Scott Hartsman Interview Regarding the Station Exchange

Those who have followed the site over the years know that I have long been an opponent of the sale of in game items and cash for real life money. Thus, I was very troubled when I learned that SOE was going to officially sanction such practices on a new set of servers. Perhaps knowing my position, SOE offered me a chance to put together a set of questions in an e-mail to EQ2 producer Scott Hartsman regarding the Station Exchange. This is the result. Before reading through the interview, I suggest you familiarize yourself with the issue by checking out the official website and also John Smedley's letter announcing the program. Here are the questions I asked and Scott's answers. ----------- Q: What is your role, and what was your team’s role in the development of Station Exchange? A: I’m Scott Hartsman, the Senior Producer of the EverQuest II team. Since EQ2 is the most recently developed SOE game, we’re the most tightly integrated with all of the internal services common to SOE products. Therefore, EQ2 was chosen as the first game to integrate with Station Exchange, as it would cause the least amount of impact on the game team, and therefore on the ongoing development of the game itself. The specific effort involved for EQ2 was one person, two weeks on our side. The Station Exchange team, which is a separate team outside of our game studios, has been working on this for considerably longer. Q: As a game developer and game player yourself, what is your opinion of Station Exchange? A: When I first started writing content for online games, they were MUDs that you paid $3.60 an hour for and dialed up over a 300 or 1200 bps modem to play. (Scepter of Goth on ProtoCall around 1987, for the history buffs.) The concept of a player causing harm to another player, even though the game’s code supported it, was anathema. When it did happen, it was obviously a typo that was immediately apologized for. A player continuing to attack, causing the death of another’s character? Not once that I can remember. A player repeatedly causing the death of another’s character and gesturing rudely over their lifeless corpse…and doing it again, while the victim was still recovering? It never happened, but I can imagine how we’d have treated it: We’d have been morally repulsed, and the player would have been booted instantly. Further, we’d have shut the game down while we deleted their account. Eighteen years later, we have a name for that. It’s sometimes called Non-Consensual PvP and other times called ganking. Either way, it’s now accepted as a valid style of play because enough people chose to take part in it. I still don’t play it myself. I definitely don’t identify with the motives behind the people who enjoy it. As long as they have their own playgrounds to do it in, with others who all agree that’s how the game’s played, then good deal for them. They’re welcome to play that way with each other. As a player, I feel the same way about Station Exchange. I can’t see myself playing it, and I don’t personally understand the attraction, but if enough people enjoy a particular activity that large numbers of your players don’t like, it’s sometimes best to give them a playground of their own. When we asked the question in EverQuest a couple years ago, there were a larger number of players who preferred the buying and selling of items for real world cash, than those who played on all of the special ruleset servers combined. To me, it’s about figuring out at what point you call something you might not yourself enjoy, a “playstyle,” and find it a safe place to live. Q: Let’s get to the burning question. For years SOE has taken a hard line stance – at least publicly – against the exchange of real money for virtual items and characters as being harmful to the game. The game has not changed, but the stance suddenly has. Now you have decided to officially broker these deals. Why the turn around? What changed? A: As a game developer, I still think that people who buy their way up are missing out on game experiences that I wish they’d partake of and hope they’d enjoy. It’s the difference between wanting them to and forcing them to. By “harmful to the game,” there have been two specific objections: 1) “This behavior harms your own experiences. You’re not experiencing the game the way we want you to.” 2) “This behavior stands an excellent chance of getting you ripped off, when the guy you bought your character from calls us and gets his password changed back, and you’re now out $500.” That’s the #1 CS timesink. If someone isn’t going to play our game because they can’t get themselves an instant level 50 character, argument #1 is moot. When compared to “not playing at all,” it’s hard to say that “instantly level 50” is a worse game experience. Given that, Station Exchange is an acceptable answer to concern #2, because we can stop it dead in its tracks. Q: You’ve given several reasons, but given the projected 200 million dollar a year market for this, isn’t this primarily about profits? A: From my view on a game team, it’s primarily about broadening the appeal. The potential attraction is that the more types of players we can serve, the more people end up subscribing, the cooler things we can add to the game. Take the quest series’ that we just added to all of EQ2’s overland zones and the most recent solo instances. Most of that effort was funded by sales of the first Adventure Pack. Nobody’s retiring a millionaire as a result of the Bloodline Chronicles, but we were able to bring on a number of apprentices to work with our existing designers, and put some really fun content in the game that everyone can enjoy. Can that theory be extended to Station Exchange? That’s what we aim to find out. Q: Why did you decide to broker deals between players instead of simply selling the items directly? The largest complaint many players have against the item sellers is that they monopolize spawn points and keep others from obtaining the good items in order to make the biggest profit. By brokering trades instead of selling the items directly, are you not encouraging even more camping of this sort? Can you explain the reasoning that led to this particular system? A: Selling items directly wasn’t something that ever came up, at least not within my earshot. :) IMO, at that point, you don’t really have a game at all. You have an online world in which you sell cool toys to people. From where I sit, this is about finding a safe place to securely support an existing activity, for people who choose to take part in it. This also isn’t about institutional item sellers who habitually disrupt others’ play. We’ll continue to ban people who monopolize/dominate/cause disruptions, just like we’ve been doing since launch. Q: You stated that you ran polls and that the vast majority of the players are in favor of this move, yet the message board threads on this subject on every site I have seen are almost uniformly negative and irate. Can you tell us when the polls you refer to were conducted and what exactly the results were? Can you give us a better idea how you got your initial feedback for this idea? I would love to see some specific numbers. A: I don’t have specifics on all of the research that’s been done in the company, but SOE has done one public poll that I’m aware of, in which a majority of active EQ subscribers were asked their opinion on buying and selling. 