Crafter's Roundtable: Sinks (no, not the kitchen kind)

Nephele

Administrator
Staff member
A few weeks ago, in the March VIP roundtable that was released to the public, we heard Brad McQuaid talk a bit about the economy. So, our Crafter's Roundtable this time is a followup on what Brad discussed during the roundtable! If you haven't listened to it yet, we highly recommend it - here is the link.

The Question:

In any MMORPG, items will constantly be entering the economy - whether that's via loot or crafting. This means that, without something to remove those items from circulation, all items will lose value over time as more and more of them enter the game. Cash behaves the same way. As coin enters circulation from mob drops, vendor sales, or quest rewards, the amount of money in the game will increase continually. Without something to pull money out of the game, inflation will take hold in the game economy. We heard Brad McQuaid and Ben Dean talk about this in the March Developer Roundtable that was posted a few weeks ago.

With that in mind, what economic sinks can you envision that would help to stabilize Pantheon's server economies, long-term?



Here's what some of our Pantheon Crafters staff had to say about the idea of sinks. Check our thoughts out, and then let us know what you think!

Khaleesi said:

Hording may be part of the problem... yes, I know from experience. But this may be able to be combated with some thoughtfulness.

Storage fees
For example, stored supplies and items may not be in a bank, but rather a storage facility where rent has to be paid dependent on the items present. maybe each item has a "rent" value associated with it. This would encourage usage of crafting materials and enable those willing to obtain the items a means to enter the economy and make some money.

Taxation
Maybe there would be an economy system in which the relatively wealthy will gain less currency from drops / quests making it harder to simply farm for currency.

Item degradation
I agree that items should wear out over time. Weapons and armor should eventually need repairs. This uses supplies and costs money.
I love @Nephele 's concept of the whole world needing repairs. Inns, bridges, merchants and their stock.

System benefits
If the economy is becoming saturated with currency, an administrator could make some system resources available for a short period of time. These would be expendable items. There would be things like books that are read and give additional XP for a period of time, drinks that give regained full mana and food that regains full health on consumption, maybe even something as crazy as special potions with god commands.


Nephele said:

I think it's very important to have money *and* item sinks in the economy. I'll talk about each individually.

Money Sinks

For money sinks, I think there's several approaches that the game should use.

First, and probably most controversial - I would like to see banks charge for item storage over time. In most MMORPGs, bank space is free and permanent. You go to the banker NPC, you drop your stuff off, and it's always there and accessible. Some games let you buy more space as a one-time purchase, but once you buy it, you're good for life. While that might work as a money sink early on, as the game matures, it stops being effective.

So, what I'd rather see is a system where you're renting those bank slots month to month. Meaning that if you want to keep 2000 items in your bank, you're going to need to keep enough coin in there to pay the fee. I've talked about this before if anyone wants to read more detail about how it could work.

Second, I think there will need to be goods and/or services that we MUST purchase from NPCs. Ideally these need to be things that continue to be useful and needed even once characters are at the level cap.

The trick to doing this right however is to be super careful about what items or services you use as money sinks. For example, it makes sense to use rented mounts as a money sink - unless you're planning to add the ability for players to tame, raise, and sell mounts in an expansion (which is something many of us might be interested in). Likewise, rented mounts only work until players have a permanent mount of their own, which is also something many of us are interested in. So it's important to recognize that rented mounts as a money sink may only have a limited timespan where it will be effective.

Another option is cosmetic clothing and dyes, because we all know that people generally like dressing up their characters. However, if game designers put all the cool clothes on NPC vendors, and outfitters/tailors can't make anything that really looks nice - they're going to have some really unhappy crafters. So there's a balance that has to be struck when looking at this sort of thing as a money sink.

As a final note on money sinks, it can be tempting to apply the money sinks to crafters more than adventurers. After all, crafters tend to be the destination for money that circulates in the economy - or at least, that's what many people think. The reality is much more nuanced. If crafters can gather everything they need to ply their trade on their own, then yes, they will end up with all of the money. But, if those crafters need to rely on others to get the things they need - whether that's adventurers for drops, or other crafters for components, or gatherers for raw materials, now that money is being spread back out. So, while there absolutely should be some money sinks for crafters, in general money sinks should be spread throughout the game so that all players, regardless of their focus, have some that they have to pay money into.

Item Sinks

On item sinks, a lot of us immediately go to item decay as a way to pull items out of the economy. Which absolutely works - but, let's be real. A lot of people really hate item decay with a passion. Why? Because it's not fun when your favorite sword breaks and you have to get a new one. It's also not fun when you have to go get your armor repaired after every single adventure. It might be realistic, and it might make economic sense, but a lot of people look at it as a burden.

