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Would a trade system work?

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Do you think a system designed around a trade house would work in an MMO instead of money/gold? By this I mean if certain automations were done for the player, would players accept a trading system as the only option to get other resources the need? If so what kind of automation could you think would help such a system?

 

Let's say I'm a farmer and I have lots of beef. More than I can eat. I need some iron to repair my tools though and I'm not a miner so I don't have any iron and mining it would take too long. So I go down to the trade post and I put up on an automated system that says 5xbeef for 2xiron. Then let's say along comes a miner who is hungry. What's the best way to hook these people up and then once found easily allow for negotiation.

 

Would automation (no matter how advanced) still make this a huge pain? I don't see this very often in games. Using gold seems to be the norm since it mimics our real life. However, in a virtual world we don't have all the real world issues like physics... So you would think that some level of automation in virtual trading would make this an attractive option as brings communities together and removes gold farmers and all the other issues related to currency.

 

Any ideas around what kind of automation you can think of to make a trading system as easy as money?

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If one guy is selling something easily divisible, such as rice, they can come to an arrangement. I'll give you 300 pounds of rice for that pig. But if things are not so easily divisible, we run into problems. For example, I have horses and you have cows; are they equally valuable? Could I give you 1 1/2 horses for a cow?

 

This divisibility is a major advantage of money, perhaps even why it was invented. But if your system includes at least one resource that is valuable to almost everyone and is highly divisible, then you can probably skip implementation of coins or money. Maybe I don't eat rice, so I have no direct need of rice. But I'm aware that everyone around me does eat rice. So I'm willing to accept rice in trade for my horse, because I can then use that rice to trade for something I want -- such as the previously mentioned cow.

 

The main problem I see with economic systems is the way value is attributed to the various items that are up for exchange. For a system to be truly a free and open market, it has to be the actual merit of the product that determines it's exchange rate. How much trouble, time and resources are required to get something, versus how much benefit it offers a given player. This might seem obvious, but it's worth stating in black and white: Something that is difficult or time-consuming to get is worth less. That is a cost, and expense to the player, and so that item is not as valuable as something that is easier or less time-consuming. Whereas something that offers improvements to the player's abilities is worth more to that player.

Edited by AngleWyrm

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NeoPets either has or used to have a barter lot system that ran alongside their monetary system.  The way it worked (as best I remember) is, the player selected items they actually had and committed them to be a trade lot for 1 day or 3 days or a week.  To go with this, they wrote a verbal description of what they wanted in exchange.  People who wanted to trade could separately search either the lots that were being offered, or the verbal descriptions of what was wanted.  Then if there was a barter lot you wanted, you put together a lot that you were offering in exchange, and committed to it.  The first player was notified of the offer and could look at it, then either accept it or reject it, or leave it there to see of they got a better offer before the time on their own lot ran out.  It was quite common to PM people to ask them if such and such offer would be ok, or if they could split a lot in half or double it, or whether they would prefer item A or item B in exchange.

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I think this system could work in an mmo. It is more cumbersome than using money, but that could be part of the charm of the game. I think AngleWyrm touched on one of the difficulties the system could face; dealing in things that are not easily divisible. In our modern world, facing something like trading a chicken for a cow where both sides could agree that an even trade isn't fair, throwing some money in with the offer can seal the deal. No doubt these kinds of issues popped up in civilizations before standardized currencies were used though, perhaps you could research how those situations came to be resolved.

 

I will stand by my saying this will be more cumbersome than a single, universal currency (money, gold, gil, dolla dolla bills y'all) but I think automation would go a very long way towards making it easier to cope with. Like maybe your "trading post" system would have an 'offering' and 'requesting' side. In the offering side, the user could put what item(s) they are offering as a complete unit (2xchickens, 5xeggs, 2xbags_of_flour) and on the requesting side, the user could put together several selections they would take in exchange for it. So I might be willing to accept (1xcow) OR (1xbull, 2xgallons_of_milk) OR (1xmedium_quality_broad_sword) OR (so on and so on for as many of those as I was willing to sit there and enter (or some amount of options in line with a technical restriction you put in place)).

 

In that system, another player could come and search with his 'willing-to-trade' items (maybe an option you can toggle on all of your items) which could be 1xcow and 5xgallons_of_milk, for example. That would return me offers that people have made that I could meet the 'requests' of. So that earlier trade would show up as someone offering (2xchickens, 5xeggs, 2xbags_of_flour) for my (1xcow).

 

Listing out all of the things you would be willing to accept sounds like it would get pretty tedious. Maybe some sort of counter offer system could be devised? So then I could list a minimal number of specific things I'm requesting but then people could suggest other things they'd be willing to give me for my offer. Maybe you'd have to limit how often people could make counter offers (suggestions) so somebody doesn't spend hours suggesting (1xegg) for things that clearly no one is going to trade for just (1xegg). Definitely some subtleties to work out in that kind of system.

