The Problem and A Solution

posted by on 31st October 2013, at 1:29am | Discuss Article

There’s been much talk lately about Runescape’s economy being out of control, inflated, or just downright screwed up. Pretty much everyone agrees this is a problem and that Jagex needs to fix it. They have tried a number of things but most of those have had little to no impact.

Now I know what you’re thinking, “Oh, sure, Mr. Know-It-All has the perfect solution.”
No, I don’t. You see, the problem is too widespread for any single action or person to be able to fix it. One update can’t, Jagex alone can’t, and players alone can’t. It will require multiple updates, some hard choices by Jagex, and the community of players to accept the changes.
The things I will talk about are only a few changes that should be done, they alone will not fix the problem. While I may not use the ‘economically correct’ terms, those of you with degrees should still be able to understand what I’m referring to. Game economies are not quite as complicated as the real world, though they do share similarities.

:: What exactly IS the problem? ::
“The value of Coins is screwed up.”

Yea, Coins. Coins are what we refer to as ‘Gold Pieces’ and ‘Cash’. Coins are an actual item in Runescape. In most MMOs, or just about any game for that matter, currency is just a number. You can see it but you can’t really feel it the same way you can in Runescape. While the exact effect of this is debatable, it is an interesting thing to note. I am not by any means saying this is a bad game mechanic, in fact it may be better than currency merely being a number. I think it is important to keep this fact in mind – to treat GP as the item ‘Coins’ that it is instead of just a number.

So, with that out of the way we get to the subject:
“The value of Coins is screwed up.”

The value of GP has been diminished over the years. This is caused by a number of factors. But what exactly does it do? It causes you to need more GP to buy the same item/do the same task, the item/task is just as useful now as it was previously but due to the value of GP lessening you need more to purchase or accomplish the same thing.

This is inflation, the lessening of buying power of a currency due to price increases.

How do you fix that? Raise the value of the currency.
How do you do that? Well, that is where it gets a little more complicated. You see, there are multiple ways to do it and multiple causes to diminished worth.

In Runescape the main cause is too much GP coming into the game. This causes the value of each coin to be lessened. What causes all this gold to enter the game? It is not bots or RWTs.

“WHAT?!?!!111?!?!?!?!?!!?!111? YES IT IS!!!!11!!!!11!”

No, it isn’t. Most bots and RWTs do not farm the item Coins. They farm items which they then sell on the Grand Exchange to real players. Bots and RWTs get their money from players like you and I who buy resources and supplies (such as when we buy 99 Herblore or 99 Prayer).

We, you and I, The Players, are the ones who bring all this excessive GP into the game.

Does that make us bad? No, we’re merely playing the game. There are two primary things that bring all this excessive gold into the game; Coinshare and The Squeal of Fortune.

Supposedly Coinshare sells high value items on the Grand Exchange instantly for 5% below average market value. This would seem fine, you and your group get your share of coins. The problem is, I have found no evidence that Coinshare puts the item on the market. The item seems to be instantly turned into cash and given to the players and then removed from the game. This causes millions of Coins to be instantly added to the game.

Squeal of Fortune
There’s been lots of bashing of the Squeal ever since its addition. The reasons for this are valid and I will not echo them here. However I will explain how the Squeal adds excessive GP to the game.

Almost every result on the Squeal can be converted into GP. You can also get GP flat out as a result. Granted, most of these results only give 500-25,000gp per person. And with there only being ~45k on at any given time that doesn’t seem like much.
But wait a minute. Since the Squeal is a daily, many people only hop on for a moment to do the daily. Also, the 45k playing right now will not be the same 45k that are playing 12 hours from now.

Let’s do some math. We’ll assume that on average most people get 10k GP or its equivalent everyday. If we assume only 45k people spin, 45,000 players x 10,000gp each = 450,000,000 gp entering the game per day. That’s 450m influx of Coins, per day. If we are hopeful and say that there are 100k unique players logging onto Runescape everyday then. 100,000 players x 10,000gp each = 1,000,000,000 gp entering the game each day. That’s 1b, daily.

