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leiavoia

Use of Currency in Game Design ("It's the economy, stupid!")

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Here's the basic structure of a simplified empire-builder type game i'm designing from scratch: 1) collect resources off a map 2) convert resources into usable game units, cash, and Points Of Special Usage 3) use converted resources to leverage position and win game So one thing you can turn raw resources into is MONEY. My plan was to use money to A) finance expansion, and B) maintain current game units and position. ISSUE: i want money to be something you can't ignore, so i'm planning to not only make building new things cost money but also require the things you build to be maintained. PROBLEM: What happens when you spend all of your money or maintenance > income ? OPTION 1: you can't build anything more if you can't buy it. (cash < price) OPTION 2: you can't build anything more if you can't maintain it. (cash < maintenance_per_turn) OPTION 3: things fall apart if you can't maintain them (income < maintenance_total) Which do you think is the better way to treat money? #1 seems pretty straight-forward - please shoot it down #2 seems abusable because it's lets you build and use things until you're broke then not feel anything bad because of it #3 might be hard to implement mechanically. (How do you decide precisely what breaks or gets scrapped? Automatic or player chosen? How mind-numbing). I'm looking for the simplest solution that yields the most strategic options. Thanks for your input. You rock!

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How about instead of things falling apart, they just stop working until you can afford them (e.g. factories stop producing, turrets stop shooting, etc)?
Instead of having to choose which ones stop working, just make them all stop working!

This might seem dumb (coz if you go over budget by $0.01 the whole economy shuts down), but it will really encourage people to keep their budgets out of the red.

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You can try Imperialism/Imperialism 2's method.

Depending on the size of your economy, you are allowed to spend your money into negative value. e.g. a decent economy can goes into debt of 500 dollars.

If the limit is exceeded, e.g. the economy goes into debt of 1000 dollars. All available resources will be used to repay the loan as well as keep the bare minimum economy running. You may lose army units or research will go down, but the economy will keep running fine.

This allows an economy to keep functioning even if it runs into $0.01 debt, but makes sure that the player does not overspent what the empire's economy can support.

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I was thinking that you could assign priority numbers as well as economic values to each unit (as part of its stats). In this way, you could replicate the gradual shut down of the economy without the effect of a mouse chewing through the "Ultimate Source of Power" cord and shutting everything down all at once. Simplifying in the extreme, you could assign all auxiliary "upgrade" buildings a value of 1, defensive buildings a 2, and primary unit producing buildings a 3. Add on top of this the fact that you might assign a "Heavy Turret" a $100 upkeep cost every 10 minutes (as opposed to a "Light Turret" $25) and you would have quite a nice little system going on. Similarly, if you wanted to add a another level to this, you could have players (or civilisations) specialise in different economic structures (i.e. the priorities inverse so auxiliary buildings stay functioning longest), forcing them to manage their economy in a way that other games might ignore.

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PROBLEM: What happens when you spend all of your money or maintenance > income ?

OPTION 1: you can't build anything more if you can't buy it. (cash < price)
OPTION 2: you can't build anything more if you can't maintain it. (cash < maintenance_per_turn)
OPTION 3: things fall apart if you can't maintain them (income < maintenance_total)

Which do you think is the better way to treat money?

I think you could include aspects of all of them.

Cash < Price: Have the player able to cue more, but either slow all work on all build ques, or have them build one after the other.

cash or income < maintainance: Instead of just shutting down production or trashing buildings, have them loose efficiency. Slow them down (and maybe even keep them slow for a while after, and/or temporarily increase their maintainance costs). You can then increase their speed once the deficit has beenn paid for (either in time and or money) and it might be an idea to provide a cap (probably around twice the cost to build the facility in the first place).

So basically a player can go nuts and over build their economy, but if they can not meet the requierments of what they built, then they will be penalised, but as there is now no hard restrictions, a creative player might be able to work their economy and develop a good strategy that gives them a good ecomonic start.

