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Jan 02, 2004



Let's see, I predict: a MMOG glut, leading to the closure of at least one world and widespread sentiment that the genre is 'dead'. I also think we'll continue to have conflict between theorists and practicioners (duh, it happens in every field), and that future conferences like State of Play will be a lot less happy than SoP 1 was.

Resolve: For the site: To try to energize other authors into posting more often. For myself: To keep playing MMORPGs even though I no longer have the time to get past level 10 in any of them.


I think we already are in an MMOG glut and it's just getting worse. More and more games are released that are built on the same theories and paradigms as their predecessors. Ok, maybe I'm a bit cynical but I have yet to see anything approaching the next level, whatever that may be. I give Second Life a lot of credit for providing such a rich environment with so many possibilities but I know it's only a matter of time until I've had enough, as with every MMOG I've played. In retrospect, I'm very disappointed by SOE's SWG as it definitely failed to live up to or grow into either the hype OR the promises. I was one of its main target-audience members and I stopped playing after only 3 months? Not a good sign.

In 2004 I'll be keeping my eyes open for WoW. Blizzard has a good track record and I'm very hopeful for their foray into the MMORPG realm. Hopefully they can deliver on their promises and create something new (or at least something that doesn't feel like a rehash of the old).

The SoP Conference (now SoP1?) was a good start. Unfortunately, I feel as if legal issues and MOGs only have one direction in which to move, a bad one. Perhaps that's just more cynicism but hopefully 2004 will see the law at least begin to tackle this new, growing enterprise. It would be nice to see a hint of what the law might do when faced with this latest oddity. So I do agree that SoP2 (if there is one, and I hope so) will be slightly less cheerful and bit more.. somber perhaps?

My personal goal will be to complete an SRP (Special Research Project) next semester, writing a paper to discuss some aspect of virtual worlds and legal concerns. If nothing else, it should be a lot of fun to work on.


Much as I hope otherwise, I don't think WoW can possibly live up to the anticipation and hype surrounding it. It could launch as the best MMOG ever and the fans, who have some very unreasonable expectations right now, are likely to be dissatisfied.

And I suspect that, like every other developer that manages a commerical, subscription-based service for the first time, Blizzard will boot the customer service aspect while they learn what it really takes to do it right. It seems to be part of the DNA of commericial MMOGs.


10 fearless predictions for 2004:
1) At least one MMORPG will be anointed "the MMORPG for the mainstream" but fail to deliver
2) A handheld device will allow portable connection to a major MMORPG
3) There will be a successful online-world game on the Macintosh
4) An online-world will come under unflattering media attention on par with the current GTA3/Vice City coverage
5) Richard Bartle will flame somebody for bringing up a topic discussed on MUD-DEV in 1997
6) A successful MMORPG will be released by a small, independent developer
7) A game designer will reference psychological, behavioral, economic, and game theory inaccurately in the same talk
8) Real-time voice masking technology will become good enough to mask the gender of the speaker
9) The 2nd Austin Game Conference and State of Play 2 will be both more contentious and more interesting than their first outings
10) At least one of these predictions will be laughably incorrect!

Happy 2004, everybody!


Although it's not a MMORPG it will greatly affect all other game types...Half-Life 2

I predict that this game will actually make it's appearance (possibly with DOOM 3 as well) and MMORPGs will be at least temporarily forgotten in favor of playing in a world of real physics requiring the most inane of all computer specs to date. Most people will immediately take up modding (even those not meant to touch computers much less someone elses code) and everyone will make a mad dash to make the next Counter-Strike.

Meanwhile, the MMORPGs will go crazy trying to figure out "what they did wrong" and we will see a mad scramble for new ideas and concepts in MMORPGs (which may or may not become prevalent until 2005 but well see...).

Ultima X, Worlds of Warcraft and Everquest 2 will not recieve the huge hubaloo that they expect at first but one of which I predict will be crowned the new ADDICTION (such as EQ addicts are known) and will suddenly get a lot of good game press at the end of the year and will thrive like mad next year (although this year will not be so good).

I predict that at least one game company will make one really big whopper of a mistake with it's community as well and get reamed for it by every forum troll from here to Norath.

