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Game Economies? How to Stop Them From Getting Out of Hand?

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Something I have always wondered was how to build a sustainable economy on a game. Something that wouldn't need too much maintenance to keep it balanced, but wasn't ridiculously hard or easy to get by.

The reason I ask is because I used to play a few games where the economy started out so everything was super expensive, hard to obtain and took a while to build a savings for buying new things, but after a year or so, it was heavily inflated. Nothing had value and the game dev added in a money sink in the way of high-value pets that had already gotten a huge number of points (the game's way of training pets added points). That worked for only a few months because the boosted pets just shot their owner's income way high because they would always win shows (there by making a fast return on the buyer's investment) and before the pet would retire from being too old, the player that bought it was able to afford buying two more to take its place from showing the pet and selling breedings to it. And then, any offspring from the show-monster pet would show ridiculously well, making even more money. Rinse and repeat, essentially...

What are some ways you guys balance your economies or what methods have you seen in other games that you thought worked well?

What are some problems you see in failing economies that should be avoided?

Any tips or pointers are appreciated.

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It's always a good idea to have a wide range of prices, rather than having everything expensive (or everything cheap). For example you might have 3 versions of pet food: a cheap one that fills about 10%, a moderate one that fills about halfway, and an expensive one that fills it completely.

It also helps to have money sinks throughout the game (from your example it seemed like there weren't many money sinks, and they were added late). If there are minigames, maybe give players about 5 tries before needing to pay more to play again that day. There can also be raffles and such which users are inclined to pour lots of currency into. Rarer pets might be high maintenance and are more expensive to care for, etc.

For pet shows there should probably be a tier system so newer players have a chance at winning something. With a tier system users are only going against others whose pets have similar stats (instead of a lv 1 going against a lv 50).

With show prizes, the prizes can't be extremely high either, like 10000 currency to the winner. Since that leads to cases like you mentioned where they always have enough currency to buy the highest-end pets and therefore always win.

In a game with pet shows, allowing players to buy high-stat pets from in-game shops rather than just other users doesn't work very well in my opinion. It allows users to skip training altogether and basically buy 1st place in shows. Pets from in-game shops should have low base stats, and if users want a high stat pet then they can get one through training and selective breeding. They could also just buy one from another user, but then supply would be limited, instead of unlimited, since normally a user won't want to sell all of their pets.

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@Dinocanid I hadn't thought of the different feed types and charging for minigames as money sinks; I think I know where I can add that in (I've been planning on making an explore region in Pony's recode and can add in the feature to charge a 'parking' fee for riders taking their horses through).

I also have the shows planned out so the prize money comes from money that already exists (I've been trying to limit how much money is created out of thin air). Instead of a set fee for creating a show, the cost is variant on the judge they hire as well as the number of horses that enter. Additionally, the shows (and regular use) in their training arena will cause gradual damage to the equipment that would have a cost to be repaired (but it can only be repaired when it drops to around 85-90% condition). Show cash prizes are also being altered based on the number of entries; currently, the show host is able to set the prize as long as the first place is at least x3, second is at least x2 and third is at least equal to the entry fee. But since there aren't a lot of players yet (Pony's been dead for a few years before I bought it), that means one player can earn quite a lot of money from the 15 shows per horse if no one else shows in the same sports.

The intended change is so the prize purse is divided up into three or 4 areas: Judge costs, entrant prizes, host income and (possibly) facility rental. The judge of the show gets their pay first and it can be anywhere from a $1 - $5 base fee for the show with a $0.50 - $2 per horse cost. Shows (depending on the facility size) can host up to 45 horses currently ($67.5 - $315 cost range at the largest show possible) and the judges will randomly change their prices if they get more shows to judge than they can handle (I've added a random personality stat that will determine when they will change their prices and to what if they get a certain number of shows; nicer judges will take more shows but still won't charge too much, but snooty judges will shoot  their prices up if they get too popular). After the judge gets their cut, any possible facility rental will be taken. This would only happen if the host rented someone else's arena for their show. With what remains, it will be split 60/40; the 1st place winner will get 30%, second will get 20% and 3rd will get 10%. The last 40% goes to the host as profit.

Needless to say, I'll be doing a lot of testing for this method before I say its set in stone, but I'm hoping this works well.

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It sounds like you're describing two different problems but I'll get to that in a minute. 