It also provides a strategic opening for their opponent. Now they can sabotage a building at the right time and cripple the enemy economy. Imagine a strike on a major enemy income source at a time when the player is expanding rapidly. This might send them into debt on their current projects, and then because these then suck up resources to get them out of debt, it might have knock on effects whereby they can't meet the maintainance requierments and their economy goes into a downwards spiral (this is why you need to place limits on the amount of debt that the facilities can go into debt). If the enemy then times their attack to coincide with this economic crash, it might allow a smaler force to effectivly combat a larger force (the smaller force being able to spend resources on resupply and re-enforcements, as their opponent is needing all their resources on getting out of debt and recovering their economy and production rates).

However, judging when and what facility to sabotage is the key aspect to this strategy so it would take a good player to pull it off consistantly, plus if a player can stockpile "Strategic Reserves" (which would cost to create and maintain) then they might be abel to counter such a strategy (unless the strategic reserves also got hit :D ).

So to sum up:
Allow the player to go into debt in that work and production slows if they exceed their income/savings.

Going into debt will cause "interest" to build up in that it takes more resources, money and time than the actual debt originally was.

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You guys are awesome. Some of you read my mind, evidently.

So, i've got the following ideas in my basket now:

1) Deficit spending with max cap and penalties (interest %)

2) Ability to scrap game units (either for cash or just to free up maintenance fees)

3) Prioritized reduction in game unit efficiency.


#1 and #2 i already had on the books, but #3 i thought of last night and Edtharan obviously did too. Here's how i think it could work:

You've got per-turn income (I) (this is a TBS by the way) and per-turn maintenance (M). If I < M, then game_unit_efficiency = I/M across the board.

Say i overspent this turn by 25%. Now all my units perform 25% worse. My roads are 25% slower, my combat units are 25% less effective, and i produce 25% less output.

Now the warmonger in a fight might want to deep-six production and crank up the war machine, so there needs to be a global way to say "fund combat units 100% if possible, take the bite out production instead." That can just be a simple slider or pie chart.

And as brought out, this also creates a strategic option of crushing your opponant's financial engine and hobbling his other efforts as a result. So if i'm getting attacked i could A) retaliate, or B) destroy his financial center which might force him to scrap his fighting units or at least give me a chance of winning.

So that's where i'm at now. Good ideas. Anything to add or critique?

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I feel somebody should take a second to bring up a different argument when looking at an economy. Most professionals will tell you there exists 4 different types of gamers, those who enjoy Exploration, Expanding, Conquering and Social Interactions. And most gamers enjoy several of the categories. An economy would fit under the Expanding category. Why do i bring this up?

When you begin to talk about developing an economy in your game, its important you don’t go overboard. An economy shouldn't be everything in your game; as a matter of fact it should be maybe 1/10th of your focus. I'm sure you have heard this before, but you have to keep these things simple. Gameplay is about balance, not more tasks. I feel that a system like this does very little to add to gameplay and makes it so a player must spend a majority of his time focusing on his economy. Why is this bad? Because a lot of people don't enjoy the inner workings of balancing an economy. If you are trying to build a game that focuses entirely on the gamers who enjoy expanding, then I would go nuts with it. Develop an in game stock market and full blown economy. You could do some research on the early buttonwood agreement in the United States for some inspiration.

If you want your game to have a unique economy without making it the central focus of your game. I would look more into jobs and taxes other than natural resources. Natural resources are very basic and work well because most players enjoy focusing on conquering and warfare over developing a stable society. Blizzard obviously proved this by having an extremely basic economy and they still had lots of success.

So be careful with a system that would require constant upkeep of the economy to be competitive, because with such a focus on economy you might lose a lot of gamers who don't enjoy dealing with the struggle of balancing an economy. I'm not saying go the most boring and overused route either. But a player shouldn't lose a game because his economy goes under, it's bad balance.