Richard Bartle will also start his own game design company and come out with the bestest game EVAR...ok, maybe that's stretching it :p


Lee Delarm>Richard Bartle will also start his own game design company and come out with the bestest game EVAR...ok, maybe that's stretching it :p

It is indeed. See http://www.muddled-times.co.uk/article.fod?IssueId=15&ArticleId=1314 to see what happened last time I tried it.

It's one thing to do VW design; it's another thing entirely to run a company (sigh).



I predict that SOE, Sqare Enix, and all of the other gaming behemoths will see the error of their ways and revise their TOSs. They will grant all avatars inherent property rights and welcome a confluent real-world economy with open arms. They will finally recognize the value of keeping their customers happy and retreat from their Gestapo-like tactics. I also predict that I will be elected president of Zimbabwe, go on a date with Julia Roberts and learn how to fly. Happy New Year!


Second the glut of MMORPGs prediction but that one is too easy.

Dark Age of Camelot will follow Sony's lead and stop releasing the number of players in game information.

There was going to be more but my soon to be 3 year old girl just climed into my lap

I predict she will learn how to walk around in a virtual world.


More MMORPGs will experiment with premium content such as Sony's EQ Legends server which is $40 a month.

Numerous new MMORPGs will claim to be revolutionary in 2004 but they will be exaggerating.

Currently there are no MMORPGs where you can actually play a role in the sense of a character with a scripted purpose in the game. This will not change in 2004.

MMORPGs will continue to rely heavily on the work of Gary Gygax and the other original developers of Dungeons and Dragons.

There will be no cross over to the mass market MMORGP in the USA in 2004. I will define cross over as being like Lineage in Korea where much of the population has played the game at one point or the other.


"2) A handheld device will allow portable connection to a major MMORPG"

Conventional wisdom says they're still looking for the "killer app" for handhelds and cell phones, right? All those wasted minutes on the bus, waiting for appointments, the tail end of lunch...Combined with a VW that had mainstream appeal (and was playable in numerous small bursts as well as lengthy sessions), this is the sort of social evolution that will rewrite the rulebook. I can't see it happening this year though.

My prediction: Japan will get there first.

My bold 2004 prediction: This blog will be cited in a state or federal court opinion relating to VW legal issues. It's happened elsewhere before, it could happen again!



Euphrosyne>Conventional wisdom says they're still looking for the "killer app" for handhelds and cell phones, right? All those wasted minutes on the bus, waiting for appointments, the tail end of lunch...Combined with a VW that had mainstream appeal (and was playable in numerous small bursts as well as lengthy sessions), this is the sort of social evolution that will rewrite the rulebook. I can't see it happening this year though.

You're right - it happened last year. Sort of...

TibiaME (http://www.tibiame.com/home/?language=en) is a virtual world for mobile phones that launched in May 2003. It works on about 4 models of mobile phone (one of which is the Nokia N-Gage), using a 2D, bird's eye viewpoint like the early Ultima games (except with lusher, albeit tinier, graphics). The ME in "TibiaME" stands for "Micro Edition", I think. It's available only in Germany, Austria and the UK at the moment (note: I haven't played it).

The game isn't an exact match for what you were talking about (Cory's point 2 - "A handheld device will allow portable connection to a major MMORPG") because the virtual world it connects to is ONLY reachable through the mobile phone. It is based on a conventional virtual world, Tibia (http://tibia.4players.de/home/) which at the very moment I'm writing claims 9117 players in total logged in on its 16 servers. You can't, however, share the same VW over your mobile phone as people who are playing from their PC.

As for how many players TibiaME itself has, I'm not sure. The only information I've been able to dig up on it is from http://etna.int-evry.fr/equipe_sysrep/seminaire/Presentations/2004/seminaireJeux.pdf, which says that each TibiaME server can handle 1,000 players at once, that 400 people tried the VW in the first 2 weeks, and that about 50 play it regularly (although I suspect this is also an "after 2 weeks" figure).

For a short case study of TibiaME, which includes a brief overview of the initial (non-subscription) business model, see http://ncsp.forum.nokia.com/downloads/nokia/documents/Tibia_v_1_0.pdf .

>My prediction: Japan will get there first.

Germany was far enough behind in VW technology to be able to re-use much of what they had in place already. Japan would have to write the whole VW from scratch.



I believe the folks over at Terraforge (www.terraforge.com) are working on a prototype system to allow players from all systems (Consoles, PCs, Handhelds) to interact simultaneously in a virtual world.


