[MUD-Dev] Re: Crafting Money

eric leaf ericleaf at pacbell.net
Wed Jan 1 08:24:20 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

From: "Freeman, Jeff" <jfreeman at soe.sony.com>
> From: Dave Trump

>> When I played DaoC, for example, if I found an item that wasnt
>> useful to me but might be useful to someone I knew I would keep
>> it in hopes that I could trade it for something, simply because
>> money had no value at all.  The total failure of the cash economy
>> and emergent barter economy is the cause of much unneccessary
>> hoarding.

> I rather like AC2's system where players use random loot items as
> components in crafting.  I'm not sure how the 'convert stuff to
> gold' aspect will work out, since there doesn't seem to be a great
> deal of correlation between what an item is actually 'worth' and
> how much gold you can get by converting it.

I think in that specific case the drop/loot acts as surrogate for
some real world resource, since its much simpler to juggle drop
rates than to redefine the quantity of precious metals and gems you
can mine. Compare that to UO where a lot of the craft resources you
go and get from nature. If you used nature, you could at least
support a non-combantant professional craftsman, but those natural
rates would have to scale with the number of players as most
creature spawns rates already do.

I like the idea of the "coin" being a valuable resource in of
itself, instead of a static object. Personally the world's currently
seem unrealistic in this respect, who is minting those coins anyway? 
If you can mine 2 pounds of iron, you can make 20 iron coins, which
you can buy some ale with or trade for 2 gold coins and stash them
under your bed. If you lack the coin making skill you either have to
pay 2 pounds of iron for that ale, or sell it whole for some other
commodity. I see nothing wrong with selling 2 pigs for a longsword,
or a bushel of wheat for an uncut garnet.

I think this would create a couple of dynamic effects in a world,
one is that there will be a real drive for a merchant buisness, a
farmer sells his grain and he has very little need for gold coins,
he wants farm equipment, tools and other foods (maybe
livestock). That grain goes to the baker and the pub, etc. The
merchant both buys and sells these, and redistributes them (with the
hope of profit). But if your world doesn't require eating then food
is worthless, and if equipment and tools never wear out, they are
also worthless. Most all virtual worlds base their economy on those
two things, so you'll never get a working economy. Making an active
merchant viable is a goal. And thats only viable if resources are
really resources, not infinite.

> Still, what sticks me is the one-way conversion.  In my mind, it's
> not really 'money' unless I can convert a thing into it, And
> convert it back into the thing.

> At least at the resource level, if not for more complicated items:
> If $5 worth of Resource can be converted into $5, and $5 can be
> converted into $5 worth of resource - Then players can trade the
> $5 and not trade (or hoard) the resources.

That is what money is supposed to be, but, I've yet to see a game
where that is anywhere near balanced. When sewer rats are dropping
5-20 gold coins you know your world has problems. One thing I'll
mention is that the conversion to and from is not 100% is any case,
and naturally I can make 20 arrows from a log, but I can't remake
that log from the 20 arrows.

Metal is different which is why its generally been used for money
systems (that is one where the coin has value). I would expect to
make 20 coins from 2 pounds of metal, melt down all the coins and
then make those 20 coins again. There would be some losses,
accidentally, and if unskilled, but on the whole you don't vaporize
metal, thats one of its valuable properties.  Now going from that 2
pounds to a sword is different, unless you want to have 1 sword and
3 coins pop out when you craft the sword (instead of "You are
carrying 3/20th pounds of iron.").

> It's made me think that money, "coins", could themselves be
> craftable, given the infrastructure to support this sort of 2-way
> conversion.  In a meta-sense, the 2-way conversion is already
> there: I can sell a sword for $5 and, if that's the going rate for
> a sword, then presumably I can buy a sword for $5, too.  But the
> mechanics of this are so abstracted and unreliable that it doesn't
> Feel like I can do that, even if I actually can (ignoring the NPCs
> that invariable buy swords for $1 and sell them for $50, because
> they're about as much of the economy as a trashcan).

> So I've been meaning to make some time to think about Money
> Crafting - where money is actually representative of commodities
> (because that's where money comes from), where players trade
> resources by using cash as the medium of exchange (because that's
> what cash actually represents, and because it's handier to tote
> around than 16 tons of unobtainium), and so on.

