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Discussion in 'UO Developer Feed' started by UODevTracker, Apr 1, 2011.
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Hi all. I’ve seen quite a number of recent threads on the subject of UO’s economy. Of course, it’s a subject that is almost constantly talked about. Since it seems to be a bit of a hot topic right now, I’d like to take the opportunity to start a “Big Economy Thread” and get some focused feedback.
Here is a short summary of the issues: Basically, UO’s economy has a problem of inflation, caused basically by the fact that gold is created much faster than it is destroyed. As the amount of currency increases, the value of each individual unit of gold goes down, so prices increase. The inflation has been steady for the entire history of UO. There is so much gold, in fact, that storing it and even trading it is problematic for many.
Forum participants here have suggested many different ideas on what to do about this. These ideas include: making bank check size limits bigger to alleviate the storage issue; taxing gold just for the sake of eliminating some of it; adding more big-ticket purchases; increasing NPC prices for certain goods and services; converting gold away from itemization into values stored on characters (a “virtual currency”); changing how gold is represented (e.g. changing it to copper / silver / gold / platinum, or the like); and many others.
Some recent changes that the development team have made to the game are geared towards making improvements for the long-term health of the UO economy, and we have more such changes in the works. For example, we have adjusted NPC shopkeeper behavior when buying back commodity items, implemented a big-ticket purchase in the form of the Britannian Ship, and implemented part of the Magincia Housing Plot Lottery in such a way that it has the potential to eliminate billions of gold.
On this thread I would like to participate in a civil extended discussion of the finer points of UO’s economy. I’d like to talk about everything from economic theory and how it applies here, to specific ideas for game system changes and new gold drains. I’ll answer what questions I can, offer responses to ideas, and ask more than a few questions of my own.
One thing to keep in mind here is that this is intended to be a high-level discussion. I will be frank about ideas and long-term plans, so long as there is the understanding that plans constantly change. Discussing the virtues of an idea is a far cry from making that idea become reality. As always, I will be tight-lipped about specifically what we have in development, until such a time as those specific features are ready to go into testing.
So...let’s have it! Post your ideas, theories, questions, and suggestions. I look forward to both reading and writing on this thread!
On Gold Sinks and Pricing
I believe the following are true about gold sinks:
1> If gold sinks are one-offs, they must be huge. I think the Magincia House Plot Lottery is pretty good as such, but back when there was no open housing space to be had it would have been spectacular. It looks like it's well on its way to draining quite a lot of gold, but I do believe the amount drained will still be a relative drop in the bucket.
2> Preferably gold sinks should be recurring. If you bail out the bilge of a ship with five-gallon buckets and throw each bucket overboard with the water, then you'll lower the water level but run out of buckets. On top of that, the water's gonna seep back in eventually anyway.
3> This is probably most important: the market must set the price. The value of gold changes with the situation. Some shards are more inflated than others, some players don't place high value on hoarding gold. One person's petty cash is another person's fortune. So this means that whatever price the development team chooses for a gold sink, that price is virtually guaranteed to be wrong.
As an example of #3 above, I don't think many will agree that the Britannian Ship as bought from the Community Collection was priced correctly. It's largely a matter of opinion anyway, so there's little point in debating it. However, for the Magincia Plot Lottery, each player is free to buy as many or as few tickets as desired, and the ultimate total price for all the land is purely a function of market conditions.
Regarding the idea of taxes, I'm against any form of arbitrary taxation system. Intellectually, I think it could be done in a way that is fair. It would be the simplest way to get the desired results. But in reality, it wouldn't be fun for anybody involved.
Some specific things I am against are: 1> Reducing gold drops from mobs (think of it as "income tax"). That just makes it harder for the less wealthy to accumulate gold, so it benefits those who already have piles of it. 2> Wealth taxes (just flat taking away gold without returning anything). This just penalized players who have met their goals of accumulating fortunes, and it's not fair to just vanish it.
That's not intended to be my final word on this subject; I'm just stating some of my thoughts on this subject as they currently are, to provide a specific jumping-off point for more conversation.
Any new "taxes" have to come in the form of fees for new services provided, along the lines of vendor fees, or in the 25% NPC Shopkeeper markup. Of course, if the prices for such services can be determined by the market instead of by the game designers, so much the better.
This is the question, isn't it? It's actually a whopper. We're all trying to answer it here, and this thread has brought out an impressive number of long and detailed responses.
But when I read that line of your post, it occurred to me that finding the most succinct answer would serve everyone very well. So I spent a bit of time today thinking about it, trying to find the very essence of the issue at hand.
My answer is simply this: To fight entropy.
Reagents are an interesting subject. Here's a question:
BUT FIRST, THIS IS PURELY HYPOTHETICAL. This is not an idea that we are considering implementing.
Suppose there were a magic blessed bag that could hold up to 100 stone of reagents and scrolls, but in order for it to work you would have to feed it gold on an hourly basis -- otherwise it loses its blessing. How much gold would you be willing to feed it, and how did you arrive at that number?
AGAIN, THIS IS PURELY HYPOTHETICAL. My purpose in posing that question is to elicit some responses specifically about the value of reagents, and LRC, and scrolls.
Re: On Reagents
Assume such a hypothetical addition would be completely optional. Nothing is changed about LRC or even the ability to carry regs around in normal bags. How much would it be worth to you to have the blessed reg bag option?
It seems to me that those options are already there, if you're willing to use reagents. 100% LRC is not required for casters yet it seems to be a must-have, just like max resists.
What I'm essentially asking here is how much is that LRC actually worth to you, and why?
Again, keep in mind that this is an entirely hypothetical exercise; a thought experiment if you will. This represents the kind of new gold sink that could make a lot of sense. It doesn't arbitrarily introduce a new tax and it adds new optional benefits.
On the downside, it's one of those things that would be difficult to price, and the reasons for that are at the heart of the purpose for a thread. That is why I want to see discussion along those lines.
This is a perfect example of the type of inflation that the game's economy has undergone.
Saltpeter's price floats using a "commodity trader" algorithm. As players purchase it from the NPC, the NPC raises its price, simulating scarcity. As players sell back to the NPC, it lowers its price, simulating glut. Thus, the price of the item is determined by actual supply and demand.
The alternative to buying saltpeter is to mine it. It can be mined at a rate of 1,000 units or more per hour in a dungeon, with a mediocre luck suit and GM mining skill. It can also be mined at a lower rate from the safety of the deck of a ship. This means it is definitely possible to make gunpowder by investing time instead of gold into it.
The NPC pays 75% of its asking price when buying the commodity item from players. So if they're charging 500gp per unit to sell, they will pay 400gp per unit to buy. So, if you can mine 1,000 saltpeter per hour, that means you can sell it to the NPC and make 400K gold per hour. If you're selling saltpeter, you also have the option of selling directly to other players, undercutting the NPC price, to make more than what the NPC offers.