Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
The link between level and gold

Once upon a time, in a galaxy not so far away, there was a MMORPG named Everquest. It wasn't *the* first MMORPG, but it was *a* first in many of its aspects, being 3D and level-based, as opposed to the 2D and skill-based Ultima Online. And it was a lot more "massively multiplayer" than its MUD roots. And so with little precedent to go on, the developers had to design many features and interactions from scratch. And many of the things the EQ developers designed have become standards and conventions of the MMORPG industry. One feature I want to talk about today is the link between your character level, and the virtual gold you earn. And I want to explore what went wrong with that concept, and whether its time to throw it overboard.

The main source of money flowing into a MMORPG economy is loot from monsters. While you might make a lot of virtual gold by playing the auction house or selling things in other ways to other players, that process doesn't create gold, it just moves it around in the economy. Only by finding coins or loot on a monster, or by getting items from some sort of treasure chest or resource node, and selling the items to a NPC vendor, is money brought into the economy. And the design basis from Everquest on earning this gold was that how much you could earn depended strongly on your level. At level 1 you would be killing rats and sell rat whiskers for 1 copper piece to a vendor, while at high level you would be killing giants that dropped platinum pieces as loot. Your virtual wealth would grow with your level, giving you another incentive to level up.

The developers obviously thought that your wealth being tied to your level was well implemented and written in stone. Thus the items in Everquest did not have a minimum level, and most weren't bound to the person picking it up, but could be traded freely. Apparently the designers were thinking that this wouldn't be a problem, as a low-level character would never be able to get hold of a high-level armor or weapon. He wouldn't be able to kill the mob that dropped it, and he wouldn't be able to afford the item when it was sold on the open market. This turned out to be a fundamental design flaw, because the developers hadn't thought of two major developments: asymmetric trades and mudflation.

Asymmetric trades is when character in the game gives something to another character in the game for nothing or much less than it is worth. It turns out that this happens very frequently, especially if the two characters belong to the same character. EQ didn't have mailboxes or shared bank accounts, but you could drop items on the ground in a secluded spot, quickly log off, log on your alt and pick it up. Or you gave the item or gold to somebody you trusted to hand it to your alt. Asymmetric trades also happened between friends, relatives, guild mates, and then people selling platinum on EBay started to appear. All that meant that a low level character now could get hold of virtual currency far in excess of anything he could have earned himself.

Mudflation is a form of deflation, where the value of a specific item in the game world drops. In Everquest the majority of items weren't bound to the players in any way, thus you could always sell your old equipment to other players when you found better things. Lets take a specific item, the Short Sword of the Ykesha (SSOY), dropping from a level 47 ghoul lord in the Lower Guk dungeon. At the start of the game none of these existed. Then some day people were high enough in level to go to lower Guk and the first SSOY dropped, being incredibly valuable at the time. And from then on more and more SSOY entered the EQ economy. And because it was a good weapon, very few of it ever left the EQ economy, instead being handed down from player to player. With more and more SSOYs in the economy, supply rose and demand stayed the same, so the market value of a SSOY dropped. Until at some point a low level twink with a couple of platinum pieces from his high-level character or a friend could buy a SSOY and start killing level 1 mobs with a level 47 magic sword. Which is obviously working a lot better than doing it with a level 1 rusty knife.

Later games introduced level limits to items, or made at least the magical items bound to the characters using them, so they couldn't be handed down to lower level players. Nevertheless twinking was never totally eliminated. In WoW you can still see lots of level 19 or 29 players in battlegrounds equipped with the rarest and most expensive armor available at that level, financed by some higher level character. With features like mailboxes or shared bank vaults nowadays making transfers between characters much easier, you basically have a common pool of wealth shared over all of your characters. And gold farming has become a multi-million dollar industry, allowing you to even twink your very first character. How rich or poor you are depends on how you play the game, whether you have higher level characters or friends, whether you buy gold, and has little relationship to your level any more.

