this scale issue that gives RMT its negative system effects. Twinkers don’t usually farm 24/7 on multiple accounts, thus inflating the economy and increasing the grind. Twinkers deal with known friends, farmers deal with strangers, and have to resort to spamming thecommunication channels to contact them. At a close up single transaction level, the 1000 gold transfer may look the same, but pull back to an overall system level, and they look very different.

One dividing line in attitudes to RMT I think is whether people look at the implications on a personal level, or on a system level. The two viewpoints give different results. I think the early VW attempts tended to attract people prone to system level thinking, and were nervous of the system effects of RMT on features they loved. As VWs get more mainstream, they are moving more to the consumerist viewpoint of “what does it mean to me right now”. Long term system level effects are something you pay the provider to worry about.

Posted Sep 4, 2007 3:07:52 PM | link

lewy says:

@Hellinar:

So would RMT be acceptable if it was constrained to a frequency approaching normal twinking? Let's say gold in game is prohibitively expensive in terms of real dollars, meaning that RMT for gold is extremely rare--but it does occur. Would you still have an objection if someone bought gold if it's an act of such rarity as to have little to no consequence on the game at large?

One more thought: twinkers do harm the economy for lower level characters. If I have to grind for 10 hours to get the materials to make a suit of plate, what effect will it have when a level 70 can round up the materials/gold in 30 minutes? Even worse, what if said level 70 gifts those materials or the plate to his lower level buddy? Now said buddy isn't going to be patronizing the wares of level 20 crafters, like me. Level 70's will inevitably ruin the market for level 20's for no other reason than the mobs they kill drop more gold: one hour of grinding for a level 70 may result in gains an order of magnitude larger than what a level 20 could make in the same amount of time.

Posted Sep 4, 2007 7:21:39 PM | link

lew says:

Whoops, one more thing. I may be unlikely to give out 1000 gold to 500 of my closest friends, but surely there are 500 people just like me who are are twinking their friends in the game.

Posted Sep 4, 2007 7:27:27 PM | link

Richard Bartle says:

lewy>Clearly though for some bans the cure is worse than the disease--the problems with prohibition the U.S. went through in 1920's, for example.

Yes indeed - alcohol was so ingrained in the US culture by then that the lengths people were prepared to go to to get it caused worse problems than just letting them have it in the first place.

>Given the hoops we're jumping through trying to get an RMT solution in place, is it really worth it?

It depends on your point of view. If you're a developer hoping to turn profit from selling virtual objects to your players, RMT is not even a worry. If you're a player who wants to visit a world separate from reality, freed from real-world constraints of wealth and power, then it really is worth it.

The danger is (from my point of view) that RMT gets so endemic and so accepted that it's impossible to play a virtual world without it. If it becomes culturally expected, rather than merely accepted, then we could reach a stage where people don't even realise they ever had a choice about engaging in it before, and that there were virtual worlds in which you could succeed based on your strength of character rather than your real-world wealth.

>Why can't your hypothetical farmer buy up the only yellow power crystal on the auction house? After that, seeing as there are no other yellow power crystals for sale, wouldn't your buyer be able to auction his yellow power crystal for 5000 gold?

Because someone else would see there was a yellow power crystal for sale at 5000GP, and put one of their own up for auction at 4999GP. Then, when the bid timer was up, it would be theirs that was won, not the other one.

>And there is still the hypothetical where you want to gift 1000 gold to someone who is not in your guild...

Yes there is, and this would just be impossible. The question is, would this be a price worth paying?

>In other words, if I get 1000 gold from a friend for twinking purposes that's fine but if I purchase 1000 gold from a farmer it's not?

That would be the view, yes. It involves a different morality (gift versus sale), which some people are OK with. If you don't like it, don't even let people give stuff to each other within a guild, let alone outside of one.

Richard

Posted Sep 5, 2007 3:50:32 AM | link

Amarilla says:

@Richard : then , " waddawegonnado " then ? Is there anything to do at all , for " we the Gamerz " ,i mean ?

Posted Sep 5, 2007 5:55:59 AM | link

Ace Albion says:

Would a perfectly enforced ban on RMT be a health risk to players?

If the only way to get ahead is to obsessively and relentlessly play the game beyond any sensible limits, to the detriment of your job/school, life and wellbeing, then is that better or worse than having people figure they can relax, and buy a little advantage?

Because you know, someone is going to play harder, longer than you. And they'll probably call you a fag and tell you to stfu too. Do you resign yourself to subservience to internet fuckwads in the case of 0 RMT? I know MUDs were pretty spiteful places at university, at least WoW doesn't have wizards.

From Blizzard's point of view, of course they accept and endorse RMT. They sweep up the annoying spam and make some noises, then they farm the subscription money from China- isn't that one of their biggest incomes? Plus all those sub/ban/sub/ban merrygorounds have done wonders for their "registered accounts" statistics.

Posted Sep 5, 2007 6:17:45 AM | link

Hellinar says:

@lewy.

If RMT was a minor background activity with little system effect, I wouldn’t object. I don’t have a “moral” objection. As you point out, twinking and RMT have a lot in common. Like RMT, twinking is driven by the “comparative advantage” of high level earning power vs. low level earning power. Personally, I think this is overdone in WoW. I’d like to play a similar game with a less steep power/earning curve.

@Ace

My proposal to “fix” RMT, soft-capping experience and loot gain, would also go a long way to deter compulsive grinding. With a soft cap, people could still grind to get bragging rights, but the functional reward would be a lot less. I think MMOGs would be a lot healthier if they ditched the strictly linear time = reward model. And they would fend off some potential future law suits.

Posted Sep 5, 2007 9:59:43 AM | link

Andy Havens says:

Ace said: "Would a perfectly enforced ban on RMT be a health risk to players? If the only way to get ahead is to obsessively and relentlessly play the game beyond any sensible limits, to the detriment of your job/school, life and wellbeing, then is that better or worse than having people figure they can relax, and buy a little advantage?"

Andy cracked up. And then said:

Would a perfectly enforced ban on stealing be a health risk to the lazy? If the only way to get ahead is to obsessively and relentlessly work at a real job beyond any sensible (to me) limits, to the detriment of your home life and recreation time, then is it better or worse than having people figure they can relax and steal a little advantage?

'Cause, of course, people wouldn't ever do both: buy a little advantage and STILL play the game obsessively.

Posted Sep 5, 2007 7:58:45 PM | link

lewy says:

Richard Bartle wrote:

>Yes indeed - alcohol was so ingrained in the US culture by then that the lengths people were prepared to go to to get it caused worse problems than just letting them have it in the first place.

I think it's a fair question to ask if RMT now falls into the same category. Certainly the number of dollars exchanged and the size of the industry suggests it might be.

>Because someone else would see there was a yellow power crystal for sale at 5000GP, and put one of their own up for auction at 4999GP. Then, when the bid timer was up, it would be theirs that was won, not the other one.

In other words, now there's no instant buyout button. What if I want that stack of rugged leather now so that I can start crafting my new chest plate? In other words in order to combat RMT we're now inconveniencing normal auction house users who just want to grab their crafting materials and get on with their lives.

