[MUD-Dev] Economic model..

Robert Kovalchick bob at sheilaoop.com
Wed Feb 18 15:48:33 New Zealand Daylight Time 2004

From: "Brian Thyer" <brian at thyer.net>

> I was referred to this mailing list by a friend who suggested that
> I might be able to get some good feedback.  I've been lurking for
> probably close to 2 months and reading up on some of the old
> messages during that time, just to acquaint myself with it a
> little.

> I'm working as the economic designer for a mud me and a group of
> people are putting together, currently as a part time venture.  I,
> myself, don't have any experience designing an online economy, so
> I was hoping to get some, well, experienced feedback from anyone
> on the list who'd be willing to give it.


An economic system is one of the hardest features to implement. I
have yet to see one that works 'right out of the box'. There is a
myriad of sources on the net and in books that address a lot of the
issues you have raised below. That being said, here are some things
to consider:

Do you want a faucet/drain kind of system, or a closed system?
Sounds like you are working towards a faucet/drain system. As you
have pointed out inflation/recession can run rampant if not watched
closely. I personally like a closed system (a finite amount of
wealth in the world....ore into metal into sword, sword
breaks/destroyed goes back into ore.) However, there are problems
with having too much or too little wealth and issues with hoarding
but I think it is easier to tweak.

Some suggestions:

  Have wear-and-tear or personal maintenence of some sort. i.e
  swords break, armor wears out, people need food and/or lodging. In
  a faucet/drain system often there is too many ways to make money
  but not enough ways to drain it.

> One way around this was built into the parameters I was given,
> that most coinage/cash in the world would be minted by the players
> and towns themselves, rather than picked up off the rats found in
> the newbie yard.  This runs into another built in parameter, the
> limitation on materials.  Some materials, like animals (fur, meat)
> and wood, etc, will be fairly accessible at a constant rate.
> Others will be harder to find and keep a good source of (iron,
> gold).  Obviously there will be exceptions, a lot of players
> *could* hunt a local species into extinction, and a person could
> find a nice iron mine and hope to keep it a secret, but for the
> most part this is how it'll probably work.  Meaning that, as gold
> (and by gold I mean any resource minted into coinage) goes through
> fluxuations in availability (one gold vein used up, a month real
> time before anyone else finds a good new one) the amount of coin
> and its value (buying power) would fluxuate as well.  >

Try to have NPC shopkeepers prices fluctuate with supply and
demand. Of course, you will have a problem with players buying low
and selling high between the NPC shopkeepers...arbitrage as you
mentioned. Fixed prices are easier but once players start getting
lots of money (they will, they always do eventually) some items will
be almost 'free'. This is especially bad when you mix NPC vendors
with player vendors. However, if prices fluctuate with supply and
demand, NPC vendors can keep player vendors in line (and be used to
tweak the prices if need be).

> Obviously there's more to the economy than what I've mentioned.
> I've done some full out charts tracking the flow of value (cash,
> items, resources) into the economy, through the economy, and out
> of the economy, in an effort to not only avoid hyperinflation as I
> mentioned earlier, but also to avoid other economic pitfalls such
> as a recession.  There are some holes in the economy that, if left
> unchecked, could allow players to tail spin the economy into one
> of these 2 disasters if they don't tend to things properly, and I
> have yet to figure out the right series of checks and balances to
> resolve those issues yet, or even if I should simply leave it for
> now and wait to see what happens in the game itself.

Players have an amazing way of finding little loop-holes to foil any
system and exploit it. You will always need to 'regulate' the

> At any rate, any thoughts/feedback/ideas would be helpful.  As you
> can tell, it's very much a player run, player driven economy.
> Players mine the resources (or hire NPCs to mine for them),
> players craft the items (and the coinage.through the player and
> NPC run towns), and players set the prices and exchange rates for
> goods and resources.  One thing that some of you may be thinking
> of (which I forgot to mention) is arbitrage.  Arbitrage is where
> you buy an item in one market for a price, and turn around and
> sell the item in a different market for a higher price.  This is,
> obviously, possible.  However, it is currently in the plans to
> restrict travel.  Not to restrict where players can go, but rather
> by the speed and safety by which they can get there.  Making it
> unsafe to carry large quantities of merchandise/resources across
> distances without many armed guards, or simply by making it a
> hassle to the average player to transport items from place to
> place on a regular basis, I hope to keep each separate
> town/village/city/kingdom economy just that, separate.

Some have limited the amount of money a player character can carry
or store (in banks, etc)

The key idea here is that you don't 'implement' and economy, you
juggle it.  They should have a team just to monitor the economy and
adjust it as necessary.

EVE Online has a closed system that uses the free market. However,
there are not enough drains, and situations arise when some players
will manufacture below 'mineral price' (the basis cost an item is
worth according to NPC prices of the minerals that make up the item)
just to 'sell' the item, or to undercut the market in the whole
region. Which irritates other players. EVE is one of the more
interesting economic systems I've seen (it's total cut-throat,
robber-baron capitalism) and it has 7000 players in the same
persistant world. However, no-one likes to spend their hard earned
time being a crafter and getting undercut by one rich player that
has no legitimate stake in manufacturing. That may be too bad for
the crafter (that's business) but it is no fun and they will go
elsewhere to have fun.

Bottom line, make the economic system useful for allocating
resources between players in a fun way, but don't make it a game of

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