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IBM Tries Middleware For MMO Economies

simoniker posted more than 10 years ago | from the virtual-world-domination dept.

Role Playing (Games) 20

Thanks to Wired News for its article discussing IBM's new Business Integration for Games (BIG) middleware for online gaming, technology which "lets game publishers install billing software to keep track of transactions in their online worlds", and IBM claim might "make it easier for the publishers to charge players to gain access to new content or new areas to explore -- something that currently has to be done with expansion packs and incremental product releases." According to the IBM project manager, the BIG project could "allow users to unlock new weapons or powers by paying for them within the context of the game", and it's also suggested that the tech, though just a sophisticated in-game billing system, might mean "hard-core fans could develop their own content, insert it into the game and make money from other fans."

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Allow me to be the first person to say... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8361133)

big furry deal.

IBM develops software to get rid of casual players (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8361148)

Hellllllo Churn, goodbye community!

Re:IBM develops software to get rid of casual play (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8366480)

I hate companies that think that communities should be splintered by how much money they are will to pay for the priveledge of hitting a rat and gaining experience.

Legends servers at 40 bucks a month? You have to justify that to them, even if it means that the regular service is now lesser in some way.
In Everquest, it was mostly GM support.

As someone who enjoys taking full advantage of a standard fee, I can only see selective pricing as a disadvantage.. Where I excel not based on how well I played the game, but on how much I payed for it.

Potential liabilities (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8361150)

IBM's middleware may present problems. Since SCO has a strong argument that IBM violated their Unix license, I am concerned that anything coming from IBM is tainted. Perhaps it would be better to get this special "middleware" from a business that hasn't illegally copied Unix code. Might I suggest a Microsoft solution [microsoft.com] ?

damn! (0, Funny)

nutsaq (116096) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361396)

"hard-core fans could develop their own content, insert it into the game and make money from other fans."

Damn! my bullshit meter just exploded. It usually does when IBM starts moving their collective lips.

what I see from this (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8361441)

BigBadMonster is DEAD!

You gain 150000000 experience points.

$15 has been billed to your account.

because the butterfly.net Grid worked so well... (3, Informative)

*weasel (174362) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361510)

IBM's last foray into MMO middle-ware: the Butterfly Grid [butterfly.net] .

Not to cast dispersions on the companies listed as developing games for the grid - but this is not a list of clients looking for middleware that's going to be worth IBM's focus.

Though there could possibly be some fairly interesting games that develop around such a fan-content real-money economy in a massmog - I don't see many games going in that direction, let alone enough to necessitate middleware.

A pyramid scheme? (5, Interesting)

MMaestro (585010) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361538)

"hard-core fans could develop their own content, insert it into the game and make money from other fans."

So hardcore fans makes and sell content to non-hardcore fans, while the developing team makes and sells more content to the hardcore fans, while the producers makes and sells bandwidth and servers to the developing team?

Unless they charge a low price for this type of game, it won't have mass appeal. (Pay a front-end fee, a subscription fee, AND a fee for extra content? Uh, not exactly budget minded.)

Re:A pyramid scheme? (3, Informative)

StingRay02 (640085) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361832)

There's a game out already that does this sort of thing, only I believe the technology is all built by the developer, no third party economic software. It's called Second Life, and people create content and can then sell it for game money, although last I looked into it, they're actually implementing a system that will translate game money in real money, if you choose.

I can see EverQuest, or FFXI making use of something like this. Instead of just trading items, or dealing constantly with NPC shop keepers, you'd have a real time system in place for buying and selling from other players, using the game's money (be it gold, gil, credits, whatever). That way, time you invest in the game (thus time you pay for by way of the monthly fee) doesn't entirely go to waste. That twelve bucks a month, if used properly, can get you exclusive stuff, and while this is more of a hardcore player option, the people that really get into MMORPGs are weighted to the hardcore side anyway.

All in all, not a terrible idea, provided there's not some kind of real money fee attached to its use.

Re:A pyramid scheme? (4, Interesting)

*weasel (174362) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361877)

The Sims Online had that essential scheme in their design doc - though i don't know how the player-content wound up (it wasn't there at release, and i wasn't there after beta).

Second Life also operates on a similar concept.

Both are certainly more 'niche' than the big games (EQ, UO, AO, DAoC, etc) - but there is a dedicated playerbase who are willing to pay the going rate (~$13/mo) for such gameplay.

