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Feb 14, 2005

Comments

101.

Richard > I'm arguing that one of the key features that makes virtual worlds different from any other form of entertainment [is] the ability to undertake your own, personal hero's journey...

***

Well, I'm reading through this stuff, and all the rest is sort of blah blah blah, but then this comment gives me a sudden flash into the nature of the persistent Richard-hero-journeying-for-the-hero's-journey comments. (Which probably means I just wasn't reading/listening closely enough to grok that nature before - but nevertheless...)

The flash: Do you really think this is true? That virtual worlds are somehow *unique* in providing you with the ability to "undertake your own, personal hero's journey"?

Because I must, at least for the moment, boggle.

Is this a claim that the hero's journey did not exist prior to the coming of virtual worlds? That no one conceived, constructed, or experienced vicariously the hero's journey prior to the coming of virtual worlds? That virtual world designers alone have the tools and means necessary to shape and deliver the hero's journey?

An interesting claim if so.

102.

Barry Kearns>Trashing a individual character's progress in exchange for free time strikes me as similar to companies who announce a new "environmentally-friendly" policy of buying coffee mugs for all of their employees... and then immediately throwing tens of thousands of disposable foam cups in the trash. The waste and destruction completely misses the point.

What is "lost" in the destruction of a character? In your coffee cups example, people are destroying something that could be used and that would cost money to create. There's actual waste there - unused foam cups being sent to the land-fill site.

But what's being wasted in a virtual world? It shouldn't take more than a couple of days for a programmer to create a mechanism for generating hundreds of characters a second. All that effort that went into creating the character was itself a waste - it's just SO much easier to create a character indistinguishable from that one using a few templates, data from the character database, and a few random numbers.

Of course, it's only waste if you regard play as consisting of the manufacture of such objects. In practice, people aren't working to create them, they're having fun playing; the final character is a by-product of having fun. If you want to regard creating characters as a job, that's a waste: it's far, far easier to create such characters automatically. I suppose that if there were some art to character creation then it could be worth it, but the craft aspect of creation is completely beaten by the computer.

I'll think about it a bit more, but I don't see both sides of the value proposition right now.

>Not trying to be offensive, but... I've heard this Cassandra impersonation before, and I find it no more credible this time than the last.

There are already people nostalgic for the early days of UO before the non-PvP server came along.

Of course, the thing about Cassandra was that her predictions were always correct, it's just they were never believed...

>How then does the creation of such a system make MMOs into "ordinary" computer games? Seems to be decidedly out of the ordinary to me...

It's not that it makes them "ordinary" computer games, it's that it makes them other than what they are.

Richard

103.


Brask Mumie>Virtual *worlds*, as opposed to *games*, must support a secondary market to really be called a *world* in my books. <

But in my view, the “Market Economy” has many of the characteristics of a game. Sure, it’s a popular one, and the winnings are paid in RL dollars, but that doesn’t mean it should be imported into every VW. A major appeal for me is the opportunity to try different rulesets for familiar games we play in this world. If the Egypt of ATITD had been tied to the RL Market Economy game, there would have been no room for me to take part in inventing a currency and running a Bank. And for me, that was an entertaining and enlightening experience.

I think some of the indignation against commodifiers in VWs is that at least subconscious recognition that they are trying to impose their own favorite game in a world that is playing other games. Rather like a kid that insists on playing his “superior” Wild West game in the middle of your Fantasy game. Though I would admit the western Market Economy game has a big following, it does have a pretty arbitrary underlying ruleset that I would like to get away from now and then.

104.

dmyers> Do you really think this is true? That virtual worlds are somehow *unique* in providing you with the ability to "undertake your own, personal hero's journey"?

I think they make a hero's journey accessible to ordinary people in a way that has never been possible before.

>Is this a claim that the hero's journey did not exist prior to the coming of virtual worlds?

Well no, of course not! The hero's journey is a monomyth, an intersection of thousands of stories generated across thousands of years.

>That no one conceived, constructed, or experienced vicariously the hero's journey prior to the coming of virtual worlds?

Again, no. Actual hero's journeys have been experienced by many, many people. It's just that up until now, the ability of ordinary people to undertake a hero's journey was very limited. Basically, if you couldn't afford to go to some other part of the real world that would serve as a world of adventure where normal rules don't apply, the only way it was going to happen was if you joined the armed forces and wound up in a war zone.

If you wanted to go on a hero's journey today, where would you go? How would you become a hero?

>That virtual world designers alone have the tools and means necessary to shape and deliver the hero's journey?

They have tools and means that haven't been available in the past. Novels and stage plays and movies can depict the hero's journey, but the best their audience can do is to identify with the character undertaking it; they can't themselves undertake the journey.

>An interesting claim if so.

I'm just glad someone finally noticed that I was making it.

Richard

105.
Richard Bartle>Given that what in the past was assumed ("you can't sell your in-game stuff because although your character owns it that doesn't mean you do") is becoming increasingly under pressure, a virtual world developer may feel the need to state explicitly that they prohibit out-of-game sales of their goods, and they'll stomp on anyone they find engaged in that activity. This being the case, I don't feel that they should be disallowed from doing that.

Let's say that all major movie studios decided that, in order to preserve their creative effort and marketplace, that no one was allowed to resell or transfer any DVDs that the studio produced. They decide to enforce it with an End User License Agreement, which states explicitly that only the original purchaser may view the DVD. You can't even give it away to a friend for free.

Customers complain, but the movie studios say "If you don't like it, buy someone else's DVDs. We make ours, so we set the rules on how they can be used. You agreed to our terms when you opened the package. We think it's unfair to all of the other people who paid for their copies if you give yours away, or sell it used."

Customers point out that all of the other studios
are doing this, too... there are no significant movies available without those terms. The studios respond "Fine, go watch TV instead, or produce your own DVDs. We invested millions in making these things. Why should you make any money from our work?"

Would the existence of an EULA eliminate the legitimate argument that customers should be able to resell their used DVDs? I don't think so... I'd think the First Sale Doctrine would indicate that those particular EULA terms are illegal and therefore unenforceable.

Why are special and restrictive rules applied to DVDs (and many other things), but not the cookies that my wife bakes for our friends?

I think it's the commercial nature of the transactions.

If you think that your virtual worlds are so utterly important and that it is absolutely vital that they be preserved exactly as you envisioned them... don't make them commercial.

When you make them commercial, you subject yourself to the same sorts of commercial regulations that other manufacturers have to deal with. You can moan, wail, gnash teeth and rend garments all you like, but that won't change the fundamental reality of the situation.

It stopped being a "game" when you decided to sell access to it... it's now an entertainment BUSINESS venture.

Of course, if you'd still like to have the business model be viable, and also preserve the fun game-y aspects, and still have a hero's journey, and not have commodification impact your game, you can do that too. You'll have to take reality into account, though.

All you need to do (IMO) is structure the game so that there is no imbalancing transfer of unearned power between characters. Make achievement meaningful by tying it to the character rather than the gifts the character receives from friends, and permanently tie the character to the real-life customer (make identity completely inalienable).

In essence, make your game functionally twink-proof. I predict you'll see no disruptive amount of item or currency commodification arise, you'll have a rewarding and significant hero's journey, and you'll still make money.

You won't have to forbid commodification, because the existence of it won't matter to the "fun" of your game.

Just because you're creating a virtual world, that doesn't mean you are somehow immune from the consequences of your game design choices in a commercial environment.

If you build a game that gives huge benefits to twinking, many players will twink. Some will do it efficiently via commodification.

The proper solution is not to try to take away player's rights (via EULA) to show consideration towards one another in exchange for some form of compensation.... the proper solution IMO is to eliminate the root problem of twinking in your game, and keep your nose out of the out-of-game dealings of your customers.

Farming a problem in your game? Fix the game to make farming unrewarding, and you'll see it go away.

As a developer, are you forced to do so? Of course not... just like you're not forced to acknowledge the law of gravity. But gravity won't care that you put terms in your EULA stating it doesn't apply to your real-world business. Crap is still going to fall when you try to suspend it in mid-air, no matter what your EULA says.

I don't think commercial VWs are so "important" that the people who create them deserve to be immune from existing law which governs commercial transactions today. Other businesses have to respect the rights of their customers, and I think you do too.

Other businesses don't get to arbitrarily create new rights for themselves in contravention of existing law (at the expense of their customer's rights) out of thin air just by writing an EULA... why should you?

106.
Richard Bartle>What is "lost" in the destruction of a character? In your coffee cups example, people are destroying something that could be used and that would cost money to create. There's actual waste there - unused foam cups being sent to the land-fill site.

What's being lost is the game-playing utility that this particular character and their chattels provides to the person sitting at the controls. That character could be used to derive enjoyment, and it would cost money and effort for another player to create a partially similar but non-identical character because of the time, subscription and/or fast-forward costs. An unused, non-trivial character is being sent to the digital landfill.

You're also looking at the difference between grabbing a Hostess Fruit Pie off the shelf, and having a slice of mom's homemade pie. The experiences are not the same, and it matters little that Hostess can make Fruit Pies so much more efficiently.

All that effort that went into creating the character was itself a waste - it's just SO much easier to create a character indistinguishable from that one using a few templates, data from the character database, and a few random numbers.

It's certainly not a waste IMO... in many cases, it's a great deal of the whole "point" of the game itself! If your game has so little granularity that characters are essentially indistinguishable, I'd think it's pretty shallow.

If all you are interested in is the end result, why play games at all... why not just edit the high-score table and plug in whatever value strikes your fancy?

People are, after all, largely an amalgam that arises as a result of the experiences and the things they have accumulated throughout their lives. If you could randomly "roll" people at age 30 via a few templates and random numbers, would you consider the process of living up to age 30 to be a waste?

Of course, it's only waste if you regard play as consisting of the manufacture of such objects. In practice, people aren't working to create them, they're having fun playing; the final character is a by-product of having fun. If you want to regard creating characters as a job, that's a waste: it's far, far easier to create such characters automatically. I suppose that if there were some art to character creation then it could be worth it, but the craft aspect of creation is completely beaten by the computer.

I consider that character creation / development in games with non-shallow characters to definitely have an "art" aspect to it. I can definitely appreciate the "hand-crafted" aspect of a well-designed, well-equipped character, especially if I know the effort that was involved with getting to that point.

Keep in mind, a great deal of the "power" of characters in my game derives from the experiential aspects rather than arbitrary player-controlled settings and skill-point choices... it's much more to do with the quests and missions that they complete, how well they did on them, etc.

There are also long-term impacts to a character based off of their historical choices, not the least of which is the web of factional influences and reputations built by the character as they interact with the game world.

Now, I'm sure I could simulate some of that as a set of random experiences, but I don't think it comes out the same, any more than randomly drawing lines on the screen makes meaningful computer art.

I'm also not talking about the "final" character, but more of an interim character that still has some "life" left in them. There's utility left in them... there's more story still to write.

Now, I could put together a Markov chain generator that put together random bits, and call that a backstory, but I doubt that it'll feel the same to the person taking over the controls, when compared to a transferred character with a genuine backstory.

That's part of the reason that I consider the trout caught by my friend on a camping trip together to often be more satisfying than a McDonald's Filet-O-Fish sandwich. I know what was involved with getting it, and it's not just a cookie-cutter experience. It's something unique.

Characters in my game tend to be highly "hand-crafted". Now, I'm sure that some people are going to want to skip certain parts of the journey that they take, but the crafting that they will do will be in the non-skipped parts.

Of course, the thing about Cassandra was that her predictions were always correct, it's just they were never believed...

Yes, and that's the less-than-credible aspect that I was talking about. Many people want to act as if they are actually Cassandra (and therefore should think people should treat their predictions as defacto "always true") simply because they see foresee a dire outcome.

For every *actual* Cassandra, I'm sure there are a billion false ones.

Show me a history of at least half-a-dozen dire predictions, 100% of which came true, and I'll start to think a little differently.

107.

One of the things I like about this topic is that it has so many angles, and brings up so many questions about the market, the industry, the players, the goal, legal rights, business opportunities, practical limitations, idealistic dreams, etc, etc, etc.

Just to shift gears from talking about the business opportunities and some practical solutions, I also wanted to touch on a point made by Brask Mumei:

Brask Mumei> "I believe developers should be allowed to decide whether to have secondary markets. However, I believe if developers don't want such a market, they should:
1) Design the game so the players won't want such a market.
2) Manage their player base so they won't want such a market.
If they do neither of these things and whine about how IGE is ruining their game, I'm going to be unsympathetic."

Personally, I am in no way unsympathetic to the situation here. The higher the cost of creating a virtual world gets, the less we can expect in the market. Add to this the fact that the more developers have to spend on security, the less resources/creative freedom they have to focus on the 'game' itself.

Here are a few things I believe;

a) I believe that virtual worlds are the private property of the developing company.
b) I believe that VW developing companies have every right to decide if they want secondary markets or not.
c) I believe that secondary markets often do not add value to games.

I also believe the following.

a) A person's wallet is private property.
b) A person's car interior is private space.
c) Taking a person's wallet off their dashboard is a crime.

You can imagine a police officer's reaction when he is told that someone they left a wallet with $500 in it on the dashboard of their open convertible in a bad part of New York City, and came back 4hrs later to find it missing.

Yes, theft is a crime. Yes, the person had every right to leave their personal property in a private place. Yes, the law has a responsibility to protect a person's property. Unfortunately, interacting within human societies is not as simple as figuring out what all the ‘rights’ are.