Quote

Something that wouldn't need too much maintenance to keep it balanced

The important thing here is to consider " How much is too much? " 

Back in the Day(TM) when I ran games I was beginning to learn scripting but didn't have any a server that could run it, so I did everything by hand. Once I had systems and formulas in place it took about 1.5 hours to do the nightly updates on my busiest game on top of the additional two hours in the evenings it took to roll for dailies. Every day 20-30+ people queued up to look around for items and pets. If you knew the extent of what I did to maintain order you'd think I was insane and, quite honestly, I wouldn't blame you -- BUT gave me a great understanding for how things should work in the games.

  • I knew how people earned their money.
  • I knew what pets and items people thought were valuable.
  • I knew which ones they thought were junk.
  • I knew how much things sold and/or traded for.

So I could easily adjust prices to account for inflation and dailies tables. 

These Days(also TM), I would not go that far. 

I know a bit of scripting, now. 

There are many solutions out there that do some of this stuff already. I'd choose one and modify it further to do a little Reporting for me. Perhaps to add it into the Dashboard. To see how much people are earning and where. How much items are selling for. What items are trading. What games and/or dailies are being played and which are being ignored. And so on. Especially, my endgame would be to figure out what's working and what's not at a glance so I can plan and prepare balance changes and future updates. Automating many-a-task can make 4-5 hours of maintenance a day into more like 4-5 minutes after the initial setup work is done. 

Many Game Economies fail because creators are looking for a hands-off solution that will " fix itself ", somehow.

Which brings me to the other issue. 

You as your game's creator, master, and executioner should always be looking for ways to improve your game and its economy. Even in my little manually-run games there were what I call Power Players who committed themselves to getting rich by gaming the system and attempting to outsmart me.

I understood quickly that I could not stop them by being idle. I came up with ideas for how to slow their progress. I put limitations in place. I raised prices. I put down money sinks. I did things to encourage them to slow down and take in the experience more like the other players who were fascinated that this was even a thing in the early 2000s. 

For the most part, it was successful -- but there were and still will be Power Players who take great joy in " winning " your sim. Eventually, I let up on attempting to curb their behavior and focused on bridging the gap between moderately skilled and Power Players so players could progress through the ranks more easily. That caused general enjoyment of the game to increase and seemed to be the sweet-spot. 

As your game's creator, master, and executioner I think the most important thing to do for your players is make the gaming experience enjoyable for new and average players. This is where I think Reporting would be most helpful. Once you know how much money your average player has, how much they make, and how they create and take care of their pets you can begin making moves to bridge the gap between them and your best players. Found the thing that slows Power Players down the most while keeping them engaged is giving them more competition. Just another challenge. And I think the thing that owners want to avoid is people getting discouraged by the length and speed of The Grind (earning money, items, and competitive pets) and quitting before they go from Newbie to Power or even Average Player. 

Beyond reporting and finding averages, I think the most important thing Game Owners can do to understand The Grind in their games is actually playing it. You'd be surprised by how many Owners do not actually see things from their players perspectives. 

Quote

Pony's been dead for a few years before I bought it

Ah, can we take a looksie at the game? 

Judging by what you said it seems like we manage different types of pet sims, but I believe the basics of what I said can be applied to any sim game. Figure out your averages and aim to make the game enjoyable/winnable for the mere mortal/average player. 

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Blix
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I would recommend having a logging system that keeps track of every transaction players make. Store the date, money value, and type if transaction that was made. Then you'll have statistics on what players are spending their money on, and what they're earning money with. So if any issues come up, you'll notice them before they develop into a bigger problem. 

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It's really more about creating supply and demand and having an open market with fluctuating prices in order to keep the economy balanced. I would highly recommend you take some economics classes or read some economics books. Here's some resources to get you started:

https://ocw.mit.edu/courses/economics/

https://www.coursera.org/browse/social-sciences/economics

https://www.amazon.com/Economics-One-Lesson-Shortest-Understand-ebook/dp/B003XT60KO/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1536608079&sr=1-5&keywords=economics

https://www.amazon.com/Basic-Economics-Thomas-Sowell/dp/0465060730/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1536608079&sr=1-4&keywords=economics

 

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10 hours ago, Mobotropolis said:

It sounds like you're describing two different problems but I'll get to that in a minute. 

