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Role Playing (Games) The Almighty Buck

Eve Online's New Chief Economist 52

Posted by Zonk
from the getting-serious-about-serious-money dept.
eldavojohn writes "Recently CCP, the folks behind the online game Eve Online, hired a real world economist to advise them on their in-game economy. Says the new hire, Dr. Eyjolfur Gudmundsson, 'There's a lot of discussion in the game about inflation and that is my job, to find out if inflation is going on. This makes the consumers behave in a more natural way because they are competing against each other on multiple levels, not only on a tactical level in combat but for logistics and resources. That builds consumer behavior and patterns that you see in the real world.' Is this a serious step to keep Eve Online competitive in the virtual land of MMOs despite scandals, Ponzi schemes & scams?"
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Eve Online's New Chief Economist

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  • Maybe the first step towards keeping inflation stable is making sure developers aren't allowed to create epic/rare items repeatedly. That would be a good start.
    • Re:the first step (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Danse (1026) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @12:48AM (#20300901)
      I think the main problem with the devs playing the game is that they are insiders. Just like you aren't legally allowed to trade stocks based on insider info, they shouldn't be able to provide their corp with an unfair advantage due to their insider info. Of course if the devs don't play the game, then they aren't as familiar with the ins and outs of it as they should be, so that can present problems too. If there's no strong oversight though, these problems will continue to pop up.
      • by MMaestro (585010)
        Or the devs could simply, you know, form their own guild/corp?

        Honestly, if the devs simply formed their own guild and (more or less) remained "neutral" there'd be no problem. Super-rare/powerful ships at their disposal? As long as their not selling it off to the highest bidder or using it to smash the other guilds, who cares? They know exactly where and when certain items will appear? Just toggle the dev-only invisibility feature and disable all outgoing messages for the devs then watch players go into a fr

        • by tibike77 (611880) <<tibikegamez> <at> <yahoo.com>> on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @03:27AM (#20301705) Journal
          People associated with CCP (the company that runs EVE) have a few special case clauses to their gameplay.
          That doesn't include just the game developers, but also members of the volunteer staff, which have to sign a NDA to join the ranks of the bughunters, interstellar correspondents, moderators or be a part of event teams. CCP has a history of recruiting GMs and other staff from the ranks of volunteers, so there's enough incentive to join and perform well.

          Now, the thing with "CCP accounts" is that they're public and have access to various "world manipulation" tools. All their actions are audited, and for over half a year (at least) there's something akin to an "Internal Affairs" department (like the one in the police) tasked with making sure they don't do anything fishy with their rights.

          At the same time, all people ALSO MAY have (if they want) a regular account, which they pay for like any other person... and they are subject to the same rules and regulations like all other players.
          Moreso, they are subjected to one EXTRA rule: they are NOT allowed to disclose the fact they are "related" to CCP.

          In case they slip up, common operating procedure is to, well, *cough* "enter them in a witness protection program". They get a new name, a new face, a fake corporation history. They lose all friends they might have made so far. They basically start from scratch relationship-wise... and that's the most horrible thing to lose in EVE, IMHO.

          Sure, they might have some inside knowledge, and there have been a couple of occurences of abuse, but all short of ONE incident were very harshly punished (and of course, they no longer work for CCP, except that one incident I was talking about).
          CCP has been very forthcoming with player accusations, and as open to communication as can possibly be expected from a company.
          Of course, many people still feel "cheated" or think CCP is hiding something, but what would be the world without conspiracy theory nutjobs ?

          So no... they CAN'T just do the stuff you're afraid they can do, and no, they don't get away with it.
          • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

            by rtb61 (674572)
            Let's keep it simple, what with lawyers, politicians, corporations, marketing and now economists, eve online is about to become as boring as it is slow and clunky, just like the real world people are trying to escape from.

            So the next big question is will eve online provide in game access to a different MMORPG that is actually an entertaining escape from reality ;).

            • by tibike77 (611880) <<tibikegamez> <at> <yahoo.com>> on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @04:49AM (#20302091) Journal
              Heh. Really, really funny you shoud say that. I mean, seriously funny. Because... THEY ARE doing that :)
              Check out http://myeve.eve-online.com/devblog.asp?a=blog&bid =401 [eve-online.com]
              They call it "ambulation", everybody else just calls it "walking in stations".
              • Now they just have to combine space stations/planets with a GTA IV style engine and it would be a space sim that I actually want to play :P I heard Frontier IV was going to actual model populations on each planet. Flying around in space is all well and good, but it's usually quite dull compared to being able to land on a planet and interact beyond some little 2D trading display/whatever.
              • by rtb61 (674572)
                As it turns out temporary brain fugue, Secondlife was on my mind, as for Eve Online, never played it, perhaps one day. When it comes to keeping the game alive, specials tend to have limits, variations in game play, variations in required strategy, real variations in environment as well as 'reasonable' unexpected occurrences.

