Monday, June 7, 2010

June 2010: Multiplayer Economies

June 2010's topic, Multiplayer Economies, was submitted by game designer Sande Chen.

She writes:

Games have always had an economy or at least the semblance of an economy. In the ye olden days of single-player RPGs, you trucked your loot to the local merchant and used the gold you earned from it to purchase upgrades. Economies were more socialist by nature: prices were determined by the designer and not governed by any capitalist notions of supply and demand. Usually, the sale price was outrageously low while the purchase price was outrageously high. It was a system of inputs and outputs.

Nowadays, with auction houses and with game companies taking over what used to be the domain of eBay and other third-party intermediaries, players are used to a more dynamic in-game economy. Economies have become more sophisticated. Microtransactions have led to the development of dual currencies: one for in-game transactions and the other for funneling real-world money into the mix. Designers must adapt with the times.

Here are some questions for thought:
  • What are the challenges in designing for games with several monetization schemes?
  • Do players have different expectations based on monetization schemes?
  • How do you deal with on-going fluxes in the economy?
  • Do you prefer an open or closed economy?
Sande Chen is a writer and game designer whose work has spanned 10 years in the industry. Her credits include 1999 IGF winner Terminus, 2007 PC RPG of the Year The Witcher, and Wizard 101. She is one of the founding members of the IGDA Game Design SIG.


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