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Old 06-01-2005, 01:02 PM   #1
prof1515
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One of the biggest problems with most MUDs is economics.  I've heard numerous people comment on the impractical and one-sided natures of most MUD economies and by my own observation, I completely agree.  They just don't function properly for a variety of reasons.  Note, that I'm primarily referring to RPI economies since there are entirely different factors in H&S MUDs.

Many MUDs simply don't create a viable economy whether through failure to understand economics or lack of effort.  It takes a lot of effort and planning, but a working economy can be achieved (especially if you've got a lot of research upon which to plan out your economy).  Still, there are problems.

Primarily, the problem that crops up is balancing the economy against PC online-times and actions.  Some MUDs increase prices of food and clothing to compensate for a lack of adequate consumption due to PC offline times.  Of course, unless the system's flexible enough to account for all degrees of PC activity, some PCs will slip through the cracks and upset the balance.

Another problem, and probably even greater than the first, is PC response to economic controls.  Some will do as much as they can to generate revenue without regard to IC environments.  Some MUDs will implement timers on crafts to prevent PCs from overuse/abuse of such methods, but there are always additional crafts that PCs then turn to.  In other words, they whittle as many wooden bowls as the code will allow and sell them, and then begin whittling toothpicks until the constraints kick in and sell them; then having exhausted the ability to sell wooden products, they fish and hunt until they've slaughtered animals on a American bison-like magnitude and sell the meat, hides, etc.  Through repeated use of this process, they amass more wealth than is IC-reasonable (even if it's not much, it's almost always more than should be earned through such means).  Additionally, PCs upset the economy by flooding it with items that there isn't demand for (which of course, the economy shouldn't welcome, and code can only go so far in countering this type of thing).

As any decision made is likely to please some players while turning off others, how does one balance an economy against these problems?  Several ideas come to mind, but each has its own pitfall.

1.  As said above, increase prices and such to compensate for PC offline time.  This has a tendency to hurt those players who participate more realistically in the economy while favoring those who find ways to simply generate unrealistic sources of revenue.

2.  Restrict avenues of attaining money.  In other words, eliminate non-guild/shop related forms of generating revenue such as hunting or individual crafting.  Of course, cottage industries are a primary source of much material in most periods, making such restrictions counter-productive to a realistic economy.

3.  Tie in the economy to a PC's online time.  In other words, the amount of time you spend offline deducts from earned wages to reflect offline expenses for food, etc.  Of course, real life must take precedence for players and this system can thus lead to problems when players simply can't be online enough to balance the deductions.  Additionally, you still have the problem of on-the-side means of making money.

4.  Heavily monitor the economy and PC activity by hand.  Of course, this requires a large staff with a lot of time to dedicate to this effort and in the end will probably not be successful simply given the difficulty of the endeavor.

5.  Implement a barter-only economy.  To some degree, this tends to exist, but hardly as the only form within most games.  It would also require some coding to make completely viable, and most players would probably find the concept difficult to accept.  And still, it can lead to the abuses described above with PCs simply generating and hoarding goods rather than coin.

I'm sure there are other ideas that I've overlooked (that happens when one is tired).  I'm curious as to what thoughts others have on this subject, both in regard to problems with establishing a viable economy as well as methods to solve them.

Take care,

Jason
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Old 06-01-2005, 04:01 PM   #2
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Who the heck wants a realistic economy? A realistic economy, particularly historically, means that most people are dirt-poor and spend their whole lives trying to ensure access to clean water, a roof over their head, and food for themselves and their kids.

--matt
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Old 06-01-2005, 04:14 PM   #3
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At Realm of the Magi, we are developing a sort of supply and demand merchant system along with a reputation system to handle economic growth or fluctuations inside the game:

A specialized merchant (supply & demand) system is going to be introduced that allows pubs, shops and other places of business to change their rates on a day-to-day basis. For example: a inn that sells wine will have to base its prices on the cost of getting grapes from the general marketplace. If the demand for grapes is high, the price for the wine will most likely be higher as well.

A reputation-based quest system, that allows the player to solve quests they choose as given by the Oracle, but rather than awarding the players with money or experience, we have added in a reputation variable. The reputation allows the shops and pubs throughout the game risk having the player buy or sell goods from them. If a player’s reputation is too evil, a good-minded store will most likely not accept goods from them or even worse, buy them at a very reduced resell cost.

We are also toying with an idea of creating a sort of hero-level builder tool to allow our higher ranking players to make a personalized limited area inside the game and place them in hardcoded templated areas (i.e. player's castle in a grassland template). The player's areas will be able to have their own inns or shops, thus get kickbacks from selling goods or services inside their individualized area.

-- Silver
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Old 06-01-2005, 05:54 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (the_logos @ June 01 2005,16:01)
Who the heck wants a realistic economy?
As I said, in RPI MUDs, where role-play is the goal, not unlimited acquisition of wealth and power. Role-playing a role entails role-playing the station of that role, be it poor or rich. So, if your character's not a wealthy merchant but rather a hunter, they shouldn't expect to be wearing silk and living in a huge manor. Likewise, since RP is the goal, they shouldn't be out crafting and hunting 24/7 (game-time or, worse, real-time); exceptions are made to allow for PC availability to play, but expectations are made that PCs not treat RPIs like an arcade game.

Creating a virtual world where role-play within that world seems as real as it does our own is the goal of many MUDs. An economy that fits into that world and runs like it should is an aspect of that goal.

