Greedy Goblin

Thursday, March 29, 2012

MMO Economies use bartering

Real World economies moved away from barter trading long ago and use immaterial "money" as currency. Bartering has several disadvantages, since it need you to create or get some product you are not going to consume, nor can you produce effectively, just to pay with it. In the society where they measure wealth in goats, the smith and the tailor must also be a part-time goat-herder.

Also in this society being a goat-herder will naturally make you rich, therefore lot of people herd goats, producing much more goats that can be used by the society in its original purpose. Before you'd laugh, think of the gold-rushes, where millions of people spent a lifetime and risked their lives to get gold which provided no service to anyone and just inflated the existing gold currency.

Countries now print money that is useless as product, but very cheap to produce and serves no other purpose than being a currency. Producing money is a serious crime which deters everyone besides organized criminals from trying to create wealth without providing GDP.

MMOs seemingly use such currencies, WoW has gold and EVE has ISK. We are not paying by copper bars or tritanium, so they are fine, right?

Wrong. While the WoW gold and EVE ISK serves as a currency between players, it's actually another material. If you bring 333 veldspar to a station, you get 1000 tritanium, regardless of any other factors. If you bring 440000 ISK to a station, you get an Astrometrics book. Why shouldn't we call ISK the material of the book?

Yes, we can roleplay that they sold the book. But then we can roleplay that veldspar is a currency and they sold tritanium for it. If it would be a currency, the NPCs would have to obey the laws of economy. They would have to produce the books from materials that they would have to get from the market (including from other NPCs who also obey the laws). The books couldn't be present in infinite amount. The supply and demand would have to affect the price.

Also, just like veldspar, the players can farm ISK running missions and doing other activities. "I kill a pirate, get ISK" is no different from "I mine an asteroid, get veldspar". Pirates are the raw materials of ISK as you can convert them into it infinitely, not limited by any market forces.

The problem with this barter-based economy is exactly the goldrush: people farm ISK/WoWgold, creating nothing but inflation with no services to others. They get richer only by the amount they inflated everyone else's wealth. If everyone would spend time running missions until he doubles his current ISK, no one would be a bit richer as the prices would double, but everyone would waste his time.

How can it be fixed: everything must be player-created from materials. Of course NPCs should participate or the first player on the server is really in trouble, but the NPCs must be non-player characters, ones that are server-botted, but obey the same laws as players characters. If the books are copied like blueprints, then the NPC station must use up its own copying slot to produce books and must be unable to produce more than it can. If the NPCs sell ships for LPs, they must produce it from materials they buy on the market or mine themselves via drone Hulks (that can be equally ganked and then the station can't produce ships).

Planning a living economy isn't easy. But if you can't do it, or can't be bothered to do it, at least don't make a messup that teach the players (who are often kids) a very bad idea: that they can "farm gold" infinitely just by spending time. People who believe it then go to occupy Wall Street believing that unemployment is just made by "evil capitalists" who are too greedy to give out more daily quests to grind. We don't want punks to occupy Wall Street, right?

So if you go with bartering, do it openly and make Zydrine or something like that the currency!

Quick business tip: if you see a system bright red on the "ships destroyed last hour", check that system in Maybe it's just RvB or another war, not pirates.
Business report: 2.4B (0.4B gifts)
Remember that you can participate in our EVE conversations and soon group activities on the "goblinworks" channel.


Anonymous said...

How are you going to deal with Jita being burnt within the next month?

Anonymous said...

"that they can "farm gold" infinitely just by spending time. People who believe it then go to occupy Wall Street believing that unemployment is just made by "evil capitalists" who are too greedy to give out more daily quests to grind."

Erm hate to break it to you, but macdonalds gives you loads of dailies to do and its easy to get friendly status with them to "wear their tabard". Ive yet to see one that isnt short staffed and wont let you run up 50+hr weeks as well.

