RMT "Inevitable"? Not So Fast…

augustusRedBedlam/Roma Victor founder Kerry Fraser-Robinson, previously best known for crucifying his user base, gives an interview where he makes controversial statements to gain publicity on blogsexhorts game developers who dislike gold farming to suck up and deal with it.

The closer you get to having a virtual world that has any kind of trading, barter or value system you have to take virtual economics very seriously. I strongly recommend that people at least allow for purchase and sale of gold within their game, otherwise third parties will and that will ruin their game. Even if it’s not their central revenue model they’ll still need to do that, if it’s a subscription game, they’ll still need to have at least the awareness and preferably the capacity for people to buy and sell currency in their virtual world.

I think part of the resistance to that is the same thing I was alluding to earlier, it’s another discipline and no company really wants to accept that there is a missing area in their knowledge that is required before they can embark upon a project.

I tend to agree with his source assumptions, but not his conclusions – for example a subscription MMO is not compelled to create currency out of the ether and sell it (as Roma Victor, Fraser-Robinson’s title does) simply because gold farmers exist. And Eve Online, which Fraser-Robinson praises effusively, is not the end-all and be-all of virtual economic thought in MMOs. For example, the “grey market” in game time cards for in-game currency, I suspect, is not a savvy co-opting of gold farmers so much as, I suspect, an accidental consequence of an unrelated marketing decision. Of course, accidental design in MMOs has a long and glorious history – raiding is born from Everquest adding monsters effectively impossible to kill and players deciding that no, actually, they’d be killed anyway.

I’ve talked before about how MMO companies need to re-examine their business models, and explicitly how gold farming tends to be an inevitability of a free market. To wit:

No reputable subscription-based MMO will sell you gold because, well, you’re already paying them money. Charging for in-game money or items is double dipping, right? No one would stand for that. But clearly the market is there regardless. And as long as that market is not served internally by the game developers themselves, it will be served by people who not only do not act in the best interests of the game as a whole, but have a very real financial incentive to act contrary to the interests of the game as a whole – gold duping, hacking the client, farms of unattended macro bots, whatever. Whereas a game who has gold selling as a revenue model (and it can be done without making a Entropia Universe-esque ponzi scheme of gameplay – dual currency models being IMHO the best way of hitting this from the design standpoint) puts those bad actors elegantly out of business, because no matter how low salaries are in whatever sweatshop, a gold farmer will never be able to compete with a SQL query for the cost of doing business.

But being open to RMT does not equal being compelled to enable RMT. A successful market implies the availability of options; there is a fairly large segment of the market that wants nothing to do with microtransactions. These people should not be told to go hang, any more so than the people who dislike subscription fees and prefer more granular per-access transactions should be told to go hang. A truly free market requires a minimum of managing intervention and the availability of options.

And most importantly, the viability of virtual gold sales as a business model does not mean that it should be added to all business models. Players who do not mind microtransaction-level virtual currency transactions in a free to play title would – quite correctly in my view – feel double-dipped if hustled for cash in a title they already paid for, and pay on a monthly basis to access. Virtual gold sales is a business model. It is not all business models. Tossing it in willy nilly, regardless of the impact on the game’s economy, simply will convince your customers that you’re out for short term gain at the long term expense of your game’s health. And they’d be correct.

Simply throwing up your hands and saying “farming happens” is as much an abdication of development responsibility as deciding your customer service staff will just deal with it in their free time. Much as how the great majority of free to play games have been hindered in the Western marketplace not so much due to their business model as to their lack of quality in comparison to better funded and executed traditional games, a solution to gold farming and RMT will require a bit more forethought and design than “screw it, open up a shopping cart on our web site!”

Or, as Linden Lab just announced yesterday, buy shopping carts that other people came up with.

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37 Responses to RMT "Inevitable"? Not So Fast…

  1. JuJutsu says:

    Where’s the obligatory link to Prokofy Neva’s opinion on Sl shopping carts?

  2. Delmania says:

    RMT is not a disease, it’s a symptom, of a much greater problem with MMOG design. However, that is neither here nor there in terms of this article.

    However, given that you can’t stop RMT, I wonder how anyone can justify not allowing micros transactions in modern MMOGs especially as they become more mainstream. At some point, the cost of hunting down and exterminating RMT players has to exceed the cost of managing them.

  3. D-0ne says:

    No one spends real world dollars to avoid having fun.
    Then again current, thinking on RMT is what it was in 1998… “But our game must contain misery in order to make the good times good!” Idiots. Hard does not have to equal not fun. To those who will say, “but people will do it anyway!” Perhaps, but not in large enough numbers to support a fracking cottage industry.

