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Towards more realistic MMO economics

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Wheylous Posted: Thu, Jun 21 2012 3:32 AM

 

I just realized that a lot of games perpetuate economic illiteracy - we're given a price level that doesn't really change. There's no market for goods. Of course, in RPGs you can't really have such a thing because you're only one player, but MMOs could implement markets. I know WoW does to some extent. But I guess implementing markets would mess up the whole NPC idea. Furthermore, if all NPCs showed the same market, then there is perfect knowledge which is unrealistic. How could it be solved?

 

What if players sell their goods to specific stores which have inventories not automatically replenished by the game? As in Bob (NPC - non-player character) owns a store but he doesn't get a daily shipment of free goods from the server but only buys goods from players.

What I'm trying to recreate here (while still retaining NPCs, which is a problem) is the price system in the market.

The problem is that you need to recreate in NPCs some life-like consumption preferences and forecasting abilities.

So, how do markets work? I plan to do a short write-up that will hopefully help to create a better theory of game NPCs. In the meantime, post what you think would be relevant to recreating markets in MMOs! I would like to retain the NPC dynamic, but I guess I might be willing to consider an MMO with no NPC stores.

 

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Why do you even need NPCs?

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This obviously isn't perfect, but it's at least it's a sign of trying:

In the Age of Empires series, prices on the goods at the market would go up or down as you bought or sold them.  I.e., the more of an item you sold, the lower the price would get, the more of an item you bought, the higher it would go.

 

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Wheylous replied on Thu, Jun 21 2012 3:53 AM

Pros:

- They're always there

- They make the game more story-like

- They have consistent characteristics to which you grow accustomed

Cons:

- They don't have markets

- Not much innovation

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The natural environment (as well as non-market effecting NPCs) can achieve all those things.  Part of the game could be having the option of building up those aspects of commerce that NPCs are usually there for.

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Eve Online has a pretty good market system.

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Also remember that in games where you can trade with other players (and especially where players can craft items), the NPCs receive stiff competition from them, and so it may be the case that most players don't buy/sell to NPCs because they can get better deals from other players (people might still deal with NPCs for special items or where transaction costs are too high).  The whole point of an MMO is a high level of interaction with other players, after all.

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Wheylous replied on Thu, Jun 21 2012 5:17 AM

proxyamenra, can you describe it?

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Nearly everything is produced by players either by mining->refining->production or killing npcs. What follows is that nearly everything you buy is put to market by other players. Space stations have their own market. Prices fluctuate between regions. People even haul goods from one region to another to make a profit from reselling. Essentially an almost "free" market.

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I think one think that we have to remember is the issue of non-scarcity in MMO's.  Enemies, mining nodes, etc. all respawn, and with gold, there is a potential for an infinite supply.  Developers overcome this by setting up money sinks to pull gold out of the market, which they acheive by selling items only available through NPC's.  

True scarcity could be implemented into the game, but then it wouldn't be fun.

they said we would have an unfair fun advantage

"enough about human rights. what about whale rights?" -moondog
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lazarus351 replied on Thu, Jun 21 2012 10:05 AM

I think to find a balance of keeping NPC's in the game, yet enabling a more realistic market system is difficult. However, what I would suggest is that NPC's no longer spawn goods to sell or buy goods from players. Instead, each vendor that you can visit in the game essentially becomes a listing house, or market place for that type of good. Any player can go to said vendor and list their items of that type for whatever price they would like. When another player comes to purchase items, they will have a variety of  "sellers" to choose from. This should have a market effect on prices.

To list your items with that vendor you would have to pay a percentage of the sale price for the convience of listing it with the NPC vendor. To decrease traffic in those areas, and have an even more open market, it could be possible to "hire" an NPC vendor yourself for X gold per day (this would likely have to be a high price). You could place this vendor in designated areas, or at your home if the game allows housing. You could then sell your items there, or a mechanic can be built into the game where if another player visits your vendor, they can buy a contract from you (you set the price) that will allow them to list their items at your vendor, instead of the NPC vendor. Contract cost, and area of vendor will be part of the players decisions whether to buy a contract for the player vendor, or with the NPC one.

I think this works best in a game world where very little if any complete consumer goods fall as loot and all tradeable items in the game are crafted by players, and the natural reasources to make them can be gathered. This would include magic items. Ingredients for these items and gold would be the loot you recieved from hunting. One would sell these to crafters, who would turn them into useable goods, or they could use them for their own crafter to create the goods. These goods could then be used, traded, or sold on the market.