When you take into account the fact that most active players will gain a few spins each day, and then assume each spin is worth 500-25,000 it doesn’t take long to see how quickly the gold from Squeal of Fortune comes into the game. Granted, not everyone uses the Squeal and not every result gives cash. Still, though, it cannot be denied that the Squeal of Fortune adds hundreds of millions of GP each day.

The task system is another, though much smaller scale, way that money is added to the game. A few hundred to a few thousand coins are given for doing random, usually fairly easy, tasks. This adds up when you have over 100k players doing them. If you figure a conservative 500m daily from the Squeal and probably about that from Coinshare (weekends likely have much higher rates for Coinshare) you get an easy 1 billion gold added to the game everyday. Not too mention what tasks give.

The reason these things are a problem is because they make gold out of thin air and are relatively easy and/or cheap to do. Squeal is completely free. Coinsharing, the cost depends on what you’re fighting and who you’re with. Most Coinsharing does not require millions of GP. Though your gear might be worth millions, your supplies and resources are likely 100k or less.

The ultimate cause of Inflation in Games is currency being too easy to acquire.

:: How do you fix Coins’ Value? ::
It is not by moneysink. Moneysinks do not ‘fix’ anything. They merely attempt to treat a symptom of it. It’s like having a bullet wound and taking a ton of pain reliever instead of getting the bullet removed. Sure, the medicine might make you feel better for awhile, but soon you’ll feel the real affects of the wound. Or it’ll be too late and you’ll die.

Like Pain reliever, Moneysinks can be beneficial if used in conjunction with treatment of the actual problem. I’m a firm believer in the fact that a healthy economy will not have any moneysinks. Moneysinks and maintenance or advancement fees are different.

A Moneysink is a game mechanic added with the sole intention of stealing players’ money.

After all that is what a Moneysink is added to do, take players’ money.

Runescape needs a scaling Moneysink. Yes, I just said Runescape needs a Moneysink, but a specific type. A scaling Moneysink uses a percentage to determine the amount of cash taken instead of a solid number. For any moneysink to be effective it has to be a game mechanic that at least 75% of the players use regularly without changing their play style. This is why the following Moneysinks have failed: Barrows Armours repair fee, Construction Skill, Zaros GWD Armour Repair Fee, Chaotic Weapons Repair Fee, Drygore Weapons Repair Fee, and PoP Armour Repair Fee.

Most players do not use many of these and those that do usually are able to acquire more gold than the cost, thus negating the goldsink.

While I believe in Repair and Maintenance fees, they should not be used as an absurdly high moneysink. All equipment should either be repairable for a fair amount based on its level, or never need repair.

The best Moneysink Jagex could add is a Grand Exchange Tax or Fee.

Almost every MMO has a fee for using their Grand Exchange/Auction House. Why is this? This fee helps give the convenience of the GE/AH a value. The Grand Exchange is currently free; people use it to sell everything without a thought. Giving this a value makes people think before they buy or sell.

One of the main reasons a Grand Exchange Fee Moneysink would work is because nearly everyone uses the Grand Exchange. It’s a way of life in Runescape now. Think about it, how often do you trade with a player to buy or sell something? Yea, that’s what I thought.

The Fee has to be scaling.

If you set it at 5k per listing it only affects small listings. 5k out of a 5m sale is nothing. 5k out of a 2k sale is… more than all of it.

If you set it at 5%, well, now that has much more of an affect, doesn’t it? That 5m sale just cost 250k, and the 2k sale only cost 100.

This percentage based fee would help remove cash evenly. A player buying full Torva would have to pay an additional 11.85m. Considering they’re already spending over 230m, it wouldn’t affect their functionality much. A player buying Barrows would pay about 80k more. Is this being biased against Rich players? Not at all. The percentage is the same for both, the Rich player is just choosing to spend more.

The tax could be evaded entirely if the player buys the item outside of the Grand Exchange through a private trade with another player. This would make it worth looking for a buyer outside of the Grand Exchange, and consequently looking for a seller.

