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Wavinator

Alternatives to Capitalist Upgrade System

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Acquiring upgrades and improvements in many RPGs is often a function of killing enemies / doing missions, earning coin and going shopping. What are some other systems? For the ship-based (EDIT: NON-MMO) RPG-like game I'm working on right now I was trying to come up with variations to the typical capitalist upgrade system. My goal is to try to make it fun to upgrade under a different culture / species. Some possibilities: Anarcho-Socialist: From Each According To His Needs No money, you can have anything you want provided you can take it. The catch is everybody's armed and ideologically geared toward polite cooperation. So upgrades are a matter of replacing coin with a reputation point system modified by role system. The higher your reputation, the more you can "buy." The more vital / dangerous your role, the more your rep is modified. Noncooperators are ostracized and, if predatory, ganged up on by everybody. A tricky catch: You own nothing in this system, and a great way of expressing that is that semi-random events can take away what you have. If your home system is invaded, for instance, you can either join up or surrender your ship to the military, getting busted down to a lower class. Patron System: It's Who You Know You can have all the money in the world but it's useless if nobody sells. In this sytem sales and production are in the hands of a few wealthy factions / families, and upgrades are a function of who you know and who likes you. Prices adjust based on favoritism, which in turn is earned via accomplishing goals for your patron(s). Catch: Patrons own varying families of upgrades / services, so you may have to play politics. You might acquire an upgrade but not be able to get it repaired. Clan System: Your People Thrive, You Survive The clan is the source of all upgrades, and you have to build it up. If the clan dies, you have to earn adotion in another. The healthier the clan, the more upgrades, encouraging a society of competing / fighting clans. Status would be coin in the clan, and based (depending on the the clan's ethos) on most kills, most resources brought in, most territory held, etc. Scavengers: It's A Dog Eat Dog World No coin, only barter. Ships have to raid others for equipment, outfit replacemetns, etc. Almost everyone's a potential enemy. Best probably for a post apocalyptic culture or stealthy race. Scavengers might be fun because they'd have the widest base of upgrades, but also have the most trouble keeping everything running. Any others? [Edited by - Wavinator on September 16, 2008 1:19:20 PM]

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I don't have a fancy name for it, but the system would involve crafting/alchemy.

"A lot of seemingly useless stuff can be used to make better stuff."

Take for example if you had 10 clubs taken from orcs. You could perform some crafting process where you get 10 units of low grade wood. You get 10 steel swords from humans and process 10 units of low grade steel. If 10 units of low grade material X can be combined with some crystal, you get a medium grade material as a result. After that, you repeat the process to get more medium grade materials, then high grade and so on.

As you get better graded materials, you can craft more powerful weapons, armor, etc... I think a few games use a similar system, but I can't recall any names, perhaps Arcanum?

This system would then defer into a barter system of trading X materials for Y materials and so on though; but only if you wanted to allow such trading.

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The problem is that Market Economies are a natural, emergent reaction to interactions between people over limited resources in order to facilitate the most efficient use of those resources.

When there aren't enough resources for everyone to achieve their goals all at the same time, then trade naturally emerges. Some users will be willing to forgo their current short-term goals for the promise of expanding their long-term goals, whilst others are more concerned with their short-term goals. This is why trade results in profit. Both parties in the trade agreement must reach terms that benefit them both.

In order to prevent trade, you must eliminate one or all of those factors that lead to trade. You could make it physically impossible to trade by not including a voluntary trading mechanism in the game, in which case the people are likely to figure out an exploit that allows them to trade in a "black market". You could give everyone all the resources they will ever need, which is very likely to break the game. Or, you could make trade so inefficient compared to your implemented system that people will choose to only use your system. Therein lies the problem, we haven't yet figured out a system more efficient than markets in the entirety of human history.

In your example Patron system, you would have to prevent users from being able to trade amongst themselves. Otherwise, users in good favor with the patrons will begin to act as brokers to the other players, selling at a price somewhere in the middle of the spread between the player's price and the broker's price. Additionally, it would prevent a second-hand item market from emerging, as users sell off their "+3 sword" to other users whenever they obtain a "+4 sword".

In your Anarcho-Socialist and Clan system, you've eliminated coin and introduced reputation. If reputation decreases with transactions, then it's really just coin by another name; currency can be anything. If reputation is not consumable, then it is merely the mathematical derivative of wealth – that is one's "salary". People with higher reputation/salary are able to obtain greater resources. Well yes, naturally they do. And again, you would have to prevent a brokerage system or second-hand market from emerging.

And your last Scavenger system *is* a capitalist system, just without a pre-determined currency. Where a currency is not pre-determined, one is likely to emerge, as trade is more efficient when people use a high-demand resource as an intermediary step for trade in other resources. Not all item-to-item trading combinations will be possible, so people will eventually standardize on one resource. Indeed, that is how currency originally developed, not through government decree, but through emergent behavior. That's how ALL market features developed, with governments later taking credit for it.

Even in the purely communist societies we see that people eventually institute market systems, either officially or through black markets. It's an agent-based feedback system, where even the interactions of simpletons cannot be duplicated or controlled by even the most genius monolithic system (be that the "game" or the "government").

MMO Games give us an excellent opportunity to test economic theories. Trying to avoid market systems is pretty well understood to be less-than-optimal. If that's what you're going for, sobeit, just don't be surprised if it totally falls apart.

