Saturday, October 8, 2011

The state of the RoD economy.

As I see it, the RoD economy is stagnant. Housing has drained off most of the biggest gold reserves while equipment continues to stack up on storages, in organization vaults. I will attempt to illustrate why the economy is in such a bad situation, what is wrong with it, and how it should be fixed.

a) Basic avatar eq. I use this as the basis. All "leveling" eq, is obsolete once a player reaches avatar. The first set of available avatar eq is what I call Tier 0. Everything here can be easily killed, soloed and or multied. Some even by nonavatars. But this "tier" of eq is where the problem begins. My examples for this tier of eq would be shade eq (helms, shades, rings), moccasins, icingdeath arms/ears, thoth rings, dpass eq (crystal bracers, silver arms, gold greaves, dcol), aegis, . Everything here is easily gotten, farmed, and dirt cheap. Which is good for a newbie avatar who can go down to coral depths, sit for an hour or two killing eels and crabs and afford to buy this stuff off the plentiful bots and off traffic. If they do decide to go get it themselves, fail or succeed, it will rarely ever lead to a corpse rotting. In most cases, an entirely new player will fail to get the item themselves but be more than capable of paying for the item. (1-5mil usually)

b) Good eq. Tier 1. A good chunk of stock is here. EQ here is expensive enough because of it's rarity but not because of it's difficulty or vice versa. Good examples of these would be devout scales, hellfire leggings, crusades, morphs, ft shields. The eq here is good, in some cases top of the line for alot of classes in general cases. Mobs are either too hard to sit and farm indefinitely (due to things like eq damage, heavy use of potions) or simply pops. This also makes up the majority of traffic and auction exchanges as the items while plentiful, are hard enough to obtain that it would take alot of time or effort to obtain by yourself (or in some cases impossible) but due to years of running, there is a bountiful supply of these items to the point where prices are fairly stable and rarely change. (6-40mil)

c) High end eq. Tier 2. This is where the problem begins. This is where top tier eq usually comes to rest.  Runs sufficiently spammed will drop the item from tier 2 to tier 1. Or more usually the case, top tier new items (tier 3) having being sufficiently explored by most major organisations have accumulated enough stock to drop prices to a fairly constant level. Good examples of this are Justices, danny rings/essence, cato armor, nasr. The prices are also significantly higher than tier 1, usually starting around twice as much. (80m+)

d) Top tier eq. Tier 3. As usual, the prices are about twice that of the previous tier. Either the items are rare pops off hard mobs, but also include seth (where the danger of losing eq is very real and a single failed run can mean hundreds of millions lost.) All these runs require runners to be dressed in eq worth at the very least, what the character alone is worth but usually several times over. Generally these runs are not known (and or doable) by the general avatar populace due to various reasons. Difficulty, puzzles, lack of saftey, dedication of time (getting in takes a good while, have to spend a few uninterrupted hours there, requires specific classes to run etc.)

e) God tier eq. Tier 4. This usually gets downgraded to tier 3 as soon as 3 or more organisations start running it consistently and bring in enough supply. Usually by this point prices drop rapidly as more and more people test their abilities and try it out. This is the tier where all the brand spanking new, top of the line avatar gear comes in at. The puzzles are harder, longer, there are more mobs to kill on the way (alot of which are tier 0-3 mobs in themselves). These are generally "area" bosses with multiple items that are all better than existing items. This is where explorers flock, order secrets are hush hush and secretive and where a smart relatively poorer player can suddenly make bank selling new eq they managed to get to first. This is what the imms put in to keep older players playing (or they will get bored of the existing stuff because they have done it a hundred times). Usually between the time an item is tier 4 and the time it drops to tier 3, Imms will make changes to the item, the area, and the difficulty of the mob(s)  up to and even including changing descriptions. The other side of this coin is the old items. So old they no longer exist. What was once common (unholy symbol of the dammed) suddenly goes OOG (out of game) and suddenly rises. Either way, the price is very directly related to the rarity.

