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More on Economies in MMORPGs


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#1 kressilac   Members   -  Reputation: 110

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Posted 11 June 2000 - 04:38 PM

The other thread about RPG economics got me thinking about how to manage the economy of an MMORPG. You can read that thread here. I would like to open a discussion about a better way to handle economics in an MMORPG in hopes that I can validate some of my ideas and learn what other people's thoughts are on the subject. In the previous thread, I mentioned that the supply of money was pretty central to the state of the economy in an MMORPG. In my experience with mud programming, the economy is perhaps the single most important system in your MMORPG. It affects game balance, game difficulty, power distribution, and it affects the admin staff's ability to add content to the game. Consider the following. Everquest released its world. There was a set number of monsters, objects, experience and gold in the world at the time of its release. For all intents and purposes this system was at its starting point and at the systems design based equilibrium.(before any players could muck it up) I would like to introduce a couple of measurements for this discussion. The first being average power levels. The release of EQ had an average power level for the monsters in the game. This meant that an average equipped PC could adventure in the world killing an average of some monsters per hour and earn levels at an average rate. If the game is balanced then the content designers have a good understanding of how powerful a player is on the average at any given level. I like to break this average power level into newbie, low, medium, and high level power averages. This allows me to address the four stages of the game and balance all of the areas against these averages for a balanced world where no zone is easier to get experience in than another. The second is the average money available to players through adventuring. This again can be broken down into the four stages of the game mentioned above. More than likely, money will be more plentiful in the latter stages of the game as it costs more to play a character in those stages. Lastly I have a ratio of value for goods on the player market versus the value of goods on the NPC market. This ratio helps me keep track of how useful the shopkeepers are with respect to trading with other players. From these measurements I can make some assumptions. 1. If ratio of player market to NPC market goes up in favor of the PC market then shopkeepers will be bought from more and sold to less as their goods remain cheaper to purchase and not worth it to sell to. The converse of this applies as well. 2. If the aveage money available to a player increases then the average power of the players in that stage and below that stage will increase due to better equipment. The converse is the same. 3. As the average power level in a stage increases players gain levels, experience, and money at an increased rate. This could potentially be faster than planned from the release of the game. The converse of this also applies. 4. A spiral effect can occur with respect to average money available and average power with one feeding the other. This is what I like to call object inflation. As this occurs, weapons, items and armor that were once rare become no longer rare and far more common. Placing limits on the availabilty of the items becoming more comon, creates a class system of haves and have nots and compounds inflation on said limited items. A spiral can occur in a downward motion or and upward motion causing either inflation or deflation. 5. As object inflation occurs shopkeepers become less attractive to players and the marketplace ratio increases. With deflation the opposite occurs and players become less attractive to trade with over shopkeepers. An interesting corrolary to these trends is that all of these trends in one way or another, through either direct or indirect methods, apply a change to all of the above measurements. For instance shopkeepers tend to have goods on sale for much more money than you can get on the player market. They also give much less than one could sell them for on the player market. If the marketplace ratio decreases it could be supported that players are earning levels much slower than anticipated in the design time averages, making the game more difficult for its players. Given these trends, it is easy to see that a few things are going to happen in Everquest and other MMORPGs. Everquest just released its expansion pack Kunark and increased the levels in the game to 60. This additional 10 levels distributes 60 levels over four stages instead of 50 levels. The distribution of more levels in a given stage skews the average power levels the game had during its initial release. Since the levels are at the high end we can hold that assumption number 3 will occur. Higher levels equates to increased power. Since this has a trickle down effect we can expect assumption number 2 to also occur which easily will lead to assumptions 4, 5 and 1. My dilemma is this. Given this understanding, how does one go about implementing an MMORPG where the administration can control the economy in such a way that it is not viewed as heavy handed, and not so hands of so as to allow the market to fluctuate wildly. Everquest is about to head into a massive inflationary period of its economy. This can be seen in some of the higher demanded items already. I do not believe Verant is paying attention to this and if they do not it will inevitably end up turing into a larger monty haul style game than it already is. How does one stop this. Sorry about being long winded. Kressilac ps I tend to think that a deflationary economy in an MMORPG might not be all that bad of a thing as long as the player base does not view the game as too difficult. This could result in lost sales and decreased revenues and we do not want that. I worry more about an inflationary situation which could more quickly cause the same difficulty for newbies and low level people not in the haves class. Deflation can be fixed rather easy while inflation is another matter in itself. Edited by - kressilac on 6/11/00 10:51:00 PM

