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RHorning
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July 14, 2010, 07:32:51 PM
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I'm not entirely sure where to put this, but the whole idea of bitcoins has really got me thinking about potential applications for the concept, and I've been thinking of trying to use the concept for the foundation of a serverless MMORPG that would be using P2P networks instead.

I'm posting in the trading section as I also think that it is nearly impossible to ignore "real world trade" within an MMORPG.  It is also something that potentially could also provide an early market for bitcoins or as a generation source for it as well.  Buying and selling of virtual goods has value above and beyond real world money, but it is also something that folks who use computers on a regular basis would find appealing and fits in well with the demographics of the early adopters of bitcoins.

I'm also thinking it would be an excellent environment to do some experimentation with the concept of virtual currencies, where different coin generation philosophies could be experimented with in terms of seeing what might be a more optimal generation system.

While what I'm proposing would be an "open source" project (at least that is my intention), it would be a chance for participates to be earning bitcoins in a variety of ways through what is right now a multi-million dollar industry.

This is mainly an initial feeler if there is anybody interested in the idea, or a general query to see if there might another thread with a similar topic.  If there is interest in this idea, I would love to expand on the idea and perhaps even go over some notes and white papers on the topic (or at least try to get them written).

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July 14, 2010, 07:35:59 PM
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I like MMORPGs and bitcoins, so this sounds interesting to me, please elaborate Smiley

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RHorning
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July 14, 2010, 11:50:43 PM
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I like MMORPGs and bitcoins, so this sounds interesting to me, please elaborate Smiley

Here are some major issues that most MMORPGs have to deal with... something that I think Bitcoins has at least a partial solution in terms of protecting scarcity of items:

  • Gold Farmers - These are folks who become "professional" game players through a variety of means and deal with the grind of a RPG to obtain "resources" that are used for gaining experience quickly or for "leveling" a player while they are "off line".  Usually their services are paid for with "real-world" money (aka US Dollars, Pounds, Euros, etc.)  There are also some legal issues that involve gold farmers, particularly in the case of fraud (stolen credit cards), human slavery (some times literally or at least sweatshop in 3rd world countries), and money laundering.  Organized criminal organizations are heavily involved with the gold farming "industry" including malware and even blowing the knee caps off you if you double cross these guys the wrong way.  Some major MMORPG companies are making extra efforts to extinguish their efforts, notably both Jagex and Blizzard.
  • Hackers - No matter what game you have, there will be people of nearly every type that love to play the game, including skilled software developers.  After awhile, these programmers in particular get bored with the game and a few decide to reverse-engineer the game to see how it ticks as a sort of hobby.  It even becomes a game after awhile, where player-hackers then try to defeat any encryption, obfuscation, or data transmission or encoding algorithm used for the game.  The more developer effort that goes into setting up these encryption schemes, the more of a challenge that it brings to some very highly intelligent people.  I have to be honest, out of millions of players on some of the more popular games in the market, there are bound to be several who are both hacker types and are actually more intelligent than the game developers themselves.  In other words, this is a never ending battle that eventually has the hackers winning over the developers in some fashion or another in what can be a sort of blood sport.  Legal consequences only make the stakes higher and make it all that more of a game for these very intelligent types... if they can even be traced at all.

First, let me state here that bitcoins may be used in the game itself, but that really isn't the point.  It is using the concept of a bitcoin and the generation process to help in the creation of different items that are found in the game.  I'll try to elaborate on this, but from at least one point of view you can think of each kind of item found in an MMORPG (or at least each class of item perhaps.... that can be debated) would have its own coin chain and would essentially be an additional kind of virtual coin just like bitcoins.  The purpose of this is for item allocation, and to maintain scarcity of those items.  There certainly will be a market for trade between these various items, and it isn't a huge stretch of the imagination to include an exchange between these "coined items" and bitcoins as well.  I would say that would be put right into the user interface itself in some fashion.