Still the level 1 rat drops copper pieces and the high-level giant drops gold or platinum. If you have a level 70 character and a new level 40 character, both being dirt poor, and you don't want to buy gold, but you do want to earn enough gold to buy your first level 40 mount, what do you do? Grinding gold with your level 40 character would be obviously stupid. You can earn a lot more gold grinding with your level 70 character and then mailing the gold to your alt. As your wealth is shared between all your characters, and the earnings depend on your level (as long as you don't cheat an buy gold), your wealth is effectively controlled by your highest level character, with little or no contribution from the others. With a low level character you can play the auction house, but you can't make much money by killing mobs or gathering resources, and you can't even make money by crafting, because crafting is also often linked to your character level.

We are trapped in a convention coming from a flawed design of an old game. There is absolutely no reason any more for your virtual earnings being linked to your level. A system in which a character could earn the same amount of gold pieces per hour from different activities, regardless of his character level, would work just as well. You would just need to have minimum levels on all items, and have all money sinks, like training costs, also remain constant with level. The only real resource a player puts into a game is time, so why shouldn't one hour of his time be worth the same amount of virtual gold, regardless of level?

The big advantage of such a system would be that you could finally create an economically viable crafting system. Right now it might well happen that both a level 5 character and a level 70 character both decide to take up a craft like smithing at the same time. Assuming the low-level character isn't twinked in any way, he will have to run around and mine copper, to craft himself his first low-level armor, which isn't really good. Meanwhile the level 70 just buys all the copper from the auction house and skills up smithing in a very short time. That leads to the perverse situation that the low-level smith is actually better of mining the copper, selling it on the auction house, and buying magic loot drop armor from the proceeds. He'll end up with no smithing skill, but better armor and more money. If both the level 5 and the level 70 character would make the same money from killing mobs, they would also compete on equal footing in the area of crafting. Being able to skill up a tradeskill to the highest level in one hour, as long as you have the cash to buy the resources just shows how broken the current crafting systems are.

Another advantage of a flat money distribution, instead of a level-based one, would be that twinking, and in consequence buying gold from gold farmers, becomes less interesting for the lower level characters. While the current system forces the gold farmers to level up first, once they are high level they earn more gold per hour than any lower level character. So one hour of their time is worth more than one hour of the regular low level player's time, and they can use that leverage to sell him the gold he needs. Whether your low level character is twinked by a higher level character of yours, by a higher level character of a friend, or by a high level gold farmer in the end has the same effect on the economy. The motivation to earn little money with your low level character when you know how much more a high level character makes just isn't there. And it is the big cash pool of the high level characters that ends up dictating many auction house prices.

Tying virtual earnings to your level has just lead to problems, from Everquest to the MMORPGs of today. You might argue that you'd expect a dragon to be richer than a goblin, but it isn't as if current dragons would really have treasure hoards. Poor Onyxia has less cash on her than the price of a good (aka epic) horse, Smaug would be ashamed of her. And if you designed it right, the dragon could still have more cash than the goblin, just as long one hour of dragon killing earned you the same as one hour of goblin killing. It is time to cut the link between gold and level, it serves no useful purpose.
i tend to agree, however, as we can see, if there would be certain mobs that carry the most "money", it would be ganked structural by goldfarmers and the like.

personally i would like to have gold be removed from mobs. since it's a currency purely used by players to trade with each other and vendors.

i would like to have some sort of old-system that you bring stuff to the bank and they will "grant" you some money in exchange. or soemthing like that anyways.
If a level 1 mob drops the same amount of cash than a level 70 mob, wouldn't the level 1 area get overcamped by higher level players? It is surely much easier to kill the lowly mobs for a few coins than the high level mobs for that same coins.

and if you designed it right, the dragon could still have more cash than the goblin, just as long one hour of dragon killing earned you the same as one hour of goblin killing.

One could argue that the time required to kill the low level mob should yield less money than the high level mob (for the money-per-hour-ratio) depending on the player level. The return of money should then scale with player level.

This basically leads you back to where we are now, low level creatures drop little money. 1 gold is a fortune for a low level character, 1 gold is petty money for a highlevel character- as long as the expenses (training, repairs etc) scale with the money earned.

The underlying issue here is twinking. Is it a problem? In EQ is was- because it changed the way the encounters were designed. Adding level requirements and soulbound items this is fixed. Still some items that are powerful can be given to lower characters, but it's controlled, items that are allowed by the game design.
On the other hand, a level 10 character with 1000 gold? What on earth would that character spend it on? A level 70 character on the other hand...

