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Plages to save the World's economy


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#1 cronocr   Members   -  Reputation: 730

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Posted 14 September 2012 - 08:06 PM

I was asking in a previous thread the way items should work to please most users in a MMO, and so it seems the best way is to fullfil the consumerist desires of gamers, that hate to wait and to share, by constantly bringing new items into this World. That's not a problem to implement in the game (it could rain hamburgers), but the economy will be punished with a horrible ever-increasing inflation.

Searching these forums and reading several topics on how to devise a healthy economy, I found out that the most basic concepts in a MMO's economy are the money faucet and the money sink. That means in order to allow the game self-regulate there must be a signal between faucet and sink. As players open the faucet, the game should activate a mechanism that opens the sink's hole wider to deflate the economy.

Then I recalled watching a documentary about the Black Death, specifically this segment is very interesting:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=TczFkRnBto8#t=179s

But of course the game can't kill its most valuable asset, players. Instead plages will target items. As players harvest raw materials, trade or produce artifacts, and loot, their inventories will randomly harbor these "bugs" that devour tangible values of certain nature. For example, moths could swallow fabrics, termites will eat wooden objects, and corrosion will make metals (and maybe even gold coins, thru alchemic corrosion) to disappear from the World. Basically in my design items will have infinite lifespan, as long as they aren't destroyed by a pest.


I think this is also a good way to keep players from hoarding insane amounts of artifacts. There may be no limit to what you can store or the weight you can carry in your inventory. But if you own a huge stack of trash, it's pretty possible that bugs are happily living and reproducing in the heart of that heap. Since most plages will be always present, players could produce or buy remedies. These will be use-once items that remove one sample of a pest at a time, and the effectivity will be divided by the size of the inventory, and is reduced in time. In example, each rat eats only a portion of poison, and you will need more portions to put in all their entrances, but each will spoil eventually and must be replaced.

Finally I guess the variety in plages and the World's dynamics will also reduce the chances of over-production of "pesticides". Hope "mothballs" won't be the favorite item on top of the "mega-sword of all might".

So what do you people think of this mechanic? Thanks in advance for your comments!
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#2 Caldenfor   Members   -  Reputation: 323

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Posted 15 September 2012 - 10:21 AM

As a player I don't think I would much like a random outbreak of "pests" to devour the whole of my collection.

Gear that breaks and methods of "donating" materials/items/weapons/etc that give the players the option to get rid of stuff would be a good start.

#3 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4178

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Posted 15 September 2012 - 03:35 PM

I think "soulbind on equip", making all items single-use and thus disposable when the player out-levels them, is a more orderly way of dealing with constant production of items. Also, hoarding stuff is fun. Having one's collection limited or vulnerable isn't much fun.

Edited by sunandshadow, 15 September 2012 - 03:42 PM.

I want to help design a "sandpark" MMO. Optional interactive story with quests and deeply characterized NPCs, plus sandbox elements like player-craftable housing and lots of other crafting. If you are starting a design of this type, please PM me.

#4 Caldenfor   Members   -  Reputation: 323

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Posted 15 September 2012 - 03:48 PM

I think "soulbind on equip", making all items single-use and thus disposable when the player out-levels them, is a more orderly way of dealing with constant production of items. Also, hoarding stuff is fun. Having one's collection limited or vulnerable isn't much fun.


Bind on equip is just a byproduct of "themepark" design. It all depends on the goal of the game being provided, but it is not something that I would ever personally design into an MMORPG.

#5 cronocr   Members   -  Reputation: 730

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Posted 15 September 2012 - 06:22 PM

Thank you for your sincere opinions. Now I can see a pattern here:

As a player I don't think I would much like a random outbreak of "pests" to devour the whole of my collection.

Having one's collection limited or vulnerable isn't much fun.


You people are totally right. Flushing the player's special collection through the sinkhole is not a good idea at all, that will unlink the player from the game. But the basic idea is simply to remove items from the economy system, in order to avoid inflation. To keep this mechanic, players could mark all of their favorite items as part of their precious collection. That is a set of items of any size that they won't ever sell or exchange, and will receive constant care ensuring that no pest reaches it.
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#6 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4178

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Posted 15 September 2012 - 10:29 PM

Thank you for your sincere opinions. Now I can see a pattern here:

As a player I don't think I would much like a random outbreak of "pests" to devour the whole of my collection.

