19 votes

What would a "post-scarcity" MMO game look like?

MMORPGs thrive on artificial scarcity. People sink money and time to acquire gear and currency. That seems to be the inescapable reality of MMOs, and it reproduces capitalism itself. But what if it didn't? What if an MMO tried to mimic post scarcity fictional societies? If not for acquiring goods, why should I become so invested in a MMO?

20 comments

  1. [13]
    Kremor
    Link
    Not a MMO, but a game like that game already exists and it's called Minecraft, I'm specially referring to servers like Hermicraft where market cooperation is necessary and any sort conflict is...

    Not a MMO, but a game like that game already exists and it's called Minecraft, I'm specially referring to servers like Hermicraft where market cooperation is necessary and any sort conflict is understood to also be part of the game.

    In these servers there's the concept of property, anyone can claim a chunk of land and all the resources that can be found in that land, but that's it, nobody can claim to control all the diamonds ores on the server and even if they did it is impossible to enforce as players can just walk away and generate more stuff.

    So everybody has the capacity to acquire all the types of items and resources available on their own, however there's resources that are more scarce than others, this takes the form of time invested, some of the more rare items can take several dozens of hours to acquire.

    This is were market cooperation comes into play, a player that have excess of certain resources can sell these at a price, if another player considers that the price is to high they could try to take over the market by selling the items at a lower price, and if another player considers that that both prices are still too high, then there's nothing stopping them from acquiring the resources on their own as nobody has absolute control on all the resources on the game.

    Finally, cooperation also benefits the least active players, since it gives them access to items and areas that would be not available if they were playing the game alone.

    Maybe not really what you asked, but I still hope you find my answer somewhat interesting.

    12 votes
    1. [2]
      vord
      Link Parent
      Walkaway is a great story which explores this concept beautifully. It's described as "a hard utopia" novel where by all accounts it's a post-scarcity utopia (retirement age is less than 25), but...

      In these servers there's the concept of property, anyone can claim a chunk of land and all the resources that can be found in that land, but that's it, nobody can claim to control all the diamonds ores on the server and even if they did it is impossible to enforce as players can just walk away and generate more stuff.

      Walkaway is a great story which explores this concept beautifully. It's described as "a hard utopia" novel where by all accounts it's a post-scarcity utopia (retirement age is less than 25), but still rife with conflict.

      A game that builds on minecrafts qualities that you describe, but enhances the automation abilities (to make rebuilding/gathering resources easier again when walking away), could form a very interesting basis for an MMO.

      Especially if you were to build it as exists in Walkaway, where you have two major factions, one of which is desperately trying to cling to the old pre-scarcity order.

      6 votes
      1. Eylrid
        Link Parent
        Factorio multiplayer games are a bit like that. You can cooperate on building the main factory or wander off and do your own thing. Most multiplayer games everyone is on the same team and share...

        A game that builds on minecrafts qualities that you describe, but enhances the automation abilities (to make rebuilding/gathering resources easier again when walking away), could form a very interesting basis for an MMO.

        Factorio multiplayer games are a bit like that. You can cooperate on building the main factory or wander off and do your own thing. Most multiplayer games everyone is on the same team and share research and ownership of resources. But you can also do player vs player or team vs team. I've never played a game with an arbitrary number of players, each of which is on their own team, but it should be possible.

        4 votes
    2. [10]
      skybrian
      Link Parent
      On these servers, aren’t there scarce things like diamonds that someone has to mine for, though? Post-scarcity would be if nothing is rare. That is, something like creative mode.

      On these servers, aren’t there scarce things like diamonds that someone has to mine for, though? Post-scarcity would be if nothing is rare. That is, something like creative mode.

      4 votes
      1. [9]
        Kremor
        Link Parent
        Technically, there's an infinite amount of diamonds available, is just that this infinite amount of diamonds is way smaller that the infinite amount of other resources, dirt for example.

        Technically, there's an infinite amount of diamonds available, is just that this infinite amount of diamonds is way smaller that the infinite amount of other resources, dirt for example.

        1 vote
        1. [7]
          MimicSquid
          Link Parent
          Which would mean they're more scarce, yeah? Perhaps it would be helpful to have a shared understanding of what post-scarcity actually means?

          Which would mean they're more scarce, yeah? Perhaps it would be helpful to have a shared understanding of what post-scarcity actually means?

          3 votes
          1. [6]
            Kremor
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            TBH I think what you and skybrian are trying to argue is unnecessary pedantic, but here's the wikipedia definition anyway: So yes! diamonds are more scarce but you really don't need it that much...

            TBH I think what you and skybrian are trying to argue is unnecessary pedantic, but here's the wikipedia definition anyway:

            Post-scarcity is a theoretical economic situation in which most goods can be produced in great abundance with minimal human labor needed, so that they become available to all very cheaply or even freely.

            Post-scarcity does not mean that scarcity has been eliminated for all goods and services, but that all people can easily have their basic survival needs met along with some significant proportion of their desires for goods and services. Writers on the topic often emphasize that some commodities will remain scarce in a post-scarcity society.

