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Monster Drops & Game Economy

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Something that has been eating at me for a while: Monster Drops create wealth out of thin air. The in-game world economy self-dilutes with every monster kill / monster spawn. The value of a good sword goes down because there are more of them over time; pretty soon everyone has that +5 Flaming Sword of Death. On one side, there's argument that says this is the nature of leveling, that the original stuff is worth less. It might even be said that this is economic levelling up. But on the other side, after some time everyone playing the game currently posesses all the best equipment: Then what? 50000 people with maxed out geer. "Hey, want a +5 Flaming Sword of Death?" "Nah, I've got two of them cluttering up my stash already." I think it has to do with the way monster drops are implemented: They 'generate' stuff from an unlimited collection of duplicates. So here's the suggestion: An alternate form of monster drop generation that puts a cap on all things, making the economy a closed system. And it would be easy to both implement and tweak: For every treasure item that can be rolled on a monster drop, have also a current/max counter that shows how many are in the universe, and how many are allowed. It would be at most two integers added to a treasure class. The terms common/uncommon/rare could have worldwide counts associated with them: Common->100 in the the game universe, Rare->10 worldwide, Unique->1. It could also be implemented by having a list of treasure. If there's only supposed to be two +5 Flaming Swords of Death, add exactly two of them to the list. Fill the list(s) with the entire world economy of all possible treasure drops, then just shuffle the list one time. Any time a monster drop is called for, pull the first item off the list. To get stuff back into the pool of monster drops, it could be taken from shopkeepers, or any time stuff vanishes. [Edited by - AngleWyrm on May 24, 2008 4:30:14 AM]

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What you're talking about is inflation, it's not only related with monster drops but with every value creating process in a game. It's not a new problem, several developers already tried tackling it, CCP Games tried implementing a closed economy with Eve Online, but ultimately failed. To my knowledge there is no "solution", every game that has an economy has to deal, to some degree, with inflation.

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Every time a player stops playing, items are lost from the world.
Every time items are sold to an NPC they are lost from the world (in many games).
Every time a player creates a new character, there's an increase in demand for an item.
Every time a new player joins, there's an increase in demand.

So there's more at work here than just people finding better loot. Having a limited number of items is a bad solution, IMO. Why should I not be able to get the sword just because I started playing later than the two people who did get it? I want to have fun - it's a game, darn it - not wait around for someone to finally sell of their sword, only to have it snagged by someone else before me.

Edit: And I can only assume that we're talking about an MMO here, right?

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Yes, and just found a good article on Eve Online's economy system, which also says that the main problem was "the closed economy was eventually dismantled, because it couldn't accommodate new players cleanly or easily, and favored established characters a bit too much"

On the ownership of limited items thing we just have differing views, and variety is good: Both systems would be fun. I happen to like that if I want that great sword, I'm gonna have to go take it from the guy who currently has it (and is likely to be a tough guy). Having great stuff then becomes a sort of proof of greatness. Might even be that any player holding a unique item for say a month gets it renamed to their character.

From easy-fix to hard-fix:

The selling to NPCs is an easy fix: just add the item back into available pool for random drops. This also works for anything that disappears, like arrows that might break, or potions/scrolls that get used up.

Abandoned characters: Someone with a bunch of game assets that quits playing, but still has those assets. Sort of like the abandoned castle, isn't it? And isn't this really what looting the castle is all about -- A bunch of young adventurers taking on the castle of the undead litch? Near as I can figure, this would be a situation where the abandoned character becomes an NPC boss vs the current players. For a really unusual rule, if the player doesn't play their character for a week, they become undead!

The new character/new account that increases demand is an interesting problem. Is it the same thing as overpopulation and starving? An arbitrary birth package of increased world resources doesn't work, because that would just promote spamming new characters.

[Edited by - AngleWyrm on May 24, 2008 5:42:54 AM]

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For a really unusual rule, if the player doesn't play their character for a week, they become undead!