So whats the problem? There are two main problems. Tier squishing, and power creep (eq being obsolete).

Tier squishing: Tier squishing because there is over supply because the best players in the game figured out something or, abused a loophole and basically devalue items to the point they are pushed into the tier below. One of the best examples would be Sindroad/Olsen eq. aka the half orc set and some other evil pieces. In the process of trying to obtain a tier 3 or 4 items (in this case darkfire blaster), the rest of the eq on the mob gets devalued. Darkfire blasters pop roughly 1/20 kills meaning for every darkfire blaster, there are 20ish S/O sets lying around in some storage somewhere. So what happens? The prices drop like a rock. Darkfire blasters? 6-7 seth sets (by my last estimate) each of which are worth 600-800m depending on the day. 3.6 billion - 5.6 billion... gold. Comparatively speaking, you can get a S/O set for pretty much under 20mil for all the pieces which are individually usually sold for 1-5mil on auction depending on the day. Of course, when people first killed S/O the pieces werent sold for 1-5mil. They were worth alot more. Tier 4 eq got squished into tier 3, then tier 2, then dare I say.. tier 1. Its now so common that the average player that is incapable of running S/O can still own several sets of the eq. As a byproduct of a "failed" kill (failed not because the mob didn't die, but rather the rarest item didn't pop), chaff eq devaluates itself and drags the prices down for items below it. After all, if you can pay 1m for a olsen plate for your thief, why would you pay 1m for spoils (which has 1 less dr)? As a result of the chaff eq, orc thieves have become the standard basis because they are cheap but better than all other thieves using spoils. The fact that there are no other 6dr ears even remotely close to that price range (the closest you get are whispers... for about 100X the price). Olsen ears are practically godly and very much comparable to seth (-15 hp, -50 mana, -6hr) but worth a very tiny fraction. This is the result of the stagnant economy and is clear simple to see proof there is something fundamentally wrong with how the economy works.

The other thing that comes from tier squishing is eq becoming obsolete. While new items come in, old items become obsolete. For example Danny rings (ring of the ancient gods) obsoleted long time existing rings primarily for warriors. Before your choices were scorched band of glass 3dr 25hp, Diamond ring (3dr 0hp), Draupnir (3dr 0 hp but with some saves), Ring of Kings (3dr 1 str), Ring of dragons (3dr 30hp), Signet of Lauriness (3dr 20hp, elf only). You can see.. there was plenty of selection. Plenty of choices but they were all pretty similar. 3dr, and some hp or other stats/saves. Suddenly Ring of the ancient gods gets put in, Most of those rings never get trafficed for again. There is simply no point in compromising for 3dr +some hp when you can have 4dr and 50hp, 2dex. As an obsolete bunch, they rarely see any action other than on rare occasion. The mob is now much too difficult for the reward (as it's obsolete). Even if they were tier 1 or 2, they immediately drop at least 1 tier, to the point where only newbietars are the only ones interested in purchasing.
The mobs are now obsolete (and thus never get run anymore. Ask an older player whens the last time they did an odin run.. or a dracolith run. they probably won't remember.)

When power creep happens, it is a pivotal time for the realms even if it is a small change. In terms of devout warrior rings, theres a clear mark before danny rings, and after danny rings. The top if the tier (danny rings) are 80mil (and for a brief time a while back... 90m) while odin rings, draco rings, leodegrance rings? 5mil? the problem is no one even really knows the price for them anymore because no one sells them anymore. No one sells them anymore because no one runs the mob anymore. Why bother with a outdated mob with an item that isn't the best? Is Danny 16 times harder than leodegrance or draco or odin? probably not but even with a linear increase in difficulty, there is an exponential increase in price.