 

I don't think these system tweaks do anything to deter gold farmers. "Gold farmers" would just as readily become meat farmers or iron farmers or hay farmers if that is what had value.

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@Angle I do wonder if players would come up with some kind of common item as currency (rice in your example). Your example of needing a horse and a cow are good examples, but I guess I wouldn't see those 2 people being able to barter just those 2 items or maybe a horse and a cow are equal to those people if they both need the other bad enough? On one hand I feel like a barter system can solve some problems and make getting resources you need more interesting. On the other hand I fear it would consume most of the gameplay, which for sure isn't what I want.

 

@sun In NeoPets did this bartering end up taking a lot of time and take away from other gameplay?

 

@J I was thinking that it would just be more work than the gold farmers would want to deal with. It's not as clean as gold and so maybe there would be less desire to do the "gold farming" thing. Just a guess though. There is no central thing of value anymore and everything is equally valuable (for the most part). If the players just agreed that rice was the most common need and easy to make by most, then that would encourage "gold farmers" to make rice I guess.

 

I agree that making bundled trades can help mask any imbalances in the trade. Sure a horse is more valuable then a cow alone, but a cow and 3 chickens can = a horse. However this, as you have shown, complicates matters :) This is the main part where I think automation can really help, but the details of how it's implements would make or break it.

 

If I was a player and I needed 10 iron the first thing I'd want to do is just type iron in a search box to bring up every trade that has iron in it. Maybe an option that only shows acceptable trade items that I have in my inventory to get exact matches? Then I decide if it's doable or not? Like you said listing everything you'd accept would be a pain. Maybe as a player putting something on the trading post I list things I WON'T accept? This should be a shorter list you'd think. It would automatically select the same things I'm putting up on the trading block as that wouldn't make sense to accept the same things I'm putting up to trade.

 

Someone makes an offer and it automatically shows me no matter where I am. I can Accept/Decline/Decline w/reply where I can say why. Would we get a ton of silly offers to weed through from someone just being stupid? : / Lots to think about with this system.

Edited by rpiller

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There is another problem besides items being not divisible.

If for example someone plays a blacksmith and needs coal/iron and sells swords, but the miners searching/finding iron/coal dont need swords but mules for transportation, but people selling mules need to feed those and farmers selling food need fertilizer and people selling fertilizer need bags and people making bags need leather and people finding leather from monsters need a sword? And there can easily be many other such cyles, which could easily be fulfilled by everyone trading for money, but get near impossible to solve with only bartering between 2 people allowed, when everyone would shy away from accepting something they dont immediately need and they dont have experience in how good it would resell and no connections to other people needing it.

I guess people would then try to resolve it by slowly finding some easily convertible and divisible item like gems needed for upgrading, but that can have sideeffects like people hoarding those like they would with money and people needing it for its intended purpose suffer from it being less available or only when they by luck have something a hoarder badly needs at that moment.

People would also get tired of very slowly selling something and think they'll just keep it for later(in reality hoard it forever), reducing overall availability which in turn makes it easier for other people to have a near monopoly and only sell at ridiculously high prices, which leads to even less trading, which can lead to inflation.

 

If you want to help with trading in such a system you would need to make it very easy for lazy people. Repeatedly putting together different sets of items you want to get rid of every few hours/days can get really annoying.

The easiest solution for people would probably be to just have two sets of items in their storage account, things to keep and things to sell.

Then when someone needs something he types the name and how many of it into a search, if there is any account which contains that inside the 'for sale' set he can move a few things from his 'for sale' set into an offer box, everyone else which 'for sale' set contains it gets a message next time they are online, the first that clicks accept gets the trade. Then maybe allow counteroffers with showing the 2 boxes with offered and wanted item and 2 boxes with all other items in these 2 peoples 'for sale' sets and allowing to drag and drop stuff around and click counteroffer which in turn notifies the first person who can accept or decline.

The problem is then people would maybe feel spammed by all those offerings and reofferings while they maybe just want to kill some monsters at that time.

Edited by wintertime

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On the other hand I fear it would consume most of the gameplay, which for sure isn't what I want.

 

And there can easily be many other such cyles, which could easily be fulfilled by everyone trading for money, but get near impossible to solve with only bartering between 2 people allowed, when everyone would shy away from accepting something they dont immediately need and they dont have experience in how good it would resell and no connections to other people needing it.
 
These two together remind me of a problem with the Diablo-3 auction house; it seems convoluted, finding the currently traded price for things, and searching for things is made difficult, as if revealing those values to the players would be bad for business. The player isn't informed what things have sold for, only the (often outlandish) asking price of proposed trades. Whereas to me it seems that sooner is better, as far as figuring out what things have been trading for.
 
Eve online gives trade history graphs for the various things on offer, so the player can get a feel for the current value of an item, and thus arrive more quickly to making competent offers.
Edited by AngleWyrm

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Didn't see it mentioned, but Path of Exile has a no gold trade system, and is an mmo (with instanced combat areas, but still an mmo).

