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Old 06-10-2003, 06:03 PM   #1
Wik
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In my travels, I have stumbled upon several muds that call themselves free, but upon further evaluation, have found  them to have voluntary 'donation programs' that reward your character in-game for this out-of-game payment. As anyone with a pocketbook can figure, the people with more money to spend out-of-game end up better off in-game.

I find this to be fundamentally different than a free mud, and as I think about it, categories seem to emerge in my head.
Some places don't offer anywhere for you to pay. Some places have gift shops and the like where you can buy T-shirts and Frisbees and other merchandise that doesn't affect your character. Some places have a place to accept donations, but don't offer anything in return but gratitude. Some places have a monthly fee.

Consequentially, I'm wondering if we would be well-served by coming up with classifications in the mud community to define the different sorts of payment issues. Do you think that this is an issue, or do you believe that we'd be better served with a find-out-for-yourself kind of system? I've noticed that a good amount of mudders here have problems with for-pay muds, so obviously some people have given some thought to the differences. I'm just questioning whether those differences need to go beyond pay-to-play vs. free. What say you?
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Old 06-10-2003, 09:39 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Wik @ June 10 2003,17<!--emo&[img
http://www.topmudsites.com/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wow.gif[/img])]
In my travels, I have stumbled upon several muds that call themselves free, but upon further evaluation, have found  them to have voluntary 'donation programs' that reward your character in-game for this out-of-game payment. As anyone with a pocketbook can figure, the people with more money to spend out-of-game end up better off in-game.
In my travels, I have stumbled upon numerous muds that reward your character for your lack of a real life. As anyone with a job can figure, the people with more time to waste end up better off in-game.

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Consequentially, I'm wondering if we would be well-served by coming up with classifications in the mud community to define the different sorts of payment issues.
Since this has come up a few times in the past, I would assume that there are some people who would feel they were well-served by such classifications. Myself, I'd probably feel better served by classifications that, say, let me summarily distinguish muds with stale, boring, hackneyed themes and tired game mechanics from those muds without. Or, a classification for muds that claim to be highly modified but are in fact nothing more than a stock dikurivative with the latest kewl snippets pasted in.

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I've noticed that a good amount of mudders here have problems with for-pay muds, so obviously some people have given some thought to the differences. I'm just questioning whether those differences need to go beyond pay-to-play vs. free. What say you?
I think it's main effect would probably be to spawn all sorts of posts along the lines of "Those fraudulent jerks at Mud X claims to be payment category III, but once you play there for a while you realize that they are really a payment category I or II mud. TMS should revoke their listing!!!!!!!"


Edited to remove extraneous quote.
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Old 06-10-2003, 09:45 PM   #3
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What do you define the word free to mean, then, since you seem to have this point down pat?
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Old 06-10-2003, 10:23 PM   #4
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What do you define the word free to mean, then, since you seem to have this point down pat?
If I'm not paying for it, then it's free.

Seriously, though, I suspect most systems for categorizing commercial, semi-commercial and/or we're-not-really-commercial-wink-wink-but-you-need-to-donate-if-you-don't-want-to-be-constantly-harrassed muds wouldn't really be any more useful than the system already in place. There seem to be almost as many different financial schemes for muds as there are muds that collect money from their players in one form or another. Any proposed system would in all likelihood be immediately met with cries from some corners to the effect that said system didn't adequately provide for certain business models, forcing some mud owners to choose between a) declaring themselves to be part of what they consider to be a less advantageous category from an advertising perspective, or b) declaring themselves to be part of a category that they feel more accurately and advantageously represents their model but which will immediately open them to attack from nitpickers, weekend lawyers, and self-deputized payment-category cops out to prove that they are being less than up front about their status as a pay mud.

Likewise, those who currently feel that some muds somehow "cheat" by not fully disclosing their status as pay-for-play or pay-for-features muds, would likely soon find themselves disgruntled by those muds which, in their eyes, are failing to adhere to the spirit and/or letter of the new system, which in turn would spawn any number of tiresome debates about which muds were actually flaunting their disregard for the new system and which were merely doing the best that they could with a system that fails to accurately represent the options they make available to their players.
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Old 06-10-2003, 11:35 PM   #5
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Question

Quote:
Originally Posted by (Atyreus @ June 10 2003,20:39)
Since this has come up a few times in the past, I would assume that there are some people who would feel they were well-served by such classifications. Myself, I'd probably feel better served by classifications that, say, let me summarily distinguish muds with stale, boring, hackneyed themes and tired game mechanics from those muds without. Or, a classification for muds that claim to be highly modified but are in fact nothing more than a stock dikurivative with the latest kewl snippets pasted in.
You are certainly free to do so, but that's not the point of this thread now, is it?