                Accumulation of assets should not take over a game it should just remain a facet in completing other game goals. Carry out a sensible tax policy, as your game assets increase so do you

          • by MMaestro (585010)
            CCP has been very forthcoming with player accusations, and as open to communication as can possibly be expected from a company

            Actually, no they haven't. CCP has a track record for denying or outright covering up these incidents for weeks or months at a time.

            And in a company where REAL MONEY IS INVOLVED, these sort of accusations would've brought in the FCC months ago.

    • There are several ships that are the only one in existence. 1 of them has changed hands via sales and theft repeatedly. It currently resides in the hands of a ship collector. There are a few ships that no longer exist because people destroyed them.

      The devs also have don't use standard equipment to my knowledge. All their ships belong to one faction and would take database editing for someone to be able to use.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by blahplusplus (757119)
      "Maybe the first step towards keeping inflation stable is making sure developers aren't allowed to create epic/rare items repeatedly. That would be a good start."

      Or just maybe don't treat a games economy like a real economy all together it's supposed to be a god damn game (no true scarcity), it's not supposed to be real. Our real economies are not very fun, oppressive, unjust and boring, indeed, people haved die over economic ideology and how the economy should be structured.
      • "Our real economies are not very fun, oppressive, unjust and boring" Eve online is not very fun, oppressive, unjust and frequently boring. It's sadomasochistic leanings are part of the appeal.
      • by Branc0 (580914)
        It so happens, that when playing a game, dying and killing for economic supremacy is fun!
      • by ihope127 (1134557)
        If the economy being realistic makes a game more fun, developers should strive to make the economy realistic--after all, games should be fun. But does treating a game's economy like a real one make the game more fun? Well, economics is all about trying to make people be most productive, and feeling like you've accomplished something is what fun's all about--part of it, at least. Does this mean that the better the economic system is, the more fun the game is? You tell me; I don't know.
        • "Does this mean that the better the economic system is, the more fun the game is? You tell me; I don't know."

          The the real world you are doing things you don't like to survive, with some people finding work they 'do like' but even work you do like has times and aspects you don't like, but in a gaming world you are doing things you DO LIKE but you want some resistance, but also you don't want it to be TOO real, you want to have some control.

          This is why games like world of warcraft, etc, there is no permanent
    • by ThosLives (686517)

      Maybe the first step towards keeping inflation stable is making sure developers aren't allowed to create epic/rare items repeatedly.

      Umm...that really wouldn't affect inflation at all. Remember that inflation, simply stated is, "The nominal cost of all goods and services increases over time." Note the very important terms nominal and all. If the price of a single good (say, Telurian Apples) increases, this could just be because the demand for those items went up or whatever. The only way the price of all

      • Actually, in the EVE Economy, there are very few money "faucets" and many more money "Drains".

        Faucets (Isk Generators):
        -Bounties on NPCs
        -Mission Rewards
        -NPC Trading
        -Default insurance payouts on uninsured ships

        Drains
        -Taxes
        -Fees
        -Office Rentals
        -Repairs
        -Cloning
        -Insurance
        -Corp and Alliance Fees
        -NPC Trading

        Note that creating items and mining, two of the most popular professions, do not inherently create Money. They use other resources which can then be traded for raw cash, but the amount of "ISK" in the game is
        • by ThosLives (686517)

          If that's true, then there shouldn't be any issue of inflation (at least ISK inflation) in the universe, so it seems the premise of avoiding inflation in that particular economy is a non-starter.

          However, I'd question the fact that there are more currency sinks than sources, because if that were the case then there would be rampant deflation. While there may be more types of sink than types of source, it sounds to me like the system is fairly balanced as far as entire money supply goes.

          The interesting thi

      • by Achoi77 (669484)

        If you want to see a *really* screwed up, inflationary economy, look at the economies of the original WoW servers; that economy does not have any market balance forces to eat up the supply of goods (the way to fix that would be to have NPC controlled auction offerings to help keep prices in check, or for NPC vendors to change their prices based on rate of exchange). Simply stated, there is no current mechanism in that game to check the economy because there is no mechanism to absorb the ever-increasing amo

  • by sykopomp (1133507) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @12:42AM (#20300869)
    This is interesting, since CCP is actually preparing the introduction of T3 equipment. For a very long time, they've had a very particular way to work with T2 (better than T1) equipment, and that's to raffle the Original Blueprints for T2 items. This was a compromise between many different systems that didn't work very well, but gave many people unfair monopolies over much-wanted items. They've been stepping further and further away from this by introducing invention (which lets you 'invent' limited-run blueprints of T2 ships and modules). I wonder what this new economist will have to say about T3... I don't think there's been any official mention of how the T3 market is going to work.
    • [Insert rant here about the importance of identity in role play games]

      I guess around the 4th of never someone will finally make a space sim that has realistic physics, and lets you float around your ship, board space stations and other spinning bodies, go down to planets, etc. Oh, and try to make it fun.

