Game Development Reference
it should be. Ideally, your game will be designed so that you can calculate what
the real-world dollar value is of each statistical advantage the players may
receive if they purchase the item you're considering offering. This advantage, in
turn, will need to be reduced to a money-for-time equation in order to properly
quantify the effect the item will have on the world and the offsetting balance
that will need to be achieved to sustain proper gameplay.
For example, consider a PvE-focused fantasy RPG game. If an appropriately
leveled player of average skill takes, on average, 1000 seconds to fight their way
through a particular dungeon, and they receive, on average, 1000 gold for doing
so, then the average ratio of gold/time in that dungeon is 1:1. Let us imagine
that a sword is sold for 10,000 gold that does 10 percent more damage, so the
player is able to fight through the dungeon 10 percent faster. This player would
now be able to run through the dungeon in 900 seconds. This item has just
increased their gold/time ratio to 10:9. Imagine that you sell gold to the player
at the rate of $1 for 1000 gold. This means that the real-world ratio between
dollars and time is 16.6 gold per second saved. Consequently, the value of the
10,000 gold sword, which will save the user 100 seconds per dungeon run,
should be about $1.60. Clear as a MUD?
Obviously, the specifics of how to balance time, difficulty, and two differ-
ent currencies (in-game and real-world dollars) must be entirely customized
for each individual game design. But getting these specifics right is of criti-
cal importance, especially when selling items that can give players a func-
tional advantage over one another or over the game itself. The alternative
is an unbalanced game and alienated players. Games that are either entirely
PvE or entirely PvP are considerably easier to balance than those attempt-
ing to straddle the line between the two. In blended games, which offer both
types of challenges, the designer ends up having to account for the tastes of
a few very different types of players. This problem is difficult enough with-
out allowing for external influences on the game balance (like functional item
purchases). However, because a game that manages to appeal to both types of
players has a potentially far greater customer base, this is a challenge that is
well worth undertaking.
9.5 Aesthetic “Vanity” Items
Is there anything about a handbag from Louis Vuitton that makes it funda-
mentally better than a similar handbag sold in Target? Perhaps (but probably
not). At a gross level, they perform an identical function, and—provided they
are the same size and shape—there is very little practical difference between
the two. So why is one many, many times more expensive than the other?
Because people like status items that help distinguish them from one another
based on their accoutrements.