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Starmourn’s economy – early thoughts

The economy design in Starmourn is still at a relatively nascent stage, but there are some key ways it’s going to differ from our other MUDs, based on lessons learned over the last 20 years of running MUDs.

Better control over currency generation.

The ability of players to generate in-game currency (Marks in Starmourn’s case, gold in the fantasy games) needs to be narrower between high level and low level and, at least as importantly, between people who play (or let a script run) for 12 hours a day vs those who play 3 hours a day, than in our other games. I’m not talking here of player to player gold transfers – that doesn’t create anything. I’m talking primarily here about bashing/killing NPCs, as that’s the primary way that gold gets created in our other games.

The trouble with having a gap in earning/gold-creation potential that’s too big is that it ultimately means that anything that’s in-demand and priced by players (vs NPC shops) ends up being either trivial for some players or out-of-reach for others. However, it’s also important that the gap not be too small, or it robs us of an incentive to give players to get better, and do more. Equality is not the goal, but raging inequality isn’t the goal either. There’s a happy medium there. Of course, narrowing the ‘earning gap’ doesn’t solve the above problem, only ameliorate it somewhat, as there’s no stopping successful long-time players from accumulating a lot of wealth over time, barring some kind of taxation system where you get taxed on your Marks sitting in your account, but nobody’s going to like that.

Isn’t some people being poor and some being rich just like real life?” you might ask. Why yes, it is! But the key difference is that this is a game, and were real life a game, I’m fairly sure that most people wouldn’t willingly select the ‘I live in poverty on less than $2/day with no real hope for life to get better’ option. In a game, everybody wants to be the hero, the leader, the standout. Nobody wants to be just another of the huddled, struggling masses.

One way we’re going to narrow this gap is that hunting NPCs/monsters won’t be all that rewarding in terms of Marks. Instead, there will be other reasons to hunt/bash, though I’m not going to go into that now.

As a replacement, we’re going to rely on a system of ‘bounties’. We don’t have a final design for that yet, but essentially it’s completing a usually procedurally-generated task for a reward. For example, a bounty could be as simple as, “Kill Jot Tama, the Bushraki merchant on the other side of town” wherein all you need to do is walk across town and kill Jot Tama.

Gamma station.

But a bounty could also be much more complex. For instance, “Acquire the information cache from the Iron Corsairs’ Gamma Station”. In this (purely hypothetical) case, you’d need to get in your starship, navigate to Iron Corsair space, fight or sneak your way (in your starship) to Gamma Station, dock, exit your starship, fight off whatever security has just watched you dock illegally, make your way to a terminal with access to Gamma Station’s offline infostorage, and then successfully hack it, which is a whole process in and of itself. You’d likely need a friend or two with you as well, since while hacking your body is just sitting there, totally vulnerable to attack, and a hack of this magnitude will take a few minutes.

Bounties will have outsized rewards compared to quests that are available to do whenever you choose, and we’ll place limits on the number (or a combination of number + difficulty or something) you can take per day. By finding the right balance there, we can basically ensure that there’s only so many Marks you can generate each day that way, and that it it will ‘only’ take a few hours to max out your Mark earning potential via bounties. We’re hoping that via this method, we can keep a handle on the value of Marks, and keep as much of a lid as we can on what’s called “Mudflation.”

Of course, there will certainly be other ways to earn Marks too, but most of them won’t create new Marks, just pass them between players when players sell things to each other.

Commodities.

For those of you unfamiliar with our other games, most things that players can make require a selection of ‘commodities’ (“comms” for short).  Those comms, in Achaea for example, are gotten two ways: Many of them come from the player mining system exclusively, while a few are bought from NPC shops. In Starmourn, we’re also going to have a commodity system, but it will work a bit differently.

Looks like some good mining!