This is very bad. Never change a player's character unless they choose (within the game) to make it so. If a character dies during an adventure (with a permadeath rule), then that is still the player's choice (as they chose to go on the adventure). But if they are logged off, then they are not makeing choices, so you should not change their character.

Sometimes things happen in real life that means a player can't log on for a while. Should a player be punished for shuch a thing, even if it completely out of control (they might get hit by a bus)? Should a player be punished for that?

You might have an Idle Account policy, but this should be a couple of months after the payment period is up (that is if the player has payed up for 3 months, but then doesn't use the account for 2 of those months - maybe due to an injury - their account would still be active).

However, an interesting iade is to allow players to make their own Boss. They can spend as a wager an amount (in items and money) to create a Boss and Mobs. These will then exist in the world and any player who cna defeat them gains the amount wagered. However, any players attempting the Boss would have to wager items themselves and if they fail, these are added to the "Pot". After a period of time (set when the Boss is created), the original player can collect their "winnings" and the Boss is removed from the game.

This way, a player who is going Inactive for a while, can set up a boss and maybe gain some reward from it, and it returns the items to the game world.

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Original post by AngleWyrm
Abandoned characters: Someone with a bunch of game assets that quits playing, but still has those assets. Sort of like the abandoned castle, isn't it? And isn't this really what looting the castle is all about -- A bunch of young adventurers taking on the castle of the undead litch? Near as I can figure, this would be a situation where the abandoned character becomes an NPC boss vs the current players. For a really unusual rule, if the player doesn't play their character for a week, they become undead!
Actually that's a great idea, except for the objections brought up by Edtharan. People would HATE you for losing their character because they went on vacation or were in hospital for 2 weeks. If this happened only once or twice in history, your forums would be full of abuse for months.
Actually, it is even uncertain that you could manage to sell any significant numbers of such a game in the first place, if this was a publicly known feature (no matter how cool the idea is).
There would have to be some way of "parking" your character for holidays as the very least thing.

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Good points: Have a safe haven for parked characters not currently in play. If the player's account has become past due, only then is it fair to suggest neglect. After neglect becomes closed account, then it is no longer a player character, and their stuff is forfeit back into the game.

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Abandoned characters: Someone with a bunch of game assets that quits playing, but still has those assets. Sort of like the abandoned castle, isn't it? And isn't this really what looting the castle is all about -- A bunch of young adventurers taking on the castle of the undead litch? Near as I can figure, this would be a situation where the abandoned character becomes an NPC boss vs the current players.


This seems like a neat idea, if you don't play for a week or so, your character goes out to "stretch his legs" without you. Heh

I think implementing such a mechanic would depend on a number of factors and how you designed the game. If the game was a Roguelike with a high death turn-over players may not mind too much if their character walks out potentially getting killed at the end of the week (since they may die a couple times a day/week anyway).

Quote:
Sometimes things happen in real life that means a player can't log on for a while. Should a player be punished for shuch a thing, even if it completely out of control (they might get hit by a bus)? Should a player be punished for that?


I have a counter question to this: Is it fair to the rest of the people playing that they're denied access to valuable/limited game assets? If Jimmy takes a book from the library and gets hit by a truck, then nobody should be allowed to read it? As tragic as Jimmy's situation is publicly owned assets shouldn't be horded by individuals (IE: the book should be returned for others to enjoy).

The problem of course is that most MMO's favor heavy time investments by players, upwards of months of continuous grinding to collect some items. In such instances the return rate should be equivalent to the rate of acquisition. Either that or make simply having had the item a reward in itself (I once owned X extremely hard-nearly impossible to get item).

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If you're punishing a player for not playing, then you have to ask yourself - is this a good idea? Not really.

If you need to punish players for not playing, then you have to ask yourself - is this the player's fault, or have I completely screwed up the gameplay mechanics here?

It could ONLY work without making it very niche if it was on an 'easy come, easy go' basis, whereby you could go from all to nothing or nothing to all in a short (measured in single figure hours of gameplay) time period.