I still think your auction house ban is still attackable as well. Nobody's going to risk 5000 gold, but surely chancing 100 gold a time is acceptable. Especially if that timer on the buyout button is set too low--let's say less than a few hours, which is going to massively inconvenience people who just want to get their stuff and get going. And why not agree on loot that's acquired far away from the auction houses and which is so useless that no one's going to search for it in the first place?

Also, are you banning the transfer of items from one player to another? Can player A no longer mail items to player B? Because without that further step restrictions on the auction house are going to be fairly useless. So you've now entered into a situation where not only can you no longer gift gold to someone outside of your guild, you can no longer transfer items to them as well. What impact will that have on crafters? Currently many customers of crafters gather the materials for the item they'd like and then transfer it to a crafter, along with a monetary payment, to get the item they desire. If you're going to keep that why not charge 5000 gold for a level 5 leather tunic?

And how about enchanters? Why not charge 5000 gold for a level 1 enchant?

See what I was talking about when I mentioned hoops and jumping through them?

> Yes there is, and this would just be impossible. The question is, would this be a price worth paying?

Actually it wouldn't be impossible. Your friend simply has to quit his guild, join your guild for two weeks, get his gift, and then quit your guild and rejoin his original one.

There's another issue with bans and black markets. At what point do the restrictions you set in place become burdensome not only to the criminals you're targeting but ordinary citizens as well?

To get rid of RMT you're going to disallow transfers of either items or gold between characters not in the same guild. Crafting and enchanting between characters not in the same guild will have to be banned as well. No more will people be able to stand in front of the bank offering to unlock lockboxes for tips. Does that game sound like it would be very fun to play?

And that still doesn't address a hypothetical which I think you admitted above was plausible: a massive "merchants" guild, made up of people with no affiliation to each other besides a desire to trade with strangers just like in the good old days.

> That would be the view, yes. It involves a different morality (gift versus sale), which some people are OK with. If you don't like it, don't even let people give stuff to each other within a guild, let alone outside of one.

What happened to the magic circle? Is there some magic force in the context of the game world which prevents people from giving stuff to people outside their guild?

Also, would it make a difference if I bought gold but then told everyone in my guild that I had actually received it as a gift?

Posted Sep 5, 2007 9:36:48 PM | link

lewy says:

@Richard Bartle:

Actually, there's another problem with your auction house strategy. There are two timers involved with auctions: one for the instant buyout and one for the auction itself. If I'm buying gold from Farmer X it's trivial to mail him with the time I posted the auction and the length I set it to. He can then log in one minute before the expiration, check to see if anyone's trying to undercut me, and only then place a bid. Since we're communicating we have a real advantage over a third party who might be trying to disrupt our transaction.

The obvious solution is to not allow individuals to specify a time limit on their auctions. Again, I'll just point out that this represents 1) more hoops and 2) more impediments placed in the way of normal players who do not engage in RMT.

Posted Sep 5, 2007 9:55:57 PM | link

robusticus says:

I say just get rid of persistance altogether. I mean, it only causes problems and is a pain to develop anyway, with all of those RAM drives and caching and the security and all that...

WTB Pacman High Score at my local movie theater. Oh wait, I already have it, unless they unplugged the machine. Nevermind.

Seriously. Trading is human nature, for the good, and what's more, these designs don't really work without it. The strawmen about drugs, alcohol, prostitution, and now stealing (!?) are just that.

There is that whole globalization thing, and that is truly a sad state of affairs totally unrelated to gaming. But any time I propose solutions I get labeled a cultural imperialist, so I'm done with THAT debate. And gambling. For now.

On the side, Runescape doesn't overabuse the BoP dealio, either.

Posted Sep 6, 2007 10:58:22 AM | link

Moses says:

Likely the most important attitude towards RMT that needs to be respected is not players, but the host governments of the game machinery. When American $$$ goes to China, and Stormwind/Ogrimmar gold comes back, the US Federal Treasury will see a trade deficit because resources used in their own game goes away and doesn't come back.

After saying that, I suppose the government types won't mind if the RMT is a transaction between two players inside the borders of their own nation since that's a zero-sum game (minus the double-dip called income taxes). Do normal players make a distinction between domestic RMTs and foreign RMTs? Is there a different attitude for buying gold from a farmer in Singapore, a farmer in Munich, or a farmer in Seattle?

Posted Sep 6, 2007 5:00:51 PM | link

Richard Bartle says:

lewy>He can then log in one minute before the expiration, check to see if anyone's trying to undercut me, and only then place a bid.

This works if he knows when "one minute before the end" is. You could reset the timer every time someone makes a bid, so that only when no-one has bid more for an hour or so does it get sold.

It would need a bidding war to get the price up that high anyway. The way eBay works, for example, if I say I want to pay $50 for something, what I'm actually saying is that I want to pay UP TO $50 for it. If the strongest other bidder has posted a maximum bid of $25, then I get it for $26. What virtual worlds can do that eBay can't is allow for identical objects to be put on sale (they're more a like a stock exchange in this regard). If someone has put a helmet on the AH and it's been bid up to stratospheric levels by a farmer and the farmer's alt, then I can put up the same helmet for auction and the farmer's alt gets it, too.

Yes, more hoops.

I should point out, though, that without hoops you have no gameplay. The trick is to make the hoops fun to jump through, or at least not unfun to jump through on the way to the fun hoops.

Richard

Posted Sep 7, 2007 4:18:53 AM | link

lewy says:

@Richard Bartle:

Your auction house scheme is still attackable. The dummy item with the cheapest cost gets sold, right? If I'm the farmer I can keep an eye on that yellow power crystal which is up for sale for 5000 gold. If someone creates an auction for another crystal for 4999 gold I can have my alt create yet another auction for one silver. The time expires, I get my crystal for one silver and the buyer and I reset and wait for another opportunity to try again. And that's assuming that anyone will be looking to buy yellow power crystals (or another suitably useless item) in the first place and would even notice our auction.

So, to summarize...

1) No more paying people for enchants outside of your guild.
2) No more paying crafters to create gear for you outside of your guild.
3) No more buying and selling items through the mail.
4) No gifting or transfer of items or gold to anyone outside of your guild.
5) In order to allow some semblance of trade the auction house is going to have to be heavily modified with a new scheme for automatically awarding the lowest cost item to a bidder, while as far as I can tell that scheme is still susceptible to being manipulated by farmers.

How much work is this going to require on the part of the development team? Is it really realistic to assume that one patch will be all it takes to implement a fix for RMT, or is it more likely that holes will be found and that it will be an ongoing process, an arms race between the game studio and farmers requiring constant effort and patching? And would their efforts perhaps be better spent on developing content, tweaking balance issues and fixing bugs?

Posted Sep 7, 2007 5:06:23 AM | link

lewy says:

Oh, for an edit button. One last question: do you think that the current population of WoW is really going to stand for 1 and 2? If you're an enchanter or crafter and your potential customer base is limited only to the people in your guild are you going to be happy? From their perspective they have never engaged in RMT and yet they're being penalized for it. In other words the anti-RMT measures you're putting in place are now going to start affecting normal, law abiding players.

