[MUD-Dev] SOC: Will company sanctioned cheating hurt the MMOcommunity?

Barry Kearns barrykearns at qwest.net
Fri May 6 11:18:09 New Zealand Standard Time 2005

Jaycen Rigger wrote:

> Sony thinks that by offering certain
> 'Exchange-enabled servers', and servers that are not
> 'Exchange-enabled', they can avoid pissing off their non-cheating
> player base, and cheating will actually go down on the servers where
> it isn't specifically condoned.

Yes, this is the basic concept of self-segregation into like-minded
communities.  We've been discussing it extensively over at Terra Nova on the
"A Shot Across The Bow" thread.

As a designer, I think the Station Exchange is a logical development, and
more of a stop-gap measure to reduce customer service nightmares than
anything else.  The primary flaw in the segregation concept (as implemented)
is that it is entirely voluntary to move to an Exchange-enabled server, and
therefore commodification is still possible on non-Exchange servers... and
will continue to take place at least some of the time.

Will it improve things for those who dislike commodification altering the
competitive landscape in their game?  Hopefully, it will reduce the
incidence, so it should be a net improvement, but the cross-cultural
friction will remain for those opposed to these sorts of landscape-altering

Ideally, we should be looking for design solutions that allow us to enforce
our desire to separate player behaviors into distinct environments.  It's
clear to me that EULAs and TOS/ROC documents are not stemming the tide in
any significant fashion.

I've been developing a position paper for a commodification-resistant gaming
model (following the lead of Randy Farmer'd "KidTrade" proposal), which
attempts to preserve as many aspects of typical MMO gaming as possible, but
still prevent the harmful and over-the-top levels of commodification of
in-game currency that we see today.

I've posted a draft of major portions of the paper at my blog, available at
the following URL:


We've also been discussing implications of the model at Terra Nova,
under the following thread:


The advantages of having a code-enforced design for the prevention of
commodification should be obvious... by doing so, we can provide Jaycen and
those like him (who don't like the alteration of the game landscape by
outside cash) an environment to play in where it's simply not possible to
buy incremental power on eBay or IGE.  We can then offer other servers with
different rulesets:  one that has no real-money trading, one that has a
secure player-to-player trading interface like Station Exchange, and even
extend it (if we wish) to other servers for direct provider-to-player item

Commodifiers can play with other commodifiers, and those who don't like that
behavior can play in an environment where commodification won't affect them.
It's a code-enforced "live and let live" design choice.

> My question to the industry is this; Why not just let players buy
> anything they want to buy directly, in-game? You could have a
> window that's always available and just scroll through the list of
> possible junk in that game and rack up a charge on your credit
> card at any time to buy something for your character. You could
> even pay $2.50 to do an automatic 50 points of damage to a
> creature you're currently fighting. That seems like it would cut
> out the middle-man and the need to leave the game to go to some
> other web-site. It'd be a hell of a lot more profitable, too.

It's already being done in a variety of games, particularly in

Quoting Raph Koster from the "Shot Across" thread:

  "It's worth pointing out that the most robust RMT market going
  right now is actually Korea and its micropayments for powerups in
  skill-based games with NO GRIND AT ALL, such as Pangya Golf and
  that kart racing one that I can never remember the title of (games
  that outdraw Lineage now, btw). It's now become standard, in other
  words, for people to be playing a skill-based arcade game online,
  and pay 15 cents to get a one-time powerup to beat down their
  opponent with."

Barry Kearns
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