[MUD-Dev] DID vs. MORAG "complexity"

Dave Rickey mahrinskel at brokentoys.org
Sat May 24 00:09:26 New Zealand Standard Time 2003

From: "Jeff Cole" <jeff.cole at mindspring.com>
> From: Dave Rickey

>> Issues related to the economy did not become priority "Oh my god
>> we have to fix this" problems.  Although there was an ongoing
>> economic emphasis in development, with 2-3 developers working on
>> it steadily, it was all very low-key and rarely rose to the point
>> where management was even aware of it, never mind pushing for
>> decisions on it or making them directly.  By the standards of
>> previous games, that is "non-broken".

> Exactly.  Your definition of "broken" begs the question, and it
> says more about Mystic's priorities than whether the Camelot
> economy is broken.

People generally have enough money to meet their needs, but
generally want more than they have.  People freely accept currency
in exchange for goods and services.  A fairly complex collection of
armorers, weaponcrafters, and other tradesmen find a market for
their products.  The system as a whole displays great inherent
stability and even absorbs the impact of duping bugs with little
effect.  The system as a whole met its design goals.  By any
reasonable standard I can think of, priorities or not, it qualifies
as "non-broken".

Now, I can think of a lot of ways in which it could do a better job
of creating interesting social interactions, but since economies
that *were* broken by the above standard were the norm before
Camelot, I consider it a job well done, and some valuable lessons
earned.  Anyway, I find myself to be somewhat uncomfortable to be on
the defensive about it, since some of the criticisms are things I
agree with, but may have been unable to do anything about and might
be contractually obligated not to explain why.  So I'm going to drop
the whole "broken/non-broken" discussion here.

>> I might buy this, if the predictive record of economists weren't
>> so poor.  The old joke is that they have "predicted 9 of the last
>> 5 recessions".  In spite of centuries of work, a continuing
>> effort in the public, private, and academic arenas, the "dismal
>> science" is going nowhere, and has been for a long time.  I'm
>> going to make a bold statement: It is not only worthwhile for
>> economists to study online game economies, but there are Nobel
>> prizes waiting for the ones that figure them out.

> Certainly the limitations you describe (limited number of
> participants, lack of outside influences and ability to manipulate
> [artificially, mind you] supply and demand) are not likely to
> improve predictive accuracy.

I would disagree, obviously (since to a degree I was able to predict
economic behaviours in Camelot in spite of irrationality).  Strictly
mathematical approaches cannot deal with irrationality, and since
irrationality is clearly part of real economies even though dogma
says it cannot be, the result has been a proliferation of
definitions of "value" in economics.  "Rarity value", "aesthetic
value", "sentimental value", even "discouragement value" have been
postulated, all in an attempt to preserve the notion that economic
actors are rational.  It reminds me of epicycles.

I think procedural modelling is much more promising, but the entire
subject is the focus of much debate in scientific circles right now.
However, I stand by the statement that the economies of MMO's can
display the same properties as "real" ones, but in ways and with a
level of observation that can give significant insight.  It's
undeniable that at a minimum, many if not all of the same forces are
at work, and that observation is much more complete.

> That is not to say that studying MOM*/MUD economies is not
> valuable.  Quite the contrary.  Predictive accuracy may well be
> the philosopher's stone, but I think it is a poor measure of
> "getting somewhere."  Doesn't your inherent-irrationality theory
> preclude predictive accuracy?

Yes and no.  Or maybe.  Even if individuals cannot be expected to be
rational, they can be irrational in predictable ways and/or
proportions.  It could easily be that the system is like weather,
inherently chaotic and therefore impossible to predict with
accuracy, but only as a probability.  But it would be good to *know*
that prediction was impossible, and why.


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