The important thing here is to consider " How much is too much? " 

Back in the Day(TM) when I ran games I was beginning to learn scripting but didn't have any a server that could run it, so I did everything by hand. Once I had systems and formulas in place it took about 1.5 hours to do the nightly updates on my busiest game on top of the additional two hours in the evenings it took to roll for dailies. Every day 20-30+ people queued up to look around for items and pets. If you knew the extent of what I did to maintain order you'd think I was insane and, quite honestly, I wouldn't blame you -- BUT gave me a great understanding for how things should work in the games.

  • I knew how people earned their money.
  • I knew what pets and items people thought were valuable.
  • I knew which ones they thought were junk.
  • I knew how much things sold and/or traded for.

So I could easily adjust prices to account for inflation and dailies tables. 

These Days(also TM), I would not go that far. 

I know a bit of scripting, now. 

There are many solutions out there that do some of this stuff already. I'd choose one and modify it further to do a little Reporting for me. Perhaps to add it into the Dashboard. To see how much people are earning and where. How much items are selling for. What items are trading. What games and/or dailies are being played and which are being ignored. And so on. Especially, my endgame would be to figure out what's working and what's not at a glance so I can plan and prepare balance changes and future updates. Automating many-a-task can make 4-5 hours of maintenance a day into more like 4-5 minutes after the initial setup work is done. 

Many Game Economies fail because creators are looking for a hands-off solution that will " fix itself ", somehow.

Which brings me to the other issue. 

You as your game's creator, master, and executioner should always be looking for ways to improve your game and its economy. Even in my little manually-run games there were what I call Power Players who committed themselves to getting rich by gaming the system and attempting to outsmart me.

I understood quickly that I could not stop them by being idle. I came up with ideas for how to slow their progress. I put limitations in place. I raised prices. I put down money sinks. I did things to encourage them to slow down and take in the experience more like the other players who were fascinated that this was even a thing in the early 2000s. 

For the most part, it was successful -- but there were and still will be Power Players who take great joy in " winning " your sim. Eventually, I let up on attempting to curb their behavior and focused on bridging the gap between moderately skilled and Power Players so players could progress through the ranks more easily. That caused general enjoyment of the game to increase and seemed to be the sweet-spot. 

As your game's creator, master, and executioner I think the most important thing to do for your players is make the gaming experience enjoyable for new and average players. This is where I think Reporting would be most helpful. Once you know how much money your average player has, how much they make, and how they create and take care of their pets you can begin making moves to bridge the gap between them and your best players. Found the thing that slows Power Players down the most while keeping them engaged is giving them more competition. Just another challenge. And I think the thing that owners want to avoid is people getting discouraged by the length and speed of The Grind (earning money, items, and competitive pets) and quitting before they go from Newbie to Power or even Average Player. 

Beyond reporting and finding averages, I think the most important thing Game Owners can do to understand The Grind in their games is actually playing it. You'd be surprised by how many Owners do not actually see things from their players perspectives. 

Ah, can we take a looksie at the game? 

Judging by what you said it seems like we manage different types of pet sims, but I believe the basics of what I said can be applied to any sim game. Figure out your averages and aim to make the game enjoyable/winnable for the mere mortal/average player. 

http://www.pony-sim.com/

This is Pony; I used to play it when I was in school so when I saw it was for sale, I jumped on it xD Right now, it'd be classed as a sim game, but I'm planning on turning it into a text based RPG style sim.

I completely understand what you mean with making it fun for all level of players; I'm hoping to manage to do that to keep the power players engaged with a lot more difficult tasks than what the newbies and average players would obtain. Something I have planned in V2 of Pony is adding quests for players to complete that will get progressively harder as the player's level grows.

 

10 hours ago, Hare said:

I would recommend having a logging system that keeps track of every transaction players make. Store the date, money value, and type if transaction that was made. Then you'll have statistics on what players are spending their money on, and what they're earning money with. So if any issues come up, you'll notice them before they develop into a bigger problem. 

I'll definitely add this in! I think being able to see how things are going during testing of V2 will make it easier to fix potential issues I've already got before relaunch.

