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Apr 11, 2004

Comments

1.

"To me, this observation profoundly misunderstands what SOE is doing. SOE has at least two client bases, the ebayers and the rpgers, and SOE would be stupid not to cater to both groups."

Restating from an earlier thread: Perhaps its the 'umbra' the game provides by sitting between the rules and reality what creates compatibility between the two camps and all the shades between.

Masterfully deceitful...

2.

Good lord he looks like my little brother with a bad haircut and dyed blond. He's got a 6 figure salary? [email protected]#$! my job, there goes all my patriotism for my country when someone selling virtual items on eBay makes a quintillion times more than me without signing up for 4-6 years promissing to risk my life for my country. I think I just became a practicing pagan whose religion interferes with my military life :)

3.

Lee,

I get the feeling EverQuest will never be the same in your eyes.

4.

I can't speak for SOE (and probably can't speak for Mythic either), but this statement:

"Hence, they "ban" trading in assets in their public statements, while condoning it privately."

...is simply wrong. Unless you have some evidence to the contrary other than "well, they'd be stupid to turn that phat l00t down, y0!", I'd be more inclined to believe the public statements of SOE execs like Raph Koster and John Smedley, as well as actions such as re-establishing official EQ boards to "drain the swamp" of IGE ad bannners on 3rd party sites.

5.

Meh. Most Ebaying is born of bad (imo) design. I really can't sympathize with those who play a game which inspires so much ebaying, yet decry the inevitable business that develops around it.

Games designed around time investment already reward only the rich -- the rich originally being those with scads of free time.

They have no more right to loathe an ebayer than an ebayer has right to loathe them for having 40 hours a week for a single game.

6.

My favorite part on the commentary was where IGE reps explained only 4-7% of players had ever used their services. People have been guessing it was more like 20-50% and the 4-7% fits my own experience better, and it's good to have data from them directly especially when it makes them sound less popular than they were perceived to be.

7.

Scott,

It does come down to a business. What does a game publisher gain by initiating a lawsuit, at what expense and what are the risks? Having deep pockets doesn't mean you start a lawsuit without thinking of it as a business investment.

Dee,

I also looked at those numbers. My personal estimate was slightly less than 10% of the user base.

8.

Dan>>"And of course the same rpgers who chafe at the ebaying n00bs who mistakenly train massive mobs into their midst are exactly the same guys who, when they get sick of EQ, look forward to a bigtime payout for the sale of their characters."

That is such a sad truth... I think the philosophy is "I hate e-bayers but I'm not going to be playing EQ anymore so I might as well get some monetary returns where I can".

Double standards... gotta love them.

9.

Scott> I'd be more inclined to believe the public statements of SOE execs ...

I guess what I am missing are more earnest efforts to stop the practice, or re-shape it in directions that better suit the game. There have been debates on MUD-Dev and here about what could be done in response to eBaying, but you don't see the companies actually doing anything (at least to my knowledge). Allowing IGE into the Fan Faire? If you abhor markets, you could at least keep the traders out of the temple.

Developers debate all kinds of things, all the time, and you see many experiments in many directions: PvP, naming conventions, RP rulesets, player government, AI, etc. But since I started watching in 2001, the only attempt at an eBay policy innovation that I've seen have been 1) Sony's request that eBay close down the market there, and 2) Mythic's use of a 'secret word' system at account creation.

I'd like to see some innovation in the design element of the games, that at least recognizes that these market incentives exist and are having an impact on the game.

And by the way, it doesn't take many players to alter the game's entire character; 4-7 percent is more than enough to make a mess of the high-end economy. If you have dozens of low-wage workers sitting in Hong Kong farming gold, you're going to have so much inflation in high end goods that anyone wanting to do some purchases at that level almost *has* to acquire the money by eBay.

