[MUD-Dev] Re: Black Snow Revisited

Caliban Tiresias Darklock caliban at darklock.com
Mon Apr 1 13:47:04 New Zealand Daylight Time 2002


From: "Dr. Cat" <cat at realtime.net>

> Legally speaking, I think you have the right to tell someone "You
> can give this to someone for free but you can't sell it for
> money".  Much shareware comes with those exact terms.

Most shareware couldn't *be* sold to someone for money. :P

> But even they have problems sometimes with somebody out to make a
> buck throwing it on some collection of "500 best shareware games"
> without permission.

Which, in the Real World(TM), virtually none of them can or do
detect and prevent.

> And they're dealing with someone who is at least pretending to try
> to be a businessman, wherease the online game companies are
> dealing with regular ordinary individual consumers.  Do you really
> expect them to buy into "You can give this away but you can't sell
> it"?  I don't think they will.

It's also rather sticky when you can sell it for GAME money, but not
REAL money.

One of the biggest problems in this has nothing to do with who owns
what.  The problem is that selling game items for real money is
definitely and demonstrably destructive to the game. It gives items
to people who did not earn them, taking them away from people who
did. Reward is no longer commensurate with effort. When you fight
your way through the dragon to the chest and find that someone has
been waiting there to take the sword before you can get it, you
don't get what you earned and the other player does.  It's even
worse when that other player already had the sword anyway... and
even WORSE when he goes out and sells it for $500 in real
money. This is a Bad Thing.

Unfortunately, it's also... part of the game. If you can't defeat
the dragon, it's smart and sneaky and entirely a good idea to slip
past the guy who *can* defeat the dragon while they're fighting,
then grab the sword and run off with it. It's even better when you
then go up to that player and offer to sell him the sword, seeing as
how you can't carry it so you had to hide it somewhere and if he
gives you enough money you'll tell him where...  and it's even
BETTER when you lie to him so you can run off with the sword *and*
the money. That's part of the fun.

So we have a social phenomenon -- treachery and greed -- which is
entirely acceptable if it stays in the game, but entirely
unacceptable if it goes outside the game. But the game admins can
only enforce what happens in the close *vicinity* of the game. So
whether something is part of the game or not is rather difficult to
determine, because Mythic cannot effectively police the entire
internet. If a Mythic employee saw me accept payment for 1000 gold
pieces somewhere, he could conceivably go and prevent my character
from giving people gold... but he doesn't necessarily know who my
character is, or when I'm going to transfer the gold, or where I'm
going to transfer the gold. It's trivial these days to set up a
secure link for discussion of the order, so even if you're watching
the message go by all you get is garbage and the details of "Meet
Tristram on the Bedevere server in Albion" are unavailable. You have
to monitor every transaction in every realm on every server until
you see the transaction happen, and even then how can you be sure
it's not just some guy giving his friend 1000 gold? Even if you know
it's me, how do you know I'm not just giving someone 1000 gold and
wasn't paid for it? What if I tell Biff to give the buyer 432 gold
and then I give the buyer 568 gold? What if I put 1000 gold in a
sack and give someone the sack? I mean, eventually, I'm going to
figure out how to give someone 1000 gold without you seeing it
happen.

You CAN'T enforce this on the server. You CAN'T enforce this off the
server.  All you can do is cancel accounts as soon as you identify
the buyers and sellers, and even then it's pretty trivial to avoid
identification. What if you *do* catch me selling things? So you
terminate my account and invalidate my credit card and CD key; big
deal! All I have to do is go sell the CD as used and buy a new copy
of the game, then apply for a new account; I get at least four
credit card offers in the mail every day, so I can have as many
credit cards as I need (provided I don't destroy my credit). All
told, you cost me at most $30 for each account, and I can keep more
accounts than you can easily track with very little effort. If I can
make $600 in sales before you catch me, do you think I'll even
sneeze at $30?

In short, Mythic wants to prevent something that is next to
impossible to prevent. While they can certainly say it's against the
rules and terminate the accounts of people who violate the rules, it
is *not* going to stop people from continuing to violate the rules
any more than tickets prevent people from speeding. It's a losing
battle, and something other than saying "stop that" needs to be
done.

One of the thoughts I had recently was keeping (say) a 500-item ID
queue.  Every time you pick up or otherwise acquire a "significant"
item, it goes in the queue, and until it drops out of the queue you
can't get another one from its normal spawn point. Someone else can
give you one, you can buy one in a shop, all of that -- but you
can't get one from the spot where you got one before without someone
else's help (and a different person's every time, too!). So the
"significant" items stay scarce, and while you can certainly buy and
sell insignificant items among players, who would care? Maintaining
a "maximum count" for each of these items would also point out
pretty rapidly whether someone is going around duping items, and
those who traffic in them will be rather easy to spot either from
rapid turnover or consistently high counts in their "significant
item" queue. Since 500 significant items is pretty hefty, chances
are the average player won't even roll the stack over once, and it's
unlikely anyone would ever have more of a significant item than they
could actually *use*.  I'm not sure how workable this would be in
the Real World(TM), but it might be a start on a concept someone
might find useful.


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