Sunday, February 11, 2007

Can They be trusted?: A Call to Game Developers

For Massively Muliplayer Online game developers, their product cannot be self-contained; the game alone does not suffice to please today’s online gamer. The developing company is expected to cultivate a report between themselves and their customers. This report builds into a community, one based on trust. Of late there have been examples of both abuse of this trust and dependence on this trust within the development business incurring respective negative and positive results. Turning to the Blogoshpere to explore these events, the extent of their impact can be more clearly related. Steven Davis’ blog PlayNoEvil, dedicated to issues of game security, in a recent post discusses the issues of in game cheating by developers. From a similar vein, Mark Hefflinger in his entry on DMW Daily focuses on the legitimization of Real Money Transactions and the implications of this move. In hopes to begin a dialogue on these topics, comments on these posts are shown below and were posted at PlayNoEvil and DMW Daily.

Trust within the online gaming industry is undoubtedly a necessity for the longevity of developing companies. The main concern for game developers is to create a positive experience for the consumer. What does this mean for developers who desire to play their own games?

Developers have an unfair advantage that cannot be ignored, and as such it is inappropriate to allow them regular user status. This does not mean they should be barred from experiencing the world they helped create. However, limitations need to be set. There are a hundred thousand plus customers for Eve Online, in this case, who should be the CCP or any developers’ primary concern. As a game developer, one needs to have an appreciation for games and should very well enjoy playing them. Nevertheless, professionalism and dedication to the integrity of their company and product need to the priority. After all, there are other games out there…

Black Market sales of virtual property have co-existed with MMO games since their inception and until recently the developer has always strongly combated the sale of their virtual properties. Sony Station Exchange’s acceptance and facilitation of the customers’ capitalist ventures has earned a great deal of customer patronage, revenue and has greatly cut their support costs. What does this mean for other MMO developers? Will they begin to adopt this policy and instead of punishing virtual salesmen, simply play the middle man? They should. The players of Everquest II using Station Exchange have shown that they can be trusted to use a legitimate system if it is offered. Currently the illegal sales of virtual property from games such as World of Warcraft, Ultima Online and City of Heroes are estimated to be as high as a billion dollars. This is a chunk of capital industry developers cannot afford to neglect, and it seems Sony has presented a viable means to regulate this currently illegal trade with great success.

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