Greedy Goblin

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Gini of WoW

People like to play WoW. They play much more WoW than needed to do the content. So they redo the content. They grind. They pay for the opportunity to grind, to kill the same monsters the 100th time. They defy the common social opinion that "MMO players are basement dwellers" and possibly their family and friends are less than supportive about their hobby. On the other hand the people hate their jobs. They hate to grind in real life despite they are both paid for it and often reminded that their work contribute to the greater good of mankind itself. Why is WoW grind more fun than real life grind?

No it's not the fantasy setting. 99% of the people don't roleplay, they don't even mention dragons, magic swords, demsels in distress and heroes, they talk about mobs, items, NPCs, players. Also, the fantasy might hit you first, but when you met the NPC 100 times, you get used to it. I don't see Stormwind any less common than the city I live. It was huge when I first walked in as newbie, but now it's just an old city where I know every alley.

No, it's not the reward shower itself. While Blizzard can give rewards to everyone, so can the real life government: create money from air. The result is the same: inflation. If you'd return to WoW after killing the Lich King HC a year ago, your precious 284 weapon, and heroic DBW (anyone remembers what these letters stand for?), people just say "lol level up and get som gear nub". The rewards are valued after their rarity. If everyone gets it, it's no longer a reward, it's just baseline gear. Remember the whine-fest when Blizzard forgot to mention the PvP gear change and people "wasted" their honor points on "crap", the same "crap" that was the source of pride all season 9. Same for vanity mounts and pets. After a dozen, people lose counting. I doubt that anyone beyond the most pathetic lolkids believe that people recognize their "l33t" mount in the carnival of dragons, bikes, mammots and winged lions. The rewards in WoW are just as limited as it is in the real world.

The magic in WoW is the very low difference of income between top and lowest earners. Let's ignore the Hard mode raiders as they are very few. Currently 2500 guild killed any HM boss, so only 2500*20/10M = 0.5% of the players had a chance to loot HM gear. So HM gear is like a Lamborghini, people admire it but don't expect to ever have it. HM gear is unreachable. What is reachable is the 378 gear. Ragnaros is not common to kill, 6/7 already puts you to the top 5%. If someone kills 6/7 bosses and Occu'thar every week, he gets 980 valor points and 7*2/10 = 1.4 epic items. From Valor points you can buy items around 1500 pt, so the 980 points are 0.6 gear. The top earners of WoW get 2 gear/week. The bottom earners are those who farm Zandalari dungeons for 980 valor points. They gain 0.6 gear/week. The difference is 3.3. There isn't a country in the World where the top 5% earns only 3.3 times more than the bottom 5%.

Let's see some WoWprogress data and see income ranges:
  • 5+: 9K guilds, 180K players, 6 bosses on average, 2gear/week
  • 3-4: 15-9 = 6K guild, 120K players, 3.5 bosses, 1.3gear/week
  • 1-2: 20-15 = 5 guild, 100K players, 2 bosses, 1 gear/week
  • dungeons only: about 4 million players, 0.6 gear/week. Of course not everyone max out the valor points, but the opportunity is there, so those who don't max out rather don't whine.

Counting with this data we get 0.12 Gini coefficient, much better than in any country in the World. On the top of that, it comes without any kind of wealth redistribution that annoys the high earners and cause the recipients low self-esteem. Everyone earns his wealth.

However all this Mylune-style heaven is based on something impossible: low level work creating high level rewards. I mean ZG is a 353 place. Yet magically you get points that provide 378 rewards. Who craft these? You can say that the bosses somehow got their loot and in the game world heroes take it. But how did Jindo got 378 stuff? He is too weak for that.

Try to imagine a real world equivalent: Flipping burgers create software or genetically mutated seeds or fiver optic cables. No, not rewarded by. You just flip burgers all day and solar cells come out of your oven. Of course solar cell factories are more effective and highly trained engineers produce more cells, but you create equally good cells by flipping burgers. No wonder that incomes are very similar.

The problem is obvious: you can't create solar cells by flipping burgers. You can only create burgers that way. While it would make sense to employ the uneducated people in huge solar cell-flipper manufactures, there is no point to employ them in huge burger flipping plants as no one could eat all the burgers.

How would WoW look like without the impossible system of 353 Jindo providing 378 gear? Simple: Jindo would provide only 353 gear, therefore the large majority of the playerbase would have to settle with 353 gear and nothing else to do. Just like there are just so many burgers to sell, you can only equip 17 pieces of 353 loot. Many people might find fun in alting, decking up alts in 353 gear, just like many people find the meaning of their life in raising kids, equipping them with the stuff they have. But most of them would just hate to be locked into the 353 world and hate the game. In a democratic world, where people can vote (with their feet in WoW), a system hated by the majority can't survive.

