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May 02, 2008



One of the elements favoring in house production in Pirates is there is very little economy of scale in production. It was a bit more efficient to set up ten lots producing one product, rather than ten lots producing ten different products. But not that much more efficient. So the incentive to buy from an efficient outside producer rather than produce in house was pretty minimal.

I don't think it would technically be a difficult thing to change. But there is a vocal group of players who don't want to rely on any outside party. Typically, half your player base resents there being an economy at all. That reality, and accommodating it, accounts for some of the strangeness of MMOG economies.


One disadvantage that MMOG economies have is that they have to be have to be more "fun" than the real world, at least to the people playing that particular game. The closer that you manage to model a real life economy, the less people would want to play it instead of engaging in real commerce. If you are designing an economy for a MMOG, I think you have to accept that it is going to be warped, and concentrate on making it fit in with the rest of the world created.

This would be the perfect place to put my tirade about the economy that was planned for EA-Land, but I ain't written it yet.


It seems easy enough to make direct comparisons to Puzzle Pirates' economy because much of it is quite similar and Three Rings has done a lot of vocally transparent discussions about their Ocean economies.

Off the top of my head one obvious difference to the description here is that the sink of rents in Y!PP is siphoned into player bureaucracy, which can/does "turtle", but can be fought (blockaded) as well.



How do we define an economy as *fun*?

While it’s hard to imagine the conversion of funds/raw-materials into virtual goods that can yield a larger sum of funds which exceeds the initial value of the funds/raw-materials used to produce said goods, that process seems to be exactly what drives crafting/trading focused players, thus providing them with a sense of satisfaction (AKA, I must say, fun). Sorry for the run-on sentence there, but it seems appropriate.

It’s been noted several times on TN, and on other MMO-centric sites, that one of the strongest features of SW:G prior to the Sony nerf-fest was its highly involved user-centered crafting/economic system (which by its sheer complexity insured that only a tiny fraction of dedicated crafters would become primary suppliers of *premium* goods).

EvE demonstrates a similar quality thanks to the enormous time investment that is required by players in order to “refine and perfect” the manufacturing processes surrounding any of the incredibly rare *premium* blueprints they may acquire. Shaving a few units of production cost off the manufacture of a widely purchased item makes the difference between profit and the poor-house in that environment, and there is certainly a contingent of EvE players dedicated to the goal of producing items that generate maximal profit for themselves and their corporations. I’m guessing here, but I suspect the folks who dedicate their time to these endeavors consider them *fun*.

@Hellinar et all…

Vertical integration within guilds/corporations/collectives seems to me to be an inevitable bulwark erected by players to counter mud-flation.

A stunning example is the recent economic upheaval exhibited in WoW. Blizzard introduced a number of “daily” events that allow high-level players to accumulate substantial cash rewards quickly (at least an order of magnitude of per-player revenue than was previously possible). From my reading, it appears that the developers intended these additional cash resources to somehow diminish inflation within the game world (a sort of *economy of plenty* was the intent).

What has happened, unsurprisingly in hindsight, is the *economy of alts*. Players with established high-level characters have been busily creating low-level alternate characters, and since it’s now easy to farm great quantities of funds doing the daily quests, the cost of items needed by lower-lever characters has jumped through the roof.

The interesting thing about this is the economic divide that now exists between the *haves* (those players who can utilize their pre-existing high-level character to generate required revenue to pay for over-priced items needed by their alternate characters) and the *have-nots* (individuals entering WoW’s virtual world for the first time and lacking the resources to acquire essential items that are now priced far beyond their economic means).

I suspect that many players encountering WoW for the first time at this juncture will become more than a little disenchanted by their inability to purchase items that would ease the grind-centric nature of Blizzard’s MMOG, and may ultimately alienate *fresh blood* that would continue to maintain the viability of their universe.

At any rate, given an environment with uncontrolled inflation (NPC *buyers* would need to maintain a lock-step with the virtual economy in order to somewhat offset the conditions we’re seeing in WoW these days, and that responsiveness hasn’t been programmed into WoW’s core economic engine), it’s not surprising that individual guilds/groups do their best to isolate themselves from economic upheaval by verticalizing their manufacturing infrastructure, often giving up individual profit entirely in order to insure the betterment of the group as a whole.

I’m guessing that a similar mechanic is driving guild/group vertical-integration in other MMOG’s, but I lack sufficient experience with those worlds to comment.

Nick G


Interesting read. First, in WoW as many players now have both 2 and 3 level 70 characters, this type of parallel economy is also taking place very much on an individual level. Secondly, I believe (at least in WoW) that the large volatility in prices and markets directly leads to this type of risk management.

