EULA, RMT Debated at Austin GDC

September 18, 2008 -

So, who actually owns your MMO avatar's high-end gear?

Not you, according to the fine print for most online games.

End user license agreements (EULA) and real money trading (RMT) were among the topics debated by a panel at this week's Austin Game Developers Conference (AGDC), reports Worlds in Motion. Panel members included game designer Raph Koster, Scott Hartsman of Ohai, attorney S. Gregory Boyd, author (and "EA spouse") Erin Hoffman as well as moderator Erik Bethke of GoPets. Boyd and Koster made some key points in relation to player ownership of avatar gear:

Boyd: Couple of reasons [why the player doesn't get to own in-game items]. The first is liability. If I want to cancel someone’s account, I don’t want to have to pay the person the value of that sword. Second I don’t want to compensate them or own up to anything when I nerf that sword for balancing reasons...

Koster: All of these things are ultimately just bits and bytes in the database... I’m just fine with saying ‘yeah, that’s SOE’s sword. Damn straight!’ Where it starts getting a little weirder is that those databases are all a log of a player’s experience. In any place but gaming, something like your quest log should be protected by privacy laws... If you really want to know what’s the cutting edge of this, I’d look at China. Because their government has stepped in and said ‘I don’t care what your EULA is, here are the new rules.’


Comments

Re: EULA, RMT Debated at Austin GDC

"Frist off wow....... how can a quest log be private? A conversation log maybe...but questlog???"

It's a record of a person's activity on a service. So is your gear in WoW, for that matter. In a game, you may want to show that off, sure, but under strict privacy laws, records of activity with a service could easily be regarded as private info, particularly under the stricter EU privacy laws. As more sorts of activities make their way into VWs (financial transactions are an obvious one, but there will be more) this issue may come more to the foreground. I am just prefiguring it a bit. :)

 

Re: EULA, RMT Debated at Austin GDC

""Couple of reasons [why the player doesn't get to own in-game items]. The first is liability. If I want to cancel someone’s account, I don’t want to have to pay the person the value of that sword.  Second I don’t want to compensate them or own up to anything when I nerf that sword for balancing reasons...""

Thats not how it works tho a simple line of text in the contract of the sale can state as long you pay for the subscription of the game and you don't lose your account you keep the item you bought. Compensation?For what? Wheres my compensation playing this ass whack game that plays like a job? Again its simple these items are not permenante and may be removed by GMs,loss of account or no longer paying for the subscription...my god if the EULA destroys ones rights in order to protect the company why can't it state this aswell?

"Koster: All of these things are ultimately just bits and bytes in the database... I’m just fine with saying ‘yeah, that’s SOE’s sword. Damn straight!’ Where it starts getting a little weirder is that those databases are all a log of a player’s experience. In any place but gaming, something like your quest log should be protected by privacy laws... If you really want to know what’s the cutting edge of this, I’d look at China. Because their government has stepped in and said ‘I don’t care what your EULA is, here are the new rules.’""


Frist off wow....... how can a quest log be private? A conversation log maybe...but questlog???...also the government that makes the rules of the land should be able to tell the corperations that they may not rape the consumer through the EULA....
------------------------------------------

You might can control a VR economy by making it bland and static but that wont make me play the fcking thing, I want to be able to spend some money to make the game fun to play if I can not do that I'd rather not play the game. Better exp,more starting skills,higher starting stats,money and items should be buyable from the developer as either one time transactions or you get a premium subscription that gives you better exp,more starting skills,higher starting stat.... MMOs need to change perhaps in order to deal with the economy it balances out item prices based on the total amount of  currency in "world" have servers tell over servers whats going on and then rate item price based on it with the money coming in just from it as they can reset it every so often and give subscription discounts at a 10K to 1$ rate under a medium class level, higher classes that should have more money get 20K or more to 1$ rate, and these discounts are stretched  out over time up to 50% of the monthly, think of it as a VR discount that goes to your subscription bill up to 50% of the subscription a month.

 

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Re: EULA, RMT Debated at Austin GDC

If you're seriously suggesting that you should be able to buy a better character, then you have the wrong view of what MMOs, and RPGs in general, tend to be about. Part of what makes a game like that fun is the quest for getting phat loot. Wanting to be able to buy better items in a game is no different than cheating in my eyes because you're using an outside means to get something better than you could normally. That would be like sitting at a table and playing D&D with some friends just to slip the DM $5 for him to give you something in game. It ends up giving you the advantage over others, and it removes any challenge that the game provides.

Why not just let a bot play for you? It would have the same challenge-less outcome as buying beefed up stats or gear from the developers.

