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Old 01-09-2006, 10:31 PM   #1
the_logos
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Since a few members insist on persisting to drive the "Concern about the New Voting rules" subject off-topic into an unrelated area, I thought I'd start this thread. I thought I'd also just start off by demonstrating, quite clearly, that the only people who have a problem with the word 'free' as commonly used are a handful of people on these forums. And hey, it'd sure be nice if certain people could manage to post without calling other people morons or insulting users who play particular games, etc.

Users of the word free as it is commonly understood:
- Google (Go ahead and search for 'free game' for instance and note the ads that come up for games that are free to play but offer the opportunity to pay extra for whatever. Google ads are patrolled, incidentally, and they shut down ads that make false claims.)
- Kart Rider (one of the largest online games in the world. It's estimated that 1 out of 4 South Koreans play it.)
- Runescape (3 million users)
- Real Arcade (millions of users)
- Habbo Hotel (40 million users)
- OnRPG.com (Major MMO site that correctly lists Achaea, for instance, as a free MMO.)
- Second Life (only about 110k users currently but one of the most talked about MUDs in the mainstream media, from the NY Times to the BBC. Basically, a graphical MOO.)
- Puzzle Pirates (graphical MUD)
- Planeshift (graphical MUD)
- Conquer Online (graphical MUD)

I could go on, but there's no real point.

On the other side, trying to redefine the word free:
- A handful of forum posters.
- Um.

Discuss.

--matt

Edit: Oh yeah! The FTC supports the commonly accepted use of the word 'free' rather than the redefinition sought by a few people here as well. http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/guides/free.htm

And before you get all excited, our attorney informs us that case law has determined that provision (h), which pertains to the frequency of free offers, applies to those services or products which are not typically free from that product retailer (so you can advertise 'free coffee' if you're a car wash as much as you want since you will never charge for it).
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Old 01-09-2006, 11:02 PM   #2
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The debate isn't over legality. (If it was, the logical step would be for IRE players to be suing IRE, which has nothing to do with TMS.) It's over how TMS could more accurately label the games that use it. Adam can choose to sort or label games however he chooses here.

Advertising (what's in your blurb) isn't about being objective and accurate, unfortunately. It's similar to how various games can claim to be "best" without providing standards for the comparison. Yet Adam would be equally free to label games "TMS's Best/Worst Game of the Month".
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Old 01-10-2006, 12:29 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Valg @ Jan. 09 2006,23:02)
The debate isn't over legality.
Correct. It's over the meaning of the word free. The thing is, we're using the almost universally accepted definition, which is what I'm pointing out. You're asking to redefine the word.


--matt
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Old 01-10-2006, 01:28 AM   #4
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Since a few members insist on persisting to drive the "Concern about the New Voting rules" subject off-topic into an unrelated area, I thought I'd start this thread. I thought I'd also just start off by demonstrating, quite clearly, that the only people who have a problem with the word 'free' as commonly used are a handful of people on these forums. And hey, it'd sure be nice if certain people could manage to post without calling other people morons or insulting users who play particular games, etc.
I know that in the week or so after joining these forums I was called immature, communistic, intolerant of "poor people"(like myself, i suppose), stupid, and high-horsing... so I'd agree with the latter part of the statement. The former part of the statement has you assuming to be the voice of anyone not on these forums.

The common use of the word 'free' is not your use of the word 'free'. The percentage of text-MUDs who use a different definition of the word 'free' than IRE's is probably much higher than those that do use IRE's definition. However, it would be difficult to prove as much without a poll.

All of the games in your listing of examples are graphical in nature, and therefor exist in a largely different community, with different standards of what 'free' infers. The argument here is not over legality, or backwards twisting of the dictionary definition to suite your purposes - I do not disagree that under your point-of-view, IRE games are free. However, what the term 'free-to-play' means for most MUDs that use it is something completely different than what it means for IRE. Your graphical game-examples do not resonate as relevant, as the graphical MMO community is very different in many ways from the text MMO community.

Beyond that, Achaea's website does appear to go somewhat out of its way to be somewhat vague about its own credit system, certainly not telling its players just how important credits are for significant skill-level growth in the game.

