The internal economics of a popular Minecraft server

Alice Maz Minecraft above cityAlice Maz writes about how she mastered the economics of Minecraft:

I started on my server with only a rudimentary knowledge of the game itself and ipso facto zero understanding of its economy. Within six months or so, I had perhaps as detailed a mental model of it as one could get. I knew the price ranges of most of the items in the game and everything that all of them were used for. I knew how common they were on the market, who the major sellers were, what their supply chains looked like. I knew how fast they sold through, whether the price was stable or tacking a certain way, and I had tons of theories on ways to play all this to get what I needed and turn a profit while doing it, and nearly all of them were sound. Most of it I didn’t even think about. I didn’t need to contemplate why, for instance, lumber was both cheaper and more common than it should be, such that I could buy it all and hold, force the price up, corner the market, and keep it that way. I just kind of… knew, and did it. It’s a wonderful feeling, weaving a system into your mind so tight that it’s hard to find the stitches after awhile. Highly recommended.

[minecraft]

Via Boing Boing:

Alice Maz was part of a small group of players who came to have near-total mastery over the internal economy of a popular Minecraft; Maz describes how her early fascination with the mechanics of complex multiplayer games carried over into an interest in economics and games, and that let her become a virtuoso player, and brilliant thinker, about games and economics.

Maz’s long, fascinating essay about her business ventures in Minecraft are a potted lesson in economics, one that shows where financial engineering actually does something useful (providing liquidity, matching supply and demand) and the places where it becomes nothing more than a predatory drag on the “real economy” of people making amazing things in Minecraft.

[The internal economics of a popular Minecraft server are an object lesson in everything great and terrible about markets]

Risk in MMO Design

Wolfshead recently published a thoughtful and extensive essay Risk: Mountain Rouletteabout risk, skill, and related topics in game design. Here’s an excerpt:

For risk to be leveraged effectively as an element of game design, there has to be some way for the player to mitigate that risk or risk becomes an arbitrary punishment. The way to do this is to ensure that your game requires skill on the part of your players. Without the requirement for skill all you have left is a game of chance where luck or a random number generator determines the outcome — not the abilities and choices of the player.

The art of game design is knowing how to calibrate the perfect balance between risk and reward to create adequate challenges that entice players to improve their skills.

Wolfshead @ Wolfshead Online

Brian Green adds this insightful comment:

I think [catLink slug=’bartle-richard’ text=”Richard Bartle”] said it best in that this issue is like the eternal struggle to get children to eat vegetables instead of candy. There are things that are good in the short term (candy, easy gameplay) and things that are good in the long term (vegetables, a sense of wonder). As adults, we understand that it’s important to eat vegetables to maintain our health, but kids would eat candy until it nearly killed them if they could.

The struggle is to convince players that they should seek out things that are good in the long term. However, this is about as easy as convincing kids that eating vegetables is the best option. The worst option, as Bartle quipped, is to try to serve candy-coated vegetables.

Consider children playing peek-a-boo: we want to be scared (but not too scared!), and then reassured that everything is okay.

TLBB Boss Illustrator Interview

“Generally speaking, there are three types of bosses that appear in games, the cute-type, abominable-type and fantasy-type.”
— Ying Shi

Multiplayer Online Games Directory recently published an interview with Ying Shi, an illustrator working for ChangYou on such projects as Tian Long Ba Bu (“The most powerful martial arts experience of your MMO life.”)

Tian Long Ba Bu

MPOGD: How many concepts do you go through to get to the right one when developing the characters?

YS: We can use our own ideas to create an image, but if we want the person or player to like what they see, then we need to take some time to think about what it is we want to design. Generally speaking, there are three types of bosses that appear in games, the cute-type, abominable-type and fantasy-type. These are factors to think about when designing and, at the same time, we need to consider the story of the boss life, where does he/she come from, whats the background, the reason the boss is an enemy and how/why they became the way they are.

MPOGD: TLBB is widely known for its authenticity to the book (Tian Long Ba Bu). What key ideas and features did you take from the book in order to create what we see today?