Time to throw it overboard? Nah, I don't so.
How about a form of currency that could only be used by higher level characters?
For instance, in Outland we all got new Reputations to grind, and our old Reputations were of no use whatsoever. You could have a new currency in Outland (the Groat, for example), that could only be spent in Outland, and was useless in Azeroth.
The Groat cannot be spent in Azeroth, so even if you sent 20 Groats to your level 6 alt, he couldn't use it.
Players would have the ability to change their Gold into Groats, but not the other way round.
Ok, you can still go to Shattrath via a summons, but I'm sure this could be ironed out by preventing anyone trading in Outland unless they were say Lv 58.
Yes, you can still twink lower level characters with gold from characters in Azeroth, but the money supply from Outlands would be cut off completely, and all those gold farmers currently paying for players' epic mounts would suddenly be a lot less in demand.
Limit the ammount of currency a character can have by level. Use the same rules for items as well e.g a level 1 character can only carry/store upto to say level 3 items.
Vendor trash (intentionally designed useless items that only have value to NPCs that destroy it) is a flawed system.

Why would a character pick up whiskers off a rat that nobody needed except to make disappear?

If instead, every item looted had some intrinsic value up and down the level chain, then the economy would be more interactive across the board.
1 hour killing lvl1 rats with lvl 1 char = 10G
1 hour killing dragons with level 100 char = 10G
1 hour killing lvl1 rats with lvl 100 char = 1000G?
1 hour killing lvl1 rats with lvl 100 char = 10G?

Both wouldn't be fun. A highlevel char should feel "stronger", and by limiting max gold per hour to 100 would make the whole economy thing useless. You could simply give each char 100g for every hour logged in.

There are better ways to prevent power-twinks and the need of gold.
All the lowbie areas would be packed with level 70 characters killing everything for cheap-to-get gold, and preventing them to finish their quests.

So I don't think that would work either.

Sophia the Healadin
Why not try lowering the importance of gold? (....or get rid of it at all)

- My experiences in lotro so far show that the barter is really gaining more importance than ever, mainly because the auction costs are so high. Make them at least this high, why not higher?

- Repairs of armor do not cost gold, but items, e.g. Leather or Iron Ore. You do not need a gathering profession to get these items, everybody can take it.

- New spells do not cost money, they need to be achieved e.g. through questing or collecting bop items, or through traits like Lotro has.

- There is no trashloot anymore which need to be sold to npc only. It is just plain silly that only 1 out of 10 rats drop a rat tail. If I kill a rat in real life, I do get a dead corpse. Who wants a cold dead rat corpse's tail? Not a decent npc.
Loot can be exchanged to items through an NPC at (an hourly changing) exchange rate. If a person trades 100 Light Leather to 50 Normal Leather, the prize for light leathers go down. The npc has no less normal leather, thus prizes go up.

- There is no magic loot at all e.g. swords or robes, everything needs to be crafted(!). But these items require magic ingredients coming from kills e.g. The Witchkings left toe nail or a broken elf blade found on a hobbit graveyard. What would this mean to crafters anyway? O_o

- Why do we need an unrealistic mailing system at all? Let's think about this...

- Wealth should be coming from experience and skill in adventuring and crafting, not wallet imo.

_Malu_ (The blueyedbaldheaded Hobbit)
Very interesting read again Tobold;)

I think flat money distrubution would contribute a lot to the craftingsystem as you suggest - it would make twinking less easy (allthough i like projects like a level 10 rogue soloing Van Cleef - see wowinsider) - and would probably be part of a solution against goldsellers/farmers.

However 2 new problems would arise:
1. i think people are going to search for other ways to advance further and quicker (to get gold) for example dupes or hacking.

2. in the system you describe there is less incentive to level up. Hence the addictiveness and the longuitude of the game (and thus the time and money people will spend on it) will be lower.

i think the big gold and itemisation gap between Azeroth and Outlands is deliberate to make people buy BC, and chances are very low that blizzard or any other developer will go for it...