The way virtual worlds are often designed their economies are even less secure than a $20 bill on a rush-hour subway platform. They are anonymously accessible by almost anyone from anywhere in the world. Yes, eBayers are running businesses that are not possible without someone, somewhere violating the TOS or EULA of a game at one point or another. But, I don't see any policeman running to recover the losses here either.

When you lose your wallet you are often out more than the money that was in it. It takes time at the DMV, inconvenience to replace credit cards, the forever loss of the personalized picture from your spouse, etc.

With virtual worlds, I would agree that we lose more than a little when the pharmbots arrive.

I also am not saying that the industry shouldn't use the legal resources available to address this issue. At the same time, are we really that surprised when we see what we are seeing? At some point we are going to have to come up with strategies and tactics that address the problem.

"For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?" (Luke 14: 28)

-bruce

108.

Some of you guys are rather long-winded, so hopefully not all of what I say is repetition.

Players agree to terms of play when they join the game. This is true of all games. Even if they are unaware of the rules, but joining they are displaying a willingness to follow the rules.

The game developer has the right to set the rules as they wish.

If the game developer prohibits a secondary market, players who participate in this market are breaking the rules and are subject to whatever in-game discipline the developer chooses (as long as this doesn't violate real life law).

This isn't the topic, per se, but defeating a secondary market is a combination of administrative action and code. A market system that I can envision would allow free trade among players while preventing a secondary market.

The method that players use to sell items is also the method a secondary market uses to make its money. Creating a market system unfriendly to marketers would seal the problem.

Marketers need two things to conduct their business: they need to be able to identify their customer, and they need to be able to control the in-game currency price. Counteracting this is a two-step process.

1) Restrict item transfers. My personal theory about this would be to cause items traded between non-guildmate players to degrade over a period of time, giving them a low real-world value. Whatever the restriction, this creates a need for a sales forum that involves no damage to the value of goods.

2) Create a market device that enforces anonymity. A system similar to e-Bay would do well here. It would continue to allow players to set the prices on their goods.

Marketers would still be able to sell their goods in this way... but unreliably at best. They would have no control over who bought the item. Even coordinating the posting and buying of a good is tenuous.

In my theory about restricting player to player trade, notice that I left a window for guildmates to trade freely. I envision this allowing groups of friends to continue gifting each other with items, while restricting how far an item can get before suffering the restrictions. This would limit a marketer's customer base too far for profit.

An abuse I'll mention about this (before someone else does) is marketers jumping into and out of guilds in order to make sales. At this point it becomes a guild issue, far easier for the administration to track, and therefore easier to deal with.

109.

Barry Kearns>Let's say that all major movie studios decided that, in order to preserve their creative effort and marketplace, that no one was allowed to resell or transfer any DVDs that the studio produced.

No, let's say that they stopped you from taking a video into the cinema and recording the movie you were watching. Oh wait, they already DO prevent that, and they don't even need a EULA.

>Customers point out that all of the other studios are doing this, too... there are no significant movies available without those terms. The studios respond "Fine, go watch TV instead, or produce your own DVDs. We invested millions in making these things. Why should you make any money from our work?"

But they do this. I have some DVDs I don't really need any more, but if I sent them to you could you watch them? No, you couldn't, because we live in different DVD territories.

>If you think that your virtual worlds are so utterly important and that it is absolutely vital that they be preserved exactly as you envisioned them... don't make them commercial.

And would that make a difference? If I were the richest man in the world and I created a vast virtual world for free, you honestly think that this alone would stop people from wanting to buy and sell characters and virtual objects? Of course it wouldn't! The commerciality of a virtual world as a product has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not virtual goods are traded!

>When you make them commercial, you subject yourself to the same sorts of commercial regulations that other manufacturers have to deal with.

Yes, but you're making false analogies. First Sales doctrine doesn't apply to everything - I can't sell you my bank account, for example, or my named ticket for a soccer match - so there are exceptions.

Besides, you seem to be operating from the standpoint that virtual goods are the property of the player, whereas I deny that they are unless the developer says so. Your whole "won't change the fundamental reality of the situation" is predicated on this assertion. If the assertion doesn't hold up, it doesn't matter what rules of property or manufacturing you think should apply, they just won't.

>It stopped being a "game" when you decided to sell access to it... it's now an entertainment BUSINESS venture.

As I said before, so are professional team sports, yet they're still games. The same applies to virtual worlds. Get over it.

>Make achievement meaningful by tying it to the character rather than the gifts the character receives from friends, and permanently tie the character to the real-life customer (make identity completely inalienable).

Now we're talking game design. I actually agree with you here, that this is something which designers could do to prevent commodification. My point is, though, that they shouldn't be required to do it. They should be able to create a game with whatever rules they like, and if people don't play by those rules then they should be able to chuck them out. You can argue that it's bad business to do that, but so what? Bad business isn't illegal. It's up to the designers what kind of game they want, and if you don't like it then don't play. You can't claim that by structuring the game a certain way it attracts weak-minded commodifiers like moths to a flame and that these poor souls should be protected from the evil designers who put such temptation before them only to deny them its fruits. That's the kind of logic that says women should be made to cover themselves up so they don't attract men.

>In essence, make your game functionally twink-proof.

I shouldn't have to make my game twink-proof. I should be allowed to make it how I like, tell people that there's no twinking, then throw out people who do twink. I'm allowe dto do it if I don't want profanity, so why can't I do it if I don't want twinking? You can give marketing reasons why you think it's a bad reason, but those aren't justification for laws.

>Just because you're creating a virtual world, that doesn't mean you are somehow immune from the consequences of your game design choices in a commercial environment.

I agree. If I created a virtual world featuring child abuse, I could expect it to be closed down except in very particular circumstances (eg. if I were a renowned psychologist who was using this as a form of therapy for child abuse victims and I'd got permission to do it from a morals board and the relevant government offices).

Where I disagree is in what these "consequences" are. I don't think it's a natural consequence of creating a virtual world which doesn't have twinking coded out that people should therefore have the right to buy and sell in the real world virtual goods from that world. What's more, if those were the consequences, I would argue as forcefully as I could that the law should be changed. It would strike at the heart of the designer's art, and it would bring imply so many other consumer laws (that you have conveniently ignored, such as redress if what you buy is damaged, eg. nerfed) that it would destroy the very products that the consumers wanted to consume.

>If you build a game that gives huge benefits to twinking, many players will twink. Some will do it efficiently via commodification.

Ah, but the game doesn't give huge benefits to twinking, because when you're discovered to have twinked we chop you character's head off.

>The proper solution is not to try to take away player's rights (via EULA)

The EULA doesn't take away rights, because rights can't be taken away - that's what makes them rights. What the EULA does is to state the conditions under which access to the product is given.

>Farming a problem in your game? Fix the game to make farming unrewarding, and you'll see it go away.

The fix is simple: wipe from the database every farmer you find.

You seem to want a coded solution. It's as if you accept anything that people code into the game as being the rules, but anything beyond that as not being part of the game at all. Massively multiplayer games, unlike single-player games, have rules beyond the code; they always have had, and they always will have. If I can throw someone out of a game for breaking a "no swearing before 9pm EST" rule, I can throw them out for "no transferring an object to someone else without paying a fair in-game price for it" rule.

>I don't think commercial VWs are so "important" that the people who create them deserve to be immune from existing law which governs commercial transactions today.

Why not? If those rules as you interpret them were to come into play, we wouldn't have commercial virtual worlds. No-one in their right mind would develop one.

>Other businesses don't get to arbitrarily create new rights for themselves in contravention of existing law (at the expense of their customer's rights) out of thin air just by writing an EULA... why should you?

Who says I am doing?

Richard

110.


Richard, I think what you are saying here is, 'play it my way, or I'm going to take my ball and go home.' To which I would say, fine, take your ball, and I'll give my money to someone else and use their ball.

Your vision of what your game should be isn't really important. The only thing that is important are the players. Without players, there is no game.

111.

MM wrote:

> Your vision of what your game should be isn't really important.

The developer's vision of the game isn't important? How about the other players' vision of the game?

112.
Richard Bartle> No, let's say that they stopped you from taking a video into the cinema and recording the movie you were watching. Oh wait, they already DO prevent that, and they don't even need a EULA.

No, commodification is NOT like that. In the case you're citing above, a new COPY is being created that didn't exist before, and creation of copies is one of the five exclusive author rights granted by copyright.

Instead, commodification is MUCH MORE like the case I cited. I purchased a legitimate copy, and all I'm doing is moving that legitimate copy from my possession to someone else's. Nothing new is being CREATED in the process. The original creator doesn't get any say in whether or not I choose to charge my friend for his exclusive possession of that particular copy or not. The decision to transfer, and any associated compensation is entirely my own.

It's the difference between disposition of a legitimate copy, and counterfeiting. Commodification is very much like the former, your counter is more like the latter.

But they do this. I have some DVDs I don't really need any more, but if I sent them to you could you watch them? No, you couldn't, because we live in different DVD territories.

You'd be wrong. Of course I could watch them. I can watch DVDs with any region code. You should be able to determine from that statement that I'm closely aligned with the EFF's position with respect to DeCSS and the abomination known as the DMCA.

If it creates less cognitive dissonance for you, substitute "VHS tape" or "book" for "DVD".

And would that make a difference? If I were the richest man in the world and I created a vast virtual world for free, you honestly think that this alone would stop people from wanting to buy and sell characters and virtual objects? Of course it wouldn't! The commerciality of a virtual world as a product has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not virtual goods are traded!

The commerciality of the virtual world DOES, however, have a lot to do with the extent and nature of the "private property" aspect that developers keep asserting.

You don't have all of the same freedoms in a public business that you do in the privacy of your own home, or in a private club.

Engaging in public commerce opens you up to having to take consumer's rights into account, among other things. A lot of developers seem to want all of the benefits of having a vast public commercial enterprise, yet still act as if the whole enterprise should be treated identically to their own home. It's not, no matter how often developers flog the "it's my private property, I can do anything I want" meme.

Yes, but you're making false analogies. First Sales doctrine doesn't apply to everything - I can't sell you my bank account, for example, or my named ticket for a soccer match - so there are exceptions.

You can certainly sell me the DECISION to empty the contents of your bank account, and distribute it as we agree, for whatever compensation we deem appropriate.

With respect to the soccer ticket, there are (barely arguable) reasons of public safety for making the seat ENTIRELY non-transferrable. That's not the same as being able to give it away, but not sell it.

Can you show me a case in the United States where I can freely give away something that I've purchased as part of a commercial transaction, for reasons of friendship, pity, spite or love, but can't under any conditions sell it?

That's the situation we face in twink-laden games where the developers try to stop commodification. It's the differential enforcement based on a player's REASON for transferring something in game that seems to be the major disconnect as far as I'm concerned.

With respect to First Sale, the easy way out of that predicament is that US law recognizes that it's the consumer's decision regarding disposition post-sale that applies... not the original manufacturer's. It's basically a "manufacturers, mind your own business" finding.

Besides, you seem to be operating from the standpoint that virtual goods are the property of the player, whereas I deny that they are unless the developer says so. Your whole "won't change the fundamental reality of the situation" is predicated on this assertion. If the assertion doesn't hold up, it doesn't matter what rules of property or manufacturing you think should apply, they just won't.

I would be more accurate to say that what I own is my DECISION with respect to what my character does... including transferring virtual chattels. My decision, and whatever motivates me to make that decision is entirely my own business, regardless of what developers want to assert in their EULA.

I've seen EULAs (and Vivendi's C&D letter) that try to assert that the game company holds copyright and/or trademark in all sorts of things that they clearly don't, and to assert that those copyrights and trademarks give them non-existent rights to prohibit certain behaviors of mine. Just because they assert it, and I'm forced to agree when I play, that doesn't somehow make their assertions into reality.

I'd treat it the same as your bank trying to put in EULA terms saying that you can't withdraw your balance if you're going to spend it supporting Republicans.

Your decision and your motivations for withdrawing your cash are your own... they're none of your bank's business. If they are going to prohibit withdrawals, I'd expect that they would need to do it in a fashion which doesn't reference WHY a customer wants to withdraw it. Otherwise, banking regulators would probably come down on them like a ton of rectangular building things.

As I said before, so are professional team sports, yet they're still games. The same applies to virtual worlds. Get over it.

Professional sports teams are clearly subject to additional laws and regulations governing their behavior, that Monopoly players are not subjected to... and likewise with commercial virtual worlds.

Why do some developers expect to be able to make money in the public arena like a sports franchise, yet still be treated legally like a private parlor game? Get over yourselves. You're not that special.

In the interests of space and time, I'll try to cut the rest short...

Ah, but the game doesn't give huge benefits to twinking, because when you're discovered to have twinked we chop you character's head off.

If that were actually the case, I doubt I would have ever commodified, and I imagine thousands of others like me never would have, either.

Instead, par for the course in all of the MMOs I've played is to see rampant twinking, typically by guilds full of school-kids with buttloads of spare time, with never so much as a warning ever issued. The axe generally only falls when someone has the unmitigated gall to do the same twinking, but involving the disgusting taint of filthy lucre. Burn her! Burn the witch! She brings eeeeeevil into our game! It's the end of the world!

Barry Kearns> I don't think commercial VWs are so "important" that the people who create them deserve to be immune from existing law which governs commercial transactions today.

Richard Bartle> Why not? If those rules as you interpret them were to come into play, we wouldn't have commercial virtual worlds. No-one in their right mind would develop one.