1/3 of the respondents wanted to take part in it, 1/3 of the respondents didn’t care, and 1/3 didn’t like the idea at all. That set the stage for there being a significant demand for it from SOE customers. From here, we’ll be doing polls in EQ2, starting next week, that will further determine specifics of how many new servers will be started up for this service on EQ2. Q: You also said that this is a 200 million dollar market. How did you come by that figure? Is that just for SOE games, or for the entire MMORPG market? How much of that market do you realistically think you can penetrate? A: I’m afraid that this question is a bit out of the realm of my team, but I believe that number refers to the entire estimated secondary market for all games. Beyond that, I’ll be content if the Exchange servers attract their own audience, and it doesn’t detract in any way from the non-Exchange servers. Q: Initially, you are starting off with just two EQ2 Real Money Trade (RMT) servers, but John Smedley made it clear in his letter that this could quickly be spread to other servers and other games. First off, if the initial test is successful, do you see this being applied to all of SOE’s games, including Everquest and Star Wars Galaxies? If so, how quickly will that happen? A: Smed just announced today (via Moorgard) that this would not be impacting existing EQ2 servers – Only new servers created with this ruleset in mind. It won’t be spreading to other servers at all. In general, I have to imagine that whether future new servers will be Exchange-enabled or not would depend purely on the demand for the service. I’m afraid that I can’t speak to the impact on other games, other than to say they’d likely be influenced by how this experiment works on EQ2. Q: It is my understanding that Sony owns a significant share of Square-Enix and is hosting the North American servers and customer support apparatus for Final Fantasy XI. Is there a possibility that should this prove to be very successful, we could see a similar RMT program installed for that game? A: This one is way out of my purview. :) Q: As you start expanding the RMT servers into the existing servers, how will it be handled? Will guilds be given a chance to move en mass onto non-RTM servers when their server converts? Will players be able to move some characters and keep others where they are? Will guilds that move keep their existing status? A: We won’t be expanding Station Exchange onto existing servers. :) Q: You have said you would not convert a server into a RMT server unless a high enough percentage of the players on that server wanted it to be converted. What percentage do you consider high enough? A: As of today’s announcement, it’s official that the polls that we’re doing will be aimed at determining how many Exchange Enabled servers to launch. The polls will not be aimed at converting existing servers. :) Q: RMT servers are obviously going to be significantly more profitable for you than non-RMT servers. How will this affect your decision on whether to convert over existing servers? And how will this affect the allocation of resources? Will RMT servers get more GM attention and more live quests, along the lines of the legends server? A: The only difference between an Exchange Enabled server and a standard server is whether or not Station Exchange is available on it. Station Exchange isn’t about Premium Content like the original EQ Legends intent. The people on our EQ2 Live Events team who make these events develop them such that they can be triggered on all servers simultaneously. Whether we do an event on one server or on all servers is no difference in effort to us. We’re still throwing one switch. Given that, if we gained more revenue via Exchange servers, and that revenue translated into “more live events,” all servers would see those events. Q: You have stated that once on a RMT server, a character will not be allowed to move off again? How about transfers from regular servers to RMT ones? Will this be readily allowed? If so, what will prevent a person from farming items on a regular server where presumably competition will not be as keen, transferring them to an alt and then moving the alt to the RMT server to sell them? Or power leveling a character on a regular server and the moving them to an RMT server to sell for cash? A: The specific method for handling this in EQ2 hasn’t been announced yet, but we’re definitely sensitive to it as a risk that we want to minimize. We’ll hopefully have the details out there in the next week or so. The non-exchange servers will not become “fertile farmland” for the Exchange Enabled servers. That would negate much of the idea of keeping Exchange on its own ruleset servers. Q: How will the auction service work? Can you step us through how to buy and sell an item or character from start to finish? What percentage of the final sale will SOE be taking? Will the money be transferred through a third party such as paypal, or will it go through your station account and credit card, or will you be forming a paypal-like in house account where you can deposit money for purchases? Will there be minimum prices to take into account things like your fee and other credit card fees? A: The latest details on Station Exchange are available at That site should be authoritative, when compared to anything that I have to say on the subject. :) I’ll hit the parts of this one that I know the answers to… I can’t step you through it from start to finish, but I do know that in-game, it starts with dropping a character, item, or lot of coin off at a mailbox which removes it from the game. From there, you manipulate/sell/buy on the web, and then the buyer gets it sent back to them in game. The specific listing fees and commission hasn’t been released yet, but the last that I heard, we were aiming for “reasonable.” Money will be transferred to sellers via PayPal. We will not be forming any kind of house accounts. Q: Are you considering changing the rule sets for RMT servers? On the RMT servers, your profits will be based mostly on the exchange of items. Thus, obviously, it is in your best interests as a business to encourage as many sales as possible. How will that affect the game? For example, since in EQ at least (I admit I am not really that familiar with EQ2), most of the best items are no drop, have you considered removing the no drop tag from the top items to allow them to be bought and sold through the station exchange? Will raid items then become tradable? Might you add charges to items to increase their sale value? Have you considered any other rule changes specific to the RMT servers to help encourage the market? A: The only thing different about Exchange Enabled servers is that in addition to EQ2, they’ll also offer Station Exchange. We aren’t entertaining any changes beyond that. I would say that it’s more accurate for us to expect that on the Station Exchange servers, profits will be augmented by the exchange of items, not based mostly on the exchange of items. In EQ2, like EQ, most of the best items are NODROP (in our case: NOTRADE). They will remain NOTRADE. Our game software doesn’t even have the ability to let us change things