So, we should consider alternatives. I've debated item sacrifice systems (such as altars for Pantheon deities) extensively with some other community members in Discord and elsewhere over the last few years, and those are one option. Salvaging will also help to a degree, although on its own I don't think it will be enough. Personally, I wouldn't mind some kind of system that allows adventurers to attach minor boosts to the items they use, at the expense of making those items untradeable afterwards. But that still doesn't stop loot proliferation, so that's not a total solution on its own.

If Pantheon goes with voluntary item sacrifices as one of its item sinks (whether that's some kind of deity/favor system, or extracting essence to make special enchantments, or something else), one thing I would like to see is that the value of an item when it is sacrificed should be determined by the history of that item since it entered the game. By this I mean if a player decides to sacrifice some excess stuff on the altar of their god or whatever, the god should be more interested in the stuff they have actually been using, rather than that extra piece of loot that was laying around in their bank for the past six months. There are two reasons for this. First, from an immersion point of view, I think it makes more sense if the value of an item is based on the item's history and the deeds it's accomplished. Second, it encourages those players who are sacrificing items to obtain new items to use - so, instead of just farming loot each week for their altar points or whatever, they're really using that system as a way to actively recycle and replace their real equipment.

Either way, I think it's really important to say that only having a single system in the game to act as an item sink is a recipe for failure. To really prevent item proliferation and devaluation, there are going to have to be multiple item sinks set up - just as there will need to be multiple money sinks to help keep the amount of currency in circulation at only gradually increasing levels over time.



Trasak said:

I am still of the opinion that all MMOs should have item decay on items that are not bound. Without item decay on the “top quality” tradeable items they will eventually be the only items to retain any relative value as player equipment. Everything else will only be good for item sinks. The only way this does not happen is if the difference between entry level quality gear and top quality gear is relatively small compared to character power. People will not spend 100 times the time investment to improve their characters power by only 0.1% or even 2%.

All that being said one pseudo-decay system that could be its own item and cash sink without requiring re-farming the item could be the idea of magical charges. All magical item drops with a certain number of charges. As some function of time spent in combat the charges on magic items will decrease. When below 50 or 25% of total charges the items magical effect halve and at 0 they turn off and are effectively just a mundane item made from the same materials.

Based on the magical effects on said item it will require different sources to recharge it. All creatures and items will have different power source attributes. Body part items will be able to be harvested into the energy sources of the monster dropping it and likewise items will be salvageable into the remaining charges of its energy sources.

Players will need to collect up the power source charges for their item and take them to an NPC recharge station. Characters will then place their item and 1 charge of each energy source for each charge they want to put back on their item. The character will have to pay for more and more expensive reagents for each different energy source on the item. For example recharging a sword of fire 50/100 charges would require the lowest cost reagent and 50 fire charges, a dark fire sword at 50/100 will require 50 fire charges, 50 dark charges and a next tier expensive reagent.

This will eventually turn charges into a sudo currency with rare energy sources that appear on powerful items having the highest value. Raid items likewise will be the most powerful items but will also have the greatest number of energy sources including rare ones so recharging raid items will be costly. This will in turn cause a greater distribution of wealth as raiders will be forced to buy charges from non raiders in order to keep their equipment functional.

There are many minor variations to this system like passive stats do not degrade or consume charges only procs and using click effects. The general idea is to give all magical items and creature drops some minimum salvage value and make using the best items in the game a cost trade off.

I 100% agree that item storage in banks should include a monthly charge. I would go so far as to say that there should not actually be banks at all if coins have no weight. Rather than banks players can rent warehouse space for storage lockers that are a single giant sized box, see my item size breakdown in the mount discussion. Additionally there could be storage lockers in some of the crafting facilities to assist with moving items around. Mechanically your storage locker in a crafting facility could act as extended inventory to help facilitate crafting without requiring to constantly juggle your bags.

Conversely for item sinks I strongly dislike the idea of sacrificing items for temporary buffs. Destroying items for a temporary buff just feels like the least elegant and most ham handed way of creating an item sink. Eventual those buffs will be considered “mandatory” and the game will become an exercise in farming the right items to sacrifice to have your needed buffs. The buffs themselves are also problematic as they need to be good to incentivize sacrificing an item which in turn contributes to mudflation of stats and effects.

Item decay is one of those necessary evils you put in to give a game and actions consequence not because the activity itself is fun or pleasant, in fact it is supposed to be unpleasant. Just like death penalties, limited fast travel, limited commerce tools and time intensive leveling, item/structure decay is intended to force a circle of life into the item economy. Plenty of work can be done to fine tune the maintenance of item decay to not be too intrusive or punishing but items lasting forever will over time force the value of items stored to infinity in the item flux equation. All the voluntary item sinks in the world will not stop items stored from reaching infinity, only delay the rate it reaches it.