  4. Vetarnias says:

    Double-dipping is the real danger here. Certainly a free-to-play game builds its entire business model around RMT, but a subscription-based game? Well, I’m already paying them one way, I certainly don’t want to be forced to pay them another way as well to go anywhere in their game. Sony’s Station Cash is a Pandora’s Box here — as though those guys didn’t have enough of a bad reputation.

    Even for a free-to-play game, I stay away from those which reserve their best gear for their paying customers. I don’t care if it takes me 20-30 times longer to get a product when I choose to grind for in-game money to obtain it; tell me I can’t get it without paying real-life cash for it, and I stop playing.

    Another barely ethical design is the one which gives an advantage to multi-boxers. That’s something else that needs to be addressed, but I can hear the sound of feet-dragging from here.

  5. Klaitu says:

    I havent been “around the world” in the MMO sense, but the 2 MMO’s I play have pretty much stopped any sort of RMT cold.

  6. DrewC says:

    Is this really still a discussion? If you have assets in your game that can be traded, they will be traded for real money. If you have persistent assets tied to an account, those accounts can be, with effort, traded. Therefore, every game with persistent assets needs to deal with real money trading.

    There are fundamentally 3 ways to handle real money trading: Forbid and suppress it to the point that it does not impact the average player noticeably; Embrace it and sell the gold yourself; or put together some kind of grey market ala Eve. All three have advantages and disadvantages, but all three can work with the proper audience and business plan. There’s no ethical element to this discussion (excepting maybe the ethics of sweatshops, which is tangential at best), selling a product or service for more than your customers are willing to pay isn’t unethical, it’s just unprofitable. Selling a product for exactly as much as your customers are willing to pay isn’t unethical either. Game companies make games in order to make money, not to make you happy. I’m sorry. Also, there is no Tooth Fairy.

    Why is this still controversial? Why is this even discussed? It’s a well settled argument with a wide range of possible answers, all of which work under the correct circumstances.

  7. Grimjakk says:

    I would say its being discussed because the developer quoted in the original article made an outrageous statement that the owner of this blog felt needed to be refuted.

    And one point… if the game company’s game fails to make me happy, they don’t get my money. Viva la Tooth Fairy!

  8. numtini says:

    Having played Grenado Espada, which has a dual currency model, microtransactions are not a way to eliminate RMT. The gold farmers still exist and they are still just as troublesome if not more so.

    Gold farmers are cockroaches. No matter what you try to sell the players directly, if there is any way to achieve in the game other than just purchasing “win”, they will bot and undercut the standard prices.

  9. […] Lum says it, does it have more weight than my articles?  Maybe Raph Koster?  I hope so, but whatever […]

  10. Rog says:

    I was just thinking about RMT today and *poof* you’ve written eloquently on the subject.

    @D-One: I disagree, there are many people who will pay to ‘avoid fun’. There’s fun and there’s a cultural obsession with taking the shortest route possible to any goal, completely oblivious to any other factors. You could make a hugely entertaining game that suits most people in the mass-market, but if it has an in-game economy, RMT will still occur.

    @DrewC: The three ways to address trading as you list above have a great deal of variety and nuance between them, each with their pros and cons. I suspect that’s why it’s still being discussed, because it’s easier to sum up briefly as you’ve done than to actually design and implement.

  11. DrewC says:

    The internet is not a place where game systems are designed and implemented. Do I think design teams should talk about how they’re going to solve RMT? Of course. Do I think every game with persistent assets needs a spec that outlines that game’s plan for RMT? Of course. Would I object to reading such a spec on a blog like this? Well, I’d probably skim it, but that would be a fairly reasonable thing to post.

    What I object to is the discussion of RMT as though there is some actual controversy present. Yes, the author of the original piece said some wildly incorrect things (There is only one solution to RMT and it is MINE) but, and I know this is shocking, people are wrong on the internet all the time.

    I would be very happy to read an article about why X RMT solution was right for Y game. That was not either of these articles. The first was an irrational statement about RMT, and the second was a refutation of that statement with what we should all know by now: There are many ways to solve RMT, none is inherently superior to the other, and all depend highly on the specific game they are being implemented in. I agree with almost everything Scott said, I’m just tired of reading it for the 100th time.

  12. mandrill says:

    And Eve Online, which Fraser-Robinson praises effusively, is not the end-all and be-all of virtual economic thought in MMOs. For example, the “grey market” in game time cards for in-game currency, I suspect, is not a savvy co-opting of gold farmers so much as, I suspect, an accidental consequence of an unrelated marketing decision.

