Posts filed under "Education"

April 13, 2022

Game Governance Domains: a NFT Support Nightmare

“I was working on an online trading-card game in the early days that had player-to-player card trades enabled through our servers. The vast majority of our customer support emails dealt with requests to reverse a trade because of some kind of trade scams. When I saw Hearthstone’s dust system, I realized it was genius; they probably cut their support costs by around 90% with that move alone.”

Ian Schreiber

A Game’s Governance Domain

There have always been key governance requirements for object trading economies in online games, even before user-generated-content enters the picture.  I call this the game’s object governance domain.

Typically, an online game object governance domain has the following features (amongst others omitted for brevity):

  1. There is usually at least one fungible token currency
  2. There is often a mechanism for player-to-player direct exchange
  3. There is often one or more automattic markets to exchange between tokens and objects
    1. May be player to player transactions
    2. May be operator to player transactions (aka vending and recycling machinery)
    3. Managed by the game operator
  4. There is a mechanism for reporting problems/disputes
  5. There is a mechanism for adjudicating conflicts
  6. There are mechanisms for resolving a disputes, including:
    1. Reversing transactions
    2. Destroying objects
    3. Minting and distributing objects
    4. Minting and distributing tokens
    5. Account, Character, and Legal sanctions
    6. Rarely: Changes to TOS and Community Guidelines

In short, the economy is entirely in the ultimate control of the game operator. In effect, anything can be “undone” and injured parties can be “made whole” through an entire range of solutions.

Scary Future: Crypto? Where’s Undo?

Introducing blockchain tokens (BTC, for example) means that certain transactions become “irreversible”, since all transactions on the chain are 1) Atomic and 2) Expensive. In contrast, many thousands of credit-card transactions are reversed every minute of every day (accidental double charges, stolen cards, etc.) Having a market to sell an in-game object for BTC will require extending the governance domain to cover very specific rules about what happens when the purchaser has a conflict with a transaction. Are you really going to tell customers “All BTC transactions are final. No refunds. Even if your kid spent the money without permission. Even if someone stole your wallet”?

Nightmare Future: Game UGC & NFTs? Ack!

At least with your own game governance domain, you had complete control over IP presented in your game and some control, or at least influence, over the games economy. But it gets pretty intense to think about objects/resources created by non-employees being purchased/traded on markets outside of your game governance domain.

When your game allows content that was not created within that game’s governance domain, all bets are off when it comes to trying to service customer support calls. And there will be several orders of magnitude more complaints. Look at Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube and all of the mechanisms they need to support IP-related complaints, abuse complaints, and robot-spam content. Huge teams of folks spending millions of dollars in support of Machine Learning are not able to stem the tide. Those companies’ revenue depends primarily on UGC, so that’s what they have to deal with.

NFTs are no help. They don’t come with any governance support whatsoever. They are an unreliable resource pointer. There is no way to make any testable claims about any single attribute of the resource. When they point to media resources (video, jpg, etc.) there is no way to verify that the resource reference is valid or legal in any governance domain. Might as well be whatever someone randomly uploaded to a photo service – oh wait, it is.

NFTs have been stolen, confused, hijacked, phished, rug-pulled, wash-traded, etc. NFT Images (like all internet images) have been copied, flipped, stolen, misappropriated, and explicitly transformed. There is no undo, and there is no governance domain. OpenSea, because they run a market, gets constant complaints when there is a problem, but they can’t reverse anything. So they madly try to “prevent bad listings” and “punish bad accounts” – all closing the barn door after the horse has left. Oh, and now they are blocking IDs/IPs from sanctioned countries.

So, even if a game tries to accept NFT resources into their game – they end up in the same situation as OpenSea – inheriting all the problems of irreversibility, IP abuse, plus new kinds of harassment with no real way to resolve complaints.

Until blockchain tokens have RL-bank-style undo, and decentralized trading systems provide mechanisms for a reasonable standard of governance, online games should probably just stick with what they know: “If we made it, we’ll deal with any governance problems ourselves.”

