This is a shortened version of the a post I made to Dev Plus earlier this week. Now for public consumption in a slightly cleaner version! Enjoy! Who wants to talk about economy?? Ok, to be honest, I’m going to start by talking about economy but since almost all systems in the game are linked, I’m sure I’ll wander over to other more interesting stuff before I’m done. This will be a mix of concepts that are already true (but I want to make players aware of), ideas that we have mostly locked in stone, and then a few ideas I’m just adding in so I can see if players gasp and scream. I probably won’t tell you which is which though as that would ruin my fun… Also, about 80% of this talk will apply to online stuff so my apologies to the people most interested in single player. So the world of online game macroeconomics is different from the real world in many ways but the desired state of the market is the same. That desired state is an economy with a small, but consistent, rate of inflation. Also, just like in the real world, we know we won’t get it exactly right and that we need to very carefully monitor things to see what is causing fluctuations and have easy ways to correct things. Also, like the real world, we must have mechanisms in place that let players correct inflation through their natural behaviors and competitiveness. Before diving into the specifics of those systems though, I wanted to give a brief overview of game economies and then hit on a few ways SotA might be different. Game economies! So for any non-barter economy to work, there must be an accepted form of global currency. For us, this is the ubiquitous gold piece. This is the only form of currency that merchants, vendors, trainers, etc will accept. I will provide reasons and examples of why players might not use gold amongst themselves later in the post. The rough rate of inflation can be approximated by looking at the growth rate of the approximate amount of gold assets or items which can be sold to merchants for gold in the economy divided by the number of active players in the economy. For this to happen we must have fairly balanced inputs and outputs to that pile of gold. Also, for the real business guys out there are mentally correcting me, yes I realize that inflation in the real world is really based on what things costs(CPI), not the net sum of wealth but for this discussion I think this is easier to understand and helps us track what we need which is are people adding and destroying wealth from the system at our desired rate. Again, for clarity, this is the macroeconomics level; not the market level. So that means for calculations into inputs and outputs, we only care how much gold can be created by the game to be added to that total player pool. For example, if a great brown grizzly bear is killed and skinned and a fabulous bear pelt is created the only thing that matters is how much that pelt can be sold to a merchant for. So the merchant might only pay 15 gold for it so that is how much that object counts towards the macroeconomics inflation calculations even though players might be paying 5000 gold for it on the jobs board (more on that later). The 5000 gold that players are willing to pay is just money moving from one pocket to another pocket as far as the macroeconomy is concerned. In fact, players selling to other players through vendors or job boards actually removes money from the economy since they tend to take a cut of the transaction. While we do need to keep an eye on what things are selling between players those market economics don’t change overall game inflation. So while a bit confusing, the good news is that this means that tracking money in and money out of the system is much easier for us. When items are created, we know without a doubt what their value to the macroeconomy is going to be. It also means we can set target outputs for zones and track those in terms of gold (and experience) output per player, per hour so we can see what areas are out of whack in terms of rewards and need adjusting. This also gives us an easy metric to try and find new exploits and cheaters through data mining. Now that we’re hopefully on the same page on what makes up the macroeconomy, lets dive into what things are inputs and drains which will help me then identify the different roles player types play in the macroeconomy: So killing a creature and taking its mad lewtz? Cha-ching! Harvesting a cotton plant? Cha-ching! Killing a bear and skinning it for its pelt? Cha-ching! Taking that pelt and turning it into some sweet leather armor? BUZZZ…balanced or drain Selling that sweet leather armor at the vendor(not merchant) for big $$$? BUZZ… definitely a drain Completing a quest for an NPC who then gives you a reward? Cha-ching! Killing another player and taking something from them? BUZZ...balanced or drain So for each of these that are “Cha-ching!” it is the game creating gold out of thin air and moving it to a player. For the crafting leather armor, while this will probably make something of more value to other players, the final item will only sell to a vendor for the same or less than the sum of the parts that went into it. So pelts worth 50 gold to a vendor can be turned into leather armor worth 45 gold to a merchant. If the leather armor is actually something that is good enough that other players want then they could put the armor for sale on a vendor or sell it in person to the player but to the macroeconomics of the game, that is just money moving from one pocket to the other, possibly with a drain of a vendor cut. Same with killing another player. The killer will most likely gain some benefit but that is just moving value around. Also, the net will probably be a large loss since both parties probably damaged armor, damaged weapons, used consumables, and used reagents. Ok, so if the above explanation wasn’t too bad and you’ve had your coffee this morning, after a few minutes here is what you will probably come to realize in terms of how it relates to player types: Crafters are probably a drain on the macroeconomy PVP players are a huge drain on the macroeconomy PVE players are the engine that adds the majority of wealth to the macroeconomy! So if you’re a crafter or a PVP player, don’t get out the pitchforks just yet. Again, this is macroeconomics and not market economics. So lets take a quick dive into market economy stuff that is really more of what the players playing the game see as the economy. So one of the key ways in which SotA is different from most other