Here's why. Suppose, under ordinary circumstances, a single player could farm enough gold in a 4-hour play session to buy a given object. Suppose further that gameplay patterns make it so that, at any given time, only one player is dedicating herself to gold farming as her primary activity. Now add a dozen 24-7 gold farmers, courtesy of IGE. The money they farm flows into the economy, raising the price level. In the real economy, this kind of thing leads all workers to go to their employers and demand higher wages, to keep up with rising prices. But in the virtual economy (as currently designed, anyway), the wage rate per hour is given by the system in terms of the loot per hour from gold farming, and it is fixed. So the player who wants the item just has to farm the extra hours to make the extra money. Under the assumptions of this example, the team of IGE goldfarmers has raised the rate of money creation by 1200 percent (12 FTE goldfarmers rather than just 1). In principle, there's no limit to the price level increase this will cause; it depends on whatever money sinks there are in the system. But let's say the price level goes up also by 1200 percent (almost certainly a minimum; the IGE goldfarmers add money creation and zero sinks to the system). That means a single player has to spend 48 hours, not 4 hours, farming gold to acquire the object.

A respec stone (one of the most expensive items, obtainable only through a dragon raid) in Camelot costs about 8-10 plat; that's 8,000 - 10,000 gold pieces. A necro, considered one of the better loot farmers in the game, picks up about 100 gold per hour. Do the math. At the current gold price ($8 per plat), that's $64 - $80 of value for 80 to 100 hours of work. The implied wage rate is less than a dollar an hour. I really wonder whether it would be so low if there were no sweatshop laborers involved.

10.

Scott>"Unless you have some evidence to the contrary other than "well, they'd be stupid to turn that phat l00t down, y0!", I'd be more inclined to believe the public statements of SOE"

I do have evidence to the contrary in relation to game devs generally (though I don't want to comment specifically on SOE since I don't have direct evidence here). I think that Ed's examples are good ones on EQ, and I know that various devs regularly consult with ebayers about game mechanics decisions.

Do you have evidence that goes to the private beliefs of SOE or other devs? I'd be really interested to hear it.

11.

Ted>I really wonder whether it would be so low if there were no sweatshop laborers involved.

Macros and automation eliminate the needs for sweatshop laborers. They are perhaps sweatshop customer service executives. I think this is just part of the outsourcing trend.


Re: Traders as "7-8% of total population"

Transaction with IGE may be 7-8% of population, but most of it is concentrated on a particular EQ server where high level loot is droppable. I would think that perhaps a majority of the 7-8% total are on that server.

I guess is that eBay-only traders that conduct trades beyond the one time exit sale may add another 10% to figure.


Re: Business case to defend IP rights

The current business strategy is probably to keep the status quo. There are probably more important priorities for them to tackle. The legal counsel probably gave the same scenario and advice to IGE. No one is going to be the first to draw a new line on the sand.


Re: Operant Conditioning conspiracy

Let me indulge on a thought that this all a conspiracy to condition players to "buy more, eat more, pay more!"

I just returned from Asia to the US and paid a visit to Costco Warehouse. In cramp places like Japan or Hong Kong everything is small. In Costco Warehouse everything was "extra large"!

Instantly, my brained was tuned from thinking small to thinking big. I stuffed myself with an extra slice of an extra large pizza and drank extra large diet coat.

It just dawned on me that I subconsciously switched into the “extra large” mentality. Therefore, I think this is all a conspiracy!

We are thoroughly conditioned for Consumerism and we are being conditioned for Mudflation and eBay.

Frank

12.

The percentage of users who eBay/IGE is something I've been curious about for some time. When I talk about issues like this with other gamers, a very common reaction is disbelief that enough people actually do it to merit notice. Ironically, everyone knows people who sell/have sold on eBay, but no one buys... hmmm.

I really don't want to get off topic here, but just for the record I have to take small issue with some of Dr. Castronova's numbers:

In the Darkness Falls dungeon, numbers closer to 1000 g/hr aren't uncommon. Meaning I can do it, and I'm not ALL that.

One time when the price of respec stones neared the 10p price you quote, my alliance led an effort that netted close to 1000 stones in one week (the lizard died 4 times a day). These were given to the realm, dropping the price to about 1-2. Which, incidently, is closer to the historical price on that server, the higher prices reflecting an increased damand and decreased supply, both a result of the release of Trials of Atlantis. I should have speculated.

Magic: I wish they sold diet coat at my Costco. Sounds way trendy. =p

13.

