Friday, September 09, 2005

To Share or Not To Share?

Dr. Psychrates would like to query the audience again.

(can you tell that I'm a fan of the Socratic Method?)

Something about being in an MMORPG guild has always consistently irritated me. It's the intra-guild system (or lack thereof) of barter and exchange. Before I go down this road and ask the real question, we should briefly review some common social/economic structures.

The two that quickly pop into most heads are capitalism and socialism (sometimes bundled with communism). For our purposes, we're going to avoid the politics and history of these oft rivaled concepts, and focus more on the broader theory. Capitalism is, as Wikipedia defines it, "an economic system in which all or most of the means of production are privately owned and operated, and where investment and the production, distribution and prices of commodities (goods and services) are determined by the influence of market forces (in a "free market"), rather than by the state. Those in control of the means of production in capitalist societies have generally run them for monetary profit."

The virtual opposite concept, socialism, is a system of society or group living in which there is no private property; or a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state; or a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done. [Thanks to Merriam-Webster Online].

What we're concerned with here is distribution of wealth, and reward for work done. In a pure capitalist economy, people are rewarded with the profit made from their own work (merit). If you work less, you get less. If you work more, you get more. The drawback, as many note, is that if you cannot work, or cannot work more, due to something beyond your control, is it not the duty of those who have the ability to work to assist you? Too philosophical for us, so we'll skip it. In a pure socialist economy, everything is equally shared, regardless of how much work you put into something. Think of it as not ever seeing a paycheck from your job, but instead, the government sends you a stipend. Let's say you're a rocket scientist, and a genius, and have one of the most difficult and challenging jobs in the world. Your stipend would be the same amount as the stipend given to the person who took your order and cut your ham at the local deli. The drawback with this concept is that it supposedly does not promote exceptionalism or free thinking because there is no reward. (Imagine spending three hours doing your VC quest, and when you get back to turn in his head for your reward, the quest-giver thanks you for your assitance to the State, and your reward will be equally distributed to the entire populace, here's 3 silver, don't spend it all on Thunderbrew Lager. Kinda makes you never want to do anything outstanding any more at all if no matter what you do, you'll get the same pay for it. Think about this.)

So, what kind of economy is WoW, you ask? It's a modified capitalist/marketplace economy. But, as with most societies and economies, there are micro-economies within. Yes, I speak of guilds. If a guild sets up its own system of barter and exchange within itself, it can use whatever economy theory it wishes. If it works. So, let's examine some pros and cons of some potential guild economy builds, and perhaps come up with something workable.

The "Do it yourself" build: This is the most common. There's really no organization or formality involved, and it's just the guildies occasionally offering green items (maybe a blue here or there) to the guild in guild chat before the guildie goes and auctions it. It's not as if this system either "works" or "doesn't work," because it's not really even a system.
-Pros: don't have to worry about leeches, ninja guildies (those who join guilds just to get good stuff, and then leave quickly), or keeping track of anything at all (no need for a treasurer!)
-Cons: new guildies tend to feel left out if they don't get some free stuff early on (doesn't have to be "hey, n00b, here's your brand new full Blackened Defias set, minus the chest, a stack of 14-slot bags, and 20g to get you started on your first day!", but maybe, "hey, n00b, here's a gold to get you started... should be able to buy some decent starter stuff with that, and here's a complementary bag or three so you don't have to keep dropping stuff")

The "We do it all" build: This is the socialist, and least common build. This is a very formal, entirely opposite of the previously mentioned guild. It's so uncommon because when you're dealing with game players, it seldom works. Most players don't give a care about the economy, and if they come upon a purple item, to hell if they'll hand it over to the guildmaster just to maintain a weekly stipend of a few gold and some potions.
-Pros: everyone gets something, and the more the guildies work overall, the more overall everyone gets
-Cons: you are not guaranteed to receive the equivalent of what you put into the pot. (good for n00bs, bad for vets)

The "We do it some" build: This is an interesting build that I've actually seen, and seen work (for the most part). It's a mix between the first two. It works like this: You don't have to give everything you get to the pot, but you do have to supply an amount to the pot in proportion to your level, then the pot gets redistributed in reverse proportion to level. Get it? Hah. Example: You have three players in the guild. Bob (Level 10), Joe, (Level 20), Biajooka (Level 40). Bob must give to the guild 50 silver per week. Joe gives 1 gold. Biajooka gives 2 gold, 50 silver. That's a weekly pot of 4 gold. The guildmaster keeps a portion of the gold for the guild bank (in case of emergency, or a loan *more on this later*) and redistributes the pot, needy first: Bob gets 1 gold, 50silver, Joe gets 1 gold, Biajooka gets 50 silver. This method is good because you don't have to fork over actual items. Your items are YOURS, and you can use the AH to your heart's content, or be nice and offer them to guildies first. It's your choice. The other nice thing is that those ninja/leech guildies don't get a lot up front. You actually have to produce to receive. You miss a tithe, you lose your stipend (more money in the bank). You miss two tithes, you get warned. You miss three, you're out of the guild.

