Our Message for GDC 2019: Embrace the change of a crypto game economy
If you’re a game developer, you are probably used to controlling all the aspects of the economy inside your game. Maybe you became emotionally invested in the debate with your team on the true value of a rusty sword. Perhaps you planned out all your active and passive gold sinks with a religious fervor. Or you laughed heartily when you created fees for your NPC’s selling goods and services to help keep inflation in check. Then, late one night, you received a message that someone in Switzerland has cornered the market on rusty swords. Hours later, you saw a tweet that people bought so many rusty swords that they are now being traded for 1000x the value outside the game. Welcome to the universe of a decentralized in-game economy.
Players are going to do amazing and unexpected things as they work with cryptoitems and cryptocurrency inside of your game. Your in-game economy is going to jump outside of your game universe and connect with other online marketplaces and universes that you have no control over. Check out the video below as an example of one such event.
I’m going to GDC to show game developers a new way of thinking
In order to fully embrace the blockchain economy in your game, you have to upgrade your view of control of the internal economy of your game. People are going to do the unexpected; they’re going to trade, buy, sell, lose, and destroy your in-game currency outside of your game. Players are going to form alliances, trade groups, set up their own stores, undercut, underbid, raise and slash prices, and it will happen all at the same moment in time. After your dungeon-master inspired dismay settles down, you are going to realize that people are doing what you want them to do; they’re having fun. You also have to understand that they’re engaged with your game outside of the game, where the rules are theirs. If you try to enforce some kind of control or interfere into this external galaxy of international trade, you’ll find yourself woefully unprepared for the backlash. If there’s one thing that will turn an external crypto community against you or your game, it’s the perception that you’re trying to control behaviors in a decentralized environment.
Somebody said they threw their copy of Dungeons and Dragons into the fire, and it screamed. It’s a game! The magic spells in it are as real as the gold. Try retiring on that stuff. — Gary Gygax (inventor of Dungeons and Dragons)
In the world of the blockchain game economy, the ability of the game developer to fully control the utilization of game items and game currency is in the hands of the players, where it truly belongs. You do have options though, depending on the smart contract or platform you are using, you have many options to set the stage for your players. For example, if you’re building your blockchain game on the Enjin platform, you can optionally collect a fee if someone transfers or melts your cryptoitem outside of the game. You can also make your rare weapon sets non-fungible if the idea of fungible items in your game economy isn’t to your liking. There are options to lock or make the supply of in-game currency adjustable, whatever kind of options you want, you can set. The golden rule here though is that once you set it, you have to live with it. Changing and switching options may not be possible later on as they get set on the blockchain, so that is where you need to do your planning carefully.
Keep an open mind and embrace the open trading community both inside and outside the game. For example, what you intended to happen in the game with every player going on a quest to acquire a special item may not happen. Why? Because they may just buy the quest item off someone else who completed that quest. Also, they may have other motives in mind like driving up scarcity of the quest item. Remember that you’re still building a game and while the in-game sinks and resource flows still have a role, they may not align in a decentralized cryptoitem economy and that’s okay.
Chill your flow for crypto
What was once a semi predictable behavior for in-game purchasing and management of game resources changes with decentralization. For example, your in-game store (if you have one) can be thought of as more of a convenience for players that don’t want to leave the game for an exchange or social media trading group. Although they are likely to use a device based wallet for such purchases, such as the Enjin mobile wallet, you can integrate the experiences together. Do expect players to shop around on decentralized exchanges, trade game items, and bargain with each other. This also presents a good opportunity to embrace the social aspects of players to engage one another over trading items. Don’t try to shut down, punish, or negatively compete with communities of players that are actively working with your in-game currency or game items. Any intrusive behavior on your part as a studio, designer, or developer could turn players off to the entire experience you are trying to present.
Players themselves are now part of the experience of your game. You can’t do much to regulate their behavior outside of the game, like on social media or other community driven places. Reward the right kind of behaviors that drive players into your game by working directly with highly interested and motivated players. Examples might be giving them rare cryptoitems, making them moderators for social experiences that you control, or sharing little known secrets and information about your game. While it seems intuitive to do these things in general, in the crypto-marketplace these things define what kind of environment you are building for them.
Chaos and Order are not enemies, only opposites. Chaos and Order combined equal balance. — Richard Garriott (Ultima series creator)
Changing your game economy mindset
You may have built in an NPC driven store that helps a player by selling the next set of gear they need to conquer the next area. In a traditional closed centralized game economy, this gear would have probably been more expensive. Players would grind to earn more gold, sell the rusty armor for bronze armor and head into the dark lands to vanquish the next mini-boss. With a decentralized crypto game economy, players are going to seek ways to buy, sell, and trade around these previous progress bumps. Depending on how you have coded the logic for an NPC store, they could go out of business if they just sell gear. You might consider a service based in-game NPC shop instead of an equipment store. Here you can still use your game development powers to craft the world-building that you need to do for players; you’re just adapting to the decentralized economy for cryptoitems. If you’re adopting non-fungible game items, you can dull a particular cryptoitem sword or break a shield. Those items could be repaired in the NPC shop versus selling them new gear at prices above the external exchanges.
Dealing with the death logic for players has changed now too, no longer do you have full control over the rusty sword in the players hands. In the old world, items dropped to the floor and perhaps the player had to venture back to the dungeon and reclaim the rusty sword from the giant spider lair. With true ownership in a decentralized crytoitem, the rusty sword is safe and snug inside the player wallet, away from your dungeon-master game-dev powers of life and death. However, you still control what the player can do with that rust sword once they come back from death. Perhaps the player isn’t as strong or the sword isn’t as powerful, maybe enemies are stronger for a period of time. You still have control of the universe in which the items are used, you just have to adjust the ways in which you control them.
Crypto game economy decentralization tips
- Respect the player-driven economy, don’t attempt to interfere with the marketplace.
- Be wary of epic single item designs in your game (like Excalibur) when dealing with cryptoitems. While it might be an interesting mechanic for game play in a centralized system, players could just destroy the item if you’re not careful in how you crafted it.
- Think about how the player experience is shaped by fungible and non-fungible game items with respect to in-game stores.
- Consider quantities of items carefully and how they’re created and distributed in-game. Too many valuable items available for little or no challenge may change players perceptions of item ownership.
- Be careful not to tamper with the scarcity of in-game currency or items later on based on external trading. Players expect you to respect the quantity you set when you created the items.
- Don’t overreact to how in-game currency is traded or valued outside the game, let players control the decentralized economy.
- Do reward the right kinds of player behavior with in-game bonus and features. Don’t punish players for social creativity that may not align with your game designs.
- Remember, it’s still just a game and you’re still in control of the game. What players do in the game, when they do it, and how they do it all still fall within your realm of creativity and design.
Get involved with blockchain and crypto-enabled games:
If you’re curious about building blockchain game or moving your game economy over to a decentralized crypto one, start your journey by planning a visit to GDC this year. You’ll be able to meet and discuss some of the questions you have as well as get some advice from other blockchain game developers.
- Come to GDC and visit the Enjin booth (S563) at GDC 2019 in San Francisco March 20–22
- Subscribe to the Enjin Youtube channel
- Check out the trailer for Age of Rust, a dark sci-fi adventure game featuring cryptoitems and cryptocurrency. Our playable demo will be on display at the Enjin booth at GDC on March 20th and March 22nd.
To celebrate the journey to GDC and this exciting event with Enjin, we’re doing a giveaway of one the rare cryptoitems for Age of Rust. Follow the link below to learn how you can participate in the giveaway.