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Trades between players with real money?

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Hey,

 

I have an idea which seems pretty unconventionally for MMO games: allow players to trade in-game goods for real money.

 

Key points looks pretty simple:

- (!) I'm talking here only about game design itself, not about legal issues (FYI: theoretically it's possible because, at least, guys from Entropia Universe are doing the same things and seems they don't have legal issues)

- players can trade in-game goods between themselves for real money

- the game does not sell anything by itself (e.g., no cash-shops and so on)

- the game itself become a kind of marketplace (e.g., a kind of eBay)

- the game is taking some fees from each trade

- the game protects the trades from cheating

 

It will not be able to turn into P2W, as I see, just because ANY in-game goods/gears need to be earned with in-game methods. So, no items/gold/etc will be inserted into the game from nothing (as it happens with cash-shops).

 

What do you think about such money mechanic?

What issues do you see for in-game economy?

Should such game try to make any protection from out-of-game trading between players? If so, which ways do you see to detect such things?

 

Again, I'm not talking here about possible real-world legal issues and so on – only about in-game things as economy, gameplay, etc

Edited by norlin

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It will not be able to turn into P2W, as I see, just because ANY in-game goods/gears need to be earned with in-game methods.

 

 

That doesn't stop it being Pay-To-Win, it just adds an extra roadblock in that buying what you need to win requires someone else to have already found it themselves.

 

A system like this creates large incentives for players to grind, mine, farm, etc - all so that they can earn real-world money from rich players by selling what they've found or created. Some players will not engage with your game except in a purely utilitarian way, as they are treating it as a job, and they will spam and inconvenience other players to achieve this. You'll have taken gold farming and extended it to the whole game economy - so if you're not familiar with how gold farmers ruin many existing games, read up on that first.

Edited by Kylotan

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There certainly are massive legal issues to be aware of. In some parts of the world you could find yourself in jail for making this kind of game without collecting the right kinds of taxation information and withholding a cut for several governments... There's companies that facilitate these kinds of systems for games if you want to offload a lot of the legal risks onto another company (in exchange for them taking a cut)... Another side topic is that whenever real money is involved, you're making yourself a target for hacking and cheating -- and not just people trying to hack your game/servers, but also people hacking your players and stealing accounts, which means you need a big customer service team to deal with all those complaining customers :( Even something like WoW has a real-money black-market, so Blizzard has to use two-factor authentication to reduce the number of customer-service staff required to deal with stolen accounts.

 

Some players will really like it, and others will dislike it so much that they will avoid your game because of it...

Most micro-payment games are quite unethical in that they target a very small number of people, get them addicted, and convince them to pay huge amounts of money... e.g. most people pay $0, a lot of people pay $1, and a handful of people pay $10000 (yes, that happens on shitty mobile/facebook games)... which is very exploitative.

On the other hand, this kind of game has the potential to be nicer, where the people who get 'addicted' to the game might actually make money from it.

 

From a game design perspective, it will be hard to design an economy that doesn't collapse or suffer massive inflation. e.g. markets will get flooded with commodities, driving the price down to whatever the minimum is (e.g. lots of CS:Go skins are stuck at $0.05 price tag, because they can't go lower)... or supply is restricted and the game becomes pay-to-win.

It's a very fine line. Some successful games actually hire experienced mathematicians and economists to help the game designers with these problems!

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That doesn't stop it being Pay-To-Win, it just adds an extra roadblock in that buying what you need to win requires someone else to have already won it themselves.

Not exactly. The paying player still be required to progress his character as non-paying player. So, he can only make his path easier (not faster).

 

In this sense, It's almost the same as in EVE online: players could buy ISK for real money, but no one calling EVE p2w-game (AFAIK).

 

 

 

suffer massive inflation. e.g. markets will get flooded with commodities

There will be no additional inflation because all items still must be earned by in-game methods only. That's why I've specified no cash-shops and strictly pvp-trades (the game itself does not generate any in-game goods for money).

 

For now I see only one major possible issue – if the game becomes popular, it could be a kind of job for ?hinese/korean gamers who can ruin the balance with massive grinding. But I hope there are ways to prevent this...

Edited by norlin

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The paying player still be required to progress his character as non-paying player. So, he can only make his path easier (not faster).