Long term I strongly believe that VR will regret not putting in item decay once the server item inventories look like item inventories do on P99 right now.



Now let's hear from everyone else! What systems should be in place in Pantheon to help drain excess cash and items from the game, in order to keep the economy stable?
 

Barin999

Journeyman
I fully agree with @Trasak on the actual need for item decay to be in the game. It might be considered a burden to some or many players. But if it's something one can not go around it, as in it's part of the game. People will have to accept it and deal with it if they want to continue playing this game.
What item decay also does, it creates potential community interaction moments. It creates economic opportunities, it creates crafting content. Many times item decay is not only an item sink and cash sink. It's influences on the game in the long term can not be underestimated. Many times have players interacted with each other concerning items decaying, needing repairs or advise on reforging gear. A lot of players will spend time to gain from the concept of item decay/repair.
With the slower pace progression of Pantheon in mind, this could actually become a really decisive part of the game and of players' carrier choice. In Pantheon you'll be able to boost up items to a degree..but in time you'll have the item replaced (this by out leveling or item decay...that might not be clear to this point).

@Trasak When I'm thinking about the style of sinks for Pantheon, I try to think how it would feel in the game itself. Would the design feel organic or actually out of place? Does Terminus breath magic? Does the lore speak of magical sources or beings that thrive off magic. That is of course my personal view.
Sinks for me, should make sense. In a way that you'ld not think twice about the design of the sink itself. You'ld say; "Well, yeah, it makes sense. Just look at how the world in Pantheon works, how beings live and die in this world." If you have a continent flooded with magical influences that have mutated the beings living there, you could expect to find some magical residing in the beings after slaying them. The question for me, is this the case in the world of Terminus (as we know it so far?).

@Nephele Sacrificing items to dieties could be a thing as long as the storywriter is taking it with him. For me, it can quickly feel a detached design to force a sink into a game. But in human history, we see that we have sacrificed often and a lot to various gods or terrors in the world. So as long as the Lore in Pantheon allows it, it could work.
The achilles heel of the design would be, what's the return of sacrificing things?
If it's a faction boost, this could be maximized over time and it's usage may become lost over time. So that would signal a bad long term sink-design.
If it's buffs or consumable abilities, this could work as long as the buffs can be applied and are significant in the game. If one can only notice a 0.1 or 1 boost.. It WILL (notice I'm not saying it MIGHT) become useless over time. Because the game will grow and so will stats and boosts. No matter in what year you unroll this feature, it WILL become useless over time. For it to continue working, the buffs need to grow with the level or overall content of the game (release of special aa's, abilities, boosts, new stats, etc). With that in mind, the sacrifice design would have to allow to be boosted and upgraded over time as wel. And this still fitting in a way that it makes sense in the game itself. For example: upgrading a simple altar to a greater one because new content/levels are put out. This in turn would directly devaluate the previous altars and it again turns into a slippery slope.
Still, it's got potential, as long as the return remains valuable and does not deflate over time. Perhaps personal temporary consumable boosts are worth considering? (a short term increase of money boost, a increased range of perception, scavenging return increase or sorts.
I would like to return to the Terror sacrifices. Perhaps instead of to gods, players need to sacrifice to threats in the world of Terminus. This to prevent those terrors to wreak havoc in the regions. This to me, makes more sense. It does not require a buff return or sorts. The effects of the terror unleashing it's wrath (in case players have stopped sacrificing) should be devastating enough to motivate players to sacrifice again. (Short design idea: 1) sacrifices > terror. all is good and economy and races in that region thrive. 2) Sacrifices < terror, terror is unleashed 2a) short term; players can drive back the monster (raid) 2b) short term; terror devastates the area untill it's had its fill 2c) long term; terror ruins economic opportunities and the region deflates and an increase of monsters occurs) 2d) players sacrifice again and the terror returns to it's hide out.

Rented mounts could remain a sink, even with personal mounts in the game. https://www.pantheoncrafters.com/threads/crafters-roundtable-tack-and-harness.273/#post-3455
Situational mounts could be required above personal mounts. This could be in line of the climate design of Pantheon.

Rent can be considered as a good way for a money sink. As in most cases, players only need to buy a thing ones and no further expenses are necessary. This should be well designed, so that players do not lose their properties in cases where they can not play for a longer periods of time. There is a difference between not losing properties and still being able to benefit from your properties. And therein lies some design possibilities.
https://www.pantheoncrafters.com/threads/rent-on-properties.237/#post-3433
As the game grows and the players, things should become more expensive, to obtain and to sustain. Again a well thought out design could make this feel organic and players would not experience it as a forced design.

