[MUD-Dev] D&D vs. MMORPG "complexity"

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Sun Apr 20 08:34:21 New Zealand Standard Time 2003


Dave Rickey writes:

> Nuts.  Economies are about the conversion of one type of value
> into another.  In MMO's, there are only two fundamental types of
> value: Time, and Power.  Under the right circumstances, there is
> also Rarity, but that's a sideshow (by the very nature of
> involving items whose difficulty of acquisition (Time) exceeds
> their effectiveness (Power)), not the main economy.

In CURRENT MMO's that may be true.  In a broader sense, value is
derived by entertainment potential.  These are games after all.
They're supposed to entertain.  In current MMO's that means time and
power because of the leveling treadmill being the focus of
entertainment in the game.

You mention rarity as being something of a niche effect.  I find
that rather startling given that supply and demand are fundamental
economic forces.  I submit that demand is based on an item in the
economy providing entertainment (whatever that means to the player)
and that supply is controlled by the game designers and by the other
players.  If a game provides canvas, brushes and paints, you can
believe that people are going to buy that stuff and start creating
in-game art.  Suddenly you have an art collector economy so that
people can decorate their homes (okay, I'm assuming they have homes
to decorate).

I found it entertaining to be a supplier of goods to other players
in Dark Age of Camelot.  Neither time nor power nor rarity was the
basis of entertainment that I sought.  It was socialization and
providing a service to my fellow players.  That was the
entertainment that I sought (much of the time), and I placed value
on anything that would permit me to do that.  Having a good spot
from which to sell my wares was one of the things I placed value on.
Fortunately, the game designers never structured a marketplace with
rented stalls and other 'sales' services, so I never had to drop a
copper on such things.

This just points out how game designers can be rather myopic in not
seeing the potential for entertainment in their own games.  If they
see entertainment as an issue of time and power, they will miss
enhancing the entertainment that their own players are seeking from
the context that they've created.  Eventually that gets into the
stamp collector problem, but I think that many games miss out on
opportunities to provide entertainment to their player base that is
vastly larger in scale than a niche like stamp collecting.  Crafting
systems are always a disappointment to me because they remain
focused on time, power and rarity in order to provide entertainment.
I don't believe that's what crafters find entertaining.  The
currency of crafting is not being well-factored into the game
economy.

JB


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