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#2 Landfish   Members   -  Reputation: 288

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Posted 11 June 2000 - 06:27 PM

At the risk of sounding like some kind of activist, I would like to point out that some good ways to make such an economy balanced would be the following:

- Monsters do not supply money unless they have their own economy, and even then, their money is likely to be useless unless it is a precious metal/stone

- No leveling... if the powerbase is determined by rewarding dedication with steady superiority as opposed to constant increase, you needn''t accomidate for constant rise in the powerbase, but players are still just as happy (if not happier).

- "Government" management of economies in game.

- Generally, you can model economy off of reality once you eliminate the abstractions I made in the first two points. But people are probably sick of these ideas by now, right?


This post was brought to you by the letter "Land", and the number "Fish!"

#3 Niphty   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 12 June 2000 - 03:26 AM

Ok Kressilac.. very interesting points you''ve made

First off, let me say that you need to plan out the WHOLE economy from top to bottom BEFORE you finish and ship the game. This means all aspects of the economy from human side to monster side.
The human side is fairly straightforward, as you''ve outlined. People will fluctuate between shopkeepers and other players depending upon the ammount of money avalible. However, you''ve lacked one major point here: supply and demand. Shopkeepers in most games carry only the most basic of items. Should a player sell them greater ones, they must keep it for themselves.. cause it''s never for resale. Thus, most special items are put into the player trading system, since shopkeepers are greedy. This is a great way to buy up weapons which shouldn''t be on the market.. a shopkeeper can pay an unholy ammount for the items as collector''s editions. Since a lot of people go to shopkeepers, it''s feasible for them to do this If they don''t offer them for resale, then there''s no chance of them getting back into the player market.
Now that we''ve established the shopkeeper limited rule (the fact that they only sell a set few items despite what they seem to recieve) let''s break it all to hell. As a shopkeeper, you must purchase people''s items and resell them at a higher price. This means you pay the person lower than what it''s truely worth. In essence, this gives money into the player-economy.. but it''s giving an unfair value. When the shopkeeper sells this item, he will be taking more than he spent. This means that in reality, you have decreased the ammount of money in the player-economy. This is important to remember. If you start to get inflation with players, make sure you up the prices with the shopkeepers for selling more rare items. This essentially curbs the inflation by sucking money from the system. The feds do this by raising interest rates and requiring banks to hold on to more money physically in reserve. Since i doubt you''re going to use the banker economy model, as in.. using banks to give loans to people with money they are holding for someone else, then i think it''s safe to say that you''ll only be using the interest rates to curb inflation. Somewhere in your code, you should put a multiplier rate on the NPC shops. This way you can easily, in one quick stroke, up all the prices throughout the lands. This in turn pulls money back out of the player''s economy.. and curbs the inflation. All governments had a tax.. this is especially noteable in medieval times. The government tax is an important role in stopping inflation. But you must plan out how your tax works. Is it a trade tax, on all goods and services? is it a toll for crossing the city''s roads? or is it a per-person tax of said ammount? or is it a per home tax? or property tax? or a combination?
These questions will help to shape and define your government within the game. Is it a monarchy? Well.. set taxes accordingly Is it a democracy? (most likely not ) These things make a huge difference in how to plan for an economy. You must remember at all times to keep a check of the money in the game. Use some kind of global stat to keep track of the total worth of all money in the game. I''d do the same with items if you could.. the total value of all items. This way you can plan for X to Y range of money, and if it falls below, drop prices, and if it gets too high, raise them. If you''re a good coder, you can make a full-scale economy that''s autonomous.. hehe The shopkeepers will slowly raise price as inflation occurs, and it acts like a limit function: the closer it goes to the upper bound, the faster and more drastic the shopkeepers change the prices. This can get ludicrous if you planned for one thing and suddenly it''s throw WAY off the board. The economy in one day might suddenly explode like you''d never expected.. and this being the first day Should this happen, you could suddenly find yourself needing to make adjustments. That''s why i prefer to keep a "multiplier" style value to things i think might potentially mess up in a heartbeat. One change of the value and all things can be set straight again.
With the player''s economy in check.. now you begin to worry about the monster-economy. Do the monsters form social groups? if so.. they''re likely to have a trading system. Set up each group based on the racial qualities. Perhaps they have some form of caste system with one leader, a few elite guards, and then everyone else. The leader has all he wants, the guards have a good deal, and the others have what they can scavenge. Build them a realistic economy based on that But remember.. non-social groups will likely have no currency or trade system. All monsters will likely pick up some money off dead people.. but they will probably also take everything else. This to me is an odd point: do the monsters take things from their kill? Humans do it all the time without thinking. But if they had it done to them.. hehe I like the idea, but i want to keep the game fun, as well. And i think too many people have the idea that this is "wrong". It''s something to discuss.
As far as interaction between monsters and people.. well.. unless you have the AI language parser.. it won''t happen much. The thing to remember is how much interaction do you want the groups to have. There''s no way to say that a dragon won''t go kill a whole mess of goblins to take over the cave they were living in. This could be funny, actually Remember the world is dynamic, and keep a chart like we do. We''ve got a big dry-erase board with the layout of the lands we''re going to make. The board to us is sorta a tactical map of the lands. All clans of all races are shown. And if we determine clan A is growing too big, we can send some to attack the town nearby. Keeping a map like this is essential to your MMORPG for economy as well. You can find out where the cash is flowing from and to, and how your dynamic world is shaping. If it''s not to your liking.. change it But be creative.. sit down and think about it. Even if rapid inflation is taking hold, don''t impliment a spur of the moment plan unless it''s very very good Try to plan ahead for such problems and have a plan of action ready.
There''s much more to say, but this is long enough for now Think about some of these things and let me know how you feel about them, or any thoughts you''ve had in those areas. I''m interested in how you plan on handling the monster''s economy, since that has been the biggest failure of ALL RPG games.

