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Jul 01 2008 -

Money Makes Tibia Go Round

ave you ever wondered why rats in Tibia drop gold coins? After all, in real life rodents are not exactly known for coughing up cash. The answer is not too difficult to guess: Rats are the first monsters that can be hunted by young adventurers, who are generally trying hard to get better equipment. And for that they need cash.

Looking closely at Tibia, you will find that trade is a crucial part of the game. From the first mace you buy on Rookgaard to a priceless piece of armor, from arrows and bolts to backpacks of Sudden Death runes - everything focuses on trade. Next to experience points, it is the money that counts, because players need to invest in order to advance in the game. They need better equipment in order to hunt more efficiently. This is not just weapons and armor, but also items that belong to the basic equipment of any good explorer such as spell runes, mana potions and, of course, the life-saving health potions. Many of these items can be bought in shops, but not all. The items that are most sought after can only be won through quests or looted from monsters – or they are simply bought from other players, who sell their treasures to make an extra income.

Regardless of whether they are aware of it, all Tibia players are members of an economic system and think and act accordingly in order to be successful in the game. Is that player asking too much for the mace? Will it pay off to invest all my savings in a new sword? How much can I ask for this shield I have found without pricing myself out of the market? Experienced high level players are experts in the field of Tibian economics. They know the most effective hunting grounds and what the most profitable monsters are, and they calculate with extraordinary accuracy and confidence whether the hunt will pay off or whether it will end up costing them lots of money. In Tibia, it certainly pays well to have a good head for business.

Money comes and money goes

So economy is a vital part of Tibia. But how does it all work? How are prices determined? Why are some items unbelievably expensive while others are cheap? And why is it that some items lose value over time?

The answer is that in the world of Tibia, just like in real life, fundamental economic laws apply. A good example is the famous law of supply and demand, which states that prices of items are determined by their availability – the more sought after an item is the more expensive it becomes. This law determines the value of items in Tibia just as it does in the real world. Consequently, items that are dropped by the thousands every day are worth little or nothing, while items that are dropped extremely rarely are traded for huge amounts of gold. And just like in real life, the development of Tibia’s economy is determined by the flow of goods and services. In other words, we need to take a close look at where the gold comes from and where it goes to.

So, where does it all come from? There are several sources of wealth in Tibia. For instance, there are the rich natural resources the land has to offer. The blueberries you collected on Rookgaard, the fish you catch from the seas and rivers – they can all be sold to merchants or to other players who use them to regenerate hit points and mana. Then there are the treasures found in chests, which can be found in remote and secret places. The courageous adventurers must brave dangerous quests in order to get to them, but the rewards are often worth the trouble.

However, the most important source of income are those troublesome monsters that roam the world of Tibia. Day after day they die by the thousands at the hands of brave adventurers, dropping gold and items which are collected and sold, either to NPC merchants or to other players. A glance at a typical dungeon's floor will immediately tell you how well informed the players are about the market - items which have little or no resale value are discarded because it does not pay off to bring them to a merchant. Moreover, it will also give you a good idea of the sheer amounts of items that are created daily on a typical Tibia world. Where do all these items come from? The answer is whenever a monster spawns that carries them or when a player opens a chest, these items are created out of nothing! Needless to say, things are a bit more complicated in real life.

But there is not only a steady inflow of items. Items are also continually taken out of the game. Regardless of whether players sell items to NPCs or throw them into water or trash cans, those items disappear for good. The same applies to gold that is spent to buy items from NPCs or to pay house rents as well as to all items that are left lying on the floor or forgotten in rotting bodies. All those items are taken out of the game just as quickly and as mysteriously as they were created.

A little diagram of the so-called economic cycle can help to illustrate the flow of goods on a typical Tibia game world:

Of course, not all items are destroyed. Players do not throw away or sell all items they find or loot – in fact, many make a point of collecting all kinds of items, and especially those that are rare or peculiar. Likewise, players tend to save money, at least a bit. The result is that despite a massive daily drain of items and cash, the total amount of items on each Tibia world increases slowly but steadily.