      Which is not to say that there's anything wrong with Eve Online.. at least they have enough sense not to offer a free trial.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Kagura (843695)
        They do have a free trial on the EVE Online [eve-online.com] homepage.
        • by QuantumG (50515)
          There goes that virtue. Free trials are "please dis me to everyone who will listen so you don't have to pay even though you really want to" invitations. Personally, I think this phenomena is proof that MMORPGs are not addictive. After all, you never hear people saying "don't try crack, it sucks, I tried it once and wasn't that great. Seriously, crack sucks and I don't know why people take it." Unless, ya know, they mean it.

          • I dunno, I tried EVE and kinda liked it. It seems a lot more mature than most other MMORPGs, in the sense of less-cartoony. It is, of course, also a massive time-sink, as with all MMO games, and so I didn't partake of a subscription.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by sykopomp (1133507)
        Was it Vendetta Online that had twitch-based combat?I know there's some space MMO out there that does it. Either way, I personally enjoy EVE's combat system. It's very technical, lots of micro-tweaks and spreadsheeting, which is very different from most MMOs I've played out there. I'm also under the impression that a twitch-based space sim would be very very hard to pull off with current technology (or technology from 4 years ago), while still keeping the obscenely huge size of EVE's single-'shard' cluster
        • by QuantumG (50515)
          You should probably go back on the lithium.

          Either that, or buy yourself 20 cats and start throwing them at people who walk by.

        • I'm also under the impression that a twitch-based space sim would be very very hard to pull off with current technology (or technology from 4 years ago), while still keeping the obscenely huge size of EVE's single-'shard' cluster. Heck, the cluster barely holds up as-is.

          Probably true.

          AFAIK, the best effort in that direction so far is Freelancer, which offers twitch-based multiplayer for a few dozen players per server. Scaling that up to 30.000 seems a big step to me, even if you distribute the load over mul

          • by Splab (574204)
            I stopped playing eve because of freelancer, I thought the action was much more fun in freelancer than eve (also CCP decided to nerf my guns during maintenance while I was in a 0 system, cost me a ship and a shit load of grinding).
      • by tibike77 (611880)
        Do you know why no multiplayer "space sim" has completely realistic physics ?
        Because realistic physics SUCK for fun.
        And you want to have fun in a game, don't you ?
        That's why all "space sims" actually handle (ship motion-wise, that is) like a very futuristic "submarine sim" instead.

        Yes, you can invoke Elite here, but that's not multiplayer, and couldn't be made multiplayer.
        There's also a work in progress game called "Infinity" which tries to pull this off, by mixing something resembling a BSG Viper sim (so,
    • By invention again, except you put T2 BPC's in and (hopefully) get T3 BPC's out. Atleast thats the last I read.
  • Now they just need to hire programmers, artists, story writers, customer service reps, and auditors that monitor the employees and they will have a great game! (kidding...mostly)
  • No Way! (Score:3, Funny)

    by kamapuaa (555446) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @01:28AM (#20301097) Homepage
    What a silly question, Zonk. No way is Eve doing this to stay competitive! Why would they care about that? They just think economists are fun at parties!
  • There is no functional economy in Eve, because current real-world economic models are based on the concept of scarcity. Given that there are (theoretically) infinite resources in the form of mineable asteroids that respawn twice a week, infinite pirate bounties that spawn ala-WoW-like into existance from nothing, and other ludicrist ideas, I find it difficult to understand how there can be any scarcity whatsoever.

    Eve's economy is capitalism at its finest - the people at the "bottom" subsidize the people at
    • by QuantumG (50515)
      You're absolutely right. Quite apart from the fact that this is a game, and therefore obviously a real economy is not going to work. Why? Because real economies are based on work and who wants to do work in a game. The purpose of economics in a MMORPG is to balance everyone's ability to have fun whilst maintaining some level of challenge. I wish that real economies were interested in those goals.

      Anyway, I mirror an article by Gil Breau called Online World Economy [insomnia.org] which you might find remotely interesti
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tibike77 (611880)
        Funny you should say that, because EVE's economy IS based on work, and almost exclusively work.

        Killing NPCs in asteroid belts for bounties and loot ? Work.
        Running missions ? Work.
        Mining ? Work.
        Setting up a scam ? Work.
        Ransoming people ? Work.
        Research ? Invention ? Manufacture ? Trading and/or hauling ? Begging people in Jita for money ? Work, work and all work.