And if my guild is okay with RMT, why shouldn't we invite a farmer into the guild for the amount of time it will be necessary to get our 50,000 gold from him?

Posted Sep 7, 2007 5:11:38 AM | link

robusticus says:

"Do normal players make a distinction between domestic RMTs and foreign RMTs?"

I drive a Subura and will forever boycott Nike. Dunno if that answers your question but basically, no.

The point I was trying to make is that serious money to an adult in the 3rd world isn't worthwhile to an adult in, say, Seattle. The poverty line where I live is alot higher than, well, basically everywhere else. The cause being a general lack of labor laws, but I suppose that statement could be debated once or twice. Since this thread started on the American Labor Day holiday, allowances must be made. :)

Posted Sep 7, 2007 12:22:32 PM | link

JuJutsu says:

"Are we both right?"

I would say no.

"Or are we both seeing what we want to see?"

I would say yes.

"Are game-style virtual worlds going through some kind of paradigm shift, in which RMT is regarded as part and parcel of playing them, or is resolve stiffening?"

I would say that there is definitely a paradigm shift.

"Is what people say about RMT in public at odds with what they do in practice?"

I'm not really sure what people say in public; however it's clear to me that the supply of 'gold' for RMT is increasing. Seems unlikey to happen if there wasn't demand.

I think there are more and more people that are willing to publicly say that they are comfortable with RMT. I am.

"What might their reasons be?"

For saying publicly they disapprove but doing it in private? Hypocrisy lets you have your cake and eat it too. For saying publicly that they approve but not doing it in private? In my case it's because I'm thrifty [my wife would use different terminology ;) ]

Posted Sep 7, 2007 4:23:43 PM | link

Richard Bartle says:

lewy>Your auction house scheme is still attackable.

Yes, it's always attackable - it's just less attackable this way. It allows, for example, people who are against RMT to spoil all RMT sales by putting up the same object for sale except at a reasonable price. If the yellow power crystal is being bid for at 5000GP, I can put one up for sale at 3GP or whatever the going rate is. The seller has to call off the sale by putting it up for lower, then try again. I can always do this, so long as I can get my hands on a copy of whatever is being overbid on.

>And that's assuming that anyone will be looking to buy yellow power crystals (or another suitably useless item) in the first place and would even notice our auction.

Even in today's WoW-style AHs, enough people run AH-scanning mods that if you put something up for sale for less than the price you can sell it to a vendor, it won't last long. If people see they could make a fortune from jumping in on RMT sales (especially very close to the end, before the farmer can react), they will do.

>1) No more paying people for enchants outside of your guild.

Well, not unless there were some kind of AH for services.

>2) No more paying crafters to create gear for you outside of your guild.

Why not? They can go on the AH just like everything else.

>3) No more buying and selling items through the mail.

Except between guild members.

>4) No gifting or transfer of items or gold to anyone outside of your guild.

Yes.

>5) In order to allow some semblance of trade the auction house is going to have to be heavily modified

Heavily modified to work the way real world AHs work.

>How much work is this going to require on the part of the development team?

It's a patch-level change, but it's not an expansion-level change. It may not be right for existing worlds anyway, as they will have been designed with the old system in mind. It might work with a new one, though.

>Is it really realistic to assume that one patch will be all it takes to implement a fix for RMT

It is, but I wouldn't recommend it. There would be many, many knock-on effects, especially in an established virtual world such as Wow. It would, for example, cause fault lines within guilds that could lead to great social strife, with the result that the game suffers from that far more than it ever did from RMT. I wouldn't recommend doing it to a mature server, although it might be worth a try on a new server (do Blizzard still open new servers, or have they peaked?).

>or is it more likely that holes will be found and that it will be an ongoing process, an arms race between the game studio and farmers requiring constant effort and patching?

There will be holes, but they're pluggable, and the rate of discovery of new holes will drop. The way I understand it (I may be wrong, but this is what I hear), even with current anti-RMT measures, the developers are catching up on farmers because they can fix exploits quicker than farmers can create new ones (there isn't an infinite supply).

What it comes down to is that farmers live in the margins where developers could stop them but would hurt the players too much if they did. All we're debating is how much "too much" is.

More to the point, this is a two-way thing. I've been talking as if RMT were regarded by players as a bad thing, but if, as Josh was suggesting, RMT is getting more and more accepted, why couldn't things move in the other direction? If everyone is comfortable with RMT, we could reach the point where some of the earlier anti-RMT devices, such as soulbound objects, can be relaxed.

Richard

Posted Sep 8, 2007 6:15:14 AM | link

S. says:

Listen.

The big majority of mmo gamers buy gold. That same big majority likes to judge and condemn the RMT industry. The people who produce mmo's know this behavior, the people who run RMT companies know this behavior, and the players themself (if they are honest to themself) know it as well.

The only people who don't seem to know it, are you guys with your RMT/mmo industry blogs.

You guys hunt for statistics, press releases, try to collect data on your own, for weeks/months/years to get your answers. But really guys, it's quite simple. -->> mmo gamers are two-faced hypocrits by nature <<-- If you look at things from that angle, it will solve alot of your questions :) Try it, although controversial, I promise it will help you alot.

//side note: after this kind of behavior is confirmed as the source of many RMT-related questions, what will you try to research next? Please, get a life. Do something useful with your time.//

Posted Sep 8, 2007 8:02:37 AM | link

lewy says:

Richard Bartle wrote:

>If people see they could make a fortune from jumping in on RMT sales (especially very close to the end, before the farmer can react), they will do.

But here the two parties to the RMT transaction have a real advantage in that they can communicate with one another. From what I remember the auction house doesn't list the exact time remaining on an auction to prevent sniping. That's negated if the two parties are communicating with one another. I think the best you can hope for is forcing a reset between buyer and seller and that's it. Absent the financial reward how many folks are going to try to get in on these RMT auctions?

> Well, not unless there were some kind of AH for services.

Who's going to take the time to code that up?

> Why not? They can go on the AH just like everything else.

How many times do you see crafters spamming in the trade channel that they'll craft an item simply for the materials? Obviously it's a huge benefit to them because it allows them to raise their crafting skill. Your new system effectively eliminates that--once again infringing on the normal play of people unassociated with RMT.

> Heavily modified to work the way real world AHs work.

The point is that this is going to steal away developer time from stuff like bug fixes and new content. And as far as I can tell RMT can still exist in this environment since the most a third party can do is force the farmer and his client to start over.

>It's a patch-level change, but it's not an expansion-level change.
> There will be holes, but they're pluggable, and the rate of discovery of new holes will drop. The way I understand it (I may be wrong, but this is what I hear), even with current anti-RMT measures, the developers are catching up on farmers because they can fix exploits quicker than farmers can create new ones (there isn't an infinite supply).

Color me skeptical. I work as a professional programmer in my day job and therefore I have some experience in explaining to people from the non-technical side of the tracks why their "little change" is going to require some massive effort. You're not talking about just changing the auction house. In order to make those anti-RMT measures effective you're talking about changing the way trade works in WoW, period. That probably won't be a trivial amount of work.

