Lost Pages of Taborea: Fixing the economy

Runes of Magic screenshot
I've got one more article concerning the current state of Runes of Magic's economy. To round out my trilogy, I'm taking a look at actual fixes to what could be seen as a broken mechanic. If the current inflation is indeed seen as something that is broken and could quickly damage the playability in RoM, then the fixes would likely be band-aids. It would take too long to rework an entire system filled with thousands of items, each affecting the other. The fix would also need to be implemented quickly. That puts some limitations on our speculations. What does the fix need to concentrate on?

The problem seems boil down to the excess amounts of gold that can be hoarded -- hundreds and hundreds of millions can be saved up. It's also possible for high-level, well-geared players to accumulate gold rather quickly. In this week's Lost Pages of Taborea, I want to take a look at gold sinks (including one Frogster is testing), gold-caps, and some other ways to tame the economy.

For those who may not understand it: Gold sinks are not something the filthy rich wash their hands in. They are methods of sinking gold back into a game, effectively removing that gold from the game. Whenever you repair armor at a vendor or buy food for your pet, you are sinking gold back out of the game.

Runes of Magic screenshotEverything and the gold sink

An immediate idea might be to bolster some existing gold sinks. Repairing armor, auction house fees and pet merchandise are some sinks whose prices could be raised. Prices on pet food and huntsman's traps could be boosted, but that would make it difficult for those without excess gold to obtain items they want. Tweaking auction house fees might be a good idea, but it could take too much time recoding. It could also have the side-effect of discouraging the little bit of crafting that is still worthwhile, although slapping an adjusted percentage-based fee on transactions might be a good idea. It may not curb the immediate inflation problem, but it could help keep prices under control in the long run.

Prices just can't be raised because there are always new players coming into the game. Of the players who have been around a while, most aren't uber-geared and rolling in money. Even one million gold is a very large sum of gold for some players, regardless of level.

Making a new item shop that uses gold is an option, but then that could take away from Frogster and Runewaker's revenue. And we want them to continue making money to continue updating the MMO.

Gold caps

A gold cap is right out. The fact that a system that allows players to buy diamonds and immediately turn them into gold has been in place from the beginning goes against the idea of adding a gold cap. For the foreseeable future, players should be allowed to accumulate as much gold as they want.

Runes of Magic screenshotCreativity from the players

One of the more creative ideas I read on the RoM forum involves creating a durability improvement system; we'd pay an exorbitant amount of gold to get a chance at improving the durability of an item. It would operate like refining jewels in that it would be a gamble. That's an idea I could get behind, whether it was implemented to fix the inflation problem or not. Unfortunately, like the poster mentioned, it's probably a little too much work to implement fast enough.

What Frogster's testing

Some of you have no doubt already seen Mr. Owenstein over in Battle Square at Obsidian Stronghold. He and all of his frogs would definitely attract more attention if he weren't off the beaten path. GM Swag has been more active than usual on the RoM forum to keep players in the loop as to the new NPC gold sink. Owenstein himself only spawns after you've killed some of the level 41 frogs hopping in the vicinity. When he is up, this NPC currently offers a Malatina's minigame reset ticket for the low, low price of 99 huntsman's traps. At 8,000 gold per trap, that means at cost of 792,000 gold to be able to redo minigames. Don't ask me why you have to pay the gold to the pet vendor to obtain the 99 traps then walk over and give those traps to Owenstein. Swag did say it's a test.

This is a clever gold sink because it circumvents the previous time-based restriction on obtaining the prized crimson stats. When crimson stats were introduced, they cost only 120 phirius tokens. That was an amount that could be accumulated by a single player, every day. Runewaker then raised the phirius shell requirement to 200 to keep that just out of reach. This new gold sink (test) allows players to obtain a precious one crimson a day if they are willing to pay the gold.

Swag has also alluded to the fact that this new NPC may be selling more than just minigame reset tickets, which has the forum exploding with curiosity over whether players will be able to use gold to buy cash-shop items.

Runes of Magic screenshotConclusion

Demanding a short timeframe with minimal coding might seem to be too restrictive, but economics, even simplistic game economics, can offer lots of variables. There are plenty of creative ideas out there, like implementing expensive, purchasable buffs, adding high-demand crafted items that utilize and destroy valuable material in the creation process, or instituting an NPC that would standardize prices for everything. And that's just off the top of my head.

Inflation is a problem that every MMO has to deal with. Even ancient MMOs have to deal with creating gold-sinks and curbing gold-buyers. Frogster's current method might be good for the immediate future; will it be good in the long-term? And just what do you think could or must be added to the game to keep this from happening again?

Each Monday, Jeremy Stratton delivers Lost Pages of Taborea, a column filled with guides, news, and opinions for Runes of Magic. Whether it's a community roundup for new players or how to improve versatility in RoM's content, you'll find it all here. Send your questions to jeremy@massively.com.
This article was originally published on Massively.