[MUD-Dev] Dgn: Currency free game [was: Blog about GDC implies changes to MMORPG population]

Damien Neil damien.neil at gmail.com
Fri Jun 10 10:37:07 New Zealand Standard Time 2005


On 6/8/05, Michael Chui <blizzard36_2002 at yahoo.com> wrote:

>> How long would it take players to agree common equivalences, and
>> have characters working as dedicated minters producing "coinage"?

> A Tale In The Desert has attempted this and players began printing
> their own currency, if I recall the story correctly. Anyone have
> the details of it?

ATITD has no official in-game currency.

This has certain advantages, economy-wise.

In a game with an official in-game currency, there are generally a
large number of means of generating currency and a correspondingly
large number of points of economic failure.  Players need to find
only one method of generating currency that returns disproportionate
returns to unbalance an entire server economy.  Not having a single
currency avoids this problem.

In addition, games with a single currency are more susceptible to
inflation.  Since currency is disproportionately useful compared to
other commodities, players will tend to accumulate it in preference
to those other commodities.

Anyway, ATITD has no official currency.  It *does* contain printing
presses, which players can use to print their own in-game
currencies. A number of players and factions of players experimented
with this, to varying degrees of success.

The most successful player currency was the Trade Note or TN.  The
TN was issued by a central bank and fully backed by a basket of four
commodities.  Any player could bring 1 iron, 1 copper, 1 canvas, and
1 potash to the bank and receive a 100 TN note in return.

The TN's success, however, proved to be mostly virtual.  Traders
would list the prices of goods they wished to buy/sell in terms of
TN, but relatively few people actually carry banknotes.  Instead,
people will note that a trader is selling linen for 20TN and buying
aluminum for 40TN, and then directly trade 5 aluminum for 10 linen.

I suspect that banknotes would have been more successful if they
offered any substantial value over the goods they represented.  For
example, if the game offered automatic player-run vendors that would
buy and sell goods in exchange for currency, there would be a need
for banknotes.  Since ATITD does not have any automated vendor
system (by intention), this does not apply.

ATITD is sufficiently unlike other MMORPGs that I'm not certain what
general lessons can be drawn from its use of currency.  I'm inclined
to classify its approach as a failure, due to the lack of use of
in-game banknotes by the players.  However, I do feel that this was
due more to the lack of in-game utility of banknotes (as I mentioned
above) than to any fundamental flaw in the concept of player-managed
currencies.
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