The pessimist in me says that things won't change radically. I figure people will still underestimate how hard it is to build online games/worlds. We'll see the same mistakes repeated over and over again, with new groups of people saying, "Wow! This is HARD!" We'll see more clashes between the theory and practice side of things. We'll see more "video games are EVIL!" articles and people willing to fan those particular flames for fame.

Yet, there's a small glimmer of hope. There seems to be quite a few independent games coming out. The launch of Puzzle Pirates and other small-scale games seems to demonstrate that things might not be as hopeless as they seem. With luck, we could see more smaller games by people with a bit of experience working to breaking the expectations established from the previous years. One can hope, at least.

My thoughts,


Hmmm...TibiaME. Fascinating.
< /Spock voice>

Though as you point out, by being a mobile-only world, it truncates a lot of its potential as an enzyme for change.

My nomination for Japan still stands. They have the social infrastructure just waiting for something like this. How many of those people staring at their phones on the Yamanote line are just thumbing through old messages, waiting for a new one? Those people going to arcades to play Ragnarok Online all day would be quite willing to pay to rejoin their friends on a scaled-down GUI for the half-hour ride home. (Incidentally, I think RO would make a good candidate for migration to mobiles, for both gameplay and technical reasons). DoCoMo seems to be looking in other directions, however...

And, pardon my ignorance, but could American cell phone infrastructure realistically handle something like this today?


More than a prediction, a resolution: In early 2004 I will read Richard's book! Already have it with me and will enjoy it during some upcoming airplane time and the even longer x-ray machine waiting queues.

In late 2004 I will wonder how the year went by so fast... Then I will remember all my time inside VWs, attempt to calculate virtual time to real time and realize I should be celebrating my 700th birthday! Yay!


I’m really not qualified to do any specific predictions but the kind of themes that I seem being important in the coming year are (yes most have already been mentioned):

Mainstream Games \ MMOs
Ben Keen over at Screen Digest (www.screendigest.com) has been saying for some time that the gaming trajectory as we know it cannot go on. And he has already been shown to be right. The logic is pretty simple, the cost of games production is increasing but the market is not expanding and there are a lot of games coming out and the window of opportunity is small and possibly reducing. Sooner or later games stop making sense from a fanatical point of view. What you get in this scenario is what have seen in cinema and what we are seeing in games, that is big players begin to dominate and reduce costs and risk buy owing and \ or controlling as much of the value chain as possible. Thus the death of the independent game maker or at least their independence, the rise of instruments like completion bonding and of course the consolidation of the industry into a handful of players.

The buzz word to get out of this is mainstream. But I think in one sense the games biz is already there and in another it might never get there. The biz is there, because we tend to think of ‘games’ as ‘computer games’ as ‘SWG, EQ, Quake, GTA’ etc. But computer games includes Snake that you get on a mobile phone, tetris that comes with Windows and on interactive tv – and everyone plays these. Computer gaming is mainstream !

What the industry that we tend to thing of as games wants for ‘hard core’ games to have a bigger market. In this respect ‘mainstream’ may really mean a collection of market segments of the available market at this time, that is post early adopter phase. And for any game that requires relatively sophisticated hardware and a time commitment of several hours a week at single that critically are in single stretches lasting an hour or more may never move out of this sector – reason being that typical media consumption patterns just don’t allow for it.

I do see that the market will get bigger. Neato stuff can be done with hardware that is now old and is being embedded in a bunch of devices. But more importantly we have a generational thing, more people are growing up wired and used to spending time in front of a PC screen. So I see evolution and no single product that will be a break through. There are though a number of factors that will start to expand the market: mobile, voice, game design.

- Mobile MMOs
Hand sets have umph. Networks are getting faster. So the conditions for mobile MMOs are coming about. But there are issues: game design and interface design. With out these being cracked I cant see device and network technology making much difference, but at least on part of the puzzle is coming into place. Oh and it will be in the new coz of the up coming Sony PSP launch and the bunch of other things (Zodiac, Gametrac) and despite the N-Gage

- Voice
Voice or more specifically VoIP has been _coming next year_ for some time now. Of course it has arrived just in small and some times abusive packets. Xbox Live is here, or should I say _$%*&” you live_. Clans now seem to be regular users of Ventrillo and TeamSpeak and we have all kinds of game related radio. More head sets, better VoIP and way to control verbal spam and we have a winner here.

