Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
items, and so on. In fact, by establishing an under-the-hood gold-to-health-to-
damage formula, games were able to ensure that the amount of currency in the
world always remained relatively flat.
In an open game economy, by comparison, new money can be added to
the game world, either in a controlled fashion or with experimental abandon.
Using the previous fantasy RPG example, every new player could start with
gold, each new monster that spawned could generate new gold (which would
be dropped once the monster was killed), and gold sinks could be at a fixed
rate that didn't change over time. Players could add money into the system
using microtransactions and could use the resulting hard currency to build
wealth in soft currency (gold). The net result would be a system in which the
total amount of gold in the world would continually increase, which would
ultimately lead to game-changing inflation. Often, the effects of this inflation
end up manifesting in player-to-player transactions, because the rate at which
individual players gain currency in the world can be controlled and predicted
fairly accurately (i.e., a level-1 character can kill only level-1 monsters, which
typically drop only one gold piece each, and so on, such that if they are only
interacting with the game world, the player behavior will usually follow a
well-understood, level treadmill curve).
Your game economy and the relationships of different currencies to in-game
mechanics is a deeply complex topic that is highly specialized to each individ-
ual game. Does your game have a crafting type of mechanic? If so, then the
relative rarity of items needed to craft goods and their value in soft (or hard)
currency ends up being very closely tied to inflation. If you have a game where
enemies respawn in an area and drop new wealth each time, this has a real
effect on how closely tied your hard currency is to the value of your soft cur-
rency (inflation rearing its head again). Are items that users can buy using hard
currency completely aesthetic, with no functional component in your game? If
so, you can probably ignore the relationship between soft and hard currency
and keep your soft currency balanced as befits your gameplay and hard cur-
rency tied to vanity items only. (However, this approach isn't likely to be as
engaging as two better integrated systems.) These sorts of questions and a
hundred more like them need to be asked of each potential game design long
before any real implementation work is done.
The goal of this chapter is not to tell you how to set up and balance the
economy for your social game. There are entire topics written on the subject
of game economy balance, and every game is different. Instead, we hope that
we've communicated how important it is to have someone on your game team
who is able to think deeply about these problems and take ownership of moni-
toring and balancing the economy. This is exactly the sort of thing that lends
itself to the study of metrics and analytic instrumentation discussed in the pre-
vious chapters and in several of the interviews. An online game with an evolv-
ing user base requires constant maintenance.
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