            So yes! diamonds are more scarce but you really don't need it that much to play the game regularly and does it really matter since there's still a lot of diamonds around.

            4 votes
            1. streblo
              Link Parent
              I don’t know if that definition translates to a video game very well. In any MMO your basic gameplay needs are met with very little effort. But “legendary” gear or equivalents, while infinite, are...

              I don’t know if that definition translates to a video game very well.

              In any MMO your basic gameplay needs are met with very little effort. But “legendary” gear or equivalents, while infinite, are more scarce than regular gear. By your definition every existing MMO is a post-scarcity MMO which I don’t think is what the premise of the post is about.

              2 votes
            2. [4]
              MimicSquid
              Link Parent
              Ok, by that standard Minecraft is absolutely post-scarcity. You can dig a hole in the ground and stand there for an eternity unmoving without further issue. It's one of the issues I have with the...

              Ok, by that standard Minecraft is absolutely post-scarcity. You can dig a hole in the ground and stand there for an eternity unmoving without further issue. It's one of the issues I have with the base game.

              1 vote
              1. corleone
                Link Parent
                Living in a hole would fail to meet the natural human needs for food, activity, leasure, and interaction. I don't know about Steve, though.

                Living in a hole would fail to meet the natural human needs for food, activity, leasure, and interaction. I don't know about Steve, though.

                1 vote
        2. skybrian
          Link Parent
          Well sure, but you need to grind to get them. You could think of this as the supply being limited by labor. There was that time when I did a whole lot of mining to get enough iron to build a railroad.

          Well sure, but you need to grind to get them. You could think of this as the supply being limited by labor.

          There was that time when I did a whole lot of mining to get enough iron to build a railroad.

  2. mtset
    Link
    Honestly, I think the advent of procedural generation has made this pretty common, though not in MMOs, which still tend to be highly curated. Indeed, almost any game with a curated or designed map...

    Honestly, I think the advent of procedural generation has made this pretty common, though not in MMOs, which still tend to be highly curated. Indeed, almost any game with a curated or designed map has a massive scarcity of space, because even an army of level designers and writers cannot mimic a whole world, let alone many star systems.

    I currently do this in my D&D game by setting it on a world called the Unending Realms - it's an infinitely large flat planet full of basically empty continents (in addition to scarce but infinitely many populated ones, because infinities are like that 😃) separated by large stretches of ocean. Anyone who wants to split off from the government that controls their local area can simply find another bit of land that nobody is using yet.

    I don't run this as a post-scarcity world, exactly, because of the lack of automation (meaning that labor is still in short supply), but it would be very easy to. What I do use this to justify is the existence of anarchist societies of various flavors, because the pressures of expansionism are much reduced and those with particular ideals can just run off and start a society somewhere that nobody is using yet.

    5 votes
  3. precise
    Link
    Well I think in a post-scarcity society in general, at least if we reflect on our current society, there are still going to be cultural and political rifts in society. Whether they be based in...

    Well I think in a post-scarcity society in general, at least if we reflect on our current society, there are still going to be cultural and political rifts in society. Whether they be based in beliefs, opinions or other dichotomies dividing society at a cultural level. So an MMO could be focused on such an issue. The problem here is that such issues are intertwined with the populace at an emotional level, writing an MMO to invoke such emotional participation from players would be difficult to say the least. How do you get players to take a side in an opinionated/emotional fight they have no dog in?

    Also, post-scarcity does not necessitate a utopia. "Post-scarcity is a theoretical economic situation in which most goods can be produced in great abundance with minimal human labor needed, so that they become available to all very cheaply or even freely." Could we pervert this post-scarcity utopia into a post-scarcity authoritarian regime? A society where the needs of all people are met, but in exchange for obedience or freedoms?

    I think Star Trek is a good example of a post-scarcity society that isn't entirely utopic. Sure they've figured faster than light travel, converted matter to energy and vice versa; Basically overcome most of the problems that plague economic society as we know it, post-scarcity. Yet there are still problems. Citizens of The Federation in the Star Trek universe are subjected to 24/7 monitoring by computer systems, some of which can be argued are sentient. Whether this is a surveillance state or just a smart home at planetary scale is debatable, but it poses serious questions and shows that post-scarcity does not mean utopia which is where I think an MMO could focus.

    I guess a main point of contention is, if there is a goal to the game, and all resources are immediately available to you, then where's the challenge? I believe this might be a product of our consumerist mindsets driven by capitalism. That success and progress is to acquire and accumulate, capital is power, etc. So if we are to break free from said chains, we need to look deeper into the basis for conflicts in society. Who are the antagonists to your protagonist in your world right now? Would they still be in a post-scarcity society?

    Maybe MMO's, and their formulaic game play mimicking a capitalist society couldn't recreate a post-scarcity world? I still maintain post-scarcity doesn't mean peace or utopia, but how do we project societal problems into a game? End of the day, I think some variant of an authoritarian antagonist in a post-scarcity society would be the most viable route.

