Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

19 June, 2010

Faking Multiplayer Economies
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 12:33 PM

I wrote an article in two parts for the Game Design Aspect of the Month blog. This month’s theme was “Multiplayer Economies”, something I happen to know a thing or two about! :)

Anyway, go take a look at the article:

My post was intended to be an overview of the topic, not a deep analysis of how to fake an economy. I suspect most people reading this blog are already familiar with the issues I discuss. However, that blog is intended to have a wider audience beyond MMO fans and designers, so I figured a more general discussion would be useful.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments.

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  1. Something interesting about EvE’s economy: no matter how much ISK you had, there was always something more expensive to aspire to. That is, they had ships which were costed at every level of wealth. at every price point, whether you’re just starting out as a rat runner, or the big dog of a wealthy corporation.

    It is important to note though that the game itself is designed to have players at all those economic/skill levels, and not a situation of 95% all at level cap, where the only truly expensive items on the AH are the frivolous vanity items (eg. pets at 25,000G)

    Comment by Garumoo — 19 June, 2010 @ 7:35 PM

  2. Brian, that is one of the best discussions of MMOG economics for the general gamer I’ve ever read. Very nicely done.

    I’ve written a little about game economics, and it’s just too easy to dip into esoterica (stuff like cost-push inflation versus demand-pull inflation) that instantly drive away readers. It’s really refreshing to see writing on this subject that effectively communicates the important basics without ever talking down to the reader.

    One question I have is whether a little bit of inflation really is preferable to a little bit of deflation. I haven’t operated a game, but it seems to me that you might want prices to decline slightly over time in order to combat mudflation, where high-level items trickle down to lower-level players. (Minor deflation would be a dynamic solution, as opposed to the quick-fix approach of imposing arbitrary no-drop/no-trade/bind-on-equip rules.)

    If not, what have you found?

    Comment by Bart Stewart — 21 June, 2010 @ 11:53 AM

  3. Player Auctions As Money Sinks

    [...] Brian “Psychochild” Green, of Meridian 59 fame, wrote two posts on the basics of an MMORPG in-game economy for the blog Game Design Aspect of the Month. I don’t [...]

    Pingback by Fortuente — 22 June, 2010 @ 12:27 PM

  4. Brian, that is one of the best discussions of MMOG economics for the general gamer I’ve ever read. Very nicely done.

    Thanks, Bart. :)

    One question I have is whether a little bit of inflation really is preferable to a little bit of deflation.

    In general, I think not. As I posted, people want the feeling that they’re gaining in power/influence, so increasing amounts of money are the best from that point of view. Deflationary pressures might keep prices for items higher, but the slowly reducing pool of money means that people will feel like they have less money. Especially if your NPC prices don’t adjust, it can be rather unfun for players; like watching your savings evaporate. I suspect that most of the players that wanted to stick around would work to gain more money through the system, creating inflation anyway.

    …where high-level items trickle down to lower-level players.

    That’s one aspect of the economy I didn’t go into detail about, the items. Having major items able to be passed to other players is definitely something to take into consideration in how the economy is working, but can be hard to track.

    Most of the time you’re going to have the items created by the system (as part of a faucet) and then passed between players. Most of the time you’ll want to “tax” the transactions, usually by making the item wear out over time; that’s how M59 and DDO handle it.

    Anyone else have any thoughts?

    Comment by Psychochild — 22 June, 2010 @ 11:40 PM

  5. Just a very quick follow-up on using item decay as a way to keep a game from filling up over time with items.

    In the various game forums I’ve visited, some of the harshest criticism has been for item decay. What I take from that is if you’re going to use this feature, it’s best to have it in the game before you even go to beta. Imposing it after launch will be almost universally perceived as “taking things away” from players, and will cause an incredible stink regardless of its technical merit.

    (That sense of entitlement, BTW, probably deserves a thread of its own….)

    Comment by Bart Stewart — 23 June, 2010 @ 10:02 AM

  6. I don’t see that as entitlement. Item decay alters the game beyond being a money sink. One thing it changes is party duration, because tanks eventually will need to repair at a quicker rate than meelee or mages. Once in town chances are people will call it a night. Also if a tank needs to spend his own money, he’s going to be much more demanding on the others, and more likely to blow off underperforming parties due to cost.

    That also means you need to make towns and armor repairers much closer, or force players to carry multiple armor sets due to weardown. Plus, you have to look at the current armor and weapons. If people are paying millions in gold to own top weapons, making them degrade and even break is going to make them less useful over common, cheaper alternatives. There’s plenty of legit reasons not to like the change, it isn’t just irrational selfishness.

    I think a better way is instead to upgrade weapons through money sinks. Enable people to boost their weapons through vendor items, and that will take a lot of money out of the economy while having less overall impact. Since its pegged to vendor prices, it can be adjusted once enough money is removed so it wont be a burden.

    Comment by Dblade — 26 June, 2010 @ 2:06 PM

  7. Dblade wrote:
    Item decay alters the game beyond being a money sink.

    Depends on the game design. If you added item decay to WoW, you’d be right. But, take Meridian 59 as an example as a game with item decay. Most weapons were commodities, so if your weapon got low you’d often find another one dropped by the monsters you were fighting. One school of magic had a spell that would allow you to repair a weapon, but it would take a bit off the maximum durability. It was more of a resource to manage than a thing that disrupted gameplay, about on part with running low on mana. Where this got interesting was with the small fraction of weapons that weren’t commodities: weapons that had special abilities against opponents. These were still prized, highly sought after, and still sold for a lot of in-game currency in M59.

    Careful about your assumptions!

    Comment by Psychochild — 26 June, 2010 @ 11:52 PM

  8. As far as balance of when tanks vs other types of people need to return to town, if you know this could be a problem before hand couldn’t you handle that as well with a similar mechanic? Reagents for magic users and weapon decay for physical dps? Item Decay also allows for another way for an item to be special, it could decay slower or have greater durability then other similar items.

    Comment by Anthony Thomas — 28 June, 2010 @ 9:53 AM

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