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

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Tue Apr 29 09:51:23 New Zealand Standard Time 2003


Dave Rickey writes:
> 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.

Dave, I think you're in the frame of mind where you've got a hammer
and everything looks like a nail.  The players that think that
leveling treadmills are entertaining are the ones insisting on it.
The players that you don't retain or who are fed up with treadmills
certainly aren't insisting on it.  Treadmills are not some universal
vehicle of entertainment.  They are just a first form of
entertainment that has wide appeal.

>> 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.

You have an interesting take on things.  To my mind, rarity is just
a characteristic of supply.  Supply is not an issue of some pace of
manufacturing.  It has to do with how much of a given thing is
available at a given time.  Demand has to do with how much of that
thing is desired at a given time.  For a consumable, a renewable
supply is typically needed because of a renewing demand.  But art is
not consumed.  It remains.  So the laws of supply and demand
certainly apply to art.  There is a supply and a demand.  The supply
is either fixed if the artist is dead, or growing because the artist
is still creating items.

>> 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?

I said that I found entertainment in providing goods to players for
reasons other than my own advacement in power.  I would still have
found that same entertainment value if the rest of the game hadn't
been predicated on a power & time structure.  You're assuming that
power & time are the raison de etre for this genre and that no other
basis of entertainment can support a multiplayer experience.  I
don't make that assumption.  Ergo, employing another form of
entertainment as the basis of demand would permit my entertainment
to be derived from something other than a power & time structure.

Naturally, you have the benefit of being in the middle of a running,
very successful game to support your assertions, while I have a
brief, unseen design document to support mine.  And lots of opinions
:)

>> 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.

I agree that supply must be limited.  Level treadmills are not the
only means to accomplishing that.  They are simply the only proven
way to do it.

JB


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