Having one's collection limited or vulnerable isn't much fun.


You people are totally right. Flushing the player's special collection through the sinkhole is not a good idea at all, that will unlink the player from the game. But the basic idea is simply to remove items from the economy system, in order to avoid inflation. To keep this mechanic, players could mark all of their favorite items as part of their precious collection. That is a set of items of any size that they won't ever sell or exchange, and will receive constant care ensuring that no pest reaches it.

Still, perhaps you could put it more under the player's control which items are removed. For example, you might make entry to a dungeon cost a sacrifice of 5 junk items per player per entry?

I've also seen pets and evolving/living items which need to be fed other items.

Edited by sunandshadow, 15 September 2012 - 10:37 PM.

I want to help design a "sandpark" MMO. Optional interactive story with quests and deeply characterized NPCs, plus sandbox elements like player-craftable housing and lots of other crafting. If you are starting a design of this type, please PM me.

#7 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4178

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Posted 15 September 2012 - 10:32 PM


I think "soulbind on equip", making all items single-use and thus disposable when the player out-levels them, is a more orderly way of dealing with constant production of items. Also, hoarding stuff is fun. Having one's collection limited or vulnerable isn't much fun.


Bind on equip is just a byproduct of "themepark" design. It all depends on the goal of the game being provided, but it is not something that I would ever personally design into an MMORPG.

I dunno, it seems like it would work well for craftspeople in a sandbox MMO. The craftsman would not equip the crafted items, so they would be salable as normal, and the buyer would only be stuck with them if they actually used them. But I do personally prefer themepark design to sandbox design, so I'm not an expert on what would work for that.

Edited by sunandshadow, 15 September 2012 - 10:37 PM.

I want to help design a "sandpark" MMO. Optional interactive story with quests and deeply characterized NPCs, plus sandbox elements like player-craftable housing and lots of other crafting. If you are starting a design of this type, please PM me.

#8 cronocr   Members   -  Reputation: 730

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Posted 15 September 2012 - 10:55 PM

Still, perhaps you could put it more under the player's control which items are removed. For example, you might make entry to a dungeon cost a sacrifice of 5 junk items per player per entry?

I've also seen pets and evolving/living items which need to be fed other items.


Yes, I think there should be voluntary and fun ways to remove items from the economy. The idea of feeding pets is pretty cool, thanks for sharing!
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#9 BarefootPhilosopher   Members   -  Reputation: 240

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Posted 16 September 2012 - 04:24 AM

I was asking in a previous thread the way items should work to please most users in a MMO, and so it seems the best way is to fullfil the consumerist desires of gamers, that hate to wait and to share, by constantly bringing new items into this World. That's not a problem to implement in the game (it could rain hamburgers), but the economy will be punished with a horrible ever-increasing inflation.

Searching these forums and reading several topics on how to devise a healthy economy, I found out that the most basic concepts in a MMO's economy are the money faucet and the money sink. That means in order to allow the game self-regulate there must be a signal between faucet and sink. As players open the faucet, the game should activate a mechanism that opens the sink's hole wider to deflate the economy.

Then I recalled watching a documentary about the Black Death, specifically this segment is very interesting:

http://www.youtube.c...FkRnBto8#t=179s

But of course the game can't kill its most valuable asset, players. Instead plages will target items. As players harvest raw materials, trade or produce artifacts, and loot, their inventories will randomly harbor these "bugs" that devour tangible values of certain nature. For example, moths could swallow fabrics, termites will eat wooden objects, and corrosion will make metals (and maybe even gold coins, thru alchemic corrosion) to disappear from the World. Basically in my design items will have infinite lifespan, as long as they aren't destroyed by a pest.