These assertions are no less ridiculous today than they were when you originally made them. I'm completely and utterly certain that if there were a finding in law that EULA terms prohibiting commodification were a prior restraint of trade and anti-competitive (and therefore struck down as unenforceable), we would still continue to see many wonderful new virtual worlds being written and offered as commercial ventures. Lots of developers would adapt to the new legal landscape, and code accordingly.

Heck, the press coverage alone might be more than enough to help boost total-market subscription rates, with players realizing that the total cost of their entertainment experience might be substantially lower knowing that they can probably "cash out" when they are done with a game.

I think one of the big obstacles to major breakouts in US MMO subscription rates is the spectre of financial hit from those recurring monthly costs, especially for people interested in playing multiple games simultaneously.

When commodification from one game helps defer the costs of subscriptions to other games, I think there's a potential for a bonanza in new subscriptions.

You'd be free to characterize everyone who wrote a commercial VW after that as "not in their right minds", but I doubt that would stop them. I'm certain that they would exist regardless of your judgements about their mental health.

113.

MM wrote:

>Richard, I think what you are saying here is, 'play it my way, or I'm going to take my ball and go home.' To which I would say, fine, take your ball, and I'll give my money to someone else and use their ball.>

That's called a free market.

>Your vision of what your game should be isn't really important. The only thing that is important are the players. Without players, there is no game.>

Imagine trying to tell the famous artists of the renaissance that what they beleived about their work wasn't important, but rather what kind of price it was likely to bring.

Game designers don't design games because they've been shackled in someone's basement and are driven by whip. They do it partly as a job, but also as a creative act. The artist ALWAYS has supreme rights as to what form the product has.

Whether or not it's marketable matters only as much as the producers want. They also have the right to make a game that will flop, though it would make little sense. It's up for the producers to decide, and no one else should try to enforce their own set of ideals on them.

114.

Richard Bartle> I'm arguing that one of the key features that makes virtual worlds different from any other form of entertainment - the ability to undertake your own, personal hero's journey - would be lost with this amount of RW intrusion.

What RW intrusion? Ebay doesn't intrude in the game world. I don't see any sales occur in game. I may see people farming spawns, but I saw them farming spawns before there was ebay. People talking about ebay is no more intrusive than people taking about the superbowl, or talking about how their Alt is a necromancer.

From the viewpoint of a character inside the game, nothing fiction breaking has occured. One person gave someone else a large amount of money in exchange for some incomprehensible favour. A bunch of players set up a farm to most profitably extract gold from monsters.

I also don't see allowing ebay to exist to lead to all-out commodification. For example, there is no need for game companies to start selling gold pieces for USD. (I'm actually opposed to that, as I feel that would be a RW intrusion into the game play.)

There is a very important difference between ebayed gold and developer created gold. Excluding duping (which, I'll point out, will be horribly abused even if there is no ebay!), ebayed gold doesn't create gold in any fiction breaking manner. It merely transfers it in what may seem to be an odd pattern. However, as humans have been transferring money for stupid reason since the dawn of time, it is not distinguishable from the twinking that occurs normally. Would it make you happy if every ebay driven transfer was accompanied by some hot cybersex, so you'd believe that was the reason for the money transfer?

From the in game viewpoint, one cannot even argue that ebay leads to excessive farming. If one truly lived inside these worlds where gold was of such value, farming would be expected. The idea that they must "give me a turn cause I'm paying for the game too" is what is fiction breaking!

- Brask Mumei

115.

Barry Kearns wrote:

>A lot of developers seem to want all of the benefits of having a vast public commercial enterprise, yet still act as if the whole enterprise should be treated identically to their own home. It's not, no matter how often developers flog the "it's my private property, I can do anything I want" meme.>

Under the conditions of use, it states that all content, including the character and it's posessions are property of the developer. Users must show intentional agreement with these terms to access the content. When is it acceptable to violate this agreement? It never is.

As Richard has pointed out several times, there are currently "conditions of use" that include swearing. Aside from your personal preference for the existence of an external market, can you see that the developer has a right to set other "conditions of use" aside from cursing?

>Can you show me a case in the United States where I can freely give away something that I've purchased as part of a commercial transaction, for reasons of friendship, pity, spite or love, but can't under any conditions sell it?>

Virtual worlds aren't the United States. However, even in the States, the government regulates trade in the interest of everyone in the nation. In a virtual world, the admin has MORE power than a government, since they have extended rights, including what the content should consist of. Obtainability of items and the influence of non-game resources are both content.

>Your decision and your motivations for withdrawing your cash are your own... they're none of your bank's business. If they are going to prohibit withdrawals, I'd expect that they would need to do it in a fashion which doesn't reference WHY a customer wants to withdraw it. Otherwise, banking regulators would probably come down on them like a ton of rectangular building things.>

Virtual worlds aren't banks. The argument is invalid, since you've shown it to be a special situation (federal banking regulators). This is not a typical trade situation. In fact, it isn't trade at all.

>Why do some developers expect to be able to make money in the public arena like a sports franchise, yet still be treated legally like a private parlor game? Get over yourselves. You're not that special.>

I'm not even sure what point you want to make here... but virtual worlds aren't sports teams. The closest analogy I can see is that sports teams charge money for access to content (games), but that obviously can't be transferred to someone else. You can sell your ticket legally, unless you've bought it under some agreement not to do so.

What you don't seem to get is the fact that the player never gains ownership! If they did own the content then yes, they would have right of sale. But they don't. The only "right" or "choice" they have is whether or not to accept the license agreement, i.e. to play or to not play.

Any other stance supports breaking the rules of the virtual world, which as Richard has said gives the admin the right to "chop off heads".

116.
Jim> Under the conditions of use, it states that all content, including the character and it's posessions are property of the developer. Users must show intentional agreement with these terms to access the content. When is it acceptable to violate this agreement? It never is.

A former employer of mine once made me sign a "non-compete" agreement (designed to try to prevent employees from working with any of their clients after they left) as a condition of employment. I took it to my lawyer, who looked it over and advised me to sign it, and break it whenever I liked... because it wasn't worth the paper it was printed on. My state in particular has several case precedents outlining that such contracts are adjudged an illegal restraint of trade, and are therefore unenforceable.

Contracts can (and sometimes do) contain clauses which are illegal. Breaking such clauses is something I certainly consider "acceptable", especially when I had no hand in negotiating their terms and one or more of the illegal/unenforceable terms impacts me.

As Richard has pointed out several times, there are currently "conditions of use" that include swearing. Aside from your personal preference for the existence of an external market, can you see that the developer has a right to set other "conditions of use" aside from cursing?

That "right to set conditions" is not boundless. I have few (if any) problems with developers putting in conditions of use that pertain directly to IN-GAME impacts, and swearing represents such a potential impact to other players. But as a rule, I think a developer's scope of control over my behavior should stop at the edge of their game... whether I receive out-of-game compensation or not for my in-game behavior is none of their business, and attempts by developers to co-opt that aspect of my personal life constitutes "going too far" in my book.

Want to make conditions of use regarding all twinking, and fairly enforce them against everyone (including the guilds of schoolkids who currently guild-twink like mad)? Great! I'll be happy to not commodify in that game, because no one else gets a twinking advantage, either... it's a pure meritocracy, and a fair game. You have no need for an anti-commodification clause at that point, because every commodifier is going to get axed along with ever guild-twinker without it.

But if you're going to allow twinking, then it's my business (and none of yours as a developer) what my reasons are for my twinking the player next to me (or vice versa).

Just because a developer writes a EULA that claims they have the right to govern that aspect of my private life... doesn't make it so.

As to the rest of Jim's comments... if you'd like to understand the context a little better, go back and read the post I was responding to. I referenced "in the United States" because of the (frankly asinine IMO) policy apparently in place in the UK that supports discrimination on where you can sit at a soccer match... so I was looking for a more US-appropriate example. Richard was the one who brought up banks and sports teams in this context, so you should address your objections about those arguments towards him.

As an aside, as a tie-in of professional sports, games, and government / legal intervention into "game worlds", I would remind interested parties of a SCOTUS legal precedent already set for the courts intervening to modify game rules: PGA vs. Martin.

It wouldn't surprise me to see a court rule that anti-competitive restraint of trade (an antitrust violation) would constitute a compelling public interest, in the same manner that ADA compliance is a compelling public interest.

Saying "it's a game" doesn't make you immune from the law. VW developers shouldn't assume that they get to ignore antitrust law either, just because they want to claim that "it's their game, so they can make any rule they want". It's not just "their game" when commerce gets involved, and that happened when they decided to make a public business venture out of it.

117.

Barry Kearns wrote:

>That "right to set conditions" is not boundless. I have few (if any) problems with developers putting in conditions of use that pertain directly to IN-GAME impacts...>

I agree with this. I would like to know what the bounds are, however. I assume you're referring to specific legal bounds.

>...whether I receive out-of-game compensation or not for my in-game behavior is none of their business, and attempts by developers to co-opt that aspect of my personal life constitutes "going too far" in my book.>

I think the argument made is that the marketing of in-game goods does in fact have an in-game impact.

>As to the rest of Jim's comments... if you'd like to understand the context a little better, go back and read the post I was responding to. I referenced "in the United States" because of the (frankly asinine IMO) policy apparently in place in the UK that supports discrimination on where you can sit at a soccer match... so I was looking for a more US-appropriate example. Richard was the one who brought up banks and sports teams in this context, so you should address your objections about those arguments towards him.>

Very well... Richard, I don't think those examples are valid at all, for reasons I posted above.

>A former employer of mine once made me sign a "non-compete" agreement (designed to try to prevent employees from working with any of their clients after they left) as a condition of employment. I took it to my lawyer, who looked it over and advised me to sign it, and break it whenever I liked... because it wasn't worth the paper it was printed on. My state in particular has several case precedents outlining that such contracts are adjudged an illegal restraint of trade, and are therefore unenforceable.>

I can understand your point in this case. However, this only applies to the issue if developers are making an "illegal contract" via the EULA. If we're going to discuss the legality of it versus what rights we think the developer ought or ought not have, then I have to say I'm ignorant of the laws pertaining to that. If anyone does know, please say so.

Barry, I would still like you to answer the point that the player never gains ownership of in-game goods and therefore has no rights pertaining to them outside of what has been agreed to by the owner (the developer).

Also, how does the developer establish that it owns the content of the virtual worlds, even including the content of player characters and their possessions? I would think that their ownership of the game code, the means for storing the player data, the servers that the game runs on, and the EULA (if legal) would be sufficient. At what point does "access to and ability to change data" become ownership?

>It wouldn't surprise me to see a court rule that anti-competitive restraint of trade (an antitrust violation) would constitute a compelling public interest, in the same manner that ADA compliance is a compelling public interest.

Saying "it's a game" doesn't make you immune from the law. VW developers shouldn't assume that they get to ignore antitrust law either, just because they want to claim that "it's their game, so they can make any rule they want". It's not just "their game" when commerce gets involved, and that happened when they decided to make a public business venture out of it.>

I don't think their opposition of external markets would be a monopoly situation. After all, they aren't trying to take over the sale of in-game goods, but simply to be rid of it.

Also, are you citing a specific law or case here, or are you operating on the idea that people can sell anything that is not prohibited or restricted by the government?

If the sale of in-game goods is a legitimate market, then the developers have no right to oppose it. If it is an illegitimate market, the developers have every right to oppose it. I think it is an illegitimate market, based on the ownership of the goods being sold.

118.

MM>I think what you are saying here is, 'play it my way, or I'm going to take my ball and go home.' To which I would say, fine, take your ball, and I'll give my money to someone else and use their ball.

Yes, that's pretty well what I'm saying. My disagreement with Barry is that he seems to be extending this to say that because you pay to use my ball, I can no longer take it off you.

>Your vision of what your game should be isn't really important. The only thing that is important are the players. Without players, there is no game.

So what? Without designers and their vision, there is no game. Indeed, without designers there are no players.

Richard

119.

Brask Mumei>Ebay doesn't intrude in the game world.

Bribery of boxers to throw boxing matches doesn't intrude into the boxing ring, but it spoils the fight somewhat.

>From the viewpoint of a character inside the game, nothing fiction breaking has occured. One person gave someone else a large amount of money in exchange for some incomprehensible favour.

That looks fiction-breaking to me.

>Would it make you happy if every ebay driven transfer was accompanied by some hot cybersex, so you'd believe that was the reason for the money transfer?

If it were the reason for the money transfer, perhaps I would. If it's just "you're not buying the alcohol, you're buying the onion; the alcohol comes free with it" then no, I wouldn't.

Richard

120.

What spoils the boxing match isn't the acceptance of the bribe. It is the throwing of the fight! If the boxer threw the fight because the other guy was his friend in highschool the game would be just as spoiled.

I have no idea why you think someone giving someone else money in game for unknown reasons would be fiction breaking? Does your RP fiction require that your character has total knowledge of the reason for everyone else's actions? I've given and received such largesses for valid in game reasons which would be opaque to outsiders, so know that they occur with no ebay incentive. If someone ran up and demanded I justified such a payout, I'd likely say it was none of their business.

If you don't want people throwing fights in order to avoid their heros journey, crush twinking and you are on the right path. Ebay then becomes a non-issue. Of course, then I start to wonder why you'd want a multiplayer game in the first place, if the goal is to avoid any actual meaningful interaction. Can't interact with violence (PKing), indirect violance (training monsters), competing for violence (kill stealing), or even economically (trading things of assymetric value).

- Brask Mumei

121.

Barry Kearns>I purchased a legitimate copy, and all I'm doing is moving that legitimate copy from my possession to someone else's.

