Thursday, August 06, 2009

Too Much love

I don't use my main ourWorld character, Wylde, very often any longer. This is why:

Can I just Reply All?

Each of those '!' is somebody who wants to chat with me. I just can't keep up! Don't worry, I still play ourWorld all the time, I just use less well known characters.


Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Geat Idea, or Greatest Idea?

Plans under way for memorial to gaming icon in Lake Geneva

There are about as many opinions about Gary Gygax as there are numbers in the average bag of D&D dice, but there is little doubt that his influence upon hobby gaming was massive. It can be argued that in regards to gaming, he was the single most influential person, ever. If you narrow that statement down to 'hobby gaming', I don't even think there's an argument.

I'd love to see that statue. Of course, there's some concern that it'd come alive to defend treasure hidden somewhere nearby. We'll deal with that issue when the time comes.


The Amazing VooDoo Economics of Farmtown

My obsession of the month has been Facebook's Farmtown. I am particularly impressed with the way the Farmtown designers have bent economics to match the goals of the game, leaving real-world economics behind.

It's Pumpkin Season!

Like most virtual world-type games, the value of Farmtown money isn't based on supply and demand. The supply of both money and goods is, of course, limitless, so the prices are arbitrary. The demand has no impact on price, so the goal is to maximize demand (i.e. players) as much as possible by increasing the size of the player-base. Attracting more players is the baseline goal of all games, and Farmtown uses all of the Facebook viral tricks to achieve that goal. In addition, they use a novel approach to employment economics, which, while simple, is new to me.

If you are a Farmtown farmer, these are your costs to grow crops:
  • Plow
  • Buy seeds
Once the seeds are grown, you harvest and get paid:
  • Harvest and sell immediately OR
  • Harvest and store, selling at the Market for +10% price*
Here's paradigm shift. The Market is full of people who want to work for you, and getting that bonus 10% is how you find those players in the first place. Players who work for you get paid BUT:

Unlike in the real world, instead of the farmer giving the workers a cut of the farms income, the farmer gets paid MORE when using a worker and the worker gets paid by the game, NOT by the farmer. That means the farmer's choices are:
  • Harvest and sell immediately for the least money OR
  • Harvest and store, selling at the Market for +10% price OR
  • Hire somebody else to harvest, selling at the Market for +20% price, plus the worker gets 20% value of the harvest. Note: Harvesting becomes a bit of a chore, so you're saving time and effort as well as making more $
Hiring somebody to Plow your fields also is 25% to 50% cheaper than doing it yourself in addition to the worker getting paid. Again, it's a chore you get to avoid while saving money and the worker is thanking you for the 'free' money.

The game simply doles out more money for the cooperative behavior they choose to encourage. Unlike the real world, there's an infinite supply of cash, so this works with no side effects. I've always thought of virtual economies as trying to replicate supply and demand of scarcity based real-world economies, but Farm Town has proved that there are other options, depending on the goals of your game.

* note: I'm totally estimating the % benefits, but the gist remains valid.


Monday, August 03, 2009

It would be amazing...

If I could blog from my iPhone.


The End of Online

Most online games are played on a computer or video game system. The rise of these systems as a source of entertainment has supplanted TV, toys, sports, and traditional play as the primary source of entertainment for a lot of kids. The conventional wisdom, from the President on down, is that kids need to get off the couch and go play outside. I don't have a problem with that, at all.

My prediction: As being online gets cheaper and easier, smart toys will start appearing that making playing outside as cool or cooler than sitting on the couch. Off the top of my head:
  • Bats, balls, gloves, and sporting goods we haven't thought of that automatically record your stats and measure your records against your friends, and the world at large.
  • Action figures that allow kids to take part in grand adventures, shared by other kids all over the world.
  • Geo-cache style park games, played by individuals, small groups, or as part of a larger world-wide campaign.
These ideas are mostly 'old-toys-only-better', which means I'm certainly off the mark. The idea that people need to be sitting on the couch to get play benefits from the online world is just old fashioned thinking. Once smart toys are priced competitively with dumb ones, a new brand of old fashioned play will return in a big way.

Who wants to sit in from of that stupid screen all day, anyway? It doesn't *do* anything!