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Wasn't really planning on punishment/encouragement; what got me thinking undead characters was a scenario where the player isn't around and the AI plays for him. But I like the safe zone parking idea better. Calling a toon that lost it's player 'undead' just made sense at the time.

Another thing about monster drops: They could be inverted. Instead of creating an encounter with a monster, and having it drop stuff, the encounter would be with stuff and it's owner. The monster would be randomly generated, with a level appropriate to the item(s) at the encounter. Might even make it easier to code monster encounters that use the items, instead of randomly generating a snake with a sword, or a bird with a shield.

An interesting byproduct of that would be that common low-level stuff breeds common monsters, and as the treasure pool runs low so do the random monster encounters.

Unless players get killed by monsters, then the stuff they are carrying goes to the pool, allowing more encounters. Which is sort of Edtharen's gambling idea; the monster and the player bring stuff to combat -- winner takes all (unless running away works).

[Edited by - AngleWyrm on May 24, 2008 5:25:16 PM]

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The Idea you have is good, but as the other guy said it would be very bad for the new players that enter the game. If the old people only get the sword it is very unfair. Plus, some people cant get enough money for these things,it is a cycle and it is their fault, but if you really think about it the process of the +5 flame of death blah blah blah sword will only make the new players to the game quit, and some of the old ones who just cant seem to get enough money.

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Yeah, haven't quite got that one figured yet.

A high mortality rate seems to be an appropriate answer to overpopulation/starvation. But wouldn't the big dawgs be the ones to survive?

Also, if there's only so much stuff a toon can carry, then it's trade up. So a character basically works their way up the food chain, getting better equipment. The really odd thing about that though, would be that the previously mentioned Big Dawgs might defend themselves by killing several sleightly lower level critters, and hoarding the tools that could hurt them.

[Edited by - AngleWyrm on May 24, 2008 6:58:57 PM]

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You can also factor in crafting. While you may not allow players to make their own items, someone at some time had to make that flaming sword of death +5. While uniques should remain unique, mundane weapons shouldn't have a limit, even if this may cause inflation. The more difficult to make, the slower the production rate. To the point that a powerful, difficult item like the aforementioned sword might spawn a new one once every 3-4 months. Also tie it into demand; item production limited by the number of new customers.

You can have each item exist within a value class.

It still introduces inflation to a degree, but slows it tremendously. And new players aren't screwed by their virtue of being new. To eliminate that effect, add in item wear. Only unique artifacts don't wear out.

There should be a cut off point that a characters swag (junk not equipped or on their person at least) should be pushed back into the game economy. Never gold or uniques, or equipped/carried items. Be up front about it. It'll still piss off players, but they can't complain much if it's part of the user agreement.

If you close off the economy, then you have to close off the rate of growth. Which isn't very bright, given that the in-game population growth rate needs to be high for you to pay the bills! I don't think there is any real easy way to check the inflation inherent in any MMORPG world.

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Hey I have an idea, why not make a game that's not based on getting better gear?
How about making a game based on real skill and tactic instead of gear.
Like, the better player is not the one with the best gear and the highest level, but the one that is actually more skilled and more brilliant.

Wouldn't that solve your problem of "closed economy means I can't get cool gear".

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After reading all this, I remembered of Ultima Online several times...

First: At the very start, Ultima Online was a closed economy, but they got a HUGE problem...

As much of you know, RPG Players LOVE to gather the maximum junk that they can... Suddenly on the servers sheeps stopped spawning... Why? They found several players that had about 100.000 clothes on their homes...

Then mining started to fail...

The staff found people hoarding several weapons, even those that they could not use or that were useless (like a player that had about 1000 basic stupid noob knifes...)

They dropped this system...

Some time ago, they made the "unique itens" thing, where unique itens were rare, and lasted long, while normal itens were common and weared with the time...