    This is an erroneous statement. In EVE you can buy game time for ISK (the in-game currency), quite legally and above board. There is a mechanic in-game for doing so and nothing ‘grey’ about it. What you cannot do is then legally sell that gametime for real money which is what I think you are referring to.

    EVE’s economy is such that allowing people to sell ISK directly would completely disrupt it. You can basically buy ISK but you have to do it in a roundabout way (buy game time, sell that time on the in-game market). There are alot of very valid economic reasons for this which CCP’s pet economist explained at Fanfest but most of it went over my head to be honest.

    Simply put EVE’s in-game economy is the game and even the smallest disruption in its smooth operation could be catastrophic.

  13. Paks says:

    Rog :

    @D-One: I disagree, there are many people who will pay to ‘avoid fun’. There’s fun and there’s a cultural obsession with taking the shortest route possible to any goal, completely oblivious to any other factors. You could make a hugely entertaining game that suits most people in the mass-market, but if it has an in-game economy, RMT will still occur.

    Outstanding statement. In today’s gaming world you can blame the “I want it now and I want it easy” mentality many gamers have as much as you can blame game design.

    Instead of saying “no I don’t want to play your game because you don’t allow for RMT” many play anyway then rage at the developer for making games that encourage or *force* them to buy gold and items. As gamers with the funds, let’s try doing it the other way around for a change (as in not buy their games) and see how quickly models change… yeah I know it’s asking to much.

    And most importantly, the viability of virtual gold sales as a business model does not mean that it should be added to all business models. Players who do not mind microtransaction-level virtual currency transactions in a free to play title would – quite correctly in my view – feel double-dipped if hustled for cash in a title they already paid for, and pay on a monthly basis to access. Virtual gold sales is a business model. It is not all business models. Tossing it in willy nilly, regardless of the impact on the game’s economy, simply will convince your customers that you’re out for short term gain at the long term expense of your game’s health. And they’d be correct.

    Simply throwing up your hands and saying “farming happens” is as much an abdication of development responsibility as deciding your customer service staff will just deal with it in their free time. Much as how the great majority of free to play games have been hindered in the Western marketplace not so much due to their business model as to their lack of quality in comparison to better funded and executed traditional games, a solution to gold farming and RMT will require a bit more forethought and design than “screw it, open up a shopping cart on our web site!”

    A-fucking-men!

  14. Paks says:

    gah the quote from Scott’s blog in my post above didn’t work 😦 From “and” to “site” should be in quote’s.

  15. JuJutsu says:

    “In today’s gaming world you can blame the “I want it now and I want it easy” mentality many gamers have as much as you can blame game design.”

    The audacity of customers is just appalling isn’t it? They should stfu and take what developers give them. That damn I want it now and I want it easy mentality will just spread. Just you wait, someday these same people will want phones without cords and crazy shit like that.

    “As gamers with the funds, let’s try doing it the other way around for a change (as in not buy their games) and see how quickly models change… yeah I know it’s asking to much.”

    Probably. If I were in that situation I’d just skip the nerdrage, treat the eula with contempt and go to the black market. I’ve just never run across anything I want bad enough to spend money on.

  16. wowpanda says:

    The audacity of customers is just appalling isn’t it? They should stfu and take what developers give them. That damn I want it now and I want it easy mentality will just spread. Just you wait, someday these same people will want phones without cords and crazy shit like that.

    That is so true. I feel a lot of the people bad mouth about gold buying is rather angry because someone would spend money to get ahead.

    Well this is a free world and as long as they didn’t harm anyone, they could.

    Why should we the customer side with nerds who value the game in a strange way (I spend the time so should you). The game is for us to have fun. And as for a lot of us who are busy with work and short on time, the quicker we can have the fun the better.

  17. Amaranthar says:

    Klaitu :
    I havent been “around the world” in the MMO sense, but the 2 MMO’s I play have pretty much stopped any sort of RMT cold.

    Klaitu, which games are those and how did they do this?

  18. hitnrun says:

    wowpanda :

    That is so true. I feel a lot of the people bad mouth about gold buying is rather angry because someone would spend money to get ahead. Well this is a free world and as long as they didn’t harm anyone, they could.

    I don’t quite get this line of logic. If you were playing Monopoly with a few people, and winning, and 45 minutes into the game one player payed the others $50 real dollars for their pretend money, wouldn’t you think that was, well, retarded?