8 hours ago, Design1online said:

It's really more about creating supply and demand and having an open market with fluctuating prices in order to keep the economy balanced. I would highly recommend you take some economics classes or read some economics books. Here's some resources to get you started:

https://ocw.mit.edu/courses/economics/

https://www.coursera.org/browse/social-sciences/economics

https://www.amazon.com/Economics-One-Lesson-Shortest-Understand-ebook/dp/B003XT60KO/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1536608079&sr=1-5&keywords=economics

https://www.amazon.com/Basic-Economics-Thomas-Sowell/dp/0465060730/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1536608079&sr=1-4&keywords=economics

 

Thank you for the resources!

I did have the idea of supply and demand in mind; I had planned on making it so the NPCs in the game all have different jobs and prices for services that will automatically change based on a RNG personality rate (like the judges). Each service will have a few different NPCs that can do the same job (and then, once Pony gets rolling with more players, they too will be able to do the same jobs) and they'll change based on how much business they get.

I'll definitely read through those books and see about doing a class on it if I can (or buy more books xD)

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This is something we've struggled with on HP, but inflation is relatively under control now.

1. We track the economy, like the overall amount of dollars floating around out there.

2. MONEY SINKS. Everywhere. When we run games we charge entrance fees. We will randomly sell rare game items for game money to pull money out of the economy, or have a game money auction on a low account ID and pull money out that way.

3. Adjust the pricing in the store accordingly. If the average player has 3 billion dollars and a new pet costs 500 dollars, that's not serving anyone.

4. Taxes. We tax the earnings from shows, at I think 3%.

 

To help new players, we start new accounts (truly new accounts, with new email addresses and everything) with a 7 day upgrade and some extra game dollars. Then they get a welcome message explaining how to make the most out of their trial upgrade, and if they respond to the welcome message, we send them some more game money. Then they can also buy a Starter Pack which comes with game money for the first week. We also have a separate, cheaper store for non-upgraded players.

Also, I think this is pretty obvious, but you need to be very careful about the ways you give players to "create" new money. There can be an infinite amount of ways for them to earn money, as long as that money is coming from other players and not being created by the game, so make sure to put limits on how new money enters the game's economy.

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Scorzdon
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I feel like I kind of fall into the same boat here. I just don't have that understanding as of yet.

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On 9/12/2018 at 2:52 PM, hurricaneviolet said:

This is something we've struggled with on HP, but inflation is relatively under control now.

1. We track the economy, like the overall amount of dollars floating around out there.

2. MONEY SINKS. Everywhere. When we run games we charge entrance fees. We will randomly sell rare game items for game money to pull money out of the economy, or have a game money auction on a low account ID and pull money out that way.

3. Adjust the pricing in the store accordingly. If the average player has 3 billion dollars and a new pet costs 500 dollars, that's not serving anyone.

4. Taxes. We tax the earnings from shows, at I think 3%.

I love the idea of being able to offer low account IDs for game money! I hadn't thought of that at all but it would be fantastic for players that aren't able to buy low ids with credits or USD; definitely going to implement this into V2!

I had also thought of a way to control both population and economic flow by means of the pet store; each player is currently given a specific number of horse credits to buy horses with (each horse costs $2000), but I had thought of making it so players could buy an unlimited number of horses, but for each horse over their purchase limit, the cost for the horses goes up by $500 or so.

Taxes seem to be a good way of controlling income flow as well; do you tax players based on how much money they currently have (richer players pay more in taxes) or is it a flat 3% across?

On 9/12/2018 at 11:40 PM, Boltgreywing said:

I feel like I kind of fall into the same boat here. I just don't have that understanding as of yet.

That's why I like sites like this; I can ask for advice from people who've been there before and have more experience they don't mind sharing ;w; Its great learning different methods for all sorts of things from more experienced site owners and developers.

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Blix
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I love the idea of being able to offer low account IDs for game money! I hadn't thought of that at all but it would be fantastic for players that aren't able to buy low ids with credits or USD; definitely going to implement this into V2!

Another option for this is that you could allow players to buy or sell the USD 'credits' (or whatever currency they pay USD for) to others for game money. Players who don't have USD to spend can buy the currency from others and use them for any of the USD currency features you offer. There will also be players who want to buy the USD currency just so they can sell it to other players for regular game currency. 

I had also thought of a way to control both population and economic flow by means of the pet store; each player is currently given a specific number of horse credits to buy horses with (each horse costs $2000), but I had thought of making it so players could buy an unlimited number of horses, but for each horse over their purchase limit, the cost for the horses goes up by $500 or so.



