Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

26 November, 2006

Weekend Design Challenge: All about RMT
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 3:25 AM

RMT seems to be the topic of discussion for most bloggers these days. From unscrupulous gold farmers to company-sanctioned item sales, people can’t stop talking about it.

So, let’s talk about design. This weekend’s topic will be broad: discuss some aspect of game design as it relates to RMT. Examples might include: developing a non-trivial RMT-proof system, ways to introduce players to officially sanctioned RMT, reasons why RMT could hurt a specific type of game design, etc.

I’ll post my own ideas later, don’t want to box anyone in unnecessarily. Plus, I’ve already said said a bit about the topic before.


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3 Comments »

  1. I figured I’d throw a link to Sam Lewis’ GDC 2006 roundtable summary in here, just for some additional perspective.

    I think one of the core difficulties in terms of discussing “designing around RMT” is that a preliminary judgement needs to be made as to what you are going to allow/accommodate. If someone disagrees with that judgement and ignores it, or simply starts from a different perspective, they will come up with a different set of answers… and then argue that yours are wrong.

    I know, I know. Welcome to the Internet, 2006.

    For me, the line between acceptable and unacceptable RMT revolves around the “gold farmer” effect. If an RMT business concern, in the course of pursuing it’s business, disrupts the game for some portion of the player base, that’s crossing the line.

    I personally have no huge issue with the concept in any other way… perhaps because I understand the draw of spending 10-15 minutes worth of my paycheck to get that 1000 gold to save me the frustration of a couple of weeks of sporadic, often interrupted 1-2 hour long grinding sessions that it would otherwise require. (I have yet to actually do it, but cannot say I have not occasionally been tempted.)

    In terms of designing away the desire for RMT, I do think complete elimination would require a sea-change in the way MMO “roleplaying” games were defined. As long as there is a direct correlation between time-in-play and character ability (as opposed to player ability, for example), I personally believe RMT will be a concern. Even if there is no “trading” between characters, you’ll still have “leveling services” and “character sales”.

    I do think you could mitigate the effects, however, and in particular, discourage the formation of potentially disruptive RMT businesses. Some of the control solutions are mundane: managing the economy such that there are no set “best” places to farm, using instancing to prevent disruptive farmers from blocking access to resources for other players, and so on. There are some other potential concepts, however, that are only rarely mentioned.

    Off-line advancement: this allows those who cannot play 12+ hours a day for weeks at a time to still make some limited progress and perhaps even retain or reinforce their connection to their characters, by allowing more casual forms of interaction.

    Imagine a simple web site, that allows them to manage inventory, relocate their character, read in-game mail and notices… the type of stuff they really shouldn’t have to log into a full-fledged game client for.

    Now, add to that some ability to allocate their “down-time” to various training and practice options, “errand-running” to earn small amounts of gold, etc. Any progress should be slower than if logged in and actively playing, but it could probably be tuned to a level that would render organized RMT less attractive.

    Equipment that enables, not empowers: or “a sword is a sword is a sword”. Equipment that provides distinction, as opposed to difference, might help reduce the desire to “short-cut” via RMT. It won’t eliminate it by any stretch of the imagination, especially without other changes… some people will pay big bucks just to have a red bandana that does nothing but “look red”, if it’s not easily obtainable in game. But not “a lot” of people… and it takes “a lot” of people to make an RMT business truly viable.

    Eh, enough for now. I’ve mused on other ideas elsewhere… interested to see what others have to say, tho.

    Comment by Craig Huber — 26 November, 2006 @ 9:40 AM

  2. A Very Wii Thanksgiving…

    A whole lot of heartburn and 9 hours of driving later, I have returned home from visiting my girlfriend’s parents over the Thanksgiving holiday. Per usual, it was great to visit family and be away in a different neighborhood for a few days, but …

    Trackback by My 2 Copper — 27 November, 2006 @ 9:04 AM

  3. Wow, a design challenge at which I can take a whack!

    I’ll start off by saying that I really don’t have much of a problem with RMT. I have a problem with farmers disrupting my gameplay, but it hasn’t happened to me yet…at least beyond EQ1, where everyone farmed, regardless of intent to resell for USD.

    That said, here’s my modest proposal:

    1. Design your game to include RMT. This can go one of many ways, but either something along the lines of Sony’s Station Exchange or perhaps the Linden Lab model. Your ultimate goal is to give players the ability to do this in a secure manner within your sphere of control (your servers). Will people still use third party services? Yes. Ban the people who use those services. Make farming a bannable offense, regardless of intent. Make your rules and enforce them, but realize that the more you can put into the code, the less you have to enforce via manpower.

    2. Be mindful of potential legal issues down the line. What is the impact of recognizing the value of virtual stuff? You could take the Linden Lab approach and disclaim that the stuff has value….while advertising, “YOU CAN MAKE REAL MONEY IN OUR WORLD.” IAAL and IMO, that’s a Bad Idea going forward. I would draft a user agreement that recognizes the attributed value of the stuff, but also recognizes that its value may change based on many factors, both internal and external. Don’t disclaim the value, disclaim responsibility for that value changing over time. “Game experience may change over time,” and all that jazz. This leads into my last point…

    3. Adding RMT to your game will require both game systems and contractual systems to be successful and lower-risk. Be mindful of the issues your system presents. What could happen to pervert the system? What is stuff you can control? What can’t you control? For the “can’t control” category, make it part of the EULA. If people want to invest their time and money in virtual assets, they need to recognize that there is a significant risk involved. Just like playing the stock market, that +5 Sword of Foozle Whacking may devalue really fast once people start finding the +6 Sword of Greater Foozle Bane. Or something. To this end, make these disclaimers impossible to avoid. Do not simply hide them in your EULA/TOS. State them in plain English, and put them where players cannot avoid reading them. Don’t just assume that the current EULA As King model will persist. Make sure your players know and understand the deal.

    4. ????

    5. Profit!

    Comment by Matt Hector — 28 November, 2006 @ 8:30 AM

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