Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Injecting money in MMO

Most MMOs are using quests to push money into the world. As already stated before, there won't be quests in the game, at least not at first and surely no "kill 10 rats" quests. Whatever if it's good or not for some reason, that's not something I want.

I also don't want a system that could be used to get a player rich without any players' interaction. So what I'm looking for is a system that would just start the economy and help new players to get started.

So far, the main idea that keeps coming back to me is the "gold buyer NPC". Have some NPCs around the world that would pay a small amount to players for gold they mined. Even if the money given to players is ridiculously low, the obvious problem is that some players will still go through the process of grinding gold.

Gold is acquired by mining rocks that respawns after a "randomish" number of minutes that can be adjusted. When a rock is mined, a roll is made against a loot table to see if something has been found and what have been found. So while gold could be made hard to get, I'm under the impression it's still prone to abuse, without saying that it would somehow miss the point of helping new players to "easily" get started.

A maximum amount of gold that can be turned per day (or week) per character could be set but since registration is free, it's pointless. Players can just create a new character, get gold, get money and then tip it back to their main character. Mechanics to prevent more than 1 character per IP or such is out of question here. Not reliable enough and problematic for players playing from the same network.

I guess that in the following days I'll be looking at other games to see how they handle such matters. My feeling though is that the most reliable way is to put the players in situations where they have to spend at least X time so that money given is limited by the time spent playing and not by some formula or system.

If anyone can point me to some originals ways to inject money into the world, let me know. I'd also be interested to hear your ideas/suggestions.


Over00 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Over00 said...

Just found this on the same subject:

Poo Bear said...

Should mining provide a time limited low level income only? Shouldn't the focus be more on fighting? Maybe mining is something low level players can do to get an easy low level income, but as you level up it just becomes pointless. Maybe high level mining is attractive not for raw gold, but for the chance of recovering rare resources that are perhaps essential in top level equipment crafting. Rare ore would only be available in very dangerous mines and could only be mined by high level miners. The cost of surviving such a mine could be very great, both in time and equipment.

Doesn't WoW just tie enemy kill rewards to player level? So a level1 character has to put in Xmins of fighting to get Y gold from a level1 enemy. As the player levels up the reward from what are becoming easy kills goes down. So it's difficult to farm money off low level monsters and you're encouraged to move on through the game. Add to that equipment that wears out completely eventually and needs regular repair. Then make sure you need better expensive equipment to fight harder monsters. End result is a regulated income that is time consuming to exploit and equipment acts as a nice drain on player wealth.

Downside is you have to make a lot of different enemies to keep people engaged. It could be a good low level introduction to the game that is soon replaced with some meta game driven by the players. Realm vs Realm combat in DAOC for example, lets people fight and scheme forever in theory and the same mechanics of high level equipment wear and tear would keep players needing money and keep a drain on their wealth.

To link high and low level players you could have high level weapons/spells require ingredients that are time consuming to gather. High level players would pay low level players to get them.

Sorry if I'm completely off track here.

Micha said...

There was a chapter in the My Tiny Life book (by Julian Dibbell) where he talked about how in some games the gold ended up being worthless because it came FROM the system and was then returned TO the system. The natural release of "free" money (which is what a gold-buying bot essentially is) adds a bit of inflation in a way. It doesn't really encourage player-player trades.

He mentioned that in a few games the general currency used for purchases between players ended up being not gold but rare equipment/items. I remember Diablo II had those Stone of Jordan rings for a while that were the general currency online. They weren't super useful to very high-level characters, but they were just rare enough to be effective.

(Just noticed that Julian Dibbell has an entire book/blog dedicated to online money.)

Also I like poo bear's young characters trading up to older ones. (I think we had all talked about something like that in a past thread somewhere too.) The biggest downside I see is that if the influx of new players decreases, it will shake the entire economic foundation of the system. (Just like the real world!)

Over00 said...

Should mining provide a time limited low level income only? Shouldn't the focus be more on fighting?

The way the game is currently targeted is that there won't really have "system VS player" or traditional PvE. It won't be traditional PvP either (at least not for first version or maybe in a limited form). It looks more like the Realm VS Realm idea.

