EverQuest v. Ultima Online

   Here's a scenario for you. You're playing Monopoly, and you've done a good job building up your portfolio. Suddenly, one of your opponents offers another one of your opponents $50 in actual cash for Boardwalk, and the transaction goes through. Well, now he's leading in the game, since he has both Boardwalk and Park Place, and what you've done to this point doesn't quite mean as much. The game has been tampered with, as there are people in a better position due to other forces than hard work and patience. It doesn't seem fair. Well, Sony's 989 Studios agrees that such things are not fair.

   Last week, anyone logging onto their massive-multiplayer online game EverQuest was greeted with the following message: "Online role-players to would-be buyers: It's a journey, not a destination." Sony recognizes that for most RPG fans there are things that you just can't allow. One thing is cheating, and another thing is for someone to have an unfair advantage. If you're going to be a level 30 wizard, you should start as a level one wizard and work your way up like everyone else. Sure, some would argue that life's not fair, and the rich always get their way. However, this is not the real world we're not talking about. It's a fantasy world, and Sony can make it as fair as they see fit. As of right now, "ownership transfer of accounts, characters, items (except for in-game trading/selling/buying), and any other game related properties are expressly forbidden."

   Origin, on the other hand, thinks "that people being able to create wealth in Ultima Online that turns into real wealth is not a bad thing. We have never had to stop it -- It really kind of shows the passion people have for the game." One does have to realize that this was started by players, not by the respective companies. Origin has just been the recipiant of some very nice press time, and one cannot blame them for taking advantage of that. Besides, if there are players that are willing to pay up to $3000 for a character and property in a game, Origin sees no reason to stop them.

   This is simply a scenario that early makers of MMO-RPGs never really considered heavily, so when it happened, they weren't sure how to react. Now, most online RPGs will have some way of preventing it to a degree if they choose. Many have elected to have the CD code imprinted on the online characters, so that only someone using that CD would be able to use them. Others are simply content to have all characters created under one account, and will not allow account transfers. In other words, it will not be easy to exchange anything at all. Others will allow the sale of characters and items, but now players will know this before they buy the game. While Origin and Sony may disagree on this issue, most players agree that reality and fantasy worlds should not mix, and that there should be no escalators when you have to climb the mountain. (That's metaphorical, by the way.)

by Doug "Stom" Hill    
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