like that per-server, and we’re not looking at (nor have we been asked to) make changes of that type. Rather, the opposite is the case – Very clearly spelled out in the agreement to use Station Exchange is that online games are dynamic. Things change. All the time. The item you bid on may not even be the same item by the time you win the auction. In that regard, Station Exchange is molded to fit the needs of the online game, not the other way around. The tail is not wagging the dog. Q: How will this affect your ability to alter the game over time? The very nature of these games is change. As anyone who has played these games can contest, many items that were highly sought out years ago are now virtually useless due to the changes and additions to the game over time. Are you worried that making changes that can significantly affect the value of certain items may lead to lawsuits from those who lost actual money due to the change? Have you considered the possibility of a class action lawsuit when you make a change or addition that lowers the real value of a large number of in game items? A: Given the terms that people will have to agree to in order to use the service, it shouldn’t affect our ability to alter the game in the least, as I answered above. Legal issues are definitely not an area that I can speak knowledgeably about. I took a Business Law class once. It was strangely enjoyable, but I only managed a C. No memory for case law….which you really don’t care about, so I’ll just move on. Q: How about lost items due to game crashes and bugs? If someone loses an item of value due to game mechanics will you reimburse his for the lost items? If so, how will you keep track of that and check for fraud? A: Reimbursals will occur the same way that they do today. We log and index a few dozen GB of data per day. That lets us do reimbursement/fraud checks with at a pretty impressive speed. In EQ2, this can be done much faster than in any other of our games to date. Q: Given that RMT servers and traditional servers over time offer completely different revenue streams and also encourage different types of game play, do you anticipate eventually evolving your games into separate RTM and non-RTM versions? A: I haven’t heard that proposed or discussed at all, at least not for EQ2, which is the only game I can speak with any authority on. Apologies if that’s not as interesting an answer as it could have been. :) Q: You have for years been unable to stop the RMT sales of goods on your servers despite having a strict policy against such trades? How will you suddenly now be able to police the traditional servers to keep the secondary trades from happening there as well as on the officially sanctioned ones? Can you explain in more detail how this is suddenly possible? And if it is possible, why haven’t you used it up to now to eliminate the trading that is currently happening through third parties? A: Thank you for asking this question. The issue of botters and cheaters is near and dear to me. By way of explanation: Before I was the Senior Producer of EQ2, I was the Tech Director of EQ2. Before that, I was the Tech Director of EQ. Before that, I was a Dev on EQ. Before that, I was a TD or Dev on other stuff. I like programming. I like it a lot. It’s a lot of fun. I like catching cheaters. They make the game suck for the players we care about. Getting rid of them is a lot of fun. Writing programs to catch cheaters is, by inference, therefore a whole lot of fun. :) With a lot of help from our CS team, reports in game, reports on the boards, devs on our team, and a couple of devs elsewhere in SOE, we came up with a policing mechanism to help us significantly with the problem in EQ2. So, we have that new policing mechanism. Once it was built, we unleashed it on a whole lot of unsuspecting botters a few weeks ago, netting us 700 or so very unhappy cheaters who can no longer play EQ2, in strikingly little effort. The 500 bans that we had done previously in EQ2 had taken months of investigation time. The 700 bans that followed in one blast took just a couple hours, and was 99.14% accurate. Translation: We unbanned six people it caught by mistake. I talked to two of them on the phone over that weekend and apologized for the aggressiveness – They were amazingly nice about it, and we made sure they got a free month for their trouble. Equally importantly, we learned exactly what it was about their actions that had caused us to make the mistake with all six, and were able to refine the tools to make sure it doesn’t happen to good customers like them again. Interestingly, that sweep was aimed at botters and cheaters. It had the tangential effect of nearly wiping out the EQ2 gold inventory of two secondary market sales sites. After we noticed this side effect, we asked Smed to confirm that we’d be able to continue using this new toolset in a future that included Station Exchange. Smed’s response was: “Are you kidding? Even in that world, we’re not doing this to support cheaters. Make the tool better. And use it more.” We are. And we will. Q: Do you realistically believe all traders will just move to the sanctioned servers? What about the situation where a person who likes to buy things continues to stay on a server because the majority of his friends stay there? Won’t that person continue to look at the existing third parties to collect and sell him items? What about person who likes to buy items and gold to get ahead of the pack and thus doesn’t want to be on a server where everyone else will also be doing that? Won’t those people stay on the traditional servers despite their desire to buy items? Doesn’t that imply that there will continue to be a significant market for money and items even on the traditional servers? How will you handle this? A: I think the majority of this question can be answered by the same answer I gave in the last one. If people want to buy for real cash and there’s no one selling on their server, they’re not going to be able to be doing a whole lot of buying. (A lofty goal, for sure, but one we still have to hope to reach.) Buying and selling on outside services isn’t going to suddenly get any safer or less likely to end up with one party or the other getting ripped off. As such, we’ll continue to police it, thereby also enforcing that people are earning things on the standard servers. Q: Given the two fold appeal that the RMT servers are going to be significantly more profitable for you and that it seems unlikely to me at least that you will be able to stop the existing set of third party sellers from selling on the traditional servers, which means you will continue to face the same customer services problems on those servers you say led to this, isn’t it likely that over time the pressure will be on you to try to convert more and more servers to the new RMT format? If not, please explain to me why not? A: I think I got the first two parts of this in the last two answers… Also as I answered a few questions above that, I don’t think “more profitable” really applies. The math just doesn’t work. If you open an Exchange Enabled server and 10,000 people come to play on that server, that server is definitely more profitable per-customer when compared to one that does not have Exchange on it. However, if you take an existing server that has 