I think this is also a good way to keep players from hoarding insane amounts of artifacts. There may be no limit to what you can store or the weight you can carry in your inventory. But if you own a huge stack of trash, it's pretty possible that bugs are happily living and reproducing in the heart of that heap. Since most plages will be always present, players could produce or buy remedies. These will be use-once items that remove one sample of a pest at a time, and the effectivity will be divided by the size of the inventory, and is reduced in time. In example, each rat eats only a portion of poison, and you will need more portions to put in all their entrances, but each will spoil eventually and must be replaced.

Finally I guess the variety in plages and the World's dynamics will also reduce the chances of over-production of "pesticides". Hope "mothballs" won't be the favorite item on top of the "mega-sword of all might".

So what do you people think of this mechanic? Thanks in advance for your comments!


I too have been working on conceptualizing a complex, dynamic internal economy for my game, partly I am dissatisfied by how most in- game economies function. In relation to your post, I think it would be both less complex and more believable to transform the very foundation of your economic model.

I've also conducted a lot of research and one model for a game economy that offers everything that I had envisioned in a game economy is the one featured in the MUD Shattered Lands. Its modelled on how our world's economy actually functions and features a player run financial system, player owned banks, ability to make loans and borrow money, and all prices are set by the players themselves. The financial system doesn't cause inflation, because all idle money eventually finds its way back into the banking system to pay back debt and provide savings for players. This system provides a reasonably stable flow of money into the game economy and according to Wikipedia prices have remained stable for over a decade.

Economic model
Shattered World has drawn attention for the success of its "Loans Standard" economic model. In this design, all businesses are player-owned, and players may set prices to any level desired, with the only central control imposed being on the amounts banks may loan, yet the system has produced reasonably stable prices since the 1990s. In the wake of Ultima Online's economic crash, this stands out as a remarkable accomplishment. The necessity that the system lack "faucets" that produce money ex nihilo means that newbies must start the game completely destitute, however, and this raises concerns as to whether this model could be made to scale successfully to larger player-bases.[5][6]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shattered_World

The economy of Shattered World relies on an economy theory known as the "Loans Standard Economy". More simply it can be described as a zero sum economy. That is the total outstanding loans always equals the total amount of money in use in the economy.

http://www.shattered.org/economic.htm

#10 cronocr   Members   -  Reputation: 730

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Posted 16 September 2012 - 10:21 AM

I investigated and read about Shattered World when it was mentioned in another thread. I agree it's a very interesting system, and I'll be looking to include loans, and player controlled stores and even banks. Yet I want to make something different by mixing several aspects that I already designed. In the usual economy system changes are mostly drived by the mechanics of gathering and crafting, but where is for example magic? Yes, you can create enchanted artifacts, but how could magic alone make deep impact in a economy based on cold numbers, for good or for evil? Magic is about controlling nature, and introducing a natural factor like plagues with a role as fundamental as production (indeed the exact contrary: degradation), will bring a new perspective to the game. I still have to work on this aspect, but the degradation process of items might be some sort of recycling, with the positive effect that captured "bugs" in the inventory could be transformed into mana; and on the other side, some magic skills could accelerate item degradation, or even slow it down to cripple other character's capacity to quickly replenish mana.
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#11 BarefootPhilosopher   Members   -  Reputation: 240

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Posted 16 September 2012 - 02:44 PM

hey cronoc,

I'm pleased you've heard of Shattered World and find it inspiring and further glad you're integrating finance and banking into your game. Its an unfortunate oversight that most games fail to incorporate finance into their in-game economies. It would add a whole new dimension of player impacting the gameworld.

On the particular game mechanic. My primary misgivings about the entropy element was the risk that it would not only annoy players but suspension of belief could be jeopardized. Time horizons for rust in particular is just too long to believably occur in a game. Blades becoming dull and notched, termites eating wood, and food spoilage would convincingly occur within the timeframe of a game session. I

I hadn't realised you would include magic into the gameworld. Magical sabotage could bring forward the rate of entropy of goods and would have a debilitating effect on an economy. It could cause temporary resource shortages but in the long run stimulate production and economic activity. It would cause temporary inflation unless item production kept pase with the demand from the need to replace damaged items. Its definitely an exotic gamemechanic. I'd be interested to see how the concept develops.

