The Broken Economy Is Your Fault

Shamus Young

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Jul 7, 2008
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The Broken Economy Is Your Fault

Why don't RPGs have decent in-game economies?

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toapat

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Mar 28, 2009
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greatest article ever
very valid point that a greatsword powered economy would shut down everyone with ease
 

Taawus

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Oct 21, 2008
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Wouldn't that mean that the chance that your opponent has a longsword would be drastically reduced due to the swords getting melt down? I mean, where would they get new swords from?
 

Rathy

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Aug 21, 2008
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Taawus said:
Wouldn't that mean that the chance that your opponent has a longsword would be drastically reduced due to the swords getting melt down? I mean, where would they get new swords from?
Actually, a good model would be for more people to be using the longswords, since you've driven the price down so far that bandits can get a huge bundle for cheap.

I think an economy in a game would be a great idea myself. Even if it weren't too complicated, it would be a good step up from where we are now, and would add a nice layer of complexity if introduced into an already solid RPG.
 

Khornefire

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Mar 27, 2009
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Really good article, and very amusing, too. Are you sure the solution has to be simply ignoring the blatant logical problem in that kind of economy, though? This could be the subject of a next Hard Problem.
 

Kuliani

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Dec 14, 2004
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Well, if they put in realistic backpack-technology, then it wouldn't be that big of a deal. Sure the enemies would still spawn items when they magically appear, but if you really could only drag back one sword and a boot along with all the other armor, sword, shield, potions, etc that you are carrying for your own use, then that would definitely cut down on the money-making ability.

Of course, the devs could just say you can "magically" carry tons of items inside a coin purse due to... magic.
 

Low Key

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A game should play smoothly. Having to stop and kill a bunch of things so I'll have enough money to purchase something would get very annoying very quickly, especially if it's storyline related.

If enemies dropped something every time they died, the player would end up rich no matter what, especially level grinders. Fable made an attempt with the supply and demand aspect, but even then, owning property and collecting rent is easy.
 

Generic_Dave

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Jul 15, 2009
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I'm just thinking of limits on the overall number of items in the gameworld. Stick a limit on it, and then the price stays steady and sword A is taken from delinquent B you then sell to trader C, when needed appears on delinquent D while required amount of cash/gold/caps appear in trader C's pocket...? Also this would negate the need to refurbish traders with coin/caps/gold every few days, as encountering enemies would give the trader the amount to buy your weapon/whatever plus a slight (or depending on the game substantial) mark up, allowing you to trade other items without ever giving the trader ludicrous amounts of whatever your games money happens to be.
 

whaleswiththumbs

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Feb 13, 2009
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I thought you were going to go into something alittle lighter there, so much depth you dived writing this Shamus, how do you find the time to actually play a game when you write so much!
 

cake42

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Aug 9, 2009
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http://www.guildwarsguru.com/content/guild-wars-economy-2-id1505.php

The link goes to an article explaining how arena net have stopped the guild wars economy from spiralling out of control, its pretty interesting if you can be bothered to read it.
 

Mordwyl

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Feb 5, 2009
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Obviously the best way to counter this is rather simple: A money sink. Make a ratio of how much loot the player obtains with how much money they have to spend as upkeep and keep it stable. A couple of examples for this can include degradable weapons which actually break, rent, nutrition, investments and even gambling.
 

KeyMaster45

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Jun 16, 2008
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Kuliani said:
Well, if they put in realistic backpack-technology, then it wouldn't be that big of a deal. Sure the enemies would still spawn items when they magically appear, but if you really could only drag back one sword and a boot along with all the other armor, sword, shield, potions, etc that you are carrying for your own use, then that would definitely cut down on the money-making ability.

Of course, the devs could just say you can "magically" carry tons of items inside a coin purse due to... magic.
Magic? Who said anything about magic, its a known fact that any and all imaginary characters ever created naturally have a small pocket of space right around their rear mid-section that can hold an infinite amount of items. This space is known as "Hammer Space"; thusly dubbed because it made its first evolutionary appearance when cartoon characters would pull hammers out of thin air to whack each other with.

Of course the rules of hammer space change based upon what universe the character exists in, the most common variation is "over-encumbrance", it maintains the infinity rule of hammer space while still maintaining a fraction of the weight associated to the items within it.
 
Feb 13, 2008
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The answer is pretty simple if you think about it.

