• Ramin Shokrizade, a level 0 monster with 107 posts — 3 months, 3 weeks ago:

    Up until today I have been heaping praise on the Arena.net for their upcoming Guild Wars 2 product, which I had the joy and honor to evaluate about a month ago. The game just seems to get so many things right that it had been my most anticipated game of the year.

    Then today I get an email from NCSoft describing how I can “Spend your gems on any items in the Gem Store, or trade them for gold through the in-game currency exchange”. When I played gold was very scarce, and thus extremely valuable. This made the game challenging and players appreciated this. I have written many articles and papers over the years (many available via my blog link) explaining how the key to building a successful virtual economy is maintaining scarcity and not selling game objectives.

    In games like GW2 (or WoW for that matter) you have two primary advancement paths, as described in my chapter on “Virtual Achievement”. The first being leveling, the other the wealth accumulation pathway. If the max level in your game is 60, and you let them just buy L60, this can really ruin your game in many ways and very few developers are desperate enough to do this. Selling wealth is very much the same, but even worse since wealth achievement is the long term goal that continues to motivate players after they hit the level cap.

    From a real money transfer perspective, the only thing worse than having your game trolled by gold farmers is to make your currency worthless so that they don’t even bother. This is what will happen here since the primary resource input in the game is now guaranteed to be RMT activity, in this case RMT1 as I describe in my “Real Money Transfer Classification” paper.

    Now GW2 attempts to implement a player-crafting economy, which was broken the last time I saw it. In case they are still improving it, I am not sure they should bother. You see a big part of the game, from a crafting perspective, is hunting for resource nodes. But in GW2 you can just buy those same resources if you can afford the high shop prices despite the tight coin supply. By allowing gold selling, anyone can just buy their way past this content also, further degrading the play experience and potential for prestige in the game.

  • Avatar ImageTodd Starbuck, a level 0 monster with 12 posts — 3 months, 2 weeks ago:

    Where do you see an option to buy levels in GW2? i’ve been playing in the Beta (including this w/e) and haven’t seen it. It’s in Beta so they are tweaking and experimenting. There will likely be a wipe of all characters before the game goes live.

    i’d much rather see the game selling gold, or gems than have a gold farming market. i don’t know yet what the real money to game money rate is yet.

    There are two types of players, those who have time, and those who have money. The former is mostly kids and singles, the latter being grown ups with jobs and kids. Selling resources for real cash is a game world equivalent of, well, just about any expenditure of money in the real world. You buy a car because it’s either a 30 minute drive or a 2 hour walk in the sun/snow/rain and across highways. Depending on your stage in life you are either trading your time for money or your money for time. Game designers are calling it time compression.

    Instead of running around looking for available nodes and crafting stuff for yourself, you hire someone else to do it via trade and utrans. The people who like gathering and crafting will do it anyway. The people who would rather adventure than grind resource nodes can go adventure, or PvP, or….

    There’s so much to do in GW2 to accommodate various play styles (socializer, collectors, explorers, crafters, completionists, adventurers and PvP) that it might not be a problem. Hard to say until the game goes live and tons of people start finding the weak spots. One method of control they could use is to time respawning of resources to make them more valuable. When the market shows inflation, scale back the respawn rate.

    They are also using multiple currencies (like Rift does), such as karma which are non-transferable (AFAIK).

    The time compression model is likely here to stay. So it’s a balancing act of appeasing hard core players like yourself and more casual players like me, to keep us in the same game. i used to be ardently against selling in game stuff for real cash but the more i think about how i want to play, i’m OK with it. Plus, if the game has steady cash flow it will last longer and have a budget for expansions and GMs.

  • Avatar ImageRamin Shokrizade, a level 0 monster with 107 posts — 3 months, 2 weeks ago:

    Todd, you misunderstood me on the levels, I was saying that selling game objectives like gold is just as bad as selling levels or worse. I did not mean to say they were selling levels. I posted this update on LinkedIn yesterday, I should have put it here also:

    I’m in the game right now and it appears they have a marketplace that lets you sell and buy gold and gems, possibly between players. It isn’t clear, it just gives a marketplace price with a trend bar. This might act as both a gold sink and gold flood so it might not be as harmful to the economy as the email made it sound. Right now prices seem high for gold, but that is probably because free gems were given out for the beta.