Simple capitalism, making everything BoE wouldn't help. A 353 BoE sells for a few hundred, while 359 BoE sells for a few thousand and 378 BoE sells for a few ten thousand gold. So the ZG farming guy need to kill 100 times more bosses than the raider to have the same wealth. Assuming that the various raiders all spend 6 hours killing their 2-7 bosses and the ZG people kill 30 ZG bosses in 6 hours, the Gini coefficient would be 0.53, exactly like the USA.

The other solution would be taxing and welfare. Every time a raid boss drops loot, there is another roll. If the NPC rolls over 50, he takes the loot, than somehow distribute it among the non-raiders. This way the raiders would have half as much loot, and the non-raiders would have a little. The Gini would be 0.22, right at the same level as Sweden. What is wrong with that? No, not the raiders whining. They would still earn more than non-raiders, so would continue raiding whining. Actually they would "burn out" later as they conspicuously burn out when they no longer can get upgrades. There would be two problems: at first, waiting for the welfare is better than killing one boss. So people wouldn't even start the learning process. They wouldn't even bother try raiding.

Secondly since the welfare is comparable to the income gained from selling 353 BoEs, they would stop running ZG. But why would we expect people to spend 6 hours farming ZG if they get the same amount of rewards just by waiting for the mail from the NPC? While the ZG runs have low productivity, they still has some. And multiplied by the high number of ZG-ers, it's a pretty long tail. Losing it would mean a 20-30% GDP loss, and also income loss among the ZG-ers, changing the Gini to 0.35, where the social democracies of Europe are. It would also mean classic welfare leech: produce nothing, doesn't even want to work and whine that welfare is low.

Now let's try to fix the system without losing its effectivity: ZG gives 353 BoE, but no further points. Points can exist but they give only gear that fit to the place they dropped in. This is the capitalism part. Keep the necessary taxing: every time loot drops, an NPC rolls for it with 50% chance and take it. But the NPC doesn't give it as welfare, but sells it on the AH, taking away gold, valuing up the daily quests. So low skilled people would keep on working in ZG or daily quest grind to buy it. This system would have the same effect: for long grinding you can buy top items, so people would be equally happy as today. But the system would lack the nonsense that the top items come without top work.

Now let's transform the fixed system to the Real World: government is taxing the productive people to give jobs (as opposed to welfare) to those who are not good enough for the market of producing top items. They would do some lowly grind, they would be overpaid by tax, but after all they would produce something useful. The lowest would be doing the menial part of planting forests, cleaning cities and government properties, the low-middle would be working in normal jobs, they would only get a payment supplement from the government. Low Gini without welfare. Think about that!


Anonymous said...

very interesting analysis. In the uk they are proposing something similar. Currently you have job seekers allowance if your trying to find work but cannot succeed (welfare).

However they are trying to implement a system where if you want to be on welfare you have to sign up for work experience. so you have to work for your welfare and it gives those on it more skills so they can find an actual job.

Pretension said...

About the WoW fix part, it seems like it would still drive away some people who run ZG/ZA from the game, rather than simply driving them to dailies. After all, the people running ZG/ZA can reasonably concieve themselves as simply being unable to get a full group of 10 to raid, and so must use the LFG to get valor points, i.e. top level ... product? Since while raiding and heroic dungeons are extremely similar (bosses drop gear, a bunch of trash preventing one from reaching bosses, bosses have similar (although weakened) abilities to raid bosses) and possessing the significant difference of raids requiring 10 man, (So that being unable to raid can be reasonably passed off as being unable to find 9 other people, whereas LFG you can go in alone) dalies do not share that similarity. So even the most dense would feel like they're simply not good enough to aquire the gear the "normal" way if they are forced to doing dalies for top level gear. Though I suppose that can be remedied by making dalies more "dungeon" like, kind of like the Hyjal Dalies now, where the elities have special abilities. While I suspect that would not be able to fool people into thinking they're good enough, I can't think of a reason why it should not do so off the top of my head. (Of course, it does carry the danger of turning WoW into a solitary RPG, which I suspect might turn off some subscribers.)

Of course, I have no such qualm with the government sponsored job thing, since at first glance it seems extremely similar to Roosevelt's "New Deal" which got the US out of the Great Depression. So it's reasonable to suppose that it would work now for EU counties.

