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Sayid Ahmed

Game Economics

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I posted this in another dev forum focused on web games, but I didn't get much discussion and I'm really sad so I thought I'd post it here. I'm hoping I'm not being delusional here by trying to recreate these economic concepts into a simple PHP game; hopefully you guys can criticise and help me out in the planning of my economy and politics driven text-based game.


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[color=#666666]Economics in games is something that fascinates me, including how much some game developers pay attention to it (EVE Online, Darkfall, Wurm Online) whilst others disregard it. I am trying to create a PHP game which has a strong element of economy, which will hopefully tie in with the military and political module I will create for it. Here are just some thoughts about in-game economy which I take into account when designing my game and maybe we can have a good discussion about it:

Resource sources & sinks:

[color=#666666]Quite simply, if too much of a resource is being generated in a virtual world without there being anything to consume it, its value drops. If you have a game where every time you kill a sheep, it drops 3 coins of currency, then over time loads of currency is being easily pumped into the game and all your players are earning money, that currency is now no longer hard to earn, and where a chainmail helm would cost 300 coins it might as well sell for 3000. As a game dev, you could counteract this by making things cost more, such as travelling, skill training, levelling up etc etc, and by doing that you are adding function to that currency and giving it more value. This doesn't apply to currency only, but any resource really.

Currency:

[color=#666666]The main function of currency is to have a medium where resources can be exchanged easily. An economy without currency would be a barter system, whereby if I was a farmer and I wanted a shovel, I would probably have to get a sack of grain, trade it in for a shovel, or if not, trade it in for some wood and iron and probably craft a shovel myself. Now this may sound like a bad thing in real life, but perhaps in your game you want[color=#666666] there to be a barter system, that way you encourage players to be more reliant on your crafting system and develop a broader range of skills to make them more self-sufficient. If my history is correct, some areas of Northern Europe during the Dark Ages had a lack of precious metals, trade had collapsed and so society became dependent on sustenance through farming and mining and crafting; land had more value as a result, and so land grabbing happened more often. Whilst in the Middle East and Byzantine Empire, trade was still strong and so urban and sophisticated lifestyle could carry on.

Trivial Resources:
[color=#666666]Some games seem to have this problem where they assign no distinct use to a resource, as a result it has little value, and the reward of conquering a country/player which has that resource is little. Supremacy1914 is an example where the resources are fairly balanced. In this game, all provinces have an energy requirement and that can be fulfilled by either coal, oil or gas. Coal can power railroads, oil can fuel tanks, but natural gas has no particular use. The demand for gas is then low, but the need to build industry and other resource boosters in natural gas-producing provinces is also low. As a result you'll find players selling their gas reserves at a similar price to oil and coal, but then never restocking them, making you wonder whether that resource is just trivial and not actually needed?

Free Market vs Fixed Pricing
[color=#666666]Some games, mainly MMORPGs, have NPC vendors where resources or items are sold at fixed prices (or maybe proportional to your level/skill) and don't actually respond to economic demand. This has the problem of meaning the world's money sinks will remain quite constant and not adapt to any change in the money sources. In the sandbox world, like EVE Online, players dictate prices and are free to produce, trade and invest in resources or items in order to make money.

[color=#666666]Perhaps in your game you could follow a similar model; lets say in your game, iron is used to make weapons and armour. The net amount of iron consumed has increased over time, but the net amount of production of iron has dropped or stayed the same, or the big iron producers are stockpiling their iron or whatever. As a result, demand has increased and supply stayed constant, so the price in iron should[color=#666666] increase. This would only happen if the iron producers recognise there is a growth in demand and can bump up their prices. If they do, those players who consume iron will have an increase in their costs, would have to compensate by selling other resources they have, or even better, go to war and grab some iron. This way you are using the economy as a driving force for certain modules of your game. As a dev, you can improve this process by giving your players trends and statistics to improve the chances of your players recognising where there are shortfalls or abundances in certain resources and items etc.[/font]

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As a game dev, you could counteract this by making things cost more, such as travelling, skill training, levelling up etc etc, and by doing that you are adding function to that currency and giving it more value. This doesn't apply to currency only, but any resource really.

I don't think increasing the cost of needed things like travelling and skill training benefits the game economy, since new players will have a more difficult time when the bar is set higher the later they enter the game.

With an economy that benefits the rich and makes it difficult for new players to get into wont help the game grow and is likely not to work in the long run.

Also NPC's have a good use, they help maintaining the economy by adjusting the prices. If you use them right they can be a great tool to maintain the servers economy.
Like the NPC selling items to keep the prices down, and buying other items to keep the prices up.

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For me, the key to starting a good Forum discussion is questions.

You bring up a lot of really relevant info, and no doubt there are STACKS of helpful posts lurking around here to help form ideas in your head, help you brainstorm, etc.

However, at the moment, I see a wall of awesomely enthusiastic, but really complicated, text that I just don't know where to start with.
I'm thinking other people might be able to dive in and be a great help, but if you'd like more feedback, opinions, etc. etc. from me - then shoot some questions off.
(You could wait until other people have put in other points, and then load up a "round 2" that I might be able to jump in on ;D)

I'm a big fan of a good, in depth discussion; it's always mutually beneficial ;)

Wyrm.

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I don't think increasing the cost of needed things like travelling and skill training benefits the game economy, since new players will have a more difficult time when the bar is set higher the later they enter the game.

With an economy that benefits the rich and makes it difficult for new players to get into wont help the game grow and is likely not to work in the long run.

Also NPC's have a good use, they help maintaining the economy by adjusting the prices. If you use them right they can be a great tool to maintain the servers economy.
Like the NPC selling items to keep the prices down, and buying other items to keep the prices up.


