16 July, 2013

Building an in-game economy

I started working on the following idea

Three levels of items...

Raw materials
Refined materials
Goods

These would be split down into specific types...

Raw materials
Ore – Gain one per day of work.
Wood – Gain two per day of work.
Grain – Gain two per day of work.
Livestock – Gain one per day of work (may be done once per week).
Oil – Gain one per day of work.
Rock – Gain two per day of work.
Herbs – Gain two per day of work.
Cotton – Gain one per day of work.
Refined materials
Metal – Expend two ore, and spend a day of work to produce 1 metal.
Timber – Expend two wood, and spend a day of work to produce 1 timber.
Bread – Expend a grain, and spend a day of work to produce 6 bread.
Beer – Expend a grain and a herb, and spend a day of work to produce 6 beer (do this once per week).
Stone – Expend a rock, and spend a day of work to produce 1 stone.
Meat – Expend a livestock, and spend a day of work to produce 1 meat and 1 hide.
Paper – Expend a cotton (or a wood), and spend a day of work to produce 1 paper.
Vellum – Expend a hide, and spend a day of work to produce 1 vellum.
Leather – Expend a hide, and spend a day of work to produce 1 leather.
Linen – Expend a cotton, and spend a day of work to produce 1 linen.
Goods
Weapons (a dozen basic types, maybe another dozen unusual weapons) 
Armour (a half dozen basic types, maybe a dozen unusual armours)
Buildings (half a dozen types)
Books (three of four different types including ones good enough to contain spells)
Lineage Items (battle standards, seals, and things that help mark a noble house or faction)
Siege Engines (three or four different types)

Clothing  (a dozen basic types, maybe another dozen unusual forms of clothing)

The aim was to produce different skills that could be used to refine raw materials into refined materials, and a few skills that could be used to produce goods from raw materials and refined materials. It makes a pretty convincing economy; but as you can see, this is getting pretty complicated and it hasn't even touched on a decent level of complexity capable of handling everything that characters in a game might require.

If we need players to fill all the niches to produce goods, then the minimum number of players for such a set-up would be in the dozens, and the subtleties of the economy would only kick in once the numbers of players reached a hundred or so. That's great for an MMORPG where players might spend hours every day grinding away at the menial chores of low level drudgery between adventures, but not so much for a LARP where the focus is meant to be on the action.

If such an economy was to be set up, it would probably be best handled by NPCs predominantly, with player characters capable of manipulating aspects of the economy through their spheres of influence. As an example, one player might spend some street influence to gain access to some raw materials (this might cascade up the chain in later games), one player might spend influence to ensure certain refined materials are turned into the goods they need, another player might possess the skills to do this for themselves (and therefore they don't need to spend their influence actions on this...instead they can spend them elsewhere).

Instead of forcing a player to watch the raw materials turn into refined materials and then into goods, they can simply pluck things out of the economy for certain costs, inject them at other times to make a profit (or loss), or work some effect on them to increase their value and thus make a living within the established order.

Playing with the low level raw materials would earn less money, but be of less notice to the rest of the world. Dealing with finished goods (especially things like weapons, lineage items, buildings or siege weapons) would earn far more money, but would be far more noticeable to players who were paying attention to the movers-and-shakers in the town.

I'm still trying to work out where I'd like to see the degree of complexity in the economy. The figures above feel about right, but I'd have to see them in play before locking in my thoughts. 
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