#12 ATC   Members   -  Reputation: 551

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Posted 20 September 2012 - 10:43 AM

Ahhh, economics... I'm already hooked on your thread! One thing you're going to have to be aware of is that [inflation != growth] and [deflation != decline]. Though these things can correspond, correlation does not imply causation; nor does the lack thereof...

In a real economy, an increasing population has several profound effects:
  • Increase in size of labor force
  • Increase in aggregate demand for commodities and services
  • Increased consumption
However, theoretically, an increase in the size of the labor force will eventually result in increased production capacity. Increased production capacity, of course, leads to increased production... and production is how wealth is created. You want your game economy to grow over time (preferably at a realistic rate) and for its wealth (and its "virtual GDP") to increase. Players who work hard and play for a long time are going to want to be "rich" and accumulate vast amounts of financial and material resources, just as people do in the real world. Hording wealth is a natural human behavior, and people are going to want to horde things in-game.

You don't want to tamper too much with the self-regulatory nature of a virtual free-market economy (nor a real one, for that matter, but that's for another time and place). The "inflation" you're expecting in commodities/items/etc from growth of the player population is going to be offset by the increased demand. There's going to be more people consuming, breaking, destroying, eating and drinking, just as there are more people building, making, cooking, brewing, etc. If you're using a gold/silver coin system as the base currency of the game, which I recommend, make sure that it is either mined slowly or "pumped" into the game world statically at a plausible rate. If you allow players to use small amounts of real money to purchase huge quantities of game money, then you're effectively turning it into a fiat system -- and you can expect major problems, particularly with inflation and outrageous prices. An way to control this, however, is by setting the "price" of game money dynamically...by doing this you can maintain price stability, and easily accomplish the job that the Federal Reserve and other central banks were created for but have always failed to do. However, I recommend you stay away from this pseudo-fiat model of allowing players to purchase game money with real money. Instead, if you plan to "monetize" your game through micro-transactions then only make items, tools and other such things available to buy with real money. That way a player will not be able to just buy his money but will have to buy, say, a cattle farm and sell the cattle to make money. This will keep the economy much more stable, as money cannot be created from thin air (at least not directly).

While I think it would be cool if pests/plagues could damage farms and such, I think it would suck if items in your player inventory get eaten by bugs... What kind of bug eats a gold bracelet or sword anyway? Instead, try to make items wear out or break over time, and their monetary value should depreceate as this happens. What you get is not only more economic realism but stability...
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#13 Randel   Members   -  Reputation: 326

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Posted 20 September 2012 - 02:59 PM

As far as the "how to get items out of the economy" thing goes, perhaps gear will gradually deteriorate through use and can be repaired by cannibalizing other items like in Fallout 3 and New Vegas? Then you can have it set up so that alot of the stuff people get from defeating enemies are half-broken gear that can be stripped down for parts or need to be repaired with more items. Basically, players get a wider variety of loot but its often in poor condition so they strip the parts from the bad ones to repair the good ones.

Low-level items could then see use as spare parts to repair the better items, this lets players automatically get rid of their old obsolete gear when they outgrow them and perhaps new players can sell their low level gear to higher level players knowing they can see use to repair stuff with.

Also, some items could just spoil naturally. Like maybe health potions have an expiration date or food spoils after a while (though the spoiled items might be able to see use in some other way... like expired health potions can be emptied to make empty bottles to make other potions with... or the liquid used to make poisons. While expired food can be composted or fed to various creatures). You could also include ice boxes for players to put their stuff in that ensure their items never go sour.

Hmm... perhaps work that into the game so that potions or items with an expiration date are simple never (or rarely) found as loot (no finding a 1,000 year old sandwich in a crypt and have it still be good). Other things like animal meat could be harvested during the raid but those have an expiration date on them. Things like health potions are either crafted in civilized areas or might be found in ice boxes or other cold areas where the 'enemy' keeps them. I can imagine an ice-themed location could be attractive to players if it turns out its the only area in the game where normally expirable items can be found laying around.




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