Learning about MUDs (was: Re: [MUD-Dev] Re: MUD-Dev digest, V ol 1 #301 - 15 msgs)

Timothy Dang tdang at U.Arizona.EDU
Fri Apr 6 11:41:20 New Zealand Standard Time 2001

On Tue, 3 Apr 2001, Vincent Archer wrote:

> A good example is the Axe of the Iron Back. A good and very nice
> weapon for intermediate levels. The problem is, at the level I get
> these axes, I sell them directly to the merchant. Trying to sell one
> to a player takes enough time that I could earn more cash directly
> out of monsters during the same time (and get XP besides).

Yep, stuff like this really gets under my skin, because IRL it would
so obviously be an economic problem. But I have to remind myself that
goals in MUDs aren't necessarily the same as those IRL.

To take the above example, here's a possible alternative way to think
about it. I don't know that this is right, but it would make
sense. Since the game doesn't provide automatic efficient markets for
the Axe of the Iron Back (which it could, perhaps through something
like UO's vendors), players are motivated to pick up some of the

This could mean mid-level characters spending more time introducing
themselves to high-levels and saying "Hey, next time you get an
Axe...". While seemingly awkward and troublesome, this might be what a
designer is after in promoting more player interaction.

It could take the form of someone getting creative about being a
player middleman. I don't play anymore, but a friend of mine said that
on Lanys in EQ, there's a player who sits in the tunnel completely
weighed down with stuff, and is eseentially a market-maker, buying and
selling when noone else will. By making trading inconvenient, room is
created for players to enjoy filling the gap.

Another effect it could have is encouraging guilds. One of the many
clever tricks Ronald Coase did was to argue that the existence of
firms can be attributed to transactions costs. According to that
argument, if transactions costs were always zero, everybody would be
an independent contractor. Take this to a MUD and if it's always easy
to find people to group with, always a ready player market to buy and
sell, etc., then what's the point of guilds?

That last one might be overstated, but thinking about it now, I think
it would make a great experiment. Change the game in ways that make
transactions costs lower or higher and see what happens to guild
membership. Anyone have a history of game changes and guild membership
for your game? Or want to give it a try as an experiment? I might be
able to find grant money ;).

In any case, there's probably a balance to be struck in making
efficient in-game markets, and the balance is probably different for
different games. The classic economic motivation for efficient markets
is kinda moot for game worlds. That motivation is, efficient markets
are a good way to make everybody as wealthy as possible. Well, in a
MUD it's a piece of cake to make everyone wealthy.

<snip some on guild point systems>

Ooooo, that's pretty neat. Makes me want to experiment even more.

> Of course, if you really look at it, you recognise a privately
> managed currency. You get a "salary" when you work (help during a
> raid), and you get to spend that "money" during a raid. Most systems
> also include a "redeem" system, where you can turn in your old
> items, and get back some or all of the "money" (points) you had
> spent getting them in the first place.

Does it actually work as a currency? Can one guild member give another
guild member points in exchange for, Idunno, water at an inconvenient

Timothy O'Neill Dang / Cretog8
One monkey don't stop no show.

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