    If the grey market can provide gold significantly cheaper than what the market charges, you will still get RMT3 activity, though presumably it would have to be a lot lower price to make up for the convenience of the in-game feature. Conversely, this could also backfire in that one RMT3 transaction for coin could then be uploaded into the market for gems (both directions are supported) allowing players to get all of the gem-based content for very cheap if the economy collapses.

    If you were around for my SW:TOR economy deathwatch at the end of last year you watched me track the value of SW currency as it dropped 97% in 30 days. This type of collapse would allow gem purchases in this system almost for free.

    @Todd: I am not against selling things in games obviously, as I am all about maximizing revenues. I am clear that selling some things can actually lower your revenue, and game objectives is one of them. The problem is that this is not only poorly understood in the industry, but also just what is a game objective is also poorly understood.

    Further, while you claim there are “two kinds of players, those with time and those with money”, I would suggest that those with too much money OR too much time are both dangerous to your game (and possibly themselves) if you let them use too much of that in the game. Put another way, if you force them to use too much of either to gain a perceived advantage over others, that is bad for both you and them because a gain on the individual (micro) level can actually be a loss on the group (macro) level. I know it sounds complex, and maybe it is, but if you read the other 26 papers here on my blog it might make more sense.

  • Avatar ImageRamin Shokrizade, a level 0 monster with 107 posts — 3 months, 2 weeks ago:

    I want to add that linking the monetization model to your economy in this fashion is a really really good idea, but only if you have a stable virtual economy in place first. Stable in this case means RMT3 resistant and equity-maintaining. This is super complex and took me 4.5 years to figure out how to do. In this case they would need a virtual economist on their design team to harden their economy and they have not done this so the monetization attempts they have here are premature and won’t work.

    I would add that Arena.net did contact me to run their monetization last year, then abruptly changed their minds and went with someone else. This seemed odd to me since no one else really understands these things yet. It also seems odd to me that companies think this is the job of one person, which makes as much sense as saying a project of that size should only have one designer on staff. They still are not weighting the value of monetization properly. A project of this size is more work that two people like me can probably do without an assistant, since you need one person focusing on the monetization side and another working with the design team to strengthen the virtual economy on the other side so that the whole thing does not blow up when China gears up to rock your economy.

  • Avatar ImageTodd Starbuck, a level 0 monster with 12 posts — 3 months, 2 weeks ago:

    Ah. Makes more sense now.

    i’ll investigate the blog. Can i get a link? It wasn’t clear to me where it is on your profile.

    “I would suggest that those with too much money OR too much time are both dangerous to your game (and possibly themselves) if you let them use too much of that in the game.”

    People can/will take anything too far. :(

  • Avatar ImageRamin Shokrizade, a level 0 monster with 107 posts — 3 months, 2 weeks ago:

    Todd: I use this forum (Games for Change) as my blog, but I mostly have discussions on these topics in the Game Developers and Social Game Developers groups on LinkedIn.

    It isn’t just people that take this too far. If you make the time metric unrestricted in your games you give incentive to have people use bots or chain teams in your games, or both.

  • Avatar ImageTodd Starbuck, a level 0 monster with 12 posts — 3 months, 2 weeks ago:

    Cool. i’ll read some more later. Interesting stuff.

  • Avatar ImageMace, a level 3 monster with 7 posts — 3 months, 1 week ago:

    I also could get a glimpse of what GW2 will probably be.

    And I share the same fear concerning this gold-buying than you.

    But don’t you think that an economy with rare ressources is a bit at the contrary of the current trend in MMO?

    Pool of gamers evolving, becoming, younger, more impatient, less able to not be frustrated these rare ressources.

    Don’t misunderstand, your analysis of virtual economy is remarquable and i’m trully sure many games coudl benefit it a lot.
    But the current mood in MMO may not fit.