10,000 people on it who do not wish to play on an Exchange Enabled world, and (hypothetically) 9,900 of them stop subscribing, you have not created a more profitable situation, so I can’t see how there would be a logical cause of pressure to convert servers. Aside from that, we’ve just officially defined Station Exchange as a thing that applies to newly created worlds only, and a service that people must opt into by creating a character on that server, or transferring an existing character to one. So, really, the only pressure that could possibly exist would be large numbers of people opting in to the service. If this is going to be done, that’s really the way it should be. Q: Can you guarantee us that there will always be a significant number of traditional servers to play on and they will continue to get the same level of customer service and care as the other servers? A: To borrow from the answer to the second question in this interview: If 18 years from now, 100% of the people who play online games think of this as the preferred style of play, and EQ2 is still running, then I think it’s safe to say at that point the split would be far in the other direction of what we’re considering today. :) In that light, I don’t think it’s realistic to use the word “guarantee.” There’s a permanence associated with it. However, it is absolutely our intent to make sure that there are enough servers of each kind to handle the needs of the different audiences. At the moment, we are expecting to roll this out on one or two servers based on demand. We have many more than that which are not Exchange Enabled. Separately, I can’t speak authoritatively past the EQ2 dev team, but I have heard no discussions internally of any kind at all that would reflect changes in CS policy that would slant one kind of server in favor of another, and I like to think that’s the kind of thing I’d be made aware of. :) Q: How do you see this affecting game play on the RMT servers? Given that people can sell the items for real money, do you think that the bazaar and auction house in game will die off due to lack of interest by the sellers? Would you expect more ninja looting or fighting over prime camping sites given that the profits are now tangible rather than virtual? Would you anticipate less cooperation and civility amongst players because real money is now at stake? A: It’s really difficult to predict exactly what’s going to happen. However, I don’t think that in-house merchants and offline vending in EQ2 will be affected that much. As I understand it, a person can have many fewer items listed for sale on Station Exchange than they can in game. Five items, the last that I heard. It’s very easy to fill up two boxes to sell 40 items offline in EQ2 for in-game coin. Given that, I wouldn’t expect Station Exchange to dominate. There are still plenty of commodities and tradeables, and even loot that people will be trading for in-game coin. This is pure conjecture on my part, but I suspect that people will use Station Exchange as an augmentation to their gameplay, and that it won’t take over as the primary style of play on those servers. Q: Given that the more items and money that exchanges hands on an RMT server, the more of a profit you will make, will you be changing your policies in regards to bots, 24 hour farmers and other methods traditionally used by the third party sellers to maximize the items and gold they can get to sell to other players? A: Please see the answer I gave about ‘botters a few questions up. The last that I was told, we had no plans of changing any of these policies. My team and I are being encouraged to continue working with CS in hunting them down even more voraciously than we have in the past. Q: Isn’t in effect in your best interest to have the sellers monopolize all the best items in the game so that regular players have no other way to get those items than to buy them from the farmers, thus increasing your profits by brokering the sales? I would anticipate that farming guilds will form to sit on the top spawn points and always get the best kills and drops so that they can make the highest profits off the game. Is this something you have anticipated and intend to encourage? A: Hm. I think this is the same question as the one right above it… Q: Now that disagreements between players will be over items of true monetary value, how will you GM service on RTM servers be different than on regular servers? If a player defrauds another player of an item of significant value, will you be a guarantor of it? If two farming guilds conflict over a raid, how will it be resolved? Do you expect less civility now that playing the game will become a business for many players? Will criminal charges ever be considered in an in-game fraud situation, since it now involves real money? A: Players who use Station Exchange, by definition, will be unable to defraud each other, which is the main benefit of the system. The system authenticates the items and performs the trade on behalf of the players, so there’s no cheating possible. Players who scam someone using in-game means and in-game coin will have their disputes settled exactly the same way on all the servers – We find out what happened, then right the wrong. As for raids and spawn conflicts, since many of the most desirable raids in EQ2 are instanced, this really won’t be nearly as big problem for us as it would be in other games. Aside from that, many valuable raid items are NOTRADE, which means they wouldn’t be candidates for Station Exchange in the first place. Q: What do you have to say to the large number of players who feel that you have let them down and cheapened the games in which they have invested so much time and devotion? A: I’m truly of two minds on this one. On the one hand, I absolutely empathize with them. When this was first brought up as something that would be coming to EQ2, I was a bigger skeptic than most people who’ll read these words. When I play EQ2, I pride myself on the fact that I’ve worked damn hard for everything my character has. However, the commitment we’ve received so far in integrating this into a live game in as sane a manner as possible, and that the rollout from here forward is being determined strictly by the demand for the service instead of being something forced onto live worlds, are both things that are worth taking as extremely encouraging. If people want to play that way, they can play that way more safely. If people don’t want to play that way, they don’t need to be impacted by it at all. Logically, when I play our game, my server is where my online persona “lives.” What happens on other servers isn’t even on my radar. If it works out, maybe it pays to get some more fun content in the game for everyone. Whether it works out or not, we get to continue getting rid of ‘botters and cheaters in EQ2, which is a universal win no matter what server you’re on. In the greater historical perspective, it’s hard to say. If you would have asked me 18 years ago if non-consensual PvP would someday exist on something called a “ruleset,” I’d have laughed myself to tears. Is this truly analogous? We’ll find out. Q: Is there anything else you would like to add that we haven’t covered up to now? A: At this point, Jeff, I don’t think that would be possible. :) Take care, - Scott


