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May 23, 2005

Comments

1.

Each person has an ideal {R,C} bundle. The game system offers some default {R,C} bundle. In order to move from the default to their ideal level of challenge, players will

... do whatever they can, which at the moment is use RMTs.

It would be really great if MMOs could be more like art galleries, in which people choose how fast they move through the exhibitions, and less like films.

Expecting people to "sit though" 6 months of an MMO is a big ask and a major barrier to the medium gaining mass appeal and acceptance as an art form.

Games like World of Warcraft contain wonderful places and vistas that lots of people would love to see and explore, we should find ways of letting them in without driving out those who want to spend longer turning over every stone.

Plenty of real world places accommodate tourists and residents. With wonderful sights like Moonglade to see we should find a way to make tourism work in virtual worlds too.

2.

The assumption that:

"RMT in a player sense is caused by the essentially incompatibility between challenge levels of the game and the desired or the proper one"

is yet to be proven statistically 'true'.

Might want to look broader and understand the utility function. I'm think that it's more like people using RMT as an exogenous (sp) factor that allow tem to shape their utility efficient frontier. Some will pay x for y1 but only z for y2.

I'm may be completely off, but then I'm still trying to understand the tulip craze, stock market crashes, and the unrational behaviors.

3.

What would happen if, when I entered EverQuest II, there was a button that said "Choose your level"?

4.

Edward>What would happen if, when I entered EverQuest II, there was a button that said "Choose your level"?

Statistics will probably show that most segments except explorers will choose the highest level. After a while grinding from level 1 to the highest level will be prized by the few as a test of endurance, and used as a right of passage by a new tribe of guildies :)

5.

Interesting stuff. I've started working on an philosophical article that takes a look at these issues, particularly in the context of, and in response, to your 2002 paper.

A few 'first blush' comments:

1. The 'Puzzle Puzzle' is not actually a puzzle. The assumption that C (Challenge) increases as constraints are relaxed for a player in a game is (at the very least) intuitively false. Use your example of the 2-piece vs. 100-piece jigsaw. You claim that the 2-piece puzzle is *more* constraining than the 100-piece puzzle. But the reverse is true. The 100-piece puzzle has far fewer 'constraints' in that there are more possible arrangements than the 2-piece puzzle. The possibility space is much larger. The 2-piece puzzle is not fun because the possibilities are so constrained that the solving it is trivial. This doesn't affect your formal presentation, though, since you can obviously substitute a sign change or redefine C to be positive.

2. The model presented by Stardoumov assumes that RMTs modulate the challenge level of the game. This isn't necessarily true. your definition of Challenge is tied to constraints, but you haven't identified what sort of 'constraints' on gameplay. For example, RMTs may relax constraints with respect to accessing the full breadth of content in the game. But the same RMTs may introduce or tighten constraints with respect to role-playing. Or Constraints can be read in terms of 'what the code allows', in which case the same RMTs have no effect on Challenge. Because each of these represent essentially different notions of challenge, it's hard for me to see how they can be reconciled into a single variable, C.

3. Constraints and difficulty level are two different things. Changing the constraints on a game does not necessarily make the game harder or easier. You'd have to make quite a stretch, for example, to explain how altering constraints on role-playing makes a game 'harder' or 'easier'.

4. The model doesn't seem capable of recognizing the fact that virtual worlds are not 'single' games. Some might take themselves to be playing a competitive, PvP game. Others might take themselves to be playing an optimization game. Still others might not be seeing themselves playing a game at all, but, rather, simply socializing. Many people think of themselves as playing all of these games at once. This is why a single notion of constraint, for example, is probably not going to be sufficient to model Satisfaction over an entire game world.

If the above are valid then it would seem that predicting the behavior of players wrt RMTs is much more problematic than the current model suggests.


6.

Um...sorry. Typo.

Section 1 on the Puzzle Puzzle should read

"The assumption that C (Challenge) increases as constraints are TIGHTENED (not 'relaxed' as written)is false."

Again, apologies, and great stuff, professors.

7.

First of all, I'd like to say thanks to Dr. Castronova and TerraNova gurus for the generous and helpful support in my research :)

Regarding this hypothesis, I'd agree that there is much more to look in it, and perhaps a broader generalization could be made based on the economic rationality (which is also somewhat of an assumption). As for tulip craze similarities, maybe we could explore different rationality systems, like Weberian traditional one (if i'm not mistaken).

Retaking what Dr. Castronova said, different challenge level can be way too easy, but then the actor would have several choices: choose another "puzzle" within the VW (begin a different avatar, e.g. a mage or a crafter), change their satisfaction function (social vs. fighter, etc) or migrate to another puzzle of puzzles (which can be the "Real world" for a change).
These also entail trading off the assets for a higher satisfaction, imagine a guy who's got up to the top and now wants to transfer or to sell at a discount his assets to power up his newly created guild. The idea of being a guild leader could produce a much higher emotional satisfaction (the puzzle's challenge level also changes for the guild leaders)

There can be different choices, indeed completely non-rational economically. There was one case, a person told me in an interview, about the guy who regularly bought gold in UO for $2,000 just to give it away to people inside the game.

Thanks for all the critique and contributions :)

8.

Arseni> In perfect homogenous markets in the VW with the challenge level of the game equal to the Omega of the players, RMT would not be created.

I wonder. I think of RMT as appearing due to necessary and sufficient conditions being satisfied:
1) Some people want to skip the programmed advancement process.
2) Objects that have advancement value in the game can be traded between players in-game.
3) Tools exist outside the game that allow players to find and communicate with each other.
4) Tools exist outside the game that allow players to make sufficiently trustable deals outside the game to exchange items inside the game (leading to an "exchange rate" between in-game/out-of-game currencies).

Enable all four of those conditions and RMT will spring into existence.

Why players want to skip past the advancement process the game's designers implemented seems to me to be irrelevant to the economic question of whether players will engage in RMT... but "why" is still a question worth asking.

Does an economic utility perspective speak to the question of why some players want RMT to be available?

(Side note: Are there any economic models that look at RMT from a dynamic analysis POV? Others here -- notably Richard -- have mentioned a concern that once you put an official stamp of approval on RMT so that more players use it, it becomes necessary for every world to offer it and for every player to use it. A static analysis that doesn't consider how one player's behavior affects other players over time could lose a lot of predictive power.)

Edward Castronova> What would happen if, when I entered EverQuest II, there was a button that said "Choose your level"?

I wondered something very similar here several months ago in the thread The Golden 1M: Please Welcome the Next Candidate, World of Warcraft: "... just let everyone start out with all the maximum-capability skills they want. Maybe the number of skills you can know at any one moment is limited, but there's no cost to swap one skill for another other than a few minutes of time."

I thought Chris Brown's suggestion in that thread of having an extended no-levelling initial game, followed by a levelling mid-game and an "epic raiding and PvP" high-level game, was another very interesting approach to solving the "I get bored" problem. But because it still has level-based advancement, it doesn't solve the RMT question. (Therefore it doesn't address establishing a character's growth within a game as a Hero's Journey, which RMT effectively destroys.)

Jim Purbrick> It would be really great if MMOs could be more like art galleries, in which people choose how fast they move through the exhibitions, and less like films.

Another alternative might be MMOs as "software toys." But even that has issues: Although some people will enjoy a game where the fun is in the experience of growth, others will find it unsatisfying because there's no visceral experience of "beating" another person, while still others will find it wanting because a sim or toy offers an intellectual challenge rather than an emotional storyline.

I can't help but think we're heading for a crackup in the industry, where instead of having a few huge MMOGs the internet can now support a large number of smaller and more focused worlds. There are also at least two MMOG-crafting tools about to come onto the scene, and "peermogs" like Solipsis could be yet another workable alternative.

Thinking beyond that, I can imagine a MMOG interface standard that would allow characters and objects to be easily converted between game worlds (subject to appropriate conversion rules, whatever those might be). MMOGs that support this standard would wind up linked together in a "world of worlds." If the suspension of disbelief no longer matters, I don't know why a world-of-worlds network wouldn't be successful.

