Gamasutra summarizes a panel discussion at ION today about designing games with gold farmers in mind. I recently noted some of the challenges of dealing with in game inflation when designing games. This panel deals with some other game design challenges when you have a virtual economy:
On the topic of the need to plan an economy before the community develops its own, Big Fish Games’ Toby Ragaini pointed to Asheron’s Call as an example: “In Asheron’s Call, they made money weigh something, so rich people couldn’t carry their money around. So players came up with their own exchange for a small, lightweight item (shards). Everyone traded based on these items.”
Habbo Hotel developer Sulake Corporation’s CTO Osma Ahvenlampi noted, “In Habbo, at first they made the currency non-tradable, but players were trading everything else. They finally decided it would make it easier for everyone concerned and made bags of gold etc. When that happened, it reduced eBay transactions because it was easier and more trusted by players to do it internally.”
Many social games developers are taking an iterative approach to their game design. In general this is a great approach. It allows developers to quickly react to what your players like about their game. However, virtual economy design is one aspect that deserves a substantial amount of design work up front. Neglecting it can create a situation where success begets failure because the economy gets out of control and ruins the “fun” for your best players.