Other builds mix and match, like requiring you to relinquish all green items, but you can keep blue/purple, or any other combination. Most use the principles already discussed.

One of the major drawbacks of not having any system is the emergency/loan situation I referred to earlier. Let's say a long-time guildie sees a kick-arse blue Axe in the AH for an insanely low buyout (seller must be a moron, desperate, or apathetic), but the guildie is a few (or a dozen) gold short to get it. (this doesn't apply to 300-900 gold AH items, of course). It's nice if the guildie can ask for a guild loan to cover it. Thereafter, all that guildies subsequent stipends will go directly into paying off the loan, supplemented by whatever the guildie can afford to pay in time. Yes, it requires a level of trust and loyalty. Yes, it requires some accounting. However, it's a nice benefit, and if you think about it, the more you help individuals in the guild, the better the guild.

Anyway, stopping here for now. Anyone have ideas about what you think the best guild economic structure would be? Have you seen some others that work? That haven't worked? Why did they work or not? What could they have done to improve the system?

I'd love to hear what you all have to say.

17 Comments:

Anonymous Anorn said...

In my first guild, ( i was brand new to the game) i was provided with, i believe, 4g from the get go. Later on at about 25 or so, the guild leaders (Awesome couple btw) gave me some kick-butt blue shoulders. I appreciated it. but i think players new to the game shouldnt get this.

I didnt learn how valuable that 4g was until i started Anorn.

giving money to a new player, i think, can cause more problems than good. Saric was poor as all hell. At 35 he had 2g to his name, why? because he never needed money and didnt know how to make that money. his hebralism was at like 75, and his alchemy even lower. With the gold provided to him, and the normal earnings from leveling gave him enough to train, and that was all i was concerned with at that time. Once you cant afford to train, or even fly to Duskwood from SW, then you realize how nice that 1g really is.

Just my thought on the subject. I prefer to help out once the guild members have already established themselves. Makes the 5g/gear i give them more appreciated.

Friday, September 09, 2005 1:10:00 PM  
Blogger Psyae said...

I like your points, Anorn. But what about making a requirement of the guild (and therefore the stipend) that you show an advancement in your chosen professions proportional to your level?

Would that solve your problem?

Also, I agree that neither starting characters nor players should be getting very much to begin with. However, at level 1-5, just a few silver makes a significant difference in survivability (which equates directly to ease and quickness in leveling). I think a guild of any size should be able to afford, and ought, to supply regularly some benefit. Otherwise, you begin to wonder why the guild exists in the first place. Yes, it's a social forum of sorts, but isn't it also a mini-society, and a place to get support?

Time is another commodity I haven't mentioned. Time in WoW = money. If Ayae, at level 32, helps a few guildies through, for instance,the Deadmines, Ayae will get only a modicum of gold, and really no experience. Of course, she'd do it anyway, but in doing so, she's actually lost the opportunity to acquire her own wealth. It's nice if this is taken into consideration and somewhat compensated by the guild.

'Course, I'm not at all saying it should be or must be done in any particular way. Just throwing out ideas. ;)

Friday, September 09, 2005 1:23:00 PM  
Blogger Psyae said...

Anorn, where's that Elthir video you said you were going to send me?

Friday, September 09, 2005 1:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anorn said...

i see your point as well.

However, i would have to say i am, at this time, totally against any form of economic structure in our guild.

If a person never gives back to the guild and only takes then they will be disliked and that will lead to their alienation or /gquit

Everyone is caring and giving, implementing a structure implies otherwise.

Heck, i think most of our members would actually go out of their way to help others. And they would all be totally cool if, say, Ayae couldnt come with them on the gnomer run because she has her own endeavors.

Its great to be super helpful, but you need to have a degree of self sufficiency.

I think Wind has been very helpful, and he already has 40+g in the bank. There is a balance there.

As for your example, i noticed it uses the requirement for advancement in the guild. *sigh*

Reasons like this was why i was so wishy washy about the guild ranks in the first place. Over complicates non-essential aspects of the GAME. this is a game, not real life. In our guild there doesnt need to be a social ladder, their doesnt need to be a micro-economy. If we were comprised of mostly 8th graders, then maybe.

