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

Jeff Cole jeff.cole at mindspring.com
Fri May 9 13:05:12 New Zealand Standard Time 2003


From: Dave Rickey
> From: Jeff Cole
>> From: Dave Rickey

>>> Define value, then.  "The value of a thing is what it will
>>> bring" is the definition I'm most comfortable with, this would
>>> seem to pre-suppose demand.

>> That definition is fine.  Why doesn't that also pre-suppose
>> supply?  Beyond begging the question, why is it useful to
>> pre-suppose demand but not value?

> Because from this side of things, supply is *not* a given, in an
> online world supply exists only if it is created by the designer.

And you don't also create the demand?  Certainly, there are some
meta-demands (big-D, Demands) that, as humans, your customer's bring
to the game--and to that extent, you don't "create" them, but you
can certainly exploit and manage them.  Such Demands are projected
onto the game as little-d demands based upon design (a single Demand
might manifest itself as several demands).

Of course developers have focused on supply--it is obvious and easy
to control.  For demand-management to be effective, the economic
design must be much more sophisticated; and, the functional economy
needs to operate more broadly.

>> You're supply-biased analysis lends strong support for my
>> assertion that developers ignore demand as an effective economic
>> management tool.

>> If your economy is solely (or, even, mostly) based on big-ticket
>> items like armor and weapons, then this is a very legitimate
>> concern.  The only way to increase demand is to implement item
>> decay and increase the rate of decay; but players are likely to
>> resent such a move.  I do not argue that for big-ticket goods,
>> demand-management might not be an option.

> Demand management as you define it was part of the development
> process, but it was mostly aimed at getting a decay rate that the
> players would accept.  It's too blunt an instrument for economic
> fine-tuning.

Actually, I am talking about demand-management *and*
supply-management as ongoing tools to manage/stimulate economic
behavior.  I argue that current (and previous) designs are (have
been) supply-biased.  This is no great surprise given the limited
scope of the economic models.  We both agree that for such models,
demand-management is not effective (though I think we may disagree
that such models should be characterized as "scope-limited").

> Take dyes in Camelot.  In absolute terms, there was no reason for
> one dye to be more expensive than another.  They all did the same
> thing, assigned a tint to the item.  But black and strongly
> saturated tones were arbitrarily assigned high costs.  These dyes
> indicated high value strictly because they had high prices.  You
> could argue that this was from some higher aesthetic value for
> stronger colors, but then you'd have to explain how exactly the
> opposite ocurred in The Realm, where black and primary colors were
> cheap and pastels were the most valued.

A very specious argument.  Especially with respect to black: in
beta, you changed the color of the arawnite's drops because black
was subject to such high "demand".  With respect to data for which
aesthetic considerations are of primary concern: I think you need to
be very careful abstracting general "economic principles" from such
data.

Also, there is no functional "market" in any meaningful sense for
dyes.  Describe the supply and demand graphs for dyes.  Dyes aren't
scarce, either a player can afford them, or (s)he
can't--(effectively) no players are forgoing armor/weapon upgrades
in order to dye their existing armor.

>>> However, demand alone cannot create value, we all demand a
>>> constant supply of air, yet it has no value.

>> Or: "However, scarcity alone cannot create value, there is only
>> one mug from which I drink my coffee (mostly, except when the gf
>> wants to make a point first thing in the morning), yet it has no
>> value."

> Your coffee mug might be worth nothing, but what about Napoleon's?
> That's why collectibles are all about provenance.

Exactly.  So it's scarcity + something more.  And that something
more is demand; as to what creates that demand, well, it is highly
fact-dependent.  Point is, though, that scarcity alone doesn't
create value.

Consider armor/weapon drops in Camelot.  The vast majority of them
are limited in value to their /salvage value independent of their
scarcity.  And that value is further discounted by the transaction
costs of unloading the items as well as the by the time-value of the
/salvage timer.  Like dyes, though, there isn't a functional market
operating in any reasonable economic sense.

>> Something for which there is no demand can be the scarcest of
>> scarce and no "value" will attach.  Likewise, something that is
>> fungible and freely available can be utterly essential to a
>> consumer and no "value" will attach.

> Go check out eBay or "Antiques Roadshow" and tell me that there is
> a rational demand for many of those items.  This one is *not*
> symmetrical.

Of course it's not always, for every good, symmetrical.  But anytime
one abstracts general principles from the extremes, well ...

>> Please explain how consumer rationality implicates market
>> efficiency.  I do not disagree that consumer rationality can
>> impact market efficiency, but I am not sure the nexus is quite as
>> extensive as you suggest.  However, if you *force* your players
>> to make market decisions irrationally, it seems a bit
>> disingenuous then to argue that players don't act rationally.
>> Without more, I cannot meaningfully comment.