The 4-7% was who had ever bought or sold via IGE, not how many of the playerbase were paid in real money to farm.

14.

Firstly, the estimate of 4-7% of the EQ user base having done business with us is a miscalculation and is not accurate. Secondly, we do not run a "customer service sweat shop" in Hong Kong. Our customer service is run from a state of the art facility (Our New Building)
and represents fairly high end jobs in HK. We certainly do not employ people to play/farm the game. We are an arbitrage business, taking risk and purchasing virtual inventory hoping that we can turn around and sell it at a profit before its value has dropped.

15.

Brock Pierce,

Ok, the sweatshop customer service executive comment was out of line :) Hong Kong is not the best city to run a sweatshop. Costs can be as high as New York :(

Inciting the fear of outsourcing or the subsequent backlash was not my intent ;)

Moreover, I can understand the arbitrateur perspective. If I want a market with arbitrage opportunities, virtual economies are the places to be :)

OK enough smilies. Too much diet coats.

Frank

16.

"Firstly, the estimate of 4-7% of the EQ user base having done business with us is a miscalculation and is not accurate."

Awaiting enlightenment...

"We certainly do not employ people to play/farm the game."

I find that: Believeable. Doing math on some of these games, much like Edward did, you come up with numbers that could only be supported by slavery, not even a sweatshop... In some games you could have farmed them, but after a short runway you would have to switch to arbitrage.

"Our customer service is run from a state of the art facility (Our New Building)
and represents fairly high end jobs in HK"

I find that: Hard to believe... Everybody and their mother is outsourcing to countries with cheaper labor than HK or the US. This type of job being a prime candidate. This doesn't make sense.

17.

“Our customer service is run from a state of the art facility (Our New Building)
and represents fairly high end jobs in HK”

Yes I have heard that the new building has marble everywhere (very nice). Even the previous building was not too shabby.

“We certainly do not employ people to play/farm the game.”

IGE use to provide powerleveling services, I am sure you they had employees playing the game at that point. I do not believe they offer that service any more.

There are a number of people who provide IGE with plat (from macros, dupes, etc.). When IGE buys plat from you in bulk (such as if you had a dupe producing millions) they drop the price drastically. Since they currently have no serious competitors and are the only ones who can take those large amounts of plat there is not much you can negotiate price wise. Since they are based in Hong Kong and pay their employees higher wages financially it could be cheaper these huge volumes of plat.

Although IGE may not directly employee “farmers” that does not mean some IGE affiliates (who sell them plat) have employees paid $100 a month (I can think of a few examples) to farm the game.

Either way IGE is making a killing and dominating the current U.S market.

18.

Too funny...

From http://wiki.onlinegamers.org/index.php?EQ

"EQ

Everquest! Second of the Big 3 MMORPGs! The premise of the game is to kill the foozle to get the DING! so you can kill the foozle to get the DING! so you can kill the foozle to get the DING! so you can kill the foozle to get the DING! so you can kill the foozle to get the DING! so you can kill the foozle to get the DING! so you can kill the foozle to get the DING! so you can kill the foozle to get the DING! so you can kill the foozle to get the DING! so you can kill the foozle to get the DING! so you can kill the foozle to get the DING! so you can kill the foozle to get the DING! so you can kill the foozle to get the DING! so you can kill the foozle to get the DING! so you can kill the foozle to get the DING! so you can kill the foozle to get the DING! so you can kill the foozle to get the DING! so you can kill the foozle to get the DING! (do that about 65 times, anyway)

see also: treadmill, Skinner Box, camp, lewt
"

Also from http://wiki.onlinegamers.org/index.php?Jessica%20Mulligan

"Former Themis Employee. Got out before Themis teamed with IGE and squandered any good will they may have had with the industry. Works for Turbine Entertainment now."

19.

Staarkhand> In the Darkness Falls dungeon, numbers closer to 1000 g/hr aren't uncommon. Meaning I can do it, and I'm not ALL that.

OK, 'aren't uncommon.' From what I know about DF, which isn't a whole lot I admit, I am guessing that this involves PBAE farming for diamond seals, which then can be transmuted to lots of gold by a sufficiently leveled crafter avatar. I guess the point is, farming at that rate requires significant coordination among many people, over long periods of time. And that does happen.

