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

Marian Griffith gryphon at iaehv.nl
Sat May 3 14:46:39 New Zealand Standard Time 2003

On Wed 30 Apr, Dave Rickey wrote:
> From: "John Buehler" <johnbue at msn.com>
>> Dave Rickey writes:

>>> 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

This is not really true. Art exists independent of whether the creator
lives or not, and always did. Future work does not devalue any present
work.  What makes one artist famous (and his work extremely expensive)
is primarily marketing. Van Gogh's paintings are valuable not only be-
cause of his unique style,  but also because he is so well known.  The
same is true for e.g. Rembrandt,  who had many contemporaries who were
painting  in much the same style  (if perhaps  with less subtle use of
light) and frequently were valued higher when Rembrandt was alive, but
the name of Rembrandt remained more famous and hence his paintings mo-
valuable.  Or take the example of Rodin, one of the most famous sculp-
tors of all time.  He had an assistant/student who many consider to be
an even better sculptor than he,  both in technique  and especially in
expression. Unfortunately she was a woman in a time when female artist
were virtually unheared of,  so she could only work through Rodin. Her
name is forgotten and her work is not nearly valued as much, unless it
is mistakenly attributed to Rodin.

The reason why  so frequently  art is not appreciated  until after the
death of the artist  has little to do with any economic consideration,
but everything with the fact that  truely great art generally is ahead
of its time, often by many decades  and not until culture 'catches up'
is it properly appreciated.  Again  Rembrandt can serve as an example.
His most famous work,  the Nachtwacht,  was received very badly by the
principals  (the people presented on the painting),  because it was so
unlike any other painting, and certainly quite different from what was
expected (and wanted): a group portrait.  They expected to be shown in
a row with each of them looking sternly back at the spectator watching
the painting. What they got was a dynamic group,  some of them talking
to each other,  usage of light  that put some of them in the spotlight
while others almost completely disappear in the shadows.  There was an
argument over if the full contracted sum should be paid and in the end
the painting was cut up  so it could fit between two doors in a remote
corner of the building.  The true genius of this  (and other works) of
Rembrandt was not recognised until several centuries later.

>> 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.

Well. Rarity can probably be described as the difference between sup-
ply and demand. It is at one end of a scale that has abundance at the
other end. There probably are not that much rectangular pieces of ba-
salt with a large red and yellow spot in the middle, but since pretty
much noboby cares about them they are not rare in the *economic* sen-
se of the word.  Supply is the amount available for trade,  demand is
the amount required for trade, within a given period of time.

> Technically, art is consumed just by the passage of time.  It can
> be preserved, restored, conserved, but eventually it's going to be
> gone.

This is technically true but it does not noticeably affect the value.
By definition  each work of art is unique,  but its uniqueness is not
exactly what determines its value.

> But economics theory has *always* had a hard time with rarities,
> never having come up with a really satisfactory explanation for
> why a piece of canvas smeared with pigment can be worth the
> equivalent of a century of skilled labor.

This is not at all true.  Economics have not a hard time with art nor
with rarity.  Economists have come to understand that hardly any con-
sideration people use when determining an economic transaction has to
do with *pure* utility. The old assumption that people behave ration-
al when they have complete information has been proven wrong. They do
not behave rationally, not even when the internet gave them a lot mo-
re information about the market.  This is the very foundation of what
makes marketing possible.  How many of us do buy brand products  when
cheaper unbranded products are perfectly adequate for our needs?  How
many of us behave rational when buying a car, or a house?
While the mechanisms  by which individuals come to specific decisions
remain outside the scope of economic theories,  there has been done a
lot of work  to attempt to model the 'perceived value' versus the ac-
tual or 'utility value' in economic terms. If I recall correctly even
a nobel prize or two was awarded for work in this field.

>> 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.

> You sidestepped my point: Why did the players desire these goods?
> Because they represented *power*.

This is most assuredly not the *only* reason why players value things
in a game, and several examples have been given by others to show you

Utility value (which is what you are talking about when you use power
as a measure for value in a mud), is an important consideration,  but
players make irrational decisions to value things of a lesser utility
higher than some things that are objectively more useful to them. The
details escaped me,  but I remember reading about a clan on a certain
mud that distinguished itself  by only eating a specific  (expensive)
type of food available.  Others collected giant  and entirely useless
artifacts, or decided to wear specific types of clothes to show their
guild allegiance.  None of this made sense in a strict classical eco-
nomic sense,  but were perfectly logical in a socio-economic setting.
Considering transactions on a purely utilitarian base is dangerous e-
ven on a national scale (millions of people involved). On a mud it is
pointless. Even the biggest ones are hardly more than a small village
in size, and on that scale there is no chance of averaging effects to
smooth out  the inconsistencies.  Instead  you have to look at things
from a social position first and a socio-economic position next. Pure
economics  only come into play with staple goods on the mud,  and not
with the regular trade that is going on.

> To them, you were the mechanism by which their time (measured in
> currency) could be converted to power.  From their point of view,
> it would have made very little difference if they had purchased
> them from an NPC (not completely, I hope that they themselves were
> more entertained by the process of personal interaction through
> which they managed the conversion.  But many of them argue the
> point).

But if you ask players  they do NOT think in these terms.  Even if it
could be argued  that it is true what you are describing  (which I do
doubt personally).  Perhaps there are players who try to complete the
game as quickly as possible,  and to them  everything would matter in
terms of utility and efficiency,  but I doubt that even you would ar-
gue that this is true for *all* players, or even for *most*.  It cer-
tainly contradicts my own observations of players on muds.

Yes - at last - You. I Choose you. Out of all the world,
out of all the seeking, I have found you, young sister of
my heart! You are mine and I am yours - and never again
will there be loneliness ...

Rolan Choosing Talia,
Arrows of the Queen, by Mercedes Lackey

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