Free money doesn't work so well
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 27 September 2013, 10:28 am
Why is karma the most useless currency ever? Syp has several reasons, some personal to him, such as the fact that he isn't doing much crafting or legendaries. Yet the real problem isn't that the currency isn't used for buying a lot of stuff, but rather, because it is free money.

Most games don't give the AI an adaptive economy. Prices aren't based on supply or demand, but are instead based on what the devs thought would be balanced, so they end up either fixed or rising with the player's level. The usual result is that players become richer and richer, yet they will have fewer and fewer items to purchase. Maybe that first Greatstaff of Greatness drains their account, but after a few more money spiders they're ready to go again, with nothing left to buy.

In part this is due to the lack of costs. You don't need to buy many potions or boxes of ammunition to shoot spiders. In fact, if you did, you wouldn't go. Players aren't going to spend more on an adventure than they'd get from it unless there is some non-monetary reward. However even that case is similar to buying the Greatstaff of Greatness, a one-time cost that doesn't affect the overall trajectory. Y=X-10 has the exact same trend as Y=X. If costs were higher, but not quite higher than rewards, then it would slow the trend, not stop it.

I generally like having more money, whether virtual or real. It's a habit of sorts, to scavenge and not let perfectly good assault rifles go to waste just laying around on the trail of corpses. Or in real life I try not to throw away food.

Games reinforce this by making money rather tight early on, and often necessary. Your armor needs upgrading, your weapons are weak, and you're homeless. So you scrape and scrounge, learning to save every last bottle cap and credit. You develop the habit of calculating the value/weight ratio of everything, shuffling items in and out of inventory to maximize your haul, regretting every extra pound you carried into the dungeon.

Next thing you know you're rich, yet still in the habit of gaining wealth, despite it being of no use any more.

Adding in other players can help or even fix the problem. They want things too and are willing to pay for them. Developers can stick a tax on the transactions to gradually destroy excess currency. This does require that players have a reason to trade currency, meaning the addition of commodities (trade materials) or services (help with content). Having players also makes it easier to add sinks, because with one player a sink either works or doesn't, whereas with many players it only needs to work for some players, who will then attempt to draw currency to themselves.

Arguably karma fits into this, since it can be used to purchase items that can eventually be traded with players. However karma only goes one way, into gold or materials; players cannot trade to increase their karma. The karma sinks then need to be effective for every player, since there won't be any ability to use other individuals as sinks/magnets.

There's my quick fix: make karma tradeable on the trading post.



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