Actually this isn’t really an experiment, but if I could I would use the stuff I’m about to talk about to make an actual game, and see what results. I’m not sure it would actually be all that fun, but it would be interesting for me to see the results. I suppose if I was really desperate I’d just call it a thought experiment, but those aren’t nearly as cool as real experiments.

In many MMOs, several players will join together to go on raids to defeat strong enemies that they couldn’t defeat individually. The idea I have is to play a little game after the boss is defeated to determine how the loot is split up. Before I get to that, you may want to take a look at the Wikipedia page on Prisoner’s Dilemma.

If you can’t be bothered to click the link I’ll briefly explain. Its a situation where there are two prisoners, and they can either defect, to betray the other to the police, or cooperate. If they both cooperate they get 3 months in prison on a lesser offense. If one defects and the other cooperates the defector gets no prison time, and the cooperator gets a year in prison. Id both defect they get 6 months in prison. Can I get a table to show that?

Prisoner B cooperates                                 Prisoner B defects


Prisoner A cooperates |  Prisoner A 3 , Prisoner B 3             |       Prisoner A 12, Prisoner B 0

Prisoner A defects         | Prisoner A 0, Prisoner B 12             |       Prisoner A 6, Prisoner B 6


What the hell was that? I asked for a table. Well hopefully its pretty clear. If they both cooperate they get a light sentence. Both defect he get a longer sentence, and if one defects he gets of free while the other gets a much longer sentence. Now lets change this so it can be useful in an MMO. I’m going to use gold as the payoff. Even though Bosses might have valuable items, they can be substituted for gold based on the value, the important thing is to have some sort of standard formula for payoffs. Players can either share the loot or steal, as shown in the following “table”.

Player B shares                               Player B steals


Player A shares |  Player A 50 gold , Player B 50 gold             |       Player A 20 gold, Player B 80 gold

Player A steals   | Player A 80 gold, Player B 20 gold               |       Player A 25 gold, Player B 25 gold


For stronger bosses just multiply all the values. Now there’s usually more than to players in a raid, so how can we do this if there are only two players in prisoner’s dilemma? The easiest way to do it, is for every player involved to be paired up with every other player in a a separate prisoner’s dilemma, with the gold amounts divided evenly between all instances of prisoner’s dilemma.

Now what has research taught about “winning” prisoner’s dilemma. In a single case of prisoner’s dilemma, the optimal strategy is to defect, while in iterated prisoner’s dilemma, the optimal strategy is to cooperate. Its a bit more complicated than that, but if you read the Wikipedia article on prisoner’s dilemma it explains it in more detail.

Are MMO raids a single case of prisoner’s dilemma, or iterative. It depends on whether you play raid with the same people multiple times or not. In most MMOs players form guilds, and if aren’t cooperating with your guild, stealing all the gold, they can kick you out. Some player’s might not care, they can joing a guild, go on a raid, steal all the gold, and then join another guild. Eventually they might gain a bad reputation, and nobody will let them join, but all the other guilds already lost out on a bit of gold. They need some way to prevent that.

It occurs to me that in MMOs, there is no best equipment, you could have several sets of gear, for different circumstances. Before a raid, all guild members going on the raid, can surrender item that isn’t needed for that raid, as collateral. If they don’t cooperate, they get kicked out of the guild, and the item is sold, and money split between the offended guild members. But this brings up another problem, who do they surrender the item to? Another guild member? Someone could spend months or even years building up a reputation, eventually they get entrusted with several valuable items, then they ditch the guild with their ill gotten goods.

This game would play similar to WoW or any other MMO really, that combat is just filler, the real game is trying to figure out how to not get screwed by the people you raid with. I’d be very interested to see the solutions people come up with. I doubt the game would be very popular though.


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