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Controling Inflation in Multiplayer Online Games

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Hello everybody, I haven't been on the forum for over a week now so don't flame me for not knowing the lasting thing. Today I like to discuss the inflation in many of today's Multiplayer Online Games, mostly MMORPGs. Inflation have caused many disadvantages to new players in a multiplayer online environment. In order for the game more appealing to the mass market (casual players, who come and go), inflation needs to be controled in order to make it fair for casual players. I propose the idea of taxing in game. As in everyday at a certain time, let's say midnight...a percentage of in game wealth(Gold or currency stored in the player's storage space and not real items) is deduced from the player's account. The percentage of taxing increase at a rate of (n log (n)) to make it challenging to accumulate wealth and encourage player to actually spend the wealth they gained in that day rather than saving it. By encouraging players to spend their wealth causes the price on certain rare item's price to drop and therefoe making it easier to new players to obtain them.

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No economy in the real world taxes your capital. A more realistic way is to tax income – not drops (as that doesn't make a difference), but sales between players, guild payments and so on.

Actually, the only way to keep inflation down is to stop providing free drops. Every drop is adding money to the game world. But that means you have to come up with a fun gameplay model other than the grind for XP and items that most MMORPGs end up with.

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That's right. Drops are minting money every time anyone kills a mob. Missions mint money every time that lonely farmer pulls a fistful of gold out of his pocket and pays another adventurer three times the value of his house to rescue that same cat from that same tree.

Economies in MMOs are fake. To make them real would require you to stop paying players for butchering mobs and to stop paying players for doing something nice. EVE has a good economy in place, but it exists alongside the hunting and mission-running economies, and there's no way for honest trade and manufacture to keep up with the fake payouts that people get when they blow up ships that magically spawn ex nihilo in the middle of nowhere.

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I think that would discourage casual players as anyone who only plays a few hours a week would have nothing,
I can think of three ways to prevent inflation
1: make sure than the amount of resources in the game are finite, in that there’s no way to farm a limitless amount of money
2: use supply and demand, instead of farming money the player have to farm some resource but if it becomes over farmed its value decreases and higher level player dont bother with it, but other resource values remain stable
3: have prestige items like houses or character decorations that will allow higher-level player to spend money on items that don’t add to inflation or make them overpowered

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Quote:
No economy in the real world taxes your capital.


Not true. There are western european economies that have a "wealth tax" which taxes about a percent of your total net worth above some floor value. When it comes to economics, you can probably find pretty much any kind of system somewhere on Earth...

People have implemented taxation previously, too; typically, it's known as "item wear" or "item maintenance". If you use an item, it will need to be repaired at some point, which costs money.

The easiest way to avoid inflation is to tie the game currency to a real currency, such as US dollars. You'd better be sure that you don't have any dup sploits in the game at that point, though :-)

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Here's an idea I was playing around with:

There are no gold drops in the overworld, but the overworld is where money is spent by players. Most crafting resources are found in the overworld.

Gold and rare resources are only found in instanced dungeons. Say there are dungeons A-J, each having 100 levels. The dungeon levels are randomly generated. A-J designates "style" of dungeon, difficulty, etc. There is a finite amount of gold that can possibly be acquired by a player by dungeon crawling. Say you get 50 gold on level 5 of Dungeon A, that is subtracted from the amount of gold your account can gather from dungeons. Also, no gold will ever be found at a level lower than 5A. Likewise there is a finite amount of rare resources that a player can dredge up from dungeons.

There would probably be rare loot, also finite. The loot and resources would be handled by some kind of point system, like "player has 10000 rare resource points. having found (and taken out of the dungeon) 10 logs of blackwood, his (account based, per "shard") rare resouce points are reduced to 9950."

That's the gist of it. Feedback?

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Quote:
Original post by abstractimmersion
Here's an idea I was playing around with:

There are no gold drops in the overworld, but the overworld is where money is spent by players. Most crafting resources are found in the overworld.

Gold and rare resources are only found in instanced dungeons. Say there are dungeons A-J, each having 100 levels. The dungeon levels are randomly generated. A-J designates "style" of dungeon, difficulty, etc. There is a finite amount of gold that can possibly be acquired by a player by dungeon crawling. Say you get 50 gold on level 5 of Dungeon A, that is subtracted from the amount of gold your account can gather from dungeons. Also, no gold will ever be found at a level lower than 5A. Likewise there is a finite amount of rare resources that a player can dredge up from dungeons.

