Dungeons & Dollars

Dungeons & Dollars
Ain't Goin' Away Ever

Shannon Drake | 11 Apr 2006 08:00
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KFR thinks the resistance from existing players and companies - I used Mythic's very public stand against VP and gold sellers as an example - is "quite natural, a sort of teething. I think what it is, from Mythic's standpoint ... they have a certain game, a massively multiplayer game that people play, and there's an inherent value in the time people spend in the game. Mythic has the problem that they designed these worlds to be non-virtual economics worlds, so yes, of course, there are inevitably people churning out money, that's kind of inevitable." In a very literal kind of way, time spent in these kinds of games is money.

I asked if there was anything Mythic and their allies in the anti-VP camp could do. "To be honest, from my perspective, [and] I have a great amount of respect for Mythic ... but from my perspective, it seems a little ... well, you're sitting on the beach, trying to get the sea to turn back. And it won't. It cannot turn back. There's all sorts of things you can't get away from and that's one of them." The solution is to "embrace it from the get-go. If they'd designed their games with virtual economics in mind from the first place, they wouldn't have a problem. They could produce gold faster than the farmers. They'd be able to manage it in a way the farmers couldn't. That would kind of cut the farmers out of the question. [Mythic has] virtual, economically viable content, but they haven't got a hang [on it]. They haven't got their hands on that."

Are they fighting a losing battle? "Well," he begins in a hesitant, wanting-to-be-diplomatic tone, "yeah. But I think it's only a problem for them with the current generation of games. If they redesigned or remade those games, or in the next generation of massively multiplayers." He pauses to gather his thoughts, then shifts gears. "People know now. People know that people will turn whatever game currency into real money. So you have no choice, whether you're a virtual economic developer like us, or a more traditional developer like Mythic, you have to make sure that one of the central architectures of your world is [accounting for] virtual economic conditions."

That brings us to Roma Victor. Their virtual economic model is a very simple one: Players purchase an account key, which comes with a small amount of game currency, to access the game itself. Rather than a monthly fee, players can use their credit cards to purchase "sesterces," RV's in-game currency, if they need or want more money.

Those with moral objections to virtual property sales and real money transactions can play the game without spending any real money. "Well, you can do. It's not the," KFR hesitates, being diplomatic again, "... chosen ... method of character development, but you certainly can. To be honest, there're so many players, and there's money flowing around - the economy works - so when you log on, it's not uncommon for players to say, 'Who are you? New guy, go fetch me some firewood. Here's 10 sesterces.' It's a trickle-down economy." He laughs, adding, "Republicans all over the place will be happy."

That leads to the usual anti-VP argument: Rich players will dominate the game. How will they avoid that? "The Republicans?" He quips, still laughing. "Well, there's certainly an element of that, but it's not the whole story." Rather than launching into a prepared spiel, though, he adds an unexpected comment. "But it's part of, you know, welcome to real life." It's not all hands-off, though. He continues, "However, the truth of the matter is, I've got the world right here. It's got people in it and some of them [are] very rich. And it's quite a broad spectrum.

"The people at the top of the spectrum, the rich people, generally have to work pretty hard in the game to make sure they keep their in-game assets. Let's say for the sake of argument" - he admits he's simplifying and it doesn't quite work like this, but it works for an example - "you put $10,000 worth of sesterces on your character and you went around in the world. Well, you wouldn't keep it very long. 10,000 much poorer individuals are much stronger than 1 rich person with 10,000 sesterces. Unless he's willing to give them one each, he's not going to keep it for very long."

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