If you want to sell your copy of the software to someone else, go ahead. It's not "your" character or "your" set of virtual goods, though; you don't "possess" it. You're claiming ownership rights over what belongs to someone else, much as someone who videos a movie in a cinema is stealing IP.

>You'd be wrong. Of course I could watch them. I can watch DVDs with any region code.

OK, well perhaps you can, but that doesn't help me with that copy of Firefly I picked up in Australia last year.

>If it creates less cognitive dissonance for you, substitute "VHS tape" or "book" for "DVD".

My VHS tapes are in PAL format.

The point is, there are restrictions on the resale of some even commonplace items.

With virtual worlds, you can resell what you bought in the first place. You can't resell something that you didn't buy or don't otherwise own. I don't see there's any problem with me buying someone else's EQ boxed set, because that's what they bought; they own it. They don't own their account, though, or the characters on that account, or the objects held by the character on that account. You can't apply second sale doctrine to something that hasn't been sold.

>Engaging in public commerce opens you up to having to take consumer's rights into account, among other things.

I agree, but those rights don't extend to the consumers becoming owners of content. Just because you watch a movie in a cinema, that doesn't mean you own it.

>A lot of developers seem to want all of the benefits of having a vast public commercial enterprise, yet still act as if the whole enterprise should be treated identically to their own home.

No they don't. They realise they are running a commercial enterprise. It's the players who think that they are running commercial enterprises who cause the problems.

>It's not, no matter how often developers flog the "it's my private property, I can do anything I want" meme.

No matter how often you repeat that, it doesn't make it true. It is the developers' private property and they can do whatever they want in it. If they couldn't, then it just wouldn't be viable.

>You can certainly sell me the DECISION to empty the contents of your bank account, and distribute it as we agree, for whatever compensation we deem appropriate.

Ah, well now we're talking about services, not about property. Using this argument, you're not selling me your magic sword but you're selling me the service of transferring it from the inventory of my character to the inventory of your character. This means you can't use first sale doctrine, though, because it doesn't apply to services. What's more, it still doesn't mean that developers can't just ban you once they find out what's going on.

>With respect to the soccer ticket, there are (barely arguable) reasons of public safety for making the seat ENTIRELY non-transferrable. That's not the same as being able to give it away, but not sell it.

And there are reasons for wanting non-trasnferable characters in virtual worlds, too.

>Can you show me a case in the United States where I can freely give away something that I've purchased as part of a commercial transaction, for reasons of friendship, pity, spite or love, but can't under any conditions sell it?

Yes, your education.

>It's the differential enforcement based on a player's REASON for transferring something in game that seems to be the major disconnect as far as I'm concerned.

Well don't play games that allow twinking, then! And if they all allow twinking, don't play any of them.

>I would be more accurate to say that what I own is my DECISION with respect to what my character does... including transferring virtual chattels. My decision, and whatever motivates me to make that decision is entirely my own business, regardless of what developers want to assert in their EULA.

And the developers' DECISION to delete your character, and whatever motivates them to make that decision, is entirely their own business.

>I'd treat it the same as your bank trying to put in EULA terms saying that you can't withdraw your balance if you're going to spend it supporting Republicans.

I'd say it was the same as a gym saying you can't take away the rowing machine you were using.

>Your decision and your motivations for withdrawing your cash are your own...

Yes, but it has to be your cash in the first place.

>Professional sports teams are clearly subject to additional laws and regulations governing their behavior, that Monopoly players are not subjected to... and likewise with commercial virtual worlds.

Why "likewise with commercial virtual worlds"? You make the statement, but where's the justification? Sports didn't used to have special laws concerning them, but they do now; why shouldn't virtual worlds use that precedent?

>The axe generally only falls when someone has the unmitigated gall to do the same twinking, but involving the disgusting taint of filthy lucre.

Twinking can be bad, yes. On the whole, though, commodification is worse.

>I'm completely and utterly certain that if there were a finding in law that EULA terms prohibiting commodification were a prior restraint of trade and anti-competitive (and therefore struck down as unenforceable), we would still continue to see many wonderful new virtual worlds being written and offered as commercial ventures.

What we'd see would be pale shadows of what we once had.

>Lots of developers would adapt to the new legal landscape, and code accordingly.

They'd code accordingly until their very right to code was challenged because of the effect it was having on the value of virtual objects.

Richard

122.

[This is a little off topic, but what the hey]

Barry Kearns>I referenced "in the United States" because of the (frankly asinine IMO) policy apparently in place in the UK that supports discrimination on where you can sit at a soccer match...

You think it's asinine to partition rival fans at soccer matches? Do you have any idea what happens if you don't partition them? This isn't like in the USA where all the supporters in a ground are local: soccer clubs in the UK are geographically close enough to one another that substantial numbers of visiting fans will be present at any game. In some cases, there may even be more visitors than locals. The stewards at soccer matches are more like peacekeepers than ushers.

The policy of making tickets non-transferable was extended to Wimbledon for the tennis, too. Thgis wasn't because of the crowd trouble, but because of a side-effect observed from the soccer case: there is much reduced ticket touting if every ticket has a name on it. More people want tickets for Wimbledon finals than there are available seats, so the authorities decided to sell them by lot. You applied for a ticket, your name went into the computer, and if you were one of the lucky ones you got picked. What happened was that people were entering the lottery with no intention of using the ticket, they just wanted to sell it to someone else who did want to watch it, except at 10 times the cover price. The Wimbledon authorities thought this was unfair on bona fide tennis fans, so they made the tickets non-transferrable.

Non-transferrable tickets had been around for years anyway. Many London shows have concessionary prices, for example they may give students a discount on their tickets. If a student bought a ticket at a discount and then sold it on to me, I couldn't legally use that ticket. The student gets the discount because the people who run the theatre want to encourage students to become interested in going to shows, so that in a few years time they'll continue their theatre-going habit even though it costs them more money. However, if the student doesn't go and see the show then that undermines the reason they were given the discount; therefore, if I bought the ticket off them they could refuse to honour it.

I really can't believe you don't have non-transferable tickets in the USA. If the president sold tickets for a fund-raising dinner to members of the Republican Party only, could someone like Michael Moore buy a ticket from a Republican Party member and not be denied entry? Amazing...

Richard

123.

Brask Mumei>I have no idea why you think someone giving someone else money in game for unknown reasons would be fiction breaking?

Because the reasons are not just unknown, but they can never be known within the fiction. That's because they're no in the fiction.

>Of course, then I start to wonder why you'd want a multiplayer game in the first place

I agree with you here, but players are't well known for thinking through the implications of their demands, and developers aren't well known for resisting them.

Richard

124.

>>Can you show me a case in the United States where I can freely give away something that I've purchased as part of a commercial transaction, for reasons of friendship, pity, spite or love, but can't under any conditions sell it?

>Yes, your education.


I don't know about you, but I sell my education to anyone that I've ever worked for. It is as integral to the services I provide as my experience is.

125.
Jim>I can understand your point in this case. However, this only applies to the issue if developers are making an "illegal contract" via the EULA. If we're going to discuss the legality of it versus what rights we think the developer ought or ought not have, then I have to say I'm ignorant of the laws pertaining to that. If anyone does know, please say so.

It's an area that's currently fairly muddled from a legal perspective... or at least not as sharply defined as many interested parties would like.

We're still waiting for the seminal "test case" to come forth and then be ruled upon. I would have liked to have seen the Blacksnow Interactive vs. Mythic case ruled upon if it were not subject to binding arbitration, since it seemed to strike towards the heart of many of these matters... pity that the BSI folks turned out to be such real-life shady characters, and that their other shenanigans led them to hightail it outta town before an answer was forthcoming.

Terra Nova has an abundance of resources and previous discussions that touch on different perspectives and approaches towards the issue.

Two awesome starting points are The Laws of the Virtual Worlds by Lastowka and Hunter, and Changing Realities by Cory Ondrejka. Both have excellent footnote references for creating your own bread-crumb trail through the discussed history of this issue.

Ren Reynolds also put together a really nice summary of these issues, along with interesting legal arguments and case law cites on this subject in his "Hands off MY avatar!" paper.

Major TN threads (which I recall) that touch on this include this one, One Lawsuit to Rule Them All, Blizzard Goes to War, and the by-now-grizzled Virtual">http://terranova.blogs.com/terra_nova/2004/06/virtual_propert.html">Virtual Property overview.

Marvel and NCSoft Update also strikes a glancing blow with regard to whether their fight may actually set precedent with respect to player ownership of in-game intellectual property.

State of Play II had more discussions about the intersection of VWs and the law than you could shake a joystick at.

Jim>Barry, I would still like you to answer the point that the player never gains ownership of in-game goods and therefore has no rights pertaining to them outside of what has been agreed to by the owner (the developer).

Well, at this point, I'm certainly not claiming that I "own" the gold that's virtually possessed my my character... at least not in the pedestrian sense of ownership. I'm also not selling that gold in the common meaning of the term.

Instead, I consider the gold in question to most closely match up with the concept of an usufruct. As part of my effort in the construction of the compilation commonly known as a "game character" (and its associated virtual chattels), I think I could make the case that I may have gained "the legal right of using and enjoying the fruits or profits of something belonging to another", which is M-W.com's definition of usufruct.

If I choose to "sell the gold" to someone else, what I'm really saying is that I'll provide for them a service... I'll transfer the utility of my usufruct to them in exchange for external compensation. I lose the utility that I've built up, and they gain it.

It would be little different than someone offering me $20 if my family would be willing to swap picnic-blanket spots with them on a sunny June day... as the one we have is particularly nicely shaded. I don't have to "own" the picnic spot in a real-estate sense, and I'm not technically "selling it" either. I'm instead trading my control over something useful to someone else in exchange for some form of compensation.

Others seem to want to focus on more conventional meanings of "property", and the nasty effects that might arise if we see a full legal recognition of "virtual property" with ownership of that property going to players... fitness for use, preservation of value, duty to maintain, ad nauseum.

I think the usufruct approach makes more sense, frankly. I don't really WANT ownership of those gold pieces in an intellectual-property sense... I recognize that the game servers and the code "belong to" the game owner, not me.

However, I do think it's reasonable to assert that the utility that comes from my control of that gold is something that "belongs to me" so long as I follow the basic concepts of a usufruct: namely, that I don't fundamentally alter or damage what it is that I'm using. In this case, I'm just moving the gold from one character to another, and it has the same usefulness after the transfer that it did before I made it... and the games in question are typically DESIGNED to support and manage that type of transfer from character to character. In other words, I'm using that object that I don't technically "own" in the manner in which it was designed, and it is unharmed in my doing so.

Meeting those criteria, I think I have the right to profit from that use if I find a way to do so. That right is not unlimited, of couse, but I'm confident that I could demonstrate to the courts that my moving the gold between characters in that fashion did not represent a harmful impact to the "rightful owner"... a simple demonstration of that is to point to the hundreds of thousands of times that action occurs already without any complaint by the "owner".

The only thing left, then, is the game owner's desire to stop me from earning a profit. I think there's a case to be made that EULA provisions engineered to do so could be considered an illegal restraint of trade, anti-competitive and an unfair business practice, as I've infringed none of the exclusive intellectual property rights of the "owner" in the process of my transaction.

Ren's "Hands off" paper makes some good points with respect to existing case law in that respect.

126.

dmyers > Do you mean that no one conceived, constructed, or experienced vicariously the hero's journey prior to the coming of virtual worlds?

Richard > Again, no. Actual hero's journeys have been experienced by many, many people. It's just that up until now, the ability of ordinary people to undertake a hero's journey was very limited. Basically, if you couldn't afford to go to some other part of the real world that would serve as a world of adventure where normal rules don't apply, the only way it was going to happen was if you joined the armed forces and wound up in a war zone.

If you wanted to go on a hero's journey today, where would you go? How would you become a hero?

dmyers > Do you mean that virtual world designers alone have the tools and means necessary to shape and deliver the hero's journey?

Richard > They have tools and means that haven't been available in the past. Novels and stage plays and movies can depict the hero's journey, but the best their audience can do is to identify with the character undertaking it; they can't themselves undertake the journey.

***

k, here’s the deal.

There is a difference between experience and vicarious experience (e. g., simulated virtual word experience) in that experience is visceral and vicarious experience is representational – and vicarious experience is also (somewhat more controversially but markedly so in the case of the hero’s journey “monomyth”) literary, or language-based.

To state again: There is a portion (a MAJOR) portion of the human experience that exists prior to language and resists representation within language. One of the primary functions of poetry, in fact (according to the early formalists), is to undermine the habituations of natural language and refer perception/cognition to a more fundamental, unfettered state. I.e. “to make the stone stoney.” But this poetic function is an indirect reference to something we already possess that has been hidden from us by the mediation of language/representation. It is not the thing itself.

“Undertaking the hero’s journey” in a virtual world is an experience to be sure, but it is a vicarious experience that cannot be, because of its vicariousness, equivalent to the experience of the hero’s journey.

Novels and stage plays and movies can depict the hero’s journey (or REFER us to the hero’s journey) – and so can the game. But the game is, at its root, a reference to the journey, not an “undertaking of the journey.” A virtual slaying of the virtual monster with the virtual sword is not a slaying of the monster.

Where would you go to become hero?

You could go anywhere.

But you would have to go OUTSIDE (e. g., outside the REPRESENTATION of the hero’s journey.).

From this point of view, you would, as a hero, necessarily go outside the context of the game in order to become a hero. You may journey outside the context of the game to argue about the validity of the hero’s journey inside the game. Or you might journey outside the context of the game to sell stuff to people that the game doesn’t allow to be sold.