You see, this tax would be on both sides. If a seller sells an item for 1m then Buyer must pay 1.05m, the seller only receives 0.95m. This makes each transaction remove 10% of the item’s worth from the Economy.

But equipment is only a small portion of Grand Exchange transactions. Commodities and resources are most of it. A Variable Commodity Tax would apply to Commodity transactions such as Sharks, Logs, and Herbs. This would start at 5%, and raise by 1% for every thousand or ten thousand of the item being purchased (max 50% tax).

500 Herbs at 1k each would be worth 500k, the Buyer pays 525k and the Seller receives 475k. 50k removed from the game.
10,000 Herbs at 1k each would be worth 10m, the Buyer pays 11m and the Seller receives 9m. 2m removed from the game.

Obviously if a player is wanting to buy or sell large quantities for maximum profit they will sell off the Grand Exchange. This would require them to search for a buyer/seller. If you were buying 100k of something this would be worth it, but if you were only buying a few thousand it would be worth paying the convenience fee.

This makes people work and think more, or they can pay more for ease.

Regardless, Moneysinks do not and cannot fix the problem. If you only add a Moneysink you will make people buy even more RWT gold. When a Moneysink is added it should have a set plan for removal. A specific, trackable, goal must be set before the Moneysink is added. Once that goal is reached or is approached the Moneysink is lessened and finally removed. A Convenience Tax could be lowered as the goal was approached and then removed entirely.

:: So, let’s Recap ::

The problem is the value of Coins is low.
This is caused by too much Gold being added to the Economy.
Moneysinks are not good for a healthy game, though they can be used as temporary tools(like pain reliever).

:: Solutions? ::

Remove Coinshare and the Squeal of Fortune.
Well dang, that made y’all happy, didn’t it? I guess removing them entirely might be a bit too much of a change for the Runescape Community.
But wait, I thought change was good?
Oh fine, we’ll do something else instead of that drastic change.

Fix Coinshare to where it only sells the item if someone is buying actually the item.
“But what happens if no one is buying the item when the drop happens?”
“You get NOTHING!”

You get the drop like normal. I mean, it gets treated as if normal lootshare is on, whoever has the right amount of potential to get it, gets it. Your buddy can then give you your share of it.

“How does that prevent scamming?”
It doesn’t, now does it? That’s why you lootshare with friends. Used to be, back in the day, that you would fight a big monster with some friends and whoever did the most damage got the drop. They would then split that with their friends by either selling it and giving them the cash share later, or by giving them the share value once they all banked. Strangely, the economy worked just fine back then even with an occasional scam or two. If you get scammed, well, it stinks like heck. Believe me, I’ve been scammed for quite a load before by a friend even. It’s life. The person that really loses in that situation is the scammer though. They lost you as a friend and possibly got kicked from their clan. Is a 100m item really worth that? To some, perhaps, but you don’t want to play with someone you can’t trust, do you?

Now about removing the Squeal of Fortune…
Well, to be honest they just need to get rid of it. I’m not sure of what kind of compromise we could do here. Getting rid of all the cash bag results and the ability to convert results to cash is about the only way. At least then people have to sell the items and can’t get 200m in a moment.

:: The Long and The Short of it is ‘this’ ::

Jagex is allowing – and encouraging – too much Gold to come into the game. This must be fixed by removing/changing the thing(s) that are bringing/allowing this gold to come into the game – regardless of what they may be. This is not caused just by bots, in fact it may not be caused by bots at all. An effective Moneysink can be added IF (and only IF), it has a set goal that is achievable and once achieved the Moneysink will be removed.

Well, this article is over 2,500 words now and I’ve probably lost or am about to lose some readers due to the disease known as ‘TLDR Syndrome’… Eh, at least I know there’s some of you that stuck it out and read the whole thing. While the instances and suggestions stated may not be perfect in exact detail(I’m only human after all 😉 ), the Concepts have sound thought and reason behind them. Although I do not have an Economics Degrees, I have studied Game Mechanics and Design for over a decade.

If anyone would like to discuss this in more detail I’d be happy to do so on the forums. Please comment and quote whichever part you’re interested in.

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