Take care,

Jason

P.S.--Matt, I'm assuming your comment was meant as constructive even though my initial impression, and the impression of at least one other person I asked to read it, was otherwise. The question remains though. What suggestions do you (or anyone) have to creating a viable and realistic economy?
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Old 06-01-2005, 06:17 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by
As I said, in RPI MUDs, where role-play is the goal, not unlimited acquisition of wealth and power.
Right, right, sorry. I had forgotten that you were talking about RPI MUDs by the time I responded. My fault.

Quote:
Originally Posted by
P.S.--Matt, I'm assuming your comment was meant as constructive even though my initial impression, and the impression of at least one other person I asked to read it, was otherwise. The question remains though. What suggestions do you (or anyone) have to creating a viable and realistic economy?
Actually, it was meant as a remark towards MUDs in general, and also to make you ask yourself, "What am I really going for here? What defines 'viable?' What defines 'realistic?'"

I mean, any economy is viable. Some people are always going to be dissatisfied with it, but any economy 'works' on some level or another.

My take on it is that nobody has ever managed it so far, and the harder they've tried, the more spectacularly bad the results (see UO's original economy). Nobody actually understands how real economies fundamentally work, so trying to emulate one at any level of detail is going to be a futile exercise. As Raph Koster (designer of UO, and SW:G) likes to say (paraphrased), "The appearance of a semblance of reality is good enough." (upon explaining the lessons he learned from trying to simulate a "realistic" economy, with the backing of economist consultants, lots of money, etc).

--matt
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Old 06-02-2005, 02:57 AM   #6
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Why not just have a totally PC-based economy? A PC isn't going to buy more than one or two toothpicks from player X, and then player X has a bunch of toothpicks he can't do anything with. Supply is capped by demand. As long as retaining remains realistic (you can't just hoard food or other one-use items without some sort of rotability, and there's a limit to how much stuff a PC can hold/store), the economy balances itself, for the most part.

The only issues I can see offhand are of player on-times and making sure all professions are represented.
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Old 06-02-2005, 07:19 PM   #7
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If you want a PC ran economy, I think that you can control more with prices than with hard limits.

For an example from RL: Let's say I can sell a Mt. Dew for $1. I'll sell a lot of Mt. Dews if my costs are below $1 each. Now let's say everyone is making Dew or a substitution that's just as good and I can only sell it for $.50 each? My costs are $.75 each. I'm not going to make any more.

Now, same thing applies in a game. If you want make some supply/demand code that says if too many of item x is sold to a NPC shopkeeper (or all shopkeepers in the area) the price will drop to a point where it's no longer profitable. You get the result you want without a 'you can't do this' artificial cap.

This'll also benefit other players. If there's a glut on the market, players can buy it for less than if there were a shortage. And then the items that there are shortages for would be produced because that's where the money is. Thus prices balance out over the long term. Not only that, but if businessmen/capitalists exist in your environment, they get to partake in something very important: Profit.

Profit then means they can become more efficient (train or buy upgraded equipment), they could hire other people to RP with... profit is beautiful, and with the proper price restraints your problems should be solved.

Also, you can make NPCs buy stuff at a lower rate and sell at a higher rate. That way PCs can easily undercut them and be preferable if RP is your objective. People respond to incentives, after all.

Of course, translating an economy to a RPI isn't a simple exercise. :>
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Old 06-03-2005, 05:50 PM   #8
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I dunno about other MUDs, but on the MUD I play, the economy is pretty much player run. Prices go up and down according to the supply and demand of the stuff, sometimes prices are elastic, sometimes they are inelastic. It seems to function rather well, and from this mortal's point of view, I dont see much mortal interferince, but theres some, much like a normal microeconomy.
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Old 06-06-2005, 12:02 PM   #9
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Here's a couple of simple ideas:

Everytime that a player tries to sell something: Query the amount of that something in the world. Apply a scale to the amount (If you want lots of swords, allow for a lot of swords) and change the sell/buy price.

Only allow Shopkeepers to have X amount of gp. He sells items, he get's gp. He buys items he loses gp. This of course will be griefed. But It's a simple way to get the non-griefers to learn to not glut the system.

A not so simple idea: Make crafting more difficult then it is. Make it take time, and effort. More then just farming. It'll help.
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Old 06-07-2005, 03:11 AM   #10
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The major problem I have seen with many mud's is inflation, find a way to keep prices in a general flux, would be a good start to creating a successful economy.

and mainly the reason for inflation is the simple fact that in a mud there is an indefinite amount of income that can be generated, as in the mobs that drop the coins will always reload, the shopkeeper will keep buying that toothpick until you stop selling it to him. This of course allows players to amass a large amount of income that in most cases isnt reasonable.


here are some ideas:
give shops accounts, where as the amount of gold they create by selling items directly relates to how much they buy items for, and how many they buy.  
get rid of all bank accounts, provide instead guild deposit vaults, which could be player monitered.
only let mobs produce insignificant amounts of gold, instead focus on item rarity relating to item cost., meaning make sure your wooden club cant be sold for 100 gold coins, while your silver dagger you just quested for the last two hours only be sold for 100 silver.
a large crafting web, meaning not any one single craft will be able to produce anything useful, force players to buy/sell/trade for items they need to create the useful things, which they can to shops.
patrol mobs that fine players for misduct, they dont pay the fine within x amount of time a punishment is issued, and have this only applicable to players with a decent amount of experiance, to prevent newbies from being discouraged.
allow plots of land to be bought and sold, in theory you could buy a peice of ragged land, continue to put money into its restoration, then sell it for a profit.
and last but not least.. eliminate any and all potential bugs your system may have that allows players to "cheat"

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