Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
 
Optional economies

Stabs is poking fun at the way some people approach the economy of EVE Online. Reminded me a bit of Gevlon calling people morons & slackers for the way they traded on the WoW auction house. Wasting money just seems wrong to some people. But is that really the case in virtual worlds?

Unless you were born with a trust fund, money in the real world is a major determining factor on how you will live, and earning money is rather important. Opting out of the real world economy isn't really an option, unless you want to live in a cardboard box. And even then you're probably participating in the economy by begging or collecting cans. If you belong to the majority of people for whom the way they handle their money determines their standard of living, Gevlon wouldn't totally be wrong to call you a moron if you stupidly waste your money and end up with your house in foreclosure or your car repossessed.

But applying the same thinking to virtual worlds doesn't usually work well. The economy of a MMORPG often enough *is* optional. Either you get enough virtual currency by just playing the way you want, or you can buy such huge amounts of virtual currency for so small amounts of real money that being filthy rich is an affordable option. A million gold on the Diablo 3 real-money auction house costs 25 cents, a billion ISK in EVE bought legally via Plex costs around $30. If you don't enjoy trading or farming, opting out is a viable possibility.

The consequence of a good number of people opting out of the virtual economy is that it makes life easy for those who enjoy economic gameplay. Earning money from others is a lot easier if those others are careless with their money. But that isn't really a good reason to look down upon those careless players. By definition being careless always has an upside: You don't have the cares. As MMORPGs have no win condition, somebody who is just out to maximize fun might well be on an optimum path for himself by ignoring the economy.

I would love to see more economic MMORPGs where the economy wasn't optional and everybody had to care about how to handle virtual currency. But I'm sure that would be a niche game, and then the game would probably quickly be ruined by RMT.

Comments:
So why is that different to "real economies"? I can surely imagine earning "enough" money to have fun and give away surplus money to others for no direct benefit (taxes, charities, donations to people to buy a cup of coffee).
 
There are games which *are* economic simulations, it's just that they are very different from MMOs. If the focus is the economy, it's not like mobs, quests and instances are needed at any point....

When Gevlon gloats about his virtual money he's missing a fairly important point: he's successful only because the kid of players you talk about exist, if he really was that good he'd be making billions on Wall Street (= a real economy) and most likely not wasting time playing games.

 
I'd like to see an MMO with no player economy at all. Do your players in your D&D game have a "player economy"? They certainly never did in mine. It still puzzles me how the concept of "player economies" ever got into online RPGs in the first place. It certainly doesn't belong there.


 
I think your likely missing a puzzle piece as to why Stabs may have written that blog post and not exactly making fun of players per say. The blog post Stabs made was related to EVE and it also may have been a response to a blog post I wrote in a response to a comment made on another blog "Jesters Trek" in the EVE community.

It was from there I blogged about a comment made by Jester on his blog. And it's more than likely that Stabs post was a response to that as well though in a humerous was though only somewhat mostly understood by those who mostly participate in the Economy there and as well some sub section of the EVE Blogging Community.
 
You can "opt out" from the real economy - by not having any goods or money exchange with any people EVER. E.g. you live in a deep forest and provide for all your needs yourself.

If there is a game with compulsory economic element, it cannot include RMT (obviously). It would look silly like "you pay Blizzard money and the raid boss dies" in WoW.
 
@Bhagpuss

D&D allows crafting and trading items between players and NPCs. The economy is there.

I'm not sure how you're puzzled that this exists on a larger scale in online RPGs...
 
Thanks for the link but I don't really mind what people do with their playing time, I was just being facetious.

I'm interested in this:
"I would love to see more economic MMORPGs where the economy wasn't optional and everybody had to care about how to handle virtual currency. But I'm sure that would be a niche game, and then the game would probably quickly be ruined by RMT."

It got me thinking about the way WoW used raid loot as a way to deter or limit RMT. What if your economic game depended on group gameplay, so that it wouldn't be viable to be the classic soloing goldfarmer?
 
"I'd like to see an MMO with no player economy at all. Do your players in your D&D game have a "player economy"?"

I can't speak for Tobold's game but when I GMed D&D games I had the most mercenary group of players imaginable. Any description of "Beautiful tapestries hang from the ceiling, oil paintings adorn the walls and the floor is carpeted with a rich deep rug" would have them sending for teams of mule drivers to cart it all off.
 
It got me thinking about the way WoW used raid loot as a way to deter or limit RMT. What if your economic game depended on group gameplay, so that it wouldn't be viable to be the classic soloing goldfarmer?

I think the goldfarmers might be better organized than you think, sweatshops with many farmers rather than one-man operations. I think they solo, because solo gameplay is the best way to make money. If grouping were required to make money, they'd do so. And probably be more effective than the average guild.

What WoW did with raid loot was making it bind on pickup. That solves the problem by removing all economic gameplay. You can't have an economic game without people being able to trade each other stuff, and you can't control whether any trade is accompanied by an invisible, out-of-game transfer of real money in the other direction.
 
I thought you liked the idea that people who had RL money but less time could pay to catch up. For sure, it's the playstyle Stabs is mocking but if you have the cash, it's an option.

Is this a change of heart for you, wondering if it might be better if you couldn't just buy gold with cash and had to use the in game economy instead?
 
