Thursday, March 24, 2005

SWG: Move Trade Forums Into SWG Itself +

bluejanus wrote:
How are you going to implement a system that recognizes both game and website input at the same time? If the game in unavailable, you contend that the forums can still be used, indicating an out of game interface.
Remember that the actual buying and selling of an item can only take place once, and has to happen in-game. Any forum, whether it's in-game or on an external web forum, is just to make agreements to trade, not to do the trade itself.

So there's no difficulty in having multiple sites for making deals, as long as traders respect the rule that you can only shake hands with one person for one item. As long as enough people follow that rule, it doesn't matter where the deal gets made, whether in-game or on an external forum.

bluejanus wrote:
First, the historical information on the message board is important as well. It's not just information about what successfully sold but what didn't and at what prices. We already have mail reading clients that read from the /mailsave function in game.
That seems like a good point, but I'd want to know how many traders really use that information. If most users of a trading board are occasional buyers of in-demand items (as I suspect is the case), then pricing information for those items would be readily available even on a system that deleted ads after a week.

bluejanus wrote:
Also, updating a message board in-game sounds like it's adding loading burdens on the servers and the client computers. I don't think it's necessary.
Then I guess I have more faith in the power of the technology than you do. Seriously, I don't disagree that adding another feature to SWG will increase server/client loading. What I'm saying is that the value I believe would be added by having that capability in the game itself outweighs the costs sufficiently to make it worth doing.

I understand that I haven't convinced you this is the case, and that's fine.

bluejanus wrote:
A message board in-game is probably going to be more restrictive than one on a public website. Mods are going to have to pay closer attention to clear clutter. There's more likely going to be more rules about what you can say and what you can post. In other words, it's less free and limits expression. I think SOE likes the Lithium system of rewarding long time participants with more forum abilities and special posting gimmicks. A system in-game would remove that.
OK, I understand and disagree. If there's any difference at all in text content moderation between the game and the official forum, it's that there's *less* control in-game because there are so many more players creating so much more text.

As for rewarding long-time participants in a messaging system, why do you assume that no such rewards could be made part of an in-game advertising system? It's just ones and zeros; there's nothing whatsoever preventing SOE from having an ad system that tracks some of the behaviors of traders in an in-game system and devises nice rewards for desirable behaviors (such as how long they've used the system).

Flatfingers wrote:
Second, if the forum trade boards were shut down, that would free up SOE personnel from having to moderate them (which in your objection #5 you felt was an issue).

bluejanus wrote:
But you admitted that they would need more SOE people to moderate the boards in game. As in more than the personnel they currently need to run the trade forums.
Well, which way do you want it? If there are both in-game and web-based trading forums, SOE employees have to do a little more work than they're currently doing monitoring player text, but you increase your chances of always being able to make trading deals. If on the other hand SOE decided that having an in-game trading system meant they could do away with the web-based trading forums, then the amount of work for SOE text monitors is merely transferred from web admins to Live team admins -- no new work is necessary, which improves the value of the idea of having trading forums in-game.

Plus -- as I noted before -- even if SOE axed the web-based trading forums, if players couldn't get what they wanted from an in-game forum they'd just start up their own external trading forums (using PHPbb or whatever). Eventually one player trade forum would dominate, so you'd still have your external trading forum.

My point here is that I don't feel the cost of operating an in-game trading system would be as high as you suggest it would be. At worst, SOE employees would have to do a little bit more of the content monitoring they already have to do; at best, operational costs are shifted from the web forums to the game itself... and frankly, those kinds of costs are often easier to justify to the financial people because they're direct charges, rather than indirect.

bluejanus wrote:
There's nothing preventing anyone from registering and participating in the trade forums.
Actually, there is: Users of the trade forums on the Official Web Site must be current subscribers to SWG. So in terms of availability restrictions, there's no difference between the external forums and making deals directly within the game itself.

bluejanus wrote:
Since most of the players don't participate now, how do you justify making this system to be implemented in-game as any kind of priority? We have a track record of how ill-used the system is.
Ill-used? What system do you mean?

If you mean the current web forum, it's the very fact that it's not ill-used, that such a high percentage of users of the official forum do participate, that tells us it ought to be made part of the game.

Or did you mean something else?

bluejanus wrote:
Why waste the time to program the message board to happen in-game where you have to be logged into the game to post.
Look at it from the other direction: Why force players to use a system that's completely separate from the game to be able to access a wide range of potential buyers and sellers?

Yes, there are SWG players who only care about maximizing their results and are willing to use any external tool (such as the forum website) to accomplish that goal. That's fine for them. But what about the people who enjoy SWG as a Star Wars-themed experience? Having to visit an out-of-game web site to be able to access a wide range of buyers and sellers of items that can only be traded in the game itself does nothing for these players. Adding an in-game trading system would significantly improve the feeling of "living in the Star Wars universe."

bluejanus wrote:
Like I said, people check the boards from work, from locations other than where their game computers are.
And again, I'm not suggesting replacing an out-of-game trading forum; I'm proposing augmenting it with an in-game forum because there are advantages to having that capability inside the game itself. If the "worst" happened and the web-based forum went away, it would just be rehosted by a player... so adding an in-game forum could not reduce our ability to make deals (as you seem to feel would be the case) -- it can only enhance the ability of every player to find buyers and sellers for their goods.

Ultimately this discussion we're having may be moot. The upcoming changes to the Bazaar system (that allow Bazaar users to see items listed on private vendors) may be close enough to being the in-game advertising system I think SWG needs. Being able to set your vendor to "searchable" won't directly advertise your products -- it won't expose them to the widest possible audience of potential buyers, which is what a trading message system exists to do -- but it may be enough.

We'll have wait and to see how SWG's players react. If they continue to use the external forums in the same numbers, that will tell us that additional in-game features to help advertise items are wanted. Meantime, I doubt the web trading forums will be going away.