Like many people out there, I dream of one day creating "THE ULTIMATE MMORPG". As part of the pursuit I have been looking at MMORPG economies and it just seems like the triple A titles miss the mark nearly every time. There are a few great examples of MMOs that handle economy very well, both new and old, and I don't understand why modern top tier games cannot seem to get this right when there are great examples to look at.
Some of the best examples of good MMO economy are Eve Online(probably the most robust of them all), Ultima Online, and Runescape. Oddly all three of these examples allow the players the greatest amount of autonomy in character development, advancing a story, and playstyles. All of these economies are driven by the player. They seem to rely on crafting to produce the finished goods that are used by the players. These games allow unrestricted trade among the players. The players set pricing and market availability through their actions.
Here is what I think needs to be part of a successful MMO economy from the ground up.
-Raw materials: Raw materials include all the basic building blocks of goods. Wood, metal, hide/fabric, fuel, and food. I could get more granular on that but I think these are the generalized categories.
Efficient production of raw materials needs to require some specialization in equipment, skills, or both. Ideally optimal production should be automated to work when the player is online or offline. This would reduce server load and eliminate any advantage that might be found by botting, scripting, or multi-boxing resource gathering. The player would need to establish a claim for mining, farming, harvesting… that must have an upkeep cost. This encourages productive use of land space.
Players would of course be able to manually harvest raw materials at will, but at a significant loss of efficiency. So a player could reasonably harvest the resources needed to sustain their own gear but not enough to really generate revenue from it with out making a stronger commitment to the effort.
-Designs: Before anything can be built it has to be planned. The crafter needs to research designs. Plans, once created, can only be used a finite number of times. The research results would be categorized but not specific. IE a player might research a weapon design, but the specific weapon would be uncertain with a chance for greater quality based on the players skill level.
-Means of production: This would include tanning for hides, looming to make cloth, a forge for metal goods, a shop for woodworking… All of these should have maintenance costs. There could be a small number of server maintained production locations that require direct involvement from a player, but for optimal efficiency the player would need a plot of land and their own structure that could allow them to batch work to be completed while online or offline.
-Localized markets: Goods should not be available on a world wide market. Perhaps orders can be placed remotely but the goods need to be claimed in person. This also opens up trade and transport as viable game play styles.
-Durability: Produced goods need to wear out. If everything lasts forever saturation of the economy with unneeded goods is inevitable. Regular maintenance can extend the life of the goods but not indefinitely.
-Player owned property: There would be an upkeep cost for property, and structures. If a player is unable to cover the upkeep costs the property falls back to common domain, or the structure collapses.
-Contracts: The players need a way to formalize exchanges of goods and services that can be enforced by the game. Purchase and delivery contracts would be essential.
-Limited amount of currency: Currency would come into the economy by means of subscriptions or purchases and leave the economy via research and upkeep costs. This can be dynamically balanced to maintain a total amount of currency that does not fluctuate too dramatically over time.
-Final Thoughts: From the developer's point of view, using this approach I believe we create a robust in game economy that still allows for a revenue stream for the developer. And makes it possible to avoid a lot of the cheesy cash store tropes. The developer can introduce all kinds of cosmetics by way of the research system and the crafters gain the benefit of being able to directly introduce the latest styles and aesthetics to the game community.
From the player's point of view, this delivery of the goods by players instead of through a cash store will reinforce player interaction. Contracts and supply chains build community and facilitate player cooperation. Towns could literally popup anywhere around a good clustering of raw materials or hunting grounds and groups can cooperatively work to cover upkeep costs of their centers of production.
What do you all think?
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