> How is anyone forced to make an irrational decision?

<cut and pasted from later>

> Again, explain to me how Camelot forces irrational behaviour.
> Explain to me how any economy can force irrational behaviour, for
> that matter.

Inefficient information propagation.  If your players do not or
cannot get information, then they are forced to make market
decisions irrationally.  Camelot was designed around
information-hiding and it didn't work: to wit, the delve command.

The crafting system.  It has largely obviated armor drops up to the
early 40's (quests/one-time-drops can supply just about all pre-40
weapon requirements and crafting can easily fill any holes).  The
effect is somewhat less pronounced up to level 49. And at level 50,
the system effectively restricts the item valuation to irrational
aesthetics (skins/particle effects) and/or scarcity.

Further, the crafting system itself requires a crafter to craft
orders of magnitude more items than they will ever sell.  For
pre-1000 skill crafters, the chance of making a marketable item
within their current skill-up range is 0%.  By the time a crafter is
able to make a marketable piece, any profit likely won't even pay
for sufficient supplies for more than a couple of skill-up attempts,
if that.  This is exacerbated by the fact that the economy is
designed to operate--for everybody, over the normal course of
character development--over 5 (maybe 6) orders of magnitude.  This
reduces potential economic interaction.

And there's more.  Sure, Camelot isn't forcing players to make
irrational market decisions insofar as nobody from Mythic shows up
at a player's door, holds a gun to their head and forces them to
transact.  But, it forces players to make irrational market decision
by preventing them from making rational market decisions.

In what way do you see Camelot allowing players to make rational
market decisions?

And there's an even more subtle point.  To the extent that most
players might not act completely rational (after all, it isn't
binary, but a spectrum) and to some degree base their actions on the
observed actions of others (the "hubs" in small-world theory,
"norm-entrepreneurs" in economic approach to law, etc.), and to the
extent that such "hubs" are impaired from making rational market
decisions, irrationality still dominates and propagates through the
economy.

The goal should be to provide players the greatest opportunity to
make rational market decisions.

>> In EQ, you saw the increase in supply of substitute goods
>> decrease the value of other goods all the time.  I used to spend
>> entire afternoons in the tunnel just buying low/selling high just
>> to see what item I could acquire.  Start with a modest bankroll
>> (few hundred plat, a forest loop, batfang earring ...) and just
>> buy and barter.  That is something that has never occurred in
>> Camelot.

> In EQ, what happens is very similar to what happens with computer
> hardware: Price points don't move, but goods steadily slide down
> the curve.  At any given time, there are only three classes of
> equipment, those that are extremely powerful and hard to get
> (usually from the latest expansion), those that are common and
> reasonably acceptable for use (usually from the last expansion),
> and junk (everything else).  Anything you hold is constantly being
> devalued, so everyone is encouraged to keep trading in hopes of
> outrunning inflation.

You seem to miss the central point, though: there is economy and
market opportunity in a way that only very briefly exists, if at
all, for items in Camelot.

Were I a batfang earring in EQ, I might butcher Butler and opine,
"[I]s it not Tennyson who has said: '`Tis better to have had value
and lost it, than never to have had value at all?'"

> Economists generally assume that all economic participants are
> rational, and that any apparent irrationality is simply the result
> of inadequate information.  I'm arguing that the irrationality is
> inherent, that when the participants are fully informed they will
> make sub-optimum decisions even though a rational person would
> have to know they were doing so.

If you accept that behavior is measured on a spectrum and is not
binary, then it is hardly the case that "sub-optimum" is necessarily
irrational.

My point is not that players are particularly rational but, rather,
that *if* you provide players the opportunity to make rational
market decisions, then your economy will behave more rationally and
be more manageable.

>> Once developers shift the economic bases from "necessary" goods
>> to goods/services that support and complement such "necessary"
>> goods, then developers can more directly manipulate both demand
>> and supply.  Resource sources and sinks can be managed more
>> effectively *and* from the players' perspective, organically.
>> Not to mention an increase in the possible "professions" that
>> players might undertake.

> Okay, I read that 5 times, and it still didn't make any sense.
> What are you trying to say?

"'Necessary' goods" is ill-chosen and overly broad.  What I am
trying to say, is increase the bases of economic interaction such
that crafters are complementing rather than competing with loot.  By
doing so, a design almost has to offer greater possibilities for
player-to-player interaction, economic and otherwise, as well as
more effective managment of world resources.  But, it will require a
fundamental change in the approach to the economic game-space.

Yrs. Affcty,
Jeff Cole


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