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Default Gamasutra - Editorial about Economy in Games

January 12th, 2013, 01:36
Eric Schwarz has penned an interesting editorial at Gamasutra about rpgs and their economy.
He goes through what he sees as the hidden dangers in this and also comes with suggestions on how these can be resolved. Apparently The economy is a ballon:
Over the course of most games, you will very often see the player gain 10 times, 20 times or even 100 times as much money as he/she used to for performing the exact same action, which means the relative value of everything in the game world which ties into the economy has to scale accordingly. Predictably, they very rarely do. Often, this is because developers balance economies around the bare minimum the player needs to do to get through the game. If I stick to the critical path in an RPG, for instance, I may be missing out on over half the available money in the game, especially when you consider the tendency for developers to use money as a generic reward suited to optional activities (side-quests, mini-games). So, while maybe the player who just wants to get through the game and see the ending will wind up having just enough money to get by, the player who puts a bit more time into the game will end up with so much she doesn't even know what to do with it. Thus, problem number one occurs: inflation.
And here's one of his solutions:
Give out monetary rewards that are balanced with game progress. The easiest way to go about this is to simply play through the game as the player might, add up how much money is gained in the process, and then compare it to all the things the player is expected to buy, or can buy, accounting for a deviation of +/-%. This is fairly obvious, but it's quite surprising the number of games I've played where it seems the developers just did not do this.
More information.
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January 12th, 2013, 01:36
So basically.. the monetary version of Oblivion-style level scaling?

Pass.

killias2:
Steam is the only answer. It's convenient, it's easy to use, it's simple and fast. It's great.
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January 12th, 2013, 01:50
Ultima 4 and 5 handed quite well and I never felt like I had to much. Also with economy system in guild series I don't see why such one would not work unless the world is not entirely alive.
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January 12th, 2013, 08:40
Inflation? From the single PC economic usage?
Clearly the consequences of playing in PC centered gameworld.

Besides, being well off is part of the wishes of so called RPGers. They want to get a kind of sense of achievement, starting from low to the top. And one closing on the top, it wont do if you are not financially very well off.
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January 12th, 2013, 16:47
I thought Skyrim handled the economy pretty well. You become rich but you can easily spend all your gold on advanced training. And that is the key point, Skyrim gives you a way to spend gold. Not all RPGs give you things to spend large amounts of money on.

I think RPGs need to add more expensive items to buy. Housing is a good start, training, and other expensive top-shelf items should cost a ton of money. Give us something to spend our money on.
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January 12th, 2013, 19:20
Originally Posted by killias2 View Post
So basically.. the monetary version of Oblivion-style level scaling?

Pass.
Completely not what is being described. They're talking about balancing the pre-created economy empirically during play-testing. That's almost the complete opposite of how you interpreted it.
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January 12th, 2013, 20:17
I've seen and read a couple of articles on this including one the problem was a lack of a free market.

Ultima Online tries something liek this and you would have things like player bakers undercutting the price offered the shops.

A couple of systems in NWN allowed players to create their own bot shops, but the problem I saw is that players would all too often abandon them.

I know we are talking SP here but economics is definitely a system that is important that you want to work right. In Arcade RPG's like Ghost's and Goblins you collect coins for shops at fixed levels. In diablo 2 the economy was crazy - but it was a different take where crafting became more important that the shop.

Developer of The Wizard's Grave Android game. Discussion Thread:
http://www.rpgwatch.com/forums/showthread.php?t=22520
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January 13th, 2013, 12:21
The way to get the economy working is to get the economy significant for all the actors involved in the game world, so that is massively NPCs. The PC will turn into a drop himself/herself.

Skyrim's developpment tried to explore this way (as so many did before tham) but the results returned negative. Once more.

Even better, if this is ever delivered, the result will certainly not taste by many players.

Bit of a fantasy coming to reality.

The economy in games works fine as soon as you see it from the expectations of players. Other ways will bring frustration to players.
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January 13th, 2013, 12:24
Originally Posted by Lucky Day View Post

In Arcade RPG's like Ghost's and Goblins you collect coins for shops at fixed levels.
Nice. Did not play GnG for ages by now. Will give it a try as soon as possible. GnG was undubiously a platform game but indeed, if you re read through the RPG elements stuff, you might end with it being a RPG. Will check that though. Most interesting comment.
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January 13th, 2013, 12:32
Loved Ghost'n and Goblins when I was a kid. I remember it being one of the first games I purchased for my NES. Ghouls'n Ghosts for the Sega Genesis was fantastic as well. Those games had great music and were hard as nails.
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January 15th, 2013, 02:03
Seems a triviality when there are so many other problems with the way developers make games these days. And why would anyone act surprised when devs award gold the same way they award exp that it all comes so fast and easy that it feels meaningless? This can easily be fixed by not scaling gold rewards. If somebody has to grind mobs for 2 hours before they can afford that new axe they've got their eye on, for instance, it's unlikely that they'll work so hard at collecting gold unless they already have plans for spending it. And free bonus, it will give people something useful to do in case they don't want to "beat" the game in 20 hours, which will give them the feeling they are accomplishing something instead of just wasting time dicking around pointlessly dragging things out.
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January 15th, 2013, 09:21
Grinding is no longer an experience players want to go through.
Besides, it was abused by developpers to artificially increase the game's length.

At the moment, video game developpers are far from being close to deliver anything improving in terms of economy in games.

Building an economically viable universe requires some foundation developpers have not yet managed to lay.

For example: an economically viable universe requires that the AI is able to move one item (NPC, goods etc) from one point to another reliably and provides an accurate ETA for the travel.

Far from being the case: either the item does not reach the destination or the item's travel takes significantly more than the ETA.

The simple model to represent people work cycle is therefore botched: NPCs can not even perform the simple duty of gathering resources because they are not sure to reach the resources fields and the time they will take to get there and moved back is unknown.

Pathfinding has not improved enough to deliver anything here.
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January 15th, 2013, 11:18
I've always felt that economy has been handled without imagination or vision in the vast majority of games. I think many genres would be enhanced by introducing a reasonably elaborate trading/bartering system which takes an effort to succeed at.

Maybe it's just me - but I love that aspect of strategy games (which is probably the only genre taking this seriously) - and I think the RPG genre is perfect for an in-depth dynamic economy. Some space sims also deal with strong trading systems - but they tend to be strategy games before they're space combat games, sadly.

Also, in the very few MMOs that take this into account with a serious attitude - it becomes a major part of the entertainment value. Certainly it does to me. Games like Ultima Online, SWG, Vanguard and others all have a really interesting economy subgame.

I don't know why developers continue to make the same trivial and superficial economies - but I suppose it's not a big selling point.
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