Player Controlled Economies and Player Created Items/Quests

Sorry for the long absence. I lost my job and fell into a nasty slump. Its just one thing after another… But anyways, this isn’t a blog about my life. It’s about PBBGs! And so lets get to it.

As you can guess from the title, I am going to discuss player controlled economies and what would happen if the power to create new items and quest/goals were given to the players. This may sound like a crazy idea, but this level of freedom is not impossible.  Difficult and time consuming, yes, but not impossible. Perhaps through this post and the discuss to follow afterward, we will think of a more efficient way than I may describe in this investigation of the subject.

Player Controlled Economies :

This is something that most often seen in Strats I’ve noticed but a few RPGs have managed to pull it off beautiful. And the first one that comes to mind is Renaissance Kingdoms. In RK all goods on the market are created by players. Wheat, flour, corn, swords, gold, stone… everything. Excluding beer. Thing only makes a player happy. But the point isn’t to describe how great RK is, but instead to see what happens when players control the price of goods.

So what happens when you let people price good at whatever they want? They will naturally try to sell them at the highest they can possibly make a profit at. This will eventually settle down to the perceived value of goods as more people start to sell their wares and figure out the amount of effort need to create the good compared to other goods. In these economies the rarity + time spent dictates the value of the good. So that ring of a fallen Gods son that is plus forty million to every stat and takes a two months to learn the skills and gather the materials will obviously cost one hell of a lot. Whereas the copper pretty ring, that doesn’t do anything but look pretty, is going to be very cheap.

Allowing the players to price their own goods gives the community more of a sense of power over what is happening in their world. Making it so that the players create all the goods (or any of the good ones) gives them an level of involvement that you just don’t get when dealing with NPCs.  It makes them feel like they have a place in the world and with skills, gives them a sense of progression with their character.

This is something I believe we should all look at closely. As I’ve stated in the past, player involvement in your game world is a very important feature, and its hard to get more involved than when you are the only baker in your town or the best sword smith in the county.

Player Created Items/Quests

What is one of the biggest limitations when playing an online RPG? In my opinion it’s the lack of player actions shaping the world. None of the quests I complete change anything, or none of the items I get are really all that rare. Others will complete the same quests and get the same items.  But what if players could create their own quests, or create unique items? That level of involvement is something most commonly seen in pen and paper games where the players can directly communicate with the Game Master.

But say I wanted to create such a system for a web game. How could I even start with it? What would I need to do to make it work in a fair and balanced way? Wells lets see.

I’ll start first with the creation of items since it is the easiest of the two.  I have designed two such systems in the past for games that will likely be a while yet before they get to see the light of day. But the systems work something generally like this: You’re character has a list of stats and skills. Lets use generic RP stats:  str, dex, int, wis, con, and char. And lets say my skills are miner, jeweler, crafter, forging, lore, weapon knowledge, armor knowledge,  and imbuing.  As you can guess, each skill is connected to a stat. lore to int/char, miner to str/dex and so on. Now say that to master a skill or two is really difficult and there are 100’s of different items that can be used.  So you database all the items, each one’s properties using equations based on the players stats  to get it’s numbers. But you also have an rather advanced system where each item has a relation to all the other items on how they mix based on a number of variables such as level, stats, skills, qualities, quantities, etc.

With a system of this size and complexity, you have pretty much created a world where even items of the same kind are unique due to the makers skill. And while players will be producing similar some of the time, players will be exploring and constantly working to find the best combination of skills and materials. And if you level all the properties unknown to the player or what the possible out come may be when combining 2, 3 or even 10 items, you will see a lot of player interaction just to get others recipes, or failed experiments.

When I said this was the easiest, I didn’t mean it would be an easy thing to achieve or even design. This would skill take ages to design and develop but why not put the time in? I know we are for the most part more hobbyists than professionals making a living at this, but this is the time to start. With advance in technology, and an increase in the number of people using the web, now is the time to make PBBGS from a hobbyist thing to full scale game development. This is a plausible system,  but design and creation are hugely time consuming.

Let’s now look at player created quests. This is the hard one. This is not just because of the code, which will be difficult, but because as of now, the best system I can think of to do this requires a human to go over each player submitted quest.