    More to the point (and of infinite more interest to MMO publishers), would you continue to play, or consider playing with them again?

    I don’t think buying RMT qualifies as a sin against God or Caesar or anything, but certainly other players are within their rights to complain and publishers are within their rights to wield the banhammer.

  19. Paks says:

    @JuJutsu: I’m guessing you missed my point? No where does what I posted say gamers should just take what developers give them. On the contrary, I’m saying they should speak up, but do it in a way that can really have an impact in influencing game design models.

    Continuing to pay for an MMO someone is not happy with due to grinding requirements, time, or whatever reason is given for using RMT (in MMOs that don’t allow RMT), is, in my opinon, stupid.

    @wowpanda: In a single player game your logic makes sense but not in an MMO where actions such as RMT affect other players either directly or indirectly.

    Even more then that though, if a developer does not want RMT in the game they create then that is *their* right. It’s the players responsibility to either accept that and subscribe to the game or to not accept that and move to a game that more fits their wants-and that is exactly one of the major breakdowns between devs and some players. 🙂

  20. ubvman says:

    @hitnrun
    I don’t quite get this line of logic. If you were playing Monopoly with a few people, and winning, and 45 minutes into the game one player payed the others $50 real dollars for their pretend money, wouldn’t you think that was, well, retarded?

    More to the point (and of infinite more interest to MMO publishers), would you continue to play, or consider playing with them again?

    I would think that that would be the greatest game of Monopoly EVAH! Everybody gets $50, and the payer gets what he thinks is the equivalent of several hundred dollars worth of fun (whether you think its retarded or not.) In which case, if I was Parker Bros., I would be thinking long and hard on how I could be getting a cut of all that – or thinking of a new game that I could legally get a cut into it.

    On your point whether I would play a MMO that enables me to “buy my way to victory” (along with other ppl) – sure, if the price of victory is not dear. After all, in non-RMT games; the price of victory is catass time and time being a lot more valuable to me these days.

    @Rog
    I disagree, there are many people who will pay to ‘avoid fun’. There’s fun and there’s a cultural obsession with taking the shortest route possible to any goal, completely oblivious to any other factors. You could make a hugely entertaining game that suits most people in the mass-market, but if it has an in-game economy, RMT will still occur.

    The “Its a journey – just smell flowers along the way” argument. True to an extent but if the journey requires you to eat broken shards of glass every few hours – well I think you suddenly find yourself a whole lot more receptive to the RMT spam.

    Frankly, I think its a pity that the breakthrough MMOG initially have been Everquest. Just as technology have moved beyond canvas and linen biplanes, time has passed by EQ1. Brad’s vision of “fun through misery and pain (and all in a group!)” has long been obsoleted BUT PEOPLE STILL CLING TO IT as THE sole path to success. C’mon, isn’t there any innovation beyond the umpteenth variation of DikuMud with 3D boobs?

  21. elijah says:

    yeah. this dude is a genius. of course developers need to start selling in game currency in their games, because if we are going to realize that virtual economics are become a greater part of games, we need to go ahead and make it JUST LIKE REAL LIFE and let people buy money. why didnt someone else think of this first?

    the ONLY thing that developers selling in-game currency will accomplish is “virtual economic inflation” will occur from the onset rather than after a few years. which means people will be fucked from the get-go. but hey, more money for devs, so go for it!

  22. Turlow says:

    Someone needs to make a game for those pro-RMT people that want to avoid the grind and get to the fun. In this new game everyone starts out at max level and uber equipment. The world consists of a town (every game has to have a town), a couple of raid dungeons and a PvP area. A game of nothing but end game content. This would give the pro-RMT people what they want right?

  23. Amaranthar says:

    I think you developers are barking up the wrong tree. Most gamers see any form of RMT, including shopping carts, as unfair.

    If you have shopping carts, and if you limit it to a set amount per month, then most of the players who don’t pay up will fall behind the others and see it as unfair, and quit. Then you have mostly the buyers left, and that monthly allowance becomes the sub price, and RMTers will still be there to supply the extra demand. Your solution doesn’t work here.

    If you have shopping carts and allow free purchasing amounts, then you have allot of gamers quitting for the same unfairness. You’ve solved the RMT problem by turning it into you. Same problem, different supplier.

    What you folks fail to see is that you can remove the majority of the ability to RMT by changing the game design. And if RMT is kept to a minimum, most gamers won’t feel like they are being cheated. You can never get rid of it completely, but you can reduce it so it isn’t prevalent.

