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Sep 15, 2003



But one could, perhaps, make the friction of transactions part of the fantasy of the game.

E.g., I can imagine having a class of itinerant tinkers who make their way across the game work, buying and selling as they go, 'shouting' their ware to the local users.

Also, I think the "lemonade stand outside my castle" approach has a big flaw; it's highly important in MMGs to have "social spaces" where people gather to make friends, chat, etc. Thus, it would be better to have a market where people can buy stalls--better from a buyer's point of view (because many potential sellers are clustered together), and better from the developer's point of view (because it promotes interplayer socialization).


I agree that the social space aspect is important. In my 90-minute tour of Camelot's housing/market area, I didn't see anyone else (on a Friday night on Guinivere, one of the most popular shards). Sims Online has a similar problem through its choice not to have streets or public squares. SWG has an eBay system but its use of Bazaar terminals forces people to come together. There are effective ways to blend the user's desire for low-cost transactions into the atmosphere of the world.


It's interesting to look at the evolution of markets (in the literal-historical meaning of "the places where commerce is transacted" as opposed to the typical economic--and overlapping--metaphor of "the systems of transactions taken as wholes") within the VWs. Recent attempts (eg There and The Sims Online) seem to have taken the the view that they can capture or remove the market that otherwise leaks out into eBay. This leads to the "gameplay" problems that Ted identifies, ie no central social space for congregating. But I wonder whether it also removes some of the fun of being in the market for various VW assets. Julian has documented how much being involved in the transactions contributes to his experience of UO. I doubt that he can be the only one who finds this aspect of the game to be the main reason for game playing.


SWG bazaar and vendors have some theoretical issues. The maximum sales price allowed in the bazaar, the public "vendors" that anyone can use for a 20 cred fee per sale, is 3000 creds. I can earn about 15000 creds per hour as a newbie, so you can see 3000 isn't much. This means the auction system is mostly unused.

The player vendors, which work the same way, are not capped. But I don't see much auction activity.

This may be due to the incoming "drain the wealth" changes that will add an hourly fee per item (0.5%/hour, I think) which makes the economics of stocking a variety of goods shaky. Mostly vendors are used for low priced stuff, and for the delivering of orders. If I KNOW someone is coming to buy something, I put it on my vendor. This minimizes the vendor fees.

I think SOE needs to find a more sensible way to drain creds from the economy. There needs to be more fee-based offerings by NPCs and less burden (taxation) on player-player activities, to avoid distorting the player economy.

Greg's comment on player interaction is good, but for one thing. These are 24 hours, all time zone games. Some people cannot connect. The NPC vendors allow those player MORE interaction than they would otherwise have. Sure, a third-party facilitator might be arranged, but that means co-ordinating three schedules, not two. I think a better way is to ensure NPC vendors carry some cost load, whereas direct player to player does not. Just don't overload the vendors with charges or they don't get used.

The big social thing in SWG are the cantinas. Entertainers are the only class that can heal mind wounds, and only in cantinas. So everyone has to spend SOME time there sooner or later. They become centers for training and trading, as do the bazaars (dues to the NPC vendors and the banks) and the shuttle/space ports with their 10 minutes between shuttles.


The SWG Bazaars see a TON of transactions (mostly in raw resources), so I am unsure what you're referring to there, Dan.

One wrinkle to add to all this, btw, is player wish-fulfillment. Players dream of running a shop, but they don't dream of using eBay effectively. by and large, anyway. This distorts the field a bit.


Raph, I'm not sure I understand your comment. There are lots of examples of shopkeepers who set up specialist trading sites for various games. Julian, for example, recently delighted that he'd been invited to become one with the Markee Dragon.

The individual seller of an account who's become sick of playing EQ is probably very happy about eBay category 1654 (since it reduces transactions costs significantly). But the shopkeeper option is available online for many, just often not in-game.

Wouldn't it be better if designers provided the market mechanisms for individuals and then took eBay-level commissions? Or would this be a bad signal for the developers to give to those who frown on twinking, selling, etc? At least with eBay providing the market mechanism developers have plausible deniability: "It's too hard to stamp this out. We dislike this process as much as you, but it'll just re-appear elsewhere, etc etc"


Ralph, I'm unsure which part you are hazy on. I never said there weren'y a lot of sales on the bazaar, I said the auction function is broken. 99% of the listed items are "instant" sales, not auctions. And the few auctions listed are usually newbies who just made a very serious mistake and offered 7000 steel for auction only to see the bidding cap at 3000, which means they sell at a big loss.

The developers have said they are adding (or have added, I'm unsure and traveling at the moment) a percent per hour charge to the personal vendors, and my quick math makes loading up a vendor with whatever you want to sell, with no expectation of quick (same day) sales apt to be a losing proposition too. 0.5% per hour is 12% per day charge. You need high margins to make much profit if your average turnover is, say, one week. I could easily run that for specialty items or big ticket items. 84% selling charge would put a serious cramp into profitability. The flat rate of 20 creds on the bazaar, and the advantage of universal visibility, makes that the better option for the typical player, unless it's and item selling for more than the bazaar's 3000 cred limit.


In terms of the social aspect, I believe it still exists for the most part. For example, markets were not necassarily intended to be the primary 'social gathering' points for a game such as UO. Since the beginning, it has been banks. Most merchants realize this, and if they have quality goods to sell, they go perch themselves at a busy bank and peddle their wares. Some very successful merchants simply go around to banks and hand out runes marked to his/her vendor, so players can then go directly there.

For those that find the merchant aspect of MMGs enjoyable, there will always be an outlet for this aside from NPC vendors. Even though the social areas of many games aren't designated as 'market' areas, players can still go there and utilize their sales skills.


I shouldn't have been so terse.

Dan #1, I agree that the auctioning aspect is not used much. I think the reason is that almost everything sold there is commodities, not unique rare items.

Dan #2, what I was getting at is that players within the game often choose not to go for the most effective, frictionless economic trade method (the bazaar) because part of their wish-fulfillment fantasy in the game is running a cute storefront. Even though it is less effective than the bazaar, they decide to go with that instead. Even so, we were so worried about the bazaar completely taking over the economy and making the individual merchant obsolete that we set a price cap on the bazaar to ensure that merchants had a viable economic niche.



On your second point, yes, I agree that the wish-fulfillment part is important. I'm not sure that the bazaar versus player-run storefront is balanced optimally, but the auction in the bazaar is flat out useless as it stands. (I still don't know if it functions on player vendors, there, without a cap, it should be of sme value.)

As I see it, though, the bazaar becomes a 7-11, a convenience store, not a real bazaar. That's due to the price cap.

This forces players to handle transactions over 3000 directly or through private vendors. It diminshes their choices. If the cost to sell by auction scales, somehow, and the economics worked in favor of player vedors, slightly, the bazaar would darain off more player creds from the economy, would be more useful, and would give players more of a feel that they can do what they want (albeit at a price).

In other words, they are steered a little too harshly in one direction, that of player-interaction, than I think ideal.

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