Breaking rules

Kathy Sierra posted a short entry titled “Let them do the thing everyone else tells them not to”. Here’s the relevant bit:

This sign at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Syndey, Australia took me by surprise. So many signs tell us what we can’t do, and it’s delightful to see the opposite. We need more of this. And I love the, “Entry is free — but if you would like to help preserve this wonderful place…” How can you refuse?

It’s the shortest entry I’ve read on her site, but it did get me thinking. MMOs are chock full of rules about what you can and can’t do. The World of Warcraft terms of use, for instance, are 13 screens of text, most of which are the things you can’t do.

At least three games have gotten a lot of mileage out of actually encouraging behavior that was “bad” in other games. Shadowbane ran a major hype campaign around “play2crush” and “I don’t play games to bake bread.” All the major games at that point were restricting PvP to people who had flipped their flag either directly or by entering a PvP zone. This “PK all you want!” attitude appealed to lot of people who wanted to be free from all those restrictions. Serious technical problems prevented the game from holding on to them, but right after launch they had 80,000 subscribers because of all the hype.

The other example of a game that tells you to do what you can’t do in other games is EVE: Online. There may be NPC-driven consequences in some areas, but they let you blow up any ship at any time (or at least try.) Probably more significantly, however, is that CCP is not going to stop one player from scamming a bunch of others out of an estimated $170,000: (From Razorwire)

On Friday, September 1st, I got to attend a virtual press conference held by CCP so that they could clear up some mis-information about the recent EIB scam. On hand to discuss the situation was Magnus Bergsson, CMO for CCP. One of the things he wanted to make clear was that the 790 billion ISK figure may be an inflated estimate, and that due to attempts to “launder” the cash through several accounts, it may take time to track down an exact amount, if it’s even possible. He also wanted to reiterate that the EIB was not an official banking option that was controlled by CCP, the EIB was strictly a player-run enterprise. He then stated that the Development Team wants to ensure a freedom of playstyle for EVE, and even though CCP do not agree with cally’s actions, they see an importance that those actions are possible.

While it’s not clear that the hard-core “run your own Ponzi scheme” approach is getting them many fans, their ability to PvP anywhere is very popular. And unlike most games, they’re still growing after almost 4 years.

And PvP restrictions aren’t the only rule that’s broken by certain games. Second Life doesn’t have the “no sex in front of random passersby” restrictions that most games have. It doesn’t get nearly as much press, but from what I’ve heard Furcadia also allows adult-only content in certain parts of its world. Second Life is also taking their client open source. That pretty much blows the doors off the “don’t hack the client” restriction.

And of course lots of games have RMT these days, so the fact that it’s forbidden in others isn’t really something you can offer exclusive freedom from.

I wonder if there are other Terms of Service that a game could be broken as a selling point. The remaining ones in the WoW Terms of Use are:

  • No gray shards
  • No Denial of Service attacks
  • No copyright infringement
  • A bunch of naming restrictions (including “no leet speak”, which people break constantly)
  • No harassment
  • No spamming
  • No spoofing
  • No exploiting of exploits

Of those, gray shards seem to be the most promising. If you could come up with a way to allow anybody to host a world instance and set the rules in that world, but still keep collecting revenue from those players, you could probably draw a lot of attention.

Are there any other rules enforced by most MMOs that you think we could design a game without? What about rules that are enforced by the game itself rather than the Terms of Service? Do any of those need breaking?

~Joe


2 Responses to “Breaking rules”

  1. DrewC replied on :

    You could make a huge amount of money permitting gray shards. The FBI just shut down a gray shard Lineage 2 operation in California: http://www.fbi.gov/page2/feb07/iptheft020107.htm

    The FBI estimates that his server was drawing more than $750,000 a month from NC Soft. While I’m sure that figure is bullshit (assumes everyone who created an account does not already own a Lineage 2 account, and would have purchased a Lineage 2 account if this gray shard did not exist), even if it’s off by an order of magnitude, it’s still a lot of money.

    Plus there’s already an existing technical solution: Steam.

    I think the first people to do this are going to make a lot of money.

  2. Questor replied on :

    You wrote:
    “If you could come up with a way to allow anybody to host a world instance and set the rules in that world, but still keep collecting revenue from those players, you could probably draw a lot of attention.”

    Furcadia features worlds created by players. Furcadia is free for anyone to play snce it’s funded 100% by player purchases of cosmetic perks, such as having wings or a picture of a shamrock in your description.

    Although Furcadia is, itself, non-combat, there are many player-created player-run sub-worlds, known as “Dreams”. A handful of them are combat-oriented to the point of having diced combat like traditional paper/pencil tabletop games.

    The server features 4300 players at night, and they do make a LOT of money, about a million a year. So far, though, there’s been no publicity generated. Hell knows why or why not.

    For the record, the adults-only area of Furcadia is rated R. Sex in public isn’t allowed.

    There are several Dreams that are huge bondage/domination sex slave auctions, and S&M dungeons for those who are into that and looking for it.

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