Good idea, I think raising the cost based on number of horses you already have sounds like a good option. I would still set a limit on the horses just to be careful in case you ever need to have limits. Just because it's so much easier to have them in place from the start than to add them in later (at the frustration of players). 

Overall, I've discovered that it's best to focus more on money sinks first before the game is released or as early as possible so as to make players happy and enjoy your game more. Players will enjoy when you add new ways to earn money, raise earnings, and lower costs or charges being removed, but they won't be as happy about new charges or higher costs. So add all the stuff players won't enjoy before they start playing.

Of course, make sure the game is fun and don't make costs so high or money so hard to earn that players won't want to give the game a chance, but yeah focus on those money sinks and save the balance for later. After you see how your site plays and the economy is doing in practice, and you get feedback from players about what they think is vs what makes them less inclined to play, you can start removing charges or lowering costs accordingly. 

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Scorzdon
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On 9/18/2018 at 10:57 AM, Shinobu said:

I love the idea of being able to offer low account IDs for game money! I hadn't thought of that at all but it would be fantastic for players that aren't able to buy low ids with credits or USD; definitely going to implement this into V2!

I had also thought of a way to control both population and economic flow by means of the pet store; each player is currently given a specific number of horse credits to buy horses with (each horse costs $2000), but I had thought of making it so players could buy an unlimited number of horses, but for each horse over their purchase limit, the cost for the horses goes up by $500 or so.

Taxes seem to be a good way of controlling income flow as well; do you tax players based on how much money they currently have (richer players pay more in taxes) or is it a flat 3% across?

That's why I like sites like this; I can ask for advice from people who've been there before and have more experience they don't mind sharing ;w; Its great learning different methods for all sorts of things from more experienced site owners and developers.

@Shinobu: That's true, still I am bit worried that I am so far behind everyone else that I might not be able to catch up. I just don't have all the knowledge that you guys do. I am trying to do the best I can with what I have, but games is going to my biggest problem and barrier. I lack the knowledge to create java and c++ games, let alone flash. Unless someone is walking me through it by holding my hand I don't know if I will ever get it.

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Keep an eye on things and listen to your players about the economy, adjust as needed in new and existing features with supplying or demanding more of the items or currency. Learn about fiat money, currency created from nothing. Think of the long term with every push or pull added to the site. 

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Scorzdon
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On 12/8/2018 at 8:14 AM, Claws said:

Keep an eye on things and listen to your players about the economy, adjust as needed in new and existing features with supplying or demanding more of the items or currency. Learn about fiat money, currency created from nothing. Think of the long term with every push or pull added to the site. 

@Claws: That is pretty good advice. How do you know if your players are wrong or you are wrong in the way the economy works?

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Blix
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On 12/10/2018 at 11:16 AM, Boltgreywing said:

@Claws: That is pretty good advice. How do you know if your players are wrong or you are wrong in the way the economy works?

I agree, good advise above. 

As far as knowing when players are right, or when you're right, sometimes it can be tricky. The way we perceive wealth is relative to what you can do with it and other people's wealth. If people feel disadvantaged because they can't buy the things they want, add more things they can buy on a lower budget. If they feel disavantaged compared to rich players, add a way for them to compete against the rich players that doesn't involve money (so everyone's on even footing). If players feel that money is too easy, add more expensive rewards. 

Most of the time though players can tell when there's an inbalance in the economy. I always examine the statistics and focus on the amount of disposable income people have. I usually try the psychological stuff first if I'm not sure. 

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Scorzdon
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On 1/10/2019 at 1:26 PM, Hare said:

I agree, good advise above. 

As far as knowing when players are right, or when you're right, sometimes it can be tricky. The way we perceive wealth is relative to what you can do with it and other people's wealth. If people feel disadvantaged because they can't buy the things they want, add more things they can buy on a lower budget. If they feel disavantaged compared to rich players, add a way for them to compete against the rich players that doesn't involve money (so everyone's on even footing). If players feel that money is too easy, add more expensive rewards. 

Most of the time though players can tell when there's an inbalance in the economy. I always examine the statistics and focus on the amount of disposable income people have. I usually try the psychological stuff first if I'm not sure. 

@Hare: Thank you Hare. I am kind of still new to the whole economy thing, but I do like your advice though. I guess as I get more experience maybe I will understand it a bit more. I think I will make a new topic about my economy idea and I like to see what you guys think about it.

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