In terms of the gold farmers, bitcoins takes care of them by eliminating easy generation of massive numbers of items... except for those items that are essentially free anyway.  "Experience" would require some sort of "proof of work" in some fashion, and there are some safeguards that can be instituted to minimize the problems introduced by gold farmers to make their efforts irrelevant as well.  Gold farmers setting up a server farm that does nothing but generate mountains of resources would find that over time their value is simply going down and they are shooting themselves in the foot anyway.  Perhaps somebody would be interested in that +27 vorpal holy avenger sword, but it would take an incredible amount of CPU effort to get that to happen.  Certainly some more effort needs to go into thinking how to deal with this issue, but the design of this game is presuming that gold farmers are going to exist, so you might as well plan for them.

In terms of hackers, this is definitely a situation of "if you can't fight 'em, join 'em".  By making this an open source game, hackers are recruited and turned into the mainstream development efforts of the game.  If there is some sort of encryption to be made, it will be incorporated by these incredibly intelligent players and only the bullies and spoil sports (who tend to be in comparison much more dim-witted) would be left in the dust.  Definitely there would be a sort of "web of trust" that would have to be developed here too, and some other mechanisms for what gets developed, but the goal is to encourage hackers to get involved.

Where bitcoins get involved here is that much of the game would also revolved around mircrotransactions for services used.  If somebody has a server that has an auction house or an exchange of some kind, payment can be made using both goods acquired in the game and bitcoins.  This is again getting back to the hacker community, as the content will be community developed and the incentive for developing content will be that the developer gets paid for players using content developed for the game.  The more elaborate and "hip" that you make the content, the more likely that people will be using it.

Sort of like Second Life, but that really isn't the goal here either.

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July 15, 2010, 01:48:36 AM
 #4

This concept have me fascinated...

I like the odd connection between running a BOT in a MMORPG and running BitCoin on "Generate" to make a similar "advancement".

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July 15, 2010, 02:26:28 AM
 #5

The odd thing about bots is that they could even have a place in the game itself.... as NPCs.  This would include "normal" NPCs like shop owners and quest guides (people involved with carrying out the plot line for a quest) and for things like monsters or even "puzzles".

Again, thinking along the line of micropayments and incentives to build parts of the game.... players could be conceivably charged a certain number of bitcoins in order to start a quest and have features (dungeons, resource areas, etc.) opened up to those players who pay.  Lame quests would be ignored (or cheapened to be essentially free or perhaps even PAY people to play them) and really creative stuff could charge a premium price.

I've also thought about "real estate" and wondering if perhaps a type of bitcoin ought to be associated with the physical virtual space where players and characters wander.  Those operating a server and wanting to interact in this virtual world would have to "own" that hunk of territory, where they would also have to "pay" (demonstrate proof of work) to build things upon that virtual land which in turn those objects (buildings, dropped items, item spawn points, etc.).  Hunks of virtual territory could also be bought and sold (with everything on that "land") to either a virtual real estate market or perhaps to a close friend in exchange for money & "other considerations".

The problem with a free-for-all virtual real estate system is coping with the early adopters who have a big heart but no drive to complete their little piece.  This is something I really need to think through here a bit more, but since some real estate, once generated, can be sold for real money, I think some valuable pieces could come up from time to time from some early adopters who simply want to get out of the game and sell to a more experienced developer.  The question is what to do with "lost coins" or in this case "forgotten land", and if there could be some sort of way to reclaim abandoned real estate and to define what would be abandoned.  That is a non-trivial problem and something I haven't seen being dealt with very well in most virtual worlds.  One thing I would like to incorporate here is to make new "land" to be "expensive" to encourage maximizing the use of that land and adding minor details that encourage exploration of that hunk of virtual real estate.  Requiring a high difficulty proof of work might be the trick here, where "title" would be granted to that person who created the new territory.

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July 16, 2010, 04:53:53 AM
 #6

I am very interested in MMORPG development and this is definitely an interesting exploration.  I am not sure that ownership of all land is a good idea.  Perhaps if some sort of rent is possible, but even then some areas of commons strike me as a good idea.

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July 16, 2010, 04:37:00 PM
 #7

I am very interested in MMORPG development and this is definitely an interesting exploration.  I am not sure that ownership of all land is a good idea.  Perhaps if some sort of rent is possible, but even then some areas of commons strike me as a good idea.