YS: Its important to bear in mind that the game has a genuine ancient Chinese martial arts feel to it and so highlighted areas such as the 9 nine different classes, the cities, the skills etc. are very influential. Weve tried to maintain a genuine feel to the book also, hence why the NPCs are named after characters in the original work of Louis Cha.

Multiplayer Online Games Directory

For more about the classes:
http://tlbb.eu.changyou.com/gameguide/Classes.shtml

Guild Wars 2 Design Manifesto

ArenaNet recently posted a design manifesto for Guild Wars 2, their massive multiplayer online role playing game.

Here’s an excerpt concerning a subject near and dear to my heart: the social dynamics of gaming …

MMOs are social games. So why do they sometimes seem to work so hard to punish you for playing with other players? If I’m out hunting and another player walks by, shouldn’t I welcome his help, rather than worrying that he’s going to steal my kills or consume all the mobs I wanted to kill? Or if I want to play with someone, shouldn’t we naturally have the same goals and objectives, rather than discovering that we’re in the same area but working on a different set of quests?
Guild Wars 2
We think of GW2 as the first MMO that actually has a cooperative PvE experience. When I’m out hunting and suddenly there’s a huge explosion over the next hill — the ground is shaking and smoke is pouring into the sky — I’m going to want to investigate, and most other players in the area will too. Or if the sky darkens on a sunny day, and I look up and see a dragon circling overhead preparing to attack, I know I’d better fight or flee, and everyone around me knows that too.

With traditional MMOs you can choose to solo or you can find a good guild or party to play with. With GW2 there’s a third option too: you can just naturally play with all the people around you. I personally spend a big chunk of my time in traditional MMOs soloing, but when I play GW2 I always find myself naturally working with everyone around me to accomplish world objectives, and before long we find ourselves saying, “Hey, there’s a bunch of us here; let’s see if we can take down the swamp boss together,” without ever having bothered to form a party.

Of course GW2 has great support for parties, but they just don’t feel as necessary as they do in other MMOs, because your interests are always aligned with all other nearby players anyway. When someone kills a monster, not just that player’s party but everyone who was seriously involved in the fight gets 100% of the XP and loot for the kill. When an event is happening in the world –- when the bandits are terrorizing a village -– everyone in the area has the same motivation, and when the event ends, everyone gets rewarded.

ArenaNet

Via Slashdot

Rushkoff on creating an alternate reality game

Exoriare

Douglas Rushkoff talks about his participation in the making of Exoriare:

I’ve written and even taught a whole lot about interactive narrative over the years, but rarely have the chance to play with this stuff. So last year, when a Canadian games company rang to see if I’d be interested in collaborating with them on developing stories for a giant, multi-dimensional gaming universe, I jumped. It was like I was being given the chance to live out Jack Kirby’s dream of world-building with Robert Anton Wilson’s vision of multiple and overlapping perspectives.

The early results are finally making it online as the preview of a graphic novel, which spills out into the trailhead of at least one Alternate Reality Game, and also comprises the back story of the coming videogame series. This is a big big universe – a giant war for the future of humanity, of course – with maybe one overall timeline but many different pathways through the material. So people might follow my characters through a series of graphic novels, and learn something about them that they can then use in the games, or an artifact they find in the game might help them decode something in the comics. And even the ARG that people are beginning to play right now – through which they are “finding the others,” and forging coalitions with other gamers in their own parts of the world to solve certain challenges – is a set-up for the bigger game, where these larger groups will be responsible for various aspects of the coming war.

The object of the game right now is for the players to build the “Darknet,” an alternative network through which a global resistance can operate, and people can begin to piece together why NASA scientists are being rounded up and what the hell happened over the skies in Los Angeles.

Douglas Rushkoff @ Boing Boing

From the Boing Boing comments section:

“Looks absolutely brilliant. I see that Telefilm Canada is on board. Interesting. I never knew they dealt with video game production.”
BattyMcDougall