And ofcourse the previous mentioned problems like just soloing rfc to get money (why would i kill a level 70 mob when i can more easily kill a level 5 one?)
How about a system then which isn't flat, but just flatter than the current system. Right now a level 70 killing level 1 mobs would earn *less* gold per hour than if he killed level 70 mobs. If we made a flatter system, the money he can make per hour could be independant of the level of the monster. Either he kills more lower level mobs for less money per kill, or fewer higher level mobs for more money per kill, but the gold per hour would be the same.

By the way, right now there is a sweet spot for killing mobs for money which is killing "green" mobs, a few levels below you, instead of mobs of equal level.
actually the whole money-system in mmorpg's are crap.

- killing mobs
- looting mobs for money
- selling items to npc's
(- trading with people)
- quest money reward

- repairing
- transport
- mail
- buying items
- leveling

now we have a small problem, the total money on a server will increase over time, because the income > expenses with hands down.
not to mention, npc's have infinite money to buy stuff from you.

so, we have a problem, there is no rarity for gold, because the cap is increasing every day. actually you don't have to make a choice "do i buy that or should i wait", because you know you will get the money sooner or later.

for example, why do epic-flying-mounts in wow costs so much?
it's purely to hold-back the evergoing gold-increase.

it's a shame, they have a couple of econommist on their pay-roll, yet they cannot invent a proper and fun way to handle the inflation.

i totally forgot about a certain game, it was cancelled in their closed beta because gfx were horrible, ai was crap and more. but they did had the economics right.
"Being able to skill up a tradeskill to the highest level in one hour, as long as you have the cash to buy the resources just shows how broken the current crafting systems are."

When you think about it, it hasn't taken the level 70 just one hour to level up the tradeskill but many hours when you factor in the time it took to actually level up and farm for the gold. If the system were flat it would disregard all the time the player spent leveling up. In a game like WoW, it's like going to university: you spend time to make more money later. Leveling up is akin to your degree, both giving you the possibility to make more money/gold. One solution would be to reward $ given by the mob based on how you kill the mob, i.e. if you killed the mob with style, speed,grace or justtimed a button press, etc you would receive more gold.
hmm, brainwave again.

although it may be implemented in swg already.

have certain npc's wandering about (like nesingwary?) that have a demand of certain mobs and will give you money for it.
you can accept it as a easy,medium,normal,hard or hardcore level. you search for that type of animal. then when you engage battle they "magically" turn a certain level for you. normal=same level as you, etc.

demand of certain animals, levels is ofcourse based on how many people did it before you.
Interesting topic, Tobold. Perhaps the mobs could drop gold based on whether or not the character would also get xp from them? Mobs yeilding xp gets you gold, mobs yeilding no xp get you nothing. This would keep the level 70s from trying to farm lowbie lands. I think that could lead to a ton of level 70s farming level 70 content and, since everyone is, in theory, headed to 70 (or whatever the max level is) that's a LOT of potential players killing fewer and fewer dragons relative to the population killing them.

One thing I'd also love to see is a viable crafting system where it's within a player's interest not to just farm base materials and vendor or AH them but to actually create items and trade with other players. The crafting system in WoW felt tacked on and in LOTRO, depending on which profession you take, it feels much the same way. I still do crafting because it is kind of neat to see my name as the creator of the items I have and fits into my RP ideas for my character.
You could always have monster loot scale like experience does. I think EQ did this on one of their RP servers or something... If you are level 70 killing a level 1 mob, you get nothing, just like you get to exp. But if you kill level 70 mobs, you get all the loot it has.

Sure, it doesn't make alot of realistic sense, but it would help keep players from "down-farming" areas they shouldn't be killing in.
I want to point out another potential problem with a level 1 or even 10 making the same amount of money per hour as the highest level. You remove all barriers or risk for a gold farmer. They would not have to care one bit about breaking the Terms of use Agreement or behaving in a negative manner that yields a bad reputation in the community. The general public is likely to become less hospitable at the lower levels knowing they don’t have to level up their cash making alts and are free to kill steal or just be generally rude. Never good for your game for new players to be surrounded by these types.
I will have to agree with the first couple of replies.

And I'll go so far as to say that one could argue that the current WoW system is probably among the best out there if it can sufficiently please millions of paying customers. Additionally, the economy is so well-developed that there are any number of people working the economy in various ways such as farming by creature killing / instance runs, farming items that sell or for disenchant, selling services (enchants, ports, escort through SM, etc.) and playing the AH. Note that if you want to make your gold playing the AH, there is no level requirement -- and I've read of people making quite a lot of gold that way.
Not that it can't be improved, but IMO flattening out gold will break the system.