Re: EULA, RMT Debated at Austin GDC

I am not saying that it is a GOOD thing. The reason I cite it as cutting edge is because the societal penetration of virtual worlds and most specifically, the most esoteric and advanced legal cases surrounding virtual property are in Asia -- specifically, in South Korea and in China; and lately, more of them in China than in Korea, though Thailand is also worth watching. As countries set precedents on things like virtual property, they create ripple effects, particularly since VWs are not territory-bound.

Re: EULA, RMT Debated at Austin GDC

Thanks for the clarification, Raph; that was certainly the most baffling quote in the article.  So as I understand it, your comment isn't about the Chinese government being right or wrong, simply about it being far ahead of the US in terms of legally codifying the terms of property and privacy in virtual worlds?  As opposed to the US, where we assume EULA's are legally binding but have never really tested them in court?

Re: EULA, RMT Debated at Austin GDC

That is broadly correct -- I don't agree as much on the EULA part, various aspects of EULAs have been tested a fair amount. But basically, yes, my point was that Asia is ahead of EU/US in setting legal policy around virtual worlds. Not always in ways we would agree with here, but just in terms of number of laws on the book sand legal cases settled.

Re: EULA, RMT Debated at Austin GDC

"In any place but gaming, something like your quest log should be protected by privacy laws..."

Nonsense. For one thing, participation in quests is not a private activity, so there's no default expectation of privacy. Furthermore, any expectation of privacy depends on the visible privacy practices of the service. If you, as the user, are aware that your quests, achievements, and other such records are going to be published, you really have no right to demand that such records remain private.

"If you really want to know what’s the cutting edge of this, I’d look at China. Because their government has stepped in and said ‘I don’t care what your EULA is, here are the new rules.’"

Since when is totalitarianism a good thing?

Re: EULA, RMT Debated at Austin GDC

I understand the MMO publishers stance on virtual property. It makes perfect sense.

What I don't understand is why they are not embracing the item sale business. They should open up their own little item/gold auction house with real world money sales. They could then take a small transaction fee and make a butt load of money from it.

AS for the fears of reembursing a player if they cancel an account, with the item sales, they could simply sell off all their virtual property before canceling their account. If anything is left in their avatar's possesion at the time of cancelation, it is gone for good.

E. Zachary Knight
http://www.editorialgames.com
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
MySpace Page: http://www.myspace.com/okceca
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Re: EULA, RMT Debated at Austin GDC

Most games don't have enough money sinks in them to prevent massive inflation, and none of the MMO's I have played have ever improved quest rewards or other things to account for devalued in game currency.

It would require a very different mindset and most dev/pubs don't have anyone on board who could actually look at the economy and manage it.

 

Re: EULA, RMT Debated at Austin GDC

About the only one MMO that even has some grasp of the problem is EVE, and they're not going down that route. They know there aren't enough money sinks in the game, and that it's mainly the entry of new players that is helping keep inflation down (On the converse, new technologies are allowing the production of rare items in higher volumes, which is also counteracting inflationary tendencies).

They're also the only MMO that has an economist to keep an eye on their economy.... granted though their economic setup is very different from other MMOs, so that's somewhat understandable...

Re: EULA, RMT Debated at Austin GDC

There have been games that used the microtransaction model for in-game purchases, and all it did was make the game economy spin out of control completely. I can't cite any specific games, since its been at least a year or so since I originally read the story, but there were a couple games that allowed buying the in-game currency and it ended up with players who didn't buy their way to wealth being completely unable to trade/buy better gear from other players.

I think it stems from the fact that once the game company starts selling gold, its legitimized. The people who wouldn't have bought gold from a third party for fear of their account getting banned/hacked/stolen, or just general fear of an untrustworth site, will now buy gold since its from the developer and they know its safe. Then the people who were already buying gold from the third parties will buy even more gold since now they know that there's no risk to it at all. This causes the in-game value of gold to drop significantly, making it so that if you don't buy your gold you can't do business with other players either. Its almost the same as when a game doesn't have properly designed money sinks and the value of the gold goes down simply because after a point, there's no use to it at all because its all been replaced with commodoty trading(Guild Wars and Diablo 2 are prime examples here).

Re: EULA, RMT Debated at Austin GDC

If you really want to know what’s the cutting edge of this, I’d look at China.

Since when were China's policies considered "cutting edge" and something to be emulated?

-Gray17

Re: EULA, RMT Debated at Austin GDC

And yet companies still do business there, despite the officials in charge taking that kind of stance....

 
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