Non-Commoditized MMOG Economy

In the vast majority of MMOGs, crafting items is boring (put
together the components and click the button) and the economy is
boring (everyone knows every item and what it's worth) and it's
near-impossible to make a living a just the economic portions
(everything is sold at rock-bottom prices, because someone else can
always undercut you if you don't).

The solution to all of these things is to have a
non-commoditized economy
with custom crafting.

Let me explain.

In most MMOGs, everything is perfectly
commoditized; that is, a
short sword +1 made by Alice is exactly the same as a short sword
made by Bob. In addition, the markets are
extremely fluid
because there is generally a global or nearly-global market for any
commodity. Therefore, all items are always sold at near-zero
markup, which means it's very, very hard to make money (in-game or
otherwise) my making things.

A big exception here is Second Life, in
which many things are very much not commoditized. Clothing made
by Alice is going to look (and possibly function) completely
differently than clothing made by Bob. (Q: Why don't you just go
play SL then? A: I like beating up monsters and having quests and

This is a generalizable solution.

Give players access to a simple 3D editor (see Galactic
Civilizations 2 for a lovely example of an excellent 3D editor in an
otherwise static game) and make each bit of stuff (gems, paint,
spikes, whatever) have in-game effect. Allow the bits to be
combined arbitrarily, so each item is visually unique. Make
creating the bits require having particular items on hand. Make
using the bits require skill development. Make the skill tree very
deep and very wide, so that no one person can master all the skills
pertaining to, say, making swords, let alone all the skills
pertaining to crafting in general. Most importantly, make
player-made items universally more powerful than monster drops or
item shop output at comparable levels.

Suddenly, every item is totally unique. Alice specializes in armour
that resists blunt damage, but Bob specializes in fire proctection.
Their armours look completely different, and also function
completely differently. Furthermore, even ignoring artistic
differences, Alice is incapable of making the armour Bob makes, and
vice versa; they have different skill sets.

This also makes crafting fun; the only game I'm aware of that has
managed that is Puzzle Pirates, but
skill at the game has little in-game effect; the results are still
pure commodities, and it's nigh-impossible to make good money
selling things, I'm told.

One other point: an obvious extension here is to allow people to
save templates of things they've made in the past. I suggest not
allowing this; it reduces crafting back to button pushing again.

This idea is something I wan to see in a game, not something I want
to have to code myself; therefore, this page is released to the
public domain.

Created by rlpowell. Last Modification: Wednesday 23 of July, 2008 21:37:10 GMT-0000 by rlpowell.