Thought Experiment (part1)

by Alphaville Herald on 29/10/03 at 6:05 pm

A while ago I was brainstorming a VR idea with a few friends and eventually have the wherewithal to write the ideas down. The concept is yet to be fully fleshed out so I’m posting the text below and would love to hear commentary and rumination about the structure and so forth. I will be sure to revise and discuss based on the comments

This is my pet project. I wanted to coneptualize a MMORPG that had real value to the players. There is room for a bevy of ideas to be put into place. The outline is a bit scattered for now but I hope that everyone will chip in their ideas and comments on these concpets enthusiastically. After all who knows what my come of this when we consider that I am going to be working in the field of Online VR communities and will inevitably have contact with the creators of said games. Maybe one-day this project will take flight.

Nu-York (yeah I know the name is gayyyyyyyyy)


Value via Consequences
If there is one function above all others that serves as the foundation of this concept it is this. Other VR have failed to capture a substantive sense of value in their games because they lack the will to impose meaningful consequence. Legions of parable and axiom have berated us with the notion that the worth of an object/achievement is measured inversely to the pain one would feel to lose it. In other VR death is a transitive state. It is a refresh and a minor inconvenience. As such, while many, many persons have grown quite attached to their personas and there respective accomplishments (as measured either through VMat (Virtual Materialism), VSS (Virtual Social Status) or advancement in arbitrary “experience” systems, “skill” systems or “levels” (hence forth Vexp, Vski and Vlev respectively) there is still, fundamentally a sense of valuelessness to these deeds. If, when the chips are down, it needed to be done; all but the most obsessive players would recognize that their persona on these games was an intangible and valueless fragment of virtual ephemera and justify the cessation of their participation.

To give value and weight to a players experience they must generate tangible (or at least worthwhile) rewards for there investments. It is my belief that players will flock to a community where their actions are rewarded with increased persona ability, zone access and if possible real currency compensation. People will jump at the chance to make real money in a fake world. How can this be done? First we need to establish a system that has real tangible consequence; this is done, financially speaking, to prevent easy and massive financial growth. Secondly we will exist as a real-cash VR. Real money is used to buy access and items, to make exchanges and to fund transportation and commerce. Real money will be fined for infractions of the law and real money will need to be invested to build and create VR businesses and accoutrements. Bold and creative business acumen will be rewarded with cash and investment in the VR infrastructure and community will garner substantive compensation. But this is madness. Why would a company run a game based around giving away money? How can this be done with out dipping deeply into the red? Casinos do it all the time, the law of averages is on their side and in the long term the house always wins. But I don’t want to run a casino and I don’t want to dangle the carrot of mega-millions at the end of a roulette wheel. The company generates income off a modified subscription fee. A person can pay his monthly fee but, there financial investment in the world (i.e. money paid to us for functions in VR) would work to roll down their monthly debt. Think of it as a monthly tax adjusted for consumption. There are a number of critical functions provided by the system that will generate income detailed below. Secondly, death of persona is a one time deal (exceptions to this rule are found in the Life +&- section below) when your character dies you lose all that they have built (concepts of persona wills and bequeathments are discussed below) and are given the option of creating a new persona. Previous persona VR investments are credited towards your new persona so as to avoid unfair taxation on personas who die late in the billing cycle.

This system of cash-value and persona fragility will invest worth in the personas and accomplishments of the player. It is this characteristic (supported by a dense and dynamic space, a multi-layered play-experience, a wide range of uses from the social to the adventurous, and many more detailed below) that will draw and keep players. This currently unrivaled conceptual VR will weather the two VR killers of today’s competitive VR market: the waning of player interest (fought via persona value, and dynamic environmental/social structure) and VR migration (fought via player driven society and adventure, financial ties and entrenched social networks).

What are the other tenets of Nu-York?