Is this a change of heart for you, wondering if it might be better if you couldn't just buy gold with cash and had to use the in game economy instead?

Not a change of heart, just talking about a different kind of game. If you have a game that is about adventuring, paying to avoid a grind seems perfectly reasonable to me. If the game itself is about economic interaction, I don't see how this can be fun if one can't keep real money out of it.

The game where success is measured by the amount of your real money already exists, it is called Real Life, I don't want that reproduced in a virtual world. I'd like to see a game where your success is measured by your skills in the virtual economy, but that is just me talking about a hypothetical game that never will be made.
 
M--- in Eve, you don't end up spending 20 years after you retire eating cat food.

I kind of look down on the people who are playing to get lots of in game money. If you do it for fun, fine. If you feel superior to anyone because of it, I have to ask why you aren't taking your superior intellect and work ethic and applying it to getting real money.


 
To a large extent, playing the WoW auction house already means that you're 'losing' the real-world economic game. Barring very, very unique circumstances, playing the auction house seldom reliably beat dedicated grinding. Even in games where economic cycles are reliable enough and large enough to make cash, like Guild Wars 2, one has to be doing exceptionally well to get the equivalent of even a few dollars an hour.

I've heard of EVE players making a PLEX equivalent overnight, which is great for those who want to play the game for free, but also means that unless they logged in for only a couple hours, they're working for significantly less than minimum wage. Jester's blog points to someone who wagered 10 billion ISK and lost 1.8 billion ISK, which is rather impressive, but still somewhere in the range of risk you or I take when buying a video game fresh-in-box, or go out to a movie. The mental model of a billion ISK as 'filthy rich' isn't terribly accurate in the game world, but a mental model where a billion ISK is about the cost of a sit-down fast food place's meal is.

Because these actions are so small in true value, and because they're taken primarily for entertainment, they're small decisions. Whether you play the auction house to the hilt isn't the equivalent of whether you go to work: it's equal to whether you clip coupons. A good many people don't.
 
What if your economic game depended on group gameplay, so that it wouldn't be viable to be the classic soloing goldfarmer?

There is already one game like that: A Tale In The Desert. No combat at all, so it is boring to a lot of people. To get things done requires people working together.
 
it wouldhelp a lot if you support my indiegogo project. starting a game is difficult , getting funding for the game is even harder.

you can delete this but it just mean one less idea to benefit the gaming world , at least view you the site
http://www.indiegogo.com/CODE-Z/x/1825980
 
you can delete this

Or I just leave it here, trusting my readers to know what they can expect from a MMORPG that needs $5,500 to get started.
 
I think you hit the point perfectly, there are players who play for other reasons than currency, and the in-game currency is just another token or widget. I am one of these players, and while I do not like to waste money, valor points, or materials - I don't really care enough to bother greatly. It is not fun to over-think in an mmo (imho).
 
If you feel superior to anyone because of it, I have to ask why you aren't taking your superior intellect and work ethic and applying it to getting real money.

For the same reason you are slumming it up in the comment sections of a blog post trying to convince total strangers some insignificant point. Because "winning," especially in a competition, feels good no matter how petty or arbitrary it is.
 
I'm not winning anything. Believe me, I don't derive any sense of superiority from hanging out an MMO blog.

For some reason I keep coming to this blog even though it's been around three years since I played an MMO. I'm certainly in the just for fun category.



 
I the real world, money is normally the limiting factor in obtaining optimal happyness. Some people have enough money to fulfil all their desires. When that happens the marginal gain from extra money is negligable. For them, optimal happyness is normally optained by using the time that they would of spent arranging optimal gold is better spent do something more pleasurable.

Most people in real world have needs and desires that outstrip their earnings so they do not fall into the non-finance constrained opt-out group. MMOs however are different. Passive income a players normal activities/rewards/botting are frequently far higher than a players needs for repairs/ammo/ships/cosmetics. As such, they have little incentive to optimise their trades.
 
Designing a game with no economy opt out is tough.

Players must always have enough income to cover basic costs or they will quit.

Passive income most be similar to basic costs or players become rich from general playing and can opt out of the economy.

There must be an incentive to for the player to spend their money. Time and gameplay should scales inversely with gold efficiency. Better players can play at higher skill levels but as difficulty and "fun" increases, so the gold efficiency drops to zero.
 
People play games to have fun. Making money in games is usually about being clever and playing well. It can be fun to make money, to have money. Even gold/isk dumps are more to show off wealth than fun in themselves.

Making money in real life is usually about either innate abilities you cannot change, education choices it's too late for you to redo, career choices you're stuck with unless you want to risk losing it all, and irrevocable life choices like having kids. Even for people with all those fixed things, there's a choice whether to work part time or full time or over time to trade more or less money for more or less free time.

Making money in real life is work. Spending money is fun. Games that approach real world economies generally just become less fun and more like work.
 
"I would love to see more economic MMORPGs where the economy wasn't optional and everybody had to care about how to handle virtual currency."

I'd say that MMORPG is called real-life. Our currency is very much virtual these days.

The virtual currency from games is already connected with real-life currency btw. It may not be legal, but its certainly being traded, like bitcoins.

If you like to play a game which is directly related to money might I suggest online poker? It isn't MMORPG, but MMORPG are never fair. They're so infinitely complex they're not balanced. And just when they are balanced... *woosh* new patch/expansion.
 
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