Friday, July 18, 2008

Insider Trading

As a game designer, working on a MMO is so insanely different than working on an offline game. It is mostly different because imho, to be a good MMO designer you must also play your game as you cannot fully understand the repercussions of your choices, the players, the community, their needs, struggles and aspiration unless you are right there alongside them. But if you do play the game, every decision you makes as a designer also affects your own gameplay, with the power to tip the balance in your favor or against yourself.

And with this power comes knowledge... knowledge which can also be your worse nightmare...

So here I am with my guild. We just finished a spawn and are rolling for scrolls at the GH. One of the guildmates tosses his 105 on the ground. A few others do the same with their 105 and 110. I look and say nothing. But I know in 2 days when the publish hits, those scrolls will actually be worth keeping for the extra turn in points. That first guildmate then proceeds to throw a map of Sosaria on the floor. I stare at him for a couple seconds and clear my throat saying "you might want to hang on to that, it could sell for a pretty penny". He goes, "Pfft, I have those coming out the wazoo, so does everyone else. Can't even give them away! Let the damn thing decay. Anyways, I've thrown most of the others out already".

I bite my tongue. In a couple of days they will be worth 10k pts. I should know, I coded that myself...

I try to think of a good way to get him to keep it, but frankly I can't without making him suspicious that I have insider info and maybe even blowing up my cover. I keep quiet...

For a minute there, I think of picking it up. I mean, I could use those 10k points myself. But then I feel like a sleeze and leave it there to decay. I don't know if anyone ever picked it up. But I remember thinking if I had been smart, I would have picked it up and given it to him when the publish hit. Oh well...

The next day, I'm in Luna. I need some explosion kegs but I'm too lazy to make my own. While shopping, I see tons of items for free or dirt cheap which I know will be worth a bundle of points. This guy is selling forged metal for 50 gp, they will be worth 250 pts tomorrow. Talk about a good deal! He's got at least 15 of them on his vendor. I buy 4 and as I'm about to buy the 5th one, it suddenly hits me: this is insider trading!

I try to rationalize this: 1) I'm not doing anything illegal within the rules of the game, a player has the right to buy off a vendor; 2) if I dont buy them, someone else will plus the seller is getting the price he asked for; 3) if I wait til tomorrow when everyone else knows, I will be at work when it hits the shards and by the time I get home, it will all be sold out...

Except...

Another player has no way of knowing about this. The vendor would (and will) raise the price if he knew about this. Tomorrow, other players too will be at work when the news is posted on the Herald and they too will miss out. I mumble for a while then walk away. I grab my keg and recall out.

The next day after work, I rush to Luna and straight to the forged metal vendor. He sold out... Big surprise... I check out the other vendors nearby. The few that still have forged metal are selling them anywhere between 5k and 10k a piece. What a rip... I cuss some more and recall out. I'm annoyed and slightly frustrated but at the same time, I somewhat feel good about myself for not abusing my priviledge.

Then I get in vent. My guildmate is cussing himself out for losing well over 100k points because of all the maps and virtue armor pieces he threw out... Our GM tries to cheer him up. I feel bad all over again...

I discussed my dilemma with my colleagues later on. The consensus seemed to be that I can't help but knowing what I know and I cannot share that knowledge with players, friends or not, even if they're screwing themselves over. And that at the end of the day, as long as my actions remain within game rules, what I do for myself is between me and my conscience.

I guess sometimes knowledge just sucks...

2 comments:

Chao said...

*pets*

And that's why Sak is my most favorite person/UO person/game designer in the world!

P.S. It's still coming out too slow!!! ARRRRGGGGHHHH! I blame you.

Lady Aalia said...

i so know how you feel.... i had a whole vendor full of Christmas stuff noone ever wanted....

Till the morning i logged on and all of it , even the buttugly snowflakes....

then i checked UO.com
I was not amused :P
But hey i had still enough :) plus with the quest i can still get everything i wanted:)