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Real Money in MMORPGs

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I haven't really thought a lot about this, but I thought I'd throw it out there just to see what people thought. When people play an MMORPG, no one wants to actually play (much less RP) the fishmonger. What if in-game currency was tied to real money, allowing a player to "cash out?" Hundreds of kinks to work out, yes, but I think it might actually generate a robust commodity/craft economy. Players owning patches of land for farming, newbies selling apples on the streets, PvP mercenary security... At the very least, food would have to be necessary and items would have to decay/take damage. Of course, a sword made by an master smith would also have high durability. Anyway, riff on that for a while.

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I would say there are two things here to consider...

Real to virtual
I find this to be a "gameplay bad" feature but likely to be "player good" as soon as the prices are kept low. By sure means, this feature is becoming interesting. I read on Game Developer Magazine some games already do this so it's really "business good".
I believe there's no real problem (legally wise) for this since it can build on "ordinary" pay services.

Virtual to real
This could be "player good" in an unrealistic scenario in which currency is valued extremely high. It's possibly "gameplay good" but definetly "business bad". Impossible.

I spoke about this with a friend some months ago.
Our idea was of a very complicated system to 1) squeeze processors and 2) avoid excessive powerplaying.
To sustain our economic system, we ideated money and sellers could be done by "real" people but how?
I've believe I've found a way. What we need is to give good reasons to players to do boring things. We ideated some kind of guild system (actually 4+2 guilds) but it was obvious that it would have not cut it.
We need to exchange "gameplay good", "player bad" habits for a real resource, something so cheap we can give it away, but what?
I suddendly was enlighted. See the bigger picture... well, our idealistic MMORPG would have run on a server right? It would have run 24/7 right? And sure as hell it would suck tons of bandwidth... Do you see something that really interests people and you have to get anyway if you need MMORPG servers?

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Guest Anonymous Poster
A Game like that, is like a pyrimid scheme
the first person to join reaps the benefit of everyone to join afterwards

New player comes, puts $50 into the system takes out $5 by the end
experienced player puts in $5 and takes out $50
eventually the new player will become experienced,
and just do the same to new players

if a million is put into the ecomomy, 250k for running cost/profit
means there is only 750k possible to get back,
and its usually the new players that are the ones footing that bill
I doubt the odds are even that good, for getting money back out of the ecomomy

Really I think its better to just let the players, buy and sell things for real money, while trying to avoid any legal responisbility if the server crashed and wiped all the items.

If you want a example of a rl ecomomy + game ecomomny mixing, go try Project Entropia(s/p)

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Why do people always want to add such activities to MMORPG type games? Who wants to sit for hours on end at a apple vendor stand and hastle the players who are running off to raid an orc camp about buying apples all day? And then what do you give the player for selling these?

You would have to have them sell like 1000 apples for a dollar, and then withhold payment until they have like $50 worth of sales. And even then, it's kind of pointless. Who is going to put 40 hours into making 50 bucks?

Hey, I pay 15 dollars a month so I can pretend to sell fake apples to people who are having fun, and every 3 months I get 50 dollars back. Can I list that on my resume as previous employment?

Why not just play online gambling?

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Although anything is possible, you really have to ask yourself -why- those projects work, and how they've achieved the balance. More importantly than why or how, is -if-. We have no way of knowing if the players -actually- like the game. There are alot of players who end up playing a game because they're waiting for something, be it a payout, new expansions, maybe just the community, etc etc.

When I look at Second Life, I see "Okay, that looks like a pretty fun game; basically mimics the real world...", but then here I'm wondering if they're waiting to get the cash bonus at the end. Sure it would be a fun game; it looks like The Sims, except alot bigger.

What do you want to achieve in your game? Do you want a good game? Or do you want to give your players another reason to play your game? Personally I don't think a real-money economy makes a game any better; it seems to be like it gives your players one more excuse to want to play your game.

If you can find some way to actually integrate real-money with the game economy and have it -actually matter-, then I will fully support your idea. But until you find a way to integrate them and make a better game, I don't see any reason to waste time putting it in your game. Sure it's good for business, but if you're slowly destroying the quality of games in the process, why?