There is no way to patch this economic perversion to have it make sense.
It doesn't have to make sense, just have the NPC's have wants and needs as well. Especially the monsters.

Coz Monsters have to get their stuff somewhere.

Let's take a simple value which we'll call the Dow Jones Index. Now, as players sell to NPC's, the DJI goes up, which affects how much the NPC's can afford, which lets them trade with the Monsters as well, which boosts the Monsters stats.

Then we add in a value, I'll call the Entropy value, which degrades weapons that aren't kept up to date. So the players, who are using the handy patchups supplied by the vendors are losing money to stay level, and the items stored with the NPC's degrade slower.

Then we add in the Merchandise value. For just a small fee, you can have the armour resprayed in any colour, or any design.

So Looting+Scavenging-Entropy-Merchandise gives the Dow Jones Index, which heads up and down for different continents, pushing traders and players from one area to another, making up their own commodity market.

In the deep swamps, Entropy is high, so there's a push to get any old rubbish in to turn into repair kits, so the DJI flies up making the monsters rock hard.

In the deserts, Entropy is low, and there's very few drops as it is, so the DJI stays low and the newbies frolic.

In the town areas, Entropy is medium, but Fashion is everything. People bring in any old crap to the towns purely to afford the merchandise, which is kept high to bring in trade. This keeps the DJI high, which means the Guards are rock hard.

Now, if people want to lower the strength of the swamps, they have to take their looting from the swamps into the city (or best of all the desert), lowering the strength there.

I'd need a proper economist to look through this, but if you've got traders melting down perfectly good swords to make sword repair kits for much better swords, then you're stopping the pyramid effect.
 

Nova5

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Sep 5, 2009
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Oh man, that was awesome. Got a bit of Sprite up my nose by the end of the whole longsword example. Great article!
 

Caliostro

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Jan 23, 2008
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Kuliani said:
Well, if they put in realistic backpack-technology, then it wouldn't be that big of a deal. Sure the enemies would still spawn items when they magically appear, but if you really could only drag back one sword and a boot along with all the other armor, sword, shield, potions, etc that you are carrying for your own use, then that would definitely cut down on the money-making ability.

Of course, the devs could just say you can "magically" carry tons of items inside a coin purse due to... magic.
That just drives us to the same boring "fake attempt at realism that's ultimately bypassed by being boring and making more travels", much in the same way NPCs with limited credit do.

I think the point Shamus was trying laboriously to make is that MMORPG economies will always ultimately fall flat (or at least require some extremely contrived balanced mechanic) due to the fact that you're creating things out of thin air.
 

Jason Danger Keyes

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Mar 4, 2009
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While it does make sense in Fallout 3 that no one merchant will have very much money, since everyone is a scavenger in the wasteland, it does get annoying when you've killed and looted the power armor off a bunch of Enclave solders and nobody in the game can afford to buy it from you. I swear by the end of the game the storage locker in my house had thousands of pieces of excess loot that I couldn't sell fast enough but didn't have the heart to throw away. Even after I broke apart most of the weapons and armor to make higher-quality items, i still had 15-20 of everything in my locker.
 

Shamus Young

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Jul 7, 2008
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man in fallout 3 I end taking all the money from the shopkeepers because I sell them a lot shit but I end giving the some caps back to repair armor,weapons and I need to buy drugs
 

SimuLord

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Aug 20, 2008
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I love the bug in Creepyfellow's Living Economy mod for Oblivion (which, ironically, is supposed to address the very issue in this article). Sometimes when you sell an item to the merchant, the merchant's gold isn't decremented properly, and you can sell another item which, if the two items' combined value is greater than the merchant's gold before the first transaction, leads to the merchant's gold going negative.

Except "going negative" means "resetting to 65,535", which then allows you to unload 65,535 septims' worth of gear, all profit. A couple of decent item drops and you've got enough money to buy all of Tamriel.
 

Canadamus Prime

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Jun 17, 2009
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You neglected to mention the fact that the player character is the exclusive market for every store, market, inn etc in the entire gameworld. Which is why in many JRPGs you have towns that consist entirely of an armour shop, a weapon shop, an item shop, an inn, and maybe one or two houses. I even thought of doing a spoof on the Aim Trimark commercials based on this. "Why would Aim Trimark invest your money here?" Uh... there's nowhere else to invest it? lol
A market of 1. Maybe 5 if it's a JRPG.