Most certainly a level 70 Hordie in WoW will farm Durotar if the level 6 boars give the same gold as the level 62 boars in Outland-HP. I'm not convinced that gold-per-hour balance could be achieved, since things like spawn rate, mob density, repair costs, and health/mana downtime would all have to be factored in, and the fact that you *really* don't want level 70's farming in your starting areas.

Gold & valuable item drops are used as a way to entice the character to spend time in an area that is level-appropriate.
What about a wider look at game balance? Think, for example, whether we want Thorium in Durotar? That's like a closed door to the level 10 miner; it will be demoralizing to find nodes from Tin-Khorium they cannot mine. Add Herbalism, Fishing, First Aid (which cloth drops in Durotar...?) But the gold to buy Thorium or Mountain Silversage can be farmed as easily in Durotar as in Netherstorm?
What sort of leather do you skin off of level 6 boars - still light? If yes, then the leatherworkers are back in Outland again -- but the gold used to buy the leather can be farmed in Durotar!

Finally, there are already many alternate currencies in WoW.
Reputation acts much like currency, because if you don't have it, you can't buy that item or recipe from that faction. As a result, items like Glowcaps or Signets / Marks become an alternate currency. For example, on my server, Signet or Mark value varies, about 50s to 1g.
And there are also soulbound currencies like PvP marks and Halaa tokens that are usable at specific vendors.

I tend to disagree. I think making mobs worth more encourages movement from area to area. I think the real fix lies in introducing a balanced and fun crafting system... and limiting your access to professions so that there is a need for goods. LOTRO has a long way to go before their crafting is fixed, so the economy is resting upon drops. Even the AH is neutered in LOTRO.
I loved twinking in EQ. It kept me coming back to play, and that's true for many players.

My favorite was the old school adamantite bands. +75 hit points, but -10 magic save. A great item for a low level twink. Put a pair of those on your level one Monk; add a pair of fighting batons, and it was just disgusting how much fun you could have.
You should have a look at Eve Online. Its player driven economy is really close to perfect. It might have its problems (group PvE content anyone?), but the crafting and trading is really good.
Or Rhyzom, where you have to craft almost everything.
And on a remote note: CoX is now introducing a crafting-lite system.
I'm late to comment on this one Tobold but it is another terrific thought provoking post. Some good comments too. Of course it wouldn't work if a level 70 character could go to the newbie zone and slaughter hundred of lvl 1 mobs for a tonne of gold. Nevertheless there has to be a better way to develop a real in game economy.

Personally I hate bound items even though they are a major bulwark against mudflation. I would love
a game where earning cash through trade or crafting was just as valid a way to progress as killing mobs and where wealthy craftsmen could pay adventurer's to go out and get treasure for them. Unfortunately I don't know how players could be prevented from just buying their gold on ebay and using that to kit themselves out in epics.
Interesting read, especially since I'm about to start a twink.

Rather than spending a lot of money on my twink, I plan on just running it through the instances/quests with my lvl 70 toon, in order to get the drops and quest rewards I want for the twink. I will buy BoE items if I can find them, as well as leveling the twink's professions with the help of purchased items to avoid spending hours out farming base mats.

All this is doing is taking the gold from my lvl 70 and transferring it to lower level toons. The lvl 15 toon who is out mining the basic ores and smelting it down will be receiving money from a lvl 70 who just wants a twink, and not an experienced lower level toon. Hence, even through the copper ore is plentiful, the lower level guy (presumably) selling it for a nice profit is able to get more money than if he just used the ore to skill up by crafting garbage gear to vendor. His lvl 12 mobs may only give him 22 copper per kill, but the easily mined Copper Ore will net him a lot more than the skill it takes to mine it.

The system, IMHO, works pretty well. Any game with currency that can be transfered between characters is going to encourage gold farming.

