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Game Economics


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Economics in games is something that fascinates me, including how much some game developers pay attention to it (EVE Online, Darkfall, Wurm Online) whilst others disregard it. I am trying to create a PHP game which has a strong element of economy, which will hopefully tie in with the military and political module I will create for it. Here are just some thoughts about in-game economy which I take into account when designing my game and maybe we can have a good discussion about it:

Resource sources & sinks:

Quite simply, if too much of a resource is being generated in a virtual world without there being anything to consume it, its value drops. If you have a game where every time you kill a sheep, it drops 3 coins of currency, then over time loads of currency is being easily pumped into the game and all your players are earning money, that currency is now no longer hard to earn, and where a chainmail helm would cost 300 coins it might as well sell for 3000. As a game dev, you could counteract this by making things cost more, such as travelling, skill training, levelling up etc etc, and by doing that you are adding function to that currency and giving it more value. This doesn't apply to currency only, but any resource really.

Currency:

The main function of currency is to have a medium where resources can be exchanged easily. An economy without currency would be a barter system, whereby if I was a farmer and I wanted a shovel, I would probably have to get a sack of grain, trade it in for a shovel, or if not, trade it in for some wood and iron and probably craft a shovel myself. Now this may sound like a bad thing in real life, but perhaps in your game you want there to be a barter system, that way you encourage players to be more reliant on your crafting system and develop a broader range of skills to make them more self-sufficient. If my history is correct, some areas of Northern Europe during the Dark Ages had a lack of precious metals, trade had collapsed and so society became dependent on sustenance through farming and mining and crafting; land had more value as a result, and so land grabbing happened more often. Whilst in the Middle East and Byzantine Empire, trade was still strong and so urban and sophisticated lifestyle could carry on.

Trivial Resources:

Some games seem to have this problem where they assign no distinct use to a resource, as a result it has little value, and the reward of conquering a country/player which has that resource is little. Supremacy1914 is an example where the resources are fairly balanced. In this game, all provinces have an energy requirement and that can be fulfilled by either coal, oil or gas. Coal can power railroads, oil can fuel tanks, but natural gas has no particular use. The demand for gas is then low, but the need to build industry and other resource boosters in natural gas-producing provinces is also low. As a result you'll find players selling their gas reserves at a similar price to oil and coal, but then never restocking them, making you wonder whether that resource is just trivial and not actually needed?

Free Market vs Fixed Pricing

Some games, mainly MMORPGs, have NPC vendors where resources or items are sold at fixed prices (or maybe proportional to your level/skill) and don't actually respond to economic demand. This has the problem of meaning the world's money sinks will remain quite constant and not adapt to any change in the money sources. In the sandbox world, like EVE Online, players dictate prices and are free to produce, trade and invest in resources or items in order to make money.

Perhaps in your game you could follow a similar model; lets say in your game, iron is used to make weapons and armour. The net amount of iron consumed has increased over time, but the net amount of production of iron has dropped or stayed the same, or the big iron producers are stockpiling their iron or whatever. As a result, demand has increased and supply stayed constant, so the price in iron should increase. This would only happen if the iron producers recognise there is a growth in demand and can bump up their prices. If they do, those players who consume iron will have an increase in their costs, would have to compensate by selling other resources they have, or even better, go to war and grab some iron. This way you are using the economy as a driving force for certain modules of your game. As a dev, you can improve this process by giving your players trends and statistics to improve the chances of your players recognising where there are shortfalls or abundances in certain resources and items etc.

What do you all think?

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To give my view on economics within games.

It is as you say important to have a means of converting currency into usable elements within the game.

A currency can be anything, coins, money, ore or even items.

The let down I find is that there are too many currencies within amateur games.

This might not necessarily be a let down, depending on how you manage it, but one should keep in mind that each currency used requires a lot of attention to the small details.

-toolazytowritemore-

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To give my view on economics within games.

It is as you say important to have a means of converting currency into usable elements within the game.

A currency can be anything, coins, money, ore or even items.

The let down I find is that there are too many currencies within amateur games.

This might not necessarily be a let down, depending on how you manage it, but one should keep in mind that each currency used requires a lot of attention to the small details.

-toolazytowritemore-

Yes that's true, and it ties in with what I said about trivial resources. each resource should have some sort of function or usage somewhere otherwise it has little point of being in the game. in EVE online there is a vast amount of different ores and minerals you can mine, but each has a different abundance in different regions and has a purpose in the crafting system.

With currency, is there any point in dividing up into platinum, gold, silver and bronze? Not much, unless in your game you have to mine precious metals in order to produce coins, then that's completely different.

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