Freeform economic manipulation.

Favorite quotations, etc.
Riggerjack
Posts: 3031
Joined: Thu Jul 14, 2011 3:09 am

Freeform economic manipulation.

Post by Riggerjack »

I grew up with established prices. Sure, there was some haggling with used stuff, but my internal reference point is still the dollar, and while I factor in inflation, my mental models of economics are still fairly simple, and mostly an exchange of dollar to object and back.

I don't think I am alone, and often see people trying to make even simpler models work.

Somehow, I opened this link:
https://www.alicemaz.com/writing/minecraft.html

I don't remember where I got it, but I am a bit amazed. What she is describing is her experiences playing Minecraft, a game I have never played. Apparently, there is quite a bit of economics built into the game. She does a better job of describing how I feel in a new, complicated game, than I could. But then she goes deep into detail of how she went from an average, retail player to part of a cartel that both crashed the economy and bailed it out. Then, when the game universe was reset, with rule changes specific to eliminating all the advantages she had exploited, how she did it again, and why it was so easy.

Now, no matter how intricate the details of a simulated economy, it's still just a simulation. But the principals and concepts are best internalized in game format. What I was most impressed by was her complete relaxation about price, mainly just keeping the economy as a ratio of values and looking to take advantage of where the ratios we're out of balance.

So I post the link here, because people could learn from her models, but also, I am a RTS player, and never looked at games with a decent economic basis. So recommendations are welcome. I'm currently playing Offworld Trading Company, but it seems geared towards leveraged expansion of the silicone valley variety. I may need to search out more complete economic games, if anyone has any recommendations.

Toska2
Posts: 363
Joined: Fri Nov 20, 2015 8:51 pm

Re: Freeform economic manipulation.

Post by Toska2 »

A card game for 2-5 players.

Dominion. Since you can have many combinations of the initial cards game play is greatly extended. It took me about 50 games to give people who owned it for two years a challenge.

Riggerjack
Posts: 3031
Joined: Thu Jul 14, 2011 3:09 am

Re: Freeform economic manipulation.

Post by Riggerjack »

Yeah, I have Dominion and settlers of Catan on the list of eventual purchases. I haven't played either.

But I was thinking of more involved models. Where the inputs and outputs can only be observed or guessed at, rather than being a direct effect of observable actions. With cards, the mystery is limited, as there are only so many cards.

7Wannabe5
Posts: 7080
Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:03 am

Re: Freeform economic manipulation.

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

When I was actively dealing rare books, I always thought in terms of ratios. 5x purchase price to initial competitive retail pricing was my worst-acceptable and 20X was excellent. I averaged somewhere around 10X. Of course, you need a huge mark-up as a rare book dealer because the churn-rate is so low. I tried to keep the churn rate at no worse than 30 days until cash back in hand. So, for instance, at a typical small sale I might buy 50 books for $50, list them for a total of $500, and receive net receipts from sales of some portion of these books totaling $50 within 30 days, the remainder of the lot remaining in inventory with profits to be realized at later date, and the overlapping receipts from all previous lots purchased comprising my total income.

I'm not sure if this is the sort of thing you are wondering about?

vexed87
Posts: 1493
Joined: Fri Feb 20, 2015 8:02 am
Location: Yorkshire, UK

Re: Freeform economic manipulation.

Post by vexed87 »

I have played a few space sims with arguably more complex economies, EVE Online, X3, Elite Dangerous etc, there comes a point when you realise that having virtual wealth is meaningless and I get bored and drop out. That's a big part of the reason I can't get on with MMOs or games in general anymore. IRL jobs are grindy enough without coming home to a second job. I have to admit though, I always loved finding ways to break games I played. Using proceeds to fund ganking epiditions was always fun for a short time. I guess that makes me a bandit. I don't do that kind of thing in RL though. :lol:

Riggerjack
Posts: 3031
Joined: Thu Jul 14, 2011 3:09 am

Re: Freeform economic manipulation.

Post by Riggerjack »

Yeah, I have never tried an MMO, I never saw the point. But now I'm starting to see possibilities...

Yeah, I am not talking about trying to make money this way, like gold miners in WoW, but more like building more flexible, intuitive models, as the lady in the link talks about.

So I guess what I'm asking is how the economic engines in these MMOs stack up? Which ones are most advanced, or has anyone even tried this?

@7w5, that was kind of what I was expecting in the way of multiples from your earlier descriptions. But that is cash vs commodity modeling. I'm thinking more commodity to commodity modeling, strangely enough, more like your typical posts, modeling energy budgets in potatoes, for instance.

Of course this is all just games, but when it comes down to it, what isn't?

vexed87
Posts: 1493
Joined: Fri Feb 20, 2015 8:02 am
Location: Yorkshire, UK

Re: Freeform economic manipulation.

Post by vexed87 »

The richness in the tale that you linked to comes from interaction with other humans, so you wouldn't necessarily experience the same in a single player games, or at least get the same kick from amassing wealth at the expense of others, that's where MMOs get their appeal.

EVE Online would be the most complex and sophisticated market based economy MMO game I have played. I can't link to the about page at work IT filters out most videogames websites ( :cry: ), but I'm sure you could find the details yourself!

