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

John MacQueen jmacqueen at playnet.com
Sat May 14 10:36:57 New Zealand Standard Time 2005


At 11:55 PM 4/30/05 -0700, Jaycen Rigger wrote:

>   (Will MMO's die out after the decent players get disgusted and
>   quit, leaving the people willing to buy their way to the top to
>   only compete with each other?)

> Everyone knows Sony is now officially condoning the sale of
> in-game items via an outside site that is maintained by the
> company. Instead of encouraging players to deal with someone
> in-game, the creators and maintainers of the game are actually
> encouraging players to break context and cheat.  Apparently, some
> players are willing to pay real-life money in order to get a jump
> on other players in these games.

IMO this has grown out of the tendency of fantasy based MMO's to
tune the game's pace of content consumption to the most dedicated
power gamer.

That is to say the rate at which a gamer can consume content, see
the world, obtain items, complete quests etc. seems to always be set
by the fastest rate any player or group of players can consume
it. This leads to the top 1% of power gamers setting the content
consumption rate, experience point gain rate etc. of the game.

This leaves the vast majority of casual players (read the mass
market) feeling as they have no chance of ever getting the cool
items, seeing the cool content etc. and feeling frustrated and
excluded. They haven't the time nor the dedicated groups to achieve
it. They do have the money though and will buy what they might
rather earn simply because it's their only realistic option to gain
access to those items and higher level content.

The root of commoditization is the simple ability to trade. If all
valuable items were non trade "no drop' or "no trade" issues related
to trade or farming of content would be almost moot. If your goal is
to keep players from having what they didn't earn, limiting them to
one of an item that can't be traded is simple and effective. It also
raises the value of that item as other players know the player
earned it.

If you let them trade those items, if your game's mechanics allow a
character that didn't loot that sword off a corpse down the lower
pits of hell to possess and use it, you've already decided that
players who didn't earn it can buy it by default, the only question
is what marketplace and currency they will use to trade in whether
you like it or not.

The only downside I can really see for a company allowing outright
in game buying of content like powerful items is that it could
possibly shorten the average customers subscription length
increasing customer turnover rates. Even so they could make just as
much income in a shorter time selling cool content as in the longer
term through a subscription and be even more profitable in the short
term.

At any rate, the market will watch this issue, answer the question
and move on. Someone must go out there and explore the boundaries of
item trading, the rest will watch and learn whether it's good or
bad, or whether a different implementation could be more successful
just like any other aspect of MMOG design.

John MacQueen
COO, Playnet Inc.
817-358-7580 ext 113
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