Hey everyone! I got some comments in from the great @raphkoster, designer of UI and all-around MMO sage!

They didn't make it in time for press but I'll probably use them in a follow up piece. But I'll share them with you now right here!

@raphkoster I asked Raph if he knew what the FIRST multiplayer online game that we can truly say had something like "digital land" in the economic sense.

Raph's answer is that it was probably Monster by Rich Skrenta, an early MUD (if I'm using the term right):
@raphkoster Raph distinguishes between MUD's and MOO's by the way.

It's a little fiddly but this reddit thread helped me understand the difference there's a whole typology and line of descent here

@raphkoster Raph's notes on "land" in the early days.

Raph points to a MUD lineage called DikuMUD's which went on to be the design basis for MMOs.
@raphkoster Raph gives some points on the nature of land -- I do briefly touch on what he gets at on the third point, but I don't explore it much.

IE, limited access to dungeons in an MMO can make land a "factor of production", I definitely agree!
@raphkoster MONEY QUOTE follows

"This latter topic opens up the issues like we had in Galaxies, where there was ample room for everyone to own a house if they chose – but people did things like build player cities atop the entrances to dungeons to monopolize access to resources."
@raphkoster Raph pushes back *a little* on my righteous crusade and gently reminds me that modelling conflict is one of the reasons we play games in the first place.

I broadly agree -- my point was just to make sure we don't wind up with unintended conflicts that aren't fun.
@raphkoster I mean, you can't make a feudal simulator without feudalism.

Getting echos of @danctheduck's thought on MMO's having too much economic efficiency spoiling the fun.

It's more fun to go to the bazaar to find a great deal on green potions than just order from Ultima's Amazon
@raphkoster Points out a straight up goof in my article, mea culpa:

This is obvious in retrospect. Having a big basis of the world be fixed geography makes total sense from a server perspective
@raphkoster Raph insists that players tend to be pretty tax-averse, and I totally believe him. He mentions old-school MUDs had a feature called "rent" that was effectively a property tax (a tax on stuff you owned, including your capital goods)
@raphkoster He tells me more about old Diku lineage and references an old article of his (I found it here: raphkoster.com/2009/01/09/wha…)

Here's the tharsis-gate link below:

Dikus seem to have had an upkeep cost for housing!
@raphkoster OLC, or "Online Creation" is the grandparent of today's UGC platforms, Raph sends me a link here:

@raphkoster Some more tidbits here.

"Rent" in this context is upkeep payment to avoid deletion (property tax)

Here's the realms of despair link on a concept called "moral housing":
@raphkoster sorry that's MORTAL HOUSING
@raphkoster Also in case you missed it above Raph more or less confirms that UO was the first online multiplayer graphical game that was both open world and had non-instanced housing
@raphkoster Raph mentions how the design problem "Rent" (property tax) was meant to solve was inflation.

Nowadays I see MMO players calling these kinds of systems "gold sinks," and housing is one typical destination for that.
@raphkoster Here's the link he references there:

@raphkoster I just got done with one 7,000+ word essay so I need a bit of a rest, but I should be able to weave these notes into a coherent narrative.

One thing that fascinates me is this game Zapoco someone pointed out, that implemented a land tax 3 years ago

@raphkoster Obviously players hate taxes, why wouldn't they? Question is if they hate taxes more than scalpers.

Judging just from the comments (I know, I know), we do see some interesting replies. Most seem to be in favor.
@raphkoster There is a negative comment or two, but this one was particularly interesting:

"I bought like 40 plots to profit but going to lose money now ???? I can see why Tom is doing it though, inactive players own a lot of plots."
@raphkoster Ultimately the devil is in the details. Are the emergent conflicts and crises your economy is producing the behavior you actually want to elicit? If so go nuts.

I definitely know I have a deep rabbit hole of old school MUD's and weird web games I never heard of to dive down.
@raphkoster Anyways, much thanks to @raphkoster for letting me bug him this much on the internet! Hopefully you have found his insights as interesting as I did.
@raphkoster Did I seriously somehow misspell "UO" in the first tweet

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More from @larsiusprime

27 Aug
How to tell if someone is a fresh new indie game developer: they eagerly hand you a business card at a conference that says "CEO"

(No shade/denigration meant, it's just a really obvious tell)
Honestly half the tell is the business card
This is basically the frame I would use for some story about how outsiders in an industry with poor on-ramps naturally absorb the superficial trappings of aspirational "professionalism" because the real way business is done is entirely (and unfairly) opaque to them
Read 5 tweets
27 Aug
Some loose thoughts on housing policy. If this is Yoshi-P's motivation, let's lean into that.

Houses degrade if not used. This is good, b/c it (somewhat) discourages speculators. But it's bad because it leads to loss aversion (I'll lose my house!) which leads to holding.
What might be a better way is to maybe put unused houses into "cold storage". Technical/server details here matter a LOT. But if some improvement is gatekeeping access to a scarce resource, one useful reform could be, "Your house is not GONE, it's just sleeping."
"Since you weren't using it we freed up the land for someone else. And when you want to log back in you can put it down anywhere that's free" (This further assumes both a land use policy like land tax or other that ends the shortage as well)
Read 5 tweets
26 Aug
Based on real world and video game history I'm predicting that games like #AxieInfinity with digital land economies are setting themselves up for a predictable land shortage and subsequent recession, killing their user growth.


Am I wrong? Tell me why!
It doesn't have to be this way, so long as these games learn from the lessons of the past and make the right policy choices. Good news is we have a lot of precedent in the real world and the digital! EVE Online solved their crisis early on, other MMO's suffered for DECADES.
Most MMO's with land shortages caused by speculators holding productive scarce property out of use are able to limp along because housing is an optional "nice to have feature." But many "land grab" games put land front and center as the basis for their whole UGC economy.
Read 10 tweets
26 Aug
Major thanks to @WritNelson @maegodhavemercy and @fruity__snacks for helping me with this article!

TL;DR -- many online virtual worlds have suffered from digital land speculation and housing crises. I chronicle the history and offer solutions.

@WritNelson @maegodhavemercy @fruity__snacks Final Fantasy XIV has a housing crisis to this day, Ultima Online's persisted for at least two decades. EVE Online had one in it's early days but Ramin Shokrizade nipped it in the bud with a clever fix.

All caused by Land Speculators, who are basically scalpers.
The saving grace of your typical MMO with scarce land is that housing is an optional "nice to have" feature, not a core part of your game. It's survivable if one part of the game totally sucks and is only available at black market monopoly prices.
Read 8 tweets
25 Aug
(Asking as an old guy with Tourette's)
Okay read through the paper. This is fairly nuanced and it passes the smell test, though I'm no neurologist so my only qualifications are 30 years of living with Tourette's.
Read 10 tweets
18 Aug
I've got a term that crystallizes my root source of skepticism with crypto-backed digital goods:

"Degraded Blockchains."

The promises of crypto:
- Decentralized
- Immutable
- Trustless

Sounds good! However, most services "degrade" these promises in building their service

So you own the NFT that represents a digital pikachu. It's a number encoded on a blockchain. You own that number, it's immutable, no one can change it without your consent, it's decentralized, it's trustless. Great, great, great!

But all that is given meaning by some app. 2/X
And that app is a centralized, trusted, mutable service. There is nothing that fundamentally connects it to the blockchain the way everything internal to the blockchain is supported by the 3 key promises of crypto.

This is a "degraded blockchain"

Read 6 tweets

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