- Game Design
In short a MMOs that allow for casual play.
That’s it
Move on.

OK back to more general themes. Well as yet another bill to curb video game violence totters around the US (http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=industryNews&storyID=4066918) games will keep getting it in the neck. We have already had a bunch of MMO related stuff – people dying, people killing and a link with MMOs being mooted. It’s the way it goes.

The East
Is where it’s at. Korea, China, Thailand etc is where MMO’ing does and will continue to kick ass as a cultural phenomena. So much to learn.

Terranova road trip anyone ?

Last year was the year that game studies took off. Oh, no that was the year before wasn’t it with CGDC, oh no it was the year before with the Bristol conference.
Er, this year will be the year that Game Studies really takes off (again).

Bartle Gong
No I’m not saying that Richard is going to join the legendary hippy group \ way of life set up by Daevid Allen (http://www.planetgong.co.uk/ - trip out baby). But if Tim Berners-Lee has got a knighthood for that comparatively new fangled thing the web, then surly it can only be a matter of time before we are in the presence of Sir Bartle.

I will start more threads on Terranova
I will read more MUD-DEV (possibly even the archives)
I will finish reading Richards Book
I will play more games
I will write a paper where I don’t end up trying to saying everything I actually meant to say but all in the very last paragraph.
I will not get upset when people start off by using a real \ virtual distinction or begin an email \ post \ paper with the idea that wouldn’t it be interesting if we thought of virtual items as property.
I will add more links to my web site and actually use my link checker.
I will drink more good wine



Wouldn’t it be interesting if we thought of virtual items as speech rather than standard property? Speech has protections, limitations, mechanisms for acknowledging ownership...and oops, this is completely off topic. (I'm sure this has been thoroughly discussed somewhere and I missed it)


>Wouldn’t it be interesting if we thought of virtual items as speech rather than standard property? Speech has protections, limitations, mechanisms for acknowledging ownership...and oops, this is completely off topic. (I'm sure this has been thoroughly discussed somewhere and I missed it)

If this has been thoroughly discussed somewhere, I’d be interested in knowing. Certainly games as speech has been discussed and I think there have been a number of cases about this.

Virtual items as an express of persona, a never ending text of the self if you will, is an idea that I’ve been trying for a while but not got too far with.

I certainly think that there is a lot of mileage about forgetting property for a while and thinking of other types of rights that might serve us better. The other area that I feel is an interesting parallel is that of organ donation.

I also think that there is often mileage in us discussing thing here that might have been done to death in other forums as I’m not aware of another virtual space that has quite this mixture of people and while we might repeat old arguments here, there is just a chance we might come up with some new ones. Having said that I also think it’s a good idea for people to have a look at some of the available history of virtual world design.



Euphrosyne> Wouldn’t it be interesting if we thought of virtual items as speech rather than standard property?

Why not think of each item as a discrete software license? The property mechanism in games serves much the same purpose as a standard license (i.e., to control consumers' access to content).


My main problem with virtual items considered as property is the magnifying effect it has on the major stumbling block of RW intellectual property laws--namely, that scarcity in VWs is ultimately arbitrary in creation and enforcement...and as such, scarcity-premised RW law seems not be the best model. Applying RW property law, which seeks to protect the inherent scarcity-based value of property, to VW items, in an attempt to *create* value by enforcing scarcity in a medium where cost-free duplication is the very foundation of existence, seems very backward.

RL speech laws (on which I am no authority) account for the innate nature of replication but still provide for ownership. The "problem" is that speech laws, when divorced from RW publishing outlets, offer no easy guarantee of profitability in WVs. Ever since that first virtual currency ebay exchange for cash, the attention has been on VW 'economies' in the narrow monetary sense.

See above for my exception to the IP/license angle. If, however, you mean to consider each item an exchangable license in itself--rather than a thing that can *be licensed*--and thus granting access to the associated player/textual/cultural/etc references; now that's in very interesting thought experiment, it starts to bring IP notions back towards speech...


Euphrosyne> If, however, you mean to consider each item an exchangable license in itself...

Yes, that's exactly what I mean. Each item is like a micro-license allowing access that portion of the game's content. I made a similar argument near the end of the 'Virtual Property Redux' thread.


"Artificial" scarcity isn't unique to VWs -- cartels exist in RL as well as in VWs. Of course, there are significant distinctions between the dynamics VW and RL scarcity.