Mainframes seemed inevitable until the time was right for the "personal computer"....

--Flatfingers

9.

I think it's misleading to refer to 'challenge' in an MMO in the classic sense. To any serious player, all existing MMO's are easy, or at best a function of /played ... if you define 'winning' as attaining x level or y loot. That definition is the fallacy RMT bypasses.

It might be better to consider challenge as relative to peers - people seek to excell even in an 'easy' game, and the games Dr. C refers to people leaving might be classified as not allowing for sufficient stratification.

Also, players do create challenge all the time. There's no need to beat high-end bosses with the minimal amount of people, create odd characters with unheard of skill sets who are only effective through exploiting little-known game mechanics, or play 'hardcore' permadeath mode. But players do all of those things all the time.

10.

Flatfingers wrote:
"I wonder. I think of RMT as appearing due to necessary and sufficient conditions being satisfied:

1) Some people want to skip the programmed advancement process. . ."

I know people who engage in RMTs for reasons that seem outside (1). One in particular purchased gold because they liked giving big tips for buffs. Another wanted to buy a gift for a friend.

Still, I think you're basically right. RMTs probably would not have appeared or been near as prevalent without (1), even though that's not the motivation for many who engage in RMTs.

Staarkhand wrote:

"Also, players do create challenge all the time. There's no need to beat high-end bosses with the minimal amount of people, create odd characters with unheard of skill sets who are only effective through exploiting little-known game mechanics, or play 'hardcore' permadeath mode. But players do all of those things all the time."

Exactly. And there's a fine line between creating challenge (in the folk sense you mean) and creating a new 'game within the game'. Virtual Worlds are basically world models populated by a federation of players, each of whom may have a slightly different sense of 'the point' of the game or even what game their playing. In a very real way, then, players and communities of players end up designing their own games within the world model provided by the developers. The issue with RMTs revolves around the fact that they tend to have global effects on the world model. Thus the tools of one 'player's 'game design' have an effect on other players' designs, often to the point where the latter feel overly constrained by the former and thereby feel 'pushed out' or unfairly imposed upon.


11.

Staarkhand hit on the observation that I was about to make: Namely, that the reason we don't see a market arising for making games more difficult is that it's trivially easy to implement your own personal constraints (roleplaying or meta-roleplaying, if you like).

"Challenge" formats have arisen naturally in the playing population for interesting games, but since it's generally unnecessary to acquire anything new to make a landscape harder, there's no real need for a "market" to arise. Players can simply choose to forgo whatever available advantages they feel make the game appropriately challenging. I was a huge fan of challenge formats in the roguelike game ADOM, for instance... in many cases, to positively silly extremes.

I could choose, for instance, to only ever use equipment that I had personally received as a monster drop... or play without armor, or limit myself to particular weapons, etc. In Diablo 2, I greatly enjoyed playing in "live off the land" mode with hardcore characters. Despite commodification being rampant, it simply wouldn't make sense to buy something to make it harder. What could I buy that would be of benefit?

I can't think of a circumstance where I'd need to "buy" what I couldn't achieve through voluntary restraint on my own part for free.

12.
People quit easy games. Only in hard games do they stay and use markets to adjust game conditions. Not sure why.

I think that is a bit of a misstatement. I think it is more fair to say that people continue to play games that have a high level of interdependence. Even though some will complain about it, group and social requirements in games offer a compulsion to come back -- someone is relying on you for something or you have an implied debt to someone through gift-economy services.

13.
Side note: Are there any economic models that look at RMT from a dynamic analysis POV? Others here -- notably Richard -- have mentioned a concern that once you put an official stamp of approval on RMT so that more players use it, it becomes necessary for every world to offer it and for every player to use it. A static analysis that doesn't consider how one player's behavior affects other players over time could lose a lot of predictive power.

Not to flaggellate the deceased equine, but I think there is a certain implication here about what the object of commerce is, and I think it goes to a question of how much a game is based on raw time investment (grind) vs player skill on two axes and another that determines how item-geared it is on antoher. A heavy grind, heavy item base seems to be what we are discussing here, most likely because this is what people associate with the EQ model. I think in the face of RMT, though, there will be more exploration of other models.

1. Low item, low player skill, high grind still means that people will grind their way through. Perhaps the RMT commodity becomes characters rather than "items", but I think on the whole this is a less popular theme because people tend to associate character with personal identity.

2. Low item, high player skill, low grind seems like the ideal game format for RMT. At this point, you would be looking to make the game sticky through interdependence and make items a "nice to have". You don't really begrudge people you play on a park-rec softball league with having a $600 bat or $300 shoes, because, well, while they make a difference, the difference goes to a set of personal competetive assesment. "I don't take it that seriously."

3. High item, high player skill, low grind might also be a an environment where RMT could be explored in a healthy way, as long as it was structured into a tiered system.

You could work through all the iterations of this, but I think the assumptions being made here are that (a) uberloot means a in terms of affecting difficulty, (b) difficulty is determined by likelyhood of success/failure outside of social and organizational overhead and (c) that there is some factor outside game mechanics where people will rationally not over-buy their "fun" level in items. I am not sure that (a) or (b) are necessarily "givens" and (c) definitely seems suspect. As I noted above, people will complain loudly about interdependence, but in the end they seem to leave the games without it much more easily.

14.

I tend to take a different view...

A MMORPG play session produces rewards other than strictly game-based fun. Often the rewards are social, either playing with friends or being the #1 ranked guild, or gaining the ability to beat up other player characters.

RMTs are used to access the rewards without having to play the game. RMT is not about reducing the challenge level, but as a way to use monetary assets instead of time assets in order to achieve the rewards.

If you were to provide a "difficulty level" option for players, RMT players would always choose "easiest" because they're more interested in the destination (such as social power) than the journey (killing monsters).

The destination may have a sub-game they're interested in though, such as running a guild.

15.

The theory fits with my intuition that RMT takes place even between players with identical income and time resources.

It seems that the model implicitly assumes "island economy," in which the virtual world is isolated from other worlds, including the real world.

But in fact the "people" in VWs live in the real world at the same time. Therefore each player chooses her own {R, C} bundle based on circumstances not solely of the virtual world but also of the real world. It is likely that the real-world income or time resouece affect the choice of {R, C} bundle.

Even though, your statement "You can have completely equal incomes and time resources in your player base and this model says you'd still get RMT." is still valid, of course.

16.

I think your theory is fundamentally flawed because the vast majority of people are NOT choosing RMT in order to reduce C. The vast majority of people who use RMT are doing so to reduce the time component.

What people are really trying to do is increase F, or Fun. Reducing C is almost always only done when the player thinks F will be the result. Raph Koster may argue that we all have a pre-programmed mental predisposition to reduce C as much as possible, which eventually kills the F. I would argue that while that's true in many of our tasks, we're still seeking F even while many of our tasks are reduced in C. Perhaps these two goals are ultimately at odds with each-other; seems like it is related to the fact that less educated people are generally happier. Anyway, I think most players understand that if they had a super weapon that killed anything it touched, the game would quickly become far less fun, to the point where they'd have to seek different gameplay, or perhaps quit. But they don't have a particular C they are seeking; they have a particular F they are seeking, where F is a function of C and other variables.

Still, as you say, even if time and incomes were equal, there would still be RMT. Why? I would say (and you economists can hit me if I am using a word inappropriately here) it is because the MMOG economies are much less efficient than those in real life. Let's say we all have equal time to gather a certain item. But due to the nature of the game (random drops, perhaps), I am a fighter who gets a cleric drop, the cleric player gets a mage drop, and the mage player gets a fighter drop. Now ideally, we all know this, we can all trade it in-game easily, and we are all satisfied with no additional time investment. But in (virtual) reality, this doesn't always happen, and thus I may be left where I don't have the in-game items I need to trade for that drop I want, but I will trade dollars for it.