Though Immortals are working hard (yes! I do actually appreciate the efforts) to breathe new life into old mobs and areas by updating them with new eq (lovely new skullbreaker/crushers!) The problem still remains. Way too much supply especially at the tier 0, 1 levels (though by definition, they are that tier because of the supply) But you still get items in tier 1 (olsen eq) when the difficulty is easily tier 2 or 3 because of a lacking out flow.

Prices are based on supply and demand (obviously.. but I had to say it) as mobs get run more, supply increases, while demand slowly decreases. Olsen eq is worthless because of the sharp increase in supply without a remotely close change in demand. S/O repop every 10 minutes or so and people can sit around there for 10-15 kills at a time in a single day, while it takes a few days to av a orc thief and it has to be specifically an orc thief for the reason that there is no increased demand for olsen plates/ears if it isn't an orc. If it can't wear it, the player won't buy it (unless they intend to buy or level one in the near future).

So what is so magical about seth? Every order has at some point run seth. It's been in the game for YEARS, and still typically new eq is worth less than it. What makes it so unique? It's also the solution to fixing the economy. An outlet. Players kill seth for blivs/gens/DIs/VoDWs really. Not for the seth sets but seth sets are still worth alot and would take days possibly weeks of golding for a new player to afford it. The key lies in the fact that seth sets have an outlet. Ravenhill takes seth sets, a set at a time, and randomly gives the player back nothing, a raven eye, guard of raven black or the much coveted crown of talons. Seth has an outlet, sufficient difficulty and has thus retained its value (and thus most organisations that know how to run seth refuse to share HOW). Blivs, gens (and their sac pops) should have turned seth into another S/O. but with an outlet, the chaff is worth something. Without an outlet, its worthless because players will constantly generate a supply much larger than demand. And due to the fact there is an outlet, seth setS (emphasis on the fact its the set as a whole) is the basis of the RoD economy. My opinion is, supply could be stabilized and the economy put back on track if a few select items had an outlet. The outlet would turn their supply and existence into a currency instead of trash sitting on yet another storage. As it is, only the best players keep playing because they continue to be the ones generating supply. Newer players are stuck playing catch up, and at some point they either learn to run seth, or don't. They are able to continue to explore newer areas, or stuck trying to get obsolete eq because they can't afford better. Then the choices for them are a) attempt newer content designed for people with better eq than them b) gold for days, weeks or months to afford eq to attempt newer content or c) give up on new content and possibly the game. After all. A game is meant to be fun. And its no fun when new stuff comes in and you can't explore and kill stuff because you haven't gotten the best possible eq that already exists (or at least a decent standard of eq).

The number of bots in the game directly speaks to how much the game is suffering. Bots increase when players are more interested in buying items from other people than they are willing to attempt to kill the mob for it and speaks volumes to how the game is slowly dying at least in the mob kill/exploring point of view. Gone are the days of public runs, chat started runs where just about anybody who was around would come. To play, to kill with random strangers they never met before but for some reason want to come for the loot, or to help out, or teach. Guilds and orders keep secrets simply because items devaluate the moment more people know then suddenly the item isn't worth much at all. If a good fraction of items had an output, gold would regain value, and items would also regain value as every day items now have a value for being equipment, but also as currency. The fact that seth sets have slowly lost demand (as in very few people are on traffic ltb seth set/pieces) tells us that something is very very wrong with the game's economy. The fact that items that used to be currency and have intrinsic value has been reduced primarily to currency indicates the lack of demand. My most educated guess (and occam's razor) would suggest that the most simple explanation for this is lack of new players. After all: an old player avs a new character (thats evil or neut), they load up a storage, and put seth on it. A new player avs, they have no seth. They gold, farm, sell other items to attempt to buy it. The lack of buying says either all the new players are running seth (which is highly unlikely) or that new players are giving up before they need seth. Or worse, giving up because they don't want to spend the time to get seth. Either way, new avs have no other possible currency, and it's removing their incentive to play the game as it was meant to be played (or at least how I think it should be played. As a persistent world where you can constantly explore and kill new things). Sure you could argue there's exploring and killing to be done before aving (and I agree), but the majority of new content comes in. The thing im most sure of is the fact that endless medieval enjoyment does not come from sitting in mithrill hall or coral depths killing mobs for gold to buy a shiny new piece of equipment that just came out. The fun is in playing the game, getting it for yourself. Not doing what bots do, sitting, golding to buy a piece of equipment you will never really need or use.