Furthermore my guess is that you could probably get effective anti-RMT measures in place...eventually. But it is extremely unlikely in my view that it's going to a simple process involving only one patch. You must consider that you are working against real, live human beings on the other end with all of their ingenuity. It would be more realistic in my view that there will be an initial patch and a series of patches after that to combat the loopholes in previous patches. Again, this is going to steal time away from developers who could be working on other stuff.

> What it comes down to is that farmers live in the margins where developers could stop them

Sorry, but that sounds awfully close to a hand wave to me.

> but would hurt the players too much if they did. All we're debating is how much "too much" is.

Consider the effect you're having on crafters. They will no longer be able to skill up on materials gathered by other players. Players of all stripes are no longer going to be able to buy stuff immediately from the auction house. If I only have a couple of hours to play each day I'm going to have to place a bid today and try to gather my stuff tomorrow and craft then. Enchanters aren't going to be able to enchant items anymore for people outside of their guild without some sort of new mechanism for the auction house. How is that going to work? If for any reason I want to buy something from someone I will no longer be able to just exchange gold with him for it. Instead we're both going to be forced into a lengthy process where we ride back to a city, he places the item on the auction house and I have to bid for it.

These are major impediments and they disproportionately effect normal players rather than farmers and their customers. Most of the people inconvenienced are not going to be involved in RMT--like the developers for instance. For that reason if I was on Blizzard's software steering committee I'd be extremely reluctant to approve these types of sweeping changes.

> If everyone is comfortable with RMT, we could reach the point where some of the earlier anti-RMT devices, such as soulbound objects, can be relaxed.

I don't think soulbound objects are an anti-RMT thing, I think it's more of an e-penis thing. Soulbound objects in the WoW closed beta only came about after level 50's started raiding the Scarlet Monastery and dumping the loot on the auction house for coppers. Certainly it came out in the game before there was any possible input from RMT.

Posted Sep 8, 2007 11:15:01 AM | link

Rocky says:

It seems to me you are debating the wrong topic. There is nothing inherently right or wrong about RMT as a model within a game and it is up to the individual player to decide whether a game containing RMT rulesets is their cup of tea (ala the Exchange Servers in EQ2).

No, what you are really debating and researching is player attitudes and effects of RMT within a game structure that specifically or implicitly forbids its use. This would include WoW, of course. Now we are entering into real life social mores and leaving the realm of game rulesets.

An old story goes: A man asked a beautiful young woman if she would bed him if he provided her with a million dollar stipend. The young woman thought about her economic situation and said, "yes, of course." The man then asked if she would do the same for ten dollars. The young woman got all huffy and angrily asked, "What do you think I am, a whore?" The man looked at her in surprise and answered, "Madam, we have established your credentials, we are now simply determining your price."

Cheating is cheating. If a games rulesets are designed such that RMT is not a valid part of the game, then using RMT is cheating, just like using any other tool not provided by the games design or at least approved for use by the designers is also cheating. There will always be cheaters, liars, thieves, scoff-laws, what-have-you, in any society, be it real life or virtual. The interesting question, and I fear the answer will be disturbing within context, is how morally bankrupt is the online gaming society? Do they willingly embrace players who break the game rules? Is the online gaming society so debase that the only way to achieve a viable game ruleset is to make the ruleset inviolable? This very issue has, of course, led to the kinds of odd artificialities we see in many (most?) mmo's today, where something that should be doable is coded in such a way as to be impossible, for the sake of gameplay and forced compliance. Some of this can be attributed to a simulation of the effects of societal pressures that are missing within a virtual world (mom and dad, police, death sentences, prison, etc).

My admittedly non-sholarly opinion is that the majority of otherwise successful civilizations failed at the point the majority of its citizenry no longer followed the precepts upon which it was founded. The same idea can be applied to a virtual world. If the designed game precepts are universally decried by the players or simply largely ignored then the game will likely fail as a design.

Players who do not care whether the game rules are followed by themselves or other players are the issue here, not the mechanic of RMT.

Posted Sep 9, 2007 11:02:06 AM | link

Tim Howgego says:

(Now drifting off topic, but for the curious: I expanded the thoughts in my earlier comment off at a wild, but not obviously well-explored tangent - http://www.capsu.org/gf/learn2play-the-new-real-money-trading.html .)

Posted Sep 9, 2007 3:30:05 PM | link

Amarilla says:

"My admittedly non-sholarly opinion is that the majority of otherwise successful civilizations failed at the point the majority of its citizenry no longer followed the precepts upon which it was founded. The same idea can be applied to a virtual world. If the designed game precepts are universally decried by the players or simply largely ignored then the game will likely fail as a design. "


Well...excellent post. Rocky ,it really " rocks ".
The scholars here at TN will tell you :

" The truth doesn't matter; the reality doesn't matter ; only marketing matters , and marketing's first law is : everything is an illusion , only the perception is real ; because the perception keeps the market alive and profitable, even when nobody produces but everybody's selling / buying".


"Players who do not care whether the game rules are followed by themselves or other players are the issue here, not the mechanic of RMT. "

Add " devs " to " players " ; only then you'll have the whole picture.


Posted Sep 9, 2007 7:27:49 PM | link

Thomas Malaby says:

Amarilla: Again with the trolling comments. At the very least, please do not make generalizing claims about "scholars here at TN". We not only do not generate collective quotes, we have more than a few significant (though often productive) differences of opinion.

Posted Sep 9, 2007 7:49:10 PM | link

Ola Fosheim Grøstad says:

RMT is the prostitution of games. You can understand why people do it, if they can't get laid otherwise, but it isn't of the same quality as the sexual alternatives. Most people won't ignore it if it is done in your face, but it doesn't affect their lives too much if they can't see it happening. They do talk about it if the topic is brought up, but only the most prudent bring it up regularly. The pimps (goldfarmers) are annoying becuase they make it visible and it probably makes people talk more about the problem. Of course, some people have sex-clubs as an important aspect of their lifestyle and some games are red-light districts.

The tide is flowing wherever it can flow, pimps will be present, but it's really up to the game maker to establish a regime which either supports or limits their business. In some countries prostitution is ramapant, in others not. So with games. There is no tidal wave. And if there is, it is made by design (or lack there of).

Posted Sep 10, 2007 1:55:02 AM | link

lewy says:

Rocky wrote:

> If a games rulesets are designed such that RMT is not a valid part of the game, then using RMT is cheating, just like using any other tool not provided by the games design or at least approved for use by the designers is also cheating.

Here's a little hypothetical. Let's say one of you guild mates is a friend of yours who lives in your neighborhood. He tells you that he'll give you 1000 gold if you mow his lawn every week for a month. Cheating or not?

Posted Sep 10, 2007 2:28:19 AM | link

Richard Bartle says:

lewy>How many times do you see crafters spamming in the trade channel that they'll craft an item simply for the materials?

Plenty of times, but that's primarily an issue with the crafting system. I don't know what the take-up on the offers are, but I'm guessing it's not going to be all that high. If you count enchants and so on as part of crafting then yes, it would be a lot higher. Again, though, not it's perhaps not something you couldn't do in a large enough guild - if the world in question could survive the seismic changes in guild formation that such a change would bring about (which, as I said, I wouldn't want to put to the test).

