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Sep 29, 2003



I've felt for awhile (and coincidentally posted above) that progressive income or welath taxes would solve problems of unfair accumulation. But people with experience say that there all kinds of practical problems with it. I wish I could say that I understand the concerns, but I don't. Not because they don't make sense, but because I've never run a world!

But anyway, it seems to me that synthetic world owners have more information than Earth governments, which pull off income tax magic all the time.

I think there IS a lesson here. Look, I hate paying taxes just like everyone else. But if you study public finance theory long enough, you eventually start to see how the system of taxation is a institution of social good. If nothing else, we just have to admit that we live in communities and that we all benefit from financing community activities. Beyond that, taxes are about the only sensible way to nudge behavior in one direction or another. Further, they are about the only sensible way to undo the economy's injustices.

So, I hate MY Taxes, but I don't hate taxes.

That having been said, I think taxes are like anything else in a SW - you can only have them if they cohere with the lore of the world. It has to be part of the story. I mean, I've often wondered why storage costs money on Earth but is free in SWs.


I think Dan nails it that there is something about the word "tax" that tends to evoke a negative response, especially among Americans. I have just two observations:

- Storage fees are drains in some VWs, I know the progeny of Habitat, WorldsAway limited what an avatar could carry and people were required to purchase container objects that gave them more pocket space. Also rent was charged for turfs which people used to show case their rare objects or as visual storage space. There is charging rent for homes, but I am not sure if there is a limit on pocket space. UO charged a one-time deed fee for placing houses which varied by the size of the house.

- Hair dye and anything related to an avatars appearance seems to be an easy way to add drains. The desire for individuality and variety in personal identification is strong with participants in VWs and so they are easy and useful drains.

Displays of wealth are good drains, especially as the visual aspects of VWs becomes more complex. At one time, there were sumptuary laws through out Europe which attempted to regulate clothes that could be worn (Elizabeth I required wool hats and the Privy Council restricted Captains fighting in the Netherlands from using Dutch wool for cloth their men). Beards have been regulated by Elizabeth I and Peter of Russia. In both of these cases, I know taxes were levied (somewhere I found reference to "beard coins" from Russia) and many did not follow such regulations as a way to display their wealth. The cost of appearance items such as hair dye and "true black" items (not just UO, but The Realm and WorldsAway did similar things) strike me as very similar to sumptuary taxes.

Sorry, this was a bit rambling. Hopefully, it was interesting.


I think there may be another way to do things, simply to design a VW economy not as a closed standalone faucet-drain system, but to design the economy as a sub-set of the real world economy.

I think it may also be possible to develop a Strip Mall Landlord / Merchant Tenant relationship between Developers and Members someday. The Landlord makes his cut on the rent and fees linked to property management. The Merchant Tenant makes his cut by making the best use of the location. The Landlord knows that the more people that he can get to the Strip Mall, the higher the rents he’ll be able to charge over time. Furthermore, the Merchants in the Mall are free to make as much off the market as they can, and benefit directly from the efforts of the Landlord to increase the foot traffic.

I wouldn’t call rent a tax; it’s more like the premium cost of doing business at a giving location. In any case, any savvy business owner would be happy to pay a higher rent for the right increase in foot traffic.

I don’t think that virtual outlets are the only venue for this sort of Developer / Member partnership. Member created content really has few limits in a virtual world.


What is needed to drain credits from veconomies is more consumable items. players resist this in a big way, but it's balancing. SWG has a good bit of this, and it's backtracking on other bits. Clothes don't wear out now, which means one set is enough to last forver, hurting the tailor profession as compared to armorers or weaponsmiths whose products wear out and take damage.

Being a player, I can relate to the moans about clothes that fall apart; being a thinker in game and virtual world theory, I think it's a bad mistake to listen to players on this.

The key is to balance things in such a way that casual play isn't made nigh impossible, and not many have found the sweet spot on this. If things only decay when used, it should act to level the field; if decay is based on duration whether or not something is actively used (or the avatar is even logged in) clearly the occasional. player is hurt, often badly.

I like maintenance fees on houses and structures in SWG. I think The bazaar should take a flat percentage (a la ebay) of sales, rather than a fix fee, though a base charge like the current 20 credits makes sense. Storing items in the bank should incur charges too. It would make sense to me to charge per item slot actually used. Sure, it would hit occasional players a bit harder, but they should have less to store too.

If the games companies want to be really smart they could be more mercenary and actually sell more storage space for additional charges in real money. Some smaller companies have done this. It puts things a bit more on a pay-as-you-go basis. That's happening with the addon modules now. You can still play the basic games, but you pay for the additional right to play in the expanded content areas. Likewise, SWG, for example, could offer 50 more bank slots for $1.00 more per month (or whatever justifies the burden on the game infrastructure and nets a bit more profit). There would still be limits brought about by infrastructure constraints, but with the actual numbers accruing, it would be easier to judge whether it's an area worth working to improve. And extra $1 per month per player might justify adjusting architecture to support the activity the players want.

DAoC more or less went this route with their housing, I see, but they seemed to have missed out on the chance to capitalize on another revenue stream. Don't just charge in game money to maintain houses, tack on a small monthly charge too... if the players want the content, they'll pay. (But don't advertise it as included in the basic package and then tack on the charge...)

DAoC has another huge sink for ingame money in their PvP system where you have to maintain the frontier fortresses. I know I spent a lot on repairing doors there, buth time and materials. I took in a lot of donations from others to help in the process too, so I know it's a real drain.

SWG seems to lack that level of drain, as far as I can tell. It has maintenance spread around on a lot of things (a good thing), but no big community project sort of drain. A Tale in the Desert is big on huge community projects, one of the things that makes that one interesting. EVE has some taxes hidden, but they're small. There are maintenance fees, but they are still minor compared to the revenue streams. And most people avoid ammo-using weapons, I think, and go for laser to avoid the cost and pain of ammo. Not for specialty situations, perhaps, but for general PvE combat. Some big community project would serve tp help that economy too.

Community projects provide the "hidden tax" mentioned by Dan (the other Dan!). They also tend to shape real communities. As much as they sometimes annoy me personally (lonewolf player that I can be, at times), I am all for them from a design perspective. I might even advocate a real tax that is designated for such projects and legislated by player-governments, collected by the system from transactions, and placed into a fund to pay for the project (with some graft thrown in to boot, to drain a bit more in the process).

The trick is to document these "taxes" and work them into the vworld back history. It's the sudden changes clearly meant to fix something broken due to lack of foresight by the developers that get on players' nerves (NERF!) If the games is designed with a tax structure in place, and it's documented, and it's documented how it may change or evolve as conditions require "to finance large community projects" (that actually result in "tangible" changes), I suspect players won't bat an eye.

And anyway, much as I hate to say it, on some topics players should be ignored. As long as more aren't quitting than are joining, the game is healthy.

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