    Predictability is the problem, as it allows for RMTers to go for the gold. Remove the predictability for the higher rewards, and you take away this ability. Add scripting into the game for resource gathering, and you remove the ability completely for RMTers to take advantage of that.

    But to make this work, you’d have to remove something I think is very dear to your hearts, I’m afraid. Level grinding.
    “Ouch!”, I know.
    “But that’s how these games are made!” Thank you.
    “But that’s what players want!” Is it?

    Think about it. Think about what’s actually fun in your games with level grinding. Is there any other way to put that in a game, but without the levels (actually, I mean with vastly reduce grind such as a 1 to 100% skill based system, because games do need some level of character development)? It really shouldn’t be that hard. Does a fun game require constantly increasing power, or can constantly new abilities and trophies substitute well?

    And for the harvesting, and building in scripting for such, can we please have serfs? I want serfs! Serfs are a status symbol, like cars.

  24. Bonedead says:

    Some of these commenters man, jeeze.

    “The devs made a game I don’t want to spend my time playing because the design is just dumb, they should let me pay money to skip the badly designed parts.”

    How about we pay the devs to fucking redesign the shit so it doesn’t suck? Are we really just going to ignore horrible shitty game mechanics because we can pay real life money to skip it?

    From a business perspective I guess it is genius. They pay to play and then they pay again to not play! Aha, brilliant!

    Design shit that people enjoy, if you don’t enjoy it then don’t play it. But do not support shitty design by throwing more money at it.

  25. D-0ne says:

    I just don’t see the logic of designing a game that is supposed to be RMT free and then designing it so badly that a fracking cottage industry springs up around selling in game items and character advancement.

    The blame for RMT in games that are supposed to be RMT free rests solely on the game’s designers and developers.

    Blasphemy I know.

  26. JuJutsu says:

    “@JuJutsu: I’m guessing you missed my point? No where does what I posted say gamers should just take what developers give them. On the contrary, I’m saying they should speak up, but do it in a way that can really have an impact in influencing game design models.”

    Could be, it wouldn’t be the first time and probably won’t be the last. The problem I see with your market based solution is a lack of enough competition, the world of mmorpgs is much more like automobiles than restaurants. Where I live [Toronto] there are scads of places to eat out; chinese, indian, italian, greek,….hell there’s even a place not too far away where I could get haggis. If I don’t get what I want someplace I can take my custom elsewhere. What about autos? If I don’t like what Toyota has, nor Honda, nor Ford…how long does it take to run out of choices?

    When the number of mmos looks more like restaurants than auto makers I’ll follow your advice. Till then, I’ll find the least bad that meets my minimum needs and adjust it as necessary. If that means black market rmt so be it.

  27. Paks says:

    @Jujutsu: Well that’s certainly your choice. Talking with one’s money is just way way more effective.

    I can’t see much change coming from players that tell devs “your game model sucks, but hey I’ll keep paying you to play it!” 🙂 That’s why i say players and devs are at fault.

    If players pay me to play even though they say my game (model)sucks I’m damn sure not going to be looking at creating a better more innovative model anytime soon.

    But again, it’s your choice.

  28. harl says:

    @Vetarnias
    Another barely ethical design is the one which gives an advantage to multi-boxers.

    Any design that allows a friend to help you gives an advantage to multi-boxers. The design can’t tell if it’s 2 people each single boxing or 1 person multi boxing.

    How exactly do you propose to accomplish this without turning it in to a single player game?

  29. Raelyf says:

    *This post concerns RMT is subscription based games only – obviously, games with a RMT business model need to be looked at completely differently*

    Am I the only one in the world who thinks our current model of suppressing RMT as much as possible through banhammer usage is the only real solution? Yes, it’s a dirty solution and it costs developers a great deal of money – but I don’t really see any way around it.

    To be frank, I simply will not ever play a subscription based game which supports RMT in any meaningful way (payment for server transfers, ect. excepted). But the fact is this ideology that better design or removing grinding will eliminate RMT is ridiculous.

    As long as your game contains anything difficult to obtain, be it items, equipment, ponies, character levels, ect. there will be people willing to pay for it regardless of how much ‘fun’ it is to obtain. Some people don’t have the time, or won’t be willing to invest the time, to get things thsemlves – and the only way of eliminating demand for ‘instant gratification’ is to eliminate scarcity completely – which is, of course, ridiculous.

  30. Occam says:

    harl :@VetarniasAnother barely ethical design is the one which gives an advantage to multi-boxers.
    Any design that allows a friend to help you gives an advantage to multi-boxers. The design can’t tell if it’s 2 people each single boxing or 1 person multi boxing.
    How exactly do you propose to accomplish this without turning it in to a single player game?