The ranks were added because there was some desire for it, and i agree, it does add a little flavor to everything.

I want to keep it as it was intended from the get go.

Light RP
OOC guild chat (IC optional)
Social environment
Very friendly and personal.

So what does that leave us? A group of like-minded individuals who have a common place to chat and help out their newly founded friends. I have complete and total faith in every member of the guild to make mature decisions. They have proven this many many many times.

i like our guild. and i am questioning, once again, my choice to change it in the first place... hmm

lunch time

Friday, September 09, 2005 2:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anorn said...

As for that vid, i still have to compress it to a reasonable size, with reasonable quality. I'll work on it tonight.

It may be too boring anyway. Xayn said it was at least.

lol

Friday, September 09, 2005 2:11:00 PM  
Blogger Psyae said...

Xayn did mention something about it, yes. :) But I'd still like to see it.

As for your guild-based comments, again, I agree that with a small, tight-knit group, you're better off without a rigid structure. [just a loose, pointless reminder that when I post stuff here it's not necessarily to address your guild, or any particular guild. mostly theoretical it is]

But I shall reveal to you a plan I've wanted to try to implement in WoW. A bank and/or corporation.

Ooh, fun. I did this in SWG with some success, and had my own business in NWN. It's being done already in some WoW servers, and in a variety of ways. However, it's not guild-based at all, so don't worry about that. I just like being the virtual entrepreneur.

One smaller based system I've seen implemented is the pots for adventurers idea. Basically an alchemist makes a deal to sell potions to one particular adventurer who uses potions a lot in higher level instances. The cost is less than in the AH, but the alchemist still makes enough profit to make it worth it, and the adventurer gets a better deal, and has a more reliable source.

This can be done with just about any product (but is better on consumables).

My idea is broader, but encompasses such ideas. Basically, I literally start a business (must have capital!!!), and hire people to work for me. They churn out stuff for their own profit (regular pay), and I use their stuff to make a business profit. (yes, this entire concept can be implemented nicely by a guild, but I'm not pushing that).

This is phase I. An example is: let's say I hire Bobbie. Bobbie is a skinner and herbalist. I'm a leatherworker and alchemist (hypo). Bobbie, on her many adventures, gathers lots of herbs and leather. She sends it all to me. I keep track. I pay Bobbie an amount we previously agree upon that's slightly less than what she'd get at the AH. She'll do this because I'll pay her for her materials no matter what. Sometimes you have to re-auction items in the AH to get them sold, and each time you auction something, it costs a fee. Plus, you have to actually get there (or use a mule), and actually spend time there, paying attention to everything. Bobbie would rather just adventure, so she's fine making only slightly less, but on a regular basis without ever having to worry about the AH.

So, I use their materials to make items. Potions and leather goods.

I have contracts with a number of other adventurers that use certain potions. (I might even give Bobbie a bonus for the materials required to make the more popular potions). These adventurers buy my potions on a regular basis, and supply the funds I need to pay Bobbie, and for other things like crystal vials and things I need from the AH. If I can help it, I'll find people to be regular suppliers rather than ever deal with the AH on my own.

Where I will deal with the AH is selling the leather goods I make.

Phase II gets much more complicated. It requires hiring more people (miners, enchanters, etc.) to supply materials and goods. Once you have a nice profit coming in, and things are running smoothly, then it's time for Phase III.

Phase III is selling interests in the business itself. (Yes, securities/shares/stocks). I did this in SWG, and it WORKED. Plus, I actually have some... knowledge, you could say, of the way this stuff works. Anyway, hopefully your bank is BIG or at least comfortable now. Then you advertise. Selling shares of X Corp for 1g apiece. 1g gets you 1 share of X Corp.

I won't go into how I plan on producing proof of the shares (I want to keep some things hush). But once you buy a share, you have a percentage interest in the company. Okay, for those of you not familiar with how it works, here's how it works:

Joe buys 1 share of X Corp for 1g. Why's Joe stupid enough to do this? One reason only: he thinks that one day his "share" will be worth more, and that he can sell it to someone else or back to X Corp for more than he originally paid for it. So, let's say when Joe bought that share, X Corp had 100g in the bank. A week later, X Corp has 150g in the bank. Now, depending on how you set things up, Joe can inquire as to how much a share is now worth. I say, "1g50s". Hey, not a bad profit for doing absolutely nothing. Joe says, "I'm selling my share back to X Corp." I take his share, give him 1g50s, and that's that.