Not that you would necessarily end up a hero, of course. But it would be the beginning of that sort of journey.

127.

dmyers>There is a difference between experience and vicarious experience in that experience is visceral and vicarious experience is representational

I agree that there is such a difference. Basically, the real is real and the virtual is virtual.

However, the mind is itself interpretive of the senses. In your head, virtual experiences can feel as real as do real experiences. It dependson how immersed you are.

>and vicarious experience is also literary, or language-based.

Well, it has to be so in the telling, just like everything else. I'm with you so far.

>“Undertaking the hero’s journey” in a virtual world is an experience to be sure, but it is a vicarious experience that cannot be, because of its vicariousness, equivalent to the experience of the hero’s journey.

Here's where I disagree. If you're sufficiently immersed in the virtual world that to you it's real, then the experience is no longer vicarious. Indeed, I'd say that there's a correlation between your hero's journey progress and your sense of immersion: the further along the hero's journey you are, the more immersed you are. It's as if one of the purposes of the hero's journey is to accept the vicarious as the real.

>A virtual slaying of the virtual monster with the virtual sword is not a slaying of the monster.

OK, well there are two things I can say here.

Firstly, if you've internalised the feeling that the monster is real to the extent that you accept it as real, why does it matter that it's virtual? I've seen people jump back from a keyboard in shock when a textual description of a dragon has appeared before them. As far as they were concerned, they were being threatened by a dragon.

Secondly, slaying dragons and so on is metaphorical anyway. The hero's journey is a prescription for the understanding of the self, but it works as a representation too. If what a hero's journey of myth represents is the same as what a hero's journey in a virtual world represents, why would it matter that one is real and the other virtual? It's all symbolism anyway.

>From this point of view, you would, as a hero, necessarily go outside the context of the game in order to become a hero.

No, the game is where you go outside the context of the real world. You start the hero's journey in the real world, then you enter the virtual world for the second stage, then you return to the real world in the third stage.

>You may journey outside the context of the game to argue about the validity of the hero’s journey inside the game.

The hero's journey doesn't take place in the game, it takes place from the real world to the real world via the game. (Aside: I keep saying "game" here because you do, but actually one of the key points of the hero's journey is when it ceases to become a game). The game world is the "other world" into which the would-be hero ventures.

>Not that you would necessarily end up a hero, of course.

Of course. Not everyone who begins a hero's journey is ready to be a hero, and some are heroes to begin with.

Richard

128.

Barry Kearns wrote:

>As part of my effort in the construction of the compilation commonly known as a "game character" (and its associated virtual chattels), I think I could make the case that I may have gained "the legal right of using and enjoying the fruits or profits of something belonging to another">

Okay, this is what I thought you were getting at. I don't accept the "manipulating data = authorship = ownership" idea in this particular case, simply because players enter the game knowing that they will gain no ownership of the character. If not for that fact, there are legal precedents to support the claim that authorship makes ownership.

>It would be little different than someone offering me $20 if my family would be willing to swap picnic-blanket spots with them on a sunny June day... as the one we have is particularly nicely shaded. I don't have to "own" the picnic spot in a real-estate sense, and I'm not technically "selling it" either. I'm instead trading my control over something useful to someone else in exchange for some form of compensation.>

This doesn't stand, because the two picnic spots have no effect on the other spots nearby. In a MMOG, you have to consider things like PvP.

You also have to consider that while if I observed you selling your spot it wouldn't ruin my picnic, if I observed you selling the "Super-Ultimate Sword" for cash when I had to quest for weeks to get it, it makes the value of my gain drop. Why do I want a Super-Ultimate Sword if any player with a bit of cash can get one? It loses the prestige and sense of accomplishment values to it. A large part of the fun of MMOG's is built on those two ideas.

>In other words, I'm using that object that I don't technically "own" in the manner in which it was designed, and it is unharmed in my doing so.>

I think one of the major points of contention here is whether there would be harm or not. If there were no harm, no one would be (reasonably) arguing against it.

Also, the idea of using something that isn't mine to benefit myself in a way that is against the wishes of the actual owner just sounds crooked.

>namely, that I don't fundamentally alter or damage what it is that I'm using. In this case, I'm just moving the gold from one character to another, and it has the same usefulness after the transfer that it did before I made it...>

I don't think damage to the functionality of gold or items themselves is the issue. It's the effect of this kind of transfer on the in-game market. It alters the demand for gold and items if a new way of obtaining them is found. If it lowers the way players value these things then you have damaged them and the gameplay.

>Meeting those criteria, I think I have the right to profit from that use if I find a way to do so. That right is not unlimited, of couse, but I'm confident that I could demonstrate to the courts that my moving the gold between characters in that fashion did not represent a harmful impact to the "rightful owner"...>

I would argue against this first by saying that the action wasn't wrong based on whether there was noticable harm, but whether it was legal. That seems to be the point we're disagreeing on. However, I do also believe that it would harmful to the game, so that would be my second point.

> a simple demonstration of that is to point to the hundreds of thousands of times that action occurs already without any complaint by the "owner".>

Except that these are done within the intended context. Dropping an eyedropper of poison into a reservoir might not be harmful in such a large supply, but of course we can't allow that. If you look at the cumulative effect of the action, you see a need to stop individuals and the small actions.

>The only thing left, then, is the game owner's desire to stop me from earning a profit. I think there's a case to be made that EULA provisions engineered to do so could be considered an illegal restraint of trade, anti-competitive and an unfair business practice, as I've infringed none of the exclusive intellectual property rights of the "owner" in the process of my transaction.>

If I were a developer arguing against an external market, this would be the last thing on my mind. In fact, if players could take advantage of this market without damaging my game, I'd wish them godspeed. If it did damage my game, I'd be concerned about the profitablilty of my own venture and my right to protect it.

129.

Barry, thanks for the links.

130.

Analyzing the market structure for customize license plate in reference to this discussion maybe illuminating. IANAL, but this is what I know for the US:

Municipalities reserve most rights to the vehicle license plates and assign/aution/give/etc. numbers and plates as they see fit. They have also indicated that the legal ability to drive and the use of assign numbers and plates are not “rights” but “privileges.” Municipalities limit all forms of transfer except for the methods they have expressly made available. Two common methods are periodic auctioning of high-demand numbers and customized license numbers.

The key to this structure is the view that usage is a privilege and not a right. In MMO, one can therefore take the view that players are paying a license fee in exchange for the privilege to “play”, rather than having rights to anything. Where there may be are lots of legal precedents to support municipalities' stance on this, there isn’t much for MMO. Nevertheless, this existing structure may prove illuminating for this discussion.

131.
Barry Kearns>Can you show me a case in the United States where I can freely give away something that I've purchased as part of a commercial transaction, for reasons of friendship, pity, spite or love, but can't under any conditions sell it?

Richard Bartle> Yes, your education.

If I can't sell my education in any meaningful way, then I also can't give it away in that same meaningful fashion either.

BUZZ. Same player shoot again?

Jim>This doesn't stand, because the two picnic spots have no effect on the other spots nearby. In a MMOG, you have to consider things like PvP.

You also have to consider that while if I observed you selling your spot it wouldn't ruin my picnic, if I observed you selling the "Super-Ultimate Sword" for cash when I had to quest for weeks to get it, it makes the value of my gain drop. Why do I want a Super-Ultimate Sword if any player with a bit of cash can get one? It loses the prestige and sense of accomplishment values to it. A large part of the fun of MMOG's is built on those two ideas.

PVP games where massive unearned power can be gifted to other characters even without commodification are fundamentally broken anyways. The value of that Super-Ultimate Sword (that you quested weeks for) will drop as well when you see it being given as a gift to a new level 1 guild member who doesn't know crap about the game... just because he goes to school with the guild leader.

No game that allows such gifts can reasonably claim to be trying to preserve the "prestige and sense of accomplishment" from possessions.

Jim> I don't think damage to the functionality of gold or items themselves is the issue. It's the effect of this kind of transfer on the in-game market. It alters the demand for gold and items if a new way of obtaining them is found. If it lowers the way players value these things then you have damaged them and the gameplay.

Again, the integrity of that market was already thoroughly wrecked as part of the game designer's decision to permit damaging levels of unearned power to be gifted between characters... to make it a twink-heavy game.

Dropping an eyedropper of poison into a reservoir might not be harmful in such a large supply, but of course we can't allow that. If you look at the cumulative effect of the action, you see a need to stop individuals and the small actions.

Exactly... and the individuals that need to be stopped are all of the twinkers, not just the subset that do so with RL cash. The now-defunct MMO "Earth & Beyond" should serve as "Exhibit A" in the counter-argument column.

In the galaxies I played on, there were at least three "uber guilds" with large memberships, which would thoroughly monopolize top-end content in order to get the rarest drops of the best weapons. The most egregious of these guilds had clearly stated policies on the game message boards that they were going to continue monopolizing that content until EVERY SINGLE MEMBER of their guild had all of the weapons that they wanted... for all of their characters.

The only reasonable chance (for quite a while) you had of getting one of those weapons was to be a member of one of those guilds... but after a while, they also started appearing on eBay and other sites (primarily from people who had subsequently left the uber-guilds, or guild members who were leaving the game). Commodification allowed players to even the scales back out, and try to compensate for damage that these guilds were causing to other players.

The developers said that this rare, timed content "was available for anyone to take on, and it was first-come-first-served"... but once the uber-guild got the upper hand through possession of several of those superior weapons, they could then out-shoot anyone else trying to take on the encounter, and would thereby ensure that they got 50.1%+ of the damage... and therefore all of the loot.

The VAST MAJORITY of the damage to the market in that game was caused not by commodification... it was caused by guilds and their desires to twink out their members and ensure that they would always remain superior. Commodification was the minor effect that was present in the sea of twinking that was happening there.

Commodification was the half-gallon of ipecac syrup in a reservoir thoroughly laced with cyanide. It was a partial remedy rather than the root cause of the actual harm.

I've seen similar rampant guild-twinking in every MMO I've played. When someone comes out with a decent MMO that doesn't allow that, I'll be happy to play and never commodify in that game. I haven't seen such a game yet (that has any interesting amount of gameplay to it).

Until such time, expect people to rationally bring their own out-of-game resources to bear in order to counter the effects of packs of twink-hungry guilds... who use their out-of-game assets to give them a huge competitive advantage in the game.

132.
magicback> Municipalities limit all forms of transfer except for the methods they have expressly made available. Two common methods are periodic auctioning of high-demand numbers and customized license numbers.

Yes, but this is precisely where the analogy breaks down, because MMOs typically don't stop unbalanced gifting between players. If they did, commodification of items and currency likely wouldn't have arisen in the first place.

Consider your municipality situation, but add in the ability for anyone to give their legally-purchased license plates away to anyone else... all you had to do was have both parties show up and present your identification so the DMV could keep the records straight.

With that caveat, I think you'd see people trading their clever license plate choices and eventually "selling" them as well. They might not technically "own" the license plate number in the DMV database, but the fact that they can give it away to someone else would (I think) logically open the door to their setting their own choice of compensation for choosing to do so.

The ability to gift power in MMOs is the linchpin upon which commodification rests, and is most likely a necessary and sufficient condition to support the rise of commodification.

With exceedingly rare exceptions, if you receive something arising out of a commercial transaction, and you can also legally give away that something (or the results thereof) to someone else, then you can generally sell it too... and attempts by a business to stop someone else from profiting in that activity might be an illegal restraint of trade / anti-competitive / an unfair business practice.

133.

Arg. TN is too fast and furious for me.

I think this thread was about some blipped questions sorta answered by the IGE guy. I think Richard was anti-IGE because, among other things, buying/selling online items foreclosed on the hero’s journey potential of virtual worlds.

I think I was arguing that Richard’s claims concerning enacting the hero’s journey within virtual worlds were gumped up.

Richard sez> In your head, virtual experiences can feel as real as do real experiences. It depends on how immersed you are. If you're sufficiently immersed in the virtual world that to you it's real, then the experience is no longer vicarious. Indeed, I'd say that there's a correlation between your hero's journey progress and your sense of immersion: the further along the hero's journey you are, the more immersed you are. It's as if one of the purposes of the hero's journey is to accept the vicarious as the real.

I say> Indeed, but feelings are different from representations which are different from experiences. We are “immersed” in a body which is the repository of experience. Virtual experiences REFERENCE embodied experiences -- and all the feelings in the world won’t change that. It’s as if one of the purposes of the game-inspired hero’s journey is to remind us that the vicarious is not the real.

Richard sez> one of the key points of the hero's journey is when it ceases to become a game. The game world is the "other world" into which the would-be hero ventures.

I say> Indeed, the hero’s journey passes through the other, mythic, or liminal world. But, for the hero, this world is MORE real, not less. Would-be heroes similarly venture – but would-be-heroes do not return. Only the hero comes back.

This paradox – that the hero must experience what non-heroes (us common folk) can neither truly experience nor ultimately survive – is why the hero’s journey must be REPRESENTED. Because, in fact, that journey cannot be experienced. It is an out-of-the-body experience that the body must experience or, like most fundamental forms of play and myth, a paradox. For that same reason, a vicarious experience of the hero’s journey just won’t cut it. To put it another way, if the virtual world experience DID reproduce (rather than represent) the hero’s journey, then it would cheapen that journey.

Now, myth evokes paradoxical experience by REFERRING to it – and so too (I assume) can the game. If there is a feeling of danger, or otherness, or heroism during game play then that is because the game, just like the myth, has a common representational (not experiential) function.