If your game is good, the income you recieve should be enough to at least get you started. Of course I'm being pretty idealistic with that statement, but if you're releasing an MMO it better be worth selling.

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First of all, I intended this as a design excercise ("riff on that for awhile"). I don't actually have any plans to make an MMORPG whatsoever. I'm not trying to think of a gimmick, or a get rich quick scheme. And since it's an intellectual excercise, I wasn't immediately concerned about legal repercussions, I mean it's obvious that there might be some problems, although not necessarily insurmountable problems.

in other words: "no sh!t".

But instead of outlawing RL money exchange for ingame services or items, or just looking the other way, how might one put it ingame?

Say a player could do farmwork or fish enough to play to make up for the monthly charge, or even make 10-20 bucks a week. Meanwhile, he's training another character to be an adventurer. Then he gets a few guys together and starts robbing wheat shipments. Of course, then, he's got to find a buyer.

You'd have to make fishing and farming hard enough that your economy wouldn't be flooded, but you'd give people a reason to actually play as a fisher or farmer. I mean, they aren't goign to make a living from it, (unless they live in China) but you'd have more dedicated craftsmen and producers.

I guess no one wants to play in this sandbox, though.

[Edited by - abstractimmersion on March 5, 2006 7:15:14 PM]

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But instead of outlawing RL money exchange for ingame services or items, or just looking the other way, how might one put it ingame?


Same way [online] casinos have for years, take cash, return chips [gold]. Allow players to cash gold for cash [or not, since that requires you to have all the gold in the game in cash assets and act like a bank].

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Original post by abstractimmersion
First of all, I intended this as a design excercise ("riff on that for awhile"). I don't actually have any plans to make an MMORPG whatsoever. I'm not trying to think of a gimmick, or a get rich quick scheme. And since it's an intellectual excercise, I wasn't immediately concerned about legal repercussions, I mean it's obvious that there might be some problems, although not necessarily insurmountable problems.

I must say I'm pretty in line with this idea. It's quite interesting.
Quote:
Original post by abstractimmersion
But instead of outlawing RL money exchange for ingame services or items, or just looking the other way, how might one put it ingame?

Say a player could do farmwork or fish enough to play to make up for the monthly charge, or even make 10-20 bucks a week. Meanwhile, he's training another character to be an adventurer. Then he gets a few guys together and starts robbing wheat shipments. Of course, then, he's got to find a buyer.

You'd have to make fishing and farming hard enough that your economy wouldn't be flooded, but you'd give people a reason to actually play as a fisher or farmer. I mean, they aren't goign to make a living from it, (unless they live in China) but you'd have more dedicated craftsmen and producers.

I guess no one wants to play in this sandbox, though.

I'm not sure. My friends playing Ultima Online spent countless hours at mining and crafting swords. I found it pretty pointless to propose a game in which you could do a repetitive task like that but it actually worked.
I believe that having players produce goods could be a definite plus but a sort of automatic economy (just as in actual games) is needed.

The elder scrolls III: Morrowind had a very interesting system for that. By using a skill (alchemy) and equipment you could brew potions. At the beginning of the game, homemade potions are weak, usually not worth carrying, but extremely cheap. After half of the game (I was using a class which had a very slow alchemy improvement) my potions were not only cheaper, but also far more powerful than NPC's ones. There's a parallel between NPC an PC economics.

It would be extremely funny for a game to hve opportunities like that. Say Blomur needs to go in the dragon lair. He knows he'll need a potion of "resistance from hell on earth (fire)". Checking out the NPC's he can buy a ton of this, cluttering up its backpack and spending X golds. Instead, he decides to go find Linma, an elf (PG) mage rumored to roam in the woods. A third, player is in charge to kill Blomur so it makes a excessively powerful poison potion and labels it (note this is the cool) as "resistance from hell on earth (fire)". Then he finds Linma who (which?) is really tired of having PG searching for him/her and accepts cooperating with the killer for some escorting services to The Bad, Dark and Dangerous Forest.

Do you see Blomur, in the critical battle with the dragon, drinking a potion and dying? LOL, I think it would be funny - not to mention that when revived, Blomur would know at least that the potion didn't work...