Bruce

17.

So suppose Joe Gamer only regards his reward as a reward if people can't buy their way past the challenges. Is this line of research suggesting that he's never going to get that, even if he's willing to pay big bucks to play in such a game?

Richard

18.

What a great thread.

I think Bruce has it right in saying that what gamers are trying to maximize is F. F of course is a function of {R, C}, but it's not linear (and you economists can hit me too), i.e., F does not always rise with R and fall with C. There's some equilibrium point for {R, C}, which changes from gamer to gamer, where F is maximized. And then, as others have pointed our, there are RW considerations that affect the propensity toward RMT.

However, I think the initial contention here is sound:

any sufficiently heterogeneous set of economic actors in a game will use RMT to change the challenge level of the game to their desired one, seeking to maximize their utility...

...the point being that we're talking about a set of actors, not any single actor.

In other words: You can't please all of the players all of the time, without letting them engage in RMT.

19.

Mark Wallace> You can't please all of the players all of the time, without letting them engage in RMT.

Assuming that's true, isn't it also true to say, "You can't please all of the players all of the time, even if you do let them engage in RMT"?

The more I think about this RMT stuff, the more I suspect that Barry Kearns is on the right track. I don't know if the particular approach he's taking will work, but if his experience helps us figure out the general rules for commodification-resistant design, then it was a success.

--Flatfingers

20.

RMT is the fun part for me, I play games for the specific purpose of at least attempting some form of RMT. I like the challenge of the game, sure, but that's only to make sure that everyone doesn't get to my level of play where I can sell items for a reasonable price (or gold, etc.). Sometimes I make it (to max level) and do well with the RMT, sometimes I don't, but I still have F (fun) either way.

To me, MMOs are completely different in terms of gameplay style than any other game. In most other games I know I'll get a limited time out of them or play them because they are directly competitive. MMOs to me are just a side fling to make some money on or to at least see the apple dangling in front of me. I wouldn't know how many people play with these ideals in mind however.

21.

RMT is the fun part for me, I play games for the specific purpose of at least attempting some form of RMT. I like the challenge of the game, sure, but that's only to make sure that everyone doesn't get to my level of play where I can sell items for a reasonable price (or gold, etc.). Sometimes I make it (to max level) and do well with the RMT, sometimes I don't, but I still have F (fun) either way.

To me, MMOs are completely different in terms of gameplay style than any other game. In most other games I know I'll get a limited time out of them or play them because they are directly competitive. MMOs to me are just a side fling to make some money on or to at least see the apple dangling in front of me. I wouldn't know how many people play with these ideals in mind however.

22.

The flaw in the assumption is equating time spent to "challenge."

Gold purchases, for example, do not obviate tasks that are difficult. They obviate tasks that are time consuming. I would buy the argument that account purchases which include merit-earned items qualify as "RMT to remove challenge," but gold purchases make up the large majority of the RMT market - I would contend they have nothing to do with a player's desired level of challenge whatsoever.

23.

On the subject of dynamic analysis, I just ran into this experience recounted over on the Star Wars Galaxies forum:

[Comments in square brackets are mine.]


Citizen is a WS [Weaponsmith], and is standing in his shop when a customer comes in. Customer is decked out in full composite [a powerful/expensive armor], carrying a T21 [a powerful/expensive rifle] and - get this - sporting a Novice Marksman tag. ["Novice Marksman" is the lowest level of the starting profession for ranged weapon users.]

Customer checks the vendor for a few minutes, then pipes up asking our WS where all the "good" guns are. WS asks what he means by "good", and customer replies that he wants an "uber" gun and it needs to be "spliced". ["Slicing" is the Galaxies term for in-game hacking to (among other things) improve weapons.]

WS tells customer that the T21 is about as uber as you can get as far as rifles go, and why is he using one when he is a Novice Marksman and obviously doesn't have the skill? Shouldn't he be using something more appropriate to his abilities?

Customer ignores the question and repeats his request for an "uber" gun that is "spliced" and asks why aren't there any on the vendor.

WS follows suit and repeats his question about the T21 and adds a question about how the customer got all the money to buy these things as a Novice Marksman.

Customer replies "Oh, I got all the credits on ebay. I want the guns because they look cool and I bought the composite yesterday because I saw someone in a starport wearing it and they told me I had to have it if I wanted to be good" (I suspect he used the term "1337" as opposed to "good" but I wasn't in on the actual conversation so I can't say for sure).

WS asks customer how long he's been in the game. Customer replies "3 days".

Customer asks again... so where can I get "uber spliced" guns?

WS walks away...

Multiply this several thousandfold for the full effect of RMT.

Again: RMT may have valuable, possibly even appropriate uses for some. But the number of abusers will be much larger, and they are ones whose behavior has to be considered when deciding whether RMT should be allowed at all.

--Flatfingers

24.

Sigh. Let's try that quote again:


Citizen is a WS [Weaponsmith], and is standing in his shop when a customer comes in. Customer is decked out in full composite [a powerful/expensive armor], carrying a T21 [a powerful/expensive rifle] and - get this - sporting a Novice Marksman tag. ["Novice Marksman" is the lowest level of the starting profession for ranged weapon users.]

Customer checks the vendor for a few minutes, then pipes up asking our WS where all the "good" guns are. WS asks what he means by "good", and customer replies that he wants an "uber" gun and it needs to be "spliced". ["Slicing" is the Galaxies term for in-game hacking to (among other things) improve weapons.]

WS tells customer that the T21 is about as uber as you can get as far as rifles go, and why is he using one when he is a Novice Marksman and obviously doesn't have the skill? Shouldn't he be using something more appropriate to his abilities?

Customer ignores the question and repeats his request for an "uber" gun that is "spliced" and asks why aren't there any on the vendor.

WS follows suit and repeats his question about the T21 and adds a question about how the customer got all the money to buy these things as a Novice Marksman.

Customer replies "Oh, I got all the credits on ebay. I want the guns because they look cool and I bought the composite yesterday because I saw someone in a starport wearing it and they told me I had to have it if I wanted to be good" (I suspect he used the term "1337" as opposed to "good" but I wasn't in on the actual conversation so I can't say for sure).

WS asks customer how long he's been in the game. Customer replies "3 days".

Customer asks again... so where can I get "uber spliced" guns?

WS walks away...

25.

>So suppose Joe Gamer only regards his reward as
>a reward if people can't buy their way past the
>challenges. Is this line of research suggesting
>that he's never going to get that, even if he's
>willing to pay big bucks to play in such a game?

If Joe Gamer only regards HIS reward based upon how he perceives rewards of others, then he has far bigger life problems that cannot be solved in a simple game. He will always be unhappy. It's the same argument that PvPers use -- their happiness is dependent upon them FORCING others to play according to THEIR rules.

Will there be a game for Joe Gamer? Sure, there will be games that don't have RMT, either by outlawing it agressively, or by simply being a skill-based design to the point where there is little that can be "bought". If Joe Gamer has no skill, and can only measure his self-worth based upon time invested in a game, well, I suspect he's going to be disatisfied anyway.

Flatfingers' story is not uncommon. It's common class warfare, where the poor and middle class feel they've worked "hard" for what they have, and resent a rich person coming along and just buying things easily without any real appreciation of their actual worth. But that's life. SWG is a game. Why does it hurt your fun if someone else is playing the game differently yet independently? I think it has to do with expectations. If you had a game where, say, you could make one move a turn, and the later introduced a rule where people could spend money to buy an extra move in a turn, people might resent it. But if that mechanic was in there from the very beginning, then people would have a better time accepting it. I remember some PBeM games had such a mechanism.

Bruce

26.

Edward Castronova> People quit easy games. Only in hard games do they stay and use markets to adjust game conditions. Not sure why.

Starkhand and Bearns both pointed out that players can make easy games harder themselves if they desire. Given this, all games should be equally attractive... so what's missing in an 'easy' game that makes a harder game more appealing, given that both games are easily 'meta-modifiable' to the same level?