>The point is that this is going to steal away developer time from stuff like bug fixes and new content.

It is, except of course that some people would regard such as change as being a bug fix and introducing new content.

>Color me skeptical. I work as a professional programmer in my day job and therefore I have some experience in explaining to people from the non-technical side of the tracks why their "little change" is going to require some massive effort.

Yes, been there, done that.

>You're not talking about just changing the auction house. In order to make those anti-RMT measures effective you're talking about changing the way trade works in WoW, period. That probably won't be a trivial amount of work.

I would have expected the AH to be the big change. All the other trade goes through a small number of windows that look like easy places to put in the necessary checks.

>you could probably get effective anti-RMT measures in place...eventually. But it is extremely unlikely in my view that it's going to a simple process involving only one patch.

However much or little coding is involved, the problems raised would be dwarfed by those caused by player reaction. That would be the reason not to do it, not the coding. However, if it were done in a virtual world from the beginning, well, that would be the way to do it.

>It would be more realistic in my view that there will be an initial patch and a series of patches after that to combat the loopholes in previous patches.

Yes, that's how patches seem to work for everything. RMT exploiters aren't any more ingenious than non-RMTers who look for changes and think how they can use them to get an advantage.

> What it comes down to is that farmers live in the margins where developers could stop them

Sorry, but that sounds awfully close to a hand wave to me.

It was a summary. Some things, developers WILL stop (eg. dupe bugs). Some things, they'll stop if it's easy to do so (eg. by soulbinding). Some things they'll only stop if they get told about it (eg. bots). RMTers operate in the area where they know they're doing "wrong", but they don't expect to get caught.

>I was on Blizzard's software steering committee I'd be extremely reluctant to approve these types of sweeping changes.

Me too. I'd look at them for WoW2, though.

>Soulbound objects in the WoW closed beta only came about after level 50's started raiding the Scarlet Monastery and dumping the loot on the auction house for coppers.

Well, the thing to do there would be to stop 50s from getting into SM in the first place, if that was the problem. Are you sure it was, though? In a non-soulbound economy, what normally happens is that the higher-level players sell on their gear when they get better stuff. They wouldn't need to raid SM, they'd just get better drops in the normal course of play, then sell their SM-era stuff to players coming up behind them.

Either way, it doesn't alter the point that if RMT really is becoming more acceptable then some of the anti-RMT measures currently in place could be relaxed, at least in future game worlds.

Richard

Richard

Posted Sep 10, 2007 3:31:59 AM | link

Richard Bartle says:

Rocky, I have to say, that's a great post.

Richard

Posted Sep 10, 2007 3:33:38 AM | link

lewy says:

Richard Bartle wrote:

> Again, though, not it's perhaps not something you couldn't do in a large enough guild

And it's screwing people who prefer to play in smaller, intimate guilds or none at all.

> It is, except of course that some people would regard such as change as being a bug fix and introducing new content.

It's not a bug fix though. The system is working as intended. It was never designed to prevent RMT, so the problem lies way back in the design stage.

> That would be the reason not to do it, not the coding.

Again, if I was on the steering committee I'd ask if this was a really big problem, because it's going to require a really big fix. With any big software project there is always a list of things to be done: bug fixes, feature enhancements, etc. It's a question of priorities and the ratio of work to reward. There's also an element of risk too: I can't describe how much fun it is to fix a bug in one subsystem and see the change you just made cause horrible problems in another, supposedly unrelated subsystem. So:

1) Work: we're going to have to change a lot of code which is spread out over a large number of modules across the application. We're going to need a lengthy testing phase, with many feedback loops, to try and get stuff right.
2) Risk: we're going to have to change a lot of code across a whole bunch of subsystems.
3) Reward: how much more money is getting rid of RMT going to make for the company? Or are draconian restrictions to trade likely to have another effect?

I think we agree that the types of changes required to make WoW RMT resistant would be 1) way too much work and 2) way too unpopular with the player base.

> Well, the thing to do there would be to stop 50s from getting into SM in the first place, if that was the problem. Are you sure it was, though?

I was in the closed beta at the time and remember it well. The reason for raiding SM wasn't to get gear that you'd actually wear--it was to get gear that you could sell to the lowbies. It actually benefited both parties: the higher level characters earned some decent coin and the lower level characters got much better gear than they could get solo or without repeated grinding in SM.

> Me too. I'd look at them for WoW2, though.

I have to wonder. You don't have to transition from a democracy to a totalitarian dictatorship to know what the difference between the two is. All you have to do is look around at other countries. It would be obvious to anyone playing under the ruleset we've been discussing that the trade system was much, much more restrictive than any preceding game, or any competing game.

I still think my solution is the simplest and easiest to implement: just make a game where loot is unimportant and/or irrelevant. No demand, no RMT.

> Either way, it doesn't alter the point that if RMT really is becoming more acceptable then some of the anti-RMT measures currently in place could be relaxed, at least in future game worlds.

My outlook on the matter is that game companies will be looking to cash in on RMT, not merely tolerate it. It's a cliche, but companies are in the business after all of making money. My guess is that if it could be demonstrated that access to RMT, sanctioned or not, boosted a game's popularity then the powers that be at Blizzard would look the other way. Which is actually something I've been wondering about recently: does easy access to RMT increase a game's popularity?

Posted Sep 10, 2007 6:28:17 AM | link

Amarilla says:

Thomas Malaby says:

Amarilla: Again with the trolling comments.

@ Thomas : again, you are right and i was wrong.My bad.I'm fighting the wrong ppls at the wrong place in the wrong momment.

@ lewy : "..Which is actually something I've been wondering about recently: does easy access to RMT increase a game's popularity?"

In the short run, yes. In many aspects, things are a bit " messy " these days , considering the recent measures the lawmakers took ; also , considering the trends . The market is a bitch , but as long as there still are good devs and gamers, there's always hope ; and money to flow.

Posted Sep 10, 2007 6:59:53 AM | link

robusticus says:

lewy: "the simplest and easiest to implement: just make a game where loot is unimportant and/or irrelevant. No demand, no RMT."

But that would devalue their "gaming capital", which is a polite way to say they wouldn't be able to sell their twinks for as much real money when they got bored with the game.

But that is the solution. Because it isn't about RMT, it is the need for it. Once a player figures this out they'll be apt to make sure a world doesn't have the need, rather than funky restrictions on trading. I know I do that nowadays in my evaluation of what games to buy.

Posted Sep 10, 2007 11:28:16 AM | link

lewy says:

robusticus wrote:

>But that is the solution. Because it isn't about RMT, it is the need for it. Once a player figures this out they'll be apt to make sure a world doesn't have the need, rather than funky restrictions on trading. I know I do that nowadays in my evaluation of what games to buy.

Yup, and hopefully embracing a model where loot is irrelevant will lead developers away from the tired elves in tights, grind to level and then grind for loot model that gamers have been stuck with for the last few years. It's ironic that while single player games are undergoing something of a golden age right now in terms of creativity MMOG's, with their massive start up costs, are growing increasingly conservative.

