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With your typical MMORPG, players can usually farm the world for raw materials essentially forever. Monsters/mineral veins/etc are usually on some sort of respawn timer, so other than time there really isn't a good way to limit the amount of new currency entering the system.

That really only leaves money sinks to try to take money out of the system. What are some strategies to prevent inflation of the in-game currency?

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    \$\begingroup\$ What about changing the location of the resource every X days and adding some sort of level or age scheme to it which would make players go out exploring more to find those and they would then need to extract what they found were there would right away usable resources while others would be unusable due to it is level or age or it would be usable for some but not all stuff. Having the age / level on the resources would cause players to have a harder time finding the good quality stuff. \$\endgroup\$ – Prix Jul 22 '10 at 4:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ Remember that money sinks negatively affect players who don't put significant effort into farming or gathering money; so forced money sinks can be frustrating. \$\endgroup\$ – Steven Evers Jul 23 '10 at 16:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ make the game simulate totalitarian communism. that will deflate prices ! \$\endgroup\$ – jokoon Sep 25 '10 at 22:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ What is bad about money sinks? I have a post that I wrote on my blog (yannbane.blogspot.com/2011/09/economy.html) explaining how I plan to implement economy. Basically, the money can be spent by NPCs, not just the players. \$\endgroup\$ – jcora Nov 8 '11 at 23:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JoelCornett: A problem can appear if you have fixed monetary rewards for some ingame activities like quests. Anything pegged to a specific value, like items you sell to merchants for a fixed value, or monetary quest rewards, rapidly lose value. Even fairly early in WoW, brand new players could sell a stack of the starting resources they just gathered for several gold, which covered far more than all of their costs for a while. \$\endgroup\$ – TASagent Aug 9 '13 at 22:16

34 Answers 34

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We can go for one problem that creates the inflation:

The theoretical amount of money in trade in the entire MMO is infinite, because the input stream of monsters and quests can be infinitely done.

A shortcut fix would be to find places were money leaves the active economy without any return. That could be anything from paying money for re-spawn(probably the most unlikely) or something like a consumable item (so it can't go into endless trade) that costs a high amount of money.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You're describing money sinks, which a number of the answers already describe in more detail. \$\endgroup\$ – MichaelHouse Sep 24 '14 at 21:31
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Volume is key here, and I think people are forgetting how manipulable this factor is.

What about setting up a futures market? Even, one which is not completely closed? According to various sources (I cannot speak to their academic merit here, but I will cite one popular example: http://www.cnbc.com/id/102456187), crypto-currency's volatility in the real world is largely due to lack of a futures/options market. You could easily set this up in such a way that it allows limited designer control of prices...simply have some sort of partially-NPC driven financial sector. For instance, you could keep a library of historic prices of commodities after various types of world events, similar to what might occur in game, and simulate random, quick volatility followed by a correction to equilibrium. You wouldn't have to get the complicated stochastic calculus exactly right, as long as the equilibrium price is somewhat sensible and there exists a reasonable system ingame by which people who are crazy about that sort of thing can gamble on the market and make a profit sometimes.

This could be particularly interesting if you decide to go all out...you could have users buying up houses near the exchanges and rushing to work every day so they can beat the market. You could very well also make a whole elaborate NYSE-style trading floor. And then what if someone tries to attack the physical exchange? What if there is a stock market crash? Now that would be some MMO.

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Many answers have hit on the essentials as far as limiting the INPUT i.e. do not allow infinite gold creation, infinite monster and material respawn based on simple timers, etc. Gold should circulate. Monsters should have loot because they got it from somewhere. Players who die in a dungeon could lose cash, that then ends up in the pockets of monsters that can then be killed by other players, etc. The point is to do everything possible to increase circulation, but limit spawning of currency out of nowhere.

One very interesting area that provided a lot of inspiration to me is to look at how historic economies actually worked. I like the fantasy genre, so I studied medieval economics. There were actually many highly efficient "gold sinks" built into most medieval economies. For example, guilds would have to buy royal charters from the king in order to operate. They would control the ability to allow (for example) blacksmiths to operate in a given area, but in turn, they would have to pay a bunch of money to the king for a "charter" that gave them that authority. This mechanic in an MMOG would allow for A: creation of local monopolies that would be a natural source of conflict between players seeking to control it (conflict is good if you channel it into game activity), B: Player arbitrage activity as they buy stuff in one location and move it to another (assuming you don't have instant, free, fast travel), and C: An efficient gold sink that allows the game developer to target a very specific industry. You can get some pretty fine grained control over exactly where you want to suck excess currency out of the economy by adjusting charter prices for blacksmiths versus bakers versus tanners.

There are a lot of simple solutions to economic problems (some of which create other problems of their own) to be found in historic economics. It does make a lot of sense for a fantasy game to implement some of them, because no only do they allow for band aid fixes, but the "flavor" element of having a mechanic like royal charters actually adds to the game, rather than feeling like an arbitrary, punitive mechanic.