    Would that really be a bad thing ?

    MMORPGs could only gain by being good single player game first and offering good multiplayer capabailties second. It is pretty much what WoW pre-60/70/80 is and for many this is still the best part of the game.

  31. Vetarnias says:

    harl :
    @Vetarnias
    Another barely ethical design is the one which gives an advantage to multi-boxers.
    Any design that allows a friend to help you gives an advantage to multi-boxers. The design can’t tell if it’s 2 people each single boxing or 1 person multi boxing.
    How exactly do you propose to accomplish this without turning it in to a single player game?

    There is nothing wrong with a friend helping you; this implies there is someone else playing the other account, as opposed to the problem of multi-boxing, which involves more than one account per person.

    I’ve never played EVE (though I might try it at the time of the next expansion), which allegedly has endemic multi-boxing, so let’s consider Pirates of the Burning Sea. In that game, you can gain a definite production advantage by buying more than one account, because production isn’t tied to the player’s own time but rather to a third-party pool of labour, which can accrue up to three days. And in addition, you could just produce the entire output for those three days by just clicking on a button for each structure you owned. It took minutes to drain off the labour to produce what you needed.

    In other words, in PotBS, you could log in with your second account (or third, or fourth) only ten minutes every three days, and produce as much as if you had been online eight hours a day, because the output of economic structures was determined by its pool of labour (24 hours per day, with products having various hour requirements), not the player’s own time.

    The only limitation to this was how much you could afford to produce, as there was not only a production cost but also a weekly rent, but these were minimal for most products and structures, and theoretically you could recoup that money very easily by playing the market for mid-tier items and consumables (for which you’d have an advantage by having produced everything yourself, as opposed to other manufacturers who had to buy basic resources at a markup). Worse still, some players soon started openly offering to exchange their 20 lots on Server X (by creating a new character there) for someone else’s 20 lots on Server Y, basically reducing their need for multi-boxing by colluding with someone else playing on another server.

    I say “theoretically”, because the situation soon devolved into its natural conclusion: self-sufficient guilds that produced everything internally, bypassing the market completely. So in the end, the grind was very much there for those closed-production guilds because the market as a moneymaking venue was closed off, so the market became dead. (They’ve announced an economic revamp recently, but I’m not sure what effects it will have on multi-boxing or, indeed, on internal guild production; my guess is, not much.)

    For the record (and since I see that DrewC is posting here he can correct me if I’m mistaken), FLS is trying to clamp down on cross-server production exchanges, but multi-boxing is still fine as long as you play all the accounts for the same nation on any given server. I am *not* saying that in the case of PotBS the design is barely ethical; I think that what they wanted to do was to get economic production out of the way for people to concentrate on PvP (or PvE). But I still think the design was a mistake in that it prevented the creation of a crafter class among players, where the crafter’s own time would be rewarded with wealth and perhaps consideration within his/her nation. Instead, you’d get every guild player — even those not interested in the market — producing their ten lots’ worth of hemp, because they pretty much needed to do it to help their society’s effort to produce that First Rate, without having to sacrifice more than a few minutes of their time every day. (Also, I’m not too sure how that would have played out if suddenly internal guild production were out of the equation. When everyone is or can be a crafter, how long until market saturation? And then how long before some crafters get discouraged, reducing supply and driving prices up again? What would be the impact of grinding then? And, more pertinent to this discussion, what would be the impact of multi-boxing?)

    So a wall of text to essentially say: In economic terms, the best way to get rid of the need to multi-box is to make the players’ own time, not some independent structure labour, the real measure of how much gets produced. In other words — and yes, it does sound dull — mine that rock or cast your line for hours.

    EVE’s multi-boxing for economic advantage (and espionage) seems much more of concern, especially since I recall reading that the average EVE player had two accounts.

  32. Tesh says:

    RaelyfAm I the only one in the world who thinks our current model of suppressing RMT as much as possible through banhammer usage is the only real solution?

    I, for one, will not support a game that only uses the sub model, but have been quite happy with Puzzle Pirates and Wizard 101. There are more people out there in the market than sub devotees. That’s the point.

    Beyond that, I find it interesting that fighting RMT with the “banhammer” is effectively making paying subbers pay the company to keep other potentially paying customers away. It’s a huge expense to maintain some sense of “sancity” of rare items, rather than just designing a game that is fun to play, rather than a loot lust treadmill.