Posted Sep 10, 2007 1:20:19 PM | link

Rocky says:

lewy wrote:

>Here's a little hypothetical. Let's say one of you guild mates is a friend of yours who lives in your neighborhood. He tells you that he'll give you 1000 gold if you mow his lawn every week for a month. Cheating or not?

I'm not entirely sure what the point is with this question but, since it was addressed to me, I'll give it a shot. Please forgive me if I'm off the mark.

Well, over and above the fact that I wouldn't do that simply because my neighborhood consists of 10-acre and larger 'lots' and they can mow their own, thank you very much, I think you are asking if I think out-of-game services for in-game compensation is cheating or not. Again, as in my first post, I think the question is not correctly defined.

If the game in question is designed and intended to be played with the resources provided by the game designers and only those resources, then I would have to say, yes, that would be cheating. But that isn't really what you are asking either, it seems to me. You are really asking if, in my opinion, is it okay to introduce externally derived factors into a game environment to change the experience of the gamer to something other than intended by design. I would say that if you felt the need to do that then you might not be playing the right game for you.

Let me ask you a question in return. Would you condone a sports player who took performance enhancing drugs when it is specifically forbidden? Or would you frown on a NASCAR race team that made modifications to a vehicle that were not allowed by the rules? If you answered yes to either one of those questions then I submit that your idea of fair competition is a bit skewed, to be polite.

When I play a game or participate in a sport I simply want to know that the playing field is level for everyone. I'm not particularly evangelistic about what kind of playing field it is, just that everyone playing is using the same rules I am ... and following them. If I don't like the ruleset I'll go find another game that has rules I can abide. But, no, I'm not going to try and bend or break the rules that I don't like just so I can have an easier time.

Is it against the law to break a speed limit? Yes. Do people break them anyway? Yes. Should we then eliminate speed limits? Hmmm.

Posted Sep 13, 2007 2:36:20 PM | link

lewy says:

@Rocky:

I would actually say that RMT isn't cheating except in the sense of meaningless distinctions thrown into a EULA. Is farming cheating? Nope. Is giving somebody gold cheating? Nope. Two scenarios:

1) Your brother-in-law gives you 1000 gold. Why? Because he's your brother-in-law.
2) You buy 1000 gold from a farmer. Why? Because you paid him.

Is one illegal and the other not? Both acts, so far as the games goes, are identical. Somebody gave somebody else 1000 gold. All of the problems come in when enforcement tries to step outside of the game world and look at real world motivations. The issue here isn't speed limits. The issue is that ignoring the speed limits are okay in one situation (because he's your brother-in-law) but not okay in another (because you bought the gold on a web site).

Put simply, if giving 1000 gold to somebody is going to be unbalancing then make the act of giving 1000 gold to somebody illegal. Don't try and step outside of the game to figure out whether it's acceptable in some situations and not in others. That's an effort that's doomed to failure.

Posted Sep 13, 2007 8:40:27 PM | link

lewy says:

To clarify: if your position is that giving 1000 gold to a low level character is the equivalent of steroid abuse, regardless of the situation, then that's fine. At least it's consistent. But arguing that giving 1000 gold to a low level character in some cases and not in others doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

Posted Sep 13, 2007 8:42:56 PM | link

Rocky says:

Lewy, I apologize again if I am not being clear. I have not said that RMT is wrong, cheating, or illegal. What I said is that breaking the rules of any game is cheating. If you wish to condone breaking the rules of the game you play, then by all means go for it. I believe you are wrong and I would not associate with you in any game you played if I was aware of your propensity to cheat.

I was using the sports examples as a way of illustrating that rules are what they are and any set of rules can be either ignored or followed, but usually if they are not followed then the game suffers for it because it was not designed to accommodate the behaviour that is prohibited.

As to your examples, without knowing within which game you are placing your context, about the only think I can say to both of them is that it is extremely unlikely that either case is illegal but either or both might be cheating. If you want to use WoW as your specific example, then 1) is okay and 2) is cheating. Why? Because 2) breaks the rules and gives an advantage to those who have greater economic resources external to the game itself. Some games are designed with external economics in mind; WoW was not.

You can continue to try to rationalize why cheating is okay in your mind. The difference between us appears to be that you believe cheating is okay, while I believe that cheating is not okay. You wish to rationalize cheating to respectability, while I really wish people had more respect for the rules of the game.

As I've said in my first post here, I have no problem with RMT as a concept within a game designed to use it. It would not be cheating in such a game. Carrying the ball in (US) football is normal gameplay. Carrying the ball in basketball will get you a penalty. Different rules for different games. Play the one with the rules you like and don't cheat.

Posted Sep 14, 2007 4:37:34 PM | link

Rocky says:

Upon rereading more carefully my 13 September post I noticed an error in my NASCAR example that is rather embarrassing. I meant, of course, would you 'approve' of that behavior, not 'frown' on it. The rest doesn't really make sense without that little change.

Posted Sep 14, 2007 4:47:55 PM | link

Andy Havens says:

@lewy, who said: "Don't try and step outside of the game to figure out whether it's acceptable in some situations and not in others."

Well... when you say that you're paying a gold farmer, that's stepping outside the game, isn't? Because of the need to have a method to pay for the gold, which can't happen in the game.

Now, you could make the argument that giving the gold to your bro-in-law is also stepping outside the game, because your relationship with him isn't inside the game, but comes from outside. At this point, though, you're equating (or at least relating) a relationship built on emotion, friendship, etc. to one based on commerce. And, in many cases, it is in fact illegal or against the rules to do things for money that you can do, legally, for love or friendship or emotion.

In addition, you seem to be ignoring the fact that the EULA/TOS may specifically disallow paying for gold, items, levels, etc. outside the game. Now, you may call that arbitrary, and say that it doesn't have anything to do with the "real game." Well... let me pose a question to you--what proscriptions would you allow a company to put in their contract that you'd consider legitimately part of the "rules" of the game? For example, should a company have the right to boot someone who harasses other players in-game?

Last year, Thomas convinced me that calling RMT "cheating" per se doesn't make sense, because (correct me if I mis-remember, Thomas) "rules" means more (and/or less) than just the codified, written regs.

All that being said, I don't buy your arguments. Thomas' were about the larger scope of where concepts like cheating and gamesmanship occurs. So far, what it sounds like you're saying is that because some actions are allowed in some circumstances, therefore they should be allowed in all. If that's the case, then because the goalie can touch a soccer ball with his hands, all players can, if they simply shout, "I'm the goalie!"

Posted Sep 14, 2007 8:37:08 PM | link

dmx says:

RMT doesn't belong in games, and I'd like to see legislation put in place to help gaming companies enforce it with the full force of law.

RMT in pvp games is immoral because its cheating, and its exploitative.

And people who justify it should feel ashamed of themselves.

Posted Sep 14, 2007 11:16:52 PM | link

dmx says:

Or another way of putting it.

IF you are in my MMO because you like Shooting things, world conquest, leveling up, having bling items, and above all having fun, excellent.

If you are in my MMO because its a job and you want to be RL rich, please SOD OFF out of my universe and join the boring guys in Second Life.