To be more clear, the PvE content will be provided by the players. The monsters in the world will come from players crafting. So there won't really have money drops from PvE (but there will still have loot).

However, the idea of dangerous mines might be a way to push money into the world while making sure inflation isn't too bad.

Or maybe that it's the notion of gold that is out of place here. In fact, since everything comes from players' crafting, there is almost no need for gold. The only system that needs gold is really just the "players' merchants" system that allows asynchronous trading. The only things the game will be selling itself are NPCs that can be used as merchants.

Even that could be handled by skills just like in SWG. You gain a number of merchants by the skills you train and those merchants cost you nothing (besides for maintenance I think).

Gold is only there to help the "players' merchants" system running. Without this system, everything would be traded by barter. So maybe gold could simply be removed and a new way to handle barter with NPCs merchants could be found.

I have no idea yet how to deal with this though. What do you think?

Micha said...

How about replacing gold with "value". This value wouldn't be an actual semi-tangible item like gold, but a stat on items. (But will otherwise function just like gold.) If the player wants something from an NPC merchant, he barters something of equal or greater value.

Eh, it's effective, but it seems like it just complicates more than it simplifies. If gold is banished or made difficult to use, eventually players will find something else to takes its place as a common currency.

Over00 said...

yeah, after having done some reading around about mmo economy, that's probably just what would happen so the problem wouldn't be solved.

A combination of NPCs buying crafted items at prices adjusted by stats in logs with money sink in the form of rare/unique esthetic only items (think trophy, paintings, ...) sold by NPCs could do the trick.

I read somewhere that to get an MMO economy right was impossible but it was essential to not get it wrong.

So I guess there's no need to get things overcomplicated both to be able to release one day and to be able to easily handle it once released.

Capt. N'Joh Sonik said...

I LIKE killing 10 rats...for pieces of eight...or something :\

Over00 said...

If I find a rat sprite, I promise I'll add the 10 rats ;)

Rusty said...

Hi over00,

It sounds like you have an interesting problem here. Remember that the reason any sort of money exists in the first place is to facilitate barter. As an example:

Player A produces Oranges and wants Apples.

Player B produces Apples and wants Bananas.

Player C produces Bananas and wants Oranges.

No player directly produces what another player wants. In order for exchange to work, multiple trades so that the right people have the right goods are necessary. Money gives the players a commonly accepted good on which the value of these goods are based. It makes it possible for exchanges to work without unnecessary steps.

I'd have to look a little closer at your specific issues to give you any better response. Needless to say, if you're trying to find a way to regulate the economy of your mini-MMO, then good for you! Too many mainstream MMORPGs allow a semi-free economy without any natural checks and balances. It's been a while since I looked at the subject, so let me brush up on my MMO economics and I'll try to get you a more articulated response!


Over00 said...

Hi Rusy,

What I did to currently "handle" this (it has yet to be really tested since I'm still in last phase of alpha), is that I added an NPC name "Export merchant".

The export merchant will buy pretty much anything from players (he might just buy crafted items, we'll see).

The price he's buying items comes from 2 sources. First, a fixed amount (probably low) per item I'm setting to get things started when there's no data. Once the economy is rolling (players selling things through merchants AND selling to the same export merchant), the export merchant will buy items for half the average price of the market of the last 2 weeks. If the price is too low, the export merchant just won't buy a given item.

This do create some form of "infinite money" but it will never give as much money as selling the same item to another player. So the system is mostly appealing to new players that can't yet afford to set up a shop or are having a hard time to do synchronous trading. In the end, the "real" trader will probably become richer than the player selling only to the export merchant.

This system will need some tweaking I'm sure. More limits could be set like a player can only sell X items per day/week to the export merchant or the export merchant have only a given amount of gold to spend each day.

I also like the concept that while the item "vanished", the name used gives a feel that items sold to the export merchant are actually exported to another continent or country.

Anyway, economy is hard to handle but in a game with no real loot popping from nowhere and no quests, I think a controlled buying system could do a good job if kept tight.

I'll be happy to read your thoughts on the subject. Like I said, this is the first version the system and it might as well not look the same once I reach release. The more feedback I get, the more I can make up my mind on what it will look in the end.