Andru said...

Slight problem.

If I, as a raider, would get taxed for raiding, so others could get their gear through grinding daily quests, I'd quit the game.

For one, I don't give a flying donkey's ass if Arthasdklól is dressed in 346, in 353, or 379. He's not in my game, he's not influencing me, and I don't care of the ease (or hardness) he has in gearing up. If he wants to gear up, he can stop sucking and learn to raid.

Creating items out of thin air is slighly less intrusive for me. I mean, he gets the same gear as me for grindy, repetitive work. so let him. I don't care. I get to not grind, he gets to have the same social status as me. Everyone's happy.

What I do care about is taking away my work to subsidize his low-paid grindy job.

Ok, in RL, if the difference is between welfare and job subsidy, my money would already leave my pockets in taxes either way, so it would be whatever.

But in WoW, where such a tax doesn't exist .. strike that, it's not even *needed*, then it would be a daft business move.

I would be moderately more tolerant if such a tax, if lavied at all, go into education, rather than welfare or subsidizing grindy jobs.

maxim said...

Loved the part up until the suggestions.

With suggestions i have just one problem. WoW is a game. In real world it might take years of doing menial work to even get access to something moderately worthy of your brain-time. I don't want to spend years in WoW to get access to raiding. Heck, i don't even want to spend weeks!

Current WoW system allows a new character to start pulling his weight even in high end raids in less than a week after dinging 80. This is made possible - among other things - by the fact that you can acquire 378s by killing Jin'Do.

One more thing to recognise is that WoW exists for subscription money. The value of a single M&S to Blizzard therefore is closer to value of a hard-working high-raider than value of some hobo to a value corporate CEO in eyes of country's government.

Therefore the difference in rewards for just existing and doing your own thing is not that big.

Anonymous said...

this is quite, fun fact gevlon, when i was younger i dropped out of university (for a year) and lived on social welfare in sweden. Fun little fact if you dont work you get a fix sum paid electricity etc. If you get work they deduct the salary from the fixed income so you still get the same amount. This doesnt create motivation. There are whole sites built on how to live and dodge social welfare agents to kick you out of the programs. Another fun fact of sweden, when you register for unemployment you can get a higher chance of getting a job if you are a "long" term unemployed, but if you get signed into welfare system you are no longer "unemployed" so the government shuffle around unemployed youth to make it look like theres a lot less unemployment than there really is.

Thank god i re enrolled into school, finishing my 5th year now in space engineering / space physics masters now.

Azzur said...

The whole premise of this post is based on a wrong assumption - Gevlon posed the question as to why grinding in WoW is more "fun" than grinding in real-life. The conclusion that low GINI is the cause of this "fun" is just incorrect. The real reason why WoW is more "fun" is because people are doing it by choice and there is no consequences for stopping (if you stop working in RL, you can't eat). Also many people are forced into jobs because they have a family to support. In WoW, if people are dissatisfied, they just leave. In China, there are prisons which force the in-mates to grind for gold. I suggest asking them if they find this grind fun.

Ephemeron said...

I mean ZG is a 353 place. Yet magically you get points that provide 378 rewards. Who craft these? You can say that the bosses somehow got their loot and in the game world heroes take it. But how did Jindo got 378 stuff? He is too weak for that.

The real-world equivalent of such kindly NPCs are robots.

A nation that has over 50% of its GDP produced by robots would naturally have a far lower Gini index than one that still does everything the old way.

Anonymous said...

There's a finite amount of money making jobs in the world whereas 10m people can all kill the same mobs for loot in WoW; world wealth is an apporximate zero sum scenario. In order to sell something, someone has to buy it. Whereas in WoW wealth gain is exponential growth (the more gear you get the more monsters you can slay; the more readily available the gear the more people would be tempted to gear up alts). Using government wealth to create jobs is is exactly what was done to get the US out of the great depression and the reason the same tactics hasn't been used this time around is because its deemed Socialism and creates the same large government that right wing capatalists abhor.

Chopsui said...

We had this in the Netherlands Gevlon. So called 'melkert'-jobs that were unrealistic from a capitalist point of view, costing more money than they delivered, such as janitor, city-guard etcetera.

Idea was to take long-term unemployed, stick them in a job that pays max 120% of minimum wage, and get them to enter the job market normally. It failed miserably, and apparently didn't help enough to keep the system around.

spinksville said...

How about people who play the auction house? Are they doing more or less work than the people who run ZA/ZG that you'd like to give them all the same loot?