The principle is that by giving me 1g to help the business, I was able to increase the revenue of the business more than if I didn't have that 1g. So, in a sense, I "owe" Joe some money. However, there's always a catch. I might actually LOSE money. (it happens!) Rewind. Let's say Joe comes back and asks what the share is worth, and there's only 50g in the bank. I say, "50s." Joe is like WTF! "I paid you 1g! Give me 1g back!" I say, "sorry, but if you wait, it'll go back up." Joe is hesitant, but he thinks I'm cute, so he waits.

Well, boom, in the course of business, I find a purple item on the AH for only 10g, and I snatch it up, reselling it for 900g! Joe, depressed, comes back a week later and asks what his share is now worth. I proudly say, "10g!" He's like "No way!" I'm like, "Yes way!" Joe can then turn in that share and get 10g on the spot. Woot. Yeah, that was worth it. OR, he can keep it, cause maybe the share will be worth more next week.

The principle, again, is that without Joe's (and other investors') money, I wouldn't have been able to buy the purple item in the first place and make such a great profit. So, Joe deserves some compensation, and he gets it.

There are many ways to run this scenario. You can base the share cost on what's in the bank, or any substantive or arbitrary number you like (just as long as your investors are fully aware of how you determine it). I haven't decide the best method yet for WoW, but I'm positive it could work.

First, however, I need to embark on Phase I, and that'll require some time and money.

Anyway.

If anyone with entrepreneurial spirit and a business sense is interested in becoming a partner/supplier/anythinger in my venture, let me know.

Friday, September 09, 2005 2:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anorn said...

*peeks head in*

-
-
-
-
-
-
*slowly walks away with a headache*


IMO, too much like work, which i need to get back to doing.

you're weird Psyae :P lol j/k

Friday, September 09, 2005 3:16:00 PM  
Anonymous elzandra said...

Psyae,

Righteous, Dude!

:)

I am not sure I would be happy being in a guild where *tithes* are required. I see my economic responsibility as to make enough gold to support myself so that I can be an active, supportive member of my guild.

I like to share. Even when I am saving bits of things for myself to skill up or make future items, I will happily give a requested item to a guild member. Liliarch needed leather for silk bags, so she asked Ayae if she could provide leather for her. Ayae said sure, and I could sure use some silk bags. Happy to help out Ayae, she rustled up enough silk so she could make those bags. Now,it turns out that Ayae wanted *12 slots*, but Lili was able to skill while making them and ended up trading them out for a couple of 10-slots that she still had. Ayae gave me the leather to make the bags, however, so the first bags would have gone to her. And, if Ayae requested the bags without providing leather, Lili would have still found the leather and made the bags for Ayae.

Elz makes armor for Valdrain and Andzrel. Valdrain makes pretty clothes for darned near anyone, but especially for Lili and Elz. Yes, my armor is costlier in time and mats than the clothing, but since Val is happy to provide fish, clothing, food and his wonderful company, Elz is happy happy to make armor for him. And Elz would be happy to make armor for any other guildmate.

Mug sends me a recipe for boots, I make those boots for her. Everyone sends mats to those who need it.

Drawbacks? You bet. If someone sends me mats for something, I try to make something for them, but sometimes I cannot. Windpaw sent me armor kits, but he needs just about nothing from me. He could get hard feelings about that, and gossip about me when I am not there ::sniff:: Or, I could find a great item and offer it to someone who never reciprocates at all (or takes it to DE or sells it on AH).

I have never had trouble with this in the guild; outside, yes:

Strange People Who Request Summoning Must Tip the Summoner

Lili is asked daily to summon for people, and *sometimes* gets tipped.
Now, if I am just standing at the mailbox, and the rest of the group is right there, knows what to do and it's a quick summon, I don't mind so much. If I have to chase through Ather's Mill, my escort to the summoning spot leaving me in the dust, end up being mobbed by spiders, die, and have to rez, it better be a darned good tip.

Sharing Only Goes So Far

Someone else asked Elz to make them armor. I had quested with him, he was nice, so I said sure, but I needed some mats. He said he would wait until I got them together. !!!
Ok, now, I had agreed to make this, he was becoming a friend so I went ahead and made him some spanky blue armor. He wanted delivery. I met him instead, but then he told me to be ready to trade as he had questing to do. He gave me 1g for some of the mats; didn't cover the cost if I had to buy them on AH. I have fairly negative feelings about the person and I don't talk to him anymore.