tl;dr? (too long didnt read)
- Realms economy is dead. Immortal attempts to revive it by draining excess gold in the form of housing just causes inflation. Key to balancing economy is putting demand on items. Not demand on gold.
- We need more standardized equipment as currency. Seth vs olsen shows the huge gap between what works and what doesn't.
- New players will only tolerate gold farming for so long and from my estimates, its not long enough to get to seth. We really need a currency in between.
- Old mobs with old items get obsolete with new items because they have no intrinsic value. Activity and thus player base will continue to decline without better standards for currency.


K said...

I spoke to you about this issue, but have a little more to add.

As true as all this is, compared to say pre-shattering, things are easier for new players. Sellbots were non-existent at the time, I can remember working for my gear. Seth was out of reach by a higher magnitude, along with all the pieces that have lost value.

But really the core of it is that until new players start meeting people and joining guilds/orders, they don't -need- Seth or arguably anything above tier 0/1. You don't really need it until you're running it or equivalent, from my understanding. This is a benefit, without it people would really have no reason to interact and working together. The downside for new players is that they're going to miss out on the experience of slowly upgrading and appreciating what they get along the way.

Now the real problem here is with older players. The equip has no value, the difference between 5 and 50 million is minor. There should be enough of the lower av equipment around, but people are too lazy to offload it for random players. Like you said, it just doesn't leave circulation unless people outright sac it.

The easiest solution? Bind on equip. Simple, easy, get one use out of a piece, once you upgrade it's gone from the game. Suddenly people value what they have again. It seems like an extreme change, but reserved for certain pieces. As things are, whenever you upgrade something you can simply pass the old equip to an alt (or friend), and it's of more value than selling it off. In this sort of economy, nothing is going to sell until it reaches the point the money is of more use than the item for any involved, and everyone's 30-odd alts are geared with it.

In short, yeah, there needs to be a sort of artificial demand created as even an influx of players won't be after this stuff until they're getting help towards it and can actually put it to some use.

xenapan said...

I partially agree with the statement that players don't NEED anything past tier 0/1. But the problem isn't needing. Players dont need anything. They could wander around naked other than only a light but thats hardly playing the game. I would argue that all content (areas/mobs) etc can be experienced only so many times before being boring. Sure garum's gorge is amazing the first time you can get a 200k gold per mob but your interest in doing it will wane slowly as you spend more time there. Unless new players have no intention of continually expanding their horizons, they could stick to tried and true, public knowledge till they decide to quit but that hardly constitutes playing in my book. Its why the mud needs new content: players will eventually get bored with the old. Plus the existence of tier 2 and above eq give newer players something to look forward to as well as expands their ability to go out further. Sure you could use crest swords instead of justices and make runs slightly harder for yourself but using outdated eq, each piece is a slight disadvantage which slowly adds up and as mob power slowly creeps up due to new standards in eq, the harder and harder it is for new players to compete. Its doable, but unprofitable. For instance take justices for example. A new player could attempt to make money at selling justices. But without danny rings, blood of the innocent, and other various high end pieces, every kill has a greater chance of failing due to death, kills take longer, and equipment is more likely to scrap and in general they are less efficient to begin with and until they get the hang of things call it a 20% increase in costs meaning their profit margin is lower and if they corpserot/scrap possibly nonexistant.

Personally I believe until new players slowly build up their army of alts (for various mobs/areas that have class/race based interactions, they grow much more slowly than the established player) and without the access to currency other than gold, will be detrimental to their development.