Learning about MUDs (was: Re: [MUD-Dev] Re: MUD-Dev digest, V ol 1 #301 - 15 msgs)

Vincent Archer archer at nevrax.com
Tue Apr 3 11:59:37 New Zealand Standard Time 2001

According to McQuaid, Brad:

> Could you define broken?  IMHO, EQ's economy works because prices
> are derived constantly from supply and demand, fluctuating
> accordingly.

If we take this as an extreme, economy works as long as there are any
form of transactions. The real breakdown would come the day no players
ever traded anything.

There are two distinc economic circuits anyway in these MUDs. You have
the player-player economy, and the player-merchant economy (marchant
implying NPC merchants).

I prefer to take as a "breakdown test" for the economy the point when
a player stops trying to trade with players and prefers the
player-merchant circuit. The economy might be "functioning", but if it
doesn't involve player-player transactions, it's not a desirable
economy. In this way, EQ economy shows some "fraying at the edges".

A good example is the Axe of the Iron Back. A good and very nice
weapon for intermediate levels. The problem is, at the level I get
these axes, I sell them directly to the merchant. Trying to sell one
to a player takes enough time that I could earn more cash directly out
of monsters during the same time (and get XP besides).

> together and buy/sell/trade all the time.  When I log on and listen
> to the /auction channel and see stuff being bought/sold/traded all
> the time, I don't feel the economy is broken.  When I log on and see

Basically, entering the 'Common Market' or 'GBay' (the nicknames I've
seen affeted to the two places where you have trading), I get the
impression I've entered Wall Street and am looking at a stocks scroll

The problem is, it's a seller's market. 95% of the auction shouts I
see are "sells". It's very well known (well, on the server I played)
that you get there to buy cheaply items, not to sell them. The last
time I went there and purchased something, the seller did a double
take because I wasn't asking to just look at the item stats, but I was
asking for a straight purchase.

> Now, as for high-end items being traded and not sold... when this
> occurs, this means that currency (in this case, platinum) isn't as
> useful at the high end as it could be.  That's all money is: a tool
> for people to use to make transactions when someone else has an item
> they need, but they don't have an item that person wants.  Ideally,
> it's an economic universal adaptor (forgive me for the butchered Way
> of the Gun paraphrase :)

People have to trust currency to use it. Trusting currency means that
you have confidence that currency will allow you access to items
and/or services.

That's where the 'pp' currency breaks down in EQ for higher
levels. The only services currency allows you access to are coffins
and TP stones (at that time, 95% of the people know clerics and
druids, and thus get "free" TP and resurrections from friends, the
player services that do not require components). But for items? Forget
it: the items higher-end players really desire are rare. Very
rare. Rare enough that the mere possession of, say 50k pp in your bank
isn't enough to buy one: you also have to find someone who has the
item and is willing to sell/trade it - and that is hard.

That's why people do not have confidence in the currency in
EQ. Because that currency isn't a guarantee of having an item. Rare
items are, well, rare. The same occurs in AC, of course. Why are
motes/shards/sturdy keys/etc used as the main currency? Because these
tokens guarantee you if necessary a service or a desirable item.

> Anyway, sorry for going on and on, or for taking the thread on
> another tangent (not that that ever happens here :), but assertions
> that EQ's economy is 'broken' are one of those that set me off :)

One of the more interesting parallel currency I've seen developping at
the higher end game in EQ is what I call "private banks". For those
not familiar with EQ higher-end dynamics, let me explain more:

I'm speaking here of the so-called "uber-guilds", who have almost all
migrated to what they call a point-based system. Point-based systems
simply award you points for participation in raids (i.e. expeditions
where multi-groups are required to achieve an objective), and let you
"loot" according to your points total.

A quick history of the point systems here, so you better understand
why they're there.

These systems basically evolved because a lot of people are motivated
primarily by "loot", and about 99% of the raids have a policy that
loot is awarded on the basis of "can use and will use now". In other
words, a wizard trying to get included in a random for a melee weapon
gets frowned upon. Why? Because a raid includes typically 3 or more
groups of 6 people, and will yield 2 to 5 items tops. And it irks
people to see a meleer trying to get a nice INT item just to trade it
away when you would use it here and now. In theory, it's all fair,
since the same number of people derive an item in the end. But
psychology dictates otherwise; people get angry when they see
something having a deferred use when it could have an immediate one.

The main problem then becomes getting people in raids. Specially when
a raided "boss" is known to drop no items useable/desirable by your
class. Or if you already have the items from that boss. Gettings
friends help, but is often not enough. Why would a warrior participate
in a raid against Trakanon, for example, if he already has a
breastplate from the Plane of Growth (which is better than what
Trakanon drops for him)?

Thus, the point systems, which is simple: For each raid, you get
points.  When you want an item during a raid, the person with the most
points gets it, and the "appropriate" number of points gets deducted
from his total.

Of course, if you really look at it, you recognise a privately managed
currency. You get a "salary" when you work (help during a raid), and
you get to spend that "money" during a raid. Most systems also include
a "redeem" system, where you can turn in your old items, and get back
some or all of the "money" (points) you had spent getting them in the
first place.

That's probably the most interesting form of parallel currency I've
yet to see. And it's one that works well, because the currency is
backed by a semi-guarantee that you can get to spend your money for
something you desire.

Of course, most guilds don't consciously see it that way, and it's
easy to build a point system that is subject to rampant inflation (if
the points introduced in the system by a raid regularly exceed the
points removed from the system by the loot, you may get into problems
very quickly) or that goes bankrupt quickly when people live on credit
(if less points get generated than are consumed during a raid, you end
up in a situtation where no one can afford to "pay" for the loot, and
people that are already with a negative point total buy the items,
pushing them further "in the red").

Vincent Archer                                         Email: archer at nevrax.com

Nevrax France.                              Off on the yellow brick road we go!
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