online games is that in SotA the best items in the game are always created by players. If you look at a game like WoW, the “economy” is almost completely driven by creature drops and the crafter type has zero real opportunity to thrive. In SotA we are intentionally forcing PVE and PVP players to deal with crafters (or learn to craft themselves) if they want to be at the top of their games. To a large extent though, the crafters are dependent upon the PVE players for resource gathering. This symbiotic relationship is one of the primary engines for the market economy. To put it into terms a bad economist from a sitcom would use: Group A has easy access to widgets(resources) but doesn't need widgets, it needs gizmos (quality equipment) Group B has less access to widgets but wants them badly so they can turn the widgets into gizmos to sell to Group A Group A pays for the gizmos which then gives group B money to buy more widgets to turn into gizmos to sell to Group A... repeat! So, that muffled sobbing you hear in the background are all the PVP focused players who now realize that they need the gizmos but don't have a good way to get widgets. So this is the sad truth of PVPers, if the story ended there, but there is good news for the PVP guys. Many of the rarest widgets only exist in significant quantities inside PVP areas. So the good news that, at first, sounds like bad news is that unlike some other specialized groups, anyone can go into a PVP area and collect the rare widgets. So sounds like bad news for the PVPers but in reality, it is one of the lure mechanism for the sheep to the wolves that we have talked about in the past. I am going to do another "Wall of Text" type post for PVP soon so I won't go over all the mechanisms here but I will say that there will be systems in place to give fair opportunity to all to try and stop people from escaping with the valuable widgets. One of the challenges with building systems to balance the PVP rewards system is finding a system that isn't easily exploited. With crafters and PVE systems, we control half of the simulation. With PVP, players control both sides of the simulation. Simply rewarding players for killing players other players will obviously just result in PVPers taking turns killing each other. We can put systems in place to limit rewards from individuals that will then just result in guilds doing the same thing with more players. So the question we had to ask ourselves is: Do we come up with other mechanisms to allow PVPers to generate some economic value through their desired play style or do we just force them to PVE or craft in addition to PVPing? PVP players will have their own trophy type reward mechanisms with leader boards and other public facing elements but that still doesn’t pay the bills to fix up the armor and buy new potions. After much debate, we decided we did want to try to have a way that PVP players could generate at least some value in the economy which is where the rare resources in PVP areas comes in. So one of the things that was stated recently in a hangout that caused a bit of an uproar was that players won’t be able to enter into PVP zones in Single Player Online mode. So this topic is still open for debate. If players prefer, we can make PVP zones enterable in SPOnline mode BUT ONLY if we remove the rare resources from them. All elements of the game must have a risk vs reward element to them and it feels like what players want is for us to remove the risk but leave the reward and that can’t happen. This isn’t because we hate you and we’re trying to make the game less fun. This would be like us putting a button in Kingsport that gave you 4000 gold every time you pushed it. Yah, sure it would be cool for a bit but it would break the game in the long run. BTW, I used KP and 4k gold as examples because we had a bug in a previous release that basically let you do just that. Buy something, turn and craft it, turn and sell it for 4k more gold and when we removed it people screamed bloody murder. : Also, just to be clear, the resources that will be put in PVP areas are going to exist elsewhere in the game. We’re just putting more of them in PVP zones than in most other zones. Also, it is all fictionalized and fits into the story and lore. So I know if I don’t change the topic quick, all the replies will be about those last 3 paragraphs so...look something shiny!! Let’s talk about work orders!! This actually is a super shiny feature that I’m going to work hard on getting into R16! So work orders are essentially the opposite of vendors. They allow players to go create a request for goods and the price they are willing to pay. This helps crafters because they can request raw resources they need, but might not be able to get. This helps adventurers because they can do things like request 50 potions at a time or a specific item that they need from crafters. This helps EVERYONE because it essentially creates a simple player created quest system. Now instead of us creating NPCs and coming up with cheesy “Bring me 10 wolf pelts” type quests, we can leave that for other players to do! These will also be local to towns which means another reasons for players to travel and visit more towns. It also will drive player interactions in a big way. Why? Because if you see Bob the blacksmith constantly putting up iron ore requests, at some point smart players would just contact him directly and start making a deal so you can cut out the middle man. Oh, and to wrap up some loose ends on the things I mentioned above but never explained, we can look to UO’s economy to see what happened when the systems break down. At one point in UO they had an exploit that allowed billions of gold to flood into the system. Inflation skyrocketed and gold essentially became worthless. This is the nightmare situation for developers. This happened in Archeage recently to such an extent that they were investigating rollbacks on live servers. On UO when this happened players gave up using gold and switched to the barter system until the economy recovered, which took months. Scary stuff indeed! So obviously we will be doing everything we can to make sure the economy never gets to a point where our desired currency collapses but we’re also adding in some other mechanisms to help pull the inflation back into line in case it does happen Ok, I think I’m well past my 2000 word target so I’m going to call this brain dump done and move on to my next stream of consciousness topic which will be PVP and PVE, risk and reward!