  1. First, similar to Achaea, players will generate most comms. For instance, some will come from mining asteroids from your starship. Others are generated in different ways.
  2. Unlike Achaea, these comms will never enter your inventory, and you won’t have rift storage (that’s magical storage that you can store many thousands of comms in).
  3. Instead, comms will always be stored in a storage facility – either in your ship or a warehouse, neither of which is free. Storing them in your ship will make them vulnerable to those who might like to take what’s in your ship’s storage (vs things like furniture in your ship’s rooms, which won’t be vulnerable to theft) via force, and they add mass to your ship, making it accelerate/turn more slowly. Plus, ships have fairly limited storage, whereas warehouses are vast and have unlimited storage….for a price. The more space your comms take up, the more rent you’ll be charged. So, it’s possible to stockpile, but there’ll be a small, repeating fee that’ll go with it. Note that this is totally different from stuff in your inventory (clothes, weapons, etc), which has no ‘rent’ attached to it, similar to our other games.
  4. Also unlike Achaea, the comms themselves will generally have to be taken to manufacturing facilities to be turned into finished goods before they’re useful to you. This isn’t a medieval game where you’re toiling away at a forge after all. Nobody’s going to manufacture a gun from scratch. You’d take one that’s been manufactured and then mod it.
  5. And that brings us to movement costs for comms. Since comms have to be kept in storage facilities, players cannot move them around on their own, in their inventories. Instead, comms will need to be transported from one storage facility to another, either on a player ship (which has a fuel cost attached, and the more mass a ship has the more fuel it uses to accelerate/turn) or an NPC ship, which would charge a fee based on distance.
  6. Here’s an example of how it might play out:
    • San Holo, the infamous scoundrel, is putting together a big job, and needs a whole shipment of high-grade quantum processors to get it done. He places an order at Scatterhome for them for <x> Marks. Quantum processors require (hypothetically only here right now) unobtanium to be manufactured.
    • As it so happens, another player, Chompbacca, has a lot of unobtanium in storage on Uchyeon III, and some time on his hands, so he flies to the Uchyeon system and transfers the correct amount of unobtanium into his ship’s storage.
    • He then flies that to an autofactory in another system that’s tooled to make computing parts, delivers the unobtanium, and pays whatever the owner (a charming, swarthy player named Landoh) of the autofactory is charging, and gets back high-grade quantum processors.
    • Chompbacca loads up the quantum processors and flies them to Scatterhome, where he delivers them into the storage facility that San Holo designated when placing the order, and gets paid the Marks.
    • Of course, if someone already had high-grade quantum processors in storage, they could have just delivered those to fulfill the order as well.
    • Similarly, people with things in storage facilities on a particular planet will be able to mark them as for sale. So if Princess Laya knows that she needs a whole bevy of D2R2 units, and that they’re for sale by someone wherever, she could just go there and purchase them.

Conclusion

I think that these three fundamental differences in our economic systems in Starmourn are going to end up creating a very different-feeling and interesting environment, particularly in the case of comm storage and transportation fees. For instance, take mining asteroids – it won’t be a case of simply identifying where particular minerals are/have been generated. You’ll have to factor in storage costs and where the order was placed (which planet), as well as any manufacturing facilities you’ll need to use to fulfill the order.

I even imagine some people specializing in transport, offering to quickly and efficiently transport goods for other players, because their starship is set up for cargo vs mining or combat or whatever other role a ship may have. We’ll work to ensure that NPC transport costs are more expensive than it is likely to be for players, to allow for that possibility too.

Similarly, I can see people specializing in running manufacturing facilities of a particular type. It won’t simply be a matter of instantly turning X into Y. Each autofactory will have be able to produce a particular range of goods (like computing parts, or weapons), and will have a particular capacity/hour. Each type of thing produced will cost the autofactory owner something (a cost she will presumably pass along to the customer), and just keeping the autofactory open will require regular maintenance costs.

Overall, the idea is to create systems where there are meaningful decisions to be made, so that there is actual skill involved in mastering the economic systems in Starmourn.

16 Comments

  1. Cutter on February 2, 2017 at 11:03 pm

    Eve Online did a phenomenal job of this precise style of commodities. If I could urge the group to do anything, is make distance mean something. Albion Online, Eve Online, and what you have described for Swor Tars (hehe) characters above all lend to that.

    • matt on February 2, 2017 at 11:04 pm

      Yeah, we really want distance to mean something for at least part of the game – the starship part!

  2. Scathain on February 2, 2017 at 11:25 pm

    I really like the idea of limiting the amount of gold that can be easily earned per day, as well as taking the focus away from pure bashing as a way to make money. I am less pleased with the idea of having to store inventory away from your person and at a cost, though it does make sense from a realism standpoint and should be fine as long as comm requirements are scaled down accordingly. It would tend to make it expensive to have an unreliable buyer, or to gather commodities before having a buyer lined up, and would in general make mining a more risky and expensive proposition. I know in Midkemia Online I would often have hundreds or even thousands of carefully gathered commodities with no place to go.