I suspect the answer is: recognition. In an easy game there's no way to communicate your self-imposed limitations to the other players. No way to say "Yes it's trivially easy to defeat the Wumpus with the Wondersword of Doom, but *I* destroyed him with only my bare hands!" No way to communicate the 'game within a game' that you've challenged yourself to to other players, and therefore no way to set that same game up as a challenge for them. If there was a game where players could define such constraints for themselves, and then display their accomplishments for all to see such that others could then try and emulate or exceed them, I suspect that the difficulty level of the pre-made content would matter a little less.

A comparison to be made is single-player Doom. Saying that you've beat it means nothing without also saying what level you were playing it on... 'Easy' or 'Nightmare' ? With how many save/restores? using how much total realtime to do so? The sum of these answers gives another player a pretty good idea of how good a player *you* are, by communicating your performance *at a particular level*.

27.

Bruce Woodcock>If Joe Gamer only regards HIS reward based upon how he perceives rewards of others, then he has far bigger life problems that cannot be solved in a simple game.

How did you conclude that? There are plenty of instances in RL where people hold their rewards in high regard only because others don't/can't buy them. If I wanted to practice Law in Louisiana, could I just go to some Louisiana lawyer on the point of retiring and buy their licence to practice Law in Louisiana? No, I can't. If I could, would all the Louisiana lawyers who had been through law school and sat examinations to get where they were just take it lying down? No, they wouldn't. Would they have "big life problems" because of this attitude? No, they wouldn't.

Many players of virtual worlds want to feel they have achieved something. Their achievement is predicated on a belief that what they are achieving is indeed an achievement. They need to have their achievement validated by others, and they need to validate it themselves. They can't do either if there are people who can buy achievement off the peg.

Now you may regard these people as some kind of loser class with "big life issues", but they regard you in exactly the same way. They see you as having a selfish desire to spoil the game with no concern for those players whose validation procedures you are stomping all over. They look on you in the same way that you would look on a Monopoly player who bought a street off a fellow player for real money. It's not part of the game as far as they're concerned, and they see you as spoiling it.

>He will always be unhappy. It's the same argument that PvPers use -- their happiness is dependent upon them FORCING others to play according to THEIR rules.

But RMTers are FORCING others to play according to THEIR rules. Joe Gamer doesn't get to force anyone - he sees himself as the victim here.

>Will there be a game for Joe Gamer? Sure, there will be games that don't have RMT, either by outlawing it agressively, or by simply being a skill-based design to the point where there is little that can be "bought".

But the worry is that there won't be games that don't have RMT if the courts decide that players have actual property rights in "their" characters.

>If Joe Gamer has no skill, and can only measure his self-worth based upon time invested in a game, well, I suspect he's going to be disatisfied anyway.

I agree. However, if he does have skill but other people measure him by factors unrelated to skill (eg. assuming he bought his L60 battle lord rather than working it up) then he's also going to be dissatisfied. For a system of advancement to be meaningful, it has to have integrity; if it has no integrity, it loses its meaning. For people who play the game because the meaning is important to them, corrupting the integrity through RMT spoils it for them.

>SWG is a game. Why does it hurt your fun if someone else is playing the game differently yet independently?

It doesn't hurt me if they're playing independently, but they're not playing independently.

>I think it has to do with expectations. If you had a game where, say, you could make one move a turn, and the later introduced a rule where people could spend money to buy an extra move in a turn, people might resent it. But if that mechanic was in there from the very beginning, then people would have a better time accepting it.

I agree. However, that's not how these virtual worlds were set up. People started playing in the belief that RMT wasn't allowed (it's banned by the EULA) and yet the RMTers came along and commodified it anyway. I have no problems with a virtual world that is designed for RMT to have RMT; what I don't want is for RMT to be imposed on the virtual worlds that don't have it and whose developers don't want it. I'd also argue the reverse: that virtual worlds that embrace RMT shouldn't be forced to abandon it so that other virtual worlds can be free of it.

Richard

28.

Bartle>How did you conclude that? There are plenty of instances in RL where people hold their rewards in high regard only because others don't/can't buy them. If I wanted to practice Law in Louisiana, could I just go to some Louisiana lawyer on the point of retiring and buy their licence to practice Law in Louisiana? No, I can't. If I could, would all the Louisiana lawyers who had been through law school and sat examinations to get where they were just take it lying down? No, they wouldn't. Would they have "big life problems" because of this attitude? No, they wouldn't.

I dislike the way some people have said they have "life issues" if they're against a certain subject (/agreeing with you) however, with the issue at hand and your lawyer example I do have a problem. The items in game can only be used in the game. RMT does not change the fact that despite items moving around from player to player, they are only usable in the world by those who know how to use them. I could not just up and purchase a license to practice law, not only because it's illegal, but also because even if I could, I would not know the first thing about how to use it.

In the game world, there are many people who know how to play a level 60 character who may not want to spend 3 months of his/her life on the computer getting that far. Perhaps, like myself, they tire of having to endlessly level a character to max level in the newest, hottest game on the market. They like the game itself and play to level 20, but tire quickly of the grind between 20-60 because there's not really any new content for them to experience. I want to get to level 60 (maximum level) so I can experience other portions of the game without sinking MASSIVE amounts of time into it. I have a full time job, I good sleep schedule and a spouse to spend time with, and just can't find the time to pour endless hours into the game which amounts to nothing more than "grind time" to me.

I am also not your average n00bie gamer, I can pick up a game and be better at it than your average carebear within a day. Having played max level characters, I can tell you that I play better than almost every single person I meet at that level, whether they have bought their characters or not. My coordination is better, I have more knowledge about my skills and class role and I can think quicker on my feet. Many of the players I have played with at this point in the game are burnt out at this point in their (character) careers and tire of the game since they spent upwards of 30 real time full days getting from level 20 to 60. Maybe that's just me though and I'm the exception, but I can't see why others who spend upwards of $300 wouldn't research their characters so they can gain the maximum "fun" (or profit, i.e. farmers) from these characters.

29.

Lee Delarm> I am also not your average n00bie gamer, I can pick up a game and be better at it than your average carebear within a day.

Lee, RMT isn't just about you.

It's not merely a question of your believing that you could/would use RMT responsibly. It's a question of what happens to the entire game when you and I and hundreds or even thousands of other players also start using RMT... and as you just pointed out, most of us aren't as good as you.

As Richard has pointed out, it simply is not accurate to say that people play these massively multiplayer online games independently. Even if minimally, what you do in the game world does affect other players. And what hundreds or thousands of players do can't help but affect the nature of the entire game for every other player.

I can't speak for others, but I'm sympathetic to the position you've described that RMT lets you maximize F by minimizing what you consider to be the boring parts of a multiplayer game. But because we're talking about multiplayer games, the correct question is: what happens when everyone is allowed to do this?

It's not about whether RMT is good for you personally. It's about whether RMT is good for everyone who plays the game, and for multiplayer games generally.

--Flatfingers

30.

R varies directly with C
R is less than C

31.

RMT does not change the fact that despite items moving around from player to player, they are only usable in the world by those who know how to use them. I could not just up and purchase a license to practice law, not only because it's illegal, but also because even if I could, I would not know the first thing about how to use it.

There was a case a few years back of a guy who had written a book and claimed he had been a Stanford professor to help promote it. An actual prof at Stanford remembered the guy, and remembered that he had dropped out of the PhD program. The author's defense was that he had taught classes as a PhD student, and since he had done most of the work towards his degree, he was just as qualified as any real prof. Since he had all the qualifications and had done some teaching, wasn't it the same thing as being an actual prof? Of course it wasn't.

In this case, the guy would know how to use the PhD and professorship, but real professors were justifiably angered by this, because he had never earned those things yet tried to claim them.

In the game world, there are many people who know how to play a level 60 character who may not want to spend 3 months of his/her life on the computer getting that far.

