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

Koster Koster
Wed Dec 12 09:22:07 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Daniel.Harman at barclayscapital.com
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Koster, Raph [mailto:rkoster at soe.sony.com]
>>> -----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.

> Wow, I'm surprised that those who have commented are against this
> concept.  How do you feel they distort it,

I think my other email covered this topic...

> and would they still do so if they knew the value of items?

Well, first you have to ask how they know the value of items. The
only decent answer is "by looking at the player-player trades." If
they use the average price of all player-player trades for a given
item type, quality, condition, etc, then presumably the merchants
will be nice and middle of the road. You could add some random
factors too, so that not all merchants are exactly the same.

The subsidy effect (the "entertaining part" of NPC shopkeepers) is
lost, though. After all, guaranteed markets for useless goods and
decent feedback for gathering said goods are why the NPC shopkeepers
add entertainment. And you just removed that by having them turn
away customers when they have sufficient supply already or if the
item is ot in demand among players. On top of that, if the
player-player trades aren't happening at all because the item isn't
intrinsically worthwhile to players, then what data are you using?

> When npcs don't partake I don't see any way to support
> localisation of economic state (at least without severely limiting
> in game travel) so by removing npcs you are killing that whole
> avenue of exploration as the only economic participants are highly
> mobile players.

If you don't have difficulty in traveling for those who move goods
around, you're not going to have localization of economic state,

> You certainly aren't going to be modelling a trade opportunity in
> lesser kysk if you can't import berry wine from foreign climbs.

If there are no foreign climes because travel is easy, then everyone
will do it constantly, levelling away any differences. :) I don't
see any way around the fact that if you want caravans, travel has to
be difficult and carry a risk of economic loss. Then you have to
localize, as you say, production of particular goods.

Now, if what you're talking about the Elite-style model where you
have distinct locations each with a produced good or two and an
artificial shortage or two, sure, you can do that. Just remember
that the game in Elite and its ilk was making it through the space
sector without getting blown up.

> In fact players only tend to value items they can get direct
> utility from, which whilst pragmatic, makes for a pretty
> uninteresting trading game.  I don't want the economy to be
> selling farmed magic_sword_of_flaming_uberness to gimp_y, I want
> people to be able to set up trade routes and hire caravans.

To me the answer is to make all the items provide direct utility of
some sort. Don't have useless goods in your game and then ascribe
inflated values to them. You want berry wine to have value. You have
two choices. 1) make it actually valuable or 2) subsidize, even if
only locally. The Elite model is built on localized subsidies.

> Furthermore, if npcs don't partake, you are harming the liquidity
> of the economy. People play these games for fun, and with limited
> time to play there are very few people who want to spend most of
> that trading.

It's worse than that--people who can actually turn a profit at the
merchanting are rare because it does demand a real-life skill. So
you run the risk of having a lot of people who dabble in a playstyle
and do not get the monetary feedback of success, and thus do not
have fun.

The answers there, to my mind: provide other forms of feedback (#
items sold) and downplay thge money losses. After all, players
losing money is good for our game economies. ;)

> Sure, you can go the automated vendor route, but in isolation that
> has the potential to add ridiculous volatility to the economy as
> players sell gear at way below market value because its now *too
> easy* to partake in the economy.

Pshaw--the traditional alternative is that they drop the item on the
ground, give it to a newbie, or leave it in the donation room. Talk
about volatile.  ;)

Seriously, though--I have not seen such volatility develop in UO,
and it's been running with a vendor-driven economy for years now.

> NPCs partaking act a a damper on this behaviour. Whether or not my
> thinking on this volatility is accurate is hard to prove, although
> I think we will have a good example when EQ implements this
> feature soon. There is a lot of gear in people's banks, and its
> going to be dumped into the economy when they add the automated
> player vendors. I contend that non-active traders will have a huge
> negative impact on people who like to trade, because they
> outnumber them and will sell too cheaply.

EQ is a very bad example because goods do not flow out of the game
except when corpse recovery fails. The player-player trading in EQ
is purely dependent on players advancing and having need for
higher-level items.

> The best thing about npcs partaking is that they are deflationary,
> if they are taking a 20% margin, thats money coming out of the
> economy. Furthermore, you have a self correcting economy - if you
> accidently patch in an item thats easily farmed and initially
> worth way too much, its not going to stay that way for long as the
> vendors wise up.

The problem is the expectation management. Your game has then been
set up in such a manner that players expect that item to be worth
something, and will base their whole playstyle around harvesting
it. If you do not persuade them that hours of playing for zero
reward is fun, they will put a pox on both your houses and stomp
off. I've been there--UO's NPCs tracked demand for goods, adjusted
prices accordingly, refused to buy stuff when there was no demand,
they could run out of money (though we replenished them
artificially), etc. Players were actively pissed off because they
had created a glut of *everything* obtainable from spawns or
crafting. And the entire market fell into depression because there
was a surfeit of goods nobody wanted.

> Surely an evolved economy is based on the trade orientated players
> making money from higher volume lower margin trades, with less
> active traders trading less and earning less.

High volume low margin means ongoing consumption of small
goods. Typical stuff like this in the real world is consumables,
things that spoil, small breakable commodities, etc. Mud economies
have almost none of these things (spell components is one example,
arrows another, if you track them).

Again, a lot of it boils down to having amore balanced and realistic
item suite, where all items have reasonable uses and there is an
ongoing need for just about all of them.

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