J

#4 Dak Lozar   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 12 June 2000 - 01:53 PM

I strongly believe that a simple approach is the best. I read someplace that the economic engine designed for UO had been well thought out and that the designers wanted to model a real world economy... Well, a few months in they figured that it wasn’t working so well. They backed up punted and implemented a modified/simpler economic engine and all was well (I suppose).

I really like Niphty’s ideal of sending raiding orc parties into an area to correct some problems concerning the economy (nothing like a war in a dire economy), of course a story line developed behind this would probably need to be introduced. Then again, these are orcs and well, orcs will be orcs

I will add another twist... how about a black-market? You could have an NPC that somehow manages to get his hands on the things that everyone wants! This could be an interesting addition to any game. This would impact the economy as well.


David "Dak Lozar" Loeser

#5 Kylotan   Moderators   -  Reputation: 3338

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Posted 12 June 2000 - 11:42 PM

quote:
Original post by Dak Lozar

I strongly believe that a simple approach is the best. I read someplace that the economic engine designed for UO had been well thought out and that the designers wanted to model a real world economy... Well, a few months in they figured that it wasn’t working so well. They backed up punted and implemented a modified/simpler economic engine and all was well (I suppose).


They also spent a long long time working out a balanced ecosystem / A-Life setup where monsters had to find their own food, and would act accordingly. Extinction of species would have been possible, players could have had to leave deer near the dragon''s lair to prevent the dragon coming to town for a quick snack, etc.

It was a failure, because (a) 99% of it was invisible to the players, and therefore wasted effort and CPU time, and (b) Some of the emergent effects that players did end up seeing just served to piss players off through no fault of their own. Nobody wants to come onto a game and find that most of the animal species have already been wiped out. Realistic, yes. But realism is rarely fun to play.

The same point can be applied to the economy. Worry too much about it, and you''re likely putting in a lot of safeguards that, on balance, don''t work. Perhaps it''s better to just keep an eye on things and try to adjust as time goes on.