But since I wrote my last post on this subject, I've been thinking more about inflation and currency floods. It seems to me that the massive inflow of gold is really not due to the activities of any small group of people, it's just part of the design. Everyone is farming gold, all the time. And the consequence is pretty clear. If you have a game design such that all players always farm item X, the price, or value in exchange, of item X will plummet relative to all other items. If X happens to be money - the good which has no inherent use - then all you get is price inflation from this design. If X happens to have some inherent use - respec stones - then you get a lowering of the relative price of that good. Guilds farming respec stones don't create inflation; but having everybody get money treasure on every kill creates nothing but inflation.

I also realized that one way to insulate yourself from a decline in low-skill wages (which is what the hourly return to gold farming is), is to move your avatar into higher-skill professions. OK, so gold-farming necros have it tough. But I bet spellcrafters (a skill that is always in demand and tough to acquire) don't worry too much about price inflation. They just raise their fees as prices rise.

20.

"Guilds farming respec stones don't create inflation; but having everybody get money treasure on every kill creates nothing but inflation."

Might the prospect of financial bliss through game farming lure unwitting victims into a false sense of profitability out of their ingame activities? The financial loss (when compared to other Real World activities) of which is borne upon the player farmer and the upside captured by the arbitreur.

Specificaly... Does having an external market drive overproduction?

Does it create a mad race to cash out before it crashes down, accelerating the crash itself? At which point do we consider an ingame economy has crashed? When x% of players regard the only way to acquire ingame goods as being through external purchases? Or when x% of players switch to a barter economy?

21.

Ed: It seems to me that the massive inflow of gold is really not due to the activities of any small group of people, it's just part of the design. Everyone is farming gold, all the time.

And not only that, but level-based designs increase the size of the carrot each level - for essentially the same performance. Everyone is farming more gold today than they were yesterday - by definition.

In the same way that increasing both damage dealing and damage survival scales player power too quickly to maintain a power balance - so does increasing both the reward for defeating 'challenging' content, as well as the survivability of 'weak' content.

One can barely contain a plausible economy in a pen-and-paper RPG campaign with 5 players at the 'loot level' of commercial persistent worlds. MUDs have shown the problem only gets worse in the 50 - 500 player range. So how in the world does anyone expect to be able to keep things under control in a game with 5000, without changing some of the core assumptions about how rewards should be meted out?

IMO, economic rewards should not scale with character power rewards. Fighting monsters should not be how one becomes rich.

Of course, that's assuming we even care about economic stability. Many players, and hence more than one designer, are more than happy with the monetary arms race that steadily increasing player power, and steadily increasing MUDFlation fuel.

22.

"Many players, and hence more than one designer, are more than happy with the monetary arms race that steadily increasing player power, and steadily increasing MUDFlation fuel."

Well, what's the problem? It's not like I'm trying to *live* in it, I'm just trying to play a game and have fun!

23.

Semi-humor break.
< humor >
Have real job. Job gets outsourced then shipped overseas to workers who can do it as well for less.

Play MMO with new freetime. Farm as part of MMO advancement. Play gets outsourced and shipped overseas to organization who can buy it from more efficient farmers.

...

< /humor >

Honestly it reminds me of the NC (real) farmers who went to soybeans from tobacco. They now can't compete with Brazil which started mass producing soybeans about the same time many NC farms retooled. I think the economic trend is referred to informally as "the race to the bottom". The problem with "the race to the bottom" is that you really don't want to be the winner. I see the economics at play ... but the only way to halt the free market race to the bottom is to adopt a non-free market solution. How to apply that in a game? not sure here ...

24.

Weasel> Many players, and hence more than one designer, are more than happy with the monetary arms race that steadily increasing player power, and steadily increasing MUDFlation fuel.

Divinshadow> Well, what's the problem? It's not like I'm trying to *live* in it, I'm just trying to play a game and have fun!

The gold-on-each-kill mechanic is clearly one of those deceptive short-run emotional reward traps. It makes you feel as though you're getting something valuable, but inflation makes it actually almost worthless. 'Treasure' in name only.

