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Put on Your Green Eyeshades
As always, our blogs introduce design ideas that are subject to change based on community feedback and playtesting. What you're about to read represents the current status of our game design, and we're looking to your input to help us improve it.
While a lot of attention is paid to combat and exploration, the real engine that drives a sandbox game is its economy. Economics is often called the "dismal science," and this blog goes into quite a bit of detail on the system we have planned, so please keep in mind as you read that not all of the accounting bits we're talking about are going to be experienced to the same degree by to every player. (Don't worry: Pathfinder Online is not going to be the World of QuickBooks MMO!)
There are effectively two approaches to economic systems in sandbox games: a simulated economy, or a virtual economy.
Simulated economies provide the illusion that there's some rational basis for the prices of goods and services, but in fact there isn't. Most theme park MMOs have simulated economies—the more you look into the way things like their auction houses and vendors work, the easier it is to see the flaws in those systems. Simulated economies are fine for games where the accumulation of wealth is a side effect of playing the game and where money is used as a gate to access content as characters become more powerful. Simulated economies can be—and usually are—badly exploited by those who care to figure out their weaknesses, but nobody really cares because having a whole lot of money usually doesn't get you any kind of meaningful in–game advantage.
Virtual economies are the exact opposite... Cont'd...