[MUD-Dev] Economic Growth (Was: [STORY] Story and population size)

Koster Koster
Wed Dec 12 08:18:57 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001

> -----Original Message-----
> From: John Buehler
> Koster, Raph writes:
>>> -----Original Message-----
>>> From: Daniel.Harman at barclayscapital.com
>>> The next evolution in economies will require server based
>>> categorisation and valuation of all items. We need the npcs to
>>> compete in the economy on the same terms as the players, for
>>> this to work, they need to know supply+demand+value.
>> Wow, I thoroughly disagree. The next evolution in economies will
>> involve getting the NPCs out of the loop, as they just distort
>> it.

> They distort it in entertaining ways, however.  That is, of
> course, the goal of the content of any entertainment experience.

Well, I'd say *some* of the ways they distort it are *sometimes*
entertaining. For example, much of the entertainment value in Diablo
II comes from going to the shops, and playing "inventory Tetris,"
sorting out which items to keep and which to tell, which to repair
and which to use a gem on, etc. But Diablo never pretends to be
anything other than a huge Monty Haul game, and the mechanic they
use has been shown to not work all that well in muds; if you had as
open an item spigot as Diablo II does in your mud, you'd find the
game overrun and dead in short order.

In a mud, NPCs *competing* in the economy hasn't been shown to be
very fun thus far. In most games, every NPC that buys goods from
players is essentially a game-supplied subsidy on that type of good,
inflating its value when in fact it may be completedly useless. As
if the game were "gather Hula Hoops from the dungeon and come sell
them to me, I am a ready buyer." Normally, there'd be zero value to
Hula Hoops except perhaps as collectibles (and if they are in such
ready supply, probably not even that).  Since the game is based on
collecting Hula Hoops, there's no doubt that the NPCs add the
feedback loop necessary to make the be fun at all.

Now imagine that same game where the NPCs "compete." Now they're
going to say, "well, I have enough Hula Hoops." Or the price of Hula
Hoops will fall through the floor (as it rightly should). Or worse,
they maintain their desire to obtain Hula Hoops, and start
outbidding one another for this valueless good, sending the price of
Hula Hoops into the stratosphere.  Basically, my thesis is that as
soon as you make the NPCs have to have any brains whatsoever, you
also have to remove the subsidies. And the fun factor implied by
always having a market for whatever it is they had you gather will
go away.

Now you're at the point where instead, you have to have "real" value
for the goods gathered. And that means, they have to be useful to
other players so that there is actual demand. You can't make them
useful to NPCs unless the NPCs engage in the same activities as the
players, even if only on a simulated basis. And you probably don't
want to do that ("let's see, we have 200 shopkeepers who are
adventurers, so we want to keep 50% of all spawns empty at all times
to reflect their activities...") Very quickly the task of making
them reasonable equivalents to players grows out of hand; there's an
impressive amount of variables to worry about, and writing a decent
AI to juggle them *and preserve the fun* isn't trivial.

The easier solution is to remove them as participants as much as
possible, should your mud have the scale to do so. Remove the
subsidies and rely on the player-player market to set prices. Be
sure you have ongoing costs so that items expire and there is an
ongoing demand. In most mud economies, this is what I've seen happen
anyway, as the game matures and players stop using the shopkeepers
and come to prefer to trade amongst themselves for the truly
valuable items. Am I wrong in my impression that Hula Hoop gathering
turns into a newbie activity on most muds?

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