[MUD-Dev] Broken Economies (was RE: Learning about MUDs)

Koster Koster
Thu Apr 5 13:24:31 New Zealand Standard Time 2001

> -----Original Message-----
> From: mud-dev-admin at kanga.nu 
> [mailto:mud-dev-admin at kanga.nu]On Behalf Of
> Timothy Dang
> Sent: Wednesday, April 04, 2001 10:48 AM
> To: 'mud-dev at kanga.nu'
> Subject: RE: [MUD-Dev] Broken Economies (was RE: Learning about MUDs)
> Dang! All this juicy econ talk and I've been too busy to even read
> it all, much less pipe in. Maybe this weekend. But here's one bit I
> can't resist.
>> Geoffrey said:

>>> Actually, if my memories of Econ 101 serve, closed economies don't
>>> even work on paper.

> Econ 101 (or 697 for that matter) is mute on "closed economies" as
> we're speaking of them here, because they don't exist IRL. When
> economists talk about closed versus open economies, they're
> generally talking about the degree of good, service and currency
> exchange. The closed economy of early UO was a feature of it being a
> MUD, not correlating to anything in the real world.

> On Tue, 3 Apr 2001, Koster, Raph wrote:

>> IMHO, the fundamental flaw in it in retrospect wasn't its closed
>> nature per se, but which elements were closed and which were
>> not. For example, organic matter, including mobiles, was in a
>> closed loop and should not have been.

> While I'm sure it's possible to design a closed system which will
> work, there's things beyond the no-more-monsters problem in the
> way. My main question is, why would one want to design a closed
> system, besides to show that it could be done?

Well, even UO's closed economy was not truly a closed economy. The
essential failure of it was, as you cite, the tragedy of the commons,
the hoarding.  The idea was to tie the inflow of currency to the
outflow of currency.  Hoarding meant that there was near-zero
liquidity in the economy. But there was still inflow of stuff into the
game, albeit only a trickle.

> There could be lots of ways to decentralize the incentives. Some
> kind of big public kudos could be given to those who divest ("This
> week of monster bashing brought to you by Soldiers of Light, who
> finally cleaned out the garage!").

UO actually did this. There was a "clean up Britannia" program
instituted at one point which gave players the ability to turn in
hoarded items for tickets. Get a lot of tickets, and you got a little
gift. This program was *extremely* successful at reducing backup sizes
and reducing hoarding.

> Or you can rely on standard source-and-sink incentive design, hoping
> that that will keep things balanced. But that begs the
> question. Which is, where is the gain? From what I gather, the
> hoped-for advantage of a closed system is that it keeps the wealth,
> clutter, and databases to a reasonable level.

The primary hope for it was to get rid of the problem of infinite
supply of everything. Traditionally muds rely on ongoing costs for
this, but fail to match the drains to the faucets. One of the main
reasons why seems to be the currency breakdown--the fact is, most
things in most muds are not convertible to currency in any meaningful

> But if you're capable of balancing the source and sink, then what's
> the point of a closed system, since you've acheived it's goals
> anyway?

A faucet->drain system where the faucet and drain are perfectly
matched for each possible type of asset is functionally exactly
equivalent to a closed system.

By and large, we usually manage to balance currency, but fail to
balance items well, or vice versa. Hence stuff like level limits on
objects, which are a demonstration of the failure to supply drains for
good items.

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