Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
the economy and currencies function. Spend real time examining how users
respond to this help, and keep any assistance as concise and clear as pos-
sible. If you can, relate the lesson to user motivation. How do the currencies
allow users to do what they want to do in the game? How will earning and
spending let them heighten the fantasy at the beating heart of the game?
And how best can you get your users this information without making them
feel silly, stupid, or distracted from the core game?
5. Test, measure, and optimize. No one produces the perfect game fresh
out of the gate. It's a tragically common form of game designer hubris to
assume that this game is different and that their system will be perfectly
balanced without the need for constant A/B testing, analytic gathering,
and tinkering. Guess what? The other guys have really smart designers on
their staff too, and they are out there iterating rapidly and studying the
data carefully. So strategically plan how the different moving parts of your
game should work, then relentlessly push your system and backend and
analytics design to allow for as much data gathering and rapid rollout of
tweaks as possible. Be prepared to constantly adjust the types of currency-
balancing factors we've discussed throughout the lifespan of the game if
you want to maximize your success.
10.4 Closed and Open Economies
There has long been a debate amongst designers about the value of “closed”
versus “open” economic models for games. For the early single-player or
session-based multiplayer games with no meta-economy, this debate mattered
little. In the era of MMO development, this question became far more mean-
ingful, as a poorly designed economy (or even a well-designed economy to
which users reacted in unexpected ways) could so seriously alter game bal-
ance as to end up breaking the game and driving users away. ( EVE Online ,
for example, had such a complex economic model that various servers ended
up playing very differently after only a few months. Relative levels of wealth,
inflation, and the basic value of goods ended up differing hugely for different
players.) In modern free-to-play social games, because the game economy is
often tied to real-world currency—albeit at some level of remove—the onus
on designers to understand and carefully control the economy is now even
more critical to success.
What do we mean by a closed economy? If the total amount of money in the
game world is fixed at a certain value or range, the game economy is closed.
For the most part, this model will prevent any sort of inflation. For example, in
a fantasy RPG, the game could be balanced such that the amount of gold mon-
sters drop when killed is perfectly balanced against the cost of various types of
“gold sinks,” which remove money from the world. Typically, these gold sinks
come in the form of a cost to heal player characters, the price of consumable
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