I work 40 hours a week grinding code. When I play computer games, its a RELIEF from capitalism. I do NOT want MY or YOUR credit card impinging on my freedom to have fun.

And yeah, I'm a little annoyed. I'd expect academics to be a little less out of touch with the growing hostility to goldfarmers which are ruining our games.

Posted Sep 14, 2007 11:30:39 PM | link

lewy says:

@Rocky, Andy, dmx:

Correct me if I'm wrong, but you are all basically arguing that it's okay to twink someone if your motivation springs from something other than a financial transaction, while it's unacceptable if it does. In other words, it's not the action of twinking which is bad but rather the motivation. So here's my question to you: if it's okay for your friend to give your level 20 warrior 1000 gold why is it not okay for you to go out and buy 1000 gold from a web site? Is one somehow less unbalancing to the game experience for that level 20 than the other?

@Andy:

You wrote:

"For example, should a company have the right to boot someone who harasses other players in-game?"

My answer would be that a company has the right to boot anyone from the game, within certain limits. Private companies do not suffer from the same constraints as governmental organizations, for instance. WoW constantly bans people arbitrarily for a number of reasons--many unrelated to farming/gold trading. And when Blizzard does kick farmers does it have hardcore evidence that gold has been exchanged for dollars (for example, credit card or bank receipts)? I'm guessing that the answer is no and that gold sellers are usually banned mostly on suspicion only.

With regards to the specific example of harassment I would argue that a consistent policy towards harassment is possible whereas it's not with gold trading. Any example of harassment can be punished. Motivation is irrelevant. But with gold trading Blizzard's attitude is clearly that some gold trading is okay and some isn't. If you apply that same analogy to your harassment policy then some incidents of harassment would be overlooked while others resulted in punishment. Blizzard and any other private company can apply whatever arbitrary rules they want to their game and their EULA. That is completely within their rights. I just think that the RMT rules are ridiculous and a guarantee for trouble.

@dmx:

If you play the game as a relief from capitalism then do you object to players who play the auction house to make themselves in-game millionaires?

Posted Sep 15, 2007 3:27:08 AM | link

lewy says:

dmx wrote:

"I work 40 hours a week grinding code. When I play computer games, its a RELIEF from capitalism. I do NOT want MY or YOUR credit card impinging on my freedom to have fun."

This topic came up way back when, and my response was something like:

There are over 100,000 people in China alone whose livelihood comes from farming. By the standards of a third world/industrializing country like China a job spent in front of a PC is vastly preferable to some of the alternatives. Their livelihood trumps my play. In other words, my "right to have fun" pales in comparison to their needs of feeding and clothing themselves.

Posted Sep 15, 2007 3:31:09 AM | link

Amarilla says:

lewy says:

"@Rocky, Andy, dmx:

Correct me if I'm wrong, but you are all basically arguing that it's okay to twink someone if your motivation springs from something other than a financial transaction, while it's unacceptable if it does. In other words, it's not the action of twinking which is bad but rather the motivation."

@lewy : yes; bcoz fuckin ur husband is a thing ( even if still for cash )while prostitution is another.

Posted Sep 15, 2007 4:54:16 AM | link

Amarilla says:

"And when Blizzard does kick farmers does it have hardcore evidence that gold has been exchanged for dollars (for example, credit card or bank receipts)? I'm guessing that the answer is no and that gold sellers are usually banned mostly on suspicion only."

LOL rem that Senator ( or whatever ) caught with $$$kkk in his freezer ? Bribe money i'd say , but i have no hard evidence ; i'd kick that guy out from Congress, but im not Blizzard and Cngress is not WoW ; unfortunatelly .

Posted Sep 15, 2007 4:58:38 AM | link

Amarilla says:

"... In other words, my "right to have fun" pales in comparison to their needs of feeding and clothing themselves."

oh yeah mamma , im Mother Theresa , i'll join Army of Salvation , i'll have a koolaid and ima gonna sing khumbalaya all day long now. Btw, a Movie ticket here is someone else's bread somewhere on Earth . And the ISP you paid this month in order to post at TN is the equivalent of my monthly salary. And what ?

Posted Sep 15, 2007 5:08:18 AM | link

Amarilla says:

"If you play the game as a relief from capitalism then do you object to players who play the auction house to make themselves in-game millionaires? "

stay cool; nobody objects to a murder happened in- game in PvP between alts. What's in game stays in game.

Posted Sep 15, 2007 5:13:07 AM | link

dmx says:

Fleecing westerners for real bucks in exchange for space bucks or gnome bucks. Is *THAT* really salvation? Getting poor people to grind for our amusement is essentially what we are arguing here.

Posted Sep 15, 2007 11:51:32 AM | link

dmx says:

Also do I object to in game millionares? No. When I joined the game, the rules of the game where clear to me, as where the outcomes.

Furthermore in real life I can't murder the local billionare with heavy ammunitions. I sure as hell can in EVE, and make a habit of it. Its quite profitable.

If I did that in real life, I'd end up real damn quick in a 6x4 room , possibly on some really heavy medication.

None of this has any relationship to other people breaking the covenants which establish the understood level playing field. Sure I can afford the bling items. My 15 year old nephew can not. Why should I expect favors just because I own a credit card in real life. I'm not wanting to play "Credit card online", I want to hit things with sticks.

Posted Sep 15, 2007 11:55:46 AM | link

robusticus says:

One thing I noticed, in terms of the endless fallacies that people have on this subject, is the notion that only rich people indulge in RMT.

My experience is quite the opposite. The people who in real life work performing basic service jobs were the ones who consumed the most RMT. Almost as if they had some huge rejection reaction to the concept of second class avatars. Since they can't have a $70,000 Mercedes in real life, they make sure they can have a pimped out avatar in unreal life. Not that they could afford it any more or less, but the impulse is a lot stronger, because there is no such thing as an economy avatar - there is the Mercedes or nothing at all.

All I know is if I want to take a fishing trip in Mexico, if the governments decided there would be no currency exchange and people had to work in the country to earn money to spend, I would probably not be going there to do my fishing. And that's not good. That's the world versus game view where currency exchange does not equate to cheating.

Similar to hiring somebody to create your Myspace. Is that cheating? Well, if you view it as a game...

Eve has no soulbinding, right? I can't imagine they would. They hold the view that the solution is economic depth and diversity, increasing opportunities and activities to earn space bux. Which, when I'm not being cynical about sparring with gamers, I agree with.

Posted Sep 15, 2007 2:00:42 PM | link

Andy Havens says:

@lewy, who asked: "So here's my question to you: if it's okay for your friend to give your level 20 warrior 1000 gold why is it not okay for you to go out and buy 1000 gold from a web site? Is one somehow less unbalancing to the game experience for that level 20 than the other?"

Yes. It is less unbalancing, for two reasons: 1)because building friendships is part of the game experience, and; 2) because it is almost impossible to industrialize friendship.