Greg Lastowka> "Artificial" scarcity isn't unique to VWs -- cartels exist in RL as well as in VWs. Of course, there are significant distinctions between the dynamics VW and RL scarcity.

This is exactly right. In my work, I've tried to understand broadly what players want, and how those wants are scarce. This reveals the real costs of MMORPG play, which should help to explain the decisions made by players and developers.

To very briefly summarize:

Accomplishment is scarce because it requires player

Content production is scarce because it requires
development resources. Content experience is scarce
because the same content can provide enjoyment to a
specific player for only a limited time.

Power is scarce because (in MMORPG, at least) it is
defined relative to other players.

Fellowship is scarce because (like accomplishment)
players invest time to create it.

Thus, much of the game world's scarcity is -- in some sense -- 'artificial', but all of it (in my opinion) has roots in real-world scarcity.


Good list Jeremy. I was speaking only of virtual objects, and of course, am simplifying. When an organization manipulates the natural scarcity of RL objects, we call them cartels. When an organization manipulates the artificial scarcity of infinitely reproducable bits, we call them media corporations. I'm no anarchist, but we don't want to invite the cartel mindset to manage VWs under undeservedly flattering credentials.

Tangentially, applying RL IP laws to virtual property is heavy handed because of the time investment discrepancy. Can you make yourself a nice RL outfit from scratch in 10 minutes? No. But you can in a VW. Does the VW outfit deserve property protection, or does its whimsical timeframe resemble speech? If I copy your T-shirt design so as to be indistinguishable (or even just close), have I left you bereft of some innate or associated value (uniqueness?)--or am I echoing a catchy slogan that you first put forth? How about if I tag my shirt, upon examination, with a reference to you?

"Content production is scarce because it requires development resources."

This (again, in the sense of objects) is an arbitrary decision on the part of the developers--making those gameplay resources scarce to the players. There's no technical reason why a player can't make himself a copy of everything he sees. It's a necessary restriction for gameplay as we currently define it, but not for, say, social worlds. All your other scarcities have some inherent quality.


Ren Reynolds>if Tim Berners-Lee has got a knighthood for that comparatively new fangled thing the web, then surly it can only be a matter of time before we are in the presence of Sir Bartle.

The only way I'm ever likely to get an honour is if I perform an act of extreme bravery. As I'm not remotely brave, there's no chance of that whatsoever.

However, I can claim a minor acquaintance with the UK honours system. The computer games industry in the UK has 1 (one) individual who has been given an honour: Jez San, of Argonaut (http://www.argonaut.com/). I nominated him.

In the same email (a copy of which is at http://mud.co.uk/richard/eministe.htm) that I nominated Jez San, I also asked why Tim Berners-Lee hadn't been given a gong. The government minister whose ear I was bending said she'd try find the answer, but I was never informed of it.

When Jez got his OBE in the 2002 New Year's list and Tim Berners-Lee got zip, I wrote a letter to the national newspaper I read (The Independent, http://www.independent.co.uk/) asking why he had been overlooked (copy at http://mud.co.uk/richard/ti030102.htm). This had no apparent effect either. I was thus elated when he finally did get the recognition he deserved.

I don't know why it took so long for Tim Berners-Lee to get his knighthood, but he should have had it 5 years ago.


PS: For me to be Sir Bartle, Bartle would have to be my first name, not my surname. You, however, could probably get away with Sir Reynolds, since you use Ren as your first name. Hmm, cunning of you!


I fail to see a time investment discrepancy that weighs against applying RW IP laws to virtual property. Granted time investment has rapidly decreased as technology improves and more people have greater access to this improved technology. However, creating an item on your computer does not weigh against its value as a creative work. Yes you may be able to translate your t-shirt creation to your online avatar in a shorter period of time but that has more to do with it being in the same medium rather than a prohibitive time investment. If you create a piece of art on your computer in photoshop, the protection available to you for that work does not change whether you import it into your MOG or print it on your printer. Technically it's the same item and is treated the same, no matter the medium in which it is expressed. The same goes for your clothing line. If you can set up a system by which your design is automatically reproduced in the real world on an actual t-shirt, the time investment does not affect anything. 5 years ago, importing that same clothing item into an online game would have required a herculean effort. Why should the time investment or expenditure now substantially affect or create a valid argument for prohibiting the application of RW IP law to VW items?

