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Silver as a Game Currency

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I'm creating a trading game that takes place during Ancient Babylonian times. While barter and other forms of currency were quite common I'm planning to make silver the primary currency in the game. Silver will be measured by mass: talents, minas, shekels, etc. When one goes to the marketplace and wants to see the prices, they will be listed in silver. Here's my dilemma. Prices in the game will change due to supply and demand (sub-systems I'm working on but won't bother going into much detail here). But the value of silver could also be subject to supply and demand. My question is if that is a good idea? Or should silver be fixed so that assuming the supply and demand for an item hasn't changed, its price in silver always remains constant? Pros (of the value of silver being subject to supply and demand): -Keeps things consistent in that all material resources follow the same pricing laws based on supply and demand. -Potential for player to really manipulate the markets by manipulating silver (which is something I want to encourage in this game) Cons: -likely more confusing for the player. Why has the price of bread (in silver) suddenly doubled when there's just as much as before? Oh wait, it's because there's a shortage of silver. -somewhat confusing for me the programmer. Commodities have a 'natural price' i.e. the value if the supply equals the demand. Normally I would state that in silver but now I would need a canonical (unitless) value hidden behind the scenes. Looking for your input to add to the pros/cons so that I can make a decision. Thanks kindly.

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Why has the price of bread (in silver) suddenly doubled when there's just as much as before? Oh wait, it's because there's a shortage of silver.

Wouldn't the price decrease instead, if silver get rare ?

If silver is used only as a currency, I think demand is not a concept as clear as for other goods. Supply on the contrary is easily defined. So to me, value of silver could be driven by the quantity in circulation only.

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Quote:
Original post by SriLumpa
Wouldn't the price decrease instead, if silver get rare ?

Oops, you're right. Less silver in circulation gives you more purchasing power.

Quote:
If silver is used only as a currency, I think demand is not a concept as clear as for other goods. Supply on the contrary is easily defined. So to me, value of silver could be driven by the quantity in circulation only.


Silver will be in demand for many factors. All metals in the game are classified as:
metal.gold
metal.silver
metal.bronze
etc.

And there can be demand for particular metals (e.g. demand for silver trim on weapons) as well as a general demand for metal. In the case of the latter, any metal can be sold to meet the demand.

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Depends on what you want. If you're looking to have a totally realistic economy, then it makes sense to include inflation and deflation, and maybe even interest rates and things like that. If you want a simplified economy and a fairly standard buy/sell setup, then it wouldn't really make sense to add other features into it.

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The problem with making your in game currency volatile is that it forces player to keep track of an additional variable when making trades as the changing value of currency may mean that even though you sold goods for more then you paid for them it you’ve actually taken a loss on the sale because of inflation.

Also depending on how the economic engine in your game works there is also the risk of run away inflation that could wipe out a players fortune. Suddenly that million pieces of silver you worked for years to earn is only enough to buy a loaf of bread.

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I'm just throwing this out there, and I really don't have the history background to do more than speculate, but were fluctuations in currency a reality for the time period your game is based in?

I find it hard to believe that the infrastructure existed that far in the past to have the level of trading you are talking about. I can't imagine people that far back in history understanding a fluctuating value in the currency.

But, I could be completely wrong on this (as history was never my thing).

John

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Naively as a user, I probably won't care why bread is more expensive; simply that it is or is not.

Though to be blunt, player market manipulation is not a good game design goal. It might be more 'realistic', but games are not realistic. When it's possible that a single player or guild has 50%+ of the money in the entire world, the whole thing tends to break down.

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Quote:
Original post by borngamer
I'm just throwing this out there, and I really don't have the history background to do more than speculate, but were fluctuations in currency a reality for the time period your game is based in?

I find it hard to believe that the infrastructure existed that far in the past to have the level of trading you are talking about. I can't imagine people that far back in history understanding a fluctuating value in the currency.

But, I could be completely wrong on this (as history was never my thing).

John


In history yes, we do see inflation/deflation aspects as far back as ancient Rome, and maybe even from older periods. However it appears to have been far slower for the most part than it is today where we can suffer hyper-inflation and the like.

If players can set the prices for their goods then you are going to automatically have a variable value of the base currency. What your base currency is 'worth' is NOT a hard coded number in your game in this case, it will always be a fuzzy concept floating around the minds of your players.

If you want it to be fairly historic, then you'll want to include a number of options for coinage and Bullion. Gold and Silver being the most common, but any metal that is very rare may be suitable. (Aluminum was apparently once more expensive than gold,... As you can see things change.)

Another option for coinage is backed coinage of baser metals, such as copper/bronze/brass if the value of the metal itself is not worth enough to make it suitably valuable in its own right. That is a bank or government sets a standard for a given coin and agrees to a figure such as "100 of these small brass tokens may be exchanged for this 1 small silver piece." This enables more options for trading while avoiding value volatility between your coin pieces. If the value in gold/silver is always far higher than what the value of the metal in the coin is, then it will always be 'worth' its fraction of the gold/silver standard it is set at.


The biggest issue is proper control over what items are coming into play. You have to think about the economy as a whole, and what people need to buy to play.

Consider in game food that needs to be grown and harvested by players. Players need food to keep their character from starving, thus they are willing to work for it. However if food is too common then it becomes a few annoying clicks to get through to move onto the rest of the game. The value of food drops to nothing. On the other hand if food becomes too hard to produce then there isn't enough of it and the price skyrockets, and your game world stalls in a famine.

In an MMO game the values of items, their demand and supplies, are alive. To work well you need someone who knows business and economics to be able to sit there and watch it day by day, adjusting things as needed through in game mechanics. Without this you will most likely end up with a run away error. MMOs have people joining and leaving all the time, and this makes any system that you set out from the start doomed to break if you aren't there watching it, poking it now and then to balance it again.

The hardest part of this is that if you are SEEN to be poking the system too much then you pop your illusion of an economy. (Something that could actually happen in the real world! We nearly came to it after all, but no great revolution happened this time.) If you pop your illusion, then your players are going to realize that their Great Sword of Doom +140 becomes worthless in their eyes, and they leave your game.

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A major reason people needed currency back in the day was to pay taxes. It helped maintain currency as a means of storing value which allows it to be the primary medium of exchange.

Another thing to consider is that the effective money supply is dependent on velocity. So if people are hoarding velocity goes way down and so does the effective money supply. The hoarders can still come along and pay whatever they want for a good which just messes with any attempt to determine a price.

Having a fixed amount of currency or any good can be very problematic as demonstrated in the early days of UO. It is not recomended.

Ideally you create a circular system where you have some control of the flow of currency and all goods around the market so that your economy continues to run effectively.

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Quote:
Original post by Telastyn
Naively as a user, I probably won't care why bread is more expensive; simply that it is or is not.


As an extension of this, I think silver, gold, dollars, whatever we use in any kind of game mechanic is really a metaphor for or an abstraction of the purchasing power variable - how much can I buy? I think what the end user cares about is 'do I have more purchasing power now than I did before?'. If you want them to use a calculator, put silver in with all the other resources and don't make a point of using one resource over another as a monetary device. If, on the other hand, you don't want the user having to use a calculator (abacus in this case?) then I would let silver stand in for the purchasing power variable, however that fits into your economic model.

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