[MUD-Dev] Managing MUD economy

Sasha Hart Sasha.Hart at directory.reed.edu
Thu Dec 13 01:24:57 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001


Bryan "Cyngon" Helmkamp <cyngon at planettribes.com> wrote:

> I have also heard things like an immortal must participate in the
> economy to gain money to spend on making equipment.  Am I
> misinterpreting that idea?

I remember that vividly. One nice feature is that the imm pays for
monty hauls, which hopefully pushes them down. Of course, you had
better not get on your imms for not providing monty hauls, either.
I assumed that this was blue-sky and not something anyone had done
(yet). My guess is that it would chafe pretty hard for most imms who
have experience with other systems. It might work better to provide
incentives for higher-level players to provide "good" quests
(probably evaluated by those participating, who are probably swayed
somewhat by equipment.) If this results in a material profit which
exceeds what the higher level player could otherwise make, then
start worrying.

Suggest that higher level players could use this to manipulate the
state of the game in ways they couldn't do themselves, e.g. as part
of political manuevering. They literally pay the reward.  (Okay,
sorry, more impractical stuff.) If it is your staff which has to do
this they might get hacked off, while players have a stake and are
paying for a service. Of course, your quest staff might be entirely
players too...

-----

Sorry if this is still too theoretical, but I think some theoretical
issues are still necessary before you can get a nice implementation.

Part of it is that no one has really made a really good economy! 
Perhaps in the real world there isn't one which satisfies our
criteria, given what we want to see in the way of entertainment and
especially "fairness."

Since I identify myself as having a big interest in this topic, I
have made a big laundry list/outline (as I'm prone to doing for
myself.) Jump in and pick apart!

-----

Dealing with inflation, assuming that players can make cash or gear
by putting in time doing things (trade skills, fighting, anything).

I.  Reduce accrual of wealth - the brute force approach
    METHODS
    - assess costs (usually continuous consumables, like
      eq and food and rent). careful.
    - reduce dollar/time worked (reduce value).
      could also be a shift to an activity which is less
      lucrative. (but might be more fun. has anyone
      explicitly played with making the best moneymakers
      the more awful tasks? doesn't sound too horrible if
      you can have a good, healthy, reasonable amount of 
      "stuff" for what you get doing the fun activity.)
    - reduce time worked (get them offline - eek, or
      limit how much they can earn - e.g. salary or cap -
      or make having more money than you can get working 
      just a bit kind of pointless.)

    PROBLEMS
    - The sinks can be very onerous and aggravating.
      Even if there are just many small ones, we're
      "nickle and dimed to death."
      Players are sensitive to what specifically costs,
      not just how much. (I don't play rent games and
      I rarely play games which enforce a big logout wait.)
      I want sinks to be a "fair trade," not a cost on 
      playing, but on doing certain things in the game.
      Even if they happen to be core activities.
    - Prevents saving if too harsh. No saving is very bad,
      one of the big reasons we want to lick inflation!

    SOLUTIONS?
    Allow saving & prevent feeling of no prospects:
    (Players need to be able to skim a little here and there,
     have their money not shrivel in the bank, and not 
     have to constantly spend to feel OK.)  

    - Perhaps uneven application of sinks would enhance saving
      (uneven distrib of wealth/sinks on others, delayed sinks)
      Bonus of looking like changing fortune? If the bottom of 
      the "cycle" is acceptable, the top will be great.
    - Sinks which assess on others than the person getting stuff
      (Sounds unfair but may be somewhat self correcting in 
      some systems. What if the sink is assessed on your enemy?
      The enemy group? What if the sink is assessed by others
      in a distributed way, so that relatively little is taken
      away from each?)
    - Sinks which depend on skill (e.g. earning by cleverness)
      Also enhances apparent prospect if some history of winning.
      Basically the same as assess on others, others being the
      less skilled (who are maintaining the sink's value to you)
    - Uncertain sinks (e.g. earning by luck) - if don't come out
      too far ahead on average it's not really different, but
      some people can be convinced
    - Delayed sinks (e.g. loans!) - players who discount more
      (e.g. have a shorter time horizon) are paying for this one,
      but also ones taking advantage of opportunities which need
      money now not later. This is a very good idea!
    - Do make some of the sinks discretionary (this does make
      leakage in your model.) When sinks are required, you can
      make them more interesting by having players choose the
      sink or pulling some "not-really-necessary" move
      (e.g. Matt Mihaly's "You can play for free" model. grin) 

    Making sinks look OK:

    - Before you start, settle on an idea of what you want players
      to be able to do (among the things they must pay for.)
      Make sure that the full-on, sinked-out minimal and average cases
      are not too bad or you are shooting yourself in the foot.
      You have pretty decent control over the "standard of living"
      for the _player_.
    - Make some of them rewarding in nonmaterial ways,
      you know the drill (ornaments, bragging rights, uniques,
      restringing of objects etc.)
    - Framing? Maybe players will react better if they assume 
      the default is losing more than they do, or gaining less. 
      (this works on pretty decent authority, if you can get it.)

II. Reduce liquidity (hopefully sensitively to affect inflation)
    - AFAIK, this is effectively one of the big approaches actually
      used. Most transactions being conducted via money supply,
      changes in money supply are going to affect most transactions
      (unless the economy is shifted far to barter, e.g. because
      inflation in the currency is so bad!)
      Does it work this way (e.g. more or less by forcing people
      to sit on assets?)
      I don't really understand this so well, so if someone wants 
      to help/beat me up that would be great.
    - You could even set up a little central bank to give loans
      to other banks if you wanted. But then we somehow have to sit
      on the interest rate. Hmm!
    - This does naturally involve a fairly involved and used loan
      system whose application to a loot 'n' level mud i don't
      comprehend.

III. Live with it to some extent
    Do nothing.
    - Some of the below effects are acceptable in moderation, 
      or if inflation goes nuts just every now and then.
      (Like any other natural disaster.)
    - Savings will lose some worth over time.
      I think most of us are okay with hoarding getting a bit
      curbed, you know? And it's not a tax.
    - "Salaries" and fixed prices must be updated (which costs
      time/attention/etc), or salaried workers get poorer and
      shops lose money. But some price updating gives the 
      incentive to merchants who are on the ball. And this
      effect isn't so punishing if everyone has time to catch
      up.
    - It is harder to tell whether a high price means better
      demand, or just is inflation, when there's inflation. 
      Not too bad when inflation is reliable and slight.

-----

Sasha
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