It's great for some games to have mechanisms for getting around this (see, for example, Guild War's PvP character option, and of course EQ2's sanctioned RMT), but that doesn't mean that *all* games must permit this. It's perfectly reasonable for some games to disallow RMT and expect players to level each character individually; players who want a different experience can play another game and those who want this experience should be able to play it without other people interfering with their fun.

Most people seem to accept and even agree with the idea that some games will have RMT, but many of us want non-RMT games to continue to exist. Why do you seem to be arguing that the non-RMT view is flat out incorrect and unacceptable, and that RMT ought to be everywhere?

32.

PJ wrote:

I suspect the answer is: recognition. In an easy game there's no way to communicate your self-imposed limitations to the other players. No way to say "Yes it's trivially easy to defeat the Wumpus with the Wondersword of Doom, but *I* destroyed him with only my bare hands!" No way to communicate the 'game within a game' that you've challenged yourself to to other players, and therefore no way to set that same game up as a challenge for them. If there was a game where players could define such constraints for themselves, and then display their accomplishments for all to see such that others could then try and emulate or exceed them, I suspect that the difficulty level of the pre-made content would matter a little less.

I managed to do this in the roguelike game ADOM back in '98. I was a huge fan of challenge formats, and I came up with a fairly radical one: use nothing but food, gems, cash and rocks (plus the Orbs necessary to advance in the game, and an amulet of light) in the game. I was approaching the end of a game played under such rules, and having survived that far, I wanted to preserve the accomplishment. So I fired up an application that allowed me to make a "video" of a game-play session. The game in question (ADOM) had commands to show the things that had been identified along the way, so I could show that I had conformed to the self-imposed rules, and I was able to show that I had nothing in my possession but the allowed items.

I then proceeded to fight one of the toughest battles of my ADOM-playing life (and won), and had a record of it to show others. The character died partway through the final level of the game, but it was a glorious death, and I actually had a record of it. I was able to demonstrate the playability of the particular challenge format.

(Google groups still has a record of the discussion thread...)

It would be interesting to incorporate game options that a player could "flag" for self-imposed restrictions, and have the game validate/enforce the choices. Other players could then examine the game-maintained record and see for themselves whether the accomplishment was real. I'll add that to my growing "nice to have" features list. =)

Richard wrote:

But the worry is that there won't be games that don't have RMT if the courts decide that players have actual property rights in "their" characters.

I contend that such a worry is simply irrational. Even if courts were to decide that there were property rights that players had with respect to their avatars, that doesn't automatically mean we can't have games that identify accomplishment and differentiate it from purchased achievement. I doubt that laws would be passed that prevented developers from making identity fundamentally inalienable within a game context... after all, there are plenty of real-world examples of non-transferrable assets for which people still have rights attached.

Even if somehow we ended up with laws that went that far, and dictated that *every* game must not only recognize player avaters as player property, but must also allow alienability of those avatars, you could still provide a record or virtual indicator that a character was transferred instead of original (character names in different colors, for instance). Such a record might actually be legally necessary in order to establish responsibility for previous unlawful actions performed using that avatar, for example.

To imagine RMT-free games as impossible due to legislation, we would have to assume a set of laws so dystopian that we might as well be afraid that roleplaying or even game playing itself will somehow be outlawed. What's to stop that set of laws from happening?

Nothing... but that doesn't mean we should build our philosophies around worrying that it will happen.

Let's stick to what we know. We can design games that are resistant to harmful commodification of in-game items and currency. We can establish protections against the unsanctioned transfer of accounts. We can build games that acknowledge achievement, and don't allow the tokens of achievement to be transferred.

In short, as developers we can make a largely RMT-free competitive game landscape if we choose to do so. I'm building one now. I'm sure others will, too... and I'll wager that we will NEVER see legislation passed that makes such a pursuit impossible, or even substantially impedes the ability to do so. So long as at least one such game exists, the concept of "there won't be games that don't have RMT" is null and void.

33.

>>> Richard wrote:
>>>So suppose Joe Gamer only regards his reward as
>>>a reward if people can't buy their way past the
>>>challenges. Is this line of research suggesting
>>>that he's never going to get that, even if he's
>>>willing to pay big bucks to play in such a game?
>
> Bruce wrote:
> If Joe Gamer only regards HIS reward based upon
> how he perceives rewards of others, then he has
> far bigger life problems that cannot be solved in
> a simple game. He will always be unhappy. It's the
> same argument that PvPers use -- their happiness is
> dependent upon them FORCING others to play according
> to THEIR rules.

This is exactly how I feel. People who are overly obsessed with what other people are doing, to the point that their enjoyment DEPENDS upon it, have serious issues.

People continually bring up this example of "Joe Gamer" as if it is a valid thing to be worried about. I disagree. I think it is unwiwse to make any game design decision based on unstable individuals with their priorities grossly out of whack.

I do not find this to be an even slightly compelling argument against RMT. Of course, the best argument against RMT in my view is "The Developers Do Not Allow It. End of Story."


>>> Richard wrote:
>>> How did you conclude that? There are plenty of
>>> instances in RL where people hold their rewards
>>> in high regard only because others don't/can't
>>> buy them.

That is Real Life, and there are a lot of reasons why Real Life is very different from game play. A game is played solely for enjoyment. There are a lot of other priorities in Real Life beyond enjoyment. For example, people value things like degrees because they allow them to make money with it. If anyone could just have one, that hurts the ability to monetize the degree. That's a huge part of the "pride" behind such an accomplishment.


>>> If I wanted to practice Law in Louisiana, could
>>> I just go to some Louisiana lawyer on the point
>>> of retiring and buy their licence to practice Law
>>> in Louisiana?

Richard, I know you are passionate about this issue, but that is really clouding the way you discuss this issue.

You did not just seriously compare being licensed to practice law with buying a Leet Sword, did you?


>>> But the worry is that there won't be games
>>> that don't have RMT if the courts decide that
>>> players have actual property rights in "their"
>>> characters.

I am with you here and this concerns me greatly.

As a game developer, I intend to do everything in my power to prevent RMT. I hope to be able to retain this right.

34.

Excellent approach to RMT, concentrating on the motivation of the buyers. Sellers are less relevant, because the willingness of someone to buy usually leads to somebody else selling, if the price is right.

I agree with Bruce that you need to define C better, so as to include time. Finding enough time to earn 100 gold pieces might be a challenge for many people, but if you have the time, there isn't much challenge in the actual execution. At the moment of the RMT, the buyer and the seller agree that 100 gold pieces "are worth" $20. But the buyer thinks that $20 is a small price to pay for the amount of time it would have cost him to earn the 100 gold, while the seller thinks that $20 is good money for the little time it took him to earn the 100 gold. It is a money for time trade, skewed by the fact that the seller probably took much less time to make 100 gold than the buyer would have needed, due to difference in levels and play style.

What would happen if, when I entered EverQuest II, there was a button that said "Choose your level"?
Bad things would mainly happen because at the point where you make your choice, you don't have enough information about the effect, and thus are likely to overshoot your optimum level.

But what if every day when you enter EverQuest II, there was a button that said "Choose your leveling speed?" Giving you the option of gaining xp at the normal rate, half the normal rate, or twice the normal rate. And having peoples names colorcoded to show which of these modes they played the most. That method might well get you a realistic distribution, where everybody choses the "time challenge" level most appropriate to him.

35.

As a game developer, I intend to do everything in my power to prevent RMT. I hope to be able to retain this right.

1) Some people want to skip the programmed advancement process.
2) Objects that have advancement value in the game can be traded between players in-game.
3) Tools exist outside the game that allow players to find and communicate with each other.
4) Tools exist outside the game that allow players to make sufficiently trustable deals

I think you can only retain the right to prevent RMT by going after point 2. That is the only one which is completely in your jurisdiction. You can totally eliminate RMT by making asymetric trades in your game impossible. Point 1 is interesting, because it suggests that if you could design the perfect game, people wouldn't want to skip it.