Post Comment
# May 02 2005 at 5:11 PM Rating: Decent
15 posts
First of all who cares about the child labor laws if you’re not a kid why rack your brain about it (besides no one is "employing" them) if you have kids that play and you think this is or will be a problem don’t let them do it. As for game play I find it funny that people will scream bloody murder over selling stuff for RWC yet "twink" their alt's to the hilt. Now Twinking has become accepted ie: shared bank slots (i don’t remember this kind of backlash for that) this is just a more advanced form of twinking, somebody still has to go on that raid to get that special item somebody still has to harvest that rare gem. And I also don’t see the deference between somebody selling an item in game vs. out of game other than the sell makes cash instead of plat the buyer is still getting the item (yes I know that only advanced toons will have the money to buy high items in game but that just goes back to the twinking thing again) so please people the world is not going to end the game is not going to change other than normal evolution. Twinking happens by plat or by cash all the time just because SOE finally tossed these guys a bone and are letting them do this in there own yard with out getting band you all of a sudden think the whole game is going to collapse but if you succeed in killing this your server will still have E-bayers and twinkers and people who don’t play the way YOU! Would like them to play. So I say let them go and twink each other till there blue in the tunic as long as they stay off my server
Iceingdeth 29 Bruiser
Highkeep EQ2

Eveen 35 druid
drinal EQ1
Child Labor
# Apr 27 2005 at 10:02 PM Rating: Decent
On the Child Labor laws thing:

1. Anyone selling items will not be consider an "employee" of SOE. In IRS terms would be classified as a "self-employed contractor" and thus be 100% responsible for all Taxes, Social Security, and Medicare.

2. There is NO LAW that says a child cannot be "self employed" in the sense any child can sell a toy, peice of candy, game cratridge, ball, bat, glove, etc. that he owns for a profit in person or on Ebay, there by being "self employed" in the same manner of gaining in-game items and selling them on the Station Exchange.

3. Now semingly contradictory to the above there is a law that states that no minor (under 18 and not emancipated) can legaly enter into a binding contract. This kind of gives the minors the advantage in that if they put an item up and someone wins the bid, the minor cannot be held contractuarily liable should he choose at the last minute NOT to sell the item. (Read as: if they back out of the deal you cannot sue them)

What these 3 items mean is that yes minors CAN sell the items for a profit BUT if they earn too much and are not paying all the taxes they WILL get into trouble with the IRS (that goes for adults too) AND if they break a contract you cannot sue them.