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Originally Posted by (Atyreus @ June 10 2003,20:39)
I think it's main effect would probably be to spawn all sorts of posts along the lines of "Those fraudulent jerks at Mud X claims to be payment category III, but once you play there for a while you realize that they are really a payment category I or II mud. TMS should revoke their listing!!!!!!!"
You should understand that an objective categorization system can be created. The above quote about "stale, boring, hackneyed themes" is completely subjective. How can a mud-owner wriggle out of facts such as "accepts donations" , "accepts donations for in-game benefits", "free trial period, requires fee to continue playing", etc? If the listing is incorrect then by all means, it should be changed. But this change is (or should be) based on facts and not subjectivity, and that's where your objections fall to pieces.

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Originally Posted by (Atyreus @ June 10 2003,21:23)
Seriously, though, I suspect most systems for categorizing commercial, semi-commercial and/or we're-not-really-commercial-wink-wink-but-you-need-to-donate-if-you-don't-want-to-be-constantly-harrassed muds wouldn't really be any more useful than the system already in place.
What systems? As far as I know, people merely tend to differentiate between "free-to-play" and "pay-to-play", which herald a great deal of problems with the definition of pay-to-play. These definitions can be fine-tuned to drill out the ambiguity.

People lieing in their listings is nothing new. Look at all of the mud connector listings that show custom muds that are really derivatives. Since there's a widely-accepted definition for the term "custom mud", however, debates rarely rage more than a few posts nowadays.

I think this is a good idea. Were I to come up with a system off the top of my head, I would include the following levels:
<ul>[*] No money changes hands at any level.[*] Donations are accepted, but have no in-game benefits.[*] Money is exchanged for of out-of-game merchandise.[*] Money is exchanged for in-game knowledge (maps, formulas, lists, etc.)[*] Money is exchanged for direct in-game benefits.[*] Subjectivity Alert: Money is exchanged for in-game benefits that allows one to play competetively. This is the only subjective rule that I believe could cause a lot of debate, so unless anyone has any good ideas for how to measure this, I wouldn't recommend keeping it.[*] Fee is required to play once character reaches a certain level or point in the game (optional: recurring fees for other areas).[*] Fee is required to play (optional: free trial period) in periodic intervals.[/list]I think that a few of these attributes are not mutually exclusive. For example, requiring a periodic fee as well as allowing a player to buy in-game benefits or knowledge might go hand-in-hand with some businesses.
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Old 06-11-2003, 09:32 AM   #6
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No money changes hands at any level.

Donations are accepted, but have no in-game benefits.

Money is exchanged for of out-of-game merchandise.

Money is exchanged for in-game knowledge (maps, formulas, lists, etc.)

Money is exchanged for direct in-game benefits.
I'm not sure that I'd bother distinguishing between the first three (or even the fourth, to be honest), as they really don't make any difference within the context of the mud itself. We already have a broad categorisation indicating whether a mud is "commercial" or "free", and while that could be expanded, another possibility would be to add a new entry for "advancement". It appears that Atyreus doesn't like muds where advancement is purely through time, so I'm sure that even s/he would find this of benefit.

To keep it simple, how about something like:

1) Advancement: None.

For talkers and some pure PK muds, where everyone is on equal footing.

2) Advancement: Purely time-based.

Most muds would fall into this category. The mud may or may not accept donations, and may or may not sell merchandise, but actual character development would be achieved purely through time.

3) Advancement: Time, optionally assisted by money.

For muds like Cardea and Achaea, where players can use money to increase the speed of their character development. May also apply to muds which sell donation equipment, as long as the equipment is no better than stuff available to regular players.

4) Advancement: Time, money required for full advancement.

For muds where you can play for free, but will never be able to play the game to the same extent as those who pay. Examples would Threshold, where paying unlocks certain features and grants special privilages, or muds which have "special" donation equipment without which you cannot compete with paying players.

5) Advancement: Purely money-based.

For muds where you cannot advance through playing, only through paying. I don't know of any games like this, so it's only really added for the sake of completeness.

If it were to be added, I would suggest initially setting all current entries to "2", as relatively few muds fall into the other categories. The other option would be to set everyone to a different entry "Advancement: Unknown" (which cannot be selected when you submit a listing) and then leave it up to each mud owner to set it.
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Old 06-11-2003, 09:44 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Yui Unifex @ June 10 2003,22:35)
You are certainly free to do so, but that's not the point of this thread now, is it?
Hrrm. The point of the thread is whether or not a more detailed system of categorization is needed for pay-to-whatever muds. Pointing out that I feel I would benefit more from other arguably useless categories would seem to pretty much sum up my opinion on the usefulness of such a system.