There would probably be rare loot, also finite. The loot and resources would be handled by some kind of point system, like "player has 10000 rare resource points. having found (and taken out of the dungeon) 10 logs of blackwood, his (account based, per "shard") rare resouce points are reduced to 9950."

That's the gist of it. Feedback?


I love you! You already got your rating dropped to 0, so you're the only one here that's not afraid to really express yourself. I hope I can be like you.

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The only way to prevent overvaluing of items and money horders is to create as many ways as possible to pull out the money being put into a world.

Item wear is a very good way to make sure that rich players have to spend money, making the repair cost equivalent to the price of the item, so therefore, and expensive sword would cost alot in terms of repair, while a cheap dagger that every begginer starts with would be only 1 or 2 gold to repair.

Also, a help-a-noob system, where high level players get access to special items and areas, simply by giving money to a begginer and showing them around, that type of system was very well implemented in Knight Online, as it made sure that to the rich players, they had a use for their money.

Adding more high level items to encourage the rich to buy more stuff also helps, especially if the item can only be bought from a store, rather then crafted.

But then, if you take too much money out of the economy, as Endless Online somehow managed, moeny can become too overvalued, and items that are actually relatively easy to get at the right level, become excessively expensive. (IE the D-aromour in EO sold for over 5K in most cases).

Taxwise, I think maybe that sort of thing could apply to users making X amount or more in their trades each week, and Guilds could always do with taxation.

At the end of the day, the only way to balace the economy is to watch your community closely, and try to stop players from winding up with no use for their money.

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(i posted this in a simaler thread a while ago)

have npc’s shops running on a basic supply and demand rule
For instance
1 player mines minerals
2 player sells minerals to npc
3 npc makes swords and sells them
->the npc will lower prices if he cant sell anything or rasie them if he is selling a lot but the price he pays for minerals is relative to selling price of swords (so the players wont mine copper if they cant sell it)
4 the sowrds get lost, break or get dull and requre more minerals to fix or replace

you could do the same for any resurce, just have a defined resource chain with a finite start point and end point, and npcs working on a floating value according to some simple rules

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regulating drops will not really help in the long run, nor will taxing. the system you proposed also has the disadvantage of affecting casual players a lot more than the powergrinders - which, generally speaking, is the opposite of what you want.
if you want a somewhat stable economy you have to approach the whole thing like this:

(money in / playing time)*growth factor = (money out / playing time)

with the growth factor indicating how easy you want it to be for players to acquire wealth. i.e. the grind multiplicator.

in essence this means that every in-game action that has the potential of generating money, some sort of cost needs to be deducted.

a few options of getting money out of the economy:

item degradation / wear (balanced against monster difficulty and net worth)
item loss on death (especially effective with PvP)
entrance fees for certain areas (I will teleport you to the magical dungeon of uber-drops for a mere 10000 gold...)
rent (player controlled houses, stalls, shops, guild halls...)
players quitting and not giving all their stuff away (you have to take this into account)
various other running costs, especially for highly useful or high prestige items & consumables (feed for your mount/fuel for your ship, ammunition, spell components, non-reusable scrolls, healing potions, etc. etc.)

with options like these you can roughly calculate the profit levels of your dungeons - tweaking them so that higher level players are encouraged to go to higher level areas.

something like:

gross worth of dungeon level 5 = (net worth of dungeon level 5 - avg. item degradation of gear level needed - entrance fee - consumables) / amount of players needed for a useful party)

then split that gross value in gold & non-gold drops and distribute throughout your dungeon. it will probably be easier in terms of balancing if you use hourly rates instead of absolutes.
(and yes, that stuff requires a lot of balancing data)

in general, farming is not your enemy - running out of ways to spend money is.



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Quote:
Original post by Kaze
(i posted this in a simaler thread a while ago)

have npc’s shops running on a basic supply and demand rule
For instance
1 player mines minerals
2 player sells minerals to npc
3 npc makes swords and sells them
->the npc will lower prices if he cant sell anything or rasie them if he is selling a lot but the price he pays for minerals is relative to selling price of swords (so the players wont mine copper if they cant sell it)
4 the sowrds get lost, break or get dull and requre more minerals to fix or replace

you could do the same for any resurce, just have a defined resource chain with a finite start point and end point, and npcs working on a floating value according to some simple rules


A similar system is already implemented in Guild Wars, but it just doesn't work that way. The high end item is still 3000 times more expensive than the lower end one. And it never stop growing.