You had some of this in UO and DAOC, where you could melt down
weapons and armor, but you had an absurd loss rate, presumably to
"balance" the craft skills. So one couldn't get 50 pounds of iron
and two weeks later be a master weaponsmith. The only real problem
with this is that Sir Doofus the paladin can stand out in a field
full of grass dragons for two weeks and earn whatever those grass
dragons drop with not much "automatic" losses. For instance King
Muckity Muck doesn't tax every grass dragon loot drop, whereas King
Virtual-Metallurgy does tax every metal craft attempt. This is
grossly absurd in DAOC because you have to go and fight those grass
dragons (to get money, to buy metals) no matter what you want to do
in life, whereas in UO you can go and attack the side of a mountain
if you want ore. (So the grass dragon *is* the economy, and these
can't be balanced readily because if you reduce the drop you
dissappoint your players.)

But for the same reason that a world without need of food and
weapons that never wear out create a bogus economy, so will skilled
crafts that never decrease (or more realistically, "Master Coinsmith
Andy Coinsmith has died."). Just as food, iron and gold are
resources so is skilled labor.  (There are actually a few problems
with that last one in all games I've played.) Skill and craft is a
resource, but since they never go away you have to create an
arbitrary system to simulate it being a resource (UO did this by
limiting how much skill you could have total).

> But so far every time I try to think about it, I get stupid and
> overly complex systems budding in my brain which involve currency
> exchanges and commodities markets and so on.

> I enjoy approaching game design from the viewpoint of "Well,
> players always wind-up doing X anyway, so let's just design a game
> system around that."  So from the economy standpoint: Frequently
> an in-game currency is provided by the game system, but players
> wind-up mostly ignoring it and setting on some other form of
> (essentially player-made) currency.  I'm curious if anyone knows
> of a MUD using a system in which the currency is all
> 'player-made', so to speak (and not just accidentally, that is,
> but as-designed).

I did some design and coding on these subjects a few months back for
a personal project. The defining design goal was that everything was
player created, if it existed and didn't grow or wasn't part of the
planet (mineral resources) then a player made it. So, as happened in
our history, things like apples or iron would become currency long
before something like gold.  And far more likely that adventures
would get payment in food and housing for defending the town from
orcs, than beating down orcs and picking up their loot. Where the
only loot the orcs may have was taken from other towns (You find a
wooden rattle, and a rusty pitch fork.), they don't for instance
come equipped with studded leather and a brand new shortsword.

Another topic that I looked at was that you need local communities
with variable resources and "real" commerce. Real commerce is in
part dependant on local communities. If in 5 minutes time I can buy
50 diamonds in X territory where they are common, and sell them in Y
territory where they are rare, within an hour that resource is based
only on its global rarity, and the merchant trade just becomes a
boring shipment route, even if just 5 minutes long.  In other words,
you simply don't have local communities unless you have real
distance in your world. And you can get real distance two ways
(perferably both), either real distance, or costly travels. Spices
and silk from the orient were only really valuable because of what
it cost to actually travel there and bring them back. Nowadays its
more a question of production and labor, but thats in an industrial

If its all player created then it will be balanced by the players,
no blacksmith will live in a hamlet unless he can support his trade,
so the wandering adventurer will have to bring a spare, or hoof it
back to the nearest city and pay a local price for the sword.

There are some other issues with in-game organizations, for instance
you wouldn't see any real minting processes unless there was some
stable organization in an area. So to see minting you would need to
allow those sort of organizations and, to allow that you would have
to allow players to exert power on others (something rarely
seen). If I couldn't burn down your house and destroy your crops,
then there is no way for a despot to take over a region and evict
you. But if I can do the above, then there must be means to deter
that behavior, castles, forces for good etc. Think real political
forces in the game, with territory and country lines. A possible
scenario is that orcs have been raiding a farmer village, an
opertunistic player can decide to offer them protection for some
payment, such as 2 pigs and a horse! These is basically a simplified
adventure, of the sort you play all the time in D&D.

Anyway, interesting subject, very complex however.


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