[MUD-Dev] DGN: MMOG Game Economies

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Thu Nov 10 05:17:17 New Zealand Daylight Time 2005


William Leader writes:
> John Buehler wrote:

>> It would be an interesting experiment to see how economies adjust
>> to actions traditionally performed by developers that changes the
>> worth of various items and services to the players; new objects
>> and skills supplanting or competing with existing objects and
>> skills.  Introduce houses, and suddenly snakes are dropping 100
>> gold pieces.  Why?  A huge base of value has been introduce into
>> the ecoonomy.  Logic would dictate that money would have to be
>> injected in order to maintain a status quo.

> The way I see it the change wouldn't be so drastic. To start with,
> if you are a developer that is going to add some new feature to
> the game you would already have and idea of what similar things
> are priced at, so by setting the introductory price of the new
> item to something sane, then the effect should be minimal even if
> the new item is widely prefered over the old. For example lets say
> you have a weapon that has a defense bonus, and with an expansion
> you add a weapon with similar properties only it has an offense
> bonus, the initial price of the new item is set to equal the price
> of the old item. As the game progresses, players find that they
> prefer the new item so its price increases, meanwhile the price of
> the alternative item decreases. Since all of these item prices are
> averaged to measure price changes, the net effect is minimal.

Agreed.  Supplanting one item by another should work reasonably
well.

> But lets consider the idea of adding something huge like a house,
> that has no existing equivelent. Lets also say that the initial
> price for something like this is out of reach of most players. To
> buy a house they start saving lots and lots of cash. In doing so
> they are now willing to spend less on other items so their prices
> go down. Over a few cycles while players are saving the index goes
> down, and snakes could start dropping vastly larger amounts of
> cash than before, but only if all the average prices start
> dropping wildly. which I don't expect them to drop so fast. It
> takes a certain amount of time before people consider determining
> new prices for things. But lets say that after a sudden change
> there was a hiccup in the economy while things swing back and
> forth a little while until they come back to normal. Is that so
> bad? Real ecconomies have speculation 'bubbles' and 'market
> corrections' and all sorts of events all the time. So long as a
> base line is maintained whats the harm is having economic events?

I can think of two points in favor of stability:

  1. Instability is not entertaining when the player is relying on
  the stability of the system.  This is true of all game systems.
  If a player's entertainment relies on being able to cross a
  bridge, yet the bridge abruptly closes due to a border dispute
  (that the player is completely uninterested in), that player's
  entertainment is now closed off.  They'll either be forced to look
  elsewhere or just log off the game.  I consider either to be a
  significant flaw in game operation.

  2. Instability is a bear to work with in simulations.  Over time,
  it produces higher quality simulations and greater understanding
  on the part of the developers, but in the meantime, instability is
  likely going to wipe out a species of flora or fauna, or bankrupt
  a city or cause a famine among NPCs.  That takes us back to point
  1, where any of those things will likely result in the inability
  of players to get to the entertainment that they were looking
  forward to.  I won't go into why I think simulations are valuable
  to the genre.

> You right in that low volume high value transactions would tend to
> have weird effects on the index. This is something that came up in
> my conversations with my Econ proffessor. Thow out outliers See:
> http://www.itl.nist.gov/div898/handbook/eda/section3/eda35h.htm. This
> is one of those needed details to make it work. Without this step
> a clever group of players who had an insight as to how the system
> works could game the system (A real concern with an open source
> project.) For example if players new that how much money they got
> was related to the trasactions they make for everyday items, then
> the could take a few dozen different items and pass them around
> between eachother a few hundred times, for $1 each time. (Or they
> could also pass around some objects for insanely large amounts of
> money too just to mess with things.) This would cause the price
> index to incorrectly move, causing money drops to change
> accordingly and generally starting to make a mess of things. So
> these numbers would have to be filtered out.

If you want the designers to be in control of any game system, I
think that NPCs need to be brought to bear, whether through
simulation or statistics.  If there is a designer-defined economy in
operation, then players gaming that economy through character
actions should be largely impossible.  If the designers control 80%
of all transactions through some NPCs simulation or statistical
model, the impact of any group of players is going to be minimal.

That flies in the face of price indexes, except that a departure
between the working price index and a separately-calculated player
price index can be flagged to the designers and accomodated to
whatever degree is desired.  Ah, so many numbers to collect and
analyze :)

>> Again, I wonder how the instantaneous adjustments, changes and
>> enhancements that developers make to their virtual worlds would
>> cause such a balanced economy to react.  I wonder too if those
>> relying on the seeming stability of an economy would be
>> particularly burned by sudden changes by developers.

> Sure some people will get burned, and others will profit, but then
> how is this any different from real world economics?

This is about entertainment, not reality.  People have jumped off
tall buildings as a result of real world economic events.  I don't
think we want that legacy for our entertainment as well.

More practically, it would keep the complaints on the web down
because player expectations could be met instead of being foiled.  I
suspect that "Biffo profits, Boffo loses" is the very source of the
calls of "unfair" in the game discussion forums.

JB
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