Friday 3 July 2009

The common seed within which all these fabulous beings slumber in embryo is taxation

Van Hemlock‘s podcast question of the week on Twitter a while back was “[Podcast Q] Fed up with the usual Tank, Healer, DPS and Crowd Control. What new class or role shall we make a requirement for group work?”, and I suggested “Accountant, Lawyer and/or Clerk. The paperwork of most groups is frankly shoddy, auditors wouldn’t be at all impressed.”

Unbeknownst to me Anarchy Online actually had a Bureaucrat class that they mentioned on the podcast, which sounded quite fun. Still quite combat oriented, though, rather than focusing on the form-filling, so perhaps a missed opportunity, as what games really need is some decent paperwork (a field in which they’ve been lacking for quite a while).

Most MMOGs have some form of economy, from a simple auction house or crafting and sales mechanism to the pan-galactic complexity of EVE, but none of them offer true challenge or enjoyment to real cognoscenti. Take Warhammer Online, for example; it has a guild tax mechanism, where guild leaders can set a tax rate such that a percentage of a guild member’s cash loot is automatically siphoned off to the guild vault. What sort of nonsense is that? Do Magic Tax Pixies oversee all looting, and instantaneously teleport the precise tax amount to the vault? It’s utterly immersion breaking. What should happen is that, once a year, players assess their overall income of the previous tax year, including cash directly pilfered from the pockets of dead opponents, the sale of items to vendors, the sale of items to other players, the cash value of magical weapons and armour (factoring in depreciation), with deductions allowed for work-related items (not applied to cosmetic clothing) and complete schedules B-H (excepting D) of Form 20381 (revision ii) (unless self-employed, in which case schedules A-K apply twice, and schedules D-Q once, or a contractor, in which case Form 2038i (revision 11) applies), and submit those to the Guild Treasurer along with a cheque or postal order of the amount owed. Doesn’t that sound *much* more exciting? Then there are the flat fees applied to auction house sales, when clearly a superior option would be a multi-tiered set of taxation rates including Value Added Tax that would apply to chocolate covered rations but not conjured rations or beverages, leading to hotly disputed court cases over whether a chocolate covered beverage should be zero-rated or not.

Then there’s housing in EverQuest 2. A flat fee to buy and fixed weekly rent? Where’s the thrill of deciding between a variable rate offset or a fixed rate endowment or capped rate repayment mortgage? The option of becoming a landlord, and renting out shoddy properties to other players at exorbitant rent? Surely it can’t just be me who sees the appeal of a Not Very Independent Financial Advisor class, nefariously steering clients towards inappropriate products that offer large commissions while avoiding ombudsman investigation.

Finally, World of Warcraft recently announced they would be allowing players to change faction. Bravo, I say, about time! I do worry, though, that they’ll implement this through some half-arsed “give us a few quid and pow!, faction changed” mechanism, I’m desperately hoping they take the opportunity to present players with an all-action immigration process, where initially there’d be a complex scoring system, assessing the desirability of a player to their prospective new faction, considering factors such as age, class, equipment and ability to correctly use punctuation. Should the required criteria be met a series of interviews with low level functionaries at the consulate would follow, each requiring identical forms to be filled out (in triplicate) and stamped by at least four other departments. Successful presentation of correctly completed and stamped forms at a desk, only open between 9am and 10.17am on two randomly selected days of the week, appointments not possible so you have to stand in the queue, would give a 17% chance of acquiring a visa allowing travel to your new faction. Once there, an epic quest chain would become available with a residency permit being the ultimate reward, though with only a month to achieve it you’d better get a move on, or face deportation back to your old faction. I’d definitely resubscribe for that.

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