        Sure, different kinds of work, different amounts of "boring" versus "fun", different amounts of attention vs smarts needed, but work nevertheless, in
        • You pretty much summed it up. Eve is just too much work, and pretty much the only fun is griefing other players, be it through piracy, ganking or just plain scamming and sabotage. I disagree with your last sentiment though; no one has to work in Eve. Which is why I quit for more fun games, and left working in the real world.
    • by Galeric (1145507)
      You sound just like a Goon
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Bananas (156733)
        Except I'm not. I'm in a much smaller corp. I mine, I build, I sell. I fight if I have to. And still, the game grinds on - not because I'm trying to grind for the "leet" gear, but because it takes forever to do anything. Eve rapidly devolves into a time (and money) sink that has you snoozing on a late night at the keyboard, because drilling a 'roid in a 0.7 belt is boring enough to peel paint. You still didn't give me a reason. Yes, I realize that it's a game, and game economies should be fun - and t
        • It's your choice however to be in that small corp solo-mining. There are corps that do those 10-20 person mining ops. There are corps that are basically builder guilds. There is plenty of social interaction in many of those, as well as in my PVP alliance (IRON). I ran a mission corp for a while, plenty of talk on the corp chat, and we did harder missions and complexes as a team, similar to grouped instance-running in other games.

          In order of the economy to be effective, everything can't be free. There has to
    • Re:Baloney Economy (Score:4, Interesting)

      by tibike77 (611880) <<tibikegamez> <at> <yahoo.com>> on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @04:03AM (#20301893) Journal

      1. Yes, the current state of "the stockmarket" sucks donkey balls, because there isn't any. It's all player-driven, and trust-based. No in-game support for a genuine stockmarket exists, we barely have three decent features: paying out dividends, corporation votes and voluntary share transfers.
      As you might have noticed that most developements in EVE were originally player suggestions... it usually takes at least a year to see it in-game if it's a decent and heavily requested feature, but I am sure we'll eventually get an actual stockmarket and many other corp-related tools.

      2. Yes, the way the market is handled sucks even more, especially the recent nonsense with "contracts".
      They should just merge these two features into one single comprehensive whole, with the ability to buy/sell/trade/auction stuff everywhere in the galaxy from anywhere else, with extra rules and limitations based on personal/corp/alliance standing with the entity you interact with in that transaction.
      I have my doubts this will ever happend, though... but you never know.

      3. The "monopoly" is all but broken in most of the cases. Everybody and his dog's mom can manufacture T1 or "find" named T1 gear by himself, and with a little bit of effort you can get just about anything T2 by yourself too.
      Sure, those that USED to have the monopoly have a financial / "first mover" advantage with their more efficient manufacture methods, but the days of 10000% markup are long-time gone.

      4. Mineral pricing is the trickiest possible issue in EVE. It's not actually a free market, it has very "heavy" limits both on top and bottom for most of the individual minerals (the harshest caps are for "low end" minerals, least cap for "high ends"), but also a very narrow bottom AND top cap for an agregate lump of minerals of all kinds. You might be simply mistaking simple game mechanics and smart refiners and traders making a profit for "price fixing monopolies".
      If anything else just might, minerals simply CAN'T possibly be monopolised for anything but a very small timeframe and with huge effort.

      5. So what if raw resources are infinite ?
      I'll tell you what resource is NOT infinite : manpower.
      That's right, for each and every bit and piece of "mineral" you see out there, somebody spent time getting it.
      EVE's economy is based on that resource mainly... namely, time of its users.
    • Couple this with the near-impossibility to get into any kind of social interaction (all corporations want 3 or more months experience, and while I easily have more than that, many mistreat their members and are demanding) and you can see why such a good idea has gone bad.

      My current corp frequently takes on newbies and is quite nice towards them. The only major restriction is strictly limited hangar access, which we have introduced after a newbie cleared out most of the corp hangars one day (turned out she w

  • Kind of ironic they make such a fuss about their economics now, considering today they've announced the closure of their official moderated Trade forums. [eve-online.com] Their suggestion? For everyone to use a third-party site.

    The most likely reason? Because they're terminating their volunteer service departments [scrapheap-challenge.com] who did most of the forum moderations. While this might be an effort to try and erase their image as having players cheating at these levels, it doesn't mean much for those who still trusted CCP and EVE to mai
    • by FlameWise (84536)
      I wonder if he had his fingers in this. One hopes not, really.

      I've rarely seen a thread rocketing at over 60 postings per hour CREATED BY CCP, with universal agreement from all sides, even some historic CCP supporters.

      I mean, it's not really a surprise: Their forums aren't the best. What other forum has built-in search by google and still manages to drive people to a third-party forum search engine made by a fan in flocks?
      • Well, it is official, about the volunteers getting the boot. [eve-online.com]

        Their forums are fun for a read and keeping up with the game's goings-on. Though you're right, not really designed very well -- they only just came off the "main" servers so that they dissapeared when the game went down. Kinda funny when the game's whole website died when there was a nodecrash, the first few times.

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