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You should understand that an objective categorization system can be created.
Certainly.  I don't recall suggesting otherwise.  I don't question that such a system could be (largely) objective.  I do suspect that no matter what scheme was imposed, there would be members of the TMS community who would feel that their particular commercial scheme wasn't adequately or fairly addressed by that system.

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But this change is (or should be) based on facts and not subjectivity, and that's where your objections fall to pieces.
The problem isn't that you can't base a system on verifiable information about how a mud goes about making money from its playerbase.  The problem is that there will be disagreements between the way certain mud administrators and certain players interpret the ramifications of some muds' payment schemes (after all not all of them are as clear-cut as X amount of money gives you Y weeks of access). For example, a game may list itself as being free but offering in-game benefits in exchange for donations/payments. But then along comes mildly disgruntled ex-player who complains that, in fact, it is effectively impossible to play without purchasing a goodly amount of these in-game benefits, and that the mud therefore not being quite upfront about its payment scheme.  It may not be so easy to verify such a claim either.  Is mildly disgruntled ex-player right in his analysis or is the reason that he is now an ex-player due not to his lack of in-game benefits, but rather to his own inability to master the game? Are other players who have mastered the game doing so because of the benefits, or is their willingness to invest in more benefits a product of their satisfaction with a game they were already mastering and therefore happy with?

Ultimately, though, I think the worth of such a system is how much it would benefit those who would primarily make use of it: the people willing to shell out money to play a mud.  Like most of my fellow cubicle slaves, I now have more money than time to work with when it comes to investing in hobbies. In my case, and I assume I'm far from alone in this, whether or not I have to pay to either play or just compete effectively in a mud is less of a concern than a whole number of other issues when it comes to choosing a mud. For me, and I would assume for many in my position, the issue isn't payment as much as it would be the value of my dollar in any particular game. But this happens to be the one thing that is not covered in any payment categorization scheme I've seen suggested yet.

I would consider whether a mud provides purchaseable in-game benefits less of an issue than whether or not such benefits created too drastic an imbalance between those willing to shell out thousands for their hobby and those with more moderate tastes.  I would consider whether a mud provides purchaseable knowledge (maps, lists, etc.) less of an issue than whether or not such knowledge was worth its cost and what effect such knowledge or lack thereof had on the playability of the game.  But, here we get back into the realm of subjectivity.  These just aren't the sorts of things even a more detailed categorization scheme is really likely to help me with.

Overall, my impression has generally been that there are more people are concerned with whether a mud charges or not than there are with the particular scheme a mud uses to try and turn a profit.  Indeed, in the past, threads on this issue seem to be initiated more out of some sense of a need for some sort of financial disclosure for commercial muds than to provide a system that would actually be helpful to those willing to pay-to-play.  If you are the sort who doesn't believe in paying to play, the only distinction that is really useful is whether or not you will actually have to pay, something which is fairly well handled already.  At least I have no trouble distinguishing the muds on TMS that require payment in one form or another from those that don't.  This is perhaps one of the reasons I am puzzled by the suggestion that there is really any need to provide any more specific information, particularly since the only truly useful information involved, the actual cost for access and benefits is something that, under any of the proposed schemes I've seen, I would still have to go to the mud or the mud's website to uncover.

As for donation muds, or muds that provide purely non-game perks (coffee mugs, t-shirts, and such) in exchange for cash, why distinguish these as separate from free play muds at all?  Are there really people who, when looking for a mud, say, "Gee, I was going to try Mud X, but I just found out that they accept donations! Bugger that!"?  I suppose it might be an issue if the mud's donation scheme were a violation of the license of the codebase it was using, but then the listings for any muds engaging in such dodgy practices would probably be questionable anyways.
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Old 06-11-2003, 10:40 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (KaVir @ June 11 2003,08:32)
To keep it simple, how about something like:

1) Advancement: None.

For talkers and some pure PK muds, where everyone is on equal footing.

2) Advancement: Purely time-based.

Most muds would fall into this category.  The mud may or may not accept donations, and may or may not sell merchandise, but actual character development would be achieved purely through time.

3) Advancement: Time, optionally assisted by money.

For muds like Cardea and Achaea, where players can use money to increase the speed of their character development.  May also apply to muds which sell donation equipment, as long as the equipment is no better than stuff available to regular players.

4) Advancement: Time, money required for full advancement.

For muds where you can play for free, but will never be able to play the game to the same extent as those who pay.  Examples would Threshold, where paying unlocks certain features and grants special privilages, or muds which have "special" donation equipment without which you cannot compete with paying players.