  • Avatar ImageRamin Shokrizade, a level 0 monster with 107 posts — 3 months, 1 week ago:

    I think this lack of patience with games is just as much the fault of games. Let me explain. If you sell the objectives of a game, you ruin it for the player even though he feels compelled to buy them. The player feels unchallenged, gets no substantial dopamine release, and gets bored. Players need challenge in order to get the dopamine which is what (on a chemical level) keeps them playing.

    The other thing is that since there are no controls on virtual resources in games, materials become too abundant. This causes their value to drop. I call this a lack of virtual equity. Without this equity, wealth achievements quickly lose value over time and people feel like their efforts were wasted. With equity in place, people are motivated to keep playing, if for no other reason than that their work has value and could be sold to other players. If they know they are getting paid to play, they are going to be interested a lot longer.

  • Avatar ImageCK, a level 3 monster with 6 posts — 3 months, 1 week ago:

    RS, you raise interesting points. On the one hand, there are tangible rewards such as the opportunity to market one’s “work” in games for others to purchase. On the other hand, there is the intangible of “feeling challenged.” Is there a point where these two apparently opposite motivation streams either intersect or coincide? Not intended as a criticism, I’m just curious …

  • Avatar ImageRamin Shokrizade, a level 0 monster with 107 posts — 3 months, 1 week ago:

    CK: I’m not sure why the desire to work and the desire to be challenged would be opposites. I personally like to work at play and get paid for it, I’ve lived my life like that for the last 13 years. In four days I’m going to England to play in someone’s studio and sprinkle secret sauce on their project. I think the whole studio is going to have fun while I am there. When you are having a lot of fun the challenges don’t feel bad in any way. Did I answer your question?

  • Avatar ImageCK, a level 3 monster with 6 posts — 3 months, 1 week ago:

    I guess we have different experiences. In all of my principal endeavors — from jazz piano to writing to legal work — I’ve found that whenever I am getting paid, there’s usually a trade-off where I have to back off from my more extreme creative impulses to ensure that buyers are getting something resembling what they thought they were paying for. That usually means I will “feel challenged” a little less. I applaud you if you never encounter such things in your working life.

  • Avatar ImageMace, a level 3 monster with 7 posts — 3 months, 1 week ago:

    CK, I think maybe this can be quite different when you’re developing games.
    Creativity is one of the most improtant selling key today.

    Ramin, even if I agree with your point, games bojectives mustn’t be sold,
    the fact is money, wealth doesn’t represent a goal anymore in many games, just a tool to accomplish “real objectives”.

    Iit’s not the case in all the games (wealth are one of the main goals of EVE, by the way did you analyze their economy? Cause ‘ill be very curious to read a paper on that).

    In most part of fantasy RPG MMO, wealth isn’t a real accomplishment anymore or only or a real few players still interested according to my experience.

    I think that’s why eonomy is neglected, just because virtual is a tool not a goal n the mind of developpers.

  • Avatar ImageRamin Shokrizade, a level 0 monster with 107 posts — 3 months, 1 week ago:

    @CK: I’m 46 and other than my time as an Olympic track coach, I’ve had several years in there that were fairly ordinary professionally before I decided to go into game development. I’ve always worked on the projects I wanted to work on, even if that meant sometimes not getting paid. This resulted in my income being lower than normal early in my career, and higher than normal later in my career (due to extraordinary skill advancement relative to doing just a few long term jobs).

    @Mace: I’ve written a number of articles that explain why wealth is so important in games that last more than a month. I don’t really want to recap them here. My virtual achievement and “Mona Lisa and the Alchemist” papers, both from 2010 or earlier, cover that fairly well. As far as the EVE Online economy, saying that I “studied” it would be an understatement. I worked with Raynir Harderson and others before and after release to repair the original EVE virtual economy and I was the richest single player in the game until I quit the game. I was even richer than the developers that were playing the game and duping items for themselves (another long story). I had 5000 players working for me and was pulling in $6k a month.

    I learned a lot from EVE, but that was 2003 and I didn’t decide to fully dedicate myself to virtual economic research until two years later in 2005.

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As an update, I am told by my RMT3 contacts that gold selling in GW2 is going really well since there is little in the way of RMT countermeasures on this product and the demand for currency remains high due to a tight economy. 



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