In a standard server-oriented centrally run MMORPG, all of the land is "owned" by the company who operates the game, so essentially it is that all of the land is owned by "somebody" even if it isn't necessarily a player.  The problem with a commons area is that somebody still has to "maintain" that commons in some manner.  See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons for some commentary on the topic.

What I'm proposing is that there is no "central" authority in terms of who is maintaining the world.  There is the development team and early adopters who would get the "prime real estate" and generally be people who are interested in seeing the game succeed as well.  If there would be come commons-like areas, it would be this initial infrastructure that would be put together by the initial development team in the early days of the development of the game.

My experience with a virtual world and "owned" property is with Alpha World (now called "Active Worlds") where people built mainly buildings and roads (and almost no other interaction).  I never have been "into" games like There or 2nd Life, so my experience may be distorted.  Still, "owned" content does seem to work.  One of the problems that Alpha World encountered was a significant problem of simply paying for the servers that kept everything up and running.  I'm hoping to avoid that situation by making this primarily a P2P type game.

One of the problems with previous attempts at making a P2P multi-player RPG is the web of trust, where in every case that I can find so far still has a central server of some kind at least serving up the content in some fashion, even if the player to player interactions are done in a peer-to-peer fashion.  That lightens up the server load some, but it doesn't solve the problem of having that main central server.  What I'm hoping to accomplish here is to set up a game that presumes there will be bots, hackers, gold farmers, and others who are trying to subvert the game and to minimize those efforts to become very costly for those trying to break the game but still allow game play for the vast majority of the players.  I also want to encourage experimentation with both the user interface and with content inside of the game, where a variety of means can be developed for user interaction.

I just think that the "technology" and concepts found within Bitcoins enables a rich game experience unlike what has come along before.

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July 16, 2010, 05:14:33 PM
 #8

My experience with a virtual world and "owned" property is with Alpha World (now called "Active Worlds") where people built mainly buildings and roads (and almost no other interaction).  I never have been "into" games like There or 2nd Life, so my experience may be distorted.  Still, "owned" content does seem to work.  One of the problems that Alpha World encountered was a significant problem of simply paying for the servers that kept everything up and running.  I'm hoping to avoid that situation by making this primarily a P2P type game.

Second Life (or let's take OpenSim, to get rid of the company behind it) is actually not a "game" itself, more of a playground.
all proberty is owned by its residents (they pay on SL and just run own servers on OpenGrids) and you can pretty much do, whatever you want on your own proberty,
create an RPG, build a house to live in, or a shop to sell stuff, whatever.

so yes, owned content works already, should work on bitcoins too.
i like your idea.


RHorning
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July 16, 2010, 06:14:57 PM
 #9

I'm trying to think of how to put together a "bitcoin" type combat system where there is a lack of trust between the two players (sort of presumed in a PvP battle).  Trust is with the bitcoins and "proof of work" but not between the two peers.

Some of this might require tweaking some of the concepts of Bitcoin a bit, as what I'm proposing here is a "public wallet", where the amount that you have in your wallet is publicly noted and acknowledged widely by everybody.  In this case, it is the number of hitpoints for which an individual player has, and perhaps some of his attributes, skills, weapons, etc.

The "public wallet" would be the public attributes of a player, such as hitpoints, "strength", combat skills of various types (melee, ranged, magic, etc.), "racial" attributes, and more.  While a "standard" character would be trivial to create, as a player earns "experience" they can modify some of these attributes in some manner (to be decided later, but it would be widely acknowledged by the "network" of clients).  Experience is "earned" by performing various tasks that would create a "proof of work" and go into that wallet.  This "public wallet" would be published and shared on multiple clients... in essence becoming a "permanent" character within the universe.  

One difference between "experience coins" with these chains and normal "bitcoins" is that withdrawls normally wouldn't happen.  The point here isn't to allow exchanges of "experience" between players, but rather to acknowledge what experience has been earned by a player and for that to be public information that can't be easily altered by the player except through a long process of performing work of some kind to increase those attributes.  The "proof of work" would be performed in the normal course of game play, where a few "experience coins" would be "earned" through each action.