The only difference is that IBM is proposing that their middleware facilitate such transactions for actual money and not in-game currency.

The gameplay is fairly proven, though the low frequency of games that embrace this model, and the (comparatively) low financial success they have certainly casts doubt on the feasibility of a middleware solution.

Keep in mind, IBM also wants to facilitate the secure trade of goods for actual money between players in other games as well (Eg. the transfer of accounts, sale of a found item, etc). But the publishers of those games certainly have the expertise and equipment necessary for such sales - and yet they are all quite resistant to 'legalize' inter-player transactions for real currency.

(common mud-wisdom shows legalizing interplayer transactions draws in corporate interests whose agents would push out the average player in their attempts to harvest and control market value of items and characters.)

Re:A pyramid scheme? (2, Interesting)

MisterJones (751585) | more than 10 years ago | (#8364297)

You're thinking people won't buy into this? Already they're paying for the CD to install the game, a monthly fee to play it, plus shelling out extra bucks for expansion packs...

There is a guy I work with who has two dark age of camelot accounts that he plays side-by-side so that he can team up with himself. I asked if he thought that was spending too much money, but he said that it didn't matter to him, he has plenty of disposable income and an extra monthly subscription fee wasn't too much to pay for, considering his interest in the game.

I can see the hardcore gamers like him paying extra for new content or the ability to advance. I think it would even be a good idea to make the whole payment scheme built around a system like this. If you're a casual player, and you don't want to be a level-1000 badass, you pay a lower fee per month. (emphasis on lower: like $5 or something) If you want the latest, greatest items and access to the most dangerous dungeons, chances are you are willing to devote more money.

Makes sense from the server point of view as well, since the level 1000 player probably plays far more often than the level 5 player.

Re:A pyramid scheme? (1)

Nihilist_CE (683399) | more than 10 years ago | (#8365075)

So hardcore fans makes and sell content to non-hardcore fans, while the developing team makes and sells more content to the hardcore fans, while the producers makes and sells bandwidth and servers to the developing team?

That's not a pyramid scheme; it's a trickle-down economy.

Ack! Republicans in the game industry!

Second Life is already doing this (4, Informative)

Critter92 (522977) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361939)

Second Life [secondlife.com] already has a vibrant economy driven by user-created content and some users are choosing to convert their in-world earnings back in US$ via Gaming Open Market [gamingopenmarket.com] . Terra Nova [blogs.com] has extensive discussions of the strength of the SL economy, as well as some of the problems that can arise from using real-world currency in virtual worlds -- including resident alienation, loss of suspension of disbelief, and interesting legal implications. It is also somewhat specious to suggest that pulling real-world currency into a virtual world somehow enables user-created content. The billing system, whether in US$ or SL's L$, was certainly a complicated component of the overall product, but it was dwarfed by the complexities of 3D streaming, collaborative creation, and distributed physical simulation.

billing software? (1)

Throat constant (727976) | more than 10 years ago | (#8362192)

Try free software, otherwise, don't count me in.
Yes, I'm cheap, specially if we're talking about buying virtual things... when I can get much more for free with my imagination. At this rate, I will have to end up with schizophrenia paranoia.

BAH! (2, Insightful)

Metal_Demon (694989) | more than 10 years ago | (#8362300)

lets game publishers install billing software to keep track of transactions in their online worlds

Sounds to me like they are upset that everybody else is making all the money from selling in game items.

make it easier for the publishers to charge players to gain access to new content or new areas to explore...allow users to unlock new weapons or powers by paying for them within the context of the game

NamedMob has dropped ph4t l3wt, buy for $1.00? Thats what it sounds like to me...AKA highway robbery!

hard-core fans could develop their own content, insert it into the game and make money from other fans

It's called Second Life (tm) or something like that. Who wants people to be able to create and use rocket launchers in EQ or something?

Disclaimer: I am dumb.

MMO economies.. will anyone ever get it right. (3, Interesting)

darkmayo (251580) | more than 10 years ago | (#8362524)

Doubtful.. alot of companies have tried various forms of in game economies based on items and crafts and what not.

Now I can only comment on the MMORPGs that I have played to put this into context. I'll take EQ and DAOC as two examples .. EQ being the bad economy, Daoc being the better.

