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Making/Money: EVE Economic Review Reviewed

EVE Online, Economy, Making/Money

Each quarter, the economist over at EVE Online, Dr. Eyjolfur Gudmondsson (there are supposed to be accent marks in there but I can't figure out how to make them appear), writes up a review of the in-game economy. There has been a noticeable lag in times past between the schedule for these quarterly newsletters and when they were actually distributed. October saw the release of the Quarterly Economic Newsletter for Q1 of this year and the promise of QENs for quarters 2 and 3 to follow in November and December, respectively.

Today, we'll take a look through what Dr. Gundmondsson has to say about the economy from January to March. I do encourage you to look through the PDF of the QEN for yourself ... and just ignore that they talk about June 2008 in future tense.

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Making/Money: Auctioneer Wishlist

World of Warcraft, Economy, Making money, Making/Money


A few weeks ago, a reader e-mailed me with questions about some Auctioneer data that they have been collecting. Though the question was regarding trying to determine inflation patterns on their server, it got me to thinking about what Auctioneer actually captures. And what other data points would be most helpful in making evaluations of item pricing or looking into economic trending.

While I'm not about to go through all of Auctioneer's algorithm rules, I would recommend that anyone who uses this mod check them out on Norganna's Wiki. They explain where the recommended prices come from. Basically, it's a comparison of the historical data accumulated from all of your auction house scans and the most recent snapshot data. The market value ends up being either the median of historical or recent data, flavored with the user-set preferences for markup or markdown.

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Making/Money: Conservation of Mass - Part 3

Economy, Game Mechanics, Crafting, Opinion, Academic, Making/Money

Once more with feeling!

Welcome to the third and final (planned) installment of our series on closed-resource economies in MMOs. So far, we've laid the foundation of the system and discussed how starting out, leveling up, and gaining loot could work. Today we will be exploring how crafting professions could still be possible even when the law of Conservation of Mass applies and how banking might function.

There's been a lot covered so far so if you haven't already, i recommend reading the first two posts. But since I know that gets into the TLDR length, here's a very quick recap.

In order to maintain a constant level of stuff in the game, new items could only generate once old items leave the game. Money would function in the same way, except that it would flow from NPCs to monsters (meaning any monies collected by NPCs would spawn as loot) in order to recirculate. There would need to be additional gold sinks (some of which we will get to in just a minute) and limits on the number of characters per server. Each server would then "age" as the average level of characters on it increased.

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Making/Money: Conservation of Mass - Part 2

Economy, Game Mechanics, Crafting, Opinion, Academic, Making/Money

Welcome back for Part 2 in our series on closed-resource economies in MMOs. Last week we discussed how starting out in this *completely hypothetical* system might work, what some of the basic rules of operation might be, and what it would take to keep money available to players. Today, we continue on our chosen path to talk about how loot and gear could be distributed so that raiding, quests, and all the other content we enjoy would still be available even through endgame.

First, a quick recap of the groundwork we already laid out.

Rule #1: Server character limits. Yes, this would create the need for more servers in the game. But it would also enable the developers to determine a starting point for the goods, resources and money available at server start.

Rule #2: Items and money must leave the game in order to come back in as loot or gathered materials. That means that they must be consumed in some way, either by being dropped and deleted, or by being given to an NPC. Consumed items could return as they had left the game, as the resources used in their creation, or as another item entirely.

Rule #3: More gold sinks. In order to keep the loot flowing, there would need to be additional, enticing or mandatory ways for the gold to leave the game. An example might be to have service-oriented NPCs, such as the Work Orders in Lord of the Rings Online or the Saw Mill in RuneScape. Mounts or housing are always popular ways to get money back from players to NPCs as well.

Still with me so far? Excellent. On we go!

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Making/Money: Conservation of Mass - Part 1

Economy, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Academic, Making/Money

This is the first in a series of articles theorizing on what a virtual economic system that had a finite number of resources might be like. I would like to impress upon you that everything expressed here is hypothetical. As far as I am aware at this time, there are no games currently being made with a system like this. Also, this is only one potential way that it could be done.

There have been several discussions amongst friends and fellow bloggers lately of what the economy of game with no ability to spontaneously create items might be like. Specifically, what if all of the resources, loot, and money in the game was there at the start and no more could be generated during gameplay than had been removed? In short, what if the law of Conservation of Mass was obeyed in a MMORPG?