I would look into taxes and job based economies like black and white or pharaoh. These games don’t leave out natural resources but there is obviously a lot more depth without making it “the most important thing”.


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I'm not interesting in simulating a full blown economy like SimCity. By "economy" i mean "acquisition, conversion, and maintenance of resources."

I'm designing a "distilled 4X" game. I'm taking the basic framework of games like Civ and MOO and stripping it down to the bare metal - getting rid of unnecessary features and abstracting the rest.

Economic concepts exist to regulate expansion. A player needs to have a limit to the number of, say, combat units they can build; otherwise what's the point?

The basic premise of my design is:

- collect resources
- convert resources into usable game units
- use game units to collect more resources and win

pretty simple. The strategy will be in choosing which resources to collect for your situation and how to deal with neighbors who are trying to do the same thing. like any other 4X, eventually you'll need to use force to keep expanding.

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This remembered me Command e Conquer.

Each building uses a amount of energy
To provide energy you build powerplants.

If you use more energy than your powerplants provide, ALL buildings shut down.
Then you can turn off buildings not needed or "less needed" by a single click of mouse (I mean, after you click on the menu option to do it)

In CC3 there are even a level where you have a underpowered base, and you can not build anything, the objective is go shutting down and turning on the buildings that you need in a hectic fashion until reinforcaiments arrive, fun :)

It is intersting that you can make a enemy regret his building layout by destroying bad positioned powerplants.

Newbies usualy do one of the two following options: Build everything togheter in the back of the base (allowing sneak attacks and bombings) or Build around randomly, mostly because they build the powerplant because they "need" not because it is important (I hope that someone understood this...)

So the veteran players, even if they are losing, they can turn the tide of the game by attacking a player, thus make this player get his attention to battle, then he sneak attack (using sneaky units or super weapon or bombing/artillery) the pack of powerplants (in case of the newbie type 1) or the least defended powerplants (newbie type 2), thus making the turrets of the newbie player suddenly shut down (as his production facilities), since he is already under attack, it is likely that he will go nuts while trying to control his power and his units at same time :P

Also in SimCity, you can continue running into negative amounts of money, but if you get TOO negative, you get a GameOver, to control your debts you could lower the amount of money spent in each possible maintenance thing, with the most visible results in roads (that break apart and need to be rebuilt)

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Original post by leiavoia
I'm not interesting in simulating a full blown economy like SimCity. By "economy" i mean "acquisition, conversion, and maintenance of resources."

I'm designing a "distilled 4X" game. I'm taking the basic framework of games like Civ and MOO and stripping it down to the bare metal - getting rid of unnecessary features and abstracting the rest.

Economic concepts exist to regulate expansion. A player needs to have a limit to the number of, say, combat units they can build; otherwise what's the point?

The basic premise of my design is:

- collect resources
- convert resources into usable game units
- use game units to collect more resources and win

pretty simple. The strategy will be in choosing which resources to collect for your situation and how to deal with neighbors who are trying to do the same thing. like any other 4X, eventually you'll need to use force to keep expanding.


You should really try the games Imperialism and Imperialism 2, both games are very similar to your design.

collect resources:
- On the world map there will be tiles of resources like forest, coal, that requires a wood cutter and miner to work on.
- You will need to build roads to the resources to transport them to your capital before they can be utilised.

convert resources into usable game units:
- When resources are delivered to the capital, they can be converted into a variety of processed resources. e.g. wood > planks coal + iron > steel.
- To build a Ship you may need 10 planks and 4 steel.

To get more resources you have a variety of methods:
- Conquering neighbors will expand your land and resources that can be collected.
- Buying from the world market.

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This remembered me Command e Conquer.

Yes, I can't claim complete orriginality on my suggestions. I got the main Idea from an RTS called "Dark Reign".

In that game you had to build powerplants to supply your base with power, if you didn't have enough power, you other buildings would opperate at a lower efficiency. You could then shut down other buildings to reduce the power needed and bring your buildings back online.