Concise opinion? Trust your guildies, share with your guildies. Everyone else, demand hard cold cash. In advance.

Saturday, September 10, 2005 11:09:00 AM  
Blogger Psyae said...

Elz,

I think you iterated nicely how a small guild generally works economically and socially, and, if everyone in the guild is happy with it, how it should work.

I'm glad I found my way into a casual guild, and, of course, I'm always happy to share.

So, Elz, what do you think about the concept of a business venture in WoW outside a guild?

Saturday, September 10, 2005 11:16:00 AM  
Anonymous elzandra said...

Businesses on WoW.

Interesting.
And a fun idea.

The possibilities are endless, aren't they?

1)Goods provided as Psyae explains
2)Services:
Mercenaries
Guides
Entertainers
Event planning (wedding? party? picnic?)
...even..unethical things like female escorts...Private investigators that track people's comings and goings...

Hm. Have to think more about this. It could be a lot of work, but think of the skills you learn for rl applications if nothing else.

Saturday, September 10, 2005 11:16:00 AM  
Blogger Theodred said...

Hmmm - who's going to do the accounts of your company? It is very much open to corruption - the purple item you found you could just as easily sold for yourself repaid what u took out of the company and pocketed the rest. Poor old Joe!

btw some of your maths is wrong in the tithe example - if u care!

Monday, September 12, 2005 5:46:00 AM  
Blogger Psyae said...

Theo,

Glad you noticed, but that was actually intentional. For those of you who didn't catch it, in the "tithe" example, Joe received the same amount that he put in (making it a wash). Theo appropriately pointed this out, thinking Joe must be an idiot to give one gold, then take one gold, and think he's done something beneficial to the guild. In a real system, Joe would actually not exist! Yes, poor Joe. Heh, well, he would exist, but he wouldn't be receiving the exact amount he paid. He would either get slightly more or slightly less in return. The system would "skip" the exact middle point at which returns equal investments.

The reason I used the gold for a gold example, however, was merely to save space in an otherwise lengthy write-up, since to make it clear, I would have had to make a fourth character. (e.g., Joe pays 95s, gets back 1g; Zweeba pays 1g5s, gets back 1g). Something like that, depending on the exact system. Again, mine's just a very loose example for a potentially very complicated system.

There are many ways to modify the system, even to include overpaying! For example, a guildie who is uncommonly wealthy could opt to pay double, which would either reduce required payments exponentially for everyone else, and/or increase returns. There are many possibilities.

Thanks for pointing that out, Theo!

Here's a cookie:

(insert cookie here)

Monday, September 12, 2005 7:01:00 AM  
Blogger Theodred said...

I was mainly refering to Joe buying shares in your company and how he could be sure that your comapany is run..... ethically (for want of a better word).

Monday, September 12, 2005 12:18:00 PM  
Blogger Psyae said...

Ah, oh, that.

Well, the Joe example really didn't have to do with shares so much as "sharing" within a guild.

As for shareholders needing assurance, that's why it's always a risk to buy shares. Always. Think Enron. There's no guarantee a company will live up to expectations, and there's no guarantee it won't turn corrupt. In the U.S., there are laws and agencies built around protecting shareholders using preventative and penal measures against companies who sell stock. However, people still get hurt.

You're absolutely right, though, Theo, in your statement that a WoW shareholder has even less (absolutely no) assurance or protection at all. The shareholder certainly cannot run to Blizzard and complain (well, the shareholder can, but nothing will be done). One of the possible solutions is to build up a good reputation with the people on your server before you even start selling things. It's a lot easier in SWG when nearly every in-game item has a product label indicating the maker's name. WoW has similar, but player-made products in WoW tend to get used and discarded fairly frequently, and the names of the makers are pretty much ignored.

How to build up a name for yourself in WoW is to start supplying (at steadily reasonable rates) products for end-gamers/powergamers/etc. They run through potions like you wouldn't believe. There are likely leatherworkers out there who gave up skinning a while back for some other profession, and would be very interested in a good deal on stacks of rare leather. You name it, someone's looking for a better deal. Once you get a few people relying on you for supplies, they'll likely tell others about you. This networking is the best way to build up your reputation. Take on new orders, but not more than you can manage, and soon you'll have a fair number of customers. If you're really good (and have good customer relations), some of your customers will carry your services over to new alts, or even have you as their exclusive guild supplier for X product.

Anyway, my intent for all these related posts is that with a big of time and effort, someone with some business savvy could do well in WoW.

Monday, September 12, 2005 1:05:00 PM  
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