Scarcity is good

Now, one might think it is a good thing that the amount of items on each Tibia world increases steadily. After all, the more items there are, the easier it is for every player to get the item of his dreams! Surely that must be a good thing?

Well, to a certain degree. Of course, the hunting and collecting of items are a major element of the game, and it is important that players can do just that. Having said that, however, it is of crucial importance that items are limited in number. Just imagine for a moment what it would be like if each and every item was freely available to anybody. Free demon sets for everyone – yay! Of course, it would certainly be nice for a change to try out all the cool rares there are, but then, how long would it take for everybody to be bored? After all, an important aim for Tibians is to collect rare and valuable items and to show them to others. Rares bring fame and respect in the community. How, then, could you prove to others that you are every demon’s worst nightmare if everybody else had tons of demon loot lying around in his house? How could you show off with that panda bear you spent your life’s savings on if all of a sudden everybody has one? The collecting of rare and good items gives Tibians a sense of achievement in the game. If those items were common as dirt an important motivation to play Tibia would be lost.

The lesson, then, is that you need to control the increase of items in Tibia. While players must get the chance to find the items they want, there must be restrictions in order to make sure that trading remains attractive. Without control, items would continually lose their value in the game because their numbers grow continually (this is commonly called deflation). Take, for example, the good old spike sword. If a new server were to be launched, it would initially fetch a good price because the spike sword is a great weapon in the early stages of the game. As the server grows older, though, the number of spike swords continually increases, while many players move on to levels where they prefer stronger weapons. The logical result is that the price players pay for spike swords will fall continually until they are next to worthless. That is, unless measures are taken to counter this process.

Controlling Tibia’s economy

Needless to say, we know that a balanced development of the ingame economy is just as important for the game as, say, the balance between the vocations. For this reason we keep a close eye on the economic development of the various game worlds. If we find that there are long-term trends threatening the economic balance, we interfere.

Of course, as the developers of the game, we have some very useful tools at our disposal to do just that. One of these is our trusty team of NPC merchants. If we find that a certain kind of item is traded between players for a song since it occurs in excessive numbers, all we need to do is to make sure that one or more merchants will buy it at the price of our choice. As a consequence, the price of these items is effectively fixed because those selling the objects would not want to sell their hard won items at a lower price than they could get in the shops. This is a simple yet effective way to prevent items from losing too much value, and in fact we use it quite often. But there are other, somewhat more subtle measures, too. To name but a few, we can increase or decrease the rate at which certain items are dropped by monsters, or we can simply reduce the spawns of monsters that drop them. Because every day thousands of monsters are killed even very small changes very soon have an impact on the game.

Obviously, we are very careful whenever we make such changes in Tibia’s economy. You do not rush your decisions when you know a change by as little as one-tenth of a percent has an immediate effect on the overall economic balance. Every change is considered carefully and all likely results are discussed in advance. The aim is to maintain stable and predictable economic environments in which players can play successfully without seeing their achievements devaluated by excessive economic developments. Fairness is of importance, too – we want to make sure all players can play in comparable economic circumstances. Incidentally, this is why we have always refused to sell items for real money – we believe that all players should have equal chances in the game.

Needless to say, however, the overall key word is fun. As we have hoped to show, the economy is an important part of Tibia, and we aim to keep the economical conditions in a way that makes the game fun to play for a long time. After all, fun is what Tibia is all about!

We are proud to announce that we have a very special treat for those of you who would like to learn more about how Tibia’s economy really works: Stephan, who is one of CipSoft’s CEOs, has written a fascinating thesis that explores the economy of a typical Tibia game world in detail. It contains, among other things, a wealth of interesting economical data as well as detailed analyses that elaborate on the conclusions of this article. Recommended reading!

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