Now, in a single player game or a 5-person RPG, sure, it doesn't matter. But in a 10,000 person economy, it means that basic purchasing power at the high end of the game can be obtained only one of three ways:

1. Be deeply integrated in the server's more-active guilds, so that you regularly get a share of the very best loot available. Cost: surrender your social circle so you can adopt this one.

2. Be a very advanced crafter. Cost: hundreds of hours of tedious clicking.

3. Gold farm. Cost: hundreds of hours of tedious PvE.

4. eBay. Cost: your RL money.

With inflation, the cost of 1-3 rises over time while the cost of 4 stays steady.

I ahve to face it, the games are, at their core, designed to generate an external dollar trade. It's a shame that the devs don't capture this value, and that time-starved players (me) are forced to eBay to play at all. But increasingly it seems to me to be an almost unavoidable long-run consequence of the treasure mechanic.

Healthy for the industry? I don't think so.


25.

DivineShadow: Well, what's the problem? It's not like I'm trying to *live* in it, I'm just trying to play a game and have fun!

If it makes you feel good - do it. My preferrence isn't a judgement of yours.

For me: when rewards continue to scale up, as all stakes risked by me stay constant except the increasing time requirement - it just doesn't work. Not for a monthly subscription.

I'd much prefer having different adventures, and being involved in different stories, than to see an array of numbers slowly increase on-screen.

Ed: Healthy for the industry? I don't think so.

I'd tend to agree with you on the theoretical/design level - but it hasn't managed to harm the business-side of the niche thus far. Most players just aren't quitting games due MUDflation, and other related 'problem' designs.

Perhaps if a persistent world genre 'Crash' materializes people might recognize some of the design stand-bys as major contributing factors.
Even then, I wouldn't hold my breath.

26.

Not healthy in two sense:
1. The industry wants to go mainstream. The thing that dawned on me today is that entire eBay phenomenon exists only because the games are designed as an exclusive preserve for the most hard-core powergamers. I kind of knew/felt that, of course, from evidence of other parts of the design. It's just been a moment when I realized it's not just 'kind of' or 'partly' for powergamers, it's 'really, really, really, and only' for powergamers. Well, you're not going to mainstream anything that devoted to the powergamer subculture. To me, anyway, it was something of an 'aha' to come to the conclusion that eBaying is evidence of deep impediments to the long-run growth of this kind of gaming. I hand't seen eBaying in that light before.

Secondly, it's not healthy from a policy perspective. eBaying is the open door to taxation and regulation and IP problems and all the rest.

27.

Roleplay with me for a while...

"It makes you feel as though you're getting something valuable, but inflation makes it actually almost worthless. 'Treasure' in name only."

Correct so its kinda like... Well.. A game! A 'fools errand' an inconsequential trinket or piece of data in an inconsequential environment... A game!
Now don't go tagging consequences to the ephemeral and inconsequential game data and then expect it to behave differently. The change from ephemeral and inconsequential was in your mind, it didn't change the code or the rules of the system.

"With inflation, the cost of 1-3 rises over time while the cost of 4 stays steady."

Ah... True... Well, depending on the distribution of these high end trinkets and also depending on the flow of wealth as well as how the game adjusts over time. Isn't the idea of higher items that you will be more effective and efficient, therefore bring in more resources over the same period of time? Ideally your character should progress naturally. In reality there are some gaps (sometimes major).

I do agree developers in general need to cater to casual gamers better, though, making the game fun for them too. It goes back to the 'hero' thing, the game is fun if you kill the 'dragon' but it sucks if you're out killing 'butterflies'. The game has to *deceive* us into believing what were doing is excellent, even if we're squashing the weakest creatures of them all. As you noted, the games in general already deceive us with the treasure systems, they just need to do an even better job at deceiving us in some other areas to keep more aspects of the game immersive.

28.

I'd just like to make an observation that I believe many seem to overlook.

ALL gaming, whether multiplayer persistant online worlds or single player games, is a never ending treadmill.

It's all a matter of perception. Most people that prefer single player games do not PERCEIVE the treadmill as those games are broken into very distinct bounderies; this is where they start and this is where they end. The thing is that once a single player game is over you go back to the store and buy another game and thus the treadmill starts over.