Unfortunately the current "war against RMT" is only attacking points 3 and 4, both of which happen outside of the game. Companies are basically saying that it is completely okay for avatar A to give 100 gold to avatar B, as long as player B isn't giving real world dollars to player A. But as this dollar transfer is in most cases completely invisible to the game company, this rule is just an empty shell.

36.

Aryoch>People who are overly obsessed with what other people are doing, to the point that their enjoyment DEPENDS upon it, have serious issues.

So any sports fan, whose enjoyment depends on what other people (the sports team) are doing, has serious issues? There are plenty of examples of situations where people rely on what other people are doing to have fun.

Virtual worlds are social. If "what other people are doing" wasn't a dependent factor in what makes people enjoy them, why would they play them? They could play single-player games instead.

>People continually bring up this example of "Joe Gamer" as if it is a valid thing to be worried about.

Yes, that's because it is a valid thing to be worried about.

>I think it is unwiwse to make any game design decision based on unstable individuals with their priorities grossly out of whack.

Me too. Futhermore, I'd say that people who force RMT onto virtual worlds not designed for or desirous of it are precisely such individuals.

>I do not find this to be an even slightly compelling argument against RMT.

Hmm, let's follow the argument and see where you feel it breaks down.
1) Some people, for whatever reasons, do not like virtual worlds that have RMT.
2) These people have as much a right to play virtual worlds as anyone else.
3) If these people want to play a virtual world with no RMT, they should be allowed to do so.
4) Just because a virtual world's design makes RMT possible, that does not mean that RMT must therefore be allowed.
5) There should be some virtual worlds in existence that are not intended for RMT, but which should not have to be redesigned to prevent RMT.

Do you disagree with any of this, or are you just trying to say that anyone described by 1) is misguided?

>Of course, the best argument against RMT in my view is "The Developers Do Not Allow It. End of Story."

I agree with you here, yes.

>That is Real Life, and there are a lot of reasons why Real Life is very different from game play.

True, which is why people get very upset when their game play experience is spoiled by intrusion of RL in the form of RMT.

>You did not just seriously compare being licensed to practice law with buying a Leet Sword, did you?

I just seriously compared the indignation that people feel when someone can buy success with the indignation that some other people might feel if someone could buy their success. These examples could well be at different ends of the same scale, but that doesn't invalidate the analogy. If you want to invalidate it, it's fairly easy: give the point on the scale at which "buying achievement" stops being trivial and starts to matter. For me, buying achievement within the context of the game is fine, but outside of the context is isn't. You seem to be saying that for you, it's OK to buy a l33t sword outside of the context, so what wouldn't it be OK to buy?

>As a game developer, I intend to do everything in my power to prevent RMT. I hope to be able to retain this right.

My own perspective is that I want developers to be allowed to make up their own minds whether they want it or not. However, I'm also getting a sinking feeling that if newbie players get used to it, it won't matter in the end what the courts think: we'll get it de facto anyway.

Richard

37.

> Richard Bartle wrote:
>
> So any sports fan

This is an apples <-> oranges comparison.


> 1) Some people, for whatever reasons, do
> not like virtual worlds that have RMT.

Agreed.

> 2) These people have as much a right to play
> virtual worlds as anyone else.

Agreed.

> 3) If these people want to play a virtual world
> with no RMT, they should be allowed to do so.

Agreed.

> 4) Just because a virtual world's design makes
> RMT possible, that does not mean that RMT must
> therefore be allowed.

Agreed.

> 5) There should be some virtual worlds in
> existence that are not intended for RMT, but
> which should not have to be redesigned to prevent RMT.

Agreed.

> Do you disagree with any of this, or are you just
> trying to say that anyone described by 1) is misguided?

I agree with everything you just said. The only thing I disagree with is when the REASON for being anti-RMT is one person being jealous that someone else has a Sword of Leetness from buying it instead of divorcing their wife, orphaning their children, and getting on a 1 month waiting list to kill some dragon that takes 10 hours to kill.

>>> I wrote:
>>> Of course, the best argument against RMT in my
>>> view is "The Developers Do Not Allow It. End of Story."
>
> Richard Bartle wrote:
>
> I agree with you here, yes.

There appears to be a lot more we agree about than disagree.


> My own perspective is that I want developers to be
> allowed to make up their own minds whether they
> want it or not. However, I'm also getting a sinking
> feeling that if newbie players get used to it, it
> won't matter in the end what the courts think: we'll
> get it de facto anyway.

Everytime you say something like this it scares me because I often have the same concern. The point you make here is connected (if I am not mistaken) to your theory that "games are designed by newbies", since ultimately most game developers have _gaining new players_ as their primary motivator.

My fear is that either courts will mandate it or it will become so common that people expect (or even demand) it. Either one of those would be a very bad thing in my opinion.

I hope I do not leave anyone with the impression that I think RMT is a right or that it is inevitable. I don't. I just disagree with some of the reasons people dislike RMT.

I also firmly believe that BAD, BORING, REPETITIVE gameplay is the #1 reason RMT was able to grow into such a behemoth. For that we can place blame first on Everquest and then upon all its progeny. No MUD I ever heard of or played ever required the kind of farming that EQ and its clones require.

38.

Tobold>But what if every day when you enter EverQuest II, there was a button that said "Choose your leveling speed?" Giving you the option of gaining xp at the normal rate, half the normal rate, or twice the normal rate. And having peoples names colorcoded to show which of these modes they played the most. That method might well get you a realistic distribution, where everybody choses the "time challenge" level most appropriate to him.

What? No x100 speed? ;)

39.

Flatfingers>I can't speak for others, but I'm sympathetic to the position you've described that RMT lets you maximize F by minimizing what you consider to be the boring parts of a multiplayer game. But because we're talking about multiplayer games, the correct question is: what happens when everyone is allowed to do this?

It's not about whether RMT is good for you personally. It's about whether RMT is good for everyone who plays the game, and for multiplayer games generally.

me>I have no idea what happens at this point.

Would it hurt the game? How? Would it help it? How? I know MY personal "fun" level would increase dramatically. What about outside of the social aspect everyone is concentrating on? What effects on the game world itself would/will we be looking at in an RMT world?

(is this question a new article in itself?)

40.

Lee> What effects on the game world itself would/will we be looking at in an RMT world?

Well, I'll take a stab at that. Let's see....

If everyone was allowed to level up through RMT and everyone could afford to do so, there'd be no point in having a levelling mechanism -- you might as well just design the game so that everyone starts with maximum levels in skills. (Which isn't necessarily a bad approach.)

But realistically, not everyone would be able to afford to buy high-end characters and gear through RMT. So it's more likely that strong-RMT games would become much more two-tiered than current games already are. You'd have those who could afford to jump directly to the high-end content through RMT, and those who couldn't and who would therefore have to slog through some form of levelling process to reach the high-end content.

So my guess is that the percentage of players with high-level skills and gear but low levels of knowledge of how to effectively use those assets would increase. For players who enjoy taking advantage of others, this influx of well-equipped noobs might seem like a gold mine. ("Here, let me hold that Supersword for you. I'll be right back....")

OTOH, those with a cooperative approach to gameplay will probably be annoyed at having to spend more of their game time dealing with people who don't know how to use the gear and skills they bought because they haven't spent any time actually playing the game.

And you'll still have the non-inconsequential in-game social effect of the have-nots resenting the haves being able to "cut in line" to bypass the "grind." If community matters, RMT won't foster it between the high and low end players. ("Community" may not be a game feature that RMT proponents care about, but that doesn't mean it's an unimportant aspect of a game world.) And there'll continue to be the "they didn't earn it" attitude from the few high-level non-RMT players who ground their way up to the top skills and gear because they couldn't afford to buy them.

Also, it's worth noting that shifting the percentage of your population from low- to mid-level activities to high-level activities means that developers will have to spend a correspondingly greater percentage of their time creating high-level content to satisfy these players. If high-level content is more expensive to create and support, then it's likely that the expansion of RMT would increase development costs.

