As intimated in my previous post, some more reflections on how RMT might impact my “Voyages” game concept below the fold…

NPC relations and Reputation

My intent with the Voyages design is to implement a significant model for building and tracking NPC “relationships” for each PC, including such roles as mentors, friends, admirers, “hirelings”, rivals, and enemies: the character’s “supporting cast”, if you will.  I’d like to have a system that could handle such diverse interactions as bribery, interrogation, intimidation, flattery, and so on: the Spirit characteristic is one element loosely tied to such a process, but it needs a lot more than that to really work. 

While the specific mechanics of this system are far from finalized, I do want to have specific activities and elements which give the player some level of influence and control, as well as feedback mechanisms.  That makes the system potentially “gameable”, and thus a possible vector for RMT.

I don’t plan on allowing “reputation” to be transferred in any significant way, although there might be some element equivalent to “vouching for someone” that could be used by one character to slightly modify the reputation of another (depending upon the relative scores of the voucher and vouch-ee, I should think).

Given the above, it seems to me RMT in this kind of situation would be similar to power-leveling: a concerted effort to influence a specific relationship/reputation score.  Having a way of “quickly” (from the player’s POV) gaining influence with a city councilman or expert trainer could easily be seen as worth an investment of cash to certain players.  Until the specifics are further along, it will be difficult to analyze in detail, but the possibility will certainly need to be kept in mind during the design process.

Character and player/account Karma

Another aspect of Voyages that could create some issues related to RMT will be the Karma system I am looking to set up.  In Voyages, Karma will be available for spending on making the PC’s life a little easier: it will empower everything from short-term “luck” bonuses on skill checks to injury mitigation and “Death recovery” options.

The intent is to grant Karma points to both the character and the player/account, basically in appreciation for activities which are most likely add to the enjoyment of other players or that help to create and maintain the facade of the setting.  Simply logging in and playing will grant slow Karma gains to both the character and the player.  Using in-character chat channels as opposed to /tell (and not being put on /ignore as a result) will be worth some Karma per utterance, and so on. 

Conversely, players will lose Karma for actions which are disruptive or excessively destructive: going on a killing and burning rampage in a neutral or friendly village, for example, will cost the player and character Karma, as well as reputation with large swaths of the NPC population (and potentially the character’s life as well, of course…)

Karma is going to be a complicated issue in terms of it’s susceptibility to RMT.  Since Karma isn’t really intended to be transferrable in the typical sense (tradable), any RMT based on the concept will be indirect, and therefore subtle and difficult to pre-emptively identify and control.

Account and Character transfers 

One obvious vector will come from any ability to transfer accounts between people: unless there was someway to tie each account to a biometric ID of some sort (retina scan, thumbprint?  fat chance), it is simply too cumbersome to try to restrict this in any significant operation. 

Address?  People move too frequently, plus you’d have to eliminate game cards.  Name?  Anyone willing to bypass a simple rule about not transferring accounts is going to have little problem being identified as Bernice, even if their real name is Rufus. Credit card number?  Those change as frequently as address.  You could potentially sell a parallel port/USB “key”/”dongle” to at least force a physical element into any account transfer, but that’d be a rather expensive way of simply being irritating about it all.

In the end, I think the best way to handle that entire issue is to offer it as a low-cost or free service from the company itself, to pre-empt those who would sell it.  Undercutting the competition from the very beginning prevents it from ever seeing significant revenues, and thus prevents it from ever getting established to begin with.

I have also been considering allowing players to “lend” characters to one another, to try to mitigate any need for players to continue the current, very risky practice of sharing account information with one another.  This would simply allow a player to designate other accounts allowed to login and play as their character(s). 

A detailed log of activity could be maintained so that the lending player could monitor what the borrowing player was doing with his character: there could even be email alerts if that was deemed desirable (“ImaDufus is taking your character into the Tomb of Ultimate Destruction!  Kick him off your character immediately (Y/N)?”).  The intent was also to limit the damage that could be done by a “vandal” by restricting the ability to trade, spend character Karma, and the like.  If the character was killed, the player would be logged out from that character and the maximum amount of Karma needed to restore the character would be taken from that player’s account and put into “escrow”, with any unspent amount returned when the owning player decided how to resolve the issue.

Such character lending could, of course, be another RMT vector of concern.  A service could spend a little time developing some desirable characters and then offer them up for use at an hourly rate.  I’m not so sure, however, that this would be all that damaging a practice to the service as a whole.  This could allow casual players to partake in parts of the game that they might otherwise be shut out of, after all.  Characters used in that way would definitely exhibit some “multiple personality disorder” over time, which would be a problem for the owning player that might help mitigate some of the resentment from other, more “purist”-minded players, if properly handled.

Guilds and Professions/Titles

I am hoping to create a situation for guilds where they can offer their members a significant return on the investment of time, attention, and resources that membership can require.  At a minimum, guilds will be able to establish reputations and relationships with the various factions in each setting, gaining access to larger scale activities and goals and modifying related NPC reactions to guildmembers in turn.  Guilds will be able to build their own guildhalls and the like, offering lodging and guarded storage to members.  Guilds will also be able to establish their own “Professions/Titles” if they desire, by creating series of tests that, once passed, grant the member a title that can be used in the LFG/LFM interface amongst other things.

Outside of guilds, Titles in the various Professions will typically be granted by NPC organizations/authorities.  The adherent for any specific title will be put through a series of tests designed to establish that certain minimum competencies have been achieved.  Once all the tests have been passed, the character is granted the Title, which can then be seen by all other players (if desired) in the LFG/LFM interface, at a minimum. 

There might even be several different authorities granting the same series of titles: for example, each major Combat Style might have it’s own regimen of tests, leading to the possibility of multiple “Veterans” (Warrior Rank 1), “Myrmidons” (Warrior Rank 4) and so on, one for each Combat Style.

There are several potentially damaging opportunities for RMT in the arena of guilds and titles/professions.  Entities could set up Guilds and just sell a variety of titles for cash, no skill required.  Guilds might be tempted to spend cash to purchase in-game currency to financing the building of guildhalls and the like.  The more functionality the guild concept is given, the more opportunities for RMT to impact the game, it seems to me.  As such, this is something that is going to need some serious reflection.