Thursday, March 20, 2008
Zen of RMT Design
Damion from Zen of Design wrote an excellent article about RMT and basic fairness. Quote:
Most current MMO players perceive buying power as cheating. Even the ones who are doing it do. These same players do not bat an eye at mailing some unused gear to an alt, or dropping a hundred gold into the mail for their girlfriend’s brother. But if the brother buys it from Goldfarmers R Us… well, that’s just DIRTY. At it’s core, it makes achievers feel that other achievers got handed what they had to WORK for.Brilliant! He also mentions that "the debate about RMT is ultimately a debate between those who have money, and those who have time" and that the perception of fairness and acceptance of RMT could possibly change if the demographics of MMORPGs shift towards the over-30 players who have more money and less time.
Is it entirely rational? No. But the concept of what is right and wrong is, ultimately, a societal concept, and ultimately, while designers can try to change player perceptions of what’s fair, there are also times when the community makes the declaration, and the company is forced to respond, or risk becoming irrelevant.
I just want to add that the eternal "casual vs. hardcore" debate is actually very much related to a similar problem of perception of fairness as the RMT debate. If you consider MMORPGs totally objectively, they are not fair games. Damion has a comparison with baseball, but in baseball one team doesn't get to go out on the field and play and score while the other team is still sitting in their offices working. "Achievement" in MMORPGs is very much linked to time spent in game, and as some players spend a lot more time in game than others, comparing their achievements is inherently unfair. Of course RMT is still cheating, and overcoming one sort of unfairness by trying to balance it with another sort of unfairness is never going to achieve a fair result.
Lots of people call me pro-RMT, a label I can just shrug off. I'd prefer to call myself anti-pseudo-achievement. An epic mount or full epic gear is fun, but *not* a life achievement you should put into your CV, regardless of whether you achieved it by spending hundreds of hours or hundreds of dollars. Buying yourself an epic in-game "achievement" is like buying yourself a huge plasma TV: it'll cost you a lot of extra money without adding all that much to the entertainment value, as you'll still have the same TV program / game in front of you. Only that building that plasma TV yourself in hundreds of hours of work isn't any better.