How does that work? If you match the money sinks with money sources then you won't get an accumulation of money in the system. You're assuming these changes are being made after the game has already started.

With regards to the NPC vendors, why would you want that to happen? You want the players who have rightfully invested in their resource extraction or production to profit greatly from it, and the ones who have lost out to react to it.


For me, the key to starting a good Forum discussion is questions.

You bring up a lot of really relevant info, and no doubt there are STACKS of helpful posts lurking around here to help form ideas in your head, help you brainstorm, etc.

However, at the moment, I see a wall of awesomely enthusiastic, but really complicated, text that I just don't know where to start with.
I'm thinking other people might be able to dive in and be a great help, but if you'd like more feedback, opinions, etc. etc. from me - then shoot some questions off.
(You could wait until other people have put in other points, and then load up a "round 2" that I might be able to jump in on ;D)

I'm a big fan of a good, in depth discussion; it's always mutually beneficial ;)

Wyrm.


Alright then smile.png

I'll start off with:

1) Do you feel having NPC vendors within a game is necessary or do they remove the benefit of the free market system?

2) Have you ever played a game, or felt like it would be better, to have no currency in an economy, and stick to a barter system, giving more incentive for your characters to be more self-sufficient and develop their crafting & mining/farming skills?

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Some more information about your game would be useful e.g.:

1. Is it single player or multi-player?
2. What is an actual resource. What sources are there and what sinks?
3. Is the value of the currency fixed? Are you modeling it based on something? How does it enter and exit the world?

Anyways, more specific questions would help get the discussion rolling.

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First of all Im not asking for specific advice about my game. just discussing for all MMOs. how the hell would this work in single player without NPCs?

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First of all Im not asking for specific advice about my game. just discussing for all MMOs. how the hell would this work in single player without NPCs?


I'm done with this discussion. Bye.

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I'll start off with:

1) Do you feel having NPC vendors within a game is necessary or do they remove the benefit of the free market system?


They're certainly not necessary. A game can exist without them, but then relies heavily on active player input.
What do you see as the benefits of a "free market system"? What about disadvantages?
To me, having NPC vendors gives you - as the developer - a control over the market. Whether their prices change, or stay constant, it gives you an opportunity to step in and change the economy if you don't like where it's going.
Without NPCs you have no control (short of making your own characters to try and force change), if things "go bad" - how are you going to recover the economy? Or do you rely on a bullet-proof system from day one?

2) Have you ever played a game, or felt like it would be better, to have no currency in an economy, and stick to a barter system, giving more incentive for your characters to be more self-sufficient and develop their crafting & mining/farming skills?
[/quote]

Loads... of board games... xD.
Sometimes a game just works without currency - especially if it "fits the lore".
However, there's a reason we invented currencies in the real world ;).

The no currency system could be amazing fun, but designing it and pulling off a "bullet-proof" implementation of it... a lot harder.
The basic system, as I see it: If I'm a farmer, I need tools, to make grain. That's it. The rest of the market is pretty much shut off to me. The tool-maker gets grain. How does the weaponsmith get food? I don't need weapons, so I'm not trading my grain to him. The tool-maker doesn't need weapons, so he's not trading his grain to him.
Maybe I'm looking at it too "basically", but the "answer" to the issue here is... add a currency ;).

If you match the money sinks with money sources then you won't get an accumulation of money in the system.[/quote]

You don't want an accumulation of money in the system. Or rather, you don't want an excessive accumulation of money in the system.
If you have too much money flowing into the system, and not being sunk, the prices of everything go up and "prices" in general become redundant. You want a constant flow of money, through the players, not an accumulation.


Wyrm.

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How does that work? If you match the money sinks with money sources then you won't get an accumulation of money in the system. You're assuming these changes are being made after the game has already started.

I don't assume anything, just answering your question. What do you mean by "money sinks"?

With regards to the NPC vendors, why would you want that to happen? You want the players who have rightfully invested in their resource extraction or production to profit greatly from it, and the ones who have lost out to react to it.

They will still profit from it, and if the demand is high enough players will buy and they wont have to sell to NPC.
However if the prices go down too much, having an NPC with fixed prices is a fallback, so the players wont have to sell too cheap and still earn good money.
And the NPC's could only sell common goods like copper etc, and only a certain amount per day/player to benefit the server.

The reason I got hooked on MMORPG's in the first place was the "living" economy, in my case tibia. If there is a certain amount of rare weapons they sink in prices, to stop them from sinking too much they implemented a travelling NPC, that bought these rare items, for good prices. This way people still earned money from an item that was in abundance on the server.

This doesn't mean everyone sell's to the NPC, since the player to player price is always higher than what the NPC gives, and this spawned a whole other unexpected trade.
Players started buying bulk, and selling to other players for profit. A real economy.

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The no currency system could be amazing fun, but designing it and pulling off a "bullet-proof" implementation of it... a lot harder.
The basic system, as I see it: If I'm a farmer, I need tools, to make grain. That's it. The rest of the market is pretty much shut off to me. The tool-maker gets grain. How does the weaponsmith get food? I don't need weapons, so I'm not trading my grain to him. The tool-maker doesn't need weapons, so he's not trading his grain to him.
Maybe I'm looking at it too "basically", but the "answer" to the issue here is... add a currency ;).


The farmer needs a lot more than tools. He needs weapons to defend against wild animals and bandits, some sort of container to hold his grain, maintenance on his buildings, etc. There are some people he won't interact with that needs his grain like miners, but they can still get grain through the blacksmith. In such a system, you could see a merchant role emerge. His role would be to carry a large inventory of everything and provide goods that would be inaccessible normally, like a miner trading iron ore for bread. All a currency does is provide convenience. It is not required to run an economy.

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