Towards #1: If I'm a total dick and don't know how to RP, then nobody will twink me. Fine. I learn how to play better and how to be less of a dick. Then my friends (now that I have some) will start gifting me some good loot. This makes the game better for me (since I learn both how to play better and to not be a dick), and my friends, because they now have somebody decent to play with... someone whom they regard as worthy of reward. That improves the game experience for everyone involved with no negative aspects for other players. If they ask, "Where'd you get that great armor?" and I say, "A friend gave it to me for [insert non-dick reason here]," then other players come to learn via osmosis about the ways to be a better player, who makes for good buddies, etc. If, on the other hand, I can buy whatever I want, I can do so while still being a total dick (ie, friendless), or while being an OK player, but without having had the gaming experiences (either de facto [leveling] or de jure [being a good player]) that equate to the level of the character I'm playing. In short, I get a benefit that I did not earn within any definition of "the game," only a benefit that I earned insomuch as I earned the money to buy my shite. And as anyone can tell you, money can't buy brains, experience or levels in anything in RL, so the fact that it can in MMOs is an artifact of the system, not a must-have.

2)Even if twinking your buddy were wrong (and I don't think it is), it would still pose much less of an issue, because there ain't no such thing as a massive, industrialized "friend farmer." I might be able to use gold I earned in game to buy a friend... but it doesn't work the other way. No gold no twink, eh? I can't, as somebody seeking good loot, run up to people and say, "Hey! I'm your friend! Give me cool stuff!" [See: dick behavior, above]. A really great player, on the other hand, who wanted to earn gold just to give it away... yeah, that might unbalance some play... but only in his vicinity. And the number of people who can do that are going to be ridiculously small compared to those who can farm gold.

The reason I asked if you thought it was OK under any circumstances for a publisher to kick off a player was to determine if you considered the publisher to have a right to govern the game in any way based on their rules. You seem to think they do have some rights. If that is so, then your argument that RMT is somehow OK because people want to do it is, well... not on great legs. If the publisher can ban people for harassing others, then I'll just requalify selling/farming gold as "harassment" and there you are.

Still not convinced.

Posted Sep 15, 2007 7:00:18 PM | link

dmx says:

There are other things to worry about as well.

Now, I don't really have a problem with RMT in Second life and its ilk, other than a basic annoyance that there isnt yet an alternative for folks like me who want to play a sandbox VR thats not money obsessed. It floats folks boats, and thats fine.

In the game *I* like to play, EVE (And I do apologise for continually returning to EVE, as my gaming experience goes MUDS->ATITD(briefly)->Eve.) there is a strong zero sum game going on. When I fight some dude, if I lose, my spaceship is gone , my gear is gone, and if I have been drink-flying, I might blow a bunch of skillpoints because I forgot to update the clone. The same guy is in the same situation. If I win, I can loot his wreck and with luck, he had some awesome gear I can sell and/or strap onto my boat. I understand alot of the Dungeons & Dragons style MMO's let you keep your gear, but I'll stick to my example here.

Generally when I engage a foe, I'm going to try and work out his or her background. Have they been playing a few years? Is that ship a bit too mean for me to take on safely, and so on.

But lets say I'm cruising about in my Falcon cruiser. Its an expensive bit of gear that takes a couple of weeks of piracy (or mining if thats your thing) to pay for, and I come across a Raven battleship. I think "Oooh Raven. Nice one. I'll engage". I'm fully aware I can die, but on the balance, I ought come out on top. He's only 3 months old anyway. On all my best calculations, I should win this engagement, but he could get lucky and I lose a Jam and he alphas me and cops a bounty of expensive faction gear and bragging rights for nailing a Recon.

Now as it turns out in this hypothetical engagement, said enemy has RMTed 4-500mil worth of gear, and this ravens fitting officer-faction gear, all for the low low cost of $25 dollars. I get ripped a new one really fast.

How is that fair? We both know the odds, and the rules, and we even agreed to them when we joined the game. But because our Raven friend decided to spend $25 on space gold, he gets the automatic right to destroy a couple weeks worth of work for me.

Now imagine I'm a 15 year old with no legal access to a credit card to do the same.

It stops being a zero sum game(of sorts) and starts being a battle of credit cards. Wouldn't I just be better off spending the money down the casino?

Its the same reason a lot of old school pen and paper gamers resented games like "Magic the gathering". You only got the good cards if you had the bucks to buy them, and the fun pretty quickly goes out of THAT quickly.

Now to notch the problems further, a game like EVE actively encourages dirty gameplay. A real fast way to make ISK is via scamming goods and the like, and many of EVE's most famous stories involve notorious fraudsters like the "Guiding Hand Social Club". And everyone knows , thats how the game works, and its cool because its just space bucks and its not real.

Now, imagine you just blew $1000 on RMT to go buy a mothership, and just as you go to purchase the ship, the seller just takes the money and smartbombs your pod. Whoops.

In real life you can call the police. In EVE, the DEV's go "Nice scam bro! And put a news article up about it". But in this situation, you just got scammed $1K real money, at least indirectly, that could of gone on food, mortgage , school fees, or whatever. It stops being a harmless game where we get to let that inner 'bad guy' out for a rampage, and starts being something bad for humans with real moral consequences.

Now granted other game systems soften that blow, the problem still exists in part if some guy goes and blows huge amounts of money on gnome-bucks , buys all the most amazing gear and spends his time griefing other newbies with it. Said honest newbie grief victim might just well pick another game, because credit-cards online is NOT what she signed up for.

Posted Sep 16, 2007 12:38:41 AM | link

lewy says:

@Andy Havens:

I think you're reaching to create a hypothetical by which gifting raises the average level of play. Let me point out that if your guild is made up of a bunch of people who think it's fun to ninja loot or ambush a bunch of lowbies holding a memorial service for a friend that their influence isn't likely to be a positive one. What's more, my experience with gifting is that it usually has nothing to do with competence and everything to do with RL connections. If a RL friend of mine is new to the game I'm going to twink him--despite his lack of experience. If you're playing the game with co-workers they may twink you not because they like you but because they feel obligated to.

Next you seem to be arguing that farming leads to runaway prices. I'd agree, but as somebody pointed out above (I think it was robusticus) what's far worse is the fact that level 60's can farm huge amounts of gold compared to level 20's. Anybody worth his salt knows that you don't grind at level 38 for the gold for your mount. It's much smarter to keep on leveling as fast as possible because the higher level mobs drop much better loot. Yes, farming does contribute to inflation but I'd argue that the worse culprits are the level/loot curve and the infinite supply of gold in the game.

So far as banning players goes my point was that by and large Blizzard can kick you for basically any reason they want to. Maybe they think that your fashion taste is awful--that orange breast plate really clashes with those purple pants. Once they ban you what legal recourse do you have to try and force a reversal? Pretty much nothing. As a business they have the basic right to refuse you service, within certain limits. That goes without saying, but it also has pretty much nothing to do with the question of whether policing based on intent rather than action is really a good idea.

Posted Sep 16, 2007 1:30:33 AM | link

lewy says:

robusticus wrote:

"All I know is if I want to take a fishing trip in Mexico, if the governments decided there would be no currency exchange and people had to work in the country to earn money to spend, I would probably not be going there to do my fishing."

Ooh, good analogy.

Posted Sep 16, 2007 1:34:02 AM | link