Game Economy

One of the biggest issues I’ve run into as a game developer is keeping control of the economy. One of the problem with new players is they don’t have the experience to use the money they have wisely. For instance, lets say you give every member $10,000 to begin with. Having not played the game before they don’t have an accurate idea about the cost of buying a pet, or feeding that pet, taking it to the vet, etc. So, in a matter of minutes they spend all but $1,000 of what they had to start off with.

Now comes the dilemma. In order to keep the member playing they need money to enter shows, or competitions, or breed — in essence to become a working part of the current member population. So how do we supplement it?

Well, we give them a set allowance. We’ll let them receive some amount of money weekly that they don’t have to earn through the game economy. This is the easy solution, let the player with no money earn a set income once a week until they’ve become accustomed to the game and learn how to make their own income.

But there are problems with this as well. As the member becomes a more productive member of the game community, buying and selling and trading their individual skills among the others, they still have a source of income to draw from that they do not have to work for. This leads to inflation in the economy that can skew prices to the point where new members cannot even consider buying a pet or an item in the game because it costs 1 million dollars. Members who have been playing for several months, saving their weekly stipend, now have money in the millions and millions of dollars. New members who start out with a measly $10,000 are stuck. They aren’t encourage to continue playing because even the smallest goal is $990,000 out of there reach.

So how do we fix this problem? I’ve found a few solutions.

The first one is easy, because new members don’t know how to manage their money you HAVE to give them some source of funds to draw from until they become self-sufficient. However, once they no longer need to rely upon that income cut it off. Set some limit, say $500,000 or whatever is appropriate to your current economy, where members won’t have a stipend to draw from. They don’t need it.

Another solution, a much harder one to make, is to deflate your economy. My members were very upset about this, but it helped the problem tremendously. Find out what the average amount of money is in the accounts of all your members and then any member that has a significantly higher amount then that, simply remove it from their account. This isn’t the best solution because it causes contention among members, but does help your newer members. Older, more experienced members can no longer charge $1 million dollars for a pet when they only have 500 thousand.

The last solution I’ve found will not completely stop the problem, but it does help. Newer members often create multiple accounts, and then buy and sell their own pets to transfer that money from their account to their main account. This results in a huge increase in accounts that are superfluous. By limiting a member to only 1 account you can help prevent this type of inflation. However, anyone whose tried to block an IP address knows the challenge presented there.

A game’s economy is a delicate balance. Prices too high discourage new members to try their hand in the game. Prices too low are just as devastating. The game becomes almost pointless if there is nothing to work for, because you can buy anything and everything you need.

So there it is. My 2 cents, cheap enough anyone can afford it.

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