*pauses to go make a rum and coke* it is st. patties day after all. ^^

So, this is a similar to another system I design for another game that will be a while before seeing the light like my other ones.  But I have thought most of the system out. And one of my first thoughts of developing a system like this was how many quests the players would flood me with and how many would be just crap. So I thought, what if I only allowed donators to create quests?  That would cut back the number of quests I would have to filter through. I then thought what if I only let the donators do this twice a month. That would be great! I’d have players create the quests for other players. All that I needed to do was build the system.

*pauses for another drink*

I’ll try to remain as coherent as possible through all of this lol.

So what would the system look like to do such a crazy thing? Well let me describe what I had thought of. First I would have the basic type of quests, where a player can pick a NPC by city, give the type of quest, the place the quest would take place, and the reward.  Several different type of quests would have to be offered and many many goals for each quest would need to be available but so its not always go and gather 10 bee wings for the spellcrafter.

The second type of quest that I intended to offer was one that allowed the player to create a boss-like creature and to give a back story. These ones  would offer better experience and better loot, but requires the players to put in more effort into their creation. Uses the same idea, pick a city, then the NPC to give out the quest.

And thirdly, a story arch. This one requires far more effort on the players part to create this quest. First, the quest would need to fit into the worlds story and history, since a quest of this type is meant to be a story, but just a fetch and deliver quest. This type would all the player to create NPC’s if need be, a response based dialog and make it several tasks long. Such as one where a player needs to stop a small kobold raiding party that is attack outlaying farms. Upon destroying the kobolds you find that more will be coming, and you are given the quest to go and kill the kobold chief that is controlling them and to return with his head.

You can quickly see why a human is needed to …

*pauses for another drink*

needed to review each quest before allowing then to be approved and made part of your game. You could of course discourage this by using a strike system or something of the sort where if you purposely create bad quests you get a strike. Too many strikes and you can no longer create quests.

This system, while not as complex code wise as the items, is still difficult because it requires someone to check each quest. Limiting the number of players that can create them and the number those players can create saves the humans much trouble.

So as you can see, while both these methods are difficult to develop and can be time consuming to manage, it is possible to do. I would now like to open the floor to hear your comments. I am very curios to hear your thoughts on these idea’s and what you think about the longer development times.

And as stated in my earlier post, we have a new writer here at OpenBracket. Hopefully this will prompt me to write more ^^


  1. This post is making me thirsty…

    Coincidentally, the Aethora dev team has been talking economics the last couple of days. We've been hashing out the system that will support player-crafted items.

    Yeah, you know what? It's going to be as complex as you'd expect. We've come up with a pretty unique idea and it's going to take some time to implement it.

    I think one thing to consider in the grand scheme of a particular game's design is how important the economic system will be in contributing to the fun of the game. Some games, the "fun" really comes from interacting with a living breathing "virtual" economy. For an RPG, character development and combat are usually quite a bit more important than economy.

    I think it's all about getting your project off the ground. This is just my opinion of course. I see a lot of good ideas all over the place, but spending too long at the drawing board means you never get to the production floor. Some people may scoff at this, but I really think an economy is secondary But that's because I'm more RPG minded, and when I designed my game, all I was thinking about was making the combat and character development the core contributors to the fun of the game. Now that the game's been running for a while, I can look at revamping the in-game economy.

    A player-run economy only really works if you have enough players to drive it on both sides of the supply and demand equation.

    Also, don't forget that MUDflation is going to happen no matter what; much like inflation is unavoidable in the real-world economy. It might move at different rates, but on a long enough time period, every economy experiences inflation. The only sure-fire way to combat inflation in an in-game economy is to periodically nuke all your players back to 0. Again, depending on the style of the game, this may be acceptable. For many, it's not.

    I won't go into the player-made quest bit because we've got some plans in the works for that kind of thing as well. Not that I'm trying to keep secrets, it's just that I could go on for KB after KB and you don't need my self-indulgence 🙂 I will say, related to that subject, I had been running the game solo for a long time and once things got to a certain point of stability, I recruited some great writers out of my player-base. They come up with some good quests that will be going into the game very soon.

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