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Feature: Defining 'Fairness' in MMOs

In Gamasutra's latest feature, MMO economy expert Simon Ludgate picks apart "fairness" in the context of an MMO, citing examples and speaking to creators such as Ric
In Gamasutra's latest feature, MMO economy expert Simon Ludgate picks apart what exactly defines "fairness" in the context of an MMO, citing examples and speaking to creators such as Richard Garriott to discover how this "very important concept" functions. "Fairness is a very important concept in developing MMORPGs. That's because fairness doesn't exist in their single-player predecessors," Ludgate writes. "Fairness comes into play with multiplayer games. Cheating suddenly becomes frowned upon when in competition with other players." This competition is not necessarily direct player versus player competition, either. Ludgate discusses how the way in which World of Warcraft handled raid gear created fairness issues, when Wrath of the Lich King introduced a method for players to obtain raid gear they hadn't quested for -- but only once other players in the game fought hard to obtain it. "Players were justifiably upset: why raid at all if you can just wait for the next set of raids and buy your way through the previous tier of content? What did that accomplishment mean when Blizzard would hand it out to everyone a month or two later? Blizzard faced a fairness dilemma: the new system wasn't fair to the raiders who worked hard on raiding, but the old system wasn't fair to the casual players who didn't or couldn't spend the time and effort raiding," he writes. This problem is alleviated when it's a time-versus-money question, though, says Cardell Kerr, creative director at Turbine. Once the studio took its games Dungeons & Dragons Online and Lord of the Rings Online free to play, says Kerr, the team learned that players did not find the disparity between those who paid and those who played for the same advantages to be unfair at all. With the switch, says Kerr, the team aimed "to give players two different sides of how they can progress in the game: either they can spend the time and go off and fight and participate in the natural game mechanics themselves, or they can spend the money in order to not spend the time doing those particular things. "The difference that we really saw has been that people who didn't have the ability to participate at that level of intensity have suddenly become more competitive. Suddenly, they can make the most of what time they had to spend, as opposed to spending time gathering resources or finding weapons or gear." The full feature, which also includes comments from Richard Garriott and TERA's Brian Knox, senior producer at En Masse Entertainment, is live now on Gamasutra.

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