[Mud-Dev] Broken currencies

Brian 'Psychochild' Green brian at psychochild.org
Wed Apr 4 00:11:24 New Zealand Standard Time 2001


Matt Mihaly wrote:

> [I've renamed this thread to something more indicative of its
> content. It was previously called Learning from MUDs.--matt]

Yeah, the economic part of it took on a life of its own.

> On Tue, 3 Apr 2001, Brian 'Psychochild' Green wrote:

>> Going back to the paper I referenced, "Lessons from Lucasfilm's
>> Habitat", it wasn't the economy itself that was really broken, it
>> was the currency.  People still traded items between themselves and
>> carried on other economic activity, it's just that the medium of
>> exchange was no longer the intended currency but rather other
>> items.

> Is this a bad thing?

Personally, I don't think so.  Players are clever, and they will do
unexpected things with your game.  That's what makes these beasts
interesting.  The fact that they come up with a better means of
exchange isn't bad at all given that.

My original point was that developers seem shocked when players start
using alternative currencies, even though "Lessons" pointed this
out. Brad just pointed out that the EQ team wasn't surprised, and that
EQ's economy isn't broken by his definition.

>> A basic tenet of economics is that value is determined by utility
>> and scarcity.

> Not to split hairs but value is not so neatly defined.

Yeah, and not everything is a frictionless vacuum as college level
physics would have us believe.  This is a basic definition.  It works
well enough to explain what's happening, at least on a basic level, in
our games.

> More importantly, they're influenced heavily by the _perception_ of
> scarcity and utility, which is an important distinction.

Yes, but remember, perception is reality in MUDs. :)

>> Currency is a bit odd in this respect.  While gold or the funny
>> colored paper in my wallet doesn't always have inherent utility
>> [....]

> Gold has utility though. It looks pretty and it's very malleable.

Actually, gold itself doesn't have much utility.  It makes a good
conductor and it has properties that make it ideal for making
jewelry. This doesn't make a lump of gold any more useful to people
without the ability to craft it.  Jewelry, on the other hand, has
utility because it is pleasing to look at and can alter people's
perceptions of the wearer.

> That's the original reason for its value.

>From what I learned, gold was made a currency because it doesn't
corrode like other metals such as iron.  Iron will rust, which
actually damages the metal.  This is bad if you want to try to
stockpile the metal to save your wealth.  I guess this adds a bit to
it utility. :)

> Now, of course, it's a bit self-fulfilling as just saying "gold"
> conjures up images of wealth.

And just saying "xp" conjures up images of power. :)

>> To see an extreme example of this, see if you can find anyone in
>> EverQuest willing to sell items that don't drop anymore (mana
>> stones, rubicite armor) for any reasonable amount of platinum.

> That doesn't indicate that the currency is broken though. As you
> say, for any reasonable amount of platinum.

By "reasonable" I meant limited what players could have.  I'm sure the
administration could create billions of platinum pieces to "buy" an
item, which would sort of invalidate the example, no?

> Try buying things that aren't made anymore such as Rembrandt's
> paintings for any reasonable amount of dollars.

Under the definition of "reasonable" above, you can.  Obviously people
(or entities) have enough money to buy these items, such as the
paintings you mention.  It doesn't take a government running off
printing presses of currency to purchase them, does it?

> It actually sounds to me like the fundamental problem with
> Everquest's currency is just that it's a physical currency rather
> than a virtual currency like modern currencies.

You might want to take a look at Asheron's Call and what they do with
trade notes.  In brief, money weighs a lot, and you can lighten your
load by buying trade notes from vendors in town.  You give the vendor
110% of the trade note's face value, and that gives you the right to
exchange that note for it's face value in currency.  If you give it to
another vendor, you will only get 90% of the trade note's face
value. An interesting twist, I think. :)

> The other problem I can see is that since there isn't really a way
> to earn interest, or to invest, then _any_ currency inflation is
> going to kill much of the value of the currency.

Yes, but interest on investments a whole other level of complexity I
don't think current games are able to handle. :)

--
"And I now wait / to shake the hand of fate...."  -"Defender", Manowar
     Brian Green, brian at psychochild.org  aka  Psychochild
       |\      _,,,---,,_      *=* Morpheus, my kitten, says "Hi!" *=*
 ZZzz  /,`.-'`'    -.  ;-;;,_   "They're not bugs, they're 'place-
      |,4-  ) )-,_..;\ (  `'-'    holders for code that works.'"
     '---''(_/--'  `-'\_)         - Andrew Kirmse, Meridian 59 creator
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