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Quote:
Original post by abstractimmersion
anyone know of a game with too many "money sinks"? just curious.


Ironically enough, World of Warcraft.

I hate money sinks for the sake of "stopping inflation." In World of Warcraft, you have to farm gold to continue to do things like raid and keep your equipment together. Of course, you can't have a runaway economy, but the main problem leading to inflation is the fact that money is CREATED all the time - every time you kill a mob, do a quest, vendor an item. It's not a closed loop. Postfixing this by adding in gold sinks is not only frustrating to the player - it's counterintuitive. Unfourtunately, it's the best you can do with the simple world simulations most games run on - the concept of having an actual economy without random creation ex nihilo is apparently not worth the time to explore for most developers.

Still, I think that if you had a system in which money operated on a closed system inside the game world and built gameplay to accomodate this, you'd be better off. The current systems used are often a mix of economy and old-school gameplay - you've got to worry about inflation and the like but you still want random skeletons to drop gold pieces.

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One of the ideas I had for my MMORPG research project (I'd call it a game but I don't expect ever to market it unless I miraculously got funding...) is only introduce money though vendors, hunting produces goods.

The game is based in the future and most hunting initially would be in a crashed spaceship that is using nano-tech to constantly produce more security type robots. Hunting would not give the player gold but instead robot parts. These robot parts could then be used to make weapons, shields or be broken down into raw materials. from this point they could either trade goods among players or sell them to NPC vendors who will not buy specific parts if their inventory is already full.

Now I figure this still has its own difficulties for item inflation but I think it is an interesting direction to try.

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You want inflation.

...

Really!

Hunting monsters produces resources. Be it character levels, new gear, gold, or what have you.

The more people play, the more total resources will be accumulated in game. If players cannot accumulate resources by playing, they will tend not to play.

The total resources per person in the game is (wealth per capita):
TotalResources/TotalPlayers

But, TotalResources is TotalPlayers*TimePlayed*AverageReturnOnTimePlayed.

So you get:
Wealth per Capita = TimePlayed * AverageReturnOnTimePlayed


What people call "inflation" is often "the deflation of the value of money in the game". Money is worth less and less as it flows into the game.

Other things continue to inflate -- player power, items accumulated, etc.

The value of items, for the most part, also deflates. Non-tradeable items tend to deflate slower than money, while tradeable items tend to deflate faster than money (because they don't leave the economy, and items become obsolete as "better items" and "identical items" become more common).


I suspect the real problem with online games is that the "AverageReturnOnTimePlayed" collapses. Either because people start comparing themselves to the "distance to the end of the game", and see it spiralling away from them, or because the area approaching the end game is designed to take forever in order to slow down the high-game-use players. Often this change in "ReturnOnTimePlayed" is sharp.

A sharp change in "ReturnOnTimePlayed" frustrates people.

Another inflation effect is when one's ability to gather some resource is outpaced by the deflation on that resource -- so you can never "get enough gold" to buy that sword. Your goal fly's away from you faster than you crawl up on your goal.

This is just another example of the "ReturnOnTimePlayed" growing and frustrating people.

ReturnOnTimePlayed should shrink with your player's relative location in the game's content heiarchy, compared to the other players.

Instead, in most games it is static with the given content. Tweaks on the ReturnOnTimePlayed are released with new expansions and extensions in a non-continuous manner.

I suppose the advantage to this system is that it helps people identify their accomplishments as "real" accomplishments, not accomplishments that get easier and easier if they just waited. The feeling that your accomplishments in game are "real" motivates you to continue playing. If the difficulty of every accomplishment in game, or the reward from it, went up like clockwork... Well, I suppose people would be able to brag about being "first to accomplish X". On the other hand, people would feel like their progress was dictated not by their own abilities, but by the content "sinking" to their abilities.

Hmm.

I need to think on this more.

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Thanks for all the replies guys,

Just like the real world, there is no best way to really stop inflation. There will always be people that work harder for a better life and causing the item price to inflat.

