On Economic systems

Something I was planning on implementing was some sort of economy which was closed.

Players could craft just about anything and they can sell it to other players, but in order to sell it to NPCs, the NPCs would need to be able to sell it themselves to make money. NPCs wouldn't buy items that they couldn't sell. For example, there could be a merchant who sells swords. He has a large stock of Iron Broadswords. However, he can't sell these broadswords because it has recently become fashionable for players to use Katanas (Maybe the ninja type class has become popular because Ninjas have become more popular recently with players because of a new awesome movie or something).

Johnnyguy, a player who is working on his blacksmithing skill, finds that Broadswords are easier to craft than plate armor because it requires less materials (making it cheaper), and the armor and these particular swords are the only items he knows how to craft which he can raise his blacksmithing skill with.

Johnnyguy soon finds out that the local NPCs won't buy the broadswords because they can't sell them themselves. He also can't sell them to other players, since everyone wants Katanas. Johnnyguy has been leveling his blacksmithing skill in the hopes that he could get his skill high enough that the local blacksmithing trainer would teach him to make Katanas so he could make them and make money. He now finds that he has lost a considerable investment of resources and is quite angry.

Johnnyguy has several options. He could:

A. Cut his losses and take it as a lesson learned to do more market research if he hopes to get a return on investments.
B. Smelt the swords down to recycle the metal and make the plate armor (much less than he could originally make, mind you), hoping to get those last few points of skill.
C. Both A and B.
D. Complain to the developers about how he has wasted his time and threaten to quit playing if they don't force the NPC vendors to buy his completely worthless crap.

If it was me, I would probably go with option C.

If you were one of the Ultima Online developers or players (or hell, even a player of any MMO game that has forums to speak with developers), you know that 99% of players would go with option D.

The problem is that option D, while it makes the players happy, causes the game economy to constantly inflate. The NPC vendors buy limitless amounts of crap and turn it into gold. Players then have more gold then they had before and nothing taking that money out of circulation. The prices of all items goes up because more players with more money can afford more expensive items.

I would really like to have some sort of economic system in my game whereby players who want to get rich can get obscenely rich with the use of economic cunning and business prowess. That doesn't mean much when the average Johnnyguy player can get rich by making crap and dumping it on the poor stupid NPCs.

Is it not possible though? I know several games have tried to do this, and almost all of them have failed, EVE being the only one I can think of that hasn't (as I don't know much about EVE, I don't know what kind of crafting system they have in place which supports the economic system).

If it is possible to create an actual player and NPC economy, what would be required to do so?

Would it require a strict control on resources?
Would it require the NPCs to adjust their prices for items which aren't in demand?
Would it be as simple as the trainer teaching the player the basic crafting skill and saying "Look stupid: Don't craft stuff you can't sell."?
Maybe the NPCs could say very clearly that they are only looking for specific items to buy and only buy those?

Right now, I'm leaning towards a combination of all of these. I was thinking that even without any economic control systems involved, only some NPCs would buy certain items. For example, if you kill an enemy soldier out in hostile territory and take his sword, you could only sell that sword to a weapons vendor. A clothing vendor would have no use for a sword.

I'm also thinking that each NPC would have their own inventory of items, and that the more they had, the less they would pay for an item. Also, they could do a work order system for items which they are in short supply of which are in high demand. These work orders could possibly have different bonuses attached to them to make them attractive to players if it's found more profitable to just sell them to others on the Auction House or Marketplace or whatever.

I'm thinking that a strict control of resources would also be in order. Not so strict that only the richest people could get a hold of them, but something like "Only x amount of iron ore can be mined from a certain mine in a week" (this would lead up to a PvP idea that I'm going to talk about soon with guilds fighting and bargaining for resource control). This x value of ore would be enough that if all of the mines were controlled by Player and NPC factions, then 75% of crafters would have enough ore to create what they need to.

I think it could be very possible to get the system to work where many others have failed, it just requires different methods of enticing and directing players.

Posted by Glyph, the Architect | at 10/10/2009 05:03:00 PM


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