I also fail to see how RW IP laws should not be applied based on a scarcity argument. RW *property* law may be based on a scarcity argument but I don't see RW IP law based on that same scarcity argument. I envision IP law as government endorsed and gov. accorded protection for tangible or intangible items that might otherwise lose their innate value in the absence of such laws. Scarcity doesn't factor into the equation imo. I just don't see it.


'Sir' Richard,

You certainly brought back memories with your reference to Argonaut Software. They were the makers of what is still in my view an unparalleled space combat game with Starglider 2, which I hold as dear as the original "Elite". Every time I look at a modern space combat game (especially space-faring VWs) I look to see if you can planetfall and move about the environment seamlessly like you could in Starglider 2. That feeling of total freedom from artificial boundaries was never quite recaptured... Yet they're so close...


Alan: IP tangetially implicates scarcity insofar as once a producer discloses her IP, she can no longer control scarcity.

Greg: Not the least of which is that the cartel/monopoly manages scarcity to capture wealth (produces to the point that marginal cost equals marginal revenue), the developer manages scarcity to provide a "Fun" experience and capture subscriptions.

Jeff Cole


My prediction (ok wish):

Someone will create a MMO version of Starglider/Elite where the main features are:

1. Exploring far distant worlds
2. The primary trade is in exchanging star routes to unique stellar features

It will be the Flight Simulator of space, without the eXpand, eXploit or eXterminate aspects found in most space games.

And it will ignite global interest in space exploration and China will have 5 million unique users of this VW.





In regards to RL laws relating to VWs issues, don’t you think we need to look beyond applying existing RL laws or looking at them for guidance?

As VW operators are virtual deities, the social contract between virtual deities and man must be better defined first. Scarcity is controlled by them. Selective enforcement of current RL IP laws is controlled by them. They can cause Armageddon and wipe all value of all associated virtual property. They are gods that require not mere worship, but regular offerings and sacrifices.

I think my resolution for this year is to meditate on this…




Let me rephrase the question as "shouldn't we think..." instead of "don't you think...".

Also, not to go off tangent, but can I sue under civil court for being deprived of the enjoyment of a given virtual object, bypassing property issues completely?



Jeff> Right -- so Dev-created scarcity is actually a social good (something Ted and Agent Smith have said before). I doubt there is a RL, non-game equivalent to this concept of patronizing resource deprivation for the good of the deprived -- i.e. being cruel to be kind. (Except, in a very tenuous way, trickle-down justifications for free markets.)

Re cartels, I should mention that Richard talks about them in the in-VW context on 303-04 of his book. :-)

To a certain extent, you could argue that, in context, EQ uber-guilds are anti-competitive player cartels. But as Dan and I pointed out in the Legal Affairs piece (and many others have noted, e.g. Dave Rickey with the facism post), all sorts of *bad* things might be "fun" in the context of a game.


Greg> ...so Dev-created scarcity is actually a social good (something Ted and Agent Smith have said before). I doubt there is a RL, non-game equivalent to this concept of partronizing resource deprivation for the good of the deprived -- i.e. being cruel to be kind.

I don't think this is true, except in the general sense wherein IP control allows producers to profit from their work, which provides an incentive to produce, which promotes the general welfare. But of course, this idea is neither new nor particular to MMORPG.

I can think of three wants that are seen as being 'artificially scarce' in the game world: accomplishment (scoring lots of points), content access (looking at pretty pictures), and power (giving the newbie a swirlie).

Obviously, accomplishments that aren't scarce aren't really accomplishments. So how is accomplishment made scarce? If I may quote myself for a moment:

"To impose [accomplishment] scarcity, it is necessary to associate elements of the game world - and ultimately, success - with real-world inputs that are themselves scarce. There are two ways of doing this. One is to set obstacles before the player that require a scarce quality to overcome, such as talent or skill; this will be called 'elitist challenge'. The other is to determine outcomes in the game according to a random or fixed schedule, and to associate some cost with each round of game play; this will be called 'egalitarian challenge'. ...It is necessary to make egalitarian game play costly if scarcity is to be enforced. If a game were fixed and 'free', it could be repeated indefinitely, which - no matter how long the odds - would create an abundance of success."

(The cost of egalitarian challenge in MMORPG is, of course, player time.) One can imagine other ways of allocating success, but I don't think they would make for very good games. Thus, accomplishment scarcity isn't really artificial at all; it is based on ordinary instances of real-world scarcity.