Honestly, though, at the end of the day, you can use misleading advertising and twist words around to make it look like you are being 100% honest; it's your call, and your game. I won't like it, as many people won't - but there are some people who certainly won't care.

I believe my argument was always geared towards the fact that this website resource should not be as vague as some MUDs' advertising, and not that the MUD's were illegal for using misleading/vague advertising. The players deserve to have clear-cut knowledge on the resource site of whether or not a MUD is 100% free, pay-for-perks, or pay-to-play.
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Old 01-10-2006, 01:36 AM   #5
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The players deserve to have clear-cut knowledge on the resource site of whether or not a MUD is 100% free, pay-for-perks, or pay-to-play.
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Old 01-10-2006, 02:27 AM   #6
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Well, I casually play one of IRE games, Puzzle Pirates and Armageddon.

I guess I sit right on the fence with this argument. When I think of the three games I play, I think of them all as free. From my point of view, I am playing for free. With Lusternia, I'm not a fighter and in Puzzle Pirates, I don't want to own a crew so there's really no reason for me to pay. However, I do earn credits and doubloons in each game during my normal course of play.

From a free player's point of view: I'm not required to pay anything, but I can access the game for as long as I like. I can do the quests, RP with the other players, gain gold and levels, etc, all for free. If there is a way to purchase perks, I can if and only if I wanted to. I also have the ability to earn those same perks through play.

From a paying player's point of view. I do everything a paying customer can. I can earn perks while playing the game, but I can also buy them with real money. I can do this as little or as often as I like and will still be able to access the game.

From a subscribers point of view: I pay every month and have the same access to everything every other player has. If I do not pay next month, I can not get into the game.

Well, I also see where everyone else is coming from when it comes to the labels. I can't remember what my first impression of Achaea was when I first played it. I do remember that when I made a new character in Lusternia I got a "credit bonus for new players" prompt every time I logged in. I think I went to the credits help file and found out its possible to advance through the game by buying credits. I think that is how I found that perks were for sale. So, maybe some type of label would be helpful since so players would know exactly what they are getting into.

Well, I said all this to say, if you look at it from the point of view of someone who doesn't care to pay, you'll find that it is possible to enjoy the game and advance without sending in any money. So, the 'Free' label does apply. But, it may be a good idea to put "free to play. Optional ability to buy in-game perks." somewhere mainly because the game is free, but if you feel you'd like to you can send money in and receive credits.
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Old 01-10-2006, 06:50 AM   #7
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Note that the bold statements are not quotes, but are my interpretation of the common arguments used on the other thread, followed by my response.

1) It is possible to play for free.

But without access to many parts of the game, and with a far weaker character than those who have invested credits into their character.

Zhiroc provided information based on his experiences playing Aetolia. He pointed out that it takes around 294 credits to max out a skill. In the example he gave, with 8 major skills and 4 mini-skills, it would take him 3528 credits to max them all. Subtract the 166 you get for playing your way up to the top level and that leaves 3362 credits which someone needs to buy, costing $1022 (enough for 7.8 years of subscription costs for Zhiroc's favourite MMORPG).

That's over a thousand dollars per character, and it has to be paid for by the same customers who are being told that the mud is 'free'. Over 95% of that character's skills will have been trained with cash, funded by customers of the mud. Less than 5% of the character's skills will have come from the player working their way up to the maximum level.

For a game which claims PvP and group combat as its most important focus, a player is going to be at a severe disadvantage without credits invested into their character.

2) You can earn credits from lotteries and contests.

But not consistently or repeatedably. You cannot reliably perform these activities to build your character, any more than you could reliably pay your rent by trying to win the lottery.

3) You can earn credits by working for the mud.

You can do the same for most commercial muds, but that doesn't make them 'free'. The advert is targetted at players, not staff, otherwise every mud could advertise itself as 'free' on the basis that the admin don't have to pay to play their own game.

4) You can buy credits/perks with in-game gold.

But only by trading with other players, who in turn have bought those credits with real cash. Those credits still had to be paid for by the players, and it is those players to whom the mud is being advertised as 'free'.

In certain non-IRE muds this option isn't even possible - the perks you buy are non-transferable. In some cases they even have a yearly upkeep cost (you'll lose the super items if you don't pay each year), yet these muds are also listed as 'free'.