Let's be clear about this - we're not talking about each character starting out with a set amount of gear or money that they would then have to use throughout their lifespan. This would be a server-wide amount of stuff. All players would have access to it provided that it was available. Once an item was "destroyed", either by dropping it or by selling it to an NPC, another item could become available.

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Making/Money: Economic Equilibrium is MIA

Economy, Academic, Making/Money

When I first started playing MMOs I was in college. I'd bounced from major to major but ultimately settled on Economics (from a starting point of Medieval and Renaissance Studies - how'd that happen?). Like other economists in games like EverQuest and Ultima Online, I was thrilled to find a lively economy and interested to apply classical economic models in the study of it. The most basic of these models is the typical supply and demand curve.

Any economic model starts with price and quantity. The higher the price, the more suppliers want to sell but the less consumers want to buy. As the price decreases, more consumers are interested in purchasing, but fewer suppliers are able to produce profitably. In theory, there is a magical level in the middle where supply and demand meet. That is equilibrium (see graph).

What I have since found, which is furiously debated by other economists in the field, is that the typical supply and demand curves do not fit well with the economies of most MMORPGs these days. Depending on the game, add-ons used, and availability of additional market data, there may be sort of invisible caps to the price, and thereby the quantities, of goods traded. Furthermore, auction house fees and vendor sales act much in the same way as taxes or subsidies in real world economies.

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Making/Money: Unlocking More Money

Lord of the Rings Online, Crafting, Making money, Player Housing, Making/Money

Picture this, if you will - You are in Lord of the Rings Online and have amassed just enough coinage to purchase your first house, a minimum of 950 silver. You have looked through the various neighborhood maps for each of the races to determine where you want to be, taking into consideration the proximity of the housing to a town, the proximity of the house you chose to the gate and the water feature within the neighborhood (for safe fishing right outside your door), and the amount you will have to pay in upkeep. You head to the housing broker of your choice, find a neighborhood that has that house available and purchase it.

Ahh, your first property. A place to call your very own in the middle of a bustling game life. You put some nice carpets down, paint the walls, and put some locally-caught fish up as trophies. You might even put a bed in one of the rooms as an homage to real life - not that anyone sleeps in LotRO... at least on purpose. You pay a couple of additional weeks' upkeep in advance to ensure that the house remains yours. Eventually, you unlock the storage container within the house and put some of the items in that would not fit in the bank and you haven't quite decided what to do with. All is going swimmingly.

Then, a few short weeks later, real life calls you away on vacation to somewhere with limited internet access (may it never be so!). You get back to heaps of work and do not have time to log in for a little while. When you finally do, there is a box on the left-hand side of your screen informing you that maintenance is now overdue on your house and you have been locked out until such time as you pay it.

"Oh noes!!!" you cry, "Whatever shall I do now? I cannot get to the things in my storage container to sell them and I do not have the money to pay this outright. My house is doomed!"

Ah, not so, Grasshopper. There are ways to save your house and today we explore my favorite - the crafting method.

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Making/Money: Double the XP, Double the Funds

City of Heroes, City of Villains, Economy, Crafting, Making/Money

A few of weeks ago, there was another double XP weekend in City of Heroes and City of Villains. In fact, not only was it double experience from each "arrest," but it also provided twice the Influence (or Infamy for you villainous folks out there) such that you got double of most everything you might want in the game. And so it was that, after stocking up on caffeinated beverages and microwaveable snacks, we in my house hunkered down in front of our computers for a three day marathon of leveling.

I must say that, while I do flit about from game to game, there is something about the additional reward incentive that draws me in for these events. Yet, in all the bustle of leveling, I got to thinking about the economic dynamic in these games and the ways in which they are different from our now-classic MMORPG systems.

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Making/Money: Hurry Up and Wait

World of Warcraft, Age of Conan, Economy, Crafting, Making/Money

It took a few weeks, but I finally made it to level 20 in Age of Conan. It was an intense time getting through quest after quest, killing random mobs, and starting to mark my map with waypoints in anticipation. Though the levels did seem to go quickly, they just could not be fast enough for me as I was trying to get to... resource gathering.

Yes, resource gathering is that important. It's the first look you get at the crafting system and a great opportunity to start hoarding money for later use (like for purchasing the lowest level horse in AoC, which costs a seeming fortune at 75 silver). That's especially true of games that put level minimums on skills as is seen in both AoC and World of Warcraft.

But AoC takes a new tack in the way that they approach leveling crafts. Keep reading as I take a look at what the pros and cons of this new system are for the crafting system and the economy overall.