    • matt on February 2, 2017 at 11:32 pm

      Yep, storage will definitely add more elements to the decision-making process but that’s part of the fun. Comms also won’t be the same as in some of our other games, where you sometimes need them for individual abilities, etc. That’ll never be the case for things that you can’t store in your inventory.

  3. Qitorien on February 3, 2017 at 12:05 am

    Looking pretty awesome so far! I don’t think I’ve seen anything regarding crafting elsewhere yet. Will there also be utilitarian and cosmetic crafting outside of armor, guns, etc?

    • Qitorien on February 3, 2017 at 12:11 am

      In particular, I like the idea of having skill necessary and getting away from system-based grinding. I don’t like grinding (most of the time, though it can be soothing and a way to relieve tension sometimes to kill things mindlessly..haha) and even less so when it’s system-based. Adding complexity and major movements to gathering marks is a great addition.

  4. Travis on February 3, 2017 at 8:42 am

    Gods I can’t wait for so much of all of this.

  5. Sairys on February 3, 2017 at 1:57 pm

    I was hoping things would be like this to some degree, “traditional” crafting just makes no sense.

    With manufacturing facilities, is there a possibility that players will be able to build and maintain their own facilities or would they be just be static things that exist throughout the sector?

    Seems like there could be potential for some gold sinks/credit purchases in developing different aspects of the factory, you might be able to make some money by making a factory that serves a need in a region but there would be costs associated with running it. (like rent/maintenance fees).

    The bounty system is also neat, though could there be a possibility of organisations or individuals posting a bounty on someone’s head? Like you pay some money and then the bounty boards also list that person as a mark, come back with their corpse for a payday?

    • matt on February 3, 2017 at 4:45 pm

      Yep, there will certainly be Mark sinks in operating an autofactory. You can and will lose money making the wrong decisions.

      Bounty system would be completely different from a player bounty system. We have one of those in Achaea, for instance, but it’s a little complicated because you can’t just post a bounty on someone for no good reason – that would lead to all kinds of griefing.

  6. B.A. on February 7, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    First: No one may like it, but negative interest rates are a legitimate tool to keep too much fiat currency from just sitting around. Money put into commodities is money that is making the game more interesting. Tangible commodities encourage conflict, which is interesting and good.

    Second: Contracts can be given a formal game mechanic. It is something that few games even dabble in (and none in this genre so far as I know), but it would add a lot to the game. A futures contract for quantum processors could be another way for San Holo to get what he needs, provided he’s planning ahead. The big advantages of making a futures contract mechanic for players to use is that it allows manufacturers to smooth out their production, and it gives inventive players an opportunity to play the market by taking action against manufacturers. Encouraging conflict is usually a good thing, as long as no one’s losing anything they couldn’t afford to lose anyway. Commodities represent a great sink for that kind of thing.

    It would introduce the need to have some sort of penalty as well, but that could be handled by contract default fees and players going into debt or having property marked for seizure by repo men (npcs or even players employed by a lender).

  7. Neex on February 8, 2017 at 11:29 pm

    I think this is a great way to get players to work together, forming sorts of ‘crews’ and such, hiring mercenary combat ships to guard a transport ship and take a cut of the earnings. Really looking forward to this kind of gameplay!

  8. T.A. on February 11, 2017 at 5:27 am

    Oh Gods, errr, Empyreals! I’m envisioning commsphere commercials for the “KOMMODITY KING” complete with Intergalactic Proton- Powered Electrical Tentacled Advertising Droids…

  9. Khargal on February 11, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    Pirates will rob those traders trying to transport those quantum processors and well sell them. A lot cheaper way to earn money

  10. Mike Maslo on February 26, 2017 at 6:38 pm

    This sounds so awesome. I ca’t wait for this to be tried out. The mechanics sound interesting and challenging. I do hope there is a way of learning this or tutorials which kind of help. I also hope to be in the beta stages to get a better idea on how this will work. Again, cant wait.

  11. Urdnot on March 8, 2017 at 11:53 pm

    Bit concerned about you wanting to close the gold making gap between those who put effort into the game for long periods of time and those who only put in an hour or so of effort. But otherwise it sounds fun

    • @Mathilda on March 29, 2017 at 8:48 am

      @Urdnot “Equality is not the goal, but raging inequality isn’t the goal either. There’s a happy medium there.”

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