#6 Niphty   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 13 June 2000 - 03:47 AM

Those points are very true. A simple model is best.. but it''s got to be somewhat realistic. The problem is, too many games have super-inflation. That''s absurd. Newbies after a while don''t know the value of anything anymore.. because the money in the realm has skyrocketed. Yet.. merchants have never changed their prices to reflect inflation. That''s not too much to ask for, and it''s realistic.. plus it cuts down on inflation. that''s how things go

J

#7 kressilac   Members   -  Reputation: 110

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Posted 13 June 2000 - 02:02 PM

I have to agree with Niphty. I have been programming muds for about 10 years now. One of the hardest things to do was stop inflation. This did not only include money inflation. As the content of the game changes the power level of the average equipment rises. The whole object inflation, money availability, and power inflation problem is a serious problem to the longevity of a persistent world. If taken lightly it can and will ruin the game that players have come to love. Without hesitation, I can say that EverQuest is heading this way. Many items are now worth many times what they originally started out to be worth. It is more and more difficult to play as a newbie on an established server.

This aside, I would like to continue the discussion about how to model it in a game setting. The goal is to create a world that is easy to manage, realistic in operation and fun for players. The latter being the most important. The issue of rent and taxes came up in the other thread and these if implemented properly could be an answer. I am not sure and the jury is still out. I would like to come up with other creative ways to stop this or slow it down so that the world I build can have a longer shelflife before any major reworking.

I persist on the topic because this is pretty central to making money on MMORPGs in the future. Yes a wonderful game is great, but in the end it has to appeal to players so that it can make money. Getting a better understanding of this is pretty critical in my eyes to being able to make money in the MMORPG marketspace.

Kressilac


#8 Niphty   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 14 June 2000 - 04:49 AM

kressilac, I understand what you''re saying. And it''s very true. Many games try to outlive their lifespan because the developers don''t want to make something new. However, the games seemed like the weren''t designed to last that long. If the person had meant to make a long-lasting game, they''d have made a real economy.

Other creative ideas on econ.. humm.. That''s a toughie. You could impliment banks which are capable of giving out loans and so on. Or you could just impliment a bit different system which my girl and i came up with last night. I think the big component which you could use is that of giving new players a certain ammount of money based on the inflation in the game. That way new players start out with a fair ammount of money. This is an important thing.. since inflation in the system in games has yet to affect the shopkeeper''s pricing as well as the new player''s ammount of starting cash. What might have been a fair ammount to begin with, later becomes less than poverty level. this is a key factor as well as the shopkeepers being a dynamic entity. If they have been buying weapons, they should offer them for sale.. but at a higher rate. This will make players most likely sell among themselves.. hehe.

Also.. the system about mining and such.. i''d never imagined putting players in the mines, only NPC''s. Who would want to have a character like that? For all the players in your world.. you should have some "normal" NPC''s. Some that aren''t just shopkeepers and farmers, or just for show. These NPC''s populate the game in a very realistic way. They can add some elements to the game that many have overlooked. Farmers, miners, etc.. they all have a part. But like Landfish said, allowing a player that role would be senseless, and like Kylotan said.. for them to have fun you need unlimited resources, which can unbalance the game So.. to prevent this, we don''t allow players to do mindless jobs. Instead, we allow them to have lives like they wish.
Now.. there''s nothing that says you can''t, as a player, make a farm and have it be successful. But, the laws of the economy stress that too many players growing too much food throws the system out. For this reason, the NPC farms would get pissed at the new-coming player farms.. and perhaps burn them down What we considered is having the NPC sell the seeds for the farms. That way, if the players get too many farms, the NPC''s will deny them seed. Since the game wasn''t designed to incorporate a ton fo player farms, the players will be doing an un-standard thing, which means they do so at their own risk. The cost to own a farm will be high though, and unless the player can secure a loan from a bank or a richer person.. well.. tough I don''t mind allowing people to grow some food of their own, it just won''t be a lifestyle many can do unless they''re really serious about it (i''ve seen people who play harvest moon without fail and even beat the best times the strategy guides say) However.. people who go off the beaten path can do good things, it''s just that it shouldn''t be easy for them, or anyone else.
This can workt he same for mines, perhaps. But i doubt it. mining takes a lot of time and often doesn''t turn up much. The mining in UO was ridiculously easy. So, just think about things.. and what you need to blance the economy. If players start to go too far, think about what can counter it. I''ve got a lot of ideas, but.. little time now So perhaps more later.
Kressilac, let me know what you think about this so far.

J




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