  33. harl says:

    @Vetarnias

    Most people in EvE have multiple accounts due the nature of the design. You effectively only get one character per account. it’s slightly more complex than that but that’s the end result. If you want to try something else you can’t just make a new char on a new server. You either have to buy a character, start a new account, or wait a few months while you train the new skills. There is no significant economic advantage to having a second account. The best money making in the game can be done solo. A second account is great for espionage. Seeing what’s on the other side of that gate is invaluable.

    SWG also had a ton of multi-account players for the same reason. One character per server. At least in EvE if you play long enough you can do everything. In SWG if you wanted to try something new you had to stop playing with your friends or give up the skills you earned.

    I don’t understand the economic problems with PotBS. Vertical integration is the peak of efficiency. This is an old concept. Plus if you never use the market you can never aid your enemies. As you said it’s the logical conclusion. Do guilds have guild warehouses where they can stock pile items for memebers?

    You never addressed my question. Take your mine the rock or cast the line for hours. If you do it with a friend it will double your output. If you dual box it will double your output. If you have a healer your tank or dps can grind faster. Regardless of who is playing that healer. How do you design a game so that a friend can help but you can’t help your self by doing what the friend would do? Did that make sense? Basically I don’t think you can prevent multi-boxing. Unless you sell them a pet cleric like EQ does there will always be a benefit to having a second box.

  34. Vetarnias says:

    @harl

    Regarding PotBS: Guild warehouses aren’t into the game, even though this has been, along with buy orders, among the top economy-related demands by players on the forums. It’s as though the suggestion were deliberately ignored just to throw hurdles into the vertical-integration model of closed guild production. Worst of two worlds, really: The lack of warehouses did nothing to stop it, and it only made guilds mad for being unable to coordinate more efficiently. Especially annoying since the endgame lineships (a.k.a. “bundleboats”) were so outrageously expensive that they were designed as collective efforts.

    And the other problem with PotBS is that the economy — all of it — is dedicated to the war effort, whether for shipbuilding, ship supplies, or unrest supplies. Not a single item has a civilian application. Certain goods such as tobacco are in fact only useful for trading to NPC’s to obtain goods dedicated to the war effort — it’s only barter, no hard cash involved. I’d be ready to guess that if a market had existed for non-essential goods (I’m thinking Puzzle Pirates here) — or better still, products used for both military and civilian products — it would have been possible for some players to find a niche market and grow very wealthy out of it.

    And well, that’s the problem with PotBS — not only everything must go towards the war effort, but everybody can be a crafter without any time commitment, or skill, on the part of the player.

    Vertical integration had been predicted for months, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it, really. Once a guild starts doing it, all the others follow lest they be at a disadvantage. Then you had a few phenomena together. Guilds were so busy supplying themselves that they posted next to nothing on the auction house. With insurance brought into the game, prices skyrocketed (a trend that had begun before insurance, by the way) for the few goods on there. At the same time, market demand, as far as I could see when I played, was practically nil. What goods there were, were ridiculously overpriced. And new players were stuck with a lack of low-level ships, everybody being concerned over production of endgame ships.

    As for your question: I believe I did address it. If your friend plays with the second account, then it’s not really dual-boxing. Sure, it might yield advantages in powerlevelling, and you can go into business with someone you trust (extend that to full guilds, and yes, that could cause serious problems in guild-driven games like Shadowbane, but not from dual-boxing). But unless you’re playing with two computers side by side and are gifted with amazing dexterity (or using some less-than-legitimate mechanisms), you can’t play two accounts at once. I’m thinking of fishing in WoW here — you still have to click on that bobber to reel in the fish. Or think of all that mining in Runescape, where you’d occasionally get interrupted as an intentional method to prevent bots.

    Playing with a friend would double your output, but dual-boxing wouldn’t work there because you can’t play both accounts at once; if you’re using one, you’re too busy to use the other at the same time — whereas in PotBS your labour would accrue even without you being logged in or doing anything. Also, what I forgot to mention about PotBS, and this might clarify matters, is that although you can create up to a certain number of characters with one account (although they all have to be in the same nation on any given server), the number of economic lots is account-based, not character-based. So if your main character has all 10 structures to his name, your alt from the same account can’t build any.

    I agree with you, dual-boxing can’t be detected (unless they routinely started checking for IP addresses, but then would they discriminate against husband-and-wife teams?), so if anything, the game mechanics would have to make it impossible or at least a waste of money. Would that lead to a single-player game? No, insofar as you and your friend can still play it together, and yes, that will give you an advantage if you play with reliable people. But it means you can’t build an economic empire by your lonesome.

