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Nov 09, 2004



Cory (from SL blog)>

The second day started off with a wonderful presentation by Will Wright, who gave a fascinating talk about player exploration of game space. What was striking about the presentation was how hard Will is working to make single player games feel like online games.

Fascinating idea - some combination of AI-getting-better and players-apeing-NPC-AI, why not... or, rather, why?

Especially, consider that at such a time - the value-added of a player over AI, would be RL differences (you can chat to a player about RL and not an AI)...

Perhaps the virtual and the real in as much as MMOs are concerned - cannot (should not) be separated. They represent a unique blend, enthusiastically...


I will have to listen to them when they become available online.


"All main group, debate, and breakout presentations will be professionally recorded and the audio streamed at a later date by our media partner, IT Conversations.

Video will also be professionally recorded, and individual or compilation DVD sets may be made available after the conference, at the discretion of ISAC."


Some quick notes from http://www.futuresalon.org/2004/11/ac2004_day_2_no_1.html#more

"Real Money in Virtual Economies: The Future of User-Created Content Debate became a Panel

Definite Panelists: Steve Salyer (IGE), Jamie Hale, Gaming Open Market, plus 2 more

[Didn't catch new additional panelist's names or companies. I'll indicate by [guy in pirate hat] and [black T]. Being a total non-gamer doesn't help. I think [guy in pirate hat] may be from a game company call Three Kings (or similar) and [black T] has developed a "very innovative game" according to moderator Cory Ondrejka, VP of Product Dev, at Linden Lab (Second Life) called something similiar to Puzzle Parts. But obviously according to Google I must have heard completely wrong.]

Q: How do you work around restrictive terms of services by game companies and outright bans?
[Gaming Open Market] It's interesting to see what is going on Asia where it's at. You see the market approaching 1:1 in Asia (in Korea there is $440 million in trading alone).

We took a look at eBay and decided it wasn't an efficient way of trading "currencies" [exchanging in-game currency to real-world currency] - you can't see depth and breadth of the market, rates, and other things that resembles a stock market. We provide an escrow service, so not actually doing the selling and buying.

Trade becomes a meta-game. We sent a note to game developers about our service and showing the value...but it's often not accepted.

Q: Do you think the agreements players agree to restrict their trading?

[didn't capture panelist]If the provider wants to stop this. We can design out eBay elements out of the game - but how fun is the game for adults - becomes too restrictive.

[guy in pirate hat] Some players feel that the game is stacked against them because people are using real-world currency to buy better chances of success. It's like going to bank and using your own money to buy up more Monopoly money while you're playing Monopoly. Only way to stop it is to not have any in-game currency.

Q: Does it ruin the game? Besides currency, what about utilizing social capital ("twinking") to bypass the game designer's intentions?

[IGE] People behave the same way in virtual worlds as they do in the real world. And that includes political structures, commerce, and taking time to improve the quality of their life.

There are four main interests to games:

* exploration/discovery
* commerce and crafting
* socialization
* competition/game-play

The most successful games use elements of all four. I've personally only used currency to purchase something only once - and it was to have a castle instead of a mansion. It gives me great pleasure to drive up to that castle.

[Gaming Open Market] As long as their are those needs - upgrading from cottage - there is going to be trading. In Asia, there are often a "small business" (group of players) camped around a dragon 24/7 because they are defending their business and its margins. If this blocks other players from normal game-play - you can't get to dragon because this is their "business" - the game designer needs to worry about those types of situations.

[guy in black T] If you took a long time to build up the resources to buy a castle in the game, there are always players that are upset that someone else whipped out a credit card to buy a castle. And they will complain to the game developer.

[pirate hat] Even cosmetic things like castle makes an impact on game-play. When you offer a flat-rate pricing to play a game, everyone expects the same level of play.

[IGE] 78% of Korean players that like the secondary market believe that the items created are the player's property. Of those, 17% thought it should belong to the avatars.

Q: User creation exists in all these games. They are creating fan sites, social guilds, making movies in Sims 2. Should these players be rewarded for these 'external' activities? (btw, Electronic Arts owns the rights to these Sims 2 "movies".)

[IGE] Players feel they emotionally "own" the game. (Gave example of a hacker taking over his password and then stealing everything from the castle while he was on a conference panel like this no less; he was fairly upset.)

Anyone that can make $40-50K by playing a game ought to have that right.

[pirate hat] Probably just better to have a market within the game. Can you EVER get to the level playing field of Monopoly?

[black T ] We do reward those community members (i.e. free monthly membership) that add value.

Q: What about when game developer offers an extra item with game throwing in an extra sword perhaps as sign-up incentive?

[pirate] I'm trying to create a fun game. If this is allowed [legally] and it probably is in Korea then you will see designers selling and bundling items as part of their business model.

