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I'm designing a game where I want the player to take the in-game money into consideration as opposed to majority where they just get rich pretty much all the time with nothing meaningful to spend it on. What are some good ways to keep them spending their money without making it feel like a tedious chore?

I'm already planning to have monsters nor quests not give gold.

And if preventing them from becoming extremely rich eventually is not possible, at least mitigate "easy" ways of generating infinite income. I want them to struggle with their money.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Does your game in this case need a currency called money at all? Would it be an option to just replace it by appropriate crafting materials for gear? (like you can't buy an iron sword but the blacksmith is happily making you one if you provide him with 10 iron ore). Basically a system based on commission. Else one term you are looking for is gold sink \$\endgroup\$
    – Zibelas
    Apr 23 at 10:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Zibelas I also planned on toying around with additional resource requirements like the blacksmith ore example you gave but I would very much like to keep the currency in money form as well. I'll also look into the term "gold sink". My basic idea is that in most games spending money is not given emphasis in the player's mind since gold is easy to come by and I wanted to make one where it's part of the resource they have to worry about \$\endgroup\$ Apr 23 at 11:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ One RPG game I played had an interesting mechanic forcing players to spend money. Game equip items have a 'base' version +0 and an upgraded version (+1, +2.. +7). The twist is: monsters drop only equipment items of the same type one of your characters has. So for example, if your character has a base wooden sword, by farming you can get only wooden swords up to +7 upgraded version. But if you need a better weapon, you have to go to the next city, buy an iron sword (+0) there. Once you have it, monsters start dropping iron swords, so you can find an upgraded version of this weapon, etc. \$\endgroup\$
    – Exerion
    May 5 at 13:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Exerion which game was it? \$\endgroup\$ May 5 at 18:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @user9564371 unfortunately I don't remember the name, only this mechanic is stuck in my head. \$\endgroup\$
    – Exerion
    May 6 at 7:05
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Most RPGs provide a ton of loot to sell. In 'Gothic', you didn't have money, but traded magical ore as hard currency aka sound money. But if the supply of tradeable items with a vendor was up, tough luck. Nothing to get from that person anymore. (Ignoring exploits like waiting for swords to spawn in the blacksmith's inventory so he can play his sharpening the sword animation.)

What games usually don't have is a real market. Why can I beat green slime in the forest and obtain e.g. leaves (craft item) ad infinitum, and sell them at a fixed price forever? When the market is saturated on leaves, make the price go down. Eventually you'll have to trade in a sack of leaves for an apple because everyone has leaves coming out of their ears thanks to you selling them this crap.

That would tackle not drowning in infinite money. It'd also introduce a simulation of trading that rewards supply and demand considerations in different locations, which may not be what you're looking to implement.

Look for opportunities to spend more money. A night at the inn for healing, but not like in most JRPGs where the 1st town costs 5 gold and the second costs 10 gold and so on, increasing cost arbitrarily with story progression. Make it cost a reasonable price per party member, balancing the benefits of larger parties. Introduce damage to gear which decreases combat effectiveness and increases maintenance cost.

Combined with finite resources in the world of NPCs and you may end up with a survival RPG :)

When there's no government to print money, it boils down to a fixed amount of e.g. gold that was mined until the game began, and continues to be mined as the game goes on. Like X gold/day from a mining facility that gets distributed between settlements and vendors. Sounds complicated, but can boil down to the amount of X gold being divided among the N settlements and then the Z vendors for a start: perVendorGoldIncrease=X/N/Z

That makes "ass-pricing" (Jason Fried) of items difficult. The price of apple, potion, sword, magic capes -- a round number for each item like 5g, 50g, 500g, 2500g in yer good ole JRPG won't do. You'd have to test prices a lot to see how players stop starving to death on day 4.

Drowning in money is easier than having a somewhat realistic simulation of being a poor peasant :)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Addendum: I think in Gothic 1 and 2, vendors would restock with each chapter, just as new monsters spawned then. \$\endgroup\$
    – ctietze
    Apr 26 at 14:38
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  1. Put a limit on how much money there is in the game. You can accomplish that by avoiding any sources of money which can be exploited over and over again (like respawning enemies which drop money or sellable loot). Now you know exactly how much money the player can collect at most during their playthrough.
  2. Make sure there is more stuff the player would like to buy than there is money in the game.

That way you force the player to make meaningful choices about how to spend the limited amount of money in the game.

If you don't do 1 properly, then you can't realistically do 2, because a determined player will just grind and grind until they can buy everything. They will have an awful time, and then write a bad review about your game being too grindy. And that would be your fault (As Civilization game designer Soren Johnson wrote: "Given the opportunity, players will optimize the fun out of a game").

Keep in mind that this system means that any wealth spent is lost forever. So you might want to avoid any trades which destroy wealth:

  • You might not want to sell consumable resources (if you want consumable resources in your game, then consider a crafting system, a free-refill system or to grind infinitely for consumables).
  • You also don't want to sell any services which don't offer any permanent progression (like healing or fast-travel).
  • If you want to allow the player to sell items they bought, they should be able to sell them at full price (this mechanic is usually a money sink which you won't need in this system).
  • If you don't want to allow selling, then you might want to make sure that anything the player buys will give them a benefit until the end of the game, and not be made obsolete by a strictly better version of the same item which becomes available later.
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My take on this is that any infinite source of money is to be avoided. For example, enemies or even a boss that respawns and drop money or loot every time killed. In effect, the player must keep moving forward because whatever is behind is simply not profitable.

You can do whatever you're currently doing, but put a cap on everything. Maybe the enemies only drop loot the first few times or the first time? Maybe resources don't grow back when you harvest them? The player will learn soon enough the path you've chosen for this game.

For items actually on sale, don't have that ultra expensive overpowered item. Have a bunch of items which fit different playstyles and can form synergies with each other easily. This, combined with the finite money, forces the player to really think about every decision they make in game, since they can't buy everything. You say you want the player to "struggle" with their money. The easiest way to do that is choice. Lots of choice.

Of course, don't make twenty of the same item with slightly different stats. That's boring. Make each item feel unique, because then the opportunity cost of not buying any item increases drastically. Opportunity cost is only perceived, but it is a very powerful effect and forces the player to really think about their choices.

This also has the added effect of allowing many more varied play styles, and in turn allows for more replayability. Another idea you might want to explore is emergent gameplay, since that's something that goes very with this sort of design.

Basically, lots of items to spend money on but finite money leads to increased opportunity cost, which forces the player to really think about their choices, while making sure that grinding for money is completely eliminated from the game.

This answer is deliberately vague as to not push you in any direction. Be as creative as you like with those hard choices!

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