In a persistant world those bounderies are blurred. Most do not even PERCEIVE them. The bounderies of obtained goals and finished quests. The end of one goal and the beginning of another.

Also, concerning the perception of single player games vs persistant worlds in regards to the amount of time available to play, I believe the rewards are similar. It may take a casual player of single player games months to finish a game whereas a powergamer may finish it in a week. They both are rewarded with winning the game.

The same is true in persistant worlds. Eventually the casual gamer will reach the point that the powergamer did, only after him, but because the bounderies of the treadmill are not as distinct in persistant worlds it may be harder for the casual gamer to realize that he has reached a new beginning.

In a single player game the achievement of goals is measured against oneself whereas in a persistant world they are often measured against other players.

The idea that you need ebay to reach these goals is ridiculous at best unless you are impatient given the boundaries of any time constraints or are focusing on other players instead of your own fun.

The only difference is that in a single player game you didn't see Bobby get there first and so can pace yourself to reach the goals of the game at your leisure.

Of course, persistant worlds are usually social games and so a casual player that can not socialize is at a distinct disadvantage and you are probably right... Ebay is the only way they will be able to advance.

But that is going beyond the point I wanted to make.

29.

James Mayo: ALL gaming, whether multiplayer persistant online worlds or single player games, is a never ending treadmill.

Yes and No. Yes, all pve are a 'treadmill' (pvp games are a competition. Counterstike is no more a treadmill than schoolyard basketball)
The nasty accusations come in when the game is found to be nothing but a treadmill. That is, there is no context for anything, except the drive to use ever larger numbers against other larger numbers. When players don't find the treadmill fun, is when you see that accusation.

Single player games, are generally different. Advancing your character in Knights of the Old Republic (for instance) gives context to every fight, puts story behind every motivation, and goes to great lengths to try to draw the player into its world. Everquest simply drops a new player into the world, to do what they may.

As one advances in power in Knights of the Old Republic, the story guides them where to go to continue advancing. Even though you're essentially still just jogging on the same old treadmill, fighting bats and spiders on Kaashyk, the context given to low-level combat makes it enjoyable and rewarding in and of itself. Everquest leaves players to decide for themselves where to go and what to do. Naturally, with no game worth mentioning, they gravitate to the meta-game - resulting in player focus on numerical superiority. Everquest is about as much ProgressQuest as KOTOR is. But without context, Everquest appears more glaringly so.

Ed: it's 'really, really, really, and only' for powergamers.

I wholly, completely, and emphatically agree there. Almost every aspect of commercial persistent world designs are shamefully exclusionary. Level-based systems exclude those who don't advance as fast as the median. The MUDflation/Loot arms-race excludes those who don't place a premium on hoarding/camping. Heavily typed class-based systems exclude those who don't have meta-game knowledge of what playstyle correlats to which class. The manual meta-gaming elements (selection of starting stats, manually selecting skills to advance on level-up, etc) exclude those who don't wish to metagame, or don't know the system in detail.
The monthly fee itself excludes those with less consistent playtimes.

It's hardly a surprise that the gaming public we're left with is borderline Obsessive-Compulsive. One almost has to be, to suffer such designs.

The question that is up in the air though is: does the mainstream want the industry? Even if someone builds a casual-friendly persistent world, would the mainstream play it?

Secondly, it's not healthy from a policy perspective

Well, so long as the TOS explicity disallows such acts, and so long as the Publisher/Ebay position is that such auctions are not allowed - I think they'd be covered. Frankly, there's little else one can do to stop Ebaying. Even games with casual-friendly designs will have some Ebaying. There will have to be some enviable measure of progress, or some rare resource and this will quickly develop a real-world value.

You can cut down on the frequency of Ebaying through making the treadmill fun - but you'll never get rid of it. Someone will have to deal with the thorny issues sooner or later.

30.