5) Advancement: Purely money-based.

For muds where you cannot advance through playing, only through paying.  I don't know of any games like this, so it's only really added for the sake of completeness.
Now this is a system I like as it has consistent, distinct and largely objective categories and it actually does what it's advertised to do (lets me know, in broad terms, what is required of me to advance in the game). I would certainly find something like this more useful than a more detailed breakdown of payment options that still generally wouldn't tell me a lot about the impact of my participation (or lack thereof) in any payment scheme would have on my game.

I would still expect to see some heated debate about whether or not some muds were properly listing themselves.  For example, if a mud lists itself as Advancement Category 3 and offers donation equipment, the players' own perceptions about how difficult such equipment is to come by through normal gameplay, and the necessity of such equipment to adequately compete, could lead to some squabbles about whether or not the mud is more accurately an Advancement Category 4 mud.

One other criticism I could foresee for this, based on my recollection of previous threads on this matter, is that it may not adequately provide for muds that don't accept payment, but which might provide advancement perks for people in exchange for out-of-game time spent, say, writing docs or providing web page art. My own instinct would be to consider this as part of Category 2 since, technically, what is involved is still time.  But, considering that the reason this issue is sometimes brought up is because some people have an aversion to muds which offer in-game perks for out-of-game action, it's probably worth noting.
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Old 06-11-2003, 12:33 PM   #9
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About avoiding a mud solely because it has "donations". I've actually done this.

If i find out a mud has IG donations I don't visit, or leave when I discover it.

But then I am strange
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Old 06-11-2003, 12:47 PM   #10
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Would you see a problem in a MUD that simply has a donation button on the site for players/staff that want to donate money to costs for the MUD, but receive absolutely no benefits for doing so?
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Old 06-11-2003, 04:19 PM   #11
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While I (in the abstract) like KaVir's list, I'm not sure that very many of those criteria are really objective or universally applicable to the point that the fine breakdown gives the reader any more information than they'd get from a simpler scheme.

Rather than trying to put muds into groups, how about a series of separate questions:

1) Accepts money from players in any way (Y/N)

2) Solicits money from players (Y/N)

3) Operated as a business (Y/N)

4) Charges a subscription  fee (Y/N)

5) Charges an account or character creation fee (Y/N)

6) In-game benefits can be bought (Y/N)

etc.

The simpler the questions, the less ambiguity about what a given category means or whether a particular mud should be in it.

Similar Q/A about how the power curve looks with respect to time and money invested would be nice too.

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Old 06-11-2003, 05:42 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (KaVir @ June 11 2003,08:32)
To keep it simple, how about something like:

1) Advancement: None.

2) Advancement: Purely time-based.

3) Advancement: Time, optionally assisted by money.

4) Advancement: Time, money required for full advancement.

5) Advancement: Purely money-based.
It seems like categories 3 and 4 will come under major debate. What designates what full advancement is, and could we agree on it? There have always been the naysayers that are going to ride the line with your "same as normal equipment" clause, and I could see new ones claiming that rather than restricting free users, they're creating new stuff for the paying people. Personally, I'd just combine the two. What would you seek to designate by dividing them up?
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Old 06-11-2003, 07:43 PM   #13
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It seems like categories 3 and 4 will come under major debate. What designates what full advancement is, and could we agree on it?
category 3 and 4 should be relatively easy to distinguish between - imagine we have player X who pays money into the mud, and player Y who never pays anything. If player Y has (or can get) access to the same commands, bonuses, etc as player X, then it's category 3 - otherwise it's category 4.

The only real difficulty that I see is as Atyreus pointed out - trying to define bonuses given for non-monetary things. You could argue that bonuses in return for writing areas of helpfiles doesn't count (it's still time put into the mud), but it can get quite fuzzy. Generally I would say that if the contribution has some sort of financial equivilent, then it's counted, otherwise it's not - for example, if your mud sells Uberswords of Megacastration for $50, then you'll be category 3 (if they've got the same stats as regular equipment) or 4 (if they're better than regular equipment), regardless of whether or not players can also earn such weapons from area submissions. But if you can ONLY gain the item from area submissions, then I would still consider it to be "time" that you've put into the mud.

The reasoning behind that is that this categorisation is supposed to indicate whether you need time or money to play - thus it's fairly irrelevent (in such broad terms) whether you spend that time playing or building.

There would of course be some more tricky situations, such as muds which do the occasional auction in order to pay off some hosting bills, but don't regularly accept payment.

Unfortunately as with any type of mud classification, it's not possible to guarantee complete accuracy all of the time. However I still think that this would provide a fairly good indication of what players can expect in the vast majority of cases.
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