 

That is the same argument that has been made against microtransactions and gold farming since day one. It doesn't hold up. The player is skipping a part of the gameplay by paying someone else to do it. That makes it both easier and faster.

 

There will be no additional inflation because all items still must be earned by in-game methods only

 

This is also incorrect. The "In-game" concept doesn't change anything - if you provide a monetary incentive to create goods for sale, more people will work on creating them, meaning more get created, and the price of those goods drops.

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The player is skipping a part of the gameplay by paying someone else to do i

Well, ok. But in my case, player basically can't get any advantages in comparison with non-paying player – that's my point.

Any gear could be grinded/crafted/whatever with no money. And it will take the same time as for seller to earn it.

 

From the other side, gold-sellers are exist in any case, just in most games it's not official and leading to cheating/fraud/etc.

 

more people will work on creating them, meaning more get created, and the price of those goods drops.

Agreed, but after some time it will be balanced automatically on some level (depending on how much the game popular, how much money players are ready to spent and so on).

(Also, the game should have a ways to "destroy" in-game values somehow).

 

I can only refer again to Eve Online which is working pretty good with official money selling. I think it's exactly because those money goes strictly from players, not just injected by the game into a database.

Edited by norlin

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But in my case, player basically can't get any advantages in comparison with non-paying player – that's my point. Any gear could be grinded/crafted/whatever with no money. And it will take the same time as for seller to earn it.

 

Swap 'player' for 'person' and think about the real world. It's like saying a person in the real world with more money doesn't get any advantage over a person in the real world with less money because everything they buy had to be made by some other person in the real world. The fact that you transplanted this into a game doesn't alter that dynamic at all - people who start out with more resources are at an advantage.

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It's like saying a person in the real world with more money doesn't get any advantage over a person in the real world with less money

But this is not an issue. It's exactly what I'm going to make in a game – a living "real-like" world, in some sense.

 

Diablo 3

Diablo is not MMO game. It does not have any common economy system nor any persistent world.

Edited by norlin

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Diablo 3

Diablo is not MMO game. It does not have any common economy system nor any persistent world.

 

 

Unless your MMO has actual static content, an actual limited amount of resources, for example it has a limited amount of gold in circulation, the iron ore never gets over a certain amount, etc, then it's not different than Diablo.   The number of players in a single instance at once is not applicable.  In Diablo, they could all access the auction house, so you could say the auction house was it's own MMO.

Edited by ferrous

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But you can't claim that being able to buy things with real world money will not give advantages to players that do so
I just mentioned this only in sense that any player could reach the same things without money. So, in general, paying player will not have more power than non-paying player. But anyway, it depends on other mechanics and design of the game.

 

The number of players in a single instance at once is not applicable. In Diablo, they could all access the auction house, so you could say the auction house was it's own MMO.
Ok, I see your point, thank you!

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If you think you will be able to create a safe place for the trades to take place I recommend you take a looooooong hard look at Steam and its trading system. How much it has changed, the massive security they have bolted on to it to protect against scammers and the like and how many scams still manage to slip through. This is a big wealthy company with suitable resources to throw at the problem.

 

If you are a single person then I get the feeling you will not have the resources to throw into user support, security and related nightmares that a popular game could bring.

 

If real world money available you will get people who are only interested in if they can game the system and where all the weak points in the security are. For example, if items are "worth" real money then trying to hack your servers to steam/create items is now a way to make money.

Years ago I had software for sale that was cheap and fringe stuff, so not huge circulation. I had keys tied to users to unlock all features. Within days of release there were keygens online for it where people had reverse engineered the code for fun.

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After many years of inactivity I have just recently over the past few days started looking around this forum again.  Its quite a coincidence that this topic was posted just yesterday as it was a major part of the project that I wanted to get started when I signed up at this forum.  I'm currently trying to figure out how it could maybe work without the real money economy.  

