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.

1 comment:

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