March 25, 2009

Amy Bruckman: My selection for Ada Lovelace Day

Sometime circa 1993…

% telnet 8888

** Welcome to MediaMOO! **

MediaMOO is a professional community, where people come to explore the future of media technology.

The operators of MediaMOO have provided the materials for the buildings of this community, but are not responsible for what is said or done in them. In particular, you must assume responsibility if you permit minors or others to access MediaMOO through your facilities. The statements and viewpoints expressed here are not necessarily those of the janitors, Amy Bruckman, or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and those parties disclaim any responsibility for them.

login Randy somepassword
You are in F. Randall "Randy" Farmer's Office. You see a messy desk here.

Player name  Connected  Idle time  Location
-----------  ---------  ---------  --------
Amy (#75)    six days   an hour    Amy's Office
Randy (#???) 00:01      00:00      Randy's Office

@whois Amy
Amy is Amy Bruckman, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

@join Amy

For those who didn’t know, yesterday was Ada Lovelace’s Birthday, and many of us that have blogs are writing a post about a woman of note in technology. I thought about my selection long and hard, as I know an amazing number of pioneering women doing amazing work who I admire and aspire-to greatly. After much thought, I went with someone in my area of specialization – social media. Someone who has been in the trenches learning about how people interact in real-time for more than 15 years. I chose Amy Susan Bruckman, because we share this particular road: the pursuit of improving mankind’s social interactions using computers and networks as intermediating tools.

Amy Susan Bruckman's Image

Not many people were involved with virtual worlds, graphical or textual, in the late 1980s through 1990s. So few, in fact, that several of us formed something we called the Cyberspace Cabal – Pavel Curtis, Chip Morningstar, Amy Bruckman, and myself (with others joining over the few brief years we corresponded). We were the founders of a group hoping to help pound out the terminology of the future of real-time human computer mediated communications. Then came the World Wide Web in 1993 and over the next few years everything began to change. The Cabal drifted apart.

Most histories of MUD/MOO only give a brief mention to Amy’s first world – MediaMOO, which was established for media researchers to network and share research and best practices. It even served as the testbed for one of the first experiments in virtual community self-governance with the formation of all-user elected ruling council. MediaMOO fostered many other experiments in collaborative object creation that provided many lessons that are echoed in modern virtual worlds such as Second Life today.

Amy carried these insights on into her graduate work at MIT, where she spawned a new derivative of the MOO platform called MOOSE Crossing – designed especially for children to create their own virtual objects, complete with programmable behaviors. In fact, my son created some of his first working code in that world.

Since then, she has moved from MIT to Georgia Tech where continues the good fight for making computers accessible tools for children and the masses by establishing the Electronic Learning Communities lab and the Opportunities in Computing program to house all the great work by her and now her students.

Though she’s already received numerous awards from her peers for being a pioneer in this area, I chose to single her out today for her unwavering and clear focus on the positive benefits on online community and for her continued personal efforts to keep the research community connected.

Thanks for being there Amy! Especially back when most academics were dismissing online community work as being only “by men, for men.”

(See the wikipedia article on her for all the links and details that probably should have been in this tribute.)

February 4, 2008

Randy Farmer joins the RIT DIT IAB

Cassi and Dad at Graduation

I’m honored and delighted announce that I have joined the RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) DIT (Department of Information Technology) IAB (Industrial Advisory Board). They have an excellent game design and development program which I’m looking forward to visiting when I’m out there for the first board meeting in April.

I’d like to thank Elizabeth Lawley for submitting my name for consideration. I hope to meet and exceed their expectations.

For my readers – have any of you been on one of these boards before? I could use a little orientation and/or advice. I think that shaping young minds is one of the most important things we can do in this life, so I’m just a little nervous about being effective in the academic environment. Please either leave a comment or send me a message at randy dot farmer at pobox dot com.

As of 2/4/8 the IAB link still needs updating…