Richard sez> It's all symbolism anyway.

I say> Yeah. All except for the thing itself. And it’s not IGE that’s preventing that thing from happening. It is the thing itself.


134.

Okay, here's something interesting:

Comparative currency prices for every US game of any size

Also, even more intriguing:

WoW Gold on Google

EQ Platinum on Google

Look at all those sponsored links. Those cost money, and every variant combining game names and their currency kicks up a crapload of them. And in case you think it's just a fluke:

WoW Gold on Yahoo

While the game operators and developers have had their heads in the sand, this *huge* market has been growing and maturing. I always said that sooner or later the ostrich approach was going to bite us in the ass. Looks like Sigil just felt the sting.

--Dave

135.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has a very nice article up regarding EULAs.

A real wealth of links for ancillary reading is also provided. Of particular interest to me was the link to UCITA.COM, the current home of AFFECT, an organization "dedicated to educating the public and policy makers about the dangers of UCITA."

Also included is a link to a very detailed law article that speaks to many of the issues arising from manufacturers trying "to magnify their rights through use of contract" as we see in many of the EULAs in question.

136.

Barry Kearns:

>PVP games where massive unearned power can be gifted to other characters even without commodification are fundamentally broken anyways. The value of that Super-Ultimate Sword (that you quested weeks for) will drop as well when you see it being given as a gift to a new level 1 guild member who doesn't know crap about the game... just because he goes to school with the guild leader.>

The only thing that I can say against this is that the Super-Ultimate Sword (hereafter SUS for brevity) still isn't free of the in-game economy. If just being the member of a guild gets you the equipment, you've still paid through interactions with players. Also, there is a legitimate in-game reason for the transfer. You're right that this action degrades the value of upper-end goods though.

>Exactly... and the individuals that need to be stopped are all of the twinkers, not just the subset that do so with RL cash.

I agree completely.

I agree in opinion with the rest of that post as well. It was the developer's fault for not breaking that monopoly of content. Commodification becomes a necissary evil (just a term I'd call it) in that case, to help restore the order that the developer intended.

I'm glad to see where you're coming from, Barry. I was thinking of a system being unbalanced by an external market, while you were talking about your experiences where a balanced market was an ideality and not a reality.

137.

Barry Kearns wrote:

>With that caveat, I think you'd see people trading their clever license plate choices and eventually "selling" them as well. They might not technically "own" the license plate number in the DMV database, but the fact that they can give it away to someone else would (I think) logically open the door to their setting their own choice of compensation for choosing to do so.>

In the case that something is absolutely unique and it doesn't present a balance issue, I would support commodification myself if the developer did.

>The ability to gift power in MMOs is the linchpin upon which commodification rests, and is most likely a necessary and sufficient condition to support the rise of commodification.>

Absolutely. I also mentioned above that they have to be able to identify their customer. If you can't do one of these two things, you can't reliably gift power in an unbalancing way (for free).

138.

dmeyers wrote:

>This paradox – that the hero must experience what non-heroes (us common folk) can neither truly experience nor ultimately survive – is why the hero’s journey must be REPRESENTED. Because, in fact, that journey cannot be experienced. It is an out-of-the-body experience that the body must experience or, like most fundamental forms of play and myth, a paradox. For that same reason, a vicarious experience of the hero’s journey just won’t cut it. To put it another way, if the virtual world experience DID reproduce (rather than represent) the hero’s journey, then it would cheapen that journey.>

Forgive me, this is coming across as nonsense to me. I do understand the meaning of a paradox, by the way. Perhaps we disagree on what a hero is? By my definition, a hero is merely a person that does extraordinary, noble things.

I don't see a hero as a person who is gifted by fate to be set apart and become great. People are diverse, but they're all capable of some great and heroic thing.

The reason why there aren't more heroes about today is that rare circumstances are required to make one. Whatever it is that makes a hero, it must be rare and it must be great. Otherwise who'd notice?

This is the reason that a hero's journey needs to be simulated; rare circumstances are by definition not usually available to the common person. However, through a virtual world, we can be guaranteed the chance to do something vicariously that would be heroic.

I think this is the experience that Richard is talking about... when a person finds themselves in the place and time to do something great. It doesn't matter that they are not pysically there, or at least it doesn't have to matter. Players are either role-playing, which is more rare, or they consider the character an extension of themselves into the virtual world.

I think the difference between what you and I are saying is that you say heroes have some special quality, some inherent characteristic that makes them into heroes ("that the hero must experience what non-heroes (us common folk) can neither truly experience nor ultimately survive").

I define a hero by what he has done, not by some special quality.

139.

Jim>By my definition, a hero is merely a person that does extraordinary, noble things.

I was using it in the sense of someone who has completed a hero's journey. This is perhaps too strict, but "a person who does extraordinary, noble things" is too loose.

There are broader definitions of the term. When most players say they want to be a hero, what they mean is that they want to be treated as a hero would be treated - they don't actually want to do anything heroic. I wouldn't call this being a hero. If it were, then everyone who played a "hero" in City of Heroes would feel heroic. They don't.

Heroic acts entail putting yourself at risk for the sake of others, knowing you're at risk, and doing so when there isn't an easier option. A person who drives a car at speed on a racetrack is brave, but not a hero; a person who walks across a minefield they don't know is there is ignorant, but not a hero; a person who swims across a crocodile-infested river instead of taking a nearby bridge is foolhardy, but not a hero.

>I don't see a hero as a person who is gifted by fate to be set apart and become great.

Everyone is gifted: if they want to become a hero, they can become one - they "merely" have to do something heroic.

>People are diverse, but they're all capable of some great and heroic thing.

Precisely. However, they do actually have to DO that thing to become a hero.

>Whatever it is that makes a hero, it must be rare and it must be great. Otherwise who'd notice?

You'd notice. Heroes don't have to be recognised by other people to become heroes: the key is that you recognise yourself that you're a hero. If you seek the glory of being a hero and do acts to further that end, you're not a hero: you're being "heroic" for yourself, not for others. When you are heroic, though, you know you are. One way this can happen is if you follow the classic hero's journey of myth, and one way you can do that is to play a virtual world.

>However, through a virtual world, we can be guaranteed the chance to do something vicariously that would be heroic.

That's it, yes. The thing is, though, that you don't become a hero until you finish the hero's journey, which means you leave the virtual world (or at least it ceases to be anything beyond the mundane for you).

>when a person finds themselves in the place and time to do something great. It doesn't matter that they are not pysically there, or at least it doesn't have to matter.

Yes, that's what I mean.

>I define a hero by what he has done, not by some special quality.

"Having done it" is the special quality.

Richard

140.

Had to chip in, though it probably can't be read by more than 5 people after such a lengthy post but hey ;)

- $880 million and it's the tip of the iceberg, trust me, it kills me the sales we have to refuse and can't provide for.
That's very substantiated information pointing to the fact that a lot of people WANT to buy some of this stuff.

It's also a heck of a lot of jobs for a heck of a lot of people: Very Good Thing. And yes, they are eminently decent job.

- 2k5: MMOG's have NEVER EVER been this popular. Even as commoditization has reached an all time high with a ramp up rate that doesn't seem to be slowing.
You might have a few more posts on boards about the subject, but you have 10 times as many gamers now as you had before.
Most new players don't have a problem with it (they don't pay attention / don't care that much / take it for granted /.... or do it themselves!), and although some (a few??) people are quite vocal about it, it's not actually preventing 99.999% of them from -playing- one or another of the darn -games- anyway, so it can't be that bad.
Now explain to my team lead, his wife and newborn in Romania why they don't have this cool job anymore. Because Mr X was mad that a "L33t N00b" with cash from his mommy bought a shinier sword than his which he spent a zillion hours getting and it just wasn't fair.

We're not talking crack or prostitution here! The employees are paid to play games! Some boring parts today but you're gonna stop putting those in the game right? (There still will be a market, even when it's all fun)

You created an economy. A HUGE economy. THIS is the future people! Paying for entertainment is THE industry of the future. Virtual worlds ARE that entertainment.

Do you really want Vivendi, Electronic Arts and the other guys to get that piece too? Aren't you happy that you created opportunities for tens of thousands of people around the world??

So the neighbor has a newer Porsche than yours, and you got yours by working where he just inherited. And now it -might- be the same in the game.
Learn to smile at the idea that you got yours "free" in the game and his paid the salary of 23 people for 5 months. And he doesn't know how to drive his, so even though it's newer, you still can outrace him...

In other words, EMBRACE it. Sure, design your games so it will minimize the impact on other players (instanced areas are now a given), but please, stop trying to kill it.

I know, it's a novel idea. People (a lot of them) would benefit from your work without paying you for it. But once again, it's NOT hurting you!!
I have seen HUGE evidence for a lot of -GOOD- from this, and haven't yet seen any numbers of "lost business" due to commoditization! Some might argue you kept -more- customers than you lost because of it!
For every guy that's mad about the Porsche of l33tness being bought rather than earned (or given by a guildie, which makes me think that if virtual sales were ruled illegal, people'd just start guilds with paid memberships), how many husbands are glad that they could just buy up a character for their wives?

You can see evidence of sales everywhere. How many people do you know stop playing -all- MMOG's because of them? (-all- MOG's are commoditized if they qualify for Massive. Maybe that should tell us something?)

You can try to make sure there will be no virtual sales in your game, but then you'll have to do a LOT of educating the masses that play your game as to why it can't/shouldn't be done. Like include a required tutorial at the start of the game and regularly afterwards, because a EULA sure doesn't do it. Because it's the reflex. I want something you have, and you're willing to give it to me for a fee, so why not. And then you'll have to do a LOT of enforcing. Because even if you explain it well to a lot of people, some will just ignore you anyway.
And as indicated above, you'll have to prevent people from giving it away too. Because if he got his for free, why can't I buy mine?

And yes, you're absolutely entitled to do that in your game, and yes it -is- part of the cost of having the extra feature of time/effort NOT being correlated to $ against all usual practices of humanity inbred into us by the capitalistic system. You have a right to go against it (actually that still hasn't been proven in court), just stop daydreaming that it's gonna happen just because you say it should and it's "your" game after all. Your customers are humans, they're not your character-created avatars. If you want them to stop breathing when the character is underwater, it'll take a lot of work too. Even if you make that a requirement to play your game in the EULA.

Then let's see if you gained customers or lost them.

To summarize:
1) Virtual sales are good because they create jobs. A lot of jobs. With a lot more to come.
2) Really, it doesn't -hurt- people!
3) It comes naturally to a capitalistically raised human. (not many others nowadays)
4) because of 3) you'd have a heck of a time stopping it.

So two options it seems:
- Embrace it, create games where it can be done right, adapt for it in existing games, and everyone will be happy.
- Fight it. If you win for all MMOG's you'll have eradicated tens of thousands of livelihoods and probably lost a lot of customers in the process. And if you lose you could be ridiculed and probably lose the chance to negotiate some regulations from a place of power.

Does it really still need to be discussed??

141.

Patrick>Does it really still need to be discussed??

Ask me again when the lawsuits start flowing.

Richard

142.

> Patrick wrote:
> In other words, EMBRACE it. Sure, design your
> games so it will minimize the impact on other
> players (instanced areas are now a given), but
> please, stop trying to kill it.

Don't tell Raph that.

Instancing has its place, but if you plan to instance the whole game, you don't have an MMO any more.

> I know, it's a novel idea. People (a lot of them)
> would benefit from your work without paying you
> for it. But once again, it's NOT hurting you!!

Yes it is. Farmers horde content and prevent other people from being able to use it.

> 1) Virtual sales are good because they create
> jobs. A lot of jobs. With a lot more to come.

Since when is it my job to help some other company make money and employ people? That is crazy.

143.

Richard> Ask me again when the lawsuits start flowing.

You know, it's been over 15 years and it hasn't happened. One -has- to wonder if the lawyers at game companies aren't wiser than us (shocking, I know) and -know- that they probably wouldn't win.
It's not like IGE is hiding, next thing you know they'll be trading on the NASDAQ.
It probably will happen, but it will either be someone like me getting tired of the bully scare tactics and doing a preemptive suit, or a smaller game company that didn't know better.

Michael> Instancing has its place but if you plan to instance the whole game, you don't have an MMO any more.
Great, just use it where it has it's place.
There are other tools.
And commercial farmers blocking customers is an exception, not a rule. Just do what you do to all stupid players who ruin other people's experience. Or were you expecting stupid players to stop being stupid just because you put it as not allowed in your EULA? =) Maybe you should sue them! :D
It's not like camping rare spawns and annoying others is new, ebaying or not, you should know better.
800 accounts were banned by ncsoft, just do it where it makes sense as usual. But I expect that 99.9% of the commercial stuff is done without bugging anyone.

Michael>Since when is it my job to help some other company make money and employ people?
It's not. And you certainly aren't doing anything to help it along (well, not voluntarily at least).
I wonder where we'd be if the CERN people that created the net had sued the first people to make money thanks to the web though.
You created a game, and you can control programmatically what happens in it. You can make it so you can give Super Item to Noobguy or so that it binds on pickup. or so that it can't be used until level 423455.2. But if you allow me to pass an item from my character to another, STOP claiming to control my OUT OF GAME motivation for it.
If it can be done, it will be. If not for money, then for guild fame or spite or whatever. When it really disrupts the game, then do what you do to other game-disrupting people doing the same thing. =)

144.

> And commercial farmers blocking customers
> is an exception, not a rule.

