Monday, December 24, 2007
A thought experiment on RMT
As part of my ongoing discussion with Raph on RMT, I came up with a thought experiment, based funnily enough on Ultima Online, the game Raph designed. The one design question UO more or less "solved" was whether people wanted unrestricted PvP. It did so by creating two mirror images of the world, one with and one without PvP. Over 90% of the population ended up in the non-PvP half called Trammel, while the PvP half called Felluca ended up pretty much deserted. So although in discussions the PvP lovers were shouting much louder, once people had the chance to vote with their feet it became obvious that unrestricted PvP was not so popular. Now lets apply the same to World of Warcraft and RMT. I'm splitting WoW into two otherwise identical copies, which only differ in their handling of RMT and trades, and you tell me which one you'd like to play.
Tobold's low-RMT WoW
1) Gold can't be sent by mail to characters on other accounts, nor can it be directly traded in a trade window.
2) The auction house is changed into a "blind auction" system like in Pirates of the Burning Sea, that is you see that there are X items for sale and that the average price for them in the last 30 days was Y, but you don't see who sells them, and you don't see exactly what the buyout is. You bid, and if your bid is higher than the lowest buyout, you receive it at the price you bid.
3) As added precaution against "selling worthless rock for 1000 gold", all sales which exceed 5 times the average sales price get flagged for inspection by a GM, who has to approve it before the money arrives.
Note that this still doesn't totally eliminate RMT, nor does it do anything against transfering your UserID and password to a company to have them earn gold / xp / honor for you. That's why this is labeled *low*-RMT, not zero-RMT.
Raph's high-RMT WoW
I'm trying to represent Raph's ideas to the best of my understanding. If I get anything wrong, I'm sure Raph will correct me.
1) RMT is declared legal. Blizzard opens up Blizzard Exchange, which works like Station Exchange in that it is a platform for legal RMT controlled and guaranteed by Blizzard, so you don't have to worry that you never get the virtual currency or item you bought. Blizzard is taking a percentage of each deal.
2) The "bind on pickup" characteristic is replaced by "bind on equip" on all items in the game, including raid items. The level limit is replaced by an effectiveness factor, so if you are level 10 you *can* wear a level 70 raid sword, it just doesn't work quite so good. Quote Raph: "They’d be the classic fantasy hero stripling given the magic sword before they know how to use it."
I didn't add "Blizzard sells gold / items" to the list, because I'm not 100% sure that Raph proposes that. And of course RMT in that world isn't mandatory. Just like there is no zero RMT game, there can't be a 100% RMT game. But as RMT would be save and legal, and you could buy raid epics for cash, it certainly would be much more RMT as the normal or low-RMT version.
So tell me, of the three alternatives Tobold's low-RMT version, Blizzard's existing "RMT is illegal but wide-spread", and Raph's high-RMT version, which one would you prefer to play?