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Actually failing game economies are as much about basic math as a direct result of social ineptitude.

The recycle-ability of things abroad, in-game or out-game is relatively the same. Massively people are used to doing whatever they are doing and leaving a humongous mess in their wake. These thought patterns directly go through designers making games. Where the world outside of games forces you to engage in a broken and heavily rigged economy just so you can obtain food, shelter and more. For a game and its economy you can simply walk away and spare your self the useless grind. You are at a grindy job with decreasing benefit any way, riding griffins in some game context isn't going to be awesome if you are subjected to the same economical torture you endure in your daily life.

Likewise overcompensating for this factor leads to absurd levels of inflation and abuse that quickly tears down any fun provided by the game environment. Not to mention technical issues resulting in exploits and such. And not even considering the hardest element of planning - efficiency variables - having an absolute best way to play the economy that usually renders most other gameplay activities useless, as players couldn't keep up with those "playing" efficiently.

The problems we are experiencing largely in the world today, play out numerously in games with economies. As they are built upon the same outdated and heavily faulty presumptions. except in games, the small scope and size of these projects reveals these flaws much faster than we get to comprehend them in the world we live in outside of games.

Overall most developers have economies for the same reasons a new car manufacturer puts tires on their cars. "Everybody else has them and the concept wouldn't work without them." However we all know the majority of manufacturers wouldn't go as far as to improve upon tires in any meaningful way or have any idea how to go about it even if they wanted to. That is IF their goals and budget have even considered tire improvements at all.

Why do economies fail? Because the people who make them lack the bare minimum of understanding. Its one thing to be in an economy as a participant. Its an entirely different thing to have the control over creating an economy and still fail in the end.

A lot of designers and devs I've spoken said to lack even basic projections for their economies. I know plenty who entirely "eyeball" their costs, times and so on. There are people who make large scale games and approach economy in a mystical fashion that, they can just set out and throw a bunch of whimsical random data that looks good on the eye and expect that it would "somehow" magically align to self-sustainability in the end. I also know people who do it on purpose. Here is a copy paste conversation from one of them I talked to just the other day:

"My boss wants me to design every feature, help with QA, babysit CMs more or less manage the coders, if he think I'm going to do the work of an expert mathematician and integrate it into the game in a way that makes sense, someone is gravely mistaken and its not me. I've insisted that either the scope is scaled back to fit what we can do, or more is invested to do it properly. Both were rejected, because the decision makers care more about appearing authoritative than actually understanding what is happening in their project. So congratulations, keep the payroll flowing and ask me create a new txt file type some random stuff in and then delete it, I'll repeat 24/7 if you insist - I don't care any more. When i go looking for a new job, it will be fine, I strictly followed my tasks, integrated with co-workers well, met my deadlines good enough, if anybody asks i sure as hell didn't make the economy, in fact i have an old email proving I have foreseen most of the problmes, not my problem that management ignored it. You know they never believe you when you say you didn't have enough to work with, considering we are in the crunch time industry, which is supreme at dehumanizing people with passion and potential about making games. Why do you think some of those cool profitable indies made it solo. Most of them begged companies to look at them and throw them a used bone, except corp scale devs could have bought them for pennies but instead threw em out flat on their ass because they are utterly incompetent at recognizing potential. They wouldn't even ship out their own games in a playable manner what do you expect?"

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    \$\begingroup\$ -1: We know there is a problem. What we need are solutions, and this rant does not offer any at all. \$\endgroup\$ – Philipp Oct 19 '15 at 11:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ As anyone competent will tell you the NDAs chop heads off with dull axes. So I couldn't tell you how I solve my current economy problems. As for the rest there are competent people open for consulting, Including my self. The point IS still relevant. If you don't know what you are doing and why are doing it - that much setup for failure. And most people in this and many other business are merely their to collect the paychecks. \$\endgroup\$ – helena4 Oct 19 '15 at 12:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ When you aren't allowed to post a helpful answer because you are bound to an NDA you shouldn't post here at all. \$\endgroup\$ – Philipp Oct 19 '15 at 12:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you want to be hand fed awesome solutions - thats cool. Some of us talk about problems as a means to understand them, thus orientate in the ways to solve them. \$\endgroup\$ – helena4 Oct 19 '15 at 12:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not on this website. Stackexchange is for posting problems in form of questions and providing solutions in form of answers. When you want to talk about problems and get closer to a solution in form of a discussion, you might prefer a discussion forum over a Q&A site. There is nothing wrong about either approach. It's just that different mediums are more or less appropriate for them. \$\endgroup\$ – Philipp Oct 19 '15 at 12:45

protected by Philipp Mar 25 at 12:48

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