EQ's economy was the first one I was exposed to, started in beta 3 and played until before the Luclin expansion. It was all about the item drops and not really about the crafted items. (I have heard that has changed) if you found a craft you could make money at it was nerfed, platnium worthless on most servers and only on a few you could use it to buy equipment from other users.
The number of rare items and armor unfortunately never really diminished much causing those once rare items to be common place. Look at an FBSS (Flowing Black Silk Sash) for example, a once sought after item is now a few plat or a couple of trades of lower level items. As well the amount of gear and items that just make the FBSS a joke.

DAOC imo had a better economy than EQ, cash was definately useful for a long time, more focus was on crafted items and defense of the realms (which cost alot of money to upgrade and maintain keeps and such, as well people weren't sitting on massive fortunes with nothing to spend it on. As well items and armor degrade and break, not to mention the subsquent additions of alchemy and spellcrafting which also raise the bar of things to spend your hard earned gold on.

played a few other ones, Shadowbane/SWG for example and both of these had some serious economy problems (shadowbane had massive duping bugs causing massive inflation, and SWG has problems with tons of shitty items and no one wanting to buy them.)

anyways anything that will help more MMO's get a better economy i'll be all for it.

Re:MMO economies.. will anyone ever get it right. (1)

ggwood (70369) | more than 10 years ago | (#8367429)

Just FYI, the FBSS (flowing black silk sash) still sells right around 2500 platinum pieces on my server - same as it did years ago. It is basically in/deflation-immune. There are no crafted haste items (to my knowledge - perhaps there is some really out there one) but the supply of haste items is still small. And this is on an older server (Terris Thule, which was around in June 2000 when I started playing).

For the non-Everquesters: 2500 platinum coins is nothing to sneeze at. A very wealthy monster may carry 40 plat in coin, or perhaps drop an item which sells to a vendor for 100 plat.

Further, I have made all my money via tradeskills. You just have to sell what people want, in quantity. I go for consumable items: food, drink, arrows, armor dye, mostly, and items people need to get their tradeskills up.

Lastly, Eq has had massive influxes of cash and there are rumors of platinum duplication bugs even recently. Yet the economy is large enough that the whole thing has not been really destroyed: meaning there is fine gear available to buy or sell.

I'm not saying Eq economy is great - haven't played DAoC and I'm sure it's better than Everquest was when you left. Maybe it is still better now - I'm not saying it is hard to improve upon Eq either.

All I'm saying is the economy is not totally broken. If you left Luclin-era, you would be amazed at how cheap gear has become - but also how hard the newer MOB's (monsters) are which you have to fight to get the new, far better, gear.

We have all heard of "MUD-flation" in which money becomes worthless because there is no (or not very effective) means of removing money from the economy. Certainly lower end gear is basically worthless in Eq, but money is definately not.

Lastly, Eq just implemented a "tribue" system by which you can donate cash or gear to your home city for small ingame benefits. It is an *awesome* place to toss older, unwanted gear when you can't sell it to other players and the NPC vendors will not really give you much for them either.

Although they are having a hard time fine-tuning it, the tribute system is, potentially, a great way to limit the money supply.

Yay for player created content (1)

Operating Thetan (754308) | more than 10 years ago | (#8362659)

Or maybe not. Most people completely lack any sort of creative ability. Some of them realise this, and are excellent at combining old ideas to create something new. Some of them are just plagiarists who wish to be fed pulp and be told it's art. Gamers and anime fans seem to be particularly susceptible to this. Take a look at somewhere like garagegames, and you'll see 90% of the supposedly original ideas and concepts are simply tired rehashes

This, in itself, is not a problem. After all, this is why they are the consumers, not the designers and artists.

Until you give them the ability to create in game content for cash. As soon as there's a financial incentive, you start to lose the high ground on moderation/standards, as to fulfill your business model you have to accept the dominant culture in your game. Expect every single game this is implemented in to rapidly devolve in an anime and RPG archetype filled hell as people learn they can create what they want provided Mommy stumps up the cash

Shortly after that, expect the server to close down after masses of lawsuits for the inevitable IP violations

-1: Spoil sport. (1)

Ayanami Rei (621112) | more than 10 years ago | (#8362866)

It looks like somebody has a case of the Mondays.

Cool (1)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 10 years ago | (#8365936)

Now maybe I'll be ableto do somethings and pay less rather than buy the whole expansion and only ever get to use 1/8th of it. Oh wait, the game companies would just raise prices.

You are about to become level 2, do you accept the $9.99 charge for doing so? (Yes/No)

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