[black T] If designers want to do this, they'll have to offer escrow and dispute resolution, etc. It's going back to the game developer's lap if the trade goes bad....so how do we incorporate the secondary market into the game?

[IGE] [On argument of it's unfair to other gamers] Even having an extra sword won't help you in a competitive environment. If you're not a good gamer, you'll still get killed.

My guildmates like to buy high-level accounts (they already have high-level accounts, but don't want spend weeks to go through the drudgery treadmill again enforced by game designer for a new avatar). And I bought the castle because I didn't want to kill that many rats. [Basically sounds like circumventing parts that aren't fun for them, but game design confines.]

I hear Mike Korns, Las Vegas Futurists Salon, ask if you could incorporate this trading into the game and instead of squelching it you could "tax" it. Seems that this is exactly what Cory at Second Life suggested yesterday in his keynote talk.


Most folks will know this, but [black T] was Brian "Psychochild" Green of Neardeath Studios/Meridian 59 and [pirate hat] was Daniel James of Puzzle Pirates, who both kindly agreed to jump in after Cryptic Studio's Jack Emmert bailed at the last minute.


Sorry I missed the second day of the conference, but it was sunny and going for a motorcycle ride won out.

I'm mainly that disappointed I missed this panel as introducing real money into virtual economies is something we've been doing successfully since 1998.

Dan, who apparently was taking on the anti argument, knows his argument is seriously flawed. Admit it, Dan! If you're going to use the Monopoly analogy and claim it would feel unfair if someone whipped out a credit card to buy some property, I'll use the same analogy and claim it would feel unfair if someone could just sit in front of the board all night (while you're sleeping because, you know, you have a life outside of the game) and end up with 10x the amount of money he previously had when you rejoin the game the next morning, thus ensuring total dominance by spending free time you don't have to spend.



It's also an issue that is easy to research. Provide two servers, one with and one without.

Funny that so much energy is being spent talking about it.


Ola wrote:

It's also an issue that is easy to research. Provide two servers, one with and one without.

Funny that so much energy is being spent talking about it.

I'm not sure what that would prove. That's like saying it's easy to prove whether people like permadeath or not by taking EQ and setting up two servers: One with, and one without.

What business model you use is a central design consideration, and is not amenable to simply changing at will anymore than adding permadeath to an achiever game like EQ would be.

Besides, I'm not sure what there is to prove? It's obvious selling items works given the right design. It's obvious subscriptions work given the right design. There are numerous examples of each.


Well, research never provide proofs of anything (except math). You could explore how attitudes and practices evolves over time under the two conditions.

Anyway, you are kind of weakening your own argument about spending money being equivalent to spending time by stating that you cannot create one server where you can spend money and another one where you can't... Besides people are already spending money in EQ...

If selling items has no notable effect in a design that is suboptimal for selling items then you have strenghtened the position that selling items is a valid strategy. If it has a notable effect, then the study is inconclusive.


Ola wrote:
Besides people are already spending money in EQ...
Yep, that they are. There seems to be a public relations hump to get over before people will (legitimately) see no difference between being able to buy from the developer or readily available third party sites.

Perhaps I shouldn't say you can't use any business model with any design, just that some designs are probably better suited towards pacifying players who may otherwise object to the item selling. If the whole point of the game is to get the items, selling them seems like a bad idea to me. Selling ways that may help you get them, while perhaps not actually that different, is more palatable to players in my experience.

Ola wrote
If selling items has no notable effect in a design that is suboptimal for selling items then you have strenghtened the position that selling items is a valid strategy. If it has a notable effect, then the study is inconclusive.


I'm not arguing whether selling items is a valid strategy. Arguing about that is like arguing about whether it's possible to break the sound barrier. Already been done.



In addition to Will Wright's talk and the massively multi-player market moshpit panel, accounts of the first day of AC2004 are online here thanks to Evelyn Rodriguez. They include notes from presentations by Cory ("Living the Dream"), Clark Aldrich ("Simulations and the Future of Learning"), Robin Harper ("Real Learning in Digital Worlds"), Nova Barlow ("The Art of Community Management"), and myself ("Rise of the Virtual-to-Real Labor Force"). Keith Halper from Kuma Reality Games also gave a very interesting talk on news gaming and the episodic gaming business model, but unfortunately I can't find a write-up online yet.

I'll be sure to say so when the audio is posted.


At the beginning of the debate I stated that my 'level playing field' position was deliberately taking the contrarian point of view; I don't know many people understood that, particularly IGE Steve who seemed that he might have been genuinely offended by my make-believe position.