You CAN grind "gold" IRL for menial brain numbing boring tasks. What I object to is the leechers who want the gold but "lol maccys is for scrubs lol". Those are the scumbags occupying wall street, along with the moochers and bored rich kids. You wont find a "grinding dailies/ice miner" among them.

Gevlon said...

The Suicidegate and the possible removal/resignation of The Mittani will make a short end of the Jita burn nonsense.

The menial tasks are not infinite, in many countries McDonalds close down as not profitable. Even if they are shortstaffed somewhere, they can't occupy every unemployed.

Energybomb said...

Unfortunately, OWS and other such moronic movements exist because people were, are and will be stupid and less because of "bad lessons". Heck, you probably got it wrong:

The bad lessons come from morons, morons don't come from bad lessons.

Gevlon said...

Bad lessons come from morons, breeding more morons. We can cut the chain two places: kill the morons or stop the bad lessons. The first would be certainly more fun, but the second is easier to do.

The Renaissance Man said...

The Mittani's declaration on Jita came after his ban and removal. He was pretty clear, after they're done with Tenal, the Goonswarm is coming for Jita.

Energybomb said...

You honestly believe Gevlon that the raging lolkid is exactly the same as you except for bad choices? Because that sounds awfully lot unlike you.

People can be born geniuses, imbeciles and everything in between. Then these people utilize their abilities (or not in the case of slackers).

A hardworking imbecile might still be better than a slacker genius but chances are, slacker imbeciles are far more common. And THEY produce bad lessons. Not because they are "badly educated" but because they are what they are: M&S

The genetic limits on humans themselves should not be overlooked and aside from implementing eugenics, not really fixable.

Gevlon said...

@Energybomb: the M&S can be stopped from providing more bad lessons. For example in many countries the Nazi and racist "lessons" are banned. While I'm sure that the "im gud ur bad cuz u jew" scum is just is bad ad before, they learned to shut up.

@The Renaissance Man: you underestimate the effect of the APOLOGY on the goons. The Mittani could easily lose his face for apologizing front of his followers.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with Energybomb - while genetics HAS influence over a man'c potential, we must consider the averages, not the extremes.
Geniuses and imbeciles are, by definition, a very small part of the human race. Most of the people are in the middle - and so are most of the jobs (you don't need a million quantum physics). And yes, MacDonald's IS average, no imbecile in the medical sense could do it.
So, considering most people are more or less of equal potential, it is their choices - or lifestyle - that makes the difference.
And lifestyle is determined by education.

Mirielle Asaki said...

@Gevlon: not quite true. The Mittani has spoken to his Goons, and stated that Tenal shall burn now. And Jita shall be shut down once he is back (i.e. after April 28).

Listen to his whole speech here:

Azuriel said...

The Occupy movement was representative of a lot of different things - some of them dumb, some of them not. The disillusionment with "trickle-down" economics and the outrageously dumb "rising tide lifts all boats" idea are two positive ones, for example.

In any case, your persistence in the notion that games should be teaching people things is bizarre. Even if you made the perfect economic gaming system that taught all the right things... who is applying those concepts things IRL? And more importantly, how is that game fun enough to get people to stuck with it in the first place?

Edutainment is a dirty word.

Phil said...

Same answer as the last post where you complained about grinding missions - liquidity.

If everything is player created then you won't have a tradeable currency that only exists as a currency, therefore you won't have liquidity and everything will grind to a halt.

Unless you are suggesting a player-run central bank in charge of producing and regulating the supply of money. And if you can't see why that wouldn't work...

ariantes said...

While I agree that ingame economies, even EVE's, are not a perfectly modelled after real ones, I absolutely disagree with your opinion of ISK/gold not being a currency. If we open up a textbook, we find that a currency needs to have 3 major characteristics:

1) It needs to be a store of value. Gold and silver are a store of value by being hard to get, same is true for goats. Fiat money, that is our real world money and ingame money, has value because everyone agrees it has value and is backed by the government/game developer. Basically it is backed by confidence (and in the real world by being the only legal tender to pay taxes).