Content is scarce because good game developers are scarce. Of course, the real issue here is that content is non-rivalrous, but this invokes the case I started off with -- i.e., the standard notion of controlling IP to provide profits and production incentives. Again, real scarcity.

Though players pursue tokens which give them absolute power (i.e., levels and items), what most of them really want (I think) is relative power over other players. However, if one player is on top, then clearly another must be on the bottom. Thus, power is another manifestation of very real scarcity. (The case with power is actually a little more complicated. One of my claims is that power is used by developers to control the rate of content consumption by players. However, that idea is mostly irrelevant here.)

So the scarcity of the game world is rooted, ultimately, in the real world. Otherwise, I ask you -- where does the player's value come from? As they say in my economics textbooks, 'There's no such thing as a free lunch'.

That's my opinion, anyway.


"I envision IP law as government endorsed and gov. accorded protection for tangible or intangible items that might otherwise lose their innate value in the absence of such laws. Scarcity doesn't factor into the equation imo."

In a way, it would be nice if this were a widespread notion. However, what the RIAA is protesting is not a loss of 'innate value' of their music, but rather its profitability to them and only them. On the contrary, spreading popular creative works increases their total social value, while often decreasing the economic value of a single copy. Which one is the 'innate' value, in a VW, that deserves protection? Once we invite the federal government to effectively regulate in-game economics, it won't be long before other regulatory intrusions perforate the wall between worlds...IP laws are monolithic, but speech laws take the local specifics of the forum, audience, intent, etc. into consideration--thus my interest in exploring that model.

As for the time-investment measure, you're right, there's really no way to draw a non-arbitrary line there.

I also agree with Jeremy that dev-created scarcity is not a social good, except within systems built to reward it. Scarcity has been the foundation of economics and trade for thousands of years, and only very recently have we had the power to build virtual economies where a) scarcity is no longer necessary, and b) enough people can participate in the economy to create some valid results. But we're still stuck in the scarcity mindset, and tempted to bring RL laws in to govern novel economies that haven't yet had a chance to develop on their own, and which we don't really understand.

Today, it is true that "[gameplay] Content is scarce because good game developers are scarce". But good content developers are scarce largely because content [objects, environments, storylines] is still technically demanding and requires specialized skill. But give every player the tools (which we dont yet have, but will) to nearly effortlessly make the images in his head into a reality for others, and content will flourish.

And this is this point at which someone will say, "Yes, exactly, we need to protect those creative works in VWs just like we do in RL, to encourage development, to secure royalties..." and so on. That is one valid approach. However:
-considering that we already have an external "real" economy at which these players earn livings, eat, secure shelter, etc,
-considering that at this point, the loss of in-game IP to another player who uses it in-world involves no RW value loss of any kind,

does it makes sense to apply RW law so blithely to VWs? If a harmonious single unit is the goal, why not just impose VW law on the RW instead? I have to assume that those who propose as much fail to see the potential for "other" worlds, and see only "pretend" worlds.

Another consideration: social worlds and game/leveling-up worlds involve very different dynamics. Does it necessarily make sense to apply the same regulations to both types? Seems likely that in order to truly be different worlds, and not just the same world with different masks, each virtual space will need to come to its own conclusions regarding basic issues like creative property rights. (To invoke the 'Fascism is fun' thread, while communism is a patently failed philosophy for our world, it might work quite well for another one. Could we make RL laws that would effectively prevent the evolution of such a concept in virtual space?)


Predictions for 04:
Take-Two continues to release games that draw large amounts of negative attention to the gaming industry.

Politicians will start to take a larger role in criticizing (and possibley praising) certain games.

RL law will start to make its way into VWs.

The gaming market, particularly MMOs, will be flooded with new products that the population won't be able to support. Say bye-bye to some indie developers and small studios.

A ground-breaking, un-classifiable (FPS, RP, etc.) game will be released that is not violent and can't be attacked the way GTA:VC has been all year.

And my personal resolution:
Generally, to apply game-based and simulation-based learning experiences to IST courses at PSU.
Specifically, to take a VW and attempt to run an entire College-level class through it (the synchronous portion at least, the asynchronous will need to be suppored by an LMS...until the birth of Virtual Learning Worlds (VLWs).


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