So, yesterday I was saying to myself "You're such a moron; you know these things are powergamer-centric, why would you have expected there would be anything for a casual gamer?" And then Mythic announced the next expansion to Camelot, Catacombs:

'“Catacombs deepens the world of Dark Age of Camelot by adding new content beneath Albion, Hibernia, and Midgard,” said Matt Firor, Vice President of Development and Executive Producer at Mythic Entertainment. “Instanced dungeons support a more casual gaming style by giving players exclusive play sessions for groups of all levels and abilities.”'

So the expectation wasn't just in my head - many of these games do market themselves as friendly to lite playing.

Jmaes Mayo> ALL gaming, whether multiplayer persistant online worlds or single player games, is a never ending treadmill.

Dr. Bartle, somewhere in his book (too lazy to cite properly :P), makes the point that leveling treadmills rob the player of an essential step in the emotional process of playing: the resolution. The treadmill you describe, James, has several steps and then a big sign that says "TOP OF THE LADDER. Get Off." And you get off and go down to the bottom and start up another ladder. MMORPGs, conversely, put you on a ladder that has no top.

Camus, in the Myth of Sisyphus, said that modern humans, far from being the heros of some epic quest, are just pushing rocks up hills only to have them come crashing back down again. You would think that when we designed shared fantasy spaces, they would undo this in some way, by giving us all a moment of seeing the rock roll down the other side. In fact, this is what much single-player gaming does. But in the transition to multi-player gaming, we actually made the hero's situation worse. Not only does he have to rol the rock up the hill; now he doesn't even get to see it comes crashing down upon him. No, the hil just gets steeper and steeper, ad infinitum. No wonder it is frustrating.

31.

weasel> And you get off and go down to the bottom and start up another ladder. MMORPGs, conversely, put you on a ladder that has no top.

And my point was that we do not perceive that each accomplished goal IS the top. Looked at with those bounderies we can carry onto the next goal with some relief.

It's a matter of player perception.

An idea that I had concerning the forever increase of power along the treadmill was to simply take it away.

If the game has evolved to that point then maybe it is time to allow the players to evolve as well. To advance you must give up all that came before.

Introduce new content that allows players to choose to continue to advance but only in that new content.

An example would be that the players have progressed so far that now they are evolving into entities that rival the dieties of the game. Previous abilities are insignificant to the new content and any new abilities are temporarily lost upon returning to any old content.

The new content would be such that they are beginners in relation.

Thus they continue to advance within the game but the treadmill has much better defined bounderies.

32.

"I'd tend to agree with you on the theoretical/design level - but it hasn't managed to harm the business-side of the niche thus far. Most players just aren't quitting games due MUDflation, and other related 'problem' designs."

- weasel

As a habitual "quitter" of MMOs I beg to differ. I think there isn't a major MMO out yet that I haven't quit multiple times!

The games being linear and mudflation is a direct cause of my quitting. In hindsight its easy for me to see this is so, but when I actually do the "quit" its unlikely to be the reason I list. You really do need to advance with the "curve", if not, you end up having to remake your social circle constantly. This can be done, but as someone who drops off the curve and gets mudflated frequently, the effort of either catching back up to the curve or reestablishing a social set on your current rung, then equip. etc ... time after time after time ... eventually offers too little fun in return for investment so I quit.

Only to remember later how the game was fun, and restart. Establish myself in the current "freshman class" only to fall off the advancement curve again ... get bored and quit.

Repeat ...

What I find interesting in my case is that I can make the time to powerplay and maintain the curve. I just don't find that compelling enough entertainment to do it. (Bartles Type: very high Explorer some A,S no K) And since the effort taken to explore newer content keeps raising exponentially (mudflation) once I see I am a certain point below the curve I just shrug and wait for a new MMO. Where I can start out "on curve" .. at least for a little while.

I think the sheer number of players who "wait for the next big thing" in MMOs are the casualties of mudflation. They just don't see it that way.

33.

IMO - one problem of "mudflation" (versus real inflation) is that there aren't any instruments in VW's to "earn interest" - penalizing those who earned and hold cash in these worlds. This penalty is the more egregious for those who slip off the power play curve. While adding inflation-adjusted instruments to VWs might solve this problem, it would be tricky to get right (viz drains) - so nothing is easy.

34.

My EQ experience was that prices tended to go *down*, not up. I assumed that was due to the ease of acquiring formerly rare items as the player base leveled up.