Example; A dps-flask can cost anything from 50-100g, but if a player gets all the herbs himself, send them to his alt who is alchemist, he knows exactly what he is paying. (In time.)


In mining in particular, in EVE, the value and volume of the output is pegged partially to the game-mechanical skill of the player-character, partially determined by the amount of risk a miner is willing to take in dangerous areas

I'd just like to point out that what's stated here regarding risk is the way things are supposed to work, but the risk to reward ratio in mining in EvE has been broken for a while now. The level of profitability for the minerals the require mining in the truly dangerous parts of the galaxy is only slightly better than mining in highsec.

On our last lowsec mining op, we pulled in about 1.5 million isk per person per hour, whereas mining in a regular high sec belt makes about 1.2 million isk per person per hour. It is worth noting that we only had 1 guard and 1 hauler, the rest of the folks were miners... so we weren't getting hit too hard by support cost. The only people who are really mining in lowsec (or nullsec) are the folks for whom there is no risk, those who either control the space they're mining in or are so powerful that they are not really threatened.

Additionally, the recent change to remove NPC sales of shuttles removed one of the artificial caps to the value of Tritanium, which has made mining Veldspar (the most common ore there is, which can be mined without even NPC pirates to fight) suddenly one of the most profitable mining ventures in the game.

Needless to say, the folks behind the mining corporations are not terribly happy.


Nick G. >While it’s hard to imagine the conversion of funds/raw-materials into virtual goods that can yield a larger sum of funds which exceeds the initial value of the funds/raw-materials used to produce said goods, that process seems to be exactly what drives crafting/trading focused players, thus providing them with a sense of satisfaction (AKA, I must say, fun). Sorry for the run-on sentence there, but it seems appropriate. <

Selling your outputs for more than the cost of your inputs certainly drives trading focussed players. But by no means crafting oriented players. Some are traders too, but a lot of crafters just like making stuff. In “A Tale in the Desert”, many crafting operations required player skill. Many skilled crafters simply gave their product away, because they had already been paid in fun while making it.

I think that “fun” should be the currency of MMOGs. At least at the design level. One characteristic of fun as a payment scheme is that there is a reverse economy of scale. Farming one resource for an hour can be fun, two hours a bit of drag, and three become work not fun. If you follow the logic of that through, then some things that are good in a money market economy become bad in a fun market economy.

For example, if WoW wanted to increase the fun quotient in crafting, they would allow people to list stuff on the Auction House as “bind on purchase”. This would allow crafters to sell to end users at the price they wanted, without people coming in and re-listing goods at a higher price. It would make gathering a lot more fun too, at least for me.

For example, if WoW wanted to increase the fun quotient in crafting, they would allow people to list stuff on the Auction House as “bind on purchase”. This would allow crafters to sell to end users at the price they wanted, without people coming in and re-listing goods at a higher price. It would make gathering a lot more fun too, at least for me.

Just speaking from a different MMO's perspective, this is why I went with the Cooking tradeskill in Final Fantasy XI when I still played. The economy has seen its highs and lows (including mass inflation by RMT and then a fallout afterwards), but Cooking has remained relatively stable since my customers use up what I sell them. The game reached a point where a lot of the tradeskills lost a lot of profit potential—to the point that there was almost no point in leveling a craft—simply because there was so much crafted weapons and armor that was continually being sold back on the auction houses. Equipment in that game had unlimited durability and would only go away if you sold it or threw it away.

Cooking, obviously, didn't have this problem since the product was being eaten on a daily basis, with a demand for various types of food and drinks which would help out various character types. A bind-on-sale property would have solved the issue in the long term, but it also raises questions about how likely people are willing to buy equipment if it were bind-on-sale.


Eve is a very special case because there are nearly 300k accounts on one server. When you have more like 3k accounts per server the economy must be simplified quite a bit, unless you want to force the bulk of your players to do nothing but craft and grind. Think of it like a small village economy, in a village where the average person is only "awake" for a couple hours per day. In such an economy, you can start with almost no systemic controls and nearly everything consumable will be imported until the village can become self-sufficient. Until people get on their feet economically, you have to set it up so that they can all work together for mutual benefit, to get the tings they all need from an outside source (like NPC vendors and loot drops). Once you get healthy competition established, you can impose restrictions and decrease faucets and/or open up the sinks. Eve finally removed the tech 2 blue print faucets in the last year, and the shuttle vendors in the past month. As the economy becomes more solid you take away the faucets and see if prices will solidify due to natural competition. You can't start an economy on such a small server and expect people to be able to provide everything the economy needs from day one, unless there are very few things the economy needs. Artificial competition from NPC vendors can be used to do two things: 1)Control end-user cost of goods, and 2)Provide sufficient quantities of goods to keep the game flowing. Another thing Eve has done right is that high value items are so complicated to make that a single person needs to specialize in certain items. Therefore, one person can't be a supplier for all types of goods. Even a large alliance will have a hard time with the amount of time and organization needed to produce everything it needs to sustain itself. Therefore vertical growth and turtling is limited by diminishing returns. There's profit to be made by producing things, but the amount of time and organization required becomes unmanageable at some point.