Players can go it alone, but to really succeed they need to organise and cooperate and work together to harvest basic resources, manufacturer commodities, practically every spaceship, weapon, ammunition, space station etc in the game is manufactured by assembling components and commodities built from raw resources mined by players in a similar fashion to minecraft, albeit, in space, not a block world.

Riggerjack
Posts: 3031
Joined: Thu Jul 14, 2011 3:09 am

Re: Freeform economic manipulation.

Post by Riggerjack »

Thanks. That's about what I was looking for. It's not just for me, but something I may work out with IRL friends to help them build better models, as well. I do play games online, but mainly just against people I know.

Getting my ass handed to me by an anonymous 11 year old, has limited appeal. Though I do remember being that kid, and wish him well.

7Wannabe5
Posts: 7080
Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:03 am

Re: Freeform economic manipulation.

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

@Riggerjack:

When you were a young, single man and you walked into a bar on Ladies Night, you probably didn't think "Wow, there must be $10,000 worth of females here tonight. Last night there were only $2500 worth of females here.", yet you still likely had a pretty accurate feel for how the ratio would influence your ability to trade in your killer skillz, right?

Obviously, I make use of ratios like potatoes/solar_acreage * top_soil_depth, because I like to play this kind of game too, but IRL starting with a couple vacant lots, the contents of any dumpsters within biking distance, and whatever motley collection of Calorie Kings (male human still earning money in the twilight function of the petro-industrial economy) I can pick-up on the cheap after their wives kick them to the curb. I would estimate that access to one discarded Calorie King is worth more than access to 20 dumpsters at this juncture in the game, but that ratio is subject to change.

Riggerjack
Posts: 3031
Joined: Thu Jul 14, 2011 3:09 am

Re: Freeform economic manipulation.

Post by Riggerjack »

@7w5

Yes, but again, this is the simple flexible price analysis.

More ladies or less ladies, more men, less men, prettier ladies, prettier men, better or worse music, size of clusters, price of drinks, effectiveness of drinks, transportation options, time to closing, teamwork mechanics, number and location of competing bars, this is the level of economic modeling I am thinking of, and I think MMOs are probably the best way to get there.

7Wannabe5
Posts: 7080
Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:03 am

Re: Freeform economic manipulation.

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

Gotcha. I use VenSim roughly combined with 3-D landscape design and Sketch-Up. I asked the forum if there was a better program, but nobody offered any suggestions. I also plan on learning SQL so that I can timely access database information. Some things are easier to model than to do IRL, and vice-versa.

Riggerjack
Posts: 3031
Joined: Thu Jul 14, 2011 3:09 am

Re: Freeform economic manipulation.

Post by Riggerjack »

I am not a programmer, but I have used SQL queries I built in our old database. What little I did was like Boolean logic. Just pulling together the fields and ranges I needed from an existing database. Handy, but I can't think of how it would help me here. Probably because I only used in a few specialized areas in a specific system for specific purpose.

I'm looking to build intuition, which means for me, watching a system work, making tweaks, and watching again, repeat, until I can tell what inputs changed by reading outputs. Then being able to tell how much the inputs changed by reading outputs. In complicated systems, this can take a while, but I'm broken in ways that can make this fun. But not broken enough to start from a real world system, where there are too many complicating factors and noise.

If I can find a complicated enough system, this will keep me entertained while also helping my friends build models of their own, as far as they are interested, that will help them should they follow me into an active retirement. Even my friends who have known me for decades are distrustful of investing and markets, and think this early retirement thing I keep talking about will pass.

jacob
Site Admin
Posts: 13172
Joined: Fri Jun 28, 2013 8:38 pm
Location: USA, Zone 5b, Koppen Dfa, Elev. 620ft, Walkscore 73
Contact:

Re: Freeform economic manipulation.

Post by jacob »

Riggerjack wrote:
Wed Mar 28, 2018 4:43 pm
I'm looking to build intuition, which means for me, watching a system work, making tweaks, and watching again, repeat, until I can tell what inputs changed by reading outputs. Then being able to tell how much the inputs changed by reading outputs. In complicated systems, this can take a while, but I'm broken in ways that can make this fun. But not broken enough to start from a real world system, where there are too many complicating factors and noise.
So you're basically looking to decipher the response function. Similar to vexed87, once I started looking at real word systems, I never bothered to look back. Gaming became boring to me. I'd suggest not "wasting" your time on gaming, but OTOH, I kinda miss gaming, since the real world offers only one game after all; and it's kinda slow going. As for all the other games, complex economies are an emergent feature. Emergent features require human players to create the feature. The game designer's job is to ensure that the feature doesn't turn into a bug. This means that the game designers (there are a more than a couple of good books available at this time) tweak the game world to encourage optimal emergence(*) rather than just creating some kind of engine that single-players can engage with.

(*) This means tweaking the parameters of the game world to in order to create^H^H^H^Hoptimize a better experience for the participants. It's really not much difference than what I do when moderating this forum :-P Same basic idea.

Overall, the real world is more interesting and also useful---I think.

