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I'm working on a collectible card game on the card game platform dulst. https://dulst.com/nasuverse

I want to implement a mechanic for players to convert their unused cards back into a currency so that the cards aren't just sitting there doing nothing.

I'm considering allowing them to simply sell their cards for gold. Gold can then be used to buy more packs which give them random cards. Gold is normally obtained by winning games. In the future I would consider allowing real-money transactions to purchase gold.

Another thing I can do is to convert the cards into a separate currency that's not gold. That other currency can then be used to craft more cards. What are some reasons why you would want to use a separate currency instead of straight up gold?

Thanks.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This should probably be at the arqade se, but I'm not sure if it would be well received there \$\endgroup\$ – Bálint Jul 8 '16 at 21:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ In Hearthstone, dust makes it easier to complete your card collection. If you only had gold, then getting that last card you needed to complete your set would be much much harder. \$\endgroup\$ – Adam Jul 8 '16 at 21:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ Questions about why existing games made particular design decisions are off topic, and the question of whether or not you should use a similar mechanic is too opinion-oriented. However, there's probably room here for a question about the rationale for having an intermediate currency in a specific game with specific design constraints. If you can provide more details about your game and the purpose and acquisition of your currency or currencies, that could probably help make this on-topic. \$\endgroup\$ – Josh Jul 8 '16 at 21:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think it's worth noting that this question could easily be rephrased into a very useful question regarding why online games have multiple player currencies, which affects not only design but also has important legal and finance ramifications. e.g. I can explain in excruciating detail about why a game like Hearthstone would not and absolutely should not allow converting earned virtual goods (cards) into paid virtual currency (gold). \$\endgroup\$ – Sean Middleditch Jul 8 '16 at 23:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JoshPetrie is that a sufficient edit? \$\endgroup\$ – Harry Jul 9 '16 at 11:27
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First of all, let's examine why a game would use more than one currency in the first place.

Having more than one currency makes it far easier to balance. Each currency forms a closed ecosystem and allows you to experiment with it without too much influence from other game systems which rely on other currencies. For example, when you accidentally create some imbalance in your game which floods the game with currency A, any features which rely on currency B are unaffected. Similar, when you add a feature which greatly increases the value of currency B, that will not affect the perceived cost of anything which is bought with currency A.

Now how does this play out when you have a currency in the game which you sell for real-world money?

When you have a cash-currency, you need to be very careful not to devalue it. When you create an alternative way to obtain the cash-currency than buying it with real-world money, that will affect your revenue. When you screw up and your players find a way to acquire it far quicker than you intended, the result will be a notable downward spike in your profit chart which lasts until you find a way to fix it. That's why most games with a cash-currency usually offer either no way to obtain the cash-currency ingame, or only a very slow, tedious and very inefficient way to make the player notice that the cash-currency exist but not give them enough to acquire a notable amount of it with any reasonable effort.

However, many players perceive it as unfair when certain important items can only be acquired by investing real-world money. The description "pay to win" is often used in that context. A common marketing slogans used by games which try not to be "pay to win" is "Everything non-cosmetic can be obtained through regular play". The only way to do this without devaluating the cash-currency is by offering an alternative currency to buy cash-shop items which is acquired through regular play.

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Reasons why people use multiple currencies:

  • Tax player at exchange rates:

  • Force player at different paths of obtaining each currency.

  • Have a distinct premium currency to retain separate control of the primary game generated one.

  • Have unconvertible currency that does not inflate due to player speculations.

  • Control individual economy segments with dedicated currency (imbalanced segments don't threaten every system, just segmented ones dependent on the specific currency which is out of balance)

  • With multiple currencies its easier to manipulate value as you can inflate and deflate without affecting everything in the economy. Doesn't matter if its the developer or the player doing it. Either one can have negative or positive impact due to that.

  • Confuse the player about value. (Its easier to spend more money if you have not idea how much you are really spending and when it is more than you assume) = Your player buys 100$ of premium currency. Then hits the market and coverts that to millions of separate currencies at variable exchange rates. Then buys items with the end currencies. How much do those 3 guns he is trying to sell now cost him really? Nobody is figuring that out unless they keep notes and pick up the calculator every time. Couple that with a sense of abundance and people will overspend. Most folks are too lazy to keep track, the exceptions are your economy drivers. I usually make CMs keep an eye on them at all times. Your most active economy players know all your loopholes and usually get their hands on exploits before anybody else. Not mining them for data is a horrid waste.

Either way, most people come up with currency to serve specific purposes. If you don't need multiple you should avoid having em. It will only further confuse you.

I for instance use an internal fictional currency UV (universal value) that I convert everything to. And I mean everything. I can tell you what your unit damage is worth in gold or any other currency I use.

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In game economy management, you should be looking for to "destroy" currencies. Because if your destroy rate falls behind the rate players earn currency (which is called inflation in the real world), at some point your players will be distinctively seperated like "OP players" and "new players".

(Check this video of Extra Credits to find more about inflation in games.)

That is where things start to fall apart, because you then would have only three options to keep your game alive:

  1. Power-creep: Adding new content constantly that is more powerful than previous ones, rendering previous content useless. This will force all players to spend their currencies to keep being "OP".
  2. Allowing an easy way to earn currency, aka "Pay to Win": Just because new players can't hold up to game, you introduce a paid package like some sort of "Kickstart package" (etc.) which will give newcomers an edge to compete with existing OP players. However, this can get worse if not much of newcomers are willing to pay cash just to be able to compete with existing players.
  3. Tiers: This basically means match newcomers with newcomers and experienced players with experienced players. This system may seem the best first time, but has serious flaws:

    1- High tier players may experience seriously long matchmaking times.
    2- Some of the players will not see a reason to climb tiers, just to get competed with better players.
    3- Seal-clubbing / Smurfing: High tier players playing low tier accounts (aka smurf accounts) and destroying newcomers.


As you can see things get really bad if you can't manage to balance game economy to prevent inflation. So how to solve/prevent this issue?

  1. Don't allow it at the first place: Make in-game items more expensive and drops rare. This way players will not find a chance to stack up on currency.
  2. Make money destroying mechanics: For example taxes, travel costs, upkeep costs, resurrection penalties, health potions etc...

TL;DR: Don't allow converting cards back into currency. Even if you allow, make pay-backs low, so players can't abuse it.

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