 

As old and outdated as it is, Ultima Online has a number of these components, but enough discrepencies to detract from a real market economy. Even with this, you would likely still need a "gold sink" from time to time. Im also sure there is much more you could do to set up a more realistic economy, but I think this would be a great start!

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Wheylous replied on Thu, Jun 21 2012 10:22 AM

You created a user just to post this? I mean, thanks, but I wonder what your incentive is.

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lazarus351 replied on Thu, Jun 21 2012 10:28 AM

Heh, I've lurked on the boards for some time, mostly to try to learn. I haven't really felt like I had enough knoweldge to positively contribute to the posts, certainly not more than several of the usual commenters. Here I had a little bit of free time and felt I could bring something to this topic.

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I think one think that we have to remember is the issue of non-scarcity in MMO's.  Enemies, mining nodes, etc. all respawn, and with gold, there is a potential for an infinite supply.  Developers overcome this by setting up money sinks to pull gold out of the market, which they acheive by selling items only available through NPC's.  

True scarcity could be implemented into the game, but then it wouldn't be fun.

Time is still scarce.

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mustang19 replied on Thu, Jun 21 2012 9:00 PM

Realistic MMO economics would involve private roads and infrastructure so you're paying a toll each time you get out the door and step onto the sidewalk. What we have now in MMOs is total socialism with government provisioned roads and healthcare revives.

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I used to think that trolls in fantasy games were NPCs.  Now I realise that they were actually avatars of troll19.

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Jargon replied on Thu, Jun 21 2012 9:52 PM

Stop feeding the troll Aristippus...

Land & Liberty

The Anarch is to the Anarchist what the Monarch is to the Monarchist. -Ernst Jünger

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Aristippus replied on Thu, Jun 21 2012 10:08 PM

I don't think he was ever in danger of going hungry.  He knows he's a joke on here, so we might as well laugh.

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mustang19 replied on Fri, Jun 22 2012 12:43 AM

I don't think he was ever in danger of going hungry.  He knows he's a joke on here, so we might as well laugh.

You've lost about every argument you've had with me. Go ahead.

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You've lost about every argument you've had with me

The comedy continues! 'About every' implies that you admit that there is at least one argument that I've won against you.  Now since I've only ever had one argument with you, that must be it.  Therefore, by your own admission, I have won all of them.

Anyway, to get back on topic - apparently Star Wars Galaxies had a market based economy.  Can anyone who's played it comment on this?

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mustang19 replied on Fri, Jun 22 2012 1:41 AM

The comedy continues! 'About every' implies that you admit that there is at least one argument that I've won against you.

Was there only one? I've lost track of all the points I shot down.

If you want to know how SWG galaxies went after one guy monopolized it, you can read his blog.

http://www.mediumdifficulty.com/2012/03/06/how-i-helped-destroy-star-wars-galaxies/

The game always had a lot of problems with money sinks, too, and didn't seem to be very well playtested. I'm surprised no one has found a way to tank World of Warcraft or something yet.

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Interesting.  There's also miniconomy, which unfortunately looks to have a statist backdrop: http://www.miniconomy.com/en/explanation.php?short=1

I'm not sure to what extent it is a free market in practice though. I'll have to check it out.

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mustang19 replied on Fri, Jun 22 2012 3:24 AM

Have you heard of Viritnomics?

http://virtonomics.com/

Again, no private roads or anything, but it's an entrepreneurial browser game.

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I think it would be a good thesis or a study at least: The study of online markets in virtual environments.

I don't usually purchase games but recently I purchased Diablo 3 because I played the original two games when I was a youngster and had some nostalgia value to it. They have an online market and I have found it interesting to watch its development. If you ignore the existence of so called Gold farming bots. The actual basis of the economy is Time for gold or real money. To get the best items in the game you have to play the game for a long time. The better you are at the game the less time it takes for you to get the good items. You can then sell those good items for real money or for more gold in the game. Gold in the game can also be sold for real money. The gold for money rate is set by the market. The creators blizzard benefit from the high fees.

Here is an interview with a gold farmer. The motive behind the so called asian gold farmer in having the interview was that he feared there was too many gold farmers and this was reducing the value of his gold.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NUQTATy5dc

People have been selling items for $100s and some people have made $1000s. But I don't know how much time they had to put in or what sort of return on their time they are getting.

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