You don't play a lot of games, do you?

In any game where the farmers staked a significant claim, it had a severe negative impact on the legit players.

Look at the massive fishing nerfs in WoW (or for that matter, FFXI).

Also, don't you think one of the big reasons for the insanely low drop rates of many items (often less than .01%) is partially caused by farmers?

When a game developer decides how often he wants an item to be obtained (X per day, Y per week, etc.) and then sees more than X or Y occurring, it is very tempting for the developer to just lower the drop rate. Farmers don't care about lowered drop rates. They keep farming as the value of the item goes up.

> But I expect that 99.9% of the commercial
> stuff is done without bugging anyone.

As a game developer with almost 10 years experience, I expect that 100% of commercial stuff harms the game.

> I wonder where we'd be if the CERN people
> that created the net had sued the first
> people to make money thanks to the web though.

Ridiculous and not analogous at all.

145.

Michael>In any game where the farmers staked a significant claim, it had a severe negative impact on the legit players.

Farmers have staked significant claims in ALL MMOG's. Unless you have numbers others don't have access to, NO mmog can show its subscription base numbers radically (note the "radically") altered by it. A game does well if it's good, and poorly if it doesn't (that and marketing?). WoW will have subscription numbers 10x those of SWG or so. Sony WISHES it was because of farmers.

Well designed games aren't affected by farmers, those not as well designed have to police against abuse more. I don't abuse any of the games we offer services on, so feel free to keep using in-game tools as needed.

Michael> it is very tempting for the developer to just lower the drop rate
That's one tool. Just not the right one for the job. If the mob appears in random locations, that'll take care of farming. just one example. Another is bind on pickup. That's if you decide to stick with the "loot as main reward" model of course.

Michael>As a game developer with almost 10 years experience, I expect that 100% of commercial stuff harms the game.
Exactly. If you stop assuming it hurts you, and actually look at data, you'll see that some of your customers play less -per month- because they don't have to grind as much, but play -more- months for the same reason (ok, maybe not as much data for that second one but still =b). Since you get paid monthly, you're making even more $ since they don't use as much bandwith.

Supid farmers hurt games
Stupid players hurt games
Good players make games fun
Good farmers make games fun too.

You should discuss things with farmers to determine what -really- does hurt the game (bots, exploits, bad camping etc.) and arrange for those that work with you on that to get the business. They'd get the customers and the money, and the others, the ones that -are- disrupting your games, would close shop. We have other ideas on how it could benefit game developpers by making the game more fun for the customer, so they can feel free to drop us an email anytime if they'd like to discuss it. =)

146.

I don't think you grasp the core concept, Patrick.

PLAYERS are on your game with the purpose of having fun.

FARMERS are there with the purpose of making money.

Those motivations are not compatible.

The farmers will generally not be interested in helping, chatting, grouping, trading, interacting, and all sorts of other things that most "real" people are interested in doing or considering.

Yes, if you want to get nitpicky to the point of absurdity (please don't) there are "real" players who often act in the same negative ways as professional farmers, but that is a very rare minority.

Please understand that players BUYING the things farmers create is not the problem. The problem is the farmers themselves. They consume and horde content that could be enjoyed by many more "real" players.

I do not recall if I read this example here or elsewhere, but consider this:

A movie theater sells tickets for $5 a seat. Someone buys them all and then resells then for $10 a seat. The scalper only has to sell 1 more ticket than half to make a profit. For any popular movie, that is pretty easy. Should the movie theater care? They sold all their tickets, right?

You can be damn sure that theater is going to care, and they will care for more reasons than just someone else making a profit off their product (although that is a legitimate reason as well). They care because in the long run people are not going to be happy about what is going on and there WILL be customer loss and/or disatisfaction eventually.

In the game world, the problem is even worse because the real players have to interact with and compete with the pros for access to content.

Additionally, the professional farmers keep their characters played 24/7. This threatens the $X/month payment model which assumes most people will not play their characters 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The professional companies cycle their characters through multiple employees. This has a severe negative impact on the income/usage ratio for the company, which ultimately has a negative impact on the legit players as well.

Farmers use an excessively higher amount of bandwidth and system resources per dollar paid to the company than real players. It is the real players who have to absorb this cost and loss.

I hope you are seeing a trend here. I do not have any problems with the general CONCEPT of people being able to buy things with real money. The problem is the farmers themselves.

That is why I have always felt that the MMO companies need to rip the rug out from under the IGEs of the world and have the balls to sell things directly.

Yes, a lot of the extremely vocal "purists" will yell and scream. They will argue that somehow it is more fair for people with an absurd amount of free time to be the only ones who get to enjoy the full content of the game. But the fact that secondary markets have been so successful is proof that this anger is from the minority, and the fact that games have not been ruined by them yet shows that the ability to buy things with RL money is not a disaster.

To summarize, the real harm comes from the presence of the farmers, not the product of the farmers. So the smart thing to do is cut out the hazardous middle man (the farmer) and provide the product in a manageable, controllable, productive fashion.


147.

> You should discuss things with farmers to determine
> what -really- does hurt the game (bots, exploits,
> bad camping etc.) and arrange for those that work
> with you on that to get the business. They'd get the > customers and the money, and the others, the ones
> that -are- disrupting your games, would close shop.

As a game developer, the only thing I'd like to discuss with farmers is which accounts of theirs do I need to close for massive EULA violations.

The thought that there are "good farmers" and "bad farmers" is specious. The very concept of tolerating a black market in in-game currency is flawed; working with "the better criminals" is thus even more flawed.

> We have other ideas on how it could benefit game
> developpers by making the game more fun for the
> customer, so they can feel free to drop us an email
> anytime if they'd like to discuss it. =)

Thanks, but we prefer to take feedback from customers who don't build business plans off of leeching off of our work.

148.

Scott wrote:

> The thought that there are "good farmers" and "bad farmers" is specious.

How is it specious, exactly?

149.

Surprisingly, I disagree :D

Michael: PLAYERS are on your game with the purpose of having fun.
FARMERS are there with the purpose of making money.
Those motivations are not compatible.

I think you've fixed in your mind the concept of the adena/special mob farmers in lineage. That's the exception, not the rule. Most of the $880 million was generated by people that either actively contribute to the game, or whose motivations at least do not -exclude- those of players, and therefore are compatible.

Michael> there are "real" players who often act in the same negative ways as professional farmers, but that is a very rare minority.

Same for farmers. Most do -not- act negatively. Our business IS contingent on people playing the game too!! We're hurt as well by people leaving the game!

Actually, I say "we" but Gamersloot.nte doesn't do any "farming" really, in any of the games, but whatever our services are, they are dependent on the games being successful.

For the theater example, it's not valid since there isn't a limit on the number of seats. It's not "get your seat at $10 or you can't watch the movie" it's "get the 10gold for $10 or get it for free in the game". The option is there, people go either way. Just tells you how fun SOME people consider it to farm 10gold.
If gold farming isn't the problem, and only other type of farming, well, talk to us, we'll can agree not to do -that- one.

For the 24/7 usage of an account, come on, we're talking 100 accounts out of the 100's of thousands of a large game? even 1 000 accounts out of millions for lineage? Costs an extra $1 per account per month?
It's not the issue here. Has to scale since a population of gamers can only sustain a fraction of farmers breaking even.

Michael> the smart thing to do is cut out the hazardous middle man (the farmer) and provide the product in a manageable, controllable, productive fashion
Exaclty!!! And since game companies would get bad PR and customer service nightmares for doing it, work with us so we can do it in a manageable, controllable, productive fashion. That's what -I- at least, am asking for.

Scott> As a game developer, the only thing I'd like to discuss with farmers is which accounts of theirs do I need to close for massive EULA violations.

Hum... yeah, that's what the attittude's been for the past 15 years. Not sure how much longer it will take to realize it doesn't quite work, but when that happens shoot us an email :)

Scott>The thought that there are "good farmers" and "bad farmers" is specious
Er... ok, well then there are farmers that are willing to work with developpers to make sure the impact on the game is positive, and others that don't care even when the impact is directly negative. Call them however you like. I would think you'd want the former to thrive so the later would die but hey...

Scott> Thanks, but we prefer to take feedback from customers who don't build business plans off of leeching off of our work.
No you don't. Or you'd already have accomodated for the large set of your customers that BUYS stuff from us. That $880 million comes from hundreds of thousands of YOUR (in general) customers. And that's considering that a LOT of gamers don't even know it's an option yet.
If YOUR customers (the ones you are supposed to listen to) weren't buying, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

150.

> Patrick wrote:
>
> Same for farmers. Most do -not- act negatively.

You don't understand. Farming itself is negative, so 100% of farmers are acting negatively.

> For the 24/7 usage of an account, come on, we're
> talking 100 accounts out of the 100's of thousands
> Costs an extra $1 per account per month?
> It's not the issue here.

Yes it is. Contrary to what you may think, the average # of hours per day per account for most games is way under 1. Why? Because real people on real accounts take days/weeks off. Real people sleep. Real people eat.

"Professional" accounts never take breaks.

So each "farmer" account is easily using 20-30 times the resources as a real account. That is quite significant.

>> Michael> the smart thing to do is cut out the
>> hazardous middle man (the farmer) and provide
>>the product in a manageable, controllable,
>>productive fashion
>
> Exaclty!!! And since game companies would get
> bad PR and customer service nightmares for doing
> it, work with us so we can do it in a manageable,
> controllable, productive fashion. That's what -I-
> at least, am asking for.

No, the bad PR is fading. You're doing that for us, thanks.

The secondary market companies are leeches, plain and simple. Their ENTIRE business needs to be fully co-opted by the game makers themselves and then the IGEs of the world will go belly up for good.

Then that gets rid of the farmers by giving them no market.

> If YOUR customers (the ones you are supposed to listen
> to) weren't buying, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

I agree with that part.

I should note that my company has always provided a means for people to spend more to get more. Iron Realms is even more direct. I think THAT is the future.

151.

Michael, I hate to tell you this (okay, actually I don't), but I think Patrick is right and you're wrong. Sorry for pimping my blog, but I've written this all up at great length and I don't feel like trying to synopsize it any more, it's already the Cliff Notes version.

Why the "secondary market" may not be all that bad.

Why the objections don't stand up to analysis.

What else we might do about it.

I don't necessarily like the brokers any more than you do. But we have an untenable situation here that is about to blow up in our faces, and obstructionism and demonization isn't going to help.

--Dave

152.

Btw, I've read your blog a few times recently. :)

> Dave wrote:
>
> I don't necessarily like the brokers any more
> than you do. But we have an untenable situation
> here that is about to blow up in our faces, and
> obstructionism and demonization isn't going to help.

Why not? They *ARE* leeches after all. May as well call a spade a spade.

Furthermore, once they have been fully co-opted (which is inevitable) they will cease to exist.

I don't think it is about to blow up in our faces. I think it is GOOD that this is getting so much attention. I hope farmers continue to piss off "real players." Why? Because once players are pissed off enough, they will happily embrace the game company completely co-opting the IGEs and their ilk.

Considering it is so much easier and cheaper for the MMO company to produce goods, gold, characters, etc., do you really think they are going to stand by forever and let someone else leech millions of dollars of THEIR profits? Of course not.

153.

I see your point. Problem is that selling items as a business model is even more restrictive that an advertising supported model. I don't like what it would do to the developer<-->player relationship, it's just a little too blatant a way of nakedly siphoning money out of their wallets.

--Dave

154.

Dave Rickey wrote:

I see your point. Problem is that selling items as a business model is even more restrictive that an advertising supported model. I don't like what it would do to the developer<-->player relationship, it's just a little too blatant a way of nakedly siphoning money out of their wallets.

That's just a PR problem, I think. The fact is, players in EQ, for instance, are already playing a game that sells items. The end effect is the same whether they're sold by SOE or IGE. In fact, it's arguably better that they're sold by SOE. SOE could then lower its subscription fees, or even eliminate them (the single biggest barrier to casual players in my opinion, though obviously there are a lot of other barriers to casual play inherent in most MUDs/MMOs). SOE is also in a better position to conduct transactions with a lower fraud rate, I'd bet.

Now granted, I realize that saying that it's "just a PR problem" could indicate a small or unthinkable large challenge, as it involves changing people's view. I mean, to me, subscription fees are a much more naked way of siphoning off money from their wallets. "Pay us or you get no access at all." as opposed to "Play as long as you want. Pay us if you think it's worth it." I honestly think the latter sounds friendlier to the average person, though perhaps not the average current MUD/MMO player.

It may be that current and future MUD/MMO players simply want to cling to the illusion that the people they're playing with aren't buying things by not patroning developers/publishers that sell and choosing to patron those games for which there's a third party market instead. But I look at our success within our market (which, granted, is pretty darn small compared to the graphical market), and the success of stuff like Habbo Hotel and Runescape and I think, "Wow, imagine if that was being funded by someone with deeper pockets and more experience?"

In any case, I expect a multitude of business models to persist and new ones to arise.
--matt

155.

"It's not like IGE is hiding, next thing you know they'll be trading on the NASDAQ.
It probably will happen, but it will either be someone like me getting tired of the bully scare tactics and doing a preemptive suit, or a smaller game company that didn't know better." --Patrick

IGE has many tactics beyond bullying and scaring, and they employ people to sit around and dream up these tactics for them. If one doesnt work theres 30 more to take its place.

"Why not? They *ARE* leeches after all. May as well call a spade a spade.

