Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Relevant Questions

I found a QA session between a MMORPG dev that had some interesting questions relating to my last post. Pontificate on them in relation or on their own. :)

Q: Macroing.

How does that float with the various levels of people who actually make the game? I'll admit, I've used them in pretty much every game I've played, from UO through to WoW. The only ones I've refused to are the games that felt the most free: CoH, mostly.

How does it go over with the developers? How does one respond to the accusations that if the game was less monotonous and treadmill-like, no one would do it? How about in the case of these larger focus companies, like WoWGlider/Innerspace, that have thousands of active accounts and make a decent bit of money off of their ventures?

A: The companies like WoWGlider are leeches. They're making bank off of my work, and people like me. So, yeah.

As for macroing, well, couple points. First off, it's cheating. You're trying to bypass the game. (Or you're like me and ran Macroquest because you really liked seeing how much you could actually write a character bot as an intellectual exercise.) Second, I believe if you're compelled to macro something, perhaps it's not fun and shouldn't be in the game in that form. Games are supposed to be fun. If you're going to great lengths to skip that, even paying someone else for a program to play the game for you? Then there may be a problem.
This next one might be it's own discussion, more related to game design than economics. But I still think it is related.
Q: Why don't most games have some sort of feature that allows for stat distribution? Example being games such as Ragnarok Online and Maple Story, generally most Korean games have this. By stat distribution, I'm talking about something where whenever you level up, you gain points to spend on leveling up different stats, rather than having a set amount depending on the class you choose, and having to rely on armor.

It just seems lame how in games such as WoW every class can be the same if they use the same armor, whereas something such as Ragnarok you can have such a dynamic, unique character. Is it simply too complicated to implement, or is it something better tuned for a grinding based game?

I know all MMO's are meant to be different, unique experiences, but wouldn't most companies rather break the mold and go for something that allows for extreme customization?

A: Newer games don't allow for stat pumping (or even choosing them at all) because people will make the (possibly) wrong decisions and gimp their character. Then they get *ANGRY* about it. So, newer games took out that temptation. I mean, if as a mage you should always pump INT, why not just have the game pump INT for you? Remove the temptation of your deciding you're going to be that one unique and special snowflake that is a muscleman wizard.
Here is another fairly relevant QA:
Q: Where do you feel that the difficulty level will be for future games?

A: I think WoW showed that simpler games can be popular. That being said, being a more complex game is certainly one way to differentiate yourself from WoW. But generally complexity just for the sake of complexity isn't a very good idea, it limits your audience significantly to D&D 1st Edition DMs.

I think games need to STOP focusing on endgames, personally. Because a focus on the endgame means you keep having this barrier to entry of levelling or grinding or whatever that you have to "pay your dues" to get to the "good part" and that's not really a very sane way of making a fun game.
I don't know how much people know about games or MMORPGs specifically, so leave questions in the comments and I will try and answer.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Competitive Economics in MMORPGs

The playing styles of MMORPGs are fairly similar across the board. The idea is well outlined in an article about an upcoming MMORPG called Darkfall.

So how do these games become more accessible to the drooling masses? Easy! Just implement grinding, level treadmills, restrict any and all competition whatsoever. These systems are intentionally in place to prevent anyone from over-achieving or failing. I recently saw a WoW ad that said "Come join 8 million heroes!" Suddenly every single player is automatically a hero? Essentially, most MMOs are designed so anyone can hop on a game, gain levels and pay $15 US per month for their instant hero status.
This "level-treadmill" system is a product of capitalism. What is interesting about all of this is the sense that so much of economic and political theory can be applied to what goes on inside MMORPGs. Consider the sense that the idea of "level-treadmilling" is basically a capitalist mantra. Characters work and then they get their pay-off by being powerful. The hero mentality has to do with that sense of the hard-working laborer is the powerful component of a capitalist system and should be exhonorated. But the problem is that if all the characters are heroes then you really don't have a functioning economy (but let's set that thought aside for a moment).

The real economy that lives within most MMORPGs works along the lines of characters going out into the world, killing monsters, honing skills and then bringing home products to sell on simple markets. In the older MMORPGs the markets were dictated and decided by computers and NPCs (non-player characters). But in newer games the markets have attempted to move into completely player-based economic control.

I would argue that this is essentially an anarcho-capitalist model of an economy. People either fight or become an artisan to gain wealth and power.

This sense of power is limited in its application. There are minimal levels of institutions, there is usually no government (though some games have clans or guilds that adds another level of interplay). So the power that you have slowly decays due to boredom and lack of applicable fungability.

Project Ropecan seeks to change all of this by scientifically (though not so strictly) applying an actual economic model to an MMORPG. The idea being that we can illustrate the effectiveness and applicability of the economic model. But I also think that the participatory economics that we wish to include in our game will actually create a whole new playing experience.

Teamwork, volunteerism, participation--tenets of participatory economics--will all become powerful structures that players will use and begin to enjoy (at least this is my prediction). Thus the enjoyment from the game becomes the fluidity of interactions between different real people as well as the multitude of possibilities that can occur when you incorporate structured economies and institutions into your daily gamut.

These are just initial thoughts and ideas. But I see a lot of serious, applicable, and enjoyable potential in the idea of incorporating participatory economics into a MMORPG.