Why More Games Should Include Player-Driven Economies

One of the things I’ve always loved in MMOs and multiplayer games are entirely player driven economies. While Player vs. Player combat in MMOs and multiplayer games has historically been my favorite thing to do in these types of games, I’ve always enjoyed relaxing now and then with crafting and trading when games have allowed for it.

The deeper the crafting and economy system the better. Some of my fondest memories of MMOs have been the hard work put in to the crafting and trade systems.

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A great example is the game Star Wars Galaxies. Star Wars Galaxies, or SWG, was an MMO developed by Sony Online Entertainment back in the day. While the combat, quest system, and many other aspects of the game left a lot to be desire it gave a TON of options when it came to crafting.

I fondly remember playing a doctor in SWG. As a doctor, I handed out insane buffs to player’s characters. People would form huge lines, pay me in credits, and I would buff them. Some of the scenarios that came from it where absolutely hilarious.

I once had members of the Empire accuse me of being a Rebel (I was, in full disclosure) and they tried to rob me of my supplies. I once bartered with a fellow merchant who didn’t have credits, but he/she had just finished a huge batch of speeders and gave me 10 of them for a buff.

I struck up all types of interesting and fun conversations with my “patients” in those massive lines. Two people even “hit it off” who were next to each other and in line for my buffs and got married (in game, of course). This wasn’t even on a role playing server either!

The point is: by enabling something to be player controlled, rather than just getting a buff from an ability or NPC, it ended up in some of my most memorable and favorite moments in gaming.

Here’s the cool thing about Star Wars Galaxies though: everything was player built and made. In order to get the food products and resources I needed to make the buffs I needed a factory. But as a doctor, I couldn’t make the factory, so I bought it from an architect. But he couldn’t get all the minerals he needed for it as an architect, so he bought a bunch of extractors from someone else who specialized in creating them. And he bought the metals needed for that extractor from someone who purely specialized in getting ores and metals from the ground. This is just one small example.

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Another game I have good memories of the crafting and economic system was Archeage. While the game itself was deeply flawed (it used a labor point system, which could be pay-to-win and limited the crafting you  could do in a day), its depth of crafting was incredible.

Everyone in our guild had different roles. One of our big goals was to make a huge galleon ship. In order to do this it required an insane effort on our part with everyone specializing to achieve the same goal.

One of us focused on growing trees and getting the correct lumber for the job. Others worked on growing cloth for sails, mining iron for the metal components, and earning gold needed to create the ship by creating trade packs from various materials.

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Flash forward even further to the game Eco. A multiplayer game all about stopping an impending asteroid (without murdering your planet in the process). Not an MMO by definition, it still has player driven economies. With my group of friends we all specialized in various tasks. One person was a cook/chef, which gave us the energy/calories to complete physical labor. I was our engineer who built a wide variety of machines and infrastructure that assisted us in our efforts (I also proudly built our laser that killed that pesky asteroid). I relied on other friends to mine me ores and smelt them. They relied on our carpenter to build the houses we needed to put the smelter and forge in. It was all interconnected.

Sometimes having those interconnected systems can be frustrating too, though. “Bah, our iron worker isn’t on, so I can’t get the metal I need!” For us though, it led to a fun system where we’d post a “work order” in Discord, so when our friend in that role got on they would then they’d complete the order and deliver it, and we’d return the favor as they needed things.

So what would I like to see in more games? Even more interconnected roles and specializations. I love games that encourage player interaction. Particularly if people decide to role play. Here’s a few things I think would be fun with player driven economies:

  • I’d love to see more games encourage not just crafting, but the transportation of those goods to other areas. One one my hopes for Star Citizen is that it will include significant crafting and transport of said goods. With a fully realized open world with boarding, ships, and the potential pirates how cool would it be transporting goods? Oh you’re in the business of mining metals? Maybe you hire someone to transport them, since you don’t have a massive cargo ship yourself. In turn, they need to hire fighter ships to defend them from pirate attacks. Maybe if the pirates succeed, they need a black market for those stolen goods, which is another area of commerce and trade.
  • Likewise, I hope to see more meaningful and enjoyable crafting experiences. Just going out and right clicking on mineral nodes is pretty mundane. Likewise, if crafting takes skill, it might lead to more people specializing and relying on others for goods. I’d love to see skill based systems for mining. I’d eventually love to see a Factorio style system for creating goods. This way, players are rewarded for continuing to branch out into other skills by taking over more of the supply chain.
  • Allow for player created contracts with some binding contract (Player A will deliver 500 metal ingots to Player B. When Player B receives 500 ingots, Player B will award Player A with 1,000 gold coins. If Player A does not deliver 500 ingots by (day) then Player A will lose (number) of reputation points. etc.
  • From raw mineral to epic creation and every step in between. I think it’s exceptionally fun to take raw goods like metal, wood, food products, etc. and convert it into advanced things. For example: take metal and turn them into ingots, then ingots into wiring, then wiring into computer parts, etc. It allows for people to specialize and become interconnected.
  • Recreation of the supply chain. Rarely does a company control and create each part of a good. A grocery store doesn’t farm the wheat needed to make their store brand bread. Or harvest the sugar that will go in it. They buys those goods from others, ships them to a factory, and has the factory send them those goods. I’d love to see more connection like that. Make it a long and rewarding process if players DO control those elements of the supply chain, but the game should encourage players to rely on purchasing goods from other players in order to make their own goods.
  • Make more crafting roles important and essential. Being a cook in the game often feels way less important than being a blacksmith. In Star Wars Galaxies, the chef’s foods provided insane buffs. Do the same for other roles too. Make the tailor’s goods be just as essential as the blacksmith’s goods.

Overall, player driven economies are just plain fun in games. Best of all, for players not interested in it, they can simply earn their money another way (perhaps by fighting/quests/combat) and save up to buy the end result products. Star Wars Galaxies taught me that a lot of people are interested in more than combat though. There were hundreds of people in cantinas as entertainers. Giving buffs, socializing, and earning money to purchase goods they wanted. Same with crafters in that game. For me though, I love the idea of crafting to help support my own adventures in combat. Let my character make goods to help support my adventuring and earn coin that can be used to help me buy things.

Phew. That was quite a long winded post (kind of a theme so far, in case you hadn’t noticed). I’d love to post a video on my YouTube channel in case you would like to see more on this topic in the coming weeks. Likewise, if you want to see me play games live, come check me out at Twitch.tv/Forenci1. Finally, feel free to comment on about this blog post on Twitter. See ya there, friends!

 

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