One of the good tricks you could do in the game was to use an "EMP" weapon and cause their buildings to shut down. A good player would have their construction facilities spread out, so this wasn't a good trick to disable their constructions. But, they usually didn't overbuild their power generation, so a good hit on just a few of those buildings would cause a much greater dirsruption.

They would then need to decide whether to supply power to their defensive buildings, or to their construction facilities for their re-enforcement units.

Quote:
If you want simple, then why not simply go for no upkeep, instead having various differnt competing uses for gold (research, economy, population, happiness, etc.)? Upkeep is inevitably more complicated than no upkeep.

As leiavoia said, this is a Turn Basaed Strategy game. So more complexity can be handled by the player as there is no longer time constraints on them. In fact, many TBS gamers like more complexity as it can create more depth to the game (like the strategy of taking out their econimic infestructures).

Look at how long it can take to make a turn in CIV. Look at how much details you can get into within the game. There is a lot of complexity in such games, and players seem to want it.

But I do agree, that complexity for complexities sake is a bad thing. However, complexity for the sake of giving a greater depth of gameplay is perfectly valid.

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Sounds like you've got a few good ideas for tackling this issue. One other one you might want to consider is having stock piling/economic resilience as a factor. A player’s weapons stock piling rating would determine how long their weapons can function when you run out of funds.

Another thing you might want to consider economic slow down and speed up. Slowing down you economy gradually shifts a percentage of your factories to civilian use and sends a part of your units home. Slowing down you economy drastically cuts your cost and production levels but takes time to do and time to switch back to normal. Speeding up your economy drastically increases your costs and productions. If you have a unit limit then your economic could directly impacts this:

Slows/Peace time - costs 50%, build time 2x, unit limit 50
Normal - costs 100%, build time 1x, unit limit 100
War Time - costs 200%, build time 50%, unit limit 200


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One other one you might want to consider is having stock piling/economic resilience as a factor...

Slows/Peace time - costs 50%, build time 2x, unit limit 50
Normal - costs 100%, build time 1x, unit limit 100
War Time - costs 200%, build time 50%, unit limit 200


interesting. that would not be hard to implement either, just a global slider.

I've done something similar in the past. I call it a "laggy slider". You tell it where on the scale you would LIKE to be and then, over time, it adjusts x% per turn until it hits goal.

So if it was peacetime and you wanted to cut costs, you would put the scale on "Peacetime" and save money. But if the enemy attacks the next turn it might take another 10 for your surprised economy to get you back up to speed.

It's so simple it could even be turned off as an option.


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OPTION 1: you can't build anything more if you can't buy it. (cash < price)
OPTION 2: you can't build anything more if you can't maintain it. (cash < maintenance_per_turn)
OPTION 3: things fall apart if you can't maintain them (income < maintenance_total)


In econ 101 we learned that under perfect competition a factory for example can remain in operation if it can pay its fixed costs but not its variable costs... and it would depreciate (decline in value, for example get worn out from lack of proper maintenance because it can't be afforded) but still remain in business until a time when other firms left the industry and the prices rose.... not sure how that helps though.

[edit]

I think in Civ 3 your city improvements would eventually just start dissappearing if you continued to remain bankrupt and in debt... I can't remember, I think that's what happened. I might be totally wrong... sorry, I can't find it on google, but I think that's what happened.

[edit]

I think the best solution is just having the entire economy shut down when you're in debt. Is there anything wrong with this idea?

Also to think about... money is something you give to people to do work for you, while resources are something that's actually used up in work (e.g., construction)...

[edit]

Quote:
Say i overspent this turn by 25%. Now all my units perform 25% worse. My roads are 25% slower, my combat units are 25% less effective, and i produce 25% less output.

Ooops... you already had a better idea. I just skimmed through this thread and wasn't paying attention. My bad...

[Edited by - polyfrag on February 7, 2008 3:35:07 AM]

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