A possible sink that I have not suggested would be the Character sinks.
This would be applying to certain levels or even at every level.
What this does, is that at each level, your character grows and gains upgraded stats. They grow.
This would mean that their abilities grow or improve or they might get new ones.
My suggestion here would be, that the design allows for characters to grow BUT the upgrades or new abilities do not just magically come into existance with each level.
The player will have to look to trainers to unlock these advancements in their character.
A player can go without and would still function. They'ld just be rotating on their old abilities and such.
Nothing new so far, trainers can provide advancements.
The player might be required to supply a certain amount of cash, goods, resources for that trainer to teach him/ unlock his advancements.
I'm not talking about a rare, unique trainer. I'm aiming for all abilities in general.
What the requirements are can be based on the level of that character and the region of the world. So 10 silver might not seem like much, but if it's asked to a level 4 player, it might be quite a lot of money already.
Realistically this means that character will play each level a little longer before the upgrade actually occurs. Since it will require time to meet the trainers' requirements. I for one, like the idea of being able to enjoy every level a bit longer before moving on to the next.

To make this sink effective, you'll need a design where further leveling without unlocking these upgrades is either not possible or will have little benefit. A big danger here is that you have created a tunnel vision and a restricting/guided design of how the players need to play the game. This is always a danger, so it just comes down to how you create Lore or the content around it.

Another suggestion was the Faction sink.
https://www.pantheoncrafters.com/threads/reputation-and-or-resources-loss-desertion.241/
This would be a sink where you'ld lose faction if you are not active with that faction over time. Or of course the old and proved system of opposing factions. Where you lose faction as you gain it with another.
This Faction sink, for me makes sense as it can be applied long term and could still feel organic as new expansions come out. If you're on planet X after 10 expansions, you'll lose faction at Wilds End due to you not being around there anymore. If you wish to return and profit from npc or content around Wilds End, you'll need to boost that faction again. Aka become a respectable and "important" player amongst the npc's in Wilds End.
This allows for an incentive for repeatability or progression in case of raising even more faction or elite status.
What needs to be considered here is the design of the rate at which the faction is lost over time. If it's too slow, it becoms pointless, if it's too fast, players will not get far. If the factions become unimportant, the design as a whole is useless.
And this brings it all back to, what are factions and what are their direct influences on the world and what do you, as a player need them for? Again if these things are answered correctly, you'll have something that gives depth and persistence to the game.
 
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Hero

Novice
Perhaps there could be an investment money/item sink as well think of a token based system. Maybe you are out gathering wood and you receive knowledge or an idea in the form of an unactivated token based on what you are doing in this case a wood gathering token. The token would then require you to forfeit materials in this case a specific number of logs. ( maybe multiple logs of different types) once you are able to activate the token it then becomes tradeable to a certain npc. you then pay said npc to teach you how to create said blueprint and what said item is. If you already know the item the npc will offer to buy the plans off of you for some of your resources back maybe (50%) Taking this a step further by combining multiple tokens you can learn more complex craft-able items as well as the npc mastery charging you more for the plans.

Perhaps these special craft-able items will have a limited # of crafts (2?) then start to degrade if you choose to trade them for currency. The blueprint itself would not be tradeable and should not be able to be stored. Not only will this allow you to allow you to help out your party member, guild member, or friend who needs an item you don't want or can't use, this provides a gold-sink money-sink and perhaps a way for less popular areas of the game to remain relevant such as specific resource gathering locations for certain blueprints.


Personally i think knowledge is something most people take for granted due to things like youtube, google, and wiki.

The amount of tokens obtainable would be Limited Per Server per day based on a first come first serve rng basis and
(Unactivated tokens Should expire after 12 hours) Freeing up the total obtainable tokens.
(Activated tokens Should expire 10 hours after being activated if not traded)
For example let's say there is 10,000 tokens in the pool and 6000 of them are gathering tokens you get lucky and find a wood gathering token now there is 9999 total tokens in the pool and 5999 of them are gathering. you activate the token an hour or so later you now have 10 hours to get to the npc pay the npc for the blueprint. At this point you can gather or buy the materials required to make the blueprinted item. once the blueprint is exhausted it disappears. No later than 22 hours later the token returns to the pool allowing everyone a chance to obtain the token regardless of what times they play at the returned token may not be the same as the one originally earned. This could be based on # of surplus resources owned vs # of concurrent players. For example This would also discourage players from hoarding resources. For example lets say you have 4000 logs and 40 fish. Maybe you are 100 times more likely to get a resource instead of finding an un-activated token if the average person has 40 logs in their bank, where as if you fished you may have just as good as a chance as anyone else assuming everyone has an average of 40 fish. Maybe you are killing a boss monster appropriate to your level and receive an epic weapon or epic armor token related to that monsters drop table.


