The Man Who Sold the World

This entry was posted on Jan 16 2011

Not too long ago, I read an article about the development of economics in games:
Everybody Wants to Own the World

Mostly, the article discussed about how a world’s economics are becoming more a part of games, but also how developing cash sources are becoming more important than other aspects of character building.

One snippet caught my attention, though, “Eventually, I am overflowing with cash, which now allows me to get into all of that expensive equipment relatively easily since I now have the cash to be the hero that I need to be.”

You see this a lot in games, so much so that in every game I can think of where you have to buy goods, eventually you can become so flush with cash that nothing is beyond your reach, and this bugs me. True, a person can do this in the real world, but it is a lot harder (trust me).

One of the reasons why it is so easy in games is that money only has value for one person in the game-world, the player. No one else needs money. Sure, shops ask you for it, but nothing is done with it. It just disappears. Since there is no need for money outside of the player, prices never change, allowing the player to amass vast fortunes that do nothing for the player after they get whatever the most kick-ass equipment exists in the game.

Such is true even in games like Fable III. (Spoilers) After you take over, the world needs cash, so you have to raise it either one way or another. This may sound like this would be pretty cool, except that it is easily done. Just buy up the world and wait. Since the game doesn’t advance until you advance it, but your money accumulates based upon how long you play, you can just sit and wait and you will eventually have all the money you need and them some. And after you get enough money to put into the treasury, what do you do with the money you continue to accumulate? Nothing. Nothing at all. Sure, you can buy all of the equipment in the world, but that won’t even put a dent into your vast fortune. Plus, as an added bonus, the kingdom never needs money again.

Though that may appeal to some people, I see it as a problem. As such, I have a few ideas as to make this a non-issue:

1. Make the player character need more things than equipment. Make it so that they need to eat regularly. This will make it so that the player has to spend money regularly.

2. Necessitate upkeep and maintenance of properties. Fable III did this, though it was too cheap. I would also include the development of properties.

3. Have prices change based on supply and demand. Now, this is a bit more difficult, as you have to have a system in place to determine supply, a system in place to determine demand, and a system in place to determine how much money is currently in circulation. This will make it so that players will have to manage their money much more closely.

4. If you run a country or town or whatever, a system for tax rates, as well as upkeep and development costs. This is something I would have very much liked to have seen in Fable III. I mean, why can’t I keep the orphanage and turn one of the money properties I own into a brothel? Why not better develop Mourning Wood? How about restoring the fort to keep the Hollowmen at bay?

5. Speaking of property develop, military development as well. Even though I never control the army in Fable III, since I have insane amounts of cash, I would have gladly spent it all just to give them the nicest uniforms and equipment, even if it didn’t affect the game. Why? Just because I could.

6. If you own a ton of properties and shops, or have a staff, or an army, their salaries should be an ongoing cost.

These are only a few of the ideas that come to mind. Are they easy? Not really. Are they worth it? Absolutely, they will keep me playing, and the more I play, the more likely I will buy DLC.

Still, though I applaud the inclusion of economics in games, I believe that it should be as richly developed as all other aspects. Otherwise, at some point it becomes forgettable or useless.


About jkempf

James Kempf, CEO of Cliché Studio, has made two games for Mercury Retrograde Press, learned from managing the comics at Criminal Records that John Stewart is the best Green Lantern, and once happily played a 12 ft. dwarf in Rifts.