BRUTE
Posts: 3798
Joined: Sat Dec 26, 2015 5:20 pm

Re: Freeform economic manipulation.

Post by BRUTE »

jacob wrote:
Wed Mar 28, 2018 5:07 pm
Overall, the real world is more interesting and also useful---I think.
some games are pretty good.

jacob
Site Admin
Posts: 13172
Joined: Fri Jun 28, 2013 8:38 pm
Location: USA, Zone 5b, Koppen Dfa, Elev. 620ft, Walkscore 73
Contact:

Re: Freeform economic manipulation.

Post by jacob »

Not if you're getting crushed by twitchy 11 year olds, they're not :-P

Riggerjack
Posts: 3031
Joined: Thu Jul 14, 2011 3:09 am

Re: Freeform economic manipulation.

Post by Riggerjack »

@ Jacob,

For me, this is an attempt to keep friends close. Just another way for them to grok what I am talking about. We did the Rich Dad game for a while, but like everything Rich Dad does, it's at a very simple, impractical level. Currently, we are playing Offworld Trading Company, and that's complicated enough that it will take a while to work through. I'm lining up the next game.

I still have a few friends from HS, and trying to get people raised in lower middle class, who have turned sweat into cash to pay the bills for generations, to really internalize passive income, in a blue state where the message gets hammered home that rich people are cheats, and the never ending proclamations of doom from people who lost it all in '08 can be a real challenge.

(And I think I may have set set a new personal record for a run-on sentence...)

Soon, I'm going to retire and start a few hobby businesses. I will either make quite a bit of money, or I'll retire better, but those years of transition will go smoother, if they understand what I am doing and why. I can talk all I like, but I am one voice among many, and I'm looking for better tools.

I read that essay I linked to, and thought how well that could work, and now I'm here, soliciting suggestions.

And the twitchy 11 year olds reference StarCraft. I jumped to top tier competition pretty quickly, and did alright for a while, then the algorithm placed me about right and I had some really shocking defeats. There is something very startling in thinking I have a game well in hand, then find I really, really, didn't. :shock:

I've never played any MMO, and never had any interest in one until the economic development possibility came up. Teaming up with other people to kill CG monsters seemed like playing Guantlet, in the 80's, but with strangers. I can't think of why I'd want to do that. Reading how Alice worked her game opened my eyes to a new way of looking at it.

Riggerjack
Posts: 3031
Joined: Thu Jul 14, 2011 3:09 am

Re: Freeform economic manipulation.

Post by Riggerjack »

The game designer's job is to ensure that the feature doesn't turn into a bug. This means that the game designers (there are a more than a couple of good books available at this time) tweak the game world to encourage optimal emergence(*) rather than just creating some kind of engine that single-players can engage with.
But IRL, the rules change all the time. (Cheeto tax reform, etc.) This isn't a problem, it's a feature.

BRUTE
Posts: 3798
Joined: Sat Dec 26, 2015 5:20 pm

Re: Freeform economic manipulation.

Post by BRUTE »

game rules change all the time. wtf happened to brute's twitch sorc?! COME ON! and enigma's just a fucking joke.

and yea, SC is deep. probably deeper than chess or go. watching the pros is like watching ballet. it's an art. too bad they never made a sequel.

Solvent
Posts: 227
Joined: Wed Mar 04, 2015 3:04 pm
Location: กรุงเทพมหานคร
Contact:

Re: Freeform economic manipulation.

Post by Solvent »

Unfortunately the diagrams and equations seem to have disappeared, but did any of you read Yanis Varoufakis during the brief period he collaborated with Valve? An example: http://blogs.valvesoftware.com/economic ... 2-economy/

As an economist who (once upon a time) played quite a lot of videogames, I have been very interested in the past 5 or so years how the position of ‘game economist’ is now something one could aspire to. If I had better quant or programming skills I would probably try to steer my career in this direction. It’s not too late to develop these skills, sure, but each time I try I get bored out of my skull. Also, it seems that a strangely large number of these positions are located in Montreal which seems like it’d be an interesting place to live for a while.

I think it’s interesting that there are now people employed to fine-tune economies in games, sometimes for reasons of balance (large studio titles) but more often for reasons of extracting the greatest number of microtransactions from consumers through carefully manipulating scarcity of in-game resources (for mobile apps, but also increasingly* for big-budget studio titles).

*I don’t really play games anymore except those I purchased on Steam years ago and never got around to finishing, but apparently microtransactions are now huge in all games, not just mobile? Yuck.

User avatar
TheWanderingScholar
Posts: 636
Joined: Thu Dec 30, 2010 12:04 am

Re: Freeform economic manipulation.

Post by TheWanderingScholar »

Solvent wrote:
Thu Mar 29, 2018 4:03 am
*I don’t really play games anymore except those I purchased on Steam years ago and never got around to finishing, but apparently microtransactions are now huge in all games, not just mobile? Yuck.
Yep. Pretty much why I am just playing and modding Morrowind, working on writing, and in general just focusing on studying reading on things like Spatial Econometrics, and books such as The Case for Mars by Robert Zubrin, which I still need to finish.

Post Reply