Now after coming to this conclusion...*laughs*...I realized making it fair to both casual players and hardcore players will be what we called Communism

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I think the best way to stop inflation is to not allow money in/out of the economy. Come up with a logical reason for this: npc's work for a large guild/corporation and it starts the game with a set amount of money. This can then be spent on things like player missions, to give players money, or taxes, to get money from players. At the end of the day (or whatever timeframe you care about) the net change is zero.

A few problems with this though: it means rich players will actually make other people poorer just because that money is not available. So a virtual Bill Gates could stopper the economy. This would kind of put a damper on most peoples dreams of becoming rich and powerful, so that would have to be looked at as it would be a game killer for many in an MMO. So allowing some inflation would not be a bad idea, but then you have another problem. Once inflation kicks in, a noobs time is not worth as much as a vets was at the same level of the game. This is what causes the seperation of classes seen in many MMO's in my opinion.

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One way, if you want to keep the curent form of monster drops and money sinks, is to allow both, but have them connected in that the more money that is put into money sinks (like reparing or vendoring) the more money the monsters drop. This gives you a "Choke Point" where you can control the flow of money in the game. If you need more money then you allow a greater ratio of money into the game. If you want to restrict the money (stop or reduce inflation) you can lower the ratio. This ration can also be tied into other influences like the number of players entering or leaveing your game (if more enter you will need more money to go around, if more leave then you will need to reduce the amount of money).

If you don't change the amount by too much, then the player will not notice the changees.

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Quote:
Original post by bmanruler
I think the best way to stop inflation is to not allow money in/out of the economy. [...]

A few problems with this though: it means rich players will actually make other people poorer just because that money is not available.


Closed economies work only if they have internal mechanisms of keeping the money moving. In a MMOG however, you will always have players quitting, accounts lying dormant, etc. which essentially means that money is seeping out of the economy. So in my opinion the more useful option is not to keep the money in, but to have a steady flow from in to out. The more people the money touches on its way out of the economy, the better (more interaction, more fun).
Allowing players to hoard a limited resource is always a bad thing as it creates a monopoly. Add some chinese money farmers and ebay to that and you have a potential game breaker at your hands.



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That's a good point. Dormant accounts are a problem for any ideas involving unique items or finite in-game wealth.

Although I mock and belittle the "Juts liek teh MATRIX!" threads, I think that an MMO can survive and even excel with a solid, feasible economy based on player-built goods and player-obtained resources.

As a kid, I read the Dragonlance books, and I thought it was cool that, during war, steel was used as currency, because its value was above gold. Matallurgical absurdity of casting and reforging steel aside, I think that could work out in an MMO. Tin, copper, iron and, say, tungsten could be harvested from the environment and used to craft items, or minted into coins and used as currency. You could buy a gross of iron coins and smelt them into an iron ingot, which could be used to build items. Standard MMO magic weightless money laws apply, of course.

Of course the NPC groups would magically have sacks and sacks of cash, but having the money be a resouce and not a score would be a good way to get around part of the money problem. High-level gear would require higher proportions of fancier metals, so a newb with one orihalcon coin could trade it to a veteran for enough copper and tin to build a bronze helmet.

Then, have enemies that, I dunno, eat the minerals or something, to explain why tin mines are full of little weeny monsters and adamantium mines are filled with elder dragons. Players who want the fancy ore will have to bring lots of frinds and some decent mining skills if they want to get them, but monsters won't just up and drop loot and cash. That's always been a dumb idea.

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Quote:
Original post by NotAYakk
You want inflation.


I think this is a good point. The reason MMORPGs don't have closed economies isn't because the developers never thought of it, but because false economies are more fun. People who play MMORPGs want to be a hero, and find fabulous treasures, and become incredibly rich. Character development, or "grind", is an integral part of MMORPGs. Some people are acting like we should be striving for a completely realistic american economy simulator, and I can assure you that that is not what most players want. An MMORPG with a closed economy would amplify the inherent problems of capitalism, leaving 5% of the people holding 95% of the wealth. That might be more "realistic", but it's not fun; most people want to play as an epic hero raiding dungeons and finding lost treasures, not as sweatshop worker #71345 begging for scraps from UberLeetGuild, the conglomerate of junior high kids who can afford to spend 24 hours a day consolidating their grip on the world's limited resources.

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Yes, implementing unfun things for the sake of "realism" is silly.

Runaway inflation is also a game-destroying problem, and that's why people are discussing it. This thread didn't arise out of a "how can we make games more realistic?" train of thought.

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