Gingess Khaan
70 Ravager
Vis Veres

Lynk Dead
65 Storm Warden
Vis Veres
RE: Child Labor
# Apr 28 2005 at 7:27 AM Rating: Decent
7 posts
Labor Officials Crackdown On Grandma's Helpers

My mistake it was Illinois Law.
Heres the link
RE: Child Labor
# Apr 30 2005 at 11:04 AM Rating: Decent
To get away from the whole Station Exchange story, but that's just stupid. I guess no parent in Illinois can even get their children to do their chores legally. If that was the law here where I am, there's be a lot of parents here of friends of mine who would've been in a lot of trouble for having their sons/daughters help around the family stores.
Whatever... I give up...
# Apr 27 2005 at 3:51 AM Rating: Default
312 posts
Alright, while in general I am completely against RMT, the fact that they are essentially saying "alright, fine, if you want to play that way, you can go do it over here", makes me feel a little bit better.

My objection has nothing to do with the short-term impacts, they will be most likely for the better. The problem will appear years from now because SOE has officially declared that RMT is "okay" and that it is a viable playing style. So now we will increasingly see games that have something like this on every server rather than just a few.

Lets take a look at the game I currently play, Maplestory. When it goes public, there will be a service to buy certain items directly from Wizet ( the company that runs MS), however, the game will be completely free, and the items you can buy are all cosmetic in nature and do not give anyone an advantage over anyone else.
Server: Seraph
Nation: Bastok
Linkshells: TheStormingForce, GarrisonCentral, SOSBrigade, MercenaryCentral, Nosephiroth, HANDSOFGODS.
Child Labor
# Apr 25 2005 at 4:25 PM Rating: Decent
7 posts

Edited, Wed May 4 03:49:40 2005
RE: Child Labor
# Apr 26 2005 at 5:10 PM Rating: Decent
Hmmm, #6



The purpose of the Texas Child Labor Law is to ensure that a child is not employed in an occupation or manner that is detrimental to the child's safety, health, or well-being. "Child" is defined as an individual under 18 years of age.

Except as specifically authorized by the statute, it is illegal to employ a child under 14 years of age. One of the principal exemptions in the statute allows the Texas Workforce Commission (Commission) to adopt rules which authorize the employment of children under 14 years of age as performers in a motion picture or a theatrical, radio, or television production. Pursuant to that authority, the Commission has adopted Texas Commission Rule Section 817.31, which sets out the procedure for authorization of work by a child actor. These rules also contain provisions designed to ensure that employment does not interfere with a child's education and does not pose a threat to the child's health, safety, or general well-being.

The Commission or its designee may, during working hours, inspect a place of business where there is good reason to believe a child is or has been employed within the last two years and collect information about the employment of children there. Knowingly or intentionally hindering such an investigation is a violation of the law.

This chapter does not apply to employment of a child:

1. employed in a:
a. non-hazardous occupation;
b. under the direct supervision of the child's parent or an adult having custody of the child; and
c. in a business or enterprise owned or operated by the parent or custodian.
2. engaged in delivery of newspapers to the consumer;
3. participating in a school-supervised and school-administered work-study program approved by the Commission;
4. employed in agriculture during a period when the child is not legally required to be attending school;
5. employed through a rehabilitation program supervised by a county judge; or
6. engaged in non-hazardous casual employment that will not endanger the safety, health, or well-being of the child and to which the parent or adult having custody of the child has consented.


2nd BTW, post link to story. Did not find via Google search, Wall Street Journal Source, Reuters search, TotalNews, AltaVista News, and Excite News. Tried "Child Labor Grandmother", "Child Labor Texas", and "Child Labor Texas Grandmother" as search parameters.

Edited, Tue Apr 26 20:03:54 2005
Good Idea
# Apr 25 2005 at 2:05 PM Rating: Decent
I actually don't see how anyone could not like the idea.

~If you dissaprove of people "ebaying" then now these people will have their own server away from you.

~If you enjoy ebaying but don't want to be scammed or you don't want to be banned from the game then now you can do it.

Everybody wins.
<~:+:~> EverQuest <~:+:~>
-Bristlebane Server
~ 70 Qeynosian Wraith of Bertoxxulous
~ 47 Gnomish Paladin of Brell Serilis
~ 44 Barbaric Rogue of no faith
<~:+:~> EverQuest II <~:+:~>
-Blackburrow server
~ 41 Human Necromancer of Freeport
(36 Alchemist)
RE: Good Idea
# Apr 29 2005 at 3:15 PM Rating: Decent
75 posts
~If you dissaprove of people "ebaying" then now these people will have their own server away from you.

But it *will* effect the none exchange servers. Items, characters and overall gameplay will be
changed with the exchange servers in mind. And since they cannot implement changes on a server to server basis this will effect the entire game. I know it's been said that they will not develop the game around the exchange server and i think that'll be true for the most part at the beginning but i rather doubt that'll be the case in the long run.