5) It might not be "completely free", but you can still play for free.

If the definition of "free" on Top Mud Sites only means "free to play", then surely Threshold would also be free? Sure, you have to pay a one-off $50 registration fee sooner or later, but after that it's just perks. The same with Guild Wars - you have to buy the game in order to play, but after that you don't have to pay any more in order to play. Yet Threshold advertises itself on TMS as 'pay-per-play', while Guild Wars states on its website that it is "priced at a comparable cost to other first-tier PC games" although it has no "subscription fee of any kind".

And what about, say, "The Eternal City" (just as a random example), which also lists itself as free? You can play it for free for 30 days, but after that you have to pay $12.95/month for a Skotos account. Is it 'free' because you don't have to pay anything on top of your Skotos account costs, which gives you access to a load of other thing as well (i.e., it costs nothing if you're already paying for the other Skotos games)? Is it 'free' because you could play at a disadvantage by creating a new account each month? Is it 'free' because you could perform services for other players in return for them paying your monthly fee?

6) But you'll still have your character, even if you stop paying.

This is true for IRE. It is also true for Threshold or Guild Wars, assuming you've already payed the initial cost.

But what about the muds which have a yearly upkeep cost on their items? Sure, you'll keep your character if you stop paying - but you'll lose your super items. And isn't equipment part of your character?

And what about muds with a monthly fee who simply lock (rather than deleting) your account if you stop paying? You might not be able to play until you start paying again, but you'd still have your character, and thus the chance to play again when you wish.



In summary:

The problem is that TMS only differentiates between 'pay-per-play' and 'free'. These alone are obviously far from sufficient to describe the many different payment models out there, and IMO have ended up becoming more of a liability than an advantage - they are simply too misleading. This leaves three options:

1) Leave the listings as they are.

2) Add more payment models to the database.

3) Drop the 'pay-for-play' option entirely, so that the players know that it's their responsibility to check what payment model the mud uses.

I would prefer 2, but that's obviously not going to happen. As such, I think 3 would be the better compromise - it avoids this whole mess, and the players will no longer rely on misleading information. I cannot see any reason for option 1, other than to deliberately mislead potential players.
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Old 01-10-2006, 08:03 AM   #8
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Matt, I'm curious what your explanation is between say......a generic free MUD where no money is involved at all, compared to one of your MUDs.

They are obviously not the same, and the former is considered by the majority as a "Free MUD." So what exactly would you call a play-to-play or play-for-perk MUD? Are you saying that you'd still consider it......."Free?"
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Old 01-10-2006, 09:01 AM   #9
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How about making it simple then... Flag certain Muds as 100% Free

100% free is simply Muds where you in NO WAY can further your character by the use of real money. Nor any subscription fee of any sort. Muds that follow the "you can donate if you like" but don't reward it in any way would be in this category aswell.

The second category would simply not have the "100% Free" flag in their listing. Here goes all others, whether it be pay-for-perks, subscription fee, pay for equipment, get a restring on equipment for donating... All where you get anything at all for donating or otherwise spending money.


This if anything would make a perfect definition, after all we're not putting muds into categories, just flagging those that won't let your money change anything in the Mud.

ps. Now I know some people will have a problem with the "donate for cool restring" thing not being listed as 100% free. However you DO get something for your donation (even if it's something that small), then you ARE getting something for spending real money!
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Old 01-10-2006, 09:52 AM   #10
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All of the games in your listing of examples are graphical in nature, and therefor exist in a largely different community, with different standards of what 'free' infers. The argument here is not over legality, or backwards twisting of the dictionary definition to suite your purposes - I do not disagree that under your point-of-view, IRE games are free. However, what the term 'free-to-play' means for most MUDs that use it is something completely different than what it means for IRE. Your graphical game-examples do not resonate as relevant, as the graphical MMO community is very different in many ways from the text MMO community.
I don't use "community" definitions of words - I use the real ones. And even if I did, you are not the community and you should not speak on its behalf while decrying Matt for speaking on behalf of the rest of the world. I find it extremely hypocritical.

