Sunday, December 23, 2007

Raph not open to new ideas

In a typical example of how little developers are open to new ideas, Raph tries to discredit me by saying that my proposal to remove asymetric trade is equivalent to removing groups and guilds and all forms of cooperation from MMORPGs. Apparently he didn't understand or chose to ignore the important word "asymetric". A group in which one person tanks, another person heals, and other people deal damage is *not* asymetric as long as the characters involved are of roughtly the same level. Each player performs a different role, but each of these roles is equally important. I never proposed removing groups from MMORPGs, Raph did. Nor did I propose to remove all trade from MMORPGs. One person selling a Primal Water to another person for 20 gold is totally fine. One person selling a worthless rock to another person for 1000 gold is not, because nobody would do such an asymetric transaction if there wasn't a real world counterpart to it.

Lets have a look at a real world example: A politician needs his house renovated, and the work to be done has a independantly estimated market value of $50,000. If the builder send the politician a bill for $50,000 and the politician pays it, we have a symmetric trade, and everything is fine. If the builder send the politician a bill for $1,000 and the press gets wind of it, everybody will assume that an illegal counterpart for this asymetric trade occured, like the politician getting a big city contract to the builder. Raph saying that to prevent asymetric trade you have to eliminate all trade and cooperation in the game is like saying that a politician shouldn't be allowed to renovate his house or buy anything at all. It is an invalid extrapolation, trying to make a reasonable request seem crazy by exaggeration.

Yes, removing asymetric trades from MMORPGs would remove *some* forms of non-RMT assistance from these games as well. You couldn't send 1000 gold to your friend or girl friend for example. Sending it to your own twinks could be enabled, for example with a shared bank account. But you don't have to remove guilds and groups from a game to achieve this, although you might want to remove the ability of level 10 characters gaining xp when grouped with level 70 characters to prevent that form of powerleveling as well.

Over at Raph's some commenters propose removing "bind on pickup" and "bind on equip" features altogether. That shows a disturbingly naive view of human behavior. To anyone with half a brain it should be obvious that if you make all items in the game tradeable, you would much increase RMT. Especially in a game like WoW, where raid epics are designed to be accessible only to a small percentage of players. Next thing you'd see would be the "Chinese Raiding Guild", just keeping the most essential epics for themselves and selling the rest for dollars.

The whole discussion started with Raph's blanket statement that "RMT cannot be eradicated" which he used as argument that game companies should get into that business as well. I found his accompanying statement of "Will the gamers like this? Flatly, no. At least not publicly. But a heck of a lot of them will pay up quietly." somewhat insulting to players. My problem here is that players do not even get the choice to prove that they would really prefer a game without RMT, because developers aren't open to new ideas that could actually remove it. Raph having to try to ridicule me and turning my proposal into something monstrous that I never said just shows that he doesn't *want* RMT to be removed. Because he sees it as the revenue model of the games of the future.

As so often, one of the most insightful comments to the whole discussion comes from Darniaq, who said "What is the real problem with RMT? That it exposes the underlying truth of mass acceptance of inequality." There is huge inequality between players of a game like World of Warcraft, from the most casual player who never even reached level 70, to the guy running around in Black Temple epics. Unrestricted RMT where everything is tradeable somewhat levels the playing field, as now some of the players who would never be able to reach top end raid epics otherwise now would be able to buy them for real money. But having played Magic the Gathering Online, I have already experienced how such a model can destroy a game and turn it into an ugly bastion of unrestricted greed which would make even Gordon Gecko flinch. I can live with a restricted RMT model, like WoW has it, where gold can only be used to buy things like epic mounts, but not dungeon / raid loot. But if game companies would be running the RMT themselves, simple business logic would encourage them to make larger and larger parts of the game available for money. The moment where the players thoughts go from "Wow, I found the fabled Sword of Uberness" to "Wow, I just earned $50", the game is dead.

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