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RPG Economics

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Im not discussing MMORPGs, which have their own troubles, however the lessons learned there are applicable here as well. I'm talking about a regular RPG in the vein of Ultima or Final Fantasy, where a regular currency exists. In Final Fantasy, the currency is Gil or GP, and almost all enemies provide at least some amount of money for killing them. Perhaps this is a simplification of resource selling - rather than going through the motions of skinning the animal and selling the hide the game simply gives a set value on each type of enemy. Some games go about it differently. Diablo II, for instance, offers some monetary gain on most enemies, but in order to earn a decent amount of cash you'll need to obtain and sell items dropped from enemies. Many MMORPGs have this same practice - notably Ragnarok Online, where no enemies actually drop money - only items to sell and barter with. This provides an excellent starting point, since many MMOs have to cope with game balance issues such as inflation and devalued products/services. Rather than have a landscape that has a static economic environment, I would like to introduce some dynamics into a game. Notably, currency. Most RPGs have a form of currency, but few have several competing currencies. Monsters native to one land might drop items that are far more valuable in other regions, effecting the relative valuation of each item depending on where they are sold. Purchases can work the same way - with different areas charging more or less for various items. This could be more significant by introducing political plot elements that effect the value of currencies and possibly introduce some inflation into the game world. The problem with economics in a traditional RPG is that your character is not really able to effect the economic situation of the world, but instead would have to be reactionary towards it. In MMORPGs, vast multitudes of players in concert can drive item prices up or down depending on their relative value. Because of a general lack of money sinks in comparison to money making, over time, item prices tend to inflate. Ragnarok Online is again, a great example of this, where items sold by NPCs are price controlled to a semi-reasonable value, but items not sold by NPCs tend to be priced 10-500 times their theoretical value if they were to be sold by NPCs. Keeping in mind that the game has a vast array of items, but only a few offered by NPC merchants, means that most items in the game are overpriced and only high level players with access to vast hordes of cash would be able to afford even moderately useful equipment, while a similar game such as Diablo II which offers an online component has normal prices for items that you would be able to purchase in single-player, but also includes the ability to purchase rare items at higher prices. In this manner, the bread & butter adventuring needs such as better weaposn or armor are not grossly overpriced, but rare items are still rare and require a hefty sum for purchase. These are the sorts of challenges that would be faced with introducing an economic environment to the game. Introducing some form of money sinks would be the first goal. Perhaps by requiring food rations, item repairs, road tolls, taxation, or even monetary requirements for leveling (training fees). The next goal would be to have a chart of item rarity and value. One of the later goals would be the crafting of plot points that change the economic situation for various regions.

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Here is the flaw I see with your statement. Economics in a single player game dont have to be dyanamic for that is not the focus on the game. In MMO games,one focus is to become as strong as possible in comparison to the other players, and this can be achieved by economic means. In a single player game you are competing against the AI, and thus economics dont play into the game as much as you are not trying to become as wealthy as possibly unless if that wealth is to achieve the victory conditions of the game. I believe a storydriven economy (sinks etc) is a possible scenario in a single player game via scripting, its not one that needs a dynamic system for the single player gaming.

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Guest Anonymous Poster


Best way to handle the Gold sink problem is to not have the game generate
all that gold in the first place. I could have built islands from the gold existing in some of the MMORPGs I played in, and Continents from all the discarded loot (which also should be decreased by 2 magnitudes.


Forcing barter trading would work - get rid of gold/coinage as a medium of exchange (accept it might have a steeper learning curve).

Rent for Houses and other properties (with an exponential increase the higher the 'quality' or size)...

Taxes and Tolls....

Lack of a magical universal bank (too easy and safe to pile money up).

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Quote:
Original post by Talonder
Here is the flaw I see with your statement. Economics in a single player game dont have to be dyanamic for that is not the focus on the game. In MMO games,one focus is to become as strong as possible in comparison to the other players, and this can be achieved by economic means. In a single player game you are competing against the AI, and thus economics dont play into the game as much as you are not trying to become as wealthy as possibly unless if that wealth is to achieve the victory conditions of the game. I believe a storydriven economy (sinks etc) is a possible scenario in a single player game via scripting, its not one that needs a dynamic system for the single player gaming.


