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Subject: Realistic prices in games rss

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David Pontier
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As I am contemplating my latest design, I realize that there might not be a good answer to this problem.

Most games with an economic engine have you producing/selling goods to earn money, and then they often give you choices to upgrade your equipment to make the producing/selling more efficient.

For example in most pick-up and deliver train games (Empire builder, Railways of the World) you make money by delivering goods, and then you can upgrade your train. You have to upgrade in order to compete.

In the two games I listed above, niether has a very realistic financial structure. In Empire builder you get paid millions of dollars to deliver things like tourists or corn, in order to make enough money (20 million in most games) to upgrade your train. I have no idea what a new train engine would cost, but 20 million sounds about right. And to build track across open plains (about 50 miles worth in most maps) costs about 1 million, which seems reasonable. But paying tens of millions for the goods? That is way too high.

In Railways of the world, you get paid thousands of dollars for your deliveries (kind of), which is much more reasonable, but then it only costs $5,000 to upgrade your train the first time. You can't even by a car for $5,000. And it only costs $4,000 to build a railroad through the mountains? Come on.

Now, I understand the problem. Real companies need thousands of low value transactions to offset the costs of their capital equipment. In a game, you can not burden the players with having to make thousands of transactions or the game would be extremely repetitive and too long. So you have to either make the money you earn from your economic engine extremely high, or you have to make your capital investments extremely cheap.

Is one better than the other in maintaining the theme of a game? The two examples I gave are train games, but I'm sure you can find similar things in most other economic games.

The only solution I see is to get rid of money all together like in Settlers or Agricola where the curency is resources, so you don't worry that after only two trips to the wood cart, you can build a new room, or with only 1 sheep, 1 wood, 1 Brick, and 1 wheat you can build a whole settlement.

Thoughts?
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Matt Vollick
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Which weighs more a ton of feathers or a ton of bricks?

Paying tens of millions of dollars for goods is completely realistic as long as the amount of goods is flexible. Let's not forget that gameplay is far more important than realistic prices for goods.

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Wombah
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Choosing between getting ten million dollars to drop a single load of grain vs. paying 5000$ for a new train I think the former feels more right.

But I think you can avoid a lot of the issue by not using real world currencies. Using some other form of resources instead hides the exchange ratios such that paying one grain to keep a soldier alive a month, and then paying two iron to build a train feels 'less wrong'.

Also, you can avoid the issue completely if you abstract away all the small transactions. For instance you could have game turns that represent one year of actual time, where I can set up a train route with the stuff you need to transport grain one turn and then the next turn cash in X million dollars.
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Scott Nelson
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Delivery of goods could be a large amount, or a years worth of goods.
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Joe Mucchiello
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Piqsid wrote:
In Railways of the world, you get paid thousands of dollars for your deliveries (kind of), which is much more reasonable, but then it only costs $5,000 to upgrade your train the first time. You can't even by a car for $5,000. And it only costs $4,000 to build a railroad through the mountains? Come on.

RotW is derived from 18xx games and the prices reflect 1800s pricing.

Quote:
The only solution I see is to get rid of money all together like in Settlers or Agricola where the curency is resources, so you don't worry that after only two trips to the wood cart, you can build a new room, or with only 1 sheep, 1 wood, 1 Brick, and 1 wheat you can build a whole settlement.

Thoughts?

Are you really saying that a brick, a wood, a sheep and a wheat LOGICALLY makes a village? I don't see how someone who finds the money numbers in train games off-putting can find that form of "barter" acceptable.
 
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Isaiah Tanenbaum
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Brick/Wood/Sheep/Wheat makes as much sense as anything when you're talking about a fairly abstracted game like Settlers. I see it as stored construction material to build, and food for the colonists to establish themselves.

As for the train games it works fine if you're thinking of the runs you do as representative of many runs. Obviously if you're running one train you're "actually" running dozens over the course of months, which will add up to your $20 million, or whatever.

