[MUD-Dev] Re: A Query Regarding Economies in a Text Environment

J C Lawrence claw at under.engr.sgi.com
Tue Oct 13 11:32:32 New Zealand Daylight Time 1998

On Tue, 13 Oct 1998 04:12:10 -0500 
Brandon A Downey<badowney at sprynet.com> wrote:

> I'd like to take this opportunity to de-lurk, and introduce myself
> to the list, as I've been considering one of those commonly
> discussed topics on the list.

Eek!  Another "Brandon"!  I think that puts the count up to 6 so far
on the list...

> By "meaningful economy", I mean a system wherein some currency
> (usually gold) serves as an actuall tool of exchange for things of
> "in-game" value (equipment, skills, social standing, property
> ownership, etc.) Far too often I've seen the almost inevitable
> inflationary spiral lead to gold that's good only for being a
> paperweight (if I just get 3 million gold in my sack, it will be
> too heavy to steal!).

Have a search thru the archives for things like LET and barter
systems and the threads surrounding them.  LET systems never really
got discussed, but I remain obstinate in bringing them up in
reference to almost all such threads.  I've also posted extensive
web links on the area.

There has also been a little good discussion (which I'd love to see
revived) on the distinction between currency and money.  I recall
Raph making some pointed observations on Strings becoming the
effective currency de jour on Legend even tho the official token was
of course gold.  This encourages my own take on the area:

  Currency is implicitly virtual.  It exists only as an idea in the
heads of the players who think they either have or want it.  

      ObComment: This is an extensions of the idea that money is
really only stored potential (think in terms of simple physics
"potential energy") where the "potential" is an abstract idea backed
by confidence as well as being a function of that "confidence" (drop
the confidence towards zero and the "potential value" of the money
approaches zero, go the other direction and curve follows).

  As such any attempts to design in an explicit currency system into
a game are prone if not doomed to failure as never achieving true
currency status.  The principle failure of such attempts is that the 
attempt to do two very distinct things as if they were one system:  

    1) Codify the process of value exchange and collection

    2) Codify the tokens used for value exchange and collection.

  The problem being of course that these two things are in fact and
practice quite distinct.  Whether you buy things with US dollars,
Japanese yen, German deutschmarks, severed PK'ers heads, or outhouse
scrapings really doesn't matter.  The process, system, and mechanics
of the exchange and collection of those value tokens remains
constant, and in fact nobody really cares what the tokens are so
long as all parties in any transaction agree that they hold value

  As such the answer is to NOT implement defined currencies, but
instead to implement the mechanics of currencies (exchange rates,
hoarding, barter, etc), and to then let the tokens used for the
currency be (potentially optionally) player defined and selected.
(A lesser approach is to do the above and to then implement a few
semi-default "suggested" currencies, but I'd wager that such
currencies won't show much life after getting thru the compiler)

A really good discussion of this area (if indirectly and without
conclusions) can be found in the Habitat papers in the coverage (for
instance) of their coins, the Egg, custom heads, etc.  Its worth
noting in particular the instant use of custom heads as currency,
and the use of the Egg as a status token with the trading of the Egg
and Egg parties as both social requirements and status currency

BTW: We really should get Raph's wife in on this (IIRC she's an
economist by training, tho she's mostly recovered from that now).

J C Lawrence                               Internet: claw at null.net
(Contractor)                               Internet: coder at ibm.net
---------(*)                     Internet: claw at under.engr.sgi.com
...Honourary Member of Clan McFud -- Teamer's Avenging Monolith...

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