  35. lowrads says:

    It’s silly to try to control how people spend their money and time. It’s fruitless and a waste of company resources.

    The first step to skewer organized RMT is to realize that what the bots are doing is no different from what the players are doing. If it’s so simple that a machine can do it, it’s probably not very good game content.

    The next thing to do is to keep NPCs and PVE, but remove most accumulable resources from any (repeated actions/t) equation. Especially remove liquid goods, or units of common exchange.

    Remove the spectacle of NPCs as anything but humdrum background. Make +90% of NPCs innocent civilians engaged in commercial or domestic activities. You need to have some sense of division between the secular and the sublime, or the commonplace and the spectacular. If it’s the same spectacle everywhere, everything becomes passe.

    Any interaction with them should lead to opening up new gameplay possibilities, or lead to less than immediately fungible rewards. That interaction might lead to situations where profit is possible, but never directly repeatable actions.

    Preferably, the majority of income should come from interaction with other players. Some times it will be involuntary interaction, such as piracy, but if a substantial amount is voluntary commerce, then that is even better.

    Some faucets will probably always need to exist. Every faucet needs to be balanced with drain though. The better the p2p economy though, the smaller you faucets and drains can be. Different barter economies will arise around goods which which are scarce, and those which are limited only by the scarcity of available man or bot power.

    The stronger your p2p economy is, the less significant RMT is. If most profitable commercial activity is centered around controlling scarce assets (and not simply farmable territory), the less easy it is for bots to succeed against savvy human competitors.. at least until the singularity anyhow. The players will simply steamroll the assets of bot operations without mercy. They’ll have fun and they will simply steal all of the bot operations profits.

    By positioning conquerable or vulnerable assets as a prime mechanism for asset acquisition, and a vehicle for creating salable inventory, you create a kind of “means of production.” This allows a virtual bourgeois class to arise in deeply social MMOs. This class will have intense pressure to employ most of the rest of the player base in high intensity conflict regardless of how dear failure penalties are set for the individuals or groups.

    The primary annoyance of RMT is not actually RMT itself. It’s the tertiary aspects of it like ingame spam, and of course the non-participatory bots themselves provided the standard failure in game design. If you simply give players the appropriate venues for RMT, the vast majority of the problems subside. Much fewer resources can be diverted to curbing the problem of obnoxious users operating outside allowed channels. Further, illicit activity derives the majority of its profits when sanctioned participants are locked out of that market. Large scale RMT operations will crumble under the onslaught of many casual competitors operating through a compact, transparent market. Equilibrium prices will be felt out rapidly, and margins will be crushed.

    If you want the clearest example, think of EVE. Now imagine concord payouts evaporating, and put in a more restrictive faction standing system. Then watch everyone start sharpening their teeth.

  36. Anticorium says:

    “No reputable subscription-based MMO will sell you gold because, well, you’re already paying them money.”

    If people buy gold to bypass the grind, then paying money to bypass the grind is the same as buying gold. And there’s already at least one reputable subscription-based MMO that sells prebuilt characters in its online store. Oh, and of course you can sell that prebuilt character in-game for gold! It’s right there in the FAQ. That seems to pretty much close the circle: if I have a credit card and can fog a mirror, I can buy my way out of the grind and turn the rest of my real money into gold as fast as the player economy will let me.

    That’s right. Once again, it all comes back to Ultima Online.

  37. harl says:

    @Vetarnias

    I’m not sure what the complete focus on PotBS is. I’m refering to your comment, “Another barely ethical design is the one which gives an advantage to multi-boxers.” There was no mention of PotBS anywhere in that post.

    That being said: You’re simply wrong about dual boxing. People have been dual boxing forever. We did it back in the MUD days. We do it today. It’s trivial. Healer /follows tank or dps and you reach over and hit the F1 key as needed. It’s the same exact thing in EvE except you only have to hit F1 once. With EUO you could even automate it in UO. Controlling both from one terminal. Shaman/monk combo rocked in EQ. Who didn’t have a buff bitch in AC? Etc blah blah blah etc.

    Hell one guy plays 36 WoW accounts at once. http://www.spooncraft.com/the-daily-spoon/excessive-player-owns-36-wow-accounts-and-plays-them-all/

    Fishing in WoW is totally dual boxable. Cast, wait, cast, reel, reel. The bobber is to prevent macros not dual boxing.

    So I ask again. How do you design a game that can’t be dual boxed without making it a single player game? If having a friend play with you gives you an advantage then you can dual box.

    IP tracking? That’s not a design solution and it doesn’t work due to spouses and roomates.

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