I could be wrong about these, of course, and wouldn't mind hearing alternate viewpoints.

Lee> (is this question a new article in itself?)

Oops. ;-)

--Flatfingers

41.

I wonder if a game would do well if there already were maxed out characters? Somewhat like Guild Wars but in a more traditional setting like EQ/WoW-ish, but the only point would be to PvP and gain better gear (and socialize).

42.

Flatfingers wrote:

And you'll still have the non-inconsequential in-game social effect of the have-nots resenting the haves being able to "cut in line" to bypass the "grind." If community matters, RMT won't foster it between the high and low end players. ("Community" may not be a game feature that RMT proponents care about, but that doesn't mean it's an unimportant aspect of a game world.) And there'll continue to be the "they didn't earn it" attitude from the few high-level non-RMT players who ground their way up to the top skills and gear because they couldn't afford to buy them.

We're attempting to address this on our strong-RMT server implementation via a "fast forward" mechanism, where you burn subscription time off your account to help speed your character through to a higher level.

People who want to bypass the grind can, in effect, have the game "auto-grind" for them, and have a similar net effect on subscription time as
doing it manually, but in vastly less wall time.

It's quite a bit like turning on Progress Quest in an actual game, but with a high-speed version offered too. Based on feedback that we've received so far, we expect this to be a fairly popular feature for those who want to "catch up" to their playing group so that they can play together meaningfully... but lack the wall time to invest in doing it manually.

Think of it as on-demand very efficient powerlevelling if you like. Having it burn subscription time means that we preserve revenue while still allowing people to make up for available-time shortfalls in their real lives.

Bragging rights are preserved by having fast-forward time as a displayed field on examining a character. Those who never fast-forward have the game vouch for the claim that they are fully "legit".

43.

Forgive me for being late to the thread and skimming the comments thus far. I’m probably agreeing with a point already well made, but,,,

Dr C > all RMT involves people buying items that reduce the challenge level.

No they don’t. The purpose of much RMT is to increase the challenge level but reduce the time it takes to get there.

Killing lvl 0 MOB’s is not challenging. Killing boss MOB’s is (or at least should be).

The motivation behind killing boss MOBs, I guess, comes from the realisation of manifold pleasures. RMTers probably believe that, at the most, only one of these is directly due the achievement path taken to get there. Others would differ strongly on this point.

44.

Why does everyone assume that people who use RMT are more likely to be unable to play their characters?

Is there evidence for this?

I know a lot of skilled players who would happily use RMT to bypass the grindy, worthless crap, and get to the truly challenging stuff that does require skill.

Also, I know people who level up a character to max, and then their guild needs other class combos for raids, PvP, etc. Such people would gladly use RMT to more quickly get back into the "real" action.

Such people know how to play their character(s) extremely well.

A lot of people who are attracted to RMT are successful people with good jobs and/or families who simply want to bypass the repetitive, painful grind that EQ and its clones have resorted to.

Do you really think being able to kill hundreds of thousands of "green con" mobs (that you could kill 5 at a time if you needed to) makes someone a skilled player?

45.

That's what I would like to know. Considering every major MMO to date (including EQ 2, WoW, SWG, etc) forces you to kill THOUSANDS of creatures to level and get to the "good" (hard) content, what makes it more of an accomplishment to you (someone who has the time) than to me (someone who bought it, but can play it twice as good as you).

I'm not even looking at the time aspect, because most of the time, I'm not having fun unless the content is challenging. MMOs are not challenging, unless I set up my own artificial "mini-game" which means once again, I'm not playing by your rules. So what makes it ok for me to play by my own rules using out of game aspects (never go back to town for supplies, self-sufficient only, which is not enforced except by my own will) versus playing by my own rules and buying a character (getting a high level character without playing through the tedious level grind)?

What's WRONG with people who skip this required step? How does skipping this step HURT their achievement? They put in time, and I don't, but SOMEBODY did. How does this lessen their achievement since their character does not get any weaker based on this factor? In fact, it's usually MORE beneficial that there are players their level to group with, most notably that higher level players are the fewest in number (view EQ2 stats to prove this point).

46.

Lee>I wonder if a game would do well if there already were maxed out characters? Somewhat like Guild Wars but in a more traditional setting like EQ/WoW-ish, but the only point would be to PvP and gain better gear (and socialize).

Via RMT, isn't that game called Ultima Online?

Seems to me the driving power behind RMT isn't maxed out characters, it is better gear and more trinkets to show off while socializing.

47.
Why does everyone assume that people who use RMT are more likely to be unable to play their characters?

Why does everyone assume that a recent college graduate isn't as skilled as someone with 5 years experience in their field? Is there evidence for that?

Most players I know want someone who has already refined different strategies, and and explored the nauances of their skill set before they are in a critical situation like a raid. Someone who will react with a high degree of predictability in a given situation.

You need to know your role. It doesn't matter how much skill you have at other games, knowing a role "like" the one you are in isn't good enough. And quite frankly with general RMT, we can't be sure you even have that degree of experience.

Do you want someone who doesn't have a feel for the time cost, or effectiveness of their different heals being your healer in a raid? How about one that doesn't have any idea how much aggro they generate with a heal?

The amount of grind in current games may be excessive, but frankly there is no substitute for experience. It doesn't matter how good someone THINKS they are.


48.

Barry Kearns> our strong-RMT server implementation [uses] a "fast forward" mechanism, where you burn subscription time off your account to help speed your character through to a higher level.

Is there any functional/gameplay difference between this approach and allowing characters (with no gear) to be purchased from eBay?

I'm inclined to think "no," but your additional feature of marking characters that used this speedup takes some of the sting out of it. I say "some" because if the majority of your users take the speedup approach, it ceases to be a distinguishing factor between those who "earned" their achievement tokens and those who "powerleveled" their way to the top. Still, the no-token-trading hard rule will probably mean a player population that is self-selecting for people who don't mind slower advancement.

Probably. :-)

Thabor> The amount of grind in current games may be excessive, but frankly there is no substitute for experience.

Agreed.

Sure, the stories about high-level noobs are apocryphal... but there are so many of them! It's statistically plausible, too, given that the number of skilled players will always be less than the number of unskilled players -- turn on RMT for all, and RMT for most games, and you're bound to see far more unskilled players flitting between games than players who take the time to become experienced generally.

More specifically, yes, there are things that make someone who has killed thousands of green con mobs more valuable than someone who, despite having high-end skills and gear, hasn't:

* knowledge of that game's terminology
* knowledge of that game's place names
* knowledge of that game's most effective weapons/armor
* knowledge of that game's travel mechanisms
* knowledge of that game's economic structures
* knowledge of that game's loot rules
* knowledge of that game's group roles
* knowledge of that game's customs and etiquette
* knowledge of that game's change history

Having this knowledge isn't sufficient to make someone a good player, but it is necessary for being an effective player. At a minimum it cuts down on delays due to communication errors.

Having widespread RMT means getting more players who don't know these useful things, but who nevertheless expect equal access to high-end content (since that's why they bought the character/gear in the first place).

How does this make the game more fun for everyone?

--Flatfingers

49.

Flatfingers,

I would disagree with any premise that RMT somehow takes away from a players understanding of the game, in fact I would think the opposite is true.

RMT is still not widely accepted behavior in most MMOGs, and typically RMT is common among power game circles. Due to the nature of the beast, powergamers typically know the ins and outs of a game much quicker than average players, thus have a grasp and feel for how to play the game and the elements associated with gameplay.

Honestly, I'd be shocked to learn there was any relationship at all between RMT and a lack of game knowledge among the RMT player community, because my experiences everywhere have been quite the opposite. Players who engage in RMT do it as apart of a powergamer lifestyle, a means to turn average to above average, or great into extrodinary. I can't recall ever seeing a scenario, hearing about a scenario, or learning of a situation where a below average basic concept player engaged in RMT to advance to average.