Forcing someone to craft all his/her own gear, unless also forcing all the mats to be BoP, will just encourage people to shop on the AH. If people must use BoP items, then they could also have a higher level run them through whatever they need to do to get the item. Maybe this would cut down on gold farmers, and characters over-geared for their level, but really, it would just make it harder for someone who has a specific intention of how they want to play the game. And, the harder it is for someone to have fun, the less likely they will pay a monthly fee to come back to an online job. I leveled to 70, and my skills to 375 the old fashioned way. Now, I don't want another lvl 70, but a low level twink with nice gear to mess around in the BGs.

I am looking forward to getting my twink up and running for the BGs. Twinking it out allows my toon to be competitive with the other toons who are twinked, but also allows me to thoroughly destroy the other toons who aren't tweaked. For me, this is fun. Having to basically level a toon without the time saving of buying mats for professions, and some pieces of gear on the AH, would limit my intention to making a twink.

If I was forced to run through VC with horrible lowbie noobies in order to maybe get a chance to roll on gear or mats b/c it was all BoP, or no chance of getting some BoE gear, I wouldn't waste the time. With my lvl 70 pretty much geared out and waiting for the rest of my guild to get to the same place to start casual raiding, I would have little reason to log on.

So, the ability to use the wealth from my rich and bored lvl 70 to make another toon that has an advantage is nice and keeps me coming back to the game. If I wasn't able to farm gold for an hour in outlands and make a ton more than farming with a low level in Elwynn, everyone and their sister would just farm low level mobs in Elwynn to make comparable money, forcing the true lowbie noobies to spend 2x as much time leveling their toons for the first time.

At least now, even if I want to transfer wealth between characters, I'm forced by basic economics to farm higher level mobs, competing mainly against higher level players for money. And then, I am forced to kill only a couple at a time, rather than killing 50 lvl 10s at a time (mage aoe for the win).

The system, while prone to inflation, is still pretty decent. Some players are looking for a specific aspect of the game, and by removing gold, or removing the ability for a high level to make more gold per hour only makes it harder for someone to work on a lower level toon. Maybe most people are only concerned about their main character, but once you hit 70 and have to wait for any further progress, twinking out a toon to mess around with gives Blizzard $15 a month they might not otherwise get.

This would cost Blizzard Real Life® gold. I think Blizzard realized that twinks would keep people playing the game. I doubt they would get rid of transferrable gold, or BoE items that can be bought and sold.
Interesting topic.

I see a few issues with the suggestion. One: making the loot from a rat and loot from a dragon the same value breaks the immersion for me, because it is ridiculous. Saying that this is okay because Onyxia's hoard isn't all that big anyway -- merely thousands of times bigger than a low level mob's loot -- is fallacious at best.

Two: if you achieve the aim of flattening the income so that all characters make the same money through killing, what will that income buy? Does this mean the cost of a level 1 sword from a vendor and the cost of a level 70 sword would cost the same? Anything else would mean that either the level 1 character would accumulate huge unspent amounts of gold, or the level 70 would never make enough money to buy any vendor items.

And if you make all items cost the same (a level 1 sword costs the same as a level 70 sword), then again you have a ridiculous model.

This is -- economically speaking -- an example of wage controls. You are locking in wages. What are you going to do on the price side? As above, you're doing something economically unsound.

Okay, so you've either gimped cash coming in for high levels, or made low levels terribly rich, or picked some middle ground that distorts both ends slightly less severely. If you don't touch the itemization (assuming everything has a level requirement), you are simply distorting the value of the BOE drops.

To the point that 'an hour of killing rats and an hour killing any other mob would yield the same cash', what you are envisioning clearly doesn't meet this test. Killing Onyxia -- even assuming we dispense with considering the attunement requirements, the time to get to high enough level, and the organizational challenge of fielding the team -- would take, say, 400 minutes for level 60s in the old days (40 people killing her in 10 minutes). Killing a rat for a level 60 is sub-second. Okay, call it your swing speed or the duration of the universal cool-down on the spell used. Let's call it 3 seconds for purposes of easy division. So Onyxia just took 8,000 times longer to kill that the rat. Now let's send our team of 1st level characters in... oh, wait... the time to kill Onyxia for them is infinite. So the reward should be...

Suddenly all gold farmers are mages AOEing in the tightest packed, fastest reapawning area possible. Those poor kobolds in Elwynn and the boars in Durotar are in for a world of hurt!

