So, who actually owns your MMO avatar's high-end gear?
Not you, according to the fine print for most online games.
End user license agreements (EULA) and real money trading (RMT) were among the topics debated by a panel at this week's Austin Game Developers Conference (AGDC), reports Worlds in Motion. Panel members included game designer Raph Koster, Scott Hartsman of Ohai, attorney S. Gregory Boyd, author (and "EA spouse") Erin Hoffman as well as moderator Erik Bethke of GoPets. Boyd and Koster made some key points in relation to player ownership of avatar gear:
Boyd: Couple of reasons [why the player doesn't get to own in-game items]. The first is liability. If I want to cancel someone’s account, I don’t want to have to pay the person the value of that sword. Second I don’t want to compensate them or own up to anything when I nerf that sword for balancing reasons...
Koster: All of these things are ultimately just bits and bytes in the database... I’m just fine with saying ‘yeah, that’s SOE’s sword. Damn straight!’ Where it starts getting a little weirder is that those databases are all a log of a player’s experience. In any place but gaming, something like your quest log should be protected by privacy laws... If you really want to know what’s the cutting edge of this, I’d look at China. Because their government has stepped in and said ‘I don’t care what your EULA is, here are the new rules.’