Seriously now, if they are thinking of making a change in the game that will nerf an item worth several hundred dollars, you don't think they'll
take the Exchange Servers into consideration? You don't think they'll pass updates through their legal department before it hits the game?

SoL greed aside, who do you think is going to complain more about a nerfed item, someone who plays the game for fun or someone who has actual
money invested in the item? And the later now has a legitimate gripe! How many times do you think they'll be able to just send out the official legal statement that gameplay is subject to change before someone actually sues the company? And what will be the result of the lawsuit?

I think a lot of these questions SoL is well aware of but they have no way to answer it now. So they'll either blow off the question or pass it off to someone who's only taken one class on Business Law and barely passed!

Honestly i think, not only will it effect EQ2 as a whole but the entire online gaming industry. I'm very interested to see what happens.
# Apr 24 2005 at 9:46 PM Rating: Default
152 posts
Well personally i think buying / selling items takes the point of playing the game out but i wouldn't mind them doing this on EQ1 since i don't play EQ2. I wouldn't buy anything but i think being a bard i could make a good chunk of change to support buying me a new computer and afford to box a few accounts. Being in college i can't afford much more then my laptop and one account heh.
60 Charsion Destu <RETIRED> -
75 Cloud the Honorary Librarian -
65 Windlass Farshot -
52 Doesnot Care -
73 Easyas Lemonpie -
70 Orlandu Soulfire (The Combine)
70 Reis Dragoner (The Combine)
No big deal...
# Apr 24 2005 at 8:59 PM Rating: Excellent
748 posts
I'm against this thing in general principle. But the fact that it will not affect any current servers (the info from this interview is more up to date then when this service was first mentioned on the official website) and only put on servers I can simply choose not to play on, means that if I don't want this to affect me in any way, it won't. So what's the big deal? You don't like it, just don't play on a server that has it, problem solved. I think this is an excellent compromise.
Karazara Twoflower, 73rd rank iksar paladin of Tunare and Morrel-Thule (75th rank carpenter), Jaggedpine Defenders, Guk server

My profile:
RE: No big deal...
# Apr 25 2005 at 10:53 AM Rating: Decent

Quoted from the Station Exchange website:

We will be introducing new Exchange-enabled servers. Over time, we will look at possibly enabling Station Exchange on current servers based on the desires and activities of our communities.

Note, what Scott said contradicts this. However, as the website is deemed the "official" word on this, I will continue to post this contradiciton until it is either retracted or the website is changed.
RE: No big deal...
# Apr 28 2005 at 8:23 AM Rating: Decent
Note, what Scott said contradicts this. However, as the website is deemed the "official" word on this, I will continue to post this contradiciton until it is either retracted or the website is changed.

Just as a follow up to this. The "official" website has now changed.
RE: dumb idea
# Apr 24 2005 at 6:24 PM Rating: Default
What constitutes "children under age", especially as it relates to them making cash for Virtual Items and Child Labor Laws?
People can get a job at pretty young ages... I mean, I hardly think a 7 yr old kid is gonna be making much money on EQ2...
Isn't it true that if a kid is old enough to successfully play this game, they're probably at least close to the age that they could be employable in real life?
# Apr 24 2005 at 12:04 PM Rating: Decent
215 posts
I'm not really in favor of this. But given these kinds of answers I'm willing to watch what happens and judge later.
RE: shrug
# Apr 24 2005 at 1:39 PM Rating: Decent

He really didn't say much of anything.

Seems they backed off the stance that if profitable, it would be coming to existing servers. Quark said that quite clearly in the initial letter:

DIRECT QUOTE From the Station Exchange Website:

Over time, we will look at possibly enabling Station Exchange on current servers based on the desires and activities of our communities.

Perhaps they have a new definiton of CURRENT SERVERS, where that means new servers to be added.

re:dumb idea
# Apr 24 2005 at 9:39 AM Rating: Decent
94 posts
I mean seriously Children under age will now be making cash for Vitual Items

payment will be made through paypal . does paypal allow underage children to have accounts ?
NO children
# Apr 25 2005 at 11:31 AM Rating: Decent
Someone mentioned the very same thing, and another person quoted the EULA that stated no one under the age of 18 is supposed to own an account.
child or minor ?
# Apr 26 2005 at 6:01 AM Rating: Default
125 posts
COPPA (kids online privacy protection act or some such garbage) forbids the use or collection of information on children under 13, and defines specific PRISON and $$$ penalties for doing so, even accidently. A non-emancipated minor cannot own an account but use at their guardians discretion one provided for them. An emancipated minor generally 16 minimum, can own property and even have a CC. As for child labor there was more involved than a few small can have a paper route and other jobs prior to 18, you just can't work more than 4 hours or so a day and no missing school etc for a job. Sounds like granny put her drop out kid to work, instead of to the brush and back in school....
# Apr 24 2005 at 8:53 AM Rating: Default
The only thing I'm sure of is that Sony doesn't know or understand all the implications of what they are doing.

