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CelticSir

MMORPGs and stable economies

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Hey,

I was wondering if any one had any advice on how to plan and test money inflation and how to keep the economy of online worlds stable so that people don't have too much money or too little without constantly tweaking as you go along (which just makes players get annoyed half the time).

How do you approach your design to avoid such issues - and is there ways to put the idea to test without needing lots of players to test the economy to see how inflation occurs?

I often find if players get money too easily the game gets boring and if the players find everything too expensive - its off putting.. finding that balance is important I find! Which is why some one can share some tips on how to plan ahead.

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One of the biggest things developers have done is money sinks.
Repair costs, Health regen food / water, all of these items can be used to artificially remove gold from the economy.

I think you need to take out at least as much money as you are artificially putting in from monster drops, once your money level has gotten to a certain amount per player on average.

But just like the real economy this is extremely hard to balance, and just like the real economy people get pissed off if you start making changes that effect them =p

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In a game you have two main parts of the economy. The faucet and the sink. The faucet is any money entering the economy. From mob drops, to quest rewards, to selling items to stores. The sink is any money leaving the economy. From repair costs, to NPC shops, to other various fees. The goal is generally to balance the two ammounts of gold. You can try and find a way to largely limit the amount entering the game, and just keep it circulating. Maybe don't have money at all, allow players to simply trade items. Or don't allow npc shops to create money, only allow them to circulate what they have from trading with PCs.

I'm not sure how you would test such a system without a mass amount of palyers. Maybe by creating a program that can have several random charecters doing different actions(harvesting, mob killing, selling, buying, etc), and try and estimate what might come up.

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Guild Wars for PC literally kept me playing it because of their economy system...I just farmed, sold and bought stuff because I was..cough..semi-obsessedwithearningmoneyinavirtualworld cough cough... >.>

One of the most notable money-sink implementations in GW was their crafting system. It was all balanced on the players' thought track of "I want to pay 500x as much money for that armor so I can look better!" because no one really cared about the combat anyway...because it was horrible. I'm not joking, the only thing you'd want to do in GW would be farming dungeons/areas for money so you can buy armor to look better..because fighting regularly in a party with 'whatever skill build you want' is just not fun. They designed the combat horribly and made it extremely unpleasing.

So the crafting system would have about ...5 sets of normal armor and 5 more of prestige versions of that normal armor called Elite armor. The elite armor cost a whole lot of money and crafting materials, but hey..it looked better.
I think the main money faucet was other players for me, though, because all I did was farm items to sell to others. Mobs only generated about a hundred gold if you were lucky and not very often. Gold weapons, which are worth money to players if it dropped with the right stats, would be sold to NPC merchants if they weren't dropped with the right stats (in other words, if no one wanted them). This would be 200-300 gold, whereas it could go from 1,000-...well, let's just not think about how much people would be willing to pay for certain items...

Hopefully my insight on Guild Wars' system will help.. Edited by GHMP

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A fast-paced server where players obtain in-game currency with relative ease and level up just as quick. The server wipes once every 3 months. Maybe something like a league-ish sort of game, where 3 months = 1 game play season. Carry over some benefits (no gold and equips) from previous playthrough to keep players playing so that they don't feel that their previous effort is wasted (maybe a nice mount that is faster than normal mounts;) ). Thats how you achieve a perfectly balanced economy, where botters/goldfarmers/hoarders are thwarted once every 3 months.

I even think htt you can even monitor those who leveled extremely quickly and tag them as suspicious. Normally those who level so damn fast are either playing 24/7, or they are botting. More likely than not you will find (and catch) more of the latter.

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The driving force in MMO economies is players playing the game and demanding rewards. The key to controlling the economy is having enough rewards available in the game for them to work towards. Money is just there to ease the trade of rewards so there must be a demand for money in the game outside of player to player transactions.

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Test the game with unlimited money on your character.
Track how much money is *required* (via purchasing healing potions, spells, etc.) to maintain a steady progression.
Adjust your mobs or other game currency producing elements so that they produce currency at that rate - more difficult encounter can provide more currency reward than less difficult encounters.

Players can choose to "farm" coin by sticking to easy encounters and grinding away at the cost of a slower rate of character progression, or they can go with higher-risk content that, if successful, provides greater rewards in both coin and faster progression.

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To get a stable economy you need to look at the extremes.

For every way of earning money in the game, you need to calculate how much money that method can earn per hour.

Once you have this stable, you can price things accordingly. (or you can do this the opposite way, by pricing things first and then adjusting the hourly earn rate accordingly)

As for the extremes, you need to consider gold farmers or dedicated players. Sure, the average player is only going to earn x amount of money per hour. But the dedicated grinder can earn a whole lot more than that during the span of a day.

Most people don't expect a player to just farm money nonstop for 10+ hours straight, but it happens, and you need to take that into consideration. When designing an MMORPG, you always need to look at the worst case scenario. You always have to design your game with the idea that the players are going to do everything they can to break it and ruin experiences for other people.

The faucet/sink comparison is a good one. I think your sink should be trying to drain more money than the faucet gives. This way you're assured that the sink will never overflow. It's always better to start off with a slow drip than a full stream. You can always increase the flow of money if it's too stagnant. But turning down the faucet is a lot harder, and will annoy the playerbase. Increasing the flow doesn't have a huge downside as long as it's controlled. Players won't get mad that they are now earning more money per hour. :P

As I stated earlier, don't ever give items or money to players without them earning it through time investment that is equal to that of other money earning methods. Don't give a player 1000 gold when they create a new character. They didn't invest any time to earn that gold so they could just make 500 accounts and be rich. At least make them go through a tutorial or something first, which then you can determine how much time they "worked" and pay them accordingly.

I've found that a good way to start your economy is to have your in game currency represent some real world currency. For example, since I'm from the US, I like to use the dollar as a good starting point. So for a game, I might make 10 coins = 1 real US dollar. What this does is it lets me find out how much I should price items and also how much money per hour a player should be earning. So maybe an apple in the game would cost 2 coins (20 cents) and working as a delivery person might earn you 100 coins an hour ($10)

This lets you set initial prices so that they aren't just random numbers that you decide on. I know of too many games that just price things based off of the first thing they priced... Like "oh this loaf of bread is 50g, so that means I guess that a shirt would cost like... I dunno... 500g?" and it's totally random and has no math behind it. Items just get priced whatever sounds good at the time, and it is not a good method to use. Of course, in the end, your prices might get adjusted a lot, but the point is that its good to have a nice base to work from when first setting your prices.

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