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Beyond that, Achaea's website does appear to go somewhat out of its way to be somewhat vague about its own credit system, certainly not telling its players just how important credits are for significant skill-level growth in the game.
Seriously, you go to the website, see the prominent help files, whatever - it's not like they want to hide the fact that they sell credits if it's how they're making money in the first place - you see that they're selling these "credits," and what do you do? I know that if I was curious how important credits were, I would, you know, ask a player. It's not like they can tell you exactly how important credits will be, because it depends on your play style.

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But without access to many parts of the game, and with a far weaker character than those who have invested credits into their character.
It says free to play. That is literally true, you can play all you want. It might not be free to get ahead (not being an IRE player myself, I don't know how practical it is to get credits the hard way), but they never claimed that in the first place.

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But not consistently or repeatedably. You cannot reliably perform these activities to build your character, any more than you could reliably pay your rent by trying to win the lottery.
Isn't there a market where you can buy credits for gold? That makes it pretty much the same as acquiring any other resource that your character might need but can't gather directly. Consider a crafting-type play style which requires a character to purchase goods from other players - in fact, some game designers actually think this is a good thing! Imagine.

And before you go off on how "someone is paying for it," credits are created whenever someone wins one of the oft-mentioned lotteries or contests - it doesn't matter who, specifically, all that matters is that the credits enter circulation when anyone wins.

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3) Drop the 'pay-for-play' option entirely, so that the players know that it's their responsibility to check what payment model the mud uses.
I'm not sure what the point of worrying about the selection in the database is anyway. It doesn't show up on the main info page, and as far as I can tell you can only specifically search for pay to play muds, you can't exclude them.
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Old 01-10-2006, 10:04 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Fishy @ Jan. 10 2006,09:01)
How about making it simple then... Flag certain Muds as 100% Free

100% free is simply Muds where you in NO WAY can further your character by the use of real money. Nor any subscription fee of any sort. Muds that follow the "you can donate if you like" but don't reward it in any way would be in this category aswell.

The second category would simply not have the "100% Free" flag in their listing. Here goes all others, whether it be pay-for-perks, subscription fee, pay for equipment, get a restring on equipment for donating... All where you get anything at all for donating or otherwise spending money.
I'd certainly appreciate such an icon or color code being available. (The ranking list would remain unchanged, but 100% free would get something to denote their business model.) Carrion Fields certainly uses a very different model from IRE, and it would be great to have a way to get that knowledge to players in the face of IRE's (ab)use of the word "free".
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Old 01-10-2006, 10:16 AM   #12
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It says free to play. That is literally true, you can play all you want.
I covered that in point 5.

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Originally Posted by
Isn't there a market where you can buy credits for gold?
I covered that in point 4.

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I'm not sure what the point of worrying about the selection in the database is anyway.
I explained that in my summary.
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Old 01-10-2006, 10:54 AM   #13
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I covered that in point 5.
Yes, the definition of free to play (which is what they SAY) is free to play.

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I covered that in point 4.
Your analysis is false, which I explained to you. Not all credits are paid for. Not that it's relevant in the first place that someone paid. If you purchase credits with gold that someone originally purchased with real money, they still don't cost any money to you. Likewise, if I spend a thousand hours of my time building a free MUD, it's still free to everyone else even though there was a large "cost" to me. If I give something away, it doesn't matter what I paid for it.

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I explained that in my summary.
No, you didn't. Again, it's not even shown on the info page.
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Old 01-10-2006, 11:05 AM   #14
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KaVir @ Jan. 10 2006,06:50
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The problem is that TMS only differentiates between 'pay-per-play' and 'free'.  These alone are obviously far from sufficient to describe the many different payment models out there, and IMO have ended up becoming more of a liability than an advantage - they are simply too misleading.  This leaves three options:

1) Leave the listings as they are.

2) Add more payment models to the database.

3) Drop the 'pay-for-play' option entirely, so that the players know that it's their responsibility to check what payment model the mud uses.

I would prefer 2, but that's obviously not going to happen.  As such, I think 3 would be the better compromise - it avoids this whole mess, and the players will no longer rely on misleading information.  I cannot see any reason for option 1, other than to deliberately mislead potential players.
There is of course one very simple solution, which nobody has mentioned yet, and which doesn’t require any changes of the database at all.

IRE could simply remove the intentionally misleading claim of being ‘free’ from the listing.