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Making/Money: The Origin of the Specie

World of Warcraft, Age of Conan, EVE Online, Crafting, Ultima Online, Making/Money

Specie (n) - any type of coined money, usually of metal. Also used to describe commodity metals.

The crafting systems of MMOs have taken their queues from many different sources to find minerals for mining professions. The usual, generally lower-level, metals such as copper, tin, or iron, are seemingly universal. But as you level you may run across some rather odd materials that are difficult or impossible to find in real life.

Today we will be looking at where the metals seen in games came from. Common or rare. Real or created for the sole purpose of sounding like it could be, these are the metals of our games.

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Making/Money: Virtual Red Paperclips

City of Heroes, Game Mechanics, Making money, Tips and tricks, Making/Money

A few years ago now, I heard a news story about a man who traded one red paperclip for a house. There were several intermediate trades, but the basic gist of it was that he started with a paperclip and traded up from there until, eventually, he was offered a house in Saskatchewan in exchange for a movie role.

I remember thinking then what an interesting concept it was (and wishing I had thought of it first). He really did not need any particular skills except maybe negotiation. He did not need any money. In the early stages, he probably didn't even need a lot of buzz. Just some connections and a dream.

In more recent times, I have seen similar things done in games. Using the auction house and connections with guildies, friends, or just willing participants in the streets, it is entirely possible to trade your way to fame and fortune without ever picking up a trade or completing a quest.

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Making/Money: MUDflation IG vs. IRL

Economy, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Patches, Endgame, Making/Money

We have tackled the subject of mudflation tangentially a few times of late. It seems to have suddenly become the economic buzzword of MMOs. We have all experienced it. We have come to expect, if not accept, it as part of the games we love to play. And though Wikipedia, in its infinite wisdom, has dubbed it an in-game only phenomenon, I posit a different approach to looking at this occurrence.

Mudflation is an immediate devaluation of previously owned items due to the gain or release of newly available items. This is not unlike technological advance in that the release of the latest new toy makes all others somewhat obsolete. The differences here are the perceived need for the item, the amount of devaluation, and the time frame in which this occurs.

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Making/Money: The Diminishing Need for NPC Vendors

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Economy, Making/Money

An interesting post was put up on our sister site WoW Insider a few months ago now which told the tale of the NPC merchant at Imported Boomsticks in Orgrimmar. Though my home base in World of Warcraft is usually this bustling city, and I have visited that shop many times for repairs and the unloading of grey/white items, it was eye-opening to note that I was one of the people referenced who did not remember the name of that NPC.

None of my characters have used guns (not a moral thing - just a convenience one), so I never had a compelling reason to see what was offered for sale or pay much attention to this little shop. I just knew it was there for me whenever I needed to stop by the auction house and take care of some repairs and bag-cleaning at the same time.

It then occurred to me that, other than trade goods and recipes, I really hadn't purchased much of anything from the NPCs on any character. It never seemed worth it. There always seemed to be better items to be gleaned from questing or selling goods that other players would pay for. Why, then, are there still NPC vendors selling their wares around Azeroth?

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Making/Money: Flawed by Design

Lord of the Rings Online, Economy, Crafting, Player Housing, Making/Money

Last week your intrepid blogger was caught up in the other kind of beta testing - a Statistics final. Yeah, that was a bad pun. Oh well. Back to the money talk!

In the last column, we discussed value chains and how, in World of Warcraft, they work when dealing with NPCs but not the auction house. Today we are looking at another game and how it deals with value chains to ensure that they do not work when crafting by NPC purchases/sales alone.

Lord of the Rings Online offers players vocations - sets of three linked professions that cannot be chosen by themselves. In any given vocation, there is usually one "useful" gathering profession which supports one of the craft professions in the set and another, unsupported, profession. In other words, vocations are structured to enforce cooperation and trade between players by ensuring that no one can gather all the raw materials they will require to level their craft. But that doesn't mean that the supported profession is good to go from the start.

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Making/Money: My value chains are broken

World of Warcraft, Economy, Crafting, Professions, Making/Money

There's a person out there who claims that all they need to know about business can be learned from World of Warcraft. A fine sentiment, to be sure, but I take issue with its accuracy. Today we are discussing the first of their eleven business topics: value chains – and why they don't work.

In brief, value chain analysis states that for any good requiring multiple stages of production (meaning you don't just rip it out of your backyard and eat it), value is added at each level of refinement. Therefore the price should increase along its path to becoming a finalized product.

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