The way it works there (from the stuff I've seen), is that when you 'sell' items to a trader you get scroll and/or stone fragments. Enough of these (10 i think) automatically make a stone or scroll. The stones/scrolls are also used to 'buy' items. Trading between players is also possible and it just comes down to bargaining.

 

The key why that works though, I think, is that the stones/scrolls are one time use items that are quite commonly used in game (such as identifying items, or augmenting items) - and thus gives them value without flooding the market with them.

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@Angle I do wonder if players would come up with some kind of common item as currency (rice in your example). Your example of needing a horse and a cow are good examples, but I guess I wouldn't see those 2 people being able to barter just those 2 items or maybe a horse and a cow are equal to those people if they both need the other bad enough? On one hand I feel like a barter system can solve some problems and make getting resources you need more interesting. On the other hand I fear it would consume most of the gameplay, which for sure isn't what I want.
 
@sun In NeoPets did this bartering end up taking a lot of time and take away from other gameplay?

Players tend to come up with not one, but half a dozen common items usable as currency. A Tale In the Desert is another game I think of in terms of bartering, because that game did not have money of any kind, nor did it have a searchable automated barter system If you wanted to trade, you said so on the trade channel, worked out the details in PM, then it could take quite a bit of time and effort for the two players to physically get together to trade because of the difficulties of travel and transporting bulky items in a limited inventory. The main effect of this high time cost was to discourage people from trading with anyone but their neighbors. But there were several standard currencies that emerged - bricks, flax and linen were the three things everyone needed thousands of and got tired of making, so they were a medium-value currency. Firewood was a low value currency because it was gathered, not made - everyone needed firewood, and even the newbiest player could gather it almost as fast as a high level player. It was pretty common for a newbie to trade 1000 firewood for a tool they had no ability to make on their own.

NeoPets on the other hand is a social gaming site. For social gaming sites in general, such as GaiaOnline, Flight Rising, and many others, playing the marketplace and trading is considered to be a legit part of the gameplay. So it's kind of a mis-targeted question if you ask whether people spend time on that instead of other gameplay, because they're _supposed_ to. I earned half the money I have in Flight Rising by making use of the conversion rate between in-game currency and cash-shop currency. I LOVE games where cash shop currency can be sold directly to other players for in-game currency. Buy low, sell high, pretend you are on Wall Street! Will you make a killing or lose your shirt if you buy up all of one kind of item to temporarily force their price up and try to resell yours at the higher price? biggrin.png And on Flight Rising, one of the main things people are trading are dragons, each being pretty much unique, and therefore even if you're selling for pure in-game currency you need to negotiate what it's worth. People do dragon flipping too - buy one that they think is underpriced and immediately try to resell it for more.

The easiest solution for people would probably be to just have two sets of items in their storage account, things to keep and things to sell.
Then when someone needs something he types the name and how many of it into a search, if there is any account which contains that inside the 'for sale' set he can move a few things from his 'for sale' set into an offer box, everyone else which 'for sale' set contains it gets a message next time they are online, the first that clicks accept gets the trade. Then maybe allow counteroffers with showing the 2 boxes with offered and wanted item and 2 boxes with all other items in these 2 peoples 'for sale' sets and allowing to drag and drop stuff around and click counteroffer which in turn notifies the first person who can accept or decline.
The problem is then people would maybe feel spammed by all those offerings and reofferings while they maybe just want to kill some monsters at that time.

I quite like this idea. Just don't make the offerings and reofferings notifications or messages and you will solve the spam problem. Instead make there be a passive part of the GUI where it displays the fluctuating number of relevant offers and reoffers, and the player has to actively click that to see a list of all the currently available ones they can respond to (or make new ones). Also, don't make the ability to list offers limited to what's currently in the player's inventory.

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This is quite an interesting topic, enough so that after probably two years of lurking its made me register for an account.

It's clear there are a number of different directions this could go with trade between players but I wonder how this would work with trade between players and NPC's or even NPC's with other NPC's.

In my game (still working on the infrastructure and networking) NPC's act very much the same as players do and can do the same thing players do. With built in gold in the game you can always have the NPC's use the default price attributed to items.

However if you remove gold and focus on bartering then when a player wants to buy a pig from an NPC the NPC would need to somehow decide how much they valued what you were offering relative to what you wanted. With a basic system of needs this is no problem but once you get past basic needs to [this would be useful to have, not a need but we need the NPC to still know its a good trade] things would become much more complicated.

I suppose you could still give thing an innate relative value to each other and let the NPC's make non-essential trades based on innate values.

Innate values being perhaps something like an atomic value of the item; Chair is crafted by 4 Cedar Logs and a Cedar Log is worth 10 atomic value so the NPC would see a chair as having an innate value of 40 and try to trade around that.

Hmmm, I'm going to be thinking about this one for the rest of the night; thank you for posting the topic~

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