But that is obviously not going to happen either.

And it is pretty easy to guess why.

*
By the way, I just checked the info offered in the TMS database. The fact whether a mud is free or pay-to-play doesn't even show up there. Isn't that a bit weird?
Then I made a search for pay-to-play, (which was the only commercial option offered), and got a rather short list. The IRE games weren't on it of course. Neither was Medievia, (not surprisingly).

Which is another reason for either changing the basic definition to 'free' versus 'commercial', or adding more paying models for the commercial ones.
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Old 01-10-2006, 11:13 AM   #15
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Yes, the definition of free to play (which is what they SAY) is free to play.
Threshold is also "free to play": You have to pay $50 to register, but it is free to play. The Eternal City is also "free to play": You have to have a Skotos account in order to access Skotos games, and that account costs $12.95/month, but the game itself is "free to play".

Do you think this what TMS means by "free"? Do you think this is what players have in mind when they are looking for a new mud?

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Your analysis is false, which I explained to you. Not all credits are paid for.
GemStone IV has a free draw, in which it's possible to win free subscription for a month. Therefore not all subscriptions are paid for. Does that mean that GemStone IV can advertise itself as 'free'? Do you think that sort of interpretation would be useful for prospective players?

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No, you didn't. Again, it's not even shown on the info page.
Some entries list the feature "Playerkilling Allowed". What do you assume about an entry which doesn't list that feature?

Some entries list the feature "Quests". What do you assume about an entry which doesn't list that feature?

Some entries list the feature "Level-less System". What do you assume about an entry which doesn't list that feature?

Some entries list the feature "pay-per-play". What do you assume about an entry which doesn't list that feature?
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Old 01-10-2006, 11:18 AM   #16
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Honestly, I'm surprised at the resistance to the idea of differentiating commercial games.

You can't give a copy of Linux away to Joe Sixpack Home Computer User. (Although you could, because it's totally free.) Cable TV has made a ton of money highlighting all its advantages over free TV. ####, bottled water is a huge industry even though tap water is damn near free.

Consumers don't mind paying for quality. Were I running a commercial game, my angle would be, in essence, to portray my game as the clear choice of people who were serious about quality entertainment and all the free games as the laughable products of crackheaded hobbyists who would almost certainly go rogue and take up windsurfing instead of mudding at any time. The choice to instead try to hide among the hobbyist muds is baffling to me.
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Old 01-10-2006, 11:26 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by (Anitra @ Jan. 10 2006,17:05)
IRE could simply remove the intentionally misleading claim of being ‘free’ from the listing.
It's not about IRE though- it's about the entire range of payment models used by muds listed on TMS (of which there are many) and the attempt to fit them into two overly broad categories.

If the 'codebase' section in the mud listings only had 2 options - "Diku" or "LPmud" - I would take the exact same stance; either expand the category options, or drop that category entirely.
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Old 01-10-2006, 11:27 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by (The_Disciple @ Jan. 10 2006,11:18)
Were I running a commercial game, my angle would be, in essence, to portray my game as the clear choice of people who were serious about quality entertainment and all the free games as the laughable products of crackheaded hobbyists who would almost certainly go rogue and take up windsurfing instead of mudding at any time.  The choice to instead try to hide among the hobbyist muds is baffling to me.
They already take this angle on the forums. Much as they claim that pay-for-perks is a highly attractive model (because it allows you the "advantage" of investing both money and time to get ahead) on the forums.

But yet, when you ask them to call themselves a "commercial pay-for-perks game" in their advertising, there is staunch resistance. The doubletalk is the clearest sign that something is amiss.
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Old 01-10-2006, 11:49 AM   #19
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Though I'm aware that as soon as I post this, many people are going to reject it as nonsense because of my affiliation with IRE, I'm waiting on someone else at work to send me the things I need to continue working, so the time I burn is good for me anyway.

My personal definition of a free activity, in most circumstances, is one that I can partake of without having to pay any specific costs. By specific costs I mean costs that I would not have to pay anyway, that I only have to pay because I am involved in that activity.

By this definition, IRE games are free. This is because there are no specific costs to play the games - there are costs, in the forms of buying a computer, phone lines, electricity bills, internet subscriptions, etc. but they are not specific to the games, they are things most people would have anyway. By most people I mean most people who would have any idea what IRE is, as I doubt there is anyone who plays or even has heard of it who did not have these things before they did.

