Segregating the NPCs

| Monday, July 16, 2012
The static prices of NPCs, unlimited gold of quests, and the dynamic prices of a player-driven economy do not play well together.  A player economy only needs a little bit of gold, enough to act as a medium of exchange.  The NPCs want big piles of gold.  The dailies churn out unlimited amounts.

Taken together, we're left with a problem.  Someone wants a pile of gold to give to the NPC for something cool.  They do dailies to get that pile of gold and give it to the NPC.  No problem yet.  Until someone else shows up who doesn't care about the NPC's cool wares, but can still do the dailies for the pile of gold.  Now where does that pile of gold go?  Rather than being generated and destroyed, it instead goes into the player economy, the player economy which doesn't need much gold, but now has a lot.  Prices rise.  Absent the dailies and cool wares, players would have little need to farm gold, and little ability.  Just a little bit would be enough to keep everything flowing, with gold as a medium rather than a goal.  But now gold is both medium and goal and there is a quest mechanic to fuel the engine of inflation.

My suggestion is to cut the tie between the player and NPC economies.  Make gold non-tradeable.  Now players can do their dailies or not, with no impact on the economy, except to the extent that dailies are done instead of farming materials.  Even then, that is merely a function of how much a player wants something from the NPC will cool wares rather than something from the player economy.

If players want something from NPCs, they'll interact with NPCs.  If they want something from players, they'll interact with players.

As for the auction house, allow players to create trade offers.  Initially this would be chaotic, with a billion linen being asked for a truegold bar.  But eventually, players would settle on some new medium to use.  Perhaps ore or another commonly-used crafting material.  This does allow for inflation, but there would not be any NPC giving innate value to the material.  Elementium ore would be worth only what players think it is worth, based on its ability to be traded for other materials or used itself.  Farming a lot of ore would be pointless, because increasing the supply much faster than it is used would devalue it, driving players toward a different medium of exchange.  Without the distortion of NPCs feeding and taking, the market could better set a value for the 'currency'.

Hoarding would be less useful.  Gold is useful across expansions and having a lot early in an expansion gives an advantage when the crafting rush begins.  Materials would not be, so that the barons of the last expansion are at no great advantage in the next except to the extent that they are good at what they do.  This would also have the benefit of keeping the currency in exchange, rather than stockpiled.

You might have noticed by now that merely making gold non-tradeable would not perfectly sever the economies of players and NPCs.  As I mentioned before, there is still the time cost of one or the other.  That is inevitable.  Vendors could still buy and sell materials, creating an exchange between the economies, though I predict that it would be inefficient and therefore not too common.  The exception would be when the player currency is in transition, with the old currency being vendored in large amounts.  Despite these exceptions, I think the separation could be done without too much leakage.

Commence criticism.


Kring said...

What you're suggesting is that we need a central bank in WoW which fully controls the amount of gold that exists in the system. And other organizations, the daily quest giver, should not be allowed to create gold on their own.

While you're at it, maybe we should implement the same system IRL and prevent banks from creating book money. :)

Klepsacovic said...

I've thought about having a central banker, but this is my attempt to not need that. The market should become self-regulating. The current problem is that there are static gold sinks but dynamic gold sources. It's like filling a bathtub with a faucet, but then the faucet doesn't turn off, so it becomes a flood.

A more actively regulated system could be more trouble than it is worth. Each server has a different situation, though perhaps not so different that a generic rule set could not be applied. I have thought about a system in which payouts from dailies were variable based on the current gold wealth of players (with the high and low outliers removed), so that it would more quickly cause an adjustment in behavior from questing to farming, but I've seen enough complex, supposedly-adaptive systems get exploited to be wary of this 'easy fix'.

Hyperian said...

Eliminating gold rewards for certain dailys would definatly thin numbers in daily hub zones. Would be interesting what the economy would look like if people had to return to the farm/craft or trade goods system if they wanted to make money. I tended to make enough money off of questing/raid boss drops to sustain my repair costs. Farmed mats for my flasks and enchants. Never really understood why people swore they couldnt function without thousands of gold in the bank.

Klepsacovic said...

This wouldn't eliminate gold from the dailies, merely make it a separate type of gold. It just might think out dailies though, since they'd be run by people looking for novelties from vendors rather than as an alternative to gathering.

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