Jeff Freeman made a recent post about Game Economies which started me thinking at the same time that it scared me.
The point of his post generally stated is, that game design should focus on money flowing into the system, and on the economic activity between players. One undiscussed maxim he used, was that hyperinflation is unavoidable and in fact was fun.
In most of the real world we have many things which we might own, and relatively low inflation. The low inflation is necessary in order to enable the use of money as a comparison – with high, or hyper-inflation, money becomes a less useful common denominator to use. Last week you could buy your Sword of Uberness for 20 plat, but this week it's 40 plat. And this also makes clear that in a hyper-inflationary scenario, money does not store its value very well. If inflation gets too high, only fools hold onto cash (plat).
But wait a sec – cash is how you determine wealth, especially within the gameworld right? No, not at all. In the game world, your wealth is determined by the cash you hold, and the items you have accumulated. These things all store value in some form.
The Everquest world has a unique limitation which is not present in the real world : there are only so many items you can hold. Your person, bank, and inn room can store items, but each has a maximum. Cash, however, is effectively unlimited. It may in fact be unlimited, but I don't think anyone has accumulated a million plat or some high number like that yet to find out. This pressures players to add money to the economy, by taking the items they have accumulated and selling them on the vendors; even broker-selling space is limited.
One experience I have is watching the price on Eqecon.com, for the price of a Darkwater Pearl Ring. Over the last two years, the price of the thing has stayed relatively constant on the market, moving from 1200 plat to 1300 plat as an asking price. I haven't tried to track enough items to get a real good feel for it, but I wonder if this example indicates that inflation within EQ1 is actually under control.
Back to Jeff Freeman. Do NOT design your games assuming hyperinflation. Hyperinflation discourages people from holding onto cash and instead in holding onto items. In games where the number of items is limited, this could be a game killer. Cash needs to be stable, as a store of value. Hyperinflation is not in fact fun in any sense of the word.
Now let's see if anyone catches me on any bad assumptions 🙂 .