    4 votes
  4. Bonooru
    Link
    I'm not super familiar with MMORPGs specifically, but I've spent a bunch of time running TTRPGs and this seems to really be a question about game design or philosophy rather than that specific...

    I'm not super familiar with MMORPGs specifically, but I've spent a bunch of time running TTRPGs and this seems to really be a question about game design or philosophy rather than that specific genre. I'm also assuming that you meant "post scarcity" in it's broadest sense, i.e., if the conflict can be settled by having more of something tangible like money, land, or a trading resource, or even something abstract like time, it should be disallowed.

    Looking at games that already exist, the first one that comes to mind that may tick your boxes is Artemis. This game is basically you flying around through space and being the bridge crew from Star Trek. It's great fun with 7 or 8 friends. I haven't played in many years, but it certainly has a post scarcity setting. Though 9 players might be insufficiently "massive". IIRC, there were rumblings about a multi-ship update with ships competing to get science points and combat points with each other in a set period of time. That'd easily bump the player count up to 20 or 30, but adds a time constraint.

    If you were to start a new game from scratch you'd need a conflict that can't be solved by throwing infinite resources at a problem. These can be hard to come by. Fundamentally, these conflicts end up being "different people have different ethics". Two examples that I can think of off the top of my head are "lifestyles are different" and "resource generation considered harmful". I'm going to sketch out a few ideas of both games could play out.

    The "lifestyles are different" game in it's simplest form would be a game of persuasion. You have two factions. Players belong to one of the two factions and communicate freely inside and outside the faction. Players can switch sides at any time, but when they do, they need to mark who "convinced them" to swap sides. If you convince someone to swap sides, you get hierarchical points. One first order hierarchical point for the person you convinced, one second order point for each person they convinced, one third order point for each of the convinced player's second order points and so on. If you are convinced, you lose no points and are unable to switch again for a period of time. The game ends when all players are on one side.

    Looking at our requirements, we tick the MMO boxes by having lots of players, the RP boxes via flavor around what makes each faction special, and the post scarcity box by not having any resources (no way to spend points, so they don't count as a resource). The drive to keep playing is provided by the human desire to see numbers get bigger.

    The other game idea Mo money Mo problems "resource generation considered harmful" is harder for me to figure out how it would work. It'd be more like a "traditional" RPG with a pre-written plot of some sort. The fundamental issue is that something about generating the infinite resources in the post scarcity setting is morally reprehensible. The goal of the game is to find a solution to this problem. Either go back to a scarcity world, or accept punching kittens for resource generation (each kitten punched would need to produce a kitten, a punching machine, and additional resources to run the machine and to allow for scaling).

    Now that I've written all of that, the "resource generation considered harmful" game is really just a good flavor text idea for the persuasion gameplay from earlier. I don't really want to go and rework the intro though, so forgive my inconsistent intro and conclusion.

    4 votes
  5. [2]
    Eric_the_Cerise
    Link
    The entire Star Trek universe/franchise is based on a post-scarcity model (mostly, at least, with Ferengi and some regional exceptions), so any Star Trek game should be built on that same premise....

    The entire Star Trek universe/franchise is based on a post-scarcity model (mostly, at least, with Ferengi and some regional exceptions), so any Star Trek game should be built on that same premise.

    There are other sci-fi premises based on post-scarcity but "with a catch", the seminal example probably being The Time Machine.

    I could imagine a vaguely Matrix-like game, where everyone's needs are met and most people (NPCs) are content, but some select few have reason to search for the dark secret that enables it all.

    4 votes
    1. corleone
      Link Parent
      Yes about Star Trek, but it's worth noticing that the Federation represents only a portion of the civilizations portrayed in the show. Most of Star Trek deals with international relations with...

      Yes about Star Trek, but it's worth noticing that the Federation represents only a portion of the civilizations portrayed in the show. Most of Star Trek deals with international relations with nations that might be fiercely capitalist, like the Ferengi.

      1 vote
  6. streblo
    Link
    I think you could have a functional post-scarcity MMO without even altering the formula too much. At the end of the day, progression is all about status. I see little reason for status to...

    I think you could have a functional post-scarcity MMO without even altering the formula too much.

    At the end of the day, progression is all about status. I see little reason for status to disappear in a post-scarcity world — it will just be entirely tied to personal/social growth instead of material. An MMO could do the same thing, with internal character growth via stats being the driving factor over gear. There are some hurdles to overcome — gear is nice because it’s an easy visual cue to your character status and achievements but I think with the right gameplay environment you could make it work — perhaps tied to creative output or ability growth.

    4 votes
  7. kwyjibo
    Link
    I haven't thought about this question at all, but I just wanted to point Palia out, which sounds like what you're describing. Although depending on what you mean by goods, I may have completely...

    I haven't thought about this question at all, but I just wanted to point Palia out, which sounds like what you're describing. Although depending on what you mean by goods, I may have completely misunderstood the question as well. From what I know, which isn't a lot, the game's going to be an MMO where you get to have a house, decorate it, interact with other players, form communities and do quests together with no combat involved.

    1 vote