Now, the problem is that no one is likely to play Linma in today's games (or not)? Is this where the 'real value' shall come in play?

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Original post by Krohm

Now, the problem is that no one is likely to play Linma in today's games (or not)? Is this where the 'real value' shall come in play?


If you're trying to push it to a point where someone will just walk back and forth in the woods along the same path pretending to be an elf merchant 12 hours day, that the person is only doing because he'll get real life money, then you are pushing it to the point where it becomes a real-life job. The only way I would take that job is if it offered almost as much money and security as an actual job.

As to your player-killing scam, the victims ALREADY hate when things like that happen to them in current MMORPGs, and people get banned for doing things like that; few victims ever think it's fun. If in this new RPG, the victim actually paid $100 of real-life money for the potion you scammed him out of, that's grounds for getting arrested for real-life fraud. If, on the other hand, you were completely immune to the U.S. legal system (or whatever was the primary country that played the game), but you could still steal actual money from people, your game is going to be crawling with thieves, scammers, real-life money-making corporations, tax evaders, money launderers.... not really a fun place to go slay dragons anymore.

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The point of that was that real "value" could be used to make boring tasks interesting. Maybe, or maybe not.
Because "value" would be offered, this would be much a different issue.
Anyway, no one will be forced in the choice. If they want do it well, else they can do other things.

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Instead of using real money for in-game money, maybe you can use in-game money (or points) to buy things off some kind of online store. Similar to how some arcades have games where you win tickets, and eventually you can cash the tickets in for some kind of prize.

I can't imagine that the prizes would be that glamorous, but maybe you could get figurines or a T-shirt or some kind of memorabilia. I doubt scammers would have much interest in these kinds of prizes but I'm not sure about other legal issues. Also, the use of in-game money for real life items could be a way of removing some money from a game so that it doesn't build up so fast.

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MMO money is inherantly real money, wether the game company says so or not:

People play MMOs, and take as valuable anything they make in the game. These money/items can be sold on ebay for real money. Generally market forces cause an equilibrium price, creating a market established exchange rate. This is exactly how real currency works too BTW.

EverQuest has a GNP on par with many 3rd World countries last I looked.

As a game company, all you'd have to do is provide an in game auctioning system. You wouldn't even need to scrape any off the top. You could provide something as simple as a sales tax or income tax. Say, 1% of all monster spawn. Then sell that gold/items back on the auction system to players.

The game company would also become like a federal reserve or central bank, since it could effectively mint coins (increase monster spawn, etc.), thus it could moderately control the exchange rate. However, trying to fix an exchange rate of one currency to another has serious issues, as any macroeconomicist could tell you.

Note that the game company can't just sell as much as it wants, because this could lead to hyper-inflation, just like what happened in Germany. Since everything is virtual, 100 bananas and 1000000 bananas don't take a whole lot different storage space, so that's a real temptation. The more the game company sells the less everything is worth.

That said, the game company has an advantage over real life countries: There's no foreign competition. Everything in the virtual world, items, food, everything, is there because it's been coded on a server. There's no resource flow of anything but money.

The game company would probably need to hire a macroeconomist to help them run fiscal policy in the virtual world, since the virtual world is in every regard a new emerging country.

If done well, I imagine that an MMO could be made 100% free, with money to run the servers taken from taxes that are resold to players for real money.

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What if in-game currency was tied to real money, allowing a player to "cash out?"


Games that currently do that:

There (they were first AFAIK)
Second Life
Project Entropia

Note that, often, the "cash out" option is run by players (such as Tbux.com, but it's equally effective in the end. Except the original developer has no control of the external market.

There has had amazing stability in the currency market over the last few years; it's pretty much been stable at 2000 therebux per dollar (buy) and 2200 therebux per dollar (sell). There itself gives you 1800 therebux per dollar, and won't take them back.

Note that there will always be an external (cash-out) market, even if the developer doesn't allow it. If they ban the trade on eBay, the trade will just move to where they can't touch it.

Now, given that you CAN cash out from most popular games, are people actually fishmongers? No. It's much more lucrative to be a level 60 camper going for the Ph4t L00tz.

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