Now the tricky part:  The actual combat!  Since each player has the full attributes of the other player that are openly acknowledged and independently verified through the network (including weapons carried and wielded), the mechanics of the system are simply played out.  In a peer-to-peer environment, two players fighting each other would make a direct connection to each other or through a "trusted" (within the network) mediator.  The mediator would only really be needed in terms of preserving anonymity and some thought could be done to work that out, but there should not be too much overhead between the two players engaged in combat (in an ideal situation).  Hits would be exchanged, and in fact the random nature of generating bitcoins could be taken advantage here where individual hits would be from generated damage-token-coins that are transmitted as "damage" coins and a proof of work that the damage has occurred.  To prevent a player from generating damage-coins before the combat is engaged, some sort of hash key or random number would be transmitted at the initiation of the combat to note that the coins were in fact generated when the encouter took place.

The only problem I have with this combat system, and one that I can't resolve, is how to make it "fair" for players with inferior (or older) computer equipment.  Basically, the player with the faster computer wins (all other things being equal).  I hate to break the news on this one as well, but that is generally true in most MMORPGs too, at least where the player with the best bandwidth tends to be able to dominate on the virtual battlefield.  You could put in some sort of equalization parameter in terms of hashes per second and transmit that between the players to make one "proof of work" harder than the other, but then the problem comes to trust in terms of reporting the correct and true CPU speed.  I would consider this to be an unsolved problem at the moment and something I haven't been able to work out.  Most MMORPG designers simply ignore this problem altogether, or put a very simple band-aid solution that doesn't really address the problem even for games with paying customers.

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July 16, 2010, 09:41:00 PM
 #10

Entropia universe includes private ownership in ways that might be interesting.  I haven't been able to play it yet, my computer is too slow, but it appears that servers are owned by various companies, not by one overarching company.

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April 22, 2011, 03:23:04 PM
 #11

I run rpgreseller.com and am one of the world's foremost experts on gold farming, MMO-whatever, you name it.
Three years in China, complete understanding of the industry from gamer to farmer, top down executive management of 'gold farm' and 'digital goods' businesses, C2C, B2C, accounts, items, farming, botting.... you name it and I know it.
i.e. Ask me anything.

The idea of distributed processing for a serverless MMO is actually pretty interesting. That would be something for the open sourcers. I recommend taking a look at the success and direction of the popular game, 'Minecraft'. The developer seems to be very open source friendly, there's private servers, etc. Ask him about that idea and he'll hit you back with a very educated and qualified opinion.

As far as bitcoin in an MMO economy. It could be accepted for buying and selling in-game currency, but nothing ever replaces in-game currency, ever. They need to have absolute control of their own self contained, and regulated economy. Closest model of your idea would be Linden Labs having an exchange rate for bitcoin. It's possible, but would be regarded as a highly speculative move in the board room.

The idea of coins as experience is truly innovative. I could see something like that happening. That would kill powerleveling, and that would be a good thing in many regards. Publishers need to begin noticing all the gold farmers and then stake their claim to that opportunity.

They are afraid of doing so because it would alienate some customers. So the farmers step up to provide what is missing.

The idea that gold farmers or the 'secondary market' for online goods and services is full of clandestine drug lords and rabble rousers that exist to blow out your knee caps while laundering any significant amount of cash... that's channel 9 news spin about a few underworld people that are completely incompetent at organized crime. Putting your cash into virtual worlds and them moving it is a bad idea. I'll elaborate.

To move it, you need customers. That gets complex and cumbersome, especially in high risk, large amounts and high volume. Just the act of laundering in an MMO is going to cost you upwards of 50% due to steep markups and ratios on wholesale prices. I know because I wholesale.

Added to the staggering loss of value is the fact that when you move less than 1% of a million USD in any MMO that prohibits gold farming, etc., you've just joined the highest 'at risk' tier of game accounts for getting banned and losing everything, immediately.

As a seller, I limit my holdings to what I can sell within a few days. Because everybody gets banned from time to time. Holding any large amount is too risky and doesn't pay off for farmers and resellers.

Then there's logistics and manpower. To move big product in MMOs, you're talking about hours and hours and... well weeks of actually moving stuff around in a game. You'd need a big service team working full time to handle that and that means both organizing and trusting a LOT of people to touch your money. Underworld overlords just don't do it that way, it's very bad for business.