At some point in my EQ career it became rediculously cheap -- in real, earned plat -- to purchase armor/weapons far better than I could loot myself. (I chose to create a new character who was "allowed" to use the bazaar in that way, so as to not corrupt my main who earned everything directly.)

One big force limiting price inflation is the nearly unlimited quantities of low-end and tradeskill items from NPC vendors.

35.

I posted most of this on another site but ive added to it as so it would make more sence here.

I was directed to this site by my communities message board and I must say im sorta suprised that my informing post on events that took place at Fan Faire have spread out to other sites and blogs.

Many dont realize the problem isnt just one thing it goes beyond simple encuraging people to cheat causing duplicating of plat thats sold to players which causes inflation its also the sale of accounts that leave the current players of the game stuck with a level 65 newbie who will repeatedly get the long time players who know what they are doing and how to play killed.

I thought how Gor\'bladz worded it on the 15th was very close to the reality of the problem.

"the difference is that CCG are designed with real world selling in mind. People aren’t opposed to the concept of real cash for virtual property in all its forms. They are against it occurring in games that were not built to take to handle it, and where the game companies have asked people not to do it. It’s like discussing soccer with people and wondering why players get mad if you join the game and start using your hands. How is this different than using your hands in football or basketball? They are different games.
Gor\'bladz, 04.15.2004, 10:47 am"
link, http://www.brokentoys.org/index.php?done=1&show_id=108177220303812412#bk_108177220303812412

Using a source out side of the game that is not intended by the game itself to better your in game performance or profit is what I consider cheating.

When I sit down and log into a game I want to have fun and enjoy it with out the worry of some IGE customer getting me killed and laughing about it cause its their first day as the highest leel of that game.

Any way just dropping by to show my support, ill be keeping an eye on this page sence it has so much good info, Be safe.

36.

Dr. Castronova: I'm referring to me playing "alone", on 2 characters. A bigger problem in DF is other realms denying access. Also, diamond seals are readily turned into gold by selling them to other players - the going rate is 2/3 their craftable value if you don't want to take the time. I'm fairly sure that most EBay farmers do business by buying seals and using crafting macros to turn them into gold at a profit of 5 gold per seal, at a rate of 2 seals "laundered" every six seconds per account (this is the old "trinket" production rate, there's a new craftable item that uses more but takes longer, I think the seal/time rate is unchanged). IIRC, that's a profit of about 3pp per hour per account, and it's pretty easy to run this close to 24 hrs/day assuming you had a couple great suppliers.

Ian: I've always interpretted MUDflation as referring to something other than just inflated prices of in game items. It's more the inflated character levels/l3wt/time requirements to keep up with the median, as previously stated in reference to EQ.

37.

Back to the starting issue:
Ebaying is a topic of concern for the game publishers, yet one they have no definite opinion about yet:

- Going to court against IGE/ebayers could have a number of consequences, many of which would not do game publishers any good (ruling in favor of players 'owning' content would be the worst).

- Not (pretending to) actively oppose out of game trading could weaken the publisher's argument, were they to eventually decide to take legal action, so taking a few demonstrative - if harmless - shots at the issue is worth the little effort in any case.

- Taking a favorable stance on trading for real $$, and possibly including it in the games proper would open the door to nightmarish liabilities, tax hellpits and possible governmental regulations of the playground (SEC in EQ, have fun, kids).

For the time being, the non-approved traders are doing R&D for game publishers on the possibilities of ties between in game and out of game economy, and what is the cost/benefit for publishers ?

- non-approved traders keep publishers safe from possible backlashes and legal liability ;

- ebaying possibly keeps the churn rates at bearable levels and lures naive players who figure they can "make money by playing", at the sole expense of some hypothetic revenue that may bring more headaches than the cashworth.

What's not to love ?

38.

Very, very interesting thread and the problem. Make you wonder - what is real? What's the real value of your money and how does it compare to the virtual money? How will it evolve? So many questions.....yet so intriguing.

39.

ige is a good site ,i think so.but...i dont like buy gold

http://www.runescape-money.eu

40.

before i know ige,i bought the gold form virgoods

41.

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