The most accurate definition of the IRE business model that I have heard, at least in my opinion, is "pay-for-perks". This is because you do not have to pay to play the game, but you CAN pay and receive "perks" for doing so. I could say that if you don't pay you don't receive perks, and that is how the line is drawn between customers and non-customers, but that's not strictly true as many of these perks can be obtained without paying IRE.

Though I know a large amount of IRE players DO choose to pay at some point or another (because of course they can pay as little or as much and as often or rarely as they like, if they do choose to pay), a large amount don't as well, and other than the obvious customers or those who choose to tell everyone, it's not that easy to tell the difference.

I myself have been a player in the first three IRE games (Achaea, Aetolia and Imperian) before joining the Lusternia staff, and I only bought credits in Achaea. In Aetolia I never bought any, and became quite a feared fighter in some circles as well as fairly high ranking in the organisations I was in. In Imperian I never bought any, though I won quite a few through various contests and put them to good use, though I never rose as high as I did in Aetolia, interestingly enough. As for Achaea, I did and do suck there, and I've spent large amounts of money upon credits through several classes, and even have a couple of small artifacts (special equipment bought with credits). I get trounced continuously because I'm so out of practice whenever I do login. I've never bought credits in Lusternia and I'm more powerful than every player in the game (all right, unfair example ).

As you can see my fortunes in the games actually weren't tied very much to how much I spent in them anyway, so I would dispute the idea presented earlier that while you might be able to play an IRE game, but you wouldn't get a happy experience without paying. In my experience, there are generally three main reasons why a player does not enjoy an IRE game:

1) Simply isn't right for them. This is just the way things are, no matter how hard you work on something, some people just won't like it. I've seen plenty of these, sometimes they slip sideways into another IRE game they DO like, sometimes they don't like any and leave entirely. That's fine.

2) Rule-breaker, griefer, general idiot. If someone is out to make others miserable, they often do not last very long. It's not fun to play a game where nobody will speak to you, no organisation will have you, and the administration have warned you so many times that the next time you slip up you'll be gone anyway.

3) Misconceptions. This is the one that I don't like, and wish we could get rid of. If someone goes into an IRE game looking for something completely different, and starts doing things contrary to the game's spirit, not necessarily maliciously, it can all go very wrong. A good example is when people come in with names like TehSuperKillah. They're not coming in with the right idea of what the game is at all, obviously, and though they may not mean any harm, even people with good intentions can get frustrated when they're quickly told to change their name, change their behaviour, change the way they speak (l33t-speak and the like isn't permitted as it's out of character) all very quickly. Going into a new experience, especially one as complex as one of the IRE games, is always hard, and when you go into it with an attitude that I hesitate to call wrong, but maybe wrong for the environment, it's even harder. This can often drive people away entirely, and is a big shame.

This post turned out to be rather longer than I had intended, but my point remains; IRE games can be played, and not just at a sub-normal standard as seems to have been suggested, by someone who does not wish to and will not spend any money on them. Non-customers are not treated differently to customers by players or by staff, and I do not believe the games are inherently less fun for those that do not pay, due to my own experience and those of others that I know of.
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Old 01-10-2006, 12:00 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by (Fishy @ Jan. 10 2006,08:01)
100% free is simply Muds where you in NO WAY can further your character by the use of real money. Nor any subscription fee of any sort. Muds that follow the "you can donate if you like" but don't reward it in any way would be in this category aswell.

The second category would simply not have the "100% Free" flag in their listing. Here goes all others, whether it be pay-for-perks, subscription fee, pay for equipment, get a restring on equipment for donating... All where you get anything at all for donating or otherwise spending money.
I would not have a problem is the separation was crystal clear.

Cath 1: MUDs that ever receive money from players.
Cath 2: MUDs that never receive money from players.

Then flag them differently. If money leaves the player's hands and goes to the admin's hands, for whatever purpose it stops being "free" according to you own definitions (and KaViRs and the everpolite the_Disciple, etc) for those players.

There may be dozens of sub-cathegories for each, but if your intent is to keep it simple, also keep it clear.
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