Why all the work? Because you have to launder what you have, in the game, between multiple accounts. It's a lot of work staying under the radar, and managing even $10,000 worth of virtual goods could be a very serious headache.

On the surface, to the uneducated mind, using an MMO sounds like a good idea... but it's almost like your cappo saying, "Hey, let's just go to the local Target store and buy lots of stuff. Later on, we'll ship it to where we need money, and then sell it on ebay for half it's retail value."

Or something like, "Hey, let's go to the local target store and start paying our people with toaster ovens that they can just sell on the street. This stuff is great!"

It leaves you asking, "Who has a better plan?"

I know MMO isn't the way to go for laundering. Just trading MMO itself is dangerous and you want to limit your inventory. I would never buy from someone that "had too much" except at fire sale prices because that puts me at too much risk as a business operator. I've done it in the past when hackers have good exploits, but it goes like this, "OK, you give me $100,000 worth of stock, and I cut you in for 5%, and you just have to trust me because the ban risk is probably too high. You give it to me for free because there's no way in hell I will take the risk of holding that much, especially when it comes from a questionable form of generation. I like my gold farmed by hand."

It puts my clients at risk, and costs future business when they have bad experiences from dirty gold.

I could go on. It's just a bad bad idea that does not work.

Next, let's talk about gold farmers. You said they're a problem. I say they're not.
MMO developers put a big grind into the games, so that when you have to do repetitive and boring farming activities yourself.

If there's someone in the same room who will do the boring stuff for you while you're at your 9 to 5 job, and they'll do it for about fifty cents per hour, it's a pretty good win win situation. They are providing a valuable service.

Even if a game used bitcoin, there'd still be gold farmers because they'd be doing work to gain bitcoin.

The only problem with gold farmers is that some companies spam in-game. That is fixed when publishers get off their lazy buts and code simple solutions that take 3 hours or less of coding to actually implement. They are very, very lazy and incompetent about doing anything about in-game spam. Ergo, they don't necessarily see it as a problem. They focus on developing the game and expect that spam is a pretty minor annoyance that's easily ignored.

Actual in game spammers (highly organized and successful ones) have approached mmo companies before and literally handed them the simple solutions that need to be coded. In this industry, we're pretty brazen about it because we know that the powers that be, and the system, the developers... are just incompetent. It's maddening even to us because if they could code decent solutions, there wouldn't be any spam wars.

Thing is, if your competition spams, you're stupid not to join in on the wide open opportunity. But then you're both wasting manpower and killing a lovable game because the game publisher can't code solutions, and ignores the problems that affect both the gold farming industry as well as gamers.

Yup, even gold farmers hate spam. We want a level playing field that's based on legitimate business and hard work without the shortcuts. We even hate hackers, because that puts our legitimate businesses out of business. It will be an uphill battle getting to a better future, but there's plenty of hope because once the first MMO codes our solutions to end spam, the rest are going to copy the hell out of it. Sometimes copying is just good business. That is what the industry hopes for.

I find Bitcoin compelling, and I plan on seeing about introducing it to a few of my B2C websites so people can get powerleveling, items, gold, etc. with bitcoin. Since there's exchanges and Bitcoin is so so simple, it's way way better than risky PayPal payments. A lot of "customers" try to defraud us with Paypal disputes. - That means we can figure out the typical loss margins on PayPal, and then offer a fat DISCOUNT for purchasing with bitcoin. We can also offer Bitcoin as an easy solution if a customer fails to pass identity checks (risk management processing). If they're high risk, suggest bitcoin. It's perfect.

With love, from the People's Republic of China.
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April 23, 2011, 05:14:25 AM
 #12

I actually read most of that.

Quote
Even if a game used bitcoin, there'd still be gold farmers because they'd be doing work to gain bitcoin.

I've thought about this. It would require a lot of cleverness, but implementing mechanical turk type work inside an MMO and paying bitcoins or in game currency convertible to them would be awesome. It would be best if you had an easy way for players to create the work that needed to be done, they would strive to keep the tasks fun because then they could pay less. 

Play Bitcoin Poker at sealswithclubs.eu. We're active and open to everyone.
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