Based on everything I have ever seen and read, the RMT crowds in just about every game where it is relivent to game play advancement is among the power gaming community, leaders in new tactics and methods, not behind that curve. RMT gives them the ability to explore before others, advance to new areas quicker, and provide a safety net for screw ups, not balance the field for average or below average gamers.

My take.

50.

Flatfingers wrote:

Is there any functional/gameplay difference between this approach and allowing characters (with no gear) to be purchased from eBay?

There are plenty of benefits to this approach. You get to keep your choice of character name, avatar customization, you keep all of the equipment you have (and gain equipment automatically along the way), your choice of skill point allocations... most of the usual benefits that accrue from levelling manually. You also get pin-point control over exactly how much you'd like to do... so if you find levels 15-29 boring, but like the rest, you can choose to fast-forward only through those levels, and play the rest normally. It gives people the ability to decide which parts they like, and skip over the rest.

We expect a lot of the demand for this to arise from people trying to create alts, when they have already levelled up a main character. This mechanic allows you to keep the collection of designed-by-you characters on a single account, instead of multiple accounts designed in a cookie-cutter fashion and sold on eBay.

I'm inclined to think "no," but your additional feature of marking characters that used this speedup takes some of the sting out of it. I say "some" because if the majority of your users take the speedup approach, it ceases to be a distinguishing factor between those who "earned" their achievement tokens and those who "powerleveled" their way to the top. Still, the no-token-trading hard rule will probably mean a player population that is self-selecting for people who don't mind slower advancement.

Probably. :-)

Sorry if I used terminology in a confusing way. We won't be offering a fast-forward feature on the no-RMT ruleset. It's incompatible with preserving achievement.

We're only offering that on the "strong RMT" server ruleset.

In order of RMT prevalence (least to most), we're looking at offering:

1. No-RMT servers, with hard-coded rules designed to resist harmful levels of commodification.
2. "Normal" servers, where twinking and arbitrary trade are allowed. RMT is not supported and actively discouraged... it is purely "at your own risk".
3. RMT-friendly servers ("strong RMT") with Sony-Exchange-like features (guaranteed delivery and fraud prevention. The fast-forward feature will be made available at this tier... we're still pondering whether taking it down to "normal" servers is advisable. Currently, that answer is no.
4. (Still theoretical) Provider-direct-purchase power servers, where you can buy equipment, gold and characters directly from us on demand. These would incorporate the same kind of micropayment models that are beginning to be embraced in some Korean games.

Any character can be transitioned from a less-RMT server ruleset to a more-RMT server ruleset, but not in the opposite direction.

My original comment was an attempt to show how we would try to address the community aspect of "he didn't earn it" on a server ruleset that embraced and supported RMT. We give those that "earned it the hard way" on such a ruleset the "badge of honor" of being able to show others that they didn't bypass the hard work (despite being able to do so).

I'm sure a fraction of people will play it the hard way on such a server, if only to gain the bragging rights and show that they have the strength-of-will to resist taking the shortcuts.

People who don't care how someone else got there will typically ignore the posturing and just play the way they want.

51.
Based on everything I have ever seen and read, the RMT crowds in just about every game where it is relivent to game play advancement is among the power gaming community, leaders in new tactics and methods, not behind that curve. RMT gives them the ability to explore before others, advance to new areas quicker, and provide a safety net for screw ups, not balance the field for average or below average gamers.

If you are buying from someone else then you are by definition behind the curve. The suppliers are the people ahead of the curve. They were there ahead of you, and already refined and developed tactics to the point where they have a surplus of goods/characters to provide to other people.

52.

Barry - What game are you working on? :P

53.

We don't have a title picked out yet... just an internal project designator (VZ2).

54.

Thabor,

You must have a specific game in mind, but in games where the economy is extensively player driven, typically the economy is supplied initally by 'farmer' communities, which is basically not only the supplier in game of advanced items or resources, but the currency supplier for RMT as well.

This process cycles with the introduction of new games, or subsequent releases to current games that introduce new items in high demand.

I would disagree completely that RMT buyers are behind the curve, they are usually the tip of the spear in character development, RMT gives them that advantage.

We might be disagreeing on details though, I am saying the effect of RMT puts them at the tip of the power curves, are you saying the cause for RMT is due to them being behind? If thats so, you might be correct.

55.

Galrahn> RMT is still not widely accepted behavior in most MMOGs, and typically RMT is common among power game circles.

Possibly, but if so, it's a snapshot of current behavior, when RMT is still a breach of most EULAs. The question being asked was: what would be the likely effects of wide-spread RMT (as might happen if others follow SOE's lead on EQ2)?

It's difficult to see how opening up RMT by legitimizing it wouldn't being in a lot more unexperienced players with high-level assets.

Galrahn> I can't recall ever seeing a scenario, hearing about a scenario, or learning of a situation where a below average basic concept player engaged in RMT to advance to average.

Bearing in mind that it's just one example among many, did you read the example of the SWG player I posted earlier in this thread?

Relevant bit: A merchant asked an apparently unexperienced (i.e., non-powergamer) player how he got enough in-game money to buy numerous high-level assets. The customer replied, "Oh, I got all the credits on ebay." When asked how long he'd been in the game, the customer replied, "3 days."

Of course that's just one example, but it's representative of others I've heard. Most RMT users may be knowledgeable powergamers, but there seem to be plenty who aren't... and I can't see how the numbers of the latter can do anything but go up as RMT gets mainstreamed.

Barry Kearns> We won't be offering a fast-forward feature on the no-RMT ruleset. It's incompatible with preserving achievement.

Ah -- I misunderstood you. Thanks for the correction, and yes; this sounds a lot better!

I do have to say I suspect that if you offer any amount of fast-forwarding, you'll find that 1) players use it for both mains and alts, and 2) if the highest level is N, virtually every player will skip levels 1 through N-1.

But then I've been wrong before. ;-)

The bottom line is that this is still a clever idea, and I look forward to seeing how it goes over in practice.

--Flatfingers

56.

Richard wrote:

1) Some people, for whatever reasons, do not like virtual worlds that have RMT.
2) These people have as much a right to play virtual worlds as anyone else.
3) If these people want to play a virtual world with no RMT, they should be allowed to do so.
4) Just because a virtual world's design makes RMT possible, that does not mean that RMT must therefore be allowed.
5) There should be some virtual worlds in existence that are not intended for RMT, but which should not have to be redesigned to prevent RMT.

I have to take issue with #2 and #3.

#2: True, which is to say, they have equally no right to play MMOGs. If MMOGs had never been created, nobody's rights would be violated by the lack of them.

#3. Why? Are you going to make the game for them to play? If not you, then who? Do other people have an obligation to produce a game to satisfy how you want to play? What if I want to play in a world that never uses the color green. Will you say that I "should" be able to play in that variation on an MMOG too? What does 'should' mean in this context anyway? Does it mean that companies are under some ethical obligation to produce worlds that satisfy every single special interest group's agenda?

--matt

57.

Bartle
1) Some people, for whatever reasons, do not like virtual worlds that have RMT.
2) These people have as much a right to play virtual worlds as anyone else.
3) If these people want to play a virtual world with no RMT, they should be allowed to do so.
4) Just because a virtual world's design makes RMT possible, that does not mean that RMT must therefore be allowed.
5) There should be some virtual worlds in existence that are not intended for RMT, but which should not have to be redesigned to prevent RMT.

Number #4 is impossible. You can't make a game for a set of people. You can tailor it to a certain type of person, but there is no way to prevent people, who may not be of that type, from playing your game. The only way to have this happen is if you make a game with an invite only policy which means it won't ever make it out of the "very small niche" area, and most game makers I know seem to want their games to have wider and wider audiences, not smaller.

Number #5 makes some sense to me, as in the "RE"-design part of it. If you're developing a world nowadays, you'd better be ready for the RMT. No, you shouldn't have to redesign it, you should have it designed with it at least in mind in the first place. Otherwise, you're living in a pipedream and it reverts to my answer to #4.

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