Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Trinity on PotBS economy

Trinity from female-gamer.com has two articles on the economy of Pirates of the Burning Sea: The first with a good explanation of how the economy works, and the second with an interview with Isildur (Kevin Maginn), the dev responsible for the economy.

The player-run economy of Pirates of the Burning Sea promises to be really exciting and interesting to people like me who like that sort of gameplay. In case you hadn't noticed it: the PotBS economic gameplay is ideal for the mature, casual gamer. There is no twitchy button-mashing involved, and it is based on real-time, not just time spent in game. In most other games, the more time you spend in game, the richer you get. But in PotBS it appears that the production of wealth happens in real time, via the stored labor of the production buildings, while the destruction of wealth happens in game time, when ships sink or consumables are consumed. Especially PvP appears to be expensive, as you'd obviously would need the most expensive ships to gain an advantage, and losing a PvP fight can mean losing that ship. So somebody playing PvP all day will have trouble financing that, while a casual player who only logs on for an hour every day to run his production and selling his produced goods will swim in money. I like it! :)

The only thing I'm worried about is that I perceive a clash between the economic concept and the PvP concept. Isildur says: "I’m the closest thing we have to an economist (note: not an economist).", and I'm afraid he hasn't understood some of the consequences of his free market implementation. In PotBS merchants of any nation can freely buy and sell in auction houses of any nation. This leads to the possibility of arbitrage: the merchant buys where goods are cheap, and sells them where they are more expensive. This in turn leads to market equilibrium, with goods costing the same in all markets in the long run. That is a good thing in the real world between friendly nations. In a game which is about warring nations, a free market like that is contrary to the interests of the players engaging in PvP. If lets say nation A tries to take away from nation B all the ports in which iron for cannon balls can be produced, you don't want merchants of all nations starting to ship iron from A to B. As Isildur says, "it puts more money in the hands of your enemy’s merchants and producers", but also into the hands of all other merchants, while the people who did all the PvP gain absolutely no advantage from it. Nation A doesn't gain any advantage as a whole when their merchants are richer, because the merchants are different players than the PvPers, and they aren't handing over the profits to the people who are running the war. There is a reason why in the real world there are trade restrictions towards unfriendly nations.

Well, I'm planning to play a merchant in PotBS (probably with an alt of another class to enjoy the fighting part of the game), so the current setup is advantageous for me. But sooner or later the PvP players will realize that the merchants are profiting by sabotaging the effect of taking away ports from the enemy, and they won't be happy.

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