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

Dave Rickey mahrinskel at brokentoys.org
Mon Apr 28 15:44:53 New Zealand Standard Time 2003


From: "John Buehler" <johnbue at msn.com>
> 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.

And why is it the focus?  Because the players insist on it.

> 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).

Supply and demand assumes there *is* a supply, not just a stock.
There's a reason why art usually becomes Art only after the creator
is dead: As long as there is a supply (a living artist) the value of
existing items can be devalued by the creation of more in the same
style (and equally authentic).  Once he's dead, that no longer
exists.  But because there's no supply of rarities, by definition
"supply and demand" cannot apply to rarity value.

> 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.

But why was it possible to be a supplier of goods to other players?
Why were you able to create them (become Supply), and why did they
desire them (provide Demand)?  Because I assumed that economic
activities were the process by which Time converted to Power?  Or
was it pure chance, I threw random darts at the board of potential
economic structures and happened to come up with a reasonably stable
configuration?

> 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.

Being entertained by economic activities requires that the economy
*work*.  If no one is buying, sellers cannot be entertained through
selling.  I believed very strongly that the entertaining part of
crafting systems is the interactions surrounding the sale.  But
sales of items requires that not everyone be able to create those
items.  Since I was directed to create a system where advancement
was controlled by creation of items, I had to turn that process into
a significant hurdle.

--Dave


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