cointoken.pngCookedFish.pngfishing.pngGatheringToken.pngGatheringToken.pngMiningToken.pngProcessed ore.pngProcessed Ingot.pngWoodToken.pngprocessed logs.png
 

Trasak

Apprentice
Staff member
Staff Writer
@Barin999
Honestly the magic recharge was really just a way to build in partial item decay without the dreaded "my epic/raid item poofed". The feels organic option would be actual item decay and not magic recharging system. I'll admit that the elemental source system is one of the key points of the magic system I have been developing for my own MMO design which is influenced by wuxia element systems.
 

Nephele

Administrator
Staff member
Perhaps there could be an investment money/item sink as well think of a token based system. Maybe you are out gathering wood and you receive knowledge or an idea in the form of an unactivated token based on what you are doing in this case a wood gathering token. The token would then require you to forfeit materials in this case a specific number of logs. ( maybe multiple logs of different types) once you are able to activate the token it then becomes tradeable to a certain npc. you then pay said npc to teach you how to create said blueprint and what said item is. If you already know the item the npc will offer to buy the plans off of you for some of your resources back maybe (50%) Taking this a step further by combining multiple tokens you can learn more complex craft-able items as well as the npc mastery charging you more for the plans.
So, I'll admit, I'm still trying to wrap my head around this idea a little bit. It's not a method that I've ever really seen or considered. If I understand it correctly, you're basically saying that players could forego the normal results of gathering or crafting in order to instead unlock the ability to learn new things?

It's definitely an interesting idea. I honestly need to think about it some more, but I wanted to say something so that you at least knew the post had been read :)
 

Barin999

Journeyman
The Question:
In any MMORPG, items will constantly be entering the economy - whether that's via loot or crafting. This means that, without something to remove those items from circulation, all items will lose value over time as more and more of them enter the game. Cash behaves the same way. As coin enters circulation from mob drops, vendor sales, or quest rewards, the amount of money in the game will increase continually. Without something to pull money out of the game, inflation will take hold in the game economy. We heard Brad McQuaid and Ben Dean talk about this in the March Developer Roundtable that was posted a few weeks ago.

With that in mind, what economic sinks can you envision that would help to stabilize Pantheon's server economies, long-term?

Nephele said:

I think it's very important to have money *and* item sinks in the economy. I'll talk about each individually.
Item Sinks

On item sinks, a lot of us immediately go to item decay as a way to pull items out of the economy. Which absolutely works - but, let's be real. A lot of people really hate item decay with a passion. Why? Because it's not fun when your favorite sword breaks and you have to get a new one. It's also not fun when you have to go get your armor repaired after every single adventure. It might be realistic, and it might make economic sense, but a lot of people look at it as a burden.

So, we should consider alternatives. I've debated item sacrifice systems (such as altars for Pantheon deities) extensively with some other community members in Discord and elsewhere over the last few years, and those are one option. Salvaging will also help to a degree, although on its own I don't think it will be enough. Personally, I wouldn't mind some kind of system that allows adventurers to attach minor boosts to the items they use, at the expense of making those items untradeable afterwards. But that still doesn't stop loot proliferation, so that's not a total solution on its own.

If Pantheon goes with voluntary item sacrifices as one of its item sinks (whether that's some kind of deity/favor system, or extracting essence to make special enchantments, or something else), one thing I would like to see is that the value of an item when it is sacrificed should be determined by the history of that item since it entered the game. By this I mean if a player decides to sacrifice some excess stuff on the altar of their god or whatever, the god should be more interested in the stuff they have actually been using, rather than that extra piece of loot that was laying around in their bank for the past six months. There are two reasons for this. First, from an immersion point of view, I think it makes more sense if the value of an item is based on the item's history and the deeds it's accomplished. Second, it encourages those players who are sacrificing items to obtain new items to use - so, instead of just farming loot each week for their altar points or whatever, they're really using that system as a way to actively recycle and replace their real equipment.
@Nephele I recently came across this old piece of information. From Aradune himself.
In a nutshell (not set in stone!): " The key I think is to try to stay ahead of it, and to control the rate of MUDflation. ..... There will be temples where you can sacrifice your item to the gods, giving you long term buffs that really help you in-game. "

So I'd think it's fair to say, we'll be seeing some sort of sacrifice system ingame.
 
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