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Quote:
Original post by capn_midnight
MMO Games give us an excellent opportunity to test economic theories. Trying to avoid market systems is pretty well understood to be less-than-optimal. If that's what you're going for, sobeit, just don't be surprised if it totally falls apart.


Excellent points capn. My mistake? Not getting with the times. I forgot that now when someone posts RPG it's become synonymous with MMO. But my post is for single player games.

I'm just looking for a new spin on the old single player mission system. I may do cooperative multiplayer, I may even try for competitive multiplayer (although an open ended environment is probably too big).

Sorry.

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Quote:
Original post by Drew_Benton
I don't have a fancy name for it, but the system would involve crafting/alchemy.


This is interesting. I've never played a game where I was responsible for getting everything and making it myself. I like the idea, especially if you included barter and measure of quality. It could be a hybrid of Star Trek's miracle replicator system mixed with a need to gather resources. That would be cool.

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Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
Quote:
Original post by capn_midnight
MMO Games give us an excellent opportunity to test economic theories. Trying to avoid market systems is pretty well understood to be less-than-optimal. If that's what you're going for, sobeit, just don't be surprised if it totally falls apart.


Excellent points capn. My mistake? Not getting with the times. I forgot that now when someone posts RPG it's become synonymous with MMO. But my post is for single player games.

I'm just looking for a new spin on the old single player mission system. I may do cooperative multiplayer, I may even try for competitive multiplayer (although an open ended environment is probably too big).

Sorry.
ah, that changes quite a bit. I assumed that since you were talking about economies you were expecting interactions between people.

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Here's an idea: long ago an ancient race from a distant galaxy explored and even colonized some areas of the galaxy in which the game is set. This race has long since disappeared, but some ships exist from this mysterious alien race and are being operated by normal folks (possibly a varied group of individuals from many societies/races) who collect the alien tech. Let's call them "collectors." Since the alien technology is so different, ship upgrades from the normal set of societies/species that currently inhabit the game's setting won't work on the ship. If you come into ownership of one of these alien ships, you're "in the club" of obsessive collectors, and can receive some limited support (occasional repairs, etc) from other collectors. Because ship upgrades are so rare and powerful, you can't buy them -- not even from other collectors -- but you can pursue them based on clues that are rewards for normal missions. So, you might accept a mission from one of the game's normal factions with the understanding that instead of a cash/reputation/etc reward for completing the mission, you get a lead on a new ship upgrade part. If you're able to track down the part based on the clues, then presto, you get a new upgrade.

Since you're not explicitly part of a faction it'd be a tough path to follow (no dedicated faction repair bays or ship upgrade shops, and maybe some factions fear the alien tech and will shoot you on sight), and the reward for the player for following this path would be 1) the feeling of inclusion in an exclusive club (complete with awe from the folks in normal ships) and 2) the alien ships and upgrades would have to be sufficiently powerful and interesting (after all, you don't really know what each of the upgrades does for sure until you have it) to really motivate the player to find that next upgrade ("boy, once I get that next upgrade who knows what this thing will be able to do!").

[Edited by - venzon on September 22, 2008 1:04:22 PM]

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I like the idea of scavenger scenario, but it could be easily upset by very open trade systems, so youd need to limit trade by not having an advanced electronic trade system.

my favourite is to have a combination of faction based and situation based system.

With a faction based system, certain equipment is available only to those loyal to the faction, who have earned it by some means.

With the Situation based system, all equipment is freely available. But each has its own strengths and weaknesses and the best tool for the job is determined by the situation. This lets players develop their own roles and specialities and corresponding load-outs.

By combining the two you can maintain a sense of reliance on the factions and a sense of belonging and loyalty, something to strive for, but at the same time offer a level playing field and alot of freedom. As long as the faction benefits are marginal.

I agree that markets are transcendental emergent beasts, and i doubt any universe could avoid them entirely. But you can limit their impact on the game by making it less favourable.

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A scavenger system would require high demand and very low supply. Only then could there be reason to shoot people to get what you want rather than just trade with them.

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A different approach could be the use of Gift Economics, which is similar to exchanges between friends without the expectation of returns.

Early native American's also seemed to employ a system based on sharing and "a familistic, egalitarian pooling of resources", (link).

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Yeah ive played a few games where the gift style economy works well. Gifts were granted to the weak and new by the strong and the advanced, which in turn fed positively into the player base. Helping new players become more of a productive team member and and amplifying early social bonds. And the effect was self replicating in that the those new and developing players felt the need to do the same, passing on "Skills" and "Items" like real world generations.
Theyr also more casual and relaxed, less greed based.

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I would like to see an economy with two things
i) Everyone inputs into a balanced economy. A weapons tax is placed on stronger players to help with this.
ii) Success in the economy requires skill more than it does time

Very good ideas OP.

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Gone a Viking
In this system you compete with peers as to who can bring in the biggest wealth form raiding. These are then tithed to your superior in the hierarchy. The better you are the better upgrades you are allowed to have. However, you are obligated to reward those underlings beneath you or they are likely to become loyal to someone else.

Because you can get loot given by your underlings, you can also get upgrades too.

It is a modification of the Scavengers system, but you are not necessarily attacking your peers (in fact attacking your peers would be considered a bad thing).

It is also a bit like the Clan system in that the better your clan the better you are, but it focuses more on the raiding aspects of the Scavenger system.

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