[MUD-Dev] DGN: MMOG Game Economies

Jaycen Rigger jaycen.rigger at sbcglobal.net
Thu Nov 24 18:26:39 New Zealand Daylight Time 2005


Great discussion, this post especially.

William Leader <leader at k2wrpg.org> wrote:

> Some examples of how things are different:

>  - Interest Rates

You don't want players to invest in your on-line world unless the
game is about investing.  Investment leads to generation of more
wealth which is exactly what we're trying to stave off.  In most
cases, you don't want to allow players to grow the economy.

>   - Mints

I know of some freeUO shards that allow minting of coin from
mined/smelted ore.  I've had the idea kicked at me a few times, but
tackling a system by which it's possible yet controlled by a game
mechanic seems to be WAY more effort than it's worth.  File that
under "interesting, but only as a mental exercise".

>   - Government - The governments often interfere with the economy
>   when appropriate. MMO's rarely have governments aside from the
>   Developer Dictator who probably has better things to do with
>   their Time. This one wipes out a huge chunk of real world
>   economics.

*raises hand* Oh! Oh!  Call on me, call on me!

I've been preaching a game mechanic for government (especially a
feudal structure supported by a Clergy system) as a way of
controlling game economics.  I'm hand-crafting it with 3 other
people on my little freeUO shard.

The entire thing must be supported by a game mechanic, or you get
what you just posted above; a dictatorship enforced through Game
Master/Dev intervention.  It's bad for a host of reasons that I
don't need to enumerate here.

Creating a governmental structure under which players may choose to
participate (or choose not to) is paramount to achieving economic
stability.  It drives inter-player relationships (quests,
friendships, partnerships, generally everything having to do with
human interaction).

Merchant player personalities and in general socialisers are well
fed and directed under this system, yet it feeds achievers and
explorers as well.  If carefully implemented, I even think you'll
find a strong positive attraction for killers where their energy can
be channeled into knights/guards where a hierarchical social
structure helps to keep their negative behavior in check.

>   - Minimum Wage - I know of no MMO that has a minimum wage
>   (although one could probably be created.)

Are you kidding me?  Everything I've seen has a minimum wage.  Most
games work on fixed pricing structures or you torque off players
because scraping pedal A does not induce food pellet B every single
time.

>   - Non-Renewable Resources - I can't think of many games were
>   players could actually run out of something. Almost everything
>   has an infinite supply even if it only trickles out over time.

I've seen and there exist many servers where there is a fixed pool
of resources.  Even where resource spawns "drain" from an area over
time and players are forced to look elsewhere for their resources
until those drain out and start to respawn in the old areas.

Players generally think this kind of thing is a cool idea until it's
implemented.  Then it sucks because the people who "like" to go and
mine ore can't go to their favorite mining spot and shoot the breeze
with their buddies.  They have to move away and find new sources of
materials.  You're also subtly discouraging player interaction by
driving them away from each other and away from "common areas" where
they can congregate and count on other players being around to chat
with.

>   - Investors

This is the same as earning interest.  There are banking systems
where the bank is regional instead of global.  I'm using that and
forcing a bond between the clergy and the banking system such that
religions that open temples in other cities can start up "branch
locations" in cities where they have a presence.  This costs gold
though...

>   - Smart Merchants - Most NPC merchants do not adjust their
>   prices you sell to a merchant the price all ways stays the
>   same. Even if the merchant has 10,000 rat tails in his inventory
>   the price never goes down.

Raph Koster has an excellent piece written on this concept and how
it was a collasal failure.

>   - Very small service and manufacturing industry - MMO's
>   typically have a small service industry, that is mostly tied up
>   with magic. Healing, Buffs, Removing curses. this compared to
>   the...

UO has huge potential for crafting.  Free servers often go crazy
creating new materials and craftables for characters to make.

>   - Huge Farming/Mining/Hunting Industry - While players don't
>   typically grow corn, they do run out and grow gold and other
>   times by running around killing stuff and picking up what the
>   kill drops. Players spend a huge amount of time collecting
>   resources, and very little time really doing anything with those
>   collections.

We've got farming.  Players can grow about 20 varieties of fruits
and veggies.  If you harvest the food, it goes through a 4 part
growing cycle (each cycle takes 20 minutes) before you can harvest
that plant again.

I've never seen players take to it that much, no more so than mining
or logging.  We even have very complex cooking procedures and
recipes that allow creation of foods that buff skills.

I suppose because many of our servers are based on "fantasy
medieval" contexts, we get more crafters.

>   - Instant Trade skills - In the real world it takes days maybe
>   weeks to create a suit of armor, but a player can conceivable do
>   it in a few dozen mouse clicks. This reduces the value that a
>   player adds to the metal when they change it into armor. Because
>   the amount of time needed is trivial, the cost of player crafted
>   items (typically stuff that far better than anything else in the
>   MMO) also becomes trivially priced. Many trade skilled players
>   spend far more time collecting ingredients then combining them.

I'd agree with all of this.  I'm also a proponent of atomistic
creation methods for players.  There's only one MMO game that I'm
aware of that actually allows players to try different combinations
of resources in their crafting to obtain different results.

I think it's in the creation of recipes that you'll see that kind of
associated value come into MMORPG's.  If a player can get his hands
on rare components and arange them in creative, yet useful ways with
more common in-game elements, he'll be able to create items that
sell far above his competitors, regardless of skill level.

> I could go on, but I think you get the point. There is a great
> deal that is different, so much of what is studied about real
> world economics just doesn't work in MMO's. The few things that
> are the same are much more related to Human Behavior. Things like
> supply and demand, perceived value, Competition, and Free markets
> all still happen, but over all they are just too different. With
> that in mind, I can't think of a better place than MUD-Dev to hash
> out how MMO Economies work.

Your second statement is dead on, of course - "...real world
economics just don't work in MMO's."

Yes, it's all about human behavior.  I think there's a strong
tendancy for developers to punish some types of behavior because
they see it as a negative impact on their systems.  Others simply
try to appease any behavior because they believe "that's what
players want, or they wouldn't do it".

I believe in rewarding players for behavior which is appropriate to
the context of the game and which advances the ideals of the game
(players hanging out together, doing things together, and sharing
experiences).  Often, I don't think players really know what they
want, or they don't understand that their desires have larger
consequences.  Mostly, I don't think they know that other options
exist.

P.S.

It occurs to me, as I read back through this post, that the free
servers are doing a lot of things the pay-for-plays aren't.  There
are obvious reasons for this - many have been hashed out here,
before.  The point is that even though some of those ideas work or
don't work, you don't see them seeping into the mainstream games.

Does it ever occur to any devs to troll through the free stuff
that's out there, or is that considered "slumming"?  It seems like
those kinds of forums are perfect for testing out ideas that aren't
feasible to test in the "real world".  You have a great untapped
resource for ideas and testing labs that don't get used....or do
they?

Just wondering.
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