Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Mudflation and you

Well as you undoubtedly have noticed: I spent the last couple of blog entries more or less discussing arbitrary things that you already knew anyway.

Despite the fact that this is mostly a blog for wow noobs like myself I think I will take a swing at something slightly more abstract that affects even the most lowly WoW players. Mudflation...

Mudflation is a term coined back in the old multi-user-dungeons when BBS' were modern and no one ever even imagined something as drastically complex as WoW running over a network spanning dozens of servers and involving millions of people.

Mudflation basically describes the process of people getting richer as they go along and how this impacts the economy of a game.

In the current type of MMORPG economies (open economies) the resources are pretty much endless, you will never run out of mining nodes and the monsters will never dissapear or stop dropping loot. This means that over the long term the more you play, the wealthier you become.

Eventually you become wealthy enough that the wealth of one person 'flows over' onto the next person resulting in the infamous 'twinking' effect where 1 character simply supplies a lower level character with equipment or monetary aid depending on their needs.

The problem with this principle is that eventually there comes a point where there is nothing to spend your gold on. As a result gold becomes fairly worthless to you and there is little to no objection to spend a few hundred (in wow terms) gold on a low level player to help them out.

This in turn results in the 'twinked' player to become substantially more powerful and devour game content even faster than he/she normally would (possibly even skipping large parts of it).

The effects of this cycle are obvious. One day your cool new purple epic item is the greatest thing on the server and a few weeks later no one really cares about your stupid purple epic because everyone has one in their bank and has moved on to the next greatest thing...

until the day that there simply is no next greatest thing.

From a development perspective this is a disaster, people running around having everything can quickly cause content to become obsolete (when was the last time you went into low level instances for the loot?).

But what does this mean for you? It means quite simply that all that nifty gear you've been collecting on your lvl 70 characters will be completely obsolete by the time the next expansion has been out for a few hours. After all Blizzard wants to be able to provide new content to keep us interested (otherwise we stop paying them) but they can't afford to make this content 'worse' than the content they already have.

No one is going to spend extensive amounts of time in Northrend if the quality of loot and things to be had is lower than what they can get in outland.

As a result each and every expansion will always bring better gear which is good for us noobs because it means we can still progress but can be rather painful for the hardcore players who all of a sudden end up replacing all their pretty epics for new greens.

For blizzard this means that expansions are an integral part of their income. Once you stop expanding your content will become obsolete quicker than you can say whatsthatpurple.

Mudflation is a sad reminder that even a world that appears to be quite alive will eventually suffer a rather extreme economic collapse.

In the end blizzard will have to device a way to infuse their game with new interesting content via other means than cut and dried expansions. After all blizzard will never be able to produce content quicker than people can consume it... that's a fact of development.

No comments: