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

Ben Hoyt Ben.Hoyt at SilverPlatterSoftware.com
Mon Apr 21 17:18:02 New Zealand Standard Time 2003

From: Dave Rickey

> 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.

I know more than one economist who would take issue with your
definition of economics, Dave.  Economies are about efficiency.
Economic efficiency is called pareto optimality and is created when
the person who values something the most possesses that thing.
Damion's point is well-taken, that the more people you have, the
more efficient things get (though more importantly, the more access
to information people have the more efficient things get).  However,
just because the only things that YOU value in a game might be those
that allow you to save time or increase your power doesn't mean that
they are objectively the only things worth valuing.

You say only time and power have value in MMOs.what about influence?
Information?  Aesthetics?  Why do players in Camelot pay for dyes,
cloaks, and hats?

> Players squabbling over how many millions of gold a pile of horse
> dung is worth is a sign of a *broken* economy, not economic forces
> at work.

Why?  There must be some reason why the value it.  It is the
perceived value that matters.  Players in a virtual world squabbling
over how many millions of gold a pile of horse dung is worth is no
more a sign of a "broken" economy than people in the real world
squabbling over how many dollars a Picasso or an ancient Greek pot
are worth.  All are relatively useless things to which people
ascribe value because of "status," rarity, aesthetics, emotional
attachment, etc.  As a person trained in economics I can see no
surer sign that a game has created a thriving economy than the fact
that players have both the means and the interest with which to
squabble over such a thing.  After all, the single most fundamental
necessity for an economic system is "scarcity," the condition in
which not all people can have as much of a certain thing as the want
for free.sounds like that pile of dung must be pretty scarce..

> Exclusive control of a source of vital resources by a small group
> is another (that group has power far exceeding their time
> investment, others cannot have that much power regardless of how
> much time they invest).

Exclusive control of a "source of vital resources by a small group"
(known in economics as a monopoly or an oligopoly) does not equate
to a "broken" economy, but it DOES equate to an inefficient economy.
A surer sign of a "broken" economy is a condition that exists in
MANY MMOGs today, in which certain objects are only usable by people
of certain classes.  This artifice is used to create the disparity
in value that will encourage people to trade (i.e.: as a Paladin I
have no use for a wand and your wizard no use for a sword...let's
trade).  If your economy were truly robust you wouldn't need to
limit an item's usability to a certain class, I would simply value
it less than members of that class and so be more inclined to trade
it to them for something I value more.
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