 

- rant about legal issues you can ignore if you want - (After reading up on the legal issues (I live in the US) I decided I didn't want to risk getting all my assets seized as the kingpin of an illegal criminal enterprise under the RICO act and to go to jail for violation of the bank secrecy act of 1970 and the unlawful internet gambling enforcement act of 2006 (these are the repercussions of the federal government ruling that virtual currencies like bitcoins are real money).  There is a book I bought on amazon that sort of covers this topic and mentions second life and entropia quite a bit (before the ruling on virtual currency by the feds) called virtual law navigating the legal landscape of virtual worlds by benjamin tyson duranske if your interested in it.) - end rant - 

 

I am very familiar with entropia universe as I played it quite a bit around 2006 - 2010 right before they went to cryengine.  It pretty much ruined my ability to enjoy online games anymore as it just feels pointless and boring without real money being involved.  I was one of the few people that never got lucky with a big loot, never put in a large amount of money, never scammed anyone and still managed to make thousands of dollars playing it (it would have been $10,000's if I had started with a big deposit).  Then cryengine was announced, it became a money pit, and I quit.

 

In terms of game design I think a game like this will not appeal to most people however there are enough people that are interested in it that you could have a successful game.  

 

I don't quite get how you say it wouldn't be pay to win though.  I mean it is not the typical pay to win where you pay the developer, instead you pay another player or players to "win" or at least get some advantage (unless you only plan on having cosmetic items tradable).  I do think this is a better system though.  I would rather pay another player who got lucky to get something rare or spent his time to grinding some boring gameplay to get loot I need in a trade then to just pay the game developer but that's just me.

 

As for in-game economy issues just take a look at entropia.  I haven't really looked at it much in years but I remember the massive inflation ($20k+ for a gun, $35k to heal yourself) and the players that cheated early on that have insurmountable skill levels that you can never compete with. At the same time some loot items and mined materials just kept getting cheaper and cheaper until it was tt food.  It would be very difficult if not impossible to have a stable economy in such a game but then again I don't think its a requirement either.

 

"Should such game try to make any protection from out-of-game trading between players?"  I would think you legally would have to due to international anti money laundering laws on top of the fact that if your income is from taxing these trades you don't want people not paying you.

 

If you ever do end up starting a project I would love to be kept up to date on it.  If you live outside the US I don't think you will have many legal issues in most countries.  Even in the US you would probably go by completely unnoticed but I wouldn't want to risk it.

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is your definition of 'real money' being money you can Get Back Out Of The Game

 

years ago (ie- before the in game gambling was eliminated) Second Life had something like that (allegedly - I never found out if the company actually carried through with that 'pay out' working).

 

I do recall that collaboration ( for content creation which that game was supposed to largely be based on) between players was stultified because of the mercenary aspect (voluntary improvements had no motivation or were overridden by unrealistic expectations of 'cashing in')

 

 

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is your definition of 'real money' being money you can Get Back Out Of The Game

Not exactly. The game itself mostly know nothing about those real money. The trades are just between players. Game, in these terms, are just an "online-market", as the eBay.

So, players can't "get money back from the game" since they can't put money into the game. They can just buy or sell something from/to other players.

 

About Second Life, AFAIK, it's a bit different. Players can sell some assets (a real-world goods such as 3D-models, which was made in real 3D-modelling software, etc...) through the game. I'm talking about strictly in-game things, which could be earned only via in-game mechanics.

 

Also, in my case, all that stuff it's not a core mechanic for the game. It's just an addition which, I think, could make the game more interesting and attract more people.

 

Anyway, I'm mostly trying to understand here how such mechanic could affect the in-game experience, that's it.

Edited by norlin

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"Also, in my case, all that stuff it's not a core mechanic for the game. It's just an addition which, I think, could make the game more interesting and attract more people." -

 

Ignoring the potential legal issues I agree that it would both make the game more interesting and attract more people.  You could leach quite a few people off entropia pretty easily and start off with a bigger player base then you would otherwise be able to get with almost no effort.  I know I would and have tried out ANY game with any sort of RCE mechanic in it even if I thought it sounded terrible and the screenshots look horrible.

 

"Anyway, I'm mostly trying to understand here how such mechanic could affect the in-game experience, that's it." -

 

I think the biggest and easiest to predict impact compared to having the same game without real money trading will be that the most in demand items will be nearly impossible to buy without real money.  Depending heavily on numerous other factors this could be anywhere from a very good to very bad thing.  Many people will hate this and have no interest in the game but they are not your target market so I wouldn't worry about them.

