[MUD-Dev] Gamasutra: Online Justice Systems
yu219121 at YorkU.CA
Mon Mar 27 13:48:10 New Zealand Daylight Time 2000
>>I don't think this is a very big problem in a
>>pay-for-play system because people WILL be
>>discouraged by the extra cost. Sure, a few will
>>shell out the extra cash and figure out a way
>>around the checks for a character they can "risk,"
>>but on the whole you will have a lot fewer multiple
Raph Koster wrote:
>Fewer doesn't mean too few to cause the problem. I'd guess a double-digit
>percentage of our players have multiple accounts. The problems it causes can
>be quite severe since the advantages can be very large.
I disagree, and I think I've been focusing too much on one aspect
of the solution, a character's relationship to online society
(responsibility) and not on the other side of the coin, a character's
relationship to the player. They are, of course, very closely
related, but I consider them discrete concepts and to respond
I'll have to go into the latter more thoroughly.
Raph, I think you were referring to Ultima Online (?), so let me
use that as an example. If I remember correctly, an Ultima Online
account costs $10 per month and entitles you to 5 characters.
This means that players can create one character for adventuring,
one for item creation, one for a mobile storage, another for anti-social
activities, etc.. If they buy another account, they get 5 more
characters to play with. Characters, therefore, are relatively
cheap. That's the relationship between characters and their players.
So when a player makes a decision to buy another Ultima Online
account, a part of the reason he's doing it is because characters
are so cheap. Five for another $10 ($2 each) and each character
can do the same things as every other. (I would also propose that
being able to have many characters also distances a player from his
Now consider a single character system. $10 in this system buys
only one more character. A player invests time and work into one
character, say becomes an adventurer, and wishes he had another life.
(Don't we all in RL). Then he thinks of the cost/benefit. This
time, a character is very valuable to him ($10 each). He probably
won't pay for another character.
There's an obvious response to this, and I'll cover it, but here's
where it gets a little bit complicated.
By increasing the price of characters, you're increasing the value
to the player, and this seems to imply that players would be WILLING
to pay more for the higher value, right? There's two aspects of
value we need to look at to better understand the situation and
to understand why this is false.
1) Price Related Value
2) In-Game Value
The first "value" is the increased in perceived value that a player
might see just because accounts are more expensive. They cost
more now, so doesn't that mean they're more valuable? Since
this is price-related value (actually not value at all, just cost),
all we need to do is look at a simple ECON 101 demand curve and
examine the inverse relationship between cost and quantity sold.
So the price "value" will discourage players to buy fewer accounts
than in a multi-character system.
The second type of value is 'real value,' the increased value
a character has simply because it's more entertaining now to
have more lives in a world of less anti-social player
activities and where people feel responsibility as characters.
You're not making new characters different in any ways, but
the world is fun, and so each character will have more fun
than in a multi-char system, right? This would seem a fairly
obvious reason there might STILL be a double-digit number
players willing to pay for as many new accounts as they
bought in multi-char Ultima Online, despite the increased
cost per character.
The problem with this logic is that buying another account
is a value-decreasing action. When you buy a new account,
you are negating all the good effects that people having
only one account creates. This is easier to see if I show
it on a larger scale.
Fictional Single Character Ultima Online. Playerbase: 100,000 (random guess)
All 100,000 go out and buy 4 new accounts each.
Now they have multiple characters to enjoy the world.
Of course, now it's very clear that the problems associated
with multiple characters have increased and the 'real value'
of each character has gone down. Player Killing, harassment,
distance from characters, muling, mutiple item creation experts,
all these things decrease the value of characters until
they're basically the same as having more characters in a
multiple character system. What are our players paying for?
They're paying $50 for no extra value. Reduce the number of
characters each of the 100,000 buys by one. Now they have
four each, and there are still a lot of multi-char related
problems. Now they are paying $40 for only slightly higher
value per character. Finally they buy only 3 characters
each, and are paying $30 for a bit higher value. $20 for
even higher. $10 for very high value.
If it applies at 5 characters each, then it will apply at 1
character each. If it applies for 100,000 people then it
applies for 10, though it's HARDER TO SEE. Each player that
buys a new account dilutes the benefit of that account.
This is not a deterrant from buying new accounts, it's a
ground-level reduction of the VALUE of each account, a
cancellation of the REASONS for paying for the account,
and will insure that multiple account fever does not get
out of hand. Why would people pay more for less?
Of course this means that you have to judge your cost just
right. It also means that charging LESS for the same product,
even though it is economically viable, might not be the best
thing to sell a valuable product. If your overhead was low
and database/other costs are reduced, then you might have to
charge what the product is worth, instead of what you paid/pay
to create/maintain it, to MAKE it worth that. Once a balance
is found, it means that you'll have a much stronger MUD with
a LOT fewer problems than inexpensive-character MUDS.
Are you hurting the less well off? No. IF people get around
your credit-card verification methods then you might be allowing
the rich to purchase value-reducing accounts, allowing them
to pay for another online experience, you might be allowing
the rich to slightly reduce the value of all accounts, but single
character systems does not hurt the less well off. It makes
their (and everyone's) experience more enjoyable.
On a related note, I think that just the time investment
players will put into their initial character will be a
deterrant from purchasing another one. They'll identify
with him/her, feel his responsibility, and maybe even
choose to role-play him. They will BE their characters,
and so we'll have less mass-murderers, less anti-socials,
and more involved players. Why go through the trouble of
finding a different name and different credit card to pay
through, when you've started to thoroughly enjoy playing
Enjoyment. A single-character/expensive-character system
makes things fun, and in the end that is what it's all about.
Hmmm, I'd appreciate feedback. What are my major oversights?
yu219121 at yorku.ca
zaidsayeed at hotmail.com
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