Reality Based
Nu-York will be aesthetically and geographically identical to the five boroughs of modern day New York City. Players will experience a fully functional NYC transportation system (subways, PC automobile, PC and NPC taxis, PC and NPC Pedi cabs, as well as pedestrian traffic via foot, bike, skate, horse and Segway). If you want to get from St. Marks to Penn Station you better hoof it over to the 8th street N/R line and hop the subway uptown to 34th and 6th. Players will also experience NYC communications infrastructure with functional pay-phones and PC/NPC internet cafs and roaming Wi-Fi capability. Advertising will be sold in game to MR and VR businesses and placed much as they are in MR. In our grandest dreams MR corporations will sponsor VR equivalents of themselves (this action can be seen in TSO’s Simbucks corporation). The MR weather in NYC will be reflected by its VR counterpart. Social and infrastructural problems in the MR NYC will reenact themselves in the VR NYC (transportation strikes, power outages, telecommunication snares and the like will be implemented to the greatest possible extent). VR Sporting events will mirror MR events to the greatest extent possible. The synthesis will be in every extensible way complete. We seek to create an NYC for the world to visit; a mirror metaphor for Times Square, an alternate dimension Central park and all the alleys, nooks and crannies of the real NYC.

Personas will move at MR speeds by foot or wheel, dress in MR label clothes (as well as PC created labels) bought from PC/NPC boutiques, and reside in customized apartments with furniture from PC/NPC artisans. Personas will be able to run their own businesses (including the related expenses and sales taxes), hold a variety of careers from policeman and lawyers to quarterbacks and janitors. Players will set scripts for their personas actions while off-line or leave it up to an archetypical AI scripts created for their professions.

Aesthetic v. Functional

Ojects and interactions in Nu-York can be broadly broken down into one of two categories; Functional or Aesthetic. Functional objects include things like:

Pay-phones and cell-phones (which grant the Instant messaging functionality)
Subways and other machina of transportation (which move personas through the geography)
Maps (granting personas the ability to auto-navigate to bookmarked locations)
Wills and insurance (a “document” that governs the distribution of personal effects in the event of VR death and a “document” that reimburses personas for damaged property).
As well as other “objects de function”
Functional interactions would include:

Monetary Exchange (exchanging money for goods or services)
Medical Attention (healing the persona of VR damage)
Hiring Legal Counsel (hiring PC/NPC lawyers to create legal documents, provide arbitration in the event of criminal prosecution.
Engaging in sports/recreational activities and/or the duties of ones profession. (these may garner specific monetary or skill bonuses as determined by occupation/activity reward systems: i.e. jogging may incrementally increase a personas health as well as tone their body, working (including playing in Major League sporting events) will often result in financial rewards)
Life (+ & -)
Geography & Transportation
Necessities v. Amenities
Play-space v. Say-space

Resources: Execution:
Finance in Nu

Aesthetic Merchandise v. Functional Merchandise

Law in Nu
Civil Governance
Social Legislation
Criminal Law



3 Responses to “Thought Experiment (part1)”

  1. Peter Ludlow

    Oct 30th, 2003

    While I’m digesting this, I just wanted to point out that the MMORPG “There”, which I just joined, has at least part of this plan in place already. You can buy local currency from the game corp. This gives them the incentive to control the money supply, since if they can’t, people will buy the currency on the black market from money suppliers who have found cheats or other efficient means of generating in game currency. The other thing that There has going for it is lots of custom content. And guess what, because the money supply is under control it is worth the trouble of gamers to design and make objects (typically fashion items, but so what?). Why we don’t have this on TSO is utterly beyond me.

  2. kale

    Nov 6th, 2003

    I would also like some ruminations on this in the following form: How much do people use the virtual realm for escapism? I tend to believe that’s the major attraction. You can do all sorts or crazy, adventurous, strange things in these games with your character, and the consequences aren’t that bad. Which leads me to wonder about how far someone could take the proposal above, made by our editor-in-chief, Squirrel. Attaching severe consequences to actions in these games might make them more real-life like, and perhaps it would be interesting to academics and the like-minded to study that. Yet, as the game gets more real (I’m thinking here, specifically, of the proposal that you would die in the game and lose your character without hope of redemption), people will be less attracted to it. Maybe people want things to “look real,” maybe people care about things like ridiculous money deflation in the game (I don’t hear much moaning about it, except from my fellow economics editor), but I suspect that they’re most interested in getting away from reality when they enter these game worlds. If that’s the case, wouldn’t a move towards reality (in terms of attaching severe consequences to game actions, making sure the value of money holds up, etc.) turn people off from what they value most in some of these realms(getting away from the real world and it’s nasty inescapable consequences)…any further thoughts?

  3. Fischer Paul

    Jan 20th, 2004

    ‘May you live all the days of your life.’ – Swift

Leave a Reply