My actual position (which I did mention towards the end of the debate) is that trying to prevent the blurring of the line between in-game currency and out-of-game 'hard' currency is futile in any popular game in which there is an in-game economy (note that I do think that kidtrade and equivalents have a vibrant future, because I think people will seek out games that actively exclude currency economics). Although I have moral issues with this, I'm too pragmatic to worry about whether it's right or wrong much more in the context that it is unstoppable.

I'm not one for standing in front of the tide telling it to go back out again... unless for the entertainment and erudition of an audience. Instead we'll roll with it and see what we can cook up... and yes, Ola's two servers idea has some merits, to my mind.

Plus I think that Second Life and There's internal markets for in-game player-created goods are absolutely fantastic.


It was an interesting panel. My position was largely my own in the panel; Daniel bravely decided to be the rabid anti-real currency end of the table. ;)

I thought the panel was pretty light, but given that this was a non-gaming crowd, it was probably just right.

Have fun,



Jerry P.>Keith Halper from Kuma Reality Games also gave a very interesting talk on news gaming and the episodic gaming business model, but unfortunately I can't find a write-up online yet.

Jerry, I have a brief discussion of it as well as other AC highlights on my blog Egratz It was a great conference. I enjoyed your presentation.


Hi Peter,

That was you that ran over the Roomba?! Cory wrote about it on his blog and I posted it to Slashdot yesterday. They put it on the mainpage! Pretty funny.

So how does it feel to have partaken in "the ultimate convergence of technology. The perfect connection of human and robot. The consumate collision of 21st century geek products. I am referring, of course, to the moment that a Segway ran over Roomba"? Do tell.


Jerry Paffendorf>So how does it feel to have partaken in "the ultimate convergence of technology. The perfect connection of human and robot. The consumate collision of 21st century geek products. I am referring, of course, to the moment that a Segway ran over Roomba"? Do tell.

As most traumatic incidents, it all occurred in hideously slow motion without the benefit of real-time reflection on the historical significance of the event. Due to this effect, the Roomba, rather than darting out "like a suicidal squirrel" as Cory puts it, seemed actually to march inexorably towards me like a very short squat zombie from Night of the Living Dead. Despite my several skillful last-ditch maneuvers to avoid the Roomba (hence the "fast-moving" and "slightly out of control" observations by Cory about the Segway operator), the Roomba made a tight U-turn and then headed directly under the left wheel of the Seg. Having reached the moment of inescapable and ultimate confrontation, I decided that the best course of action was to put the Seg into ramming speed and so, leaning forward, I went up and over the Roomba tilting slightly to the left in doing so, but quickly regaining the perpendicular. Instead of the expected crunching sound like stepping on a mutant cockroach, there was only a feeble bleeping as the poor Roomba quietly submitted to this indignity. Time then began to return to normal. As I mentioned, neither machine nor man was harmed in any way. Thank you for posting this on Slashdot. The several hundred responses included some interesting tidbits such as speculating whether this act of bravery has led to any romantic encounters for the Segway operator. The answer is no, but my wife now wants a Roomba for Christmas.



The ISAC is a relatively new organization that is in the process of growing into something more socially significant. I would like to know what everyone here, involved in the study of virtuyal worlds, thinks about an entity such as the "Institute for the Study of Accelerating Change" and how it might help them professionally, personally, recreationally. What role could this organization play in society? What functions could it execute? The ISAC has the potential to become the first not-for-profit based largely in collaborative 3-D virtual space. Implications?



"ISAC Mission: Research, education, consulting, and selective advocacy of communities and technologies of accelerating change. Promoting a broad, multidisciplinary, and critical understanding of accelerating technological change in service to personal, executive, and professional development. We seek to help business and society examine the potential risks and opportunities of accelerating rates of change through our conferences, publications, reading groups, websites, and sense of community."


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There's an interesting addition to the virtual economy debate.

Puzzle Pirates (Daniel Jame's game) has added a second type of server, the doubloon server.

On these servers, you don't spend $10/month for an unlimited subscription; you spend as much or as little as you want for "Doubloons".

Doubloons have no direct game effect; they are used to deliver finished goods (such as clothing, swords, or ships) from shops, and are a "pay as you go" form of paying for a subscription. They can be traded among players for Pieces of Eight (the in-game money).

People have complained about "That credit card just purchased a castle". Well, the problem there is that the credit card's usage just created the castle, and gave ownership to someone. With doubloons, however, it works differently.

Yes, an expert player can play, and earn their subscription without paying a cent. Also, a part-time player will find that their costs of playing are less.

But now, a player with little time can purchase something with their credit card that will not directly effect the economy, but still has value and can be traded for PoE.

Yes, with a credit card, you can purchase enough to purchase that castle. But only if some player has managed to make a castle in the first place, and in turn wants to sell it.

Credit cards can co-exist, without destroying, the economy.

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