An MMO that has a rich, robust economy is the only kind of MMO that I find deeply fun.

Player made items in a game ought to be the primary source of items. Yes, this requires an interesting "start" as the world would have to somehow be entered by avatars at launch and you would have to dole out the wealth of existing assets, but once that is done, a true economy could be created.

I would love a virtual world that had huge amounts of raw materials, some renewable, some not, but did have a SET limit of non-renewables.

I would also see as ideal a vast tree of skills that would not allow any one player the individual ability to build houses, carts or boats alone.

Scarcity of materials as well as scarcity of skills would create an interdependant economy.

Finally, were this economy open to destruction, say...in an open pvp environment, wherein everything can be destroyed, including the avatars themselves having at some point a permanent death....this kind of economy would be most robust and rewarding.

Many balk at these ideas, but the most fun I ever had in an economy was the one where I could lose it all at any time, like the early days of UO some 11 years ago.


Mr. Burke,

As a long time Captain of Industry in POTBS, I can state that the main failure of the Cookie Monster economy and end result of Turtling is exacerbated by the failure of 1 doubloon to ultimately generate 2 doubloons. As you discuss your sink, in fact often results in only 1 doubloon at best generating 1.1 to 1.15 doubloons.

Those that are able to vertically produce a product and capitalize on the demand for individual commodities, in fact, can produce very high volume and at a higher rate of return than a dabbler in the same commodity.

The simple solution to this is to provide ample sources to return these doubloons into the market via NPC/Auction House buyers. As simple as returning 30% for raw resources, 50-100% for manufactured goods, 100-150% for finished products.

This would stimulate the production and economy by ensuring that 1 "sunk" doubloon resurfaces at least back into the hands of the manufacturer or trader. It would prop the player economy up, support the widening of production and stimulate trader interests in a number of ways.

If the buyback process held logic allowing a certain amount of volume per port, such as places far from wine production buying wine at a much higher volume. The designers, I'm sure, intended this to happen organically amongst the players and various factions, but in fact, turtling and socialized centralization has removed the opportunities for all those outside these specific groups.

As it stands now, the solution to making money is being terribly cruel to the individuals without centralized societal production or multiple accounts. As a multi account crafter, I could easily command large sections of the very few remaining high value commodities, but have chosen not to do this in fear of driving more players from the market.

Instead I provide my manufacturing and resource base to a number of individuals and societies at cost as a service to allow them to produce for a profit.

As the player numbers reduce, more society centralization occurs, the economy will remain stagnant and consist of only the highest end gear and ships and impressive rare drops from grinding.

The generation of net new doubloons and mass liquidity are over. New players, new needs for structures, for new ships, for startup of their own production no longer exists, or to such a low level that people join turtled societies or companies.

The grinding becomes so specific towards Ships of the Line and line ship bundle projects that the main source of in game net new liquidity is going right into society sinks with very little chance to grow any factions GDP.

FLS is taking steps to put pressure on players to produce without meeting the ultimate goal of ensuring a reasonable rate of return. The Free Market is broken and until players that do produce either leave, or stop producing, increasing the rate of grinding doubloon drops on the open sea, removing the grinding missions and allowing dropped loot to be pure profit to the looter, crafting economics will not make sense but for the very few.

FLS must introduce a commodity market, we cannot rely on those very few players that buy from the free market to fix the massive centralization of doubloons and production in single societies.


As a member of a "turtle" society within PoTBS, I'd like to provide possibly another viewpoint.

On my server, the British had a terrible advantage of numbers for a while. While this provided them with additional lots for production, they also held quite a bit of DB. They then used any money not needed in their production facilities to purchase raw materials from enemy nations' ports. As the 40% taxes on a foreign nation only apply to non-nationals production facilities in that area, not to purchasing goods at that AH, there is no penalty to them. Their ability to do this allowed them to crank out SoLs at a fairly rapid rate.

As a smaller nation, desperately trying to sustain the ability to defend its ports, what is the solution? We chose to stop selling our goods in the AH's, but rather setup "underground" supply lines within our nation and between our allies.

This was a coordinated effort between two nations caught in a war. That is what I like about PoTBS, that the economy is not there as something to do when not adventuring, but rather it's there to primarily support the ongoing wars of the various nations. Thus, in my opinion, it should be manipulated strategically as a tool of war.

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