2) It needs to be an accepted intermediary of trade, ie. everybody agrees to use it to pay for stuff.

3) It needs to be a unit of account, ie. all units need to be equal and it needs to be divisible and all the parts together must have the same value as the whole before it was divided. That's where goats and skillbooks fail :).

Now, obviously, ingame currencies in most games fullfill all these characteristics (with some exceptions like Diablo 2). But what IS money actually? Well, there are quite a few difinitions out there, but the one that helped me understand the system most is this one:

Money is a claim on human labor.

Almost everything you can get for money is brought there by human labor and it is a claim instad of a store of labor because the labor can already happened or may happen in the future. If we accept that, then farming ISK does not make ISK invalid as a currency, because it took human labor to get it.

Anonymous said...

Botting NPCs are much harder to progrma/implement then static NPCs and they will eat server capacity. Why do all this when you can just drop NPCs and make 100% of economy player-run? Free market lassiez-faire and so on.

Anonymous said...

Call me stupid, but I don't understand what exactly will happen at Jita. Goons are going to randomly attack everyone? Well CONCORD will kill them, I will loot and reprocess their wrecks. Goons are going to overload Jita hub? I think CCP will be prepared for that.

And can someone living in Tenal tell me - is it burning? Should I move there with my salvaging ships?

tobbelobb said...

For some time I have been working on an idea for a game.
I guess you have heard about Minecraft, the construction sandbox game.
My Idea is to make an impact PvP game with Minecraft as inspiration.

(Now the blog related part of the story)
Minecraft has no quests that give reward, neither would my MMO.
Therefore I would have a currency that is made by farmable materials(e.g. Gold) and that has no difference from other in-game items except that you can stack in indefinitely. In this way I expect this item to become the main holder of value simply due to convenience reasons, despite the game is still clearly a bartering economy.

Anonymous said...

Barter economies don't have to devolve to a single object like goats. Goats might be traded for wood which might be traded for an axe which might be traded for grain which might be traded for land and so on. The key is that goods and services are traded directly instead of via an intermediate value store like currency. That's what makes a system a barter economy. It's inefficient since trading half a goat is messy, not everyone wants a goat and the transport and upkeep of them is an issue.

It helps to distinguish between use-value and exchange-value. Use value means the thing can be useful in itself; you can eat the goat, milk it, use it to cut grass, etc. Exchange value means it is desired by others. I'll leave how that relates to goats to your imagination. The point is paper currency has very low use-value but high exchange-value. That's what makes it a superior currency to gold or silver both of which have real use value that inflate demand for the ore.

Likewise, in-game currencies have no use-value but high exchange-value. You can't buff yourself with them but you can use them to buy goods which provide that benefit. In a currency-based economy, you sell your glyphs for gold which you then use to buy BoEs. Use-value (glyph) to exchange-value (gold) to use-value (BoE). If you don't take that last step, you're left with nothing practically useful: just gold. Were it a barter economy, you might trade glyphs for some amount of ore which you could then trade for the BoE. Prior to that last step, you'd be left with ore, which has exchange-value but also use-value.

Bumpy said...

Star Wars Galaxies tried this, where everything in the game had to be made by players. This worked until "small populations" made it so that everybody had bought everything, so newly produced items went unsold.

Also there was no way to make a "better" product. Once a +5 gun was learned, anyone could make a +5 gun that wasn't different from any other +5 gun (for example), so no innovation, couldn't make better things, etc made the economy "stale".

So SWG introduced "aging" so products deteriorated (fairly fast), requiring you to replace them more frequently. This all went swimmingly well til the whole HoloCube fiasco, which flooded the market with millions of low-price items making it impossible for the little guy to compete in the market place.

There were lots of other things in the game that destroyed the economy, but for the first 6 months it was a pretty good experiment in how to make a proper working economy.