Truthfully though, I don't think about it too much. Gameplay has to be abstracted and stretched at some point, or it's not a game at all, it's the actual thing. As long as it's neither too easy for players to collect money, or too hard, then it doesn't matter whether it's $1 or $20 million or 3 Wheat or 10 VPs.
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Clay Blankenship
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Think of the goods cost as representing many trainloads of goods. You are establishing a route. In reality a railroad company would own more than one train but that part is abstracted out.
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jefF, There are some who call me... DuneKitteh
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Most games depend on an abstraction of scale (or elements/materials) to work properly, and that's really the sweet spot that many games strive to hit. You would never ever want to play a train game with the true costs and materials broken out and down.

e.g. I'm currently working on an Urban Rail game where the players both build and buy the rails, but also transport passages and buy trains to make the money. While a "million a mile" is an easy target/cost to hit for building, there has to be thousands of runs of passengers to actually balance out that cost and make it a profitable venture, but no designer in their right mind would do thousands (or even hundreds or even dozens) of runs, or acquisition of the labor and dozens/hundreds of different building materials to complete a game turn, so it's broken down into a "year/decade of runs" and generic "cost per mile" and/or whatever other scale works and balance it out into a *fun* game. People don't want endless minutia and math to play a game, they want to "build and operate their trains".

Another example is that I played a prototype a couple of weeks ago where players both owned the plants and facilities to mine and manufacture raw materials and goods, and also the businesses that bought and sold them - and, to throw in another twist, other players could also contract other players businesses to produce and sell. While we all agreed the game was fun and well balanced, players had a bit of a difficult time wrapping their mind around the concept and game vs. reality. And there are many more of examples of this as evident in the Geeklist That is illogical captain! - Logical inconsistencies in otherwise fine games

For a great example of what doesn't work and how not to do it, you need to look no further than Global Survival, which many BGGers liken to Monopoly broken down into 250 properties and 200 billion starting money scaled all the way down into 1 million increments for payments. Which, while it may be closer to reality in the grand scale and scheme of things, you also have tens of thousands of people doing this work in the course of a year or so in reality - having one player in a game trying to do things at this scale and ratio is just absurd and insane and very much NOT fun at all.
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Kevin B. Smith
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When I saw the title of this thread, I immediately thought of Master Builder, where apparently medieval workers are paid in thousands of dollars. There is just no reason for that kind of non-realism.

Consistency of prices within a game might be difficult to maintain, for the reasons given so far in this thread. It would be nice if there were a plausible thematic explanation or backstory included in the rules for these cases. "Each load actually represents a year's worth of loads" or whatever.
 
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Sam Mercer
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Wombah wrote:
But I think you can avoid a lot of the issue by not using real world currencies. Using some other form of resources instead hides the exchange ratios such that paying one grain to keep a soldier alive a month, and then paying two iron to build a train feels 'less wrong'


Seconding Wombah's reply,

You CAN totally get rid of money, but to me it sounds as if your game would need to have some form of generic currency and deleting it may well not be what you want to do.

So, Wombahs idea: "do not use real world currency" is what you are after I beleive. Simoleons, Credits, Space Bucks, Gold Nuggets, Souls, Power, Points, Kings Coins, Bags of Silver, Stock Units, Bond Certificates - all of these will do.

And because it's not real (in the sense of: accurate withint the real world), it does not suffer from "the exhcange rate is wrong" or "that is unrealistic" and also suspends disbelief very nicely as players just need to easily sink into the mind set of using a different form of currency.

Perfect.
 
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David Pontier
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Cogentesque wrote:

So, Wombahs idea: "do not use real world currency" is what you are after I beleive. Simoleons, Credits, Space Bucks, Gold Nuggets, Souls, Power, Points, Kings Coins, Bags of Silver, Stock Units, Bond Certificates - all of these will do.


You forgot Electros.

Power grid has this problem where you are powering cities and then buying power plants and resources with the money. On some turns it costs more to buy 6 barrels of oil than it does to buy the power plant that burns them.
 
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Piqsid wrote:


You forgot Electros.

Power grid has this problem where you are powering cities and then buying power plants and resources with the money. On some turns it costs more to buy 6 barrels of oil than it does to buy the power plant that burns them.


Problem? That is one of the most brilliant and accurate parts of the game - the "scarcity" based economic engine.
 
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Freelance Police
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Well, most games with economic engines are Eurogames, and Eurogames are foremost a set of mechanics, *not* a simulator of realistic economics. If you want "simulation" games, you're talking Ameritrash, and Ameritrash games rarely have economics mechanics on the level of Eurogames.

(Too bad money doesn't blow up. THEN they would!) laugh
 
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J C Lawrence
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The (thematic) gaming world is not divided exclusively into Eurogames and Ameritrash. There are a great number of heavily thematic and yet simulationist games which fall into neither camp.
 
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