Worlds of Darkness 5: market and currency

A market to optimise game fun
In Eve Online, like in the real world, money matters a lot. (If you don't think it does, please grab your wallet and get in touch with me asap.) It facilitates life in a big way. "Isk" provides access to ships and modules, ammo, skillbooks, clones, fuel, minerals, mercenaries, safe passage. On a strategic scale, it allows alliances to buy the materials to build titans, motherships or outposts, and to reimburse ships lost to enemies. On a personal scale, it allows dedicated players to buy plenty of shiny toys and gadgets to their characters. It even allows a player to acquire skilled characters. Isk is a measure of success and freedom and, though it does not equate with fun, it does help.
In contrast, in the pen-and-paper World of Darkness, money does not matter that much. It does not buy the truly important stuff. Elder vampires or werewolves scoff at it; they don't need to buy shiny toys, they are deadly on their own. Sure, money can come handy sometimes, but there is no way you will be able to use your cash to buy blood or to bribe a spirit. Some things are just more precious than money and, frankly, money also makes you into a target. In the context of a war between supernatural creatures, money is just an asset among many.
CCP, by all accounts, seems satisfied with the current business model of Eve Online. This system is, at its core and origin, subscription-based. You pay a subscription, you play. You can pay your subscription time with a straightforward bank debit or with game time cards. Game time cards are distributed by stores which buy them from CCP. At this point, the system strays from the dominant Western MMO subscription-based model. Game time cards can be converted into game objects (called PLEX) and sold for isk to other players, effectively introducing legit RMT (real money transactions) into the game. It allows players with a lot of time on their hands to play for free by selling their isk to players willing to spend real money on game time cards... for example, one hundred thousand dollars according to The Mittani. The system optimises income from the playerbase far more than a classic subscription model (excluding poor players and not exploiting rich ones beyond the multi-accounts phenomenon) would allow. After all, some people are very rich and only the gambling industry seems to consistently accept the challenge of entertaining them for millions. Thus, it makes sense for us to expect CCP to reuse this business model with World of Darkness, in order to cater to both the penniless students and the aluminium magnates, and every shade of wealth and free time in-between.

My kingdom for a PLEX
The question is: which currency would we use to acquire in game the WoD equivalent of a PLEX, and base an economy around? We need a system to acquire this currency, a system to trade it and, of course, we need this currency to be actually useful for both groups of players (replacing losses) and individual players (shiny toys). What is the new isk? Here are some options.

A suggested above, dollars or euros are not something I expect a vampire or a mage to really care about. Nevertheless, money is a concept you do not need to explain to anybody.
- Acquisition: characters could grab instant cash by taking part into heists, robberies and bank attacks; they could also gain access to regular income, by investing into companies for example, provided they still have a legal existence.
- Trade: a virtual Wall Street environment will do the trick.
- Utility (replace losses): supernatural wars could be made by proxies and money could be needed to pay these proxies, mercenary thugs or corrupt politicians.
- Utility (shiny toys): cars, planes, mansions, security systems, retinue, etc.

In a social environment like the World of Darkness, what matters is sometimes not what you are but who you know.
- Acquisition: characters could earn influence points by performing the equivalent of Eve Online's missions and ratting.
- Trade: the most powerful non-playing characters could broker influence and act as notaries while people and organisations exchange favours.
- Utility (replace losses): as for money. Influence points would allow to temporarily acquire the services of pawns, the fodder of every supernatural war.
- Utility (shiny toys): earning influence points would give access to special items and services (the nature of which would be linked to your creature type and allegiances), in a fashion similar to Faction stores in Eve Online.

The physical incarnation of supernatural power can come by many names, but Essence, rather than Mana, seems to me to be a good catch-all.
- Acquisition: for example, a vampire could transform 1 Blood point into 1 Essence point by spending 1 Willpower point. Blood could be acquired by hunting mortal preys and Willpower could be acquired by fulfilling one's Virtues and Vices in story-heavy gameplay. Werewolves would get Essence out of the spirits they hunt and kill. Hunters would get it from supernatural victimes. Et cetera.
- Trade: supernatural marketplaces seem difficult to integrate in an isolationist and secrecy-shrouded environment. Strange rituals might be devised and designed to replace the market.
- Utility (replace losses): wars would result in aggravated wounds, lots of them. The only way to heal them quickly would be the use of Essence.
- Utility (shiny toys): essence would fuel powerful rituals, infuse objects with magic, create exceptional servants (such as ghouls, servant spirits or wolf-blooded), etc.

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