When he said "If you open an Exchange Enabled server and 10,000 people come to play on that server, that server is definitely more profitable per-customer when compared to one that does not have Exchange on it.

However, if you take an existing server that has 10,000 people on it who do not wish to play on an Exchange Enabled world, and (hypothetically) 9,900 of them stop subscribing, you have not created a more profitable situation, so I can’t see how there would be a logical cause of pressure to convert servers." This makes no sense. In my experience you can change the rules to ANYTHING you want and 99% of players won't quit. In fact 1% probably won't quit. People love their characters and won't give them up for virtually anything.

With that in mind I would be very surprised if we don't see this getting pushed to every server in every SOE game within 2 years.
#spiritabc, Posted: Apr 24 2005 at 7:31 AM, Rating: Sub-Default, (Expand Post) 1/3 wanted it, 1/3 didn't, 1/3 didn't care.
# Apr 24 2005 at 2:47 AM Rating: Decent
103 posts
Paypal notifies the appropraite countries tax officals once you reach a certain threshold of money transfers.
dumb idea
# Apr 23 2005 at 11:25 PM Rating: Decent
282 posts
If all lazy people want to buy items from other players on new servers for real life cash, who's going to be the players who actually work to get the items that the lazy players want to buy? Can you see the job opportunities for people to do nothing but farm items or money to sell? Is the IRS going to audit SOE's records to make sure that people are paying taxes on the virtual stuff they sell? Is SOE going to pay insurance on these new "employees"?
RE: dumb idea
# Apr 24 2005 at 9:36 AM Rating: Excellent
If all the lazy people want to buy

To some degree I can honestly see where this "new playstyle" attitde is coming from. I am a Station Access subscriber. I can play EQ2, EQLive, SWG, etc. One of the reason why I don't play that game anymore is that after playing that game for over 4 years is that my character is still only level 46, plus some other characters in their 30.

Point being there are a lot of players out there who don't have the time to invest to get one of more characters to level 65. A lot of the time when I sit down to play I get a phone call from my Girlfriend or friends, and after about a hour or so of gameplay I'm off to do something else exciting and fun.

I know I'm not the only person who has this gaming experience. The unfairness that some people have more time than others will now be balanced by some people with more money having the ability to get stuff that people with time can get now.


To go further, I think we need to examine game mechanics that got us to this point. Hypothetically, I decide to go back to EQLive and I look at the latest EQ expansions. Hmm, Lost Dragons of Norrath. "Well my highest level character is 46, perhaps I may get some items out of this on the bazaar. Maybe I'll pick it up." So, I just shelled out 29.99 for an expansion that for the most part whose content my character may never see.

Additionally, my character can and honestly WILL be judged on the equipment that he has and access quests that I need to accomplish. For a casual player that is a major problem, as like myself we find ourselves probably putting in 10 hours max a week. That sometimes means like a hour and a half a day which is hardly enough time to get in a raid from what I hear. BTW, I've never been on a raid.

To an extent I see the introduction of this system being done because the hardcore gamers keep pushing the level and equipment boundaries further away from the more casual players, meanwhile also increasing the accepted values (ie; character equipment, quests) that many players look for in characters. Another problem is that to keep players in the high end game happy, expansions are added that pretty much cater to them and only them.

So, in turn some casual players turned to buying "virtual items" to keep pace. Once this started, you got what we have today with the IGEs of the world and such. You also have hardcore gamers buying and also selling stuff. I guess my point is that it isn't a clear cut issue of some players being LAZY as you put it. There are ALWAYS other antecedents (aka reasons) why people do the things that they do.

Edited, Sun Apr 24 10:38:16 2005
RE: dumb idea
# Apr 24 2005 at 5:45 AM Rating: Decent
7 posts
I too was thinking about people making a living selling items and what the tax implication would be. Also has anyone ever thought of Child Labor Laws. I mean seriously Children under age will now be making cash for Vitual Items. So whos liable then the Station Exchange or the parents or both?
RE: dumb idea
# Apr 27 2005 at 10:12 PM Rating: Decent
2 posts
Ok I was wondering why everyone is ***** about this. For starters I will tell you I don't support this play style at all(I do not buy or sell) But on to my opinion of this topic.

I they (sony) have all the Ebayers move to a spiecal server(s) to sell freely, who will they sell to?? Last I checked most of you all who do this will move, while those who don't will stay on their current servers, which mean that the Ebayers will have to sell to themselves seeing they can not cross server sell and noone else that isn't Farming will be playing with them.

After reviewing this possiblity of what will happen the Ebayers will return to thier old servers and resume selling the way they were before. End case will show you all are fussing about something that will not effect you long term or short, it will drop on your current servers then pick back up. Either way if you don't do it or support it you will be uneffected by the move.

Side thought: I read here someone asking if Sony will be turning over their logs to the IRS for taxes but why should they if EBAY dosen't do it??

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