Scripting was the way that I was planning on going with this. Aside from purchasing necessities, wealth in single player RPGs is not an advantage, as you said. The competition focuses on besting the opponents, and seldom does that include showing off wealth. IRL, wealth is a huge motive force, less so in MMO, and almost non-existent in single-player. The issue so much isn't wealth accumulation as it is wealth dynamics - getting the player to think in terms of economic activities. Some stratgy games deal with this (Romance of the Three Kingdoms II for the SNES was fantastic at this - coping with rice sales in different regions), but most RPG games are completely ignorant of the matter. In order to perhaps drive at least SOME desire for economic advancement, net worth could unlock particular features (say, new characters that must be bought for some unusually large sum, etc). Money is only worth something while it gives the player some benefit - no benefit, no wealth accumulation, no caring about economics. That's not a problem early on, when players will need to purchase better equipment progressively through the story, but it will be an issue towards the end of the game. Of course, once the player has purchased/unlocked all the benefits of wealth, it no longer matters.

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As already mentioned the way to avoid problems is to avoid the game giving the player too much money. In the RPGs I've played this is generally not a problem early on as low level NPCs generally don't have much money on them. However there always seems to be a point when the rewards to be obtained from killing an NPC explode and instead of the a few coins to be gained there are suddenly rewards of hundreds or even thousands of GPs (Dungeon Siege for example). Even if the reward should be greater, it shouldn't necessarily be in proportion to the difficulty of getting the reward ... the high level NPC the Black Knight might be trickier to kill than the low level beggar, but is it likely that he will be carrying around 5000 GP in loose change?

And then try to add more money sinks - equipment that needs repairing, food that needs to be eaten, one shot magic scrolls, training, quick transport, bribes, vanity items, etc.

One economic thing I'm trying out is having at least two different currencies - you can have a fortune in gold crowns, but when you cross the border out of the Empire and into the barbarian lands the only usable currency are silver pennies ... you can visit illegal money changers if you need to, but they have a very high exchange rate (i.e. another money sink).

Finally, money is heavy so why not stop the player carrying _too_ much? This would lead to players hording money (it's still there, but not as accessible), sticking it some kind of local or global bank (with bank charges) or coverting it into more portable items (precious stones for example) ... the money is still 'there' but less obviously there to the player.

Just a few ideas and whether they work or not depends on your game world and what you want the player to be worrying about.

Jon.

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Quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster
Forcing barter trading would work - get rid of gold/coinage as a medium of exchange (accept it might have a steeper learning curve).


Players tend to create a currency for ease of use. In Diablo 2, it was SOJs, then hex charms (unfortunately hacked), then 3/20/20's and runes. Player WANT to have a currency. If the game designers don't provide one, the players will tend to take matters into their own hands. My personal feeling is that the game company should actively regulate the game economy. Establish a currency and then aggresively monitor it and maintain solid and reliable trade forums (both in the game world on in the real world via websites) for the players to trade currency, items, services, etc. The game company can even monitor trade values and maintain a database of going rates and prices, making it part of the duty of the GMs or whoever they have keeping the game in line. This is simple (at least conceptually), satisfies the player base, and allows greater control by the designers. Sometimes the clear-cut route is the best thing.

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If the game designers maintain fluctuating price controls, changed server side as needed, they have a modifiable money sink in-game that allows them to deal with surprise influxes of currency or items, inflation, deflation, etc.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
I'm considering a Text based MMORPG (Thats still an MMO isn't it?) mostly just to learn how to make such a program more than to market it but I have a approach to the economy that might work for this.

My idea is critters do not carry gold. Even more so, (This is a future SciFi type game) the critters don't carry gems or other such unusual stuff like that. Most of the critters will be robotic where you salvage parts from their remains or the human opponents you will take their equipment. The stuff you get it then sold to a pawn shop which has a specific amount of money they can buy stuff with, they run out of money from not selling enough, then they don't buy stuff.

Its going to be a long time before I get a very detailed game working but I'm trying to do a more in depth game as opposed to kill critters, get silver and exp, buy stuff and train, rinse and repeat...

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