 

Some games have items that are basically untradable because the currency has no real use and is so deflated that people ask for billions or trillion of it when it could take an hour to get 1,000.  It would be much better to just use real money in that case (at least for the seller).  Even if the currency actually has a use I think it would be good for people to not be hoarding large amounts of it to trade for an item (use real money instead).

 

I could definitely see an economy in a game like this where some rare items get bought for outrageous amounts of ingame currency or other lesser items by players quitting the game who then sell that rare thing off for real money in order to "cashout" of the game.  Kind of the exact opposite of how many entropia players end up trading down to get lessor items that are easier to sell for cash.  

 

 

There would likely be a lot of traders in the game that profit by knowing what they can buy for how much ingame currency and how much real money they can then turn around and sell that item for and then what they can buy to get back more ingame currency or real money then they started with.  There probably will be a lot more scammers ingame too if there is potential to make real money.  There also would likely be a lot of autoclickers, bots, gold farmers if enough money is able to be made from them.

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the most in demand items will be nearly impossible to buy without real money
That's pretty important thing, you're right, thanks!

 

profit by knowing what they can buy for how much ingame currency and how much real money
It's possible, but there will be a fee/comission for each real-money trade, so it's good for the game developer :-) Also it will add more activity around the game, which is good as well.

 

Bots and so on – it's the main issue, right (after legal stuff). Not yet sure how to protect from this.

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Although you said -- twice -- that you're not so much interested in the legal implications (which you deem not so much an issue, it seems) allow me to point out that you are heading for massive trouble. [i]By all means, do not do this.[/i] Actively supporting money laundering and supporting the founding of terrorism are only two of the rather major "issues" that you will have to cope with. While that [i]sounds[/i] ridiculous, it's very real. Let's not talk about insignificant peanuts like logging and reporting cross-border transactions, tax, or complying with banking regulations. Unlike the ones in the previous paragraph, these are not "end up with a sack over your head" issues, but merely "pay painful fine" issues.

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Actively supporting money laundering and supporting the founding of terrorism are only two of the rather major "issues" that you will have to cope with. While that sounds ridiculous, it's very real.
 

 

That is a HUGE thing, actually. IF someone that has dirty money to launder finds your game, expect a ton of activity starting to go on in your game, and you raking in serious cash... 5 years later, expect some FBI or Interpol agents to come knocking at your door asking many inconvinient questions.

 

You will find yourself in court, and most probably sentenced to some years in prison if the police finds out that money laundering was going on in your game. And from the way you describe your idea, it would be terribly easy to do, with some years before the police becomes aware of your game and forcing you to close the loophole (which would practically mean "shut down your real money system immidiatly"), and probably your game going offline after an actual money laundering case in your game having been found (with you probably ending up in jail).

 

And I am not yet talking about financing terrorism and crime, which your game would also serve as a platform for.

 

 

Basically, your game would end up like a Bank, without the regulations (highly illegal). Or an online casino, if you are lucky (if we call that lucky now, seeing how the unregulated gambling around CS:GO exploded into serious trouble with the law lately).

 

 

Just... don't. Find a more traditional way to monetize your game, I don't think what you have in mind is really worth the trouble (unless you want to employ a big legal department, have tons of finance and math experts to tune the system, and tight security to find loopholes and ban abusers immidiatly).

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That is a HUGE thing, actually

But anyway all transactions are served via licensed banks, so what's the difference? Also, what's the difference with say, eBay, which allows users to trade between themselves? Steam also allows to trade cards. There a lot of similar examples.

 

p.s. And, one more time, there are already games who's exactly working with real money similar to what I'm talking about. And they're working legally.

 

p.p.s. why are every person here talking about legal stuff even when I've explicitly said that the topic is not about that part? I know it could be hard to implement this thing, but it's off-topic here...

Edited by norlin

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why are every person here talking about legal stuff even when I've explicitly said that the topic is not about that part

It's like watching someone holding a gun and putting the barrel into his mouth while saying: "Shis ish perfectly shafe, I'ffe sheen people do that". You just can't help shouting: "Nooooo... don't do it".

But anyway all transactions are served via licensed banks, so what's the difference?

You want a fee, so obviously it's not customer A at bank AA transferring to customer B at bank BB. In order for you to harvest your "little fee", you must collect the money, and pass it on (minus a little fee).

There you go, that's the problem. Not all transactions are served via licensed banks.