Furthermore, once they have been fully co-opted (which is inevitable) they will cease to exist."
- Matt

There are many more brokers then just IGE out there. Many with different ways of creating their wealth and even more different ways of turning it into a profitable gain. Whether or not its monetary or simply an exchange for another virtual product or item that "YOU" individually consider to be valued higher. One persons garbage is another persons treasure.

You dont have to play the game beyond logging in and clicking accept in the trade window to make large amounts of gold/ISK/Adena/Platinum in virtual worlds, where they hold real world value to those that can afford to pay whatever price is deemed acceptable. Not all buyers of these goods even are players but simply traders in a virtual world stock exchange. Buy low sell high. I believe what many people have a problem with is the fact the the biggest buyer, controls the price.

""Wow, imagine if that was being funded by someone with deeper pockets and more experience?"
--matt

You can speculate all you want about who is who and who owns what. WHat it comes down to is in this virtual world, dealing with virtual money, and trading virtual goods, somewhere along the line someone gained REAL world money. This is IMO the real scandal.

The $880 Million dollar question?

How much does Ebay/Paypal pay IGE to post all those phony listings? Apparently enough to earn a slot amongst the likes of Newegg, Tigerdirect, Overstock.com.


https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=xpt/bizui/EnterpriseSolutions-outside


Platjunkie
(P.S. Love the site- Read it all the time)

156.

Michael Hartman>"Professional" accounts never take breaks.

This is relatively easy to stop: you cap the amount of time people can spend in the game per week. 50 hours is more than enough for most people, but would cut the time available to farmers to just under 30% of what it is at the moment. ISPs do this all the time: you may have a 24/7 ADSL connection to the Internet, but if you actually use it 24/7 you'll soon hit the maximum bandwidth limit.

If you did do this, it could hit at the profitability of the farmers. On the other hand, it could raise their profitability because the supply of farmed goods is restricted and they can therefore command higher prices.

At the moment, connection time is a good way to identify farmers. Look at the accounts that have the most elapsed time per month on them, and they're being used by farmers. You can cancel these accounts if you don't want farmers. Of course, that only means they'll switch to one of the other free trial accounts they have in stock until you cancel that, too, and then we're back to the capping solution.

Richard

157.

Richard Bartle> At the moment, connection time is a good way to identify farmers. Look at the accounts that have the most elapsed time per month on them, and they're being used by farmers.

This is a bit dangerous. Some of the players that are most vital to the game world are playing 16/7 for various reasons. Even measuring camping is a bit dangerous. Players camp when they don't have others to play with.

I wonder a bit about the 880 million number though. How reliable are places like ebay for measuring these things. Isn't it possible for a seller on ebay to buy his own stuff in order to get a better and more impressive reputation?

158.

Michael> You don't understand. Farming itself is negative, so 100% of farmers are acting negatively.

No, YOU don't understand. Farming is the act of gathering some resource to sell it. YOU would be doing it TOO if you started selling it, by typing the code to create a bazillion gold pieces. "Oh but that's different" will you say. Well that's my POINT! It CAN be done in non-negative ways. And not JUST that way.

It seems to me that since you're ok with stuff being sold to customers (you're wanting to do it and/or doing it already), the only problem you -really- have is that YOU are not the one getting the $. Instead, be happy we opened a new revenue stream for your game, and say thank you once you figure out a way to get a piece of it. You're welcome :)

Bandwidth issues?? Bah, We use the accounts we maintain on various games about 1 or 2hrs a day on average? Maybe less? That's the case for most "farmers". Once again, good ones/bad ones.
Even 20 x 100 is only 2000. Out of Hundreds of thousands. I'm sorry but I won't cry over the poor sony and all the money they're loosing over it. MMO's are deathly profitable, INSANELY profitable once they reach a threashold and you know it.
Heck, Guild Wars will have NO MONTHLY FEES! Really, bandwith is an issue? Haha.

Thanks dave for a nice set of posts on the issue, your option #5 to "be creative" is the one I recommend, and we have a lot of suggestions we'd like to offer for that :)
And no, cutting in the developper on a % of the sales wouldn't be a recommended one.

Platjunkie> IGE has many tactics beyond bullying and scaring
Actually I was referring to the game companies. They're the one doing the bullying and scare tactics to prevent us from providing a much requested service.

Platjunkie>is in this virtual world, dealing with virtual money, and trading virtual goods, somewhere along the line someone gained REAL world money. This is IMO the real scandal.
How so? It started when people started paying for entertainment. The developpers sell a game, which is entertainment. We do the same, sell entertainment.
Customer is entertained by buying his super sword, or by playing his now level 50 character. He paid for it, same way he did when he bought the game to play a level 1 character. And the fact that you're saying he's not ALLOWED to ask us OUTSIDE OF YOUR GAME to do the work he should have done to get there, that's the scandal. We do the IN GAME stuff by YOUR rules, you have no say in what we do OUTSIDE of it. Period.

Ola>Isn't it possible for a seller on ebay to buy his own stuff in order to get a better and more impressive reputation?
Too expensive and ineffective a way to build up your rep (extra fees). Much Better places to spend your $ to do that. Once again, $880 million is just the tip of the iceberg.

159.

"Platjunkie> IGE has many tactics beyond bullying and scaring
Actually I was referring to the game companies. They're the one doing the bullying and scare tactics to prevent us from providing a much requested service." --Patrick

Ah, sorry I took your words out of context, and hadn't realized you've been bought out already too.


Cheers,
Platjunkie

160.

Pardon me for my detached view of this exchange, but I'd like a clarification of terms. How many are using the term "farming" to describe activity exclusively motivated by the extra-game market, and how many use "farming" to describe in-game resource-extraction directed at the in-game economy? I've used it as the latter, as do most FFXI players, I think.

It's an interesting leap of semantics. "Farming" is the general activity of extracting a resource to convert into economic power - in FFXI, there is some slippage of the sign between "gil sellers" and "gil farmers" (since, in the latter case, one could see the gil - the in-game currency itself - as the extracted resource.)

161.

It seems to me that many so-called ‘farmers’ are in fact fairly ordinary players who just want to earn a few extra dollars. Not only should game companies avoid alienating these players, they will (as I’ve argued elsewhere) find it very difficult to undercut their prices.

If the goal is to eliminate brokers like IGE, why not take their place as brokers and leave the production to players?

162.

Jeremy Neal Kelly>Not only should game companies avoid alienating these players

Why should they avoid alienating players they don't actually want?

>they will (as I’ve argued elsewhere) find it very difficult to undercut their prices.

It's very easy to undercut their prices, given that they can give away for free what the farmers have to ask money for. Your article argues that if they use their fiat then they won't make as much money as if they don't, but so what? They may feel it's worth taking a short-term hit in revenue if it gets rid of the people spoiling their game. They don't have to maximise their profit, they just have to make one.

[Aside: I can't see where in your argument you account for the increased customer service costs that the secondary market brings the primary producer. Is it there, or have I just missed it because I don't speak Economicese?]

Richard

163.
Richard Bartle> At the moment, connection time is a good way to identify farmers. Look at the accounts that have the most elapsed time per month on them, and they're being used by farmers.

I recommended a few metrics that were a bit more sophisticated than that, specifically to deal with perpetual spot-farmers and bots. I think just cancelling accounts that meet an "excessive time" threshold is a bit overboard... that's why I was recommending tracking the amount of wealth and/or XP extracted from within a particular zone by a given account.

As players exceed certain "excessive" thresholds (tracked on, say, a rolling weekly basis), start scaling back the value / probability of loot drops, and simultaneously scale up the power of mobs in that zone against that particular character or account.

As the rewards drop and the danger rises, actual players will initially move along to other locations that are more rewarding for them, and bots will start dying on a more-or-less continuous basis.

Such a mechanic can also be extended to deal with excessive catassing as well as loot farming. By making things less and less rewarding as excessive connection time rises, you're encouraging your players to go take a break and spend some more time with the actual three-dimensional people... or at least doing something other than obssessing every waking moment with your product. I think that's socially useful and responsible behavior on our part as providers.

Ola Fosheim Grøstad> This is a bit dangerous. Some of the players that are most vital to the game world are playing 16/7 for various reasons. Even measuring camping is a bit dangerous. Players camp when they don't have others to play with.

Depending on what they are actually doing, I'd definitely consider 16/7 to be not an indication of a "vital" player, but instead of a player may have an unhealthy fixation with your product.

Now, if they're using the game as little more than a chat client or being AFK for 75% of that time, that's not nearly as concerning to me.

If they are actually busily killing things on a more-or-less continuous basis for 16 hours each and every day, I think it's time for a developer intervention, myself. That's not vital, that's disturbing.

That's why I think it's important to use metrics beyond just raw connection time to distinguish between different player characteristics, before imposing significant motivational influences on players who are several sigmas outside the norm.

Only in the rarest of cases would I recommend straight-out cancelling accounts for essentially non-disruptive play.

In the case of bot accounts, such a system should make it obvious after a while of flagging such accounts that persist even in the light of ridiculous penalties... these are accounts that should be watched for a while by a GM, and then suspended for any anti-automation game rule violations. If they still don't get the message after that, they are clearly a bad actor and deserve to go.

One of my primary concerns as I try to construct my own game and behavior rules is that I don't punish the innocent simply because it's easier to lose them while trying to combat the bad actors than it is to properly sort the wheat from the chaff. That "ban a whole stack of players who look like THIS" tactic is a customer-service failure, as far as I'm concerned.

164.

Barry Kearns> Depending on what they are actually doing, I'd definitely consider 16/7 to be not an indication of a "vital" player, but instead of a player may have an unhealthy fixation with your product.

16/7 (or 24/7 as they say) isn't a indicator of a vital player, but some key players that are vital for the world are in that group. Those that constitute the glue in your social fabric. Whether filling that role is unhealthy or not is another issue, but the world as a whole benefit from their efforts.

165.

Richard Bartle wrote:

> Why should they avoid alienating players they don't actually want?

I’m sure you don’t want those players, but how do you know they don’t want them?

> It's very easy to undercut their prices, given that they can give away for free
> what the farmers have to ask money for. Your article argues that if they use
> their fiat then they won't make as much money as if they don't, but so what?

I wasn’t clear about what I meant by ‘very difficult’. You’re right -- the developer can create those goods at no direct cost. However, by selling below the market price, the developer not only crowds out farmers, they increase the general volume of trade. If they price low enough to undercut all farmers (many of whom really enjoy playing, and will thus sell for very low prices), they will drastically and inevitably change the nature of their game. Perhaps that’s okay; I don’t know.

> [Aside: I can't see where in your argument you account for the increased customer
> service costs that the secondary market brings the primary producer. Is it there,
> or have I just missed it because I don't speak Economicese?]

You’re right here also. I didn’t address that for several reasons. First, such costs are external to the player (that is, they don’t affect them directly), so they don’t affect the decisions of a so-called ‘rational’ actor. Second, in an ‘efficient’ market, I don’t believe such costs would exist. Buyers would be protected from fraud by their preternatural ‘rationality’, and the anti-eBay crowd simply wouldn’t exist. Obviously we don’t have such ‘efficient’ markets in the real world, but I had to start somewhere! I think the basic description of costs and benefits holds regardless.

166.

Barry Kearns: "Depending on what they are actually doing, I'd definitely consider 16/7 to be not an indication of a "vital" player, but instead of a player may have an unhealthy fixation with your product."

A few years back, I tracked down some of these and contacted them, the ones who responded basicly gave me variations of the same story: For some reason, usually medical, they were unable to have anything remotely approaching a normal real-world social life, and these games were sometimes their only outlet for human interaction. For them, I'd say it was a very *healthy* fixation.

Of course, they could have been lying, and the ones who didn't respond were quite possibly farmers. But I'm pretty certain that Ola's right about the critical social role these characters can play.

--Dave

167.

The arguement of the community at large is about unfair advantage. You have a group of people who are complaining that they worked hard for there sword of death +12, and that person B shouldn't get one cause he didn't do the stuff in game. Well, what about the guy who works 50 hours a week, has a good job and a house, who can't afford 20 hours to play a night? Stack that guy against the 14 yearold kid who has faked sick to level up his character, or the guy who called in sick, or quit his job just to play more. Are those not unfair advantages?

This brings about social consaquences and not legal ones. Legally the buying-time arguement doesn't work, however socially it's rather flawless. Legally it can be argued that one is mearly creating a 'creative work'. on a RPG server, a character with a backround, name, alliances, a guild...It was all created through the owners imagination and work. The imagintion and work came from the owner of the account. The currency he made came from that as well. Weither he stole it from a dragon, or killed 7k monsters to get it.

Could Mead claim all works on there paper or done with their pencils? Could Microsoft own anything that has been done on word perfect? Could a website claim ownership of a forum post without the posters consent? No. The have cramed the 'Living, breathing world' and 'create your hero' 'Live the legend' down our throats for 7 years now. The openly advertise that its a creative world, yet it would seem in there EULA they are stating that they claim all rights to any creative work done in their game. The contract itself is illegal.

168.

SPAM REMOVED
ed. Ren

169.

Karl, you are a rogue, my man, and I don't care for the cut of your jib.

--matt

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172.

Denis,

I tried out your game but was unable to figure out how to make a character. Further, there's not much information presented regarding the backstory or your game mechanics. What I'd like to know is that if I choose to play the teen-spanky daddy, what skill tree options do I have, or is this an entirely classless MUD? I've also got some concerns about whether your PvP is going to be balanced or not. It seems like you've set things up so that the Daddy class is always going to spank the Teen Son class in combat. Am I missing something?

--matt

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