Result: noone wants to be blacksmith anymore (because they itens are "useless" near the unique ones), and even with its slow spawning rates, the unique itens do not wear, this mean that soon every player got at least one unique item... In the end the economy started to run around the unique itens that were traded like the common itens...

They tried to solve the situation somewhat be allowed blacksmiths to craft unique itens too (Altough of course, this is insanely hard...), but again, the players done something unexpected: several of them started to grind until they could spam unique itens, the result is now that ALL gear is undervaluated and the economy is screwed :/

Once I noticed that many players doing the "chanpion spawns" (a boss) just done t for the sake of doing, many just killed the boss (rather easily) and just threw away the reward, plainly because the reward is useless... (with the reward you can buy a big house in the game, but everyone already has a big house... currently the only thing that are valuable in the game is land, because since everyone has a house, land is lacking... I think that Linden Labs and their Second Life learned something from that :P)

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About the Abandoned Character Idea:
It really is an interesting idea and I haven't seen it in any of the games I've played yet. I think that punishing (not in the sense that you have done something wrong, btw) or giving players a reason to stay on the game that is a much more profitable reason than not playing that game besides being an inactive character such as you've said, could potentially be an ingredient for making the game much more addictive, but it could also be a something that turns them off as well.

About Inflation:
The thing about the economy of MMOs is that currency & resources comes from the monster spawns themselves (gold drops or the selling of its butchered body parts), as well as the regular resource spawns (such as trees or mines, if applicable), to which we all know both spawn at a constant rate and quite rapidly. If one is asking how to represent the economy of MMOs so to make it perhaps a bit more based on reality, then one is probably also asking in essence, how to make the monster spawns more based on reality as well. I think one of the ways to implement an economy based more on reality is to make it so that the rate of monster spawning is proportional to the number of characters that are in a server - if there is a decrease in characters joined/created on a server, monsters/plants would have more cases of "infertility" in their spawning, and if there is an increase, monsters/plants would be more frisky, spawn more plentiful. So, rather than have the world's resources spawn at a constant rate like what we have in most MMOs right now, or even have the world's resources be a constant number like what EVE did before they changed the idea (to which didn't account for the factor of character-creation growth), you would have the world's resources-to-characters actual ratio be a constant number. So this idea would create the illusion of a limited world, which takes into account of the players' own character "spawn" rate.

A limited world sort of handles itself in that things that have been harvested too many times will experience a decrease in value (law of supply & demand). So if you were to implement an illusionary limited world, in this you could also implement some sort of dynamic monster-value system that has its worth (drops & stuff) be dependent on its population. So when a type of monster has been harvested too many times and its population begins to dwindle (rate of players harvesting them > rate of their own growth/spawning), the price/worth on them might become cheaper in the market and thus might motivate players to stay away from them and hack at other newer and untapped monsters/resources. So it sort of balances out in that the monsters will then grow back, the products that it dropped become rare again, and players will be more motivated to go after them again.

This leads to the question of what to make the ratio constant as? This is sort of like asking how big do you want your world to be, how dense do you want the monsters' populations to be on your world, how often do you want the players to return to homebase/vendor from hunting (on average), how long do you want the players to hunt in a particular area (on average), what is X item's default cost, all at once.

You could also have it so that certain monster types spawn less rapidly than others and thus have much more value to them (making them drop much more gold/have parts that are much more rare) which could apply to bosses or mini-bosses. You could also have certain monster types spawn more often than the ratio constant, to which would be like rabbits, plentiful, common, and lower in value because of that.

Now I have no clue what would actually happen if this were to be implemented in a MMO.

[Edited by - Tangireon on May 24, 2008 10:41:37 PM]

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I have a counter question to this: Is it fair to the rest of the people playing that they're denied access to valuable/limited game assets?

No it is not, but that is not how the current system is. If it si not fair to punish players for not playing and it is not fair to deny access to resources, then the system must not punish players for not playing and not deny them aceess to resources.

If you are designing your system to be fair, then if it has either (or both) of these then it can't be considdered fair.

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