Tuzvihar said...

I think this is very same in WOW and in real life. People see wealth only from one side, as some product or item (money, gear...), but after you have a certain amount of them, they eventually won't make you any more happier. The fun and happines comes when you do what you like, and you are not "forced" to do, because you don't have any alternatives.

Gevlon said...

Tomorrow I post a second part to this post, hopefully with the invention of something huge.

Joshua said...

"Remember the whine-fest when Blizzard forgot to mention the PvP gear change and people "wasted" their honor points on "crap", the same "crap" that was the source of pride all season 9."

Actually the gear was not available all of season 9. It was available during patch week and then a new honor set became available a week later. In perspective if I bought a brand new, just release car for 30k and then a week later the same company released a brand new car w/o any info that one was being worked on and sold it fro 30k I would be pissed and demand a refund. Which is what people did.

Also . . . Mylune is awesome. Leave her alone. Harmless NPC who did nothing to you except give you easy dailies . . .*mutter mutter* . . .the nerve. . . .*grumble*. . .psh!

Kirby said...

I thought about that, but there is a problem: democrats. "Why should this poor mother have to work and stay away from her child, she deserves better" crap that you simply can't answer with reason: because it is irrational in itself.

Azzur said...

I must say though, I was put off by the initial argument. However, the suggested solution is pretty good. Doing some kind of work for welfare not only nets some productive output, but also teaches these people some skills. Too bad the leftists will have a field day with such an idea.

Anonymous said...

We've been doing this for ages...
Public works, roads, the Postal Service, much of the military,...
all of these take taxes and create jobs.

Bristal said...

The solution is completely ridiculous from either a small government, free-market (right wing) or a high-tax, big government, social program (left wing) point of view.

Who oversees and creates these "jobs". How do we prevent them from becoming labor camps? Or "get on a truck, hang out here and get a check" camps? Are there any exclusions to the program?

Forcing humans to work even for a wage is still slavery.

And what do you do with those that refuse to work?

You end up with yet another class of people that without intervention will continue to fill prisons, hospitals and/or public areas and cost money to SOMEONE.

So government has actually expanded in your solution. And still not eliminated the welfare class without essentially taking away their individual freedoms.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised that you didn't mention the obvious fact that WoW is optional and the real life grind often is not. Since 378 gear is your arbitrary standard of wealth, the game equivalent of the real-life grind would be if your gear required upkeep (maybe 100 VP/day) and if you don't/can't pay, each day your gear loses an ilevel. I need an income to live only because things fall apart. If I can make more than a subsistence wage, I can create a buffer so I don't have to farm every day or I can get higher-quality gear. If gear degraded, I'm sure you would see much higher variance in who actually had it and who was walking around with very low ilevel gear. You would not think that a low Gini coefficient was the reason for happy grinding in a game.

Your analysis of Jindo and burger flipping is also flawed. Killing Jindo rewards VP with which it's possible to buy 378 gear. Valor points are exactly a currency reward for work done. You buy the gear from the VP vendor rather than looting it off the boss. In a parallel way, you get paid money for flipping burgers with which you buy solar panels from their maker. Boss:VP::Job:Cash. The disconnect with real life isn't the magical creation of solar panels from cooking but the infinite demand for paid work: the NPC never says "sorry, we're not rewarding anybody else for killing Jindo". The fact that players are paid well for easy work is a different problem.

Anonymous said...

In the real world it is considered non-politically correct to divide to population in a way you did, rendering our problems much more serious, since you are not even allowed to properly phrase them. Other than this, I think your approach stands for itself.

In WoW, even the most hopeless of morons might learn something from doing Zuls :)

chewy said...

But the NPC doesn't give it as welfare, but sells it on the AH, taking away gold, valuing up the daily quests

What price does the npc sell the item ? If the price is fixed then he creates an artificial ceiling which everyone undercuts and so devalues the item. If the price is variable then it must be set by market trend so it is very quickly learned and deliberately devalued. Either way you're reducing the grind and simply playing the market.

Nice idea but the mechanic doesn't work.

Anonymous said...

As a died in the wool socialist I have to say that this is one of your posts I completely agree with. I dont know if this means that it is your best or worst idea... But the key is always that people must DO something for whatever they receive. No value of input equals no recognised value to output.

Grey said...

One big aspect to this is people on perma welfare devolve back into a kind of adult kindergarten state: drugs, drink, making babies, neglecting said babies, stealing, fighting etc, partly out of simple boredom.

Workfare helps with all those indirect costs.