You also don't seem to realize what kind of a problem you're steering at regardless of some silly regulations. We're not talking about having to pay a fine. The worst thing is not even being sentenced a prison term. The worst thing that can conceivably happen is spending a couple of months in a stress position with a sack over your head without trial.

Let's say I am Sheik Mustafa Al Whatevah and I need to send $100,000 to my Holy Warriors in the USA so they can buy weapons and assassinate some people. I can't do the transfer via a regular bank because that sum will immediately trigger every alert, the money will be seized, and the account owner will be audited. Also, my country is officially an "ally", so I wouldn't want to make it so obvious.
I'd have to do a few thousand small transactions which is tedious, and the flood of transactions might also be suspicious... also, I know that they're already watching me and my known accounts, so I would need to hire three dozen straw men, and it would take weeks... awwww man, this is hard.

Now, luckily there is this game which isn't a bank and which will happily transfer my money anyway. Formally I'm buying a couple of in-game items from another player. That's not much different from buying WoW gold from a Chinese gold farmer, right? Nobody suspects a thing.
Maybe I'll play safe and do it in 10 transactions with 2 or 3 accounts, just to be 100% sure that nobody gets suspicious.

The other "player" (the terrorist) gets the money from you. Some guy gets a couple of payments from some internet firm. Why not, happens every day, not suspect. No alarm bells go off. The boys have their money, they buy guns and kill a hundred people. Enter the governmental agencies.

Do we know these guys? Did any alarm bells go off? Do we know where the money came from? No. But where did that money come from? Let's see... a guy named "norlin" sent them alltogether $98k last week, in several smaller transactions. Well, that's interesting.

What do you think will happen to you? Do you really believe this is not a problem? I'd watch the sky for drones and lock the doors really tight at night. Better yet, get a facelift, change your name, burn all personal possessions, and move to another country, preferrably Antarctica.

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can't do the transfer via a regular bank

Why not? All transfers still will be through banks, anyway. How do you think eBay works and what exact difference you see from my idea (if not talking about virtual goods vs. real goods)?

 

which isn't a bank

Why do you think so? This is one of possible options – get a banking license and make the game a kind of internet-bank UI (roughly). AFAIK, guys from the Entropia Universe has made exactly this thing – they just made own bank for the game.

 

So, again, the topis is not about "how to implement this". The topic is about "What it will give/take to/from the game", "How it will affect the gameplay, players count" and so on.

Edited by norlin

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A normally crucial part of the mechanism (even in games just with in-game trades)  is making the TRANSACTION  Atomic -- some kind of escrow mechanism to assure that one party or the other doesn't get ripped off (OTHERWISE THEN YOUR CUSTOMER DEPARTMENT WILL HAVE TO HANDLE SUCH ISSUES ENDLESSLY AND THE COSTS OF *THAT* SUBTRACT FROM YOUR PROFITS).

 

Unfortunately for outside games, real monies ($$$) that require interfacing in complicated ways with external money exchange entities (and all the effort to create and maintain that connection will require)  --- AND STILL YOUR COMPANY WOULD BE BLAMED FOR ANY IRREGULARITIES.

 

You DONT want company personnel to have to get involved (it has to almost completely be an automatic system) as labor costs for that function nullify profits VERY QUICKLY.

 

Some non-real-money systems in existing games  have simultaneous windows that open up for each player and SHOW exactly what's being traded by each side and Locks into a 2 way agreement mechanism, and blocks any/all cheating on the deal from happening.   When an outside MONEY mechanism is required, it has to be AS immediate as possible (AND be able to handle all the endcase potential in something of that complexity).

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is making the TRANSACTION
…immediate as possible.

Are you sure you're familiar to what you're talking about? E.g., VISA and MasterCard doesn't have any immediate transactions. First they block required amound and then process it after few days or even weeks, sometimes.

And – again – what difference do you see between my idea vs eBay? or you're thinking eBay is working illegally?

Please don't argue with your OPINION in case of you're talking about laws/money regulations.
But laws and legal stuff requires 100% knowledge of how exactly things are working. Obviously, you don't know it (nor do I) and just pissed off because of non-standard idea which looks terrifying to you, right? Just don't.

OPINION is good for what I've started this topic – to discuss in-game mechanics.

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