This strikes me a rich example of the law of unintended consequences. You want to address twinks and a broken crafting system, but this is a poor way to do it.

In my opinion, the crafting system is broken because of the weak-kneed idea that the items crafted must be -- with a very, very few exceptions -- always significantly inferior to items from drops and raids. Coupled with easy availability of mats...

In any case, this doesn't seem to me to be a reasonable solution at all.
Well, if you can make low-level mobs not give any xp any more, it should be easy to make them not drop any loot either. Problem solved.
I liked the original SWG economy. Gold (credits) could only be gotten from completing quests/missions. Mobs would drop stuff that was only usable by player crafters. NPC's don't buy anything back from players, they just hand out missions/quests. All the best equipable items are made by player crafters.

Therefore there were only two ways of raising funds for a player:

1)collect loot to trade/auction to player crafters for gold.

2)complete missions/quests.

If the numbers are set right, then the crafters make enough from selling their wares to buy components for their craftables (or get their alt's to gather them). The combat players make just enough money from missions to be able equip their character and buy provisions.

In old SWG, the crafters who put a lot of work into building a business model and client base were the richest players on the server (as it should be, hehe).
I think the whole monetary system is just plain wrong.

Why do you get money from killing mobs? Why would mobs carry money? What are the mobs spending *their* money on? It's like the cartoons about wolves carrying wolf kebab recipes - there's absolutely no reason why mobs should be carrying money/items...

In fact, why have money? Why not relink purchasing to xp. So only your current character earns xp, only it can spend xp on purchasing items.

No more gold farmers, no more twinking. But your level 70 characters can still have the best spanking new items possible.
I can understand humanoid mobs carrying money, or a sword, or dagger, or axe, etc...but why did the wolf have a gun? What possible use could a dragon whelp have for a mace?
Another point to keep in mind, although it's not applicable to many games now, is city building within an MMO. Shadowbane is the best example I can think of where you were required to deposit a certain amount of gold to maintain a Tree of Life (city center allowing more to be built). You also had to pay upkeep for walls, shops, guards, etc.

Shadowbane also didn't have a centralized auction house; instead individuals had to travel to various cities to check out shops.

With the SB system, it wasn't so much how much gold an individual had but how much gold the guild had.

I rather like this system, myself, because it makes gold really valuable because it's continually eaten if you want to be powerful/get good items etc., but also in terms of the furtherment of the your guild as a whole.

Just something to throw in there other than EQ/WoW comparisons.
Being able to skill up a tradeskill to the highest level in one hour, as long as you have the cash to buy the resources just shows how broken the current crafting systems are.

If it is the crafting system that is broken, change the crafting system, not the economy.
I'm currently playing the beta of 9Dragons, a port of a Korean MMORPG. It has a flat gold structure: lvl 70 mobs drop the same amount of gold as lvl 1 mobs; but with the caveat that all mobs only drop loot if the character doing the killing can gain xp from it.

Thus, there is no overcamping of the lvl 1 spiders by the high lvl players, and players are encouraged to explore the game world, in order to find mobs that will continue to drop for them.

And of course, higher lvl mobs drop higher lvl rares, which can be sold or vendored for more gold, thus higher lvl characters still have vastly more gold than lower lvl characters, and twinking is thus fully viable. I will note however that there is a (quite low) ceiling on the prices the vendor will offer for anything, which in turn makes a flat gold structure, once loot that drops hits this ceiling.

There is something immersion breaking about this as it breaks the genre convention of gold drops: it strikes the player as odd that the lvl 70 mob has no more gold than the lvl 1 mob; still, the flat structure works reasonably well.

However, the game lacks any crafting system whatsoever (it may be added at a later date, Vanguard-like), so it only satisfies half of the equation (flat gold + proper crafting = win) you set out in your past.
Well let me add my two-cents to the 30 responses you already have. ;)

I think what should be cut is the emphasis on an "ingame economy". As long as there's an unlimited supply of money (ie killing rats or whatever), there can never be a true economy. Also, as long as people can buy their way into a game (ie. buy the best armor there is with ingame money), the gold sellers will always have business. Maybe I'm missing something, but what's wrong with a system where you earn your armor by doing quests/deeds/whatever instead of buying it?
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