What if energy was “bound”?

Friday, April 15, 2016 by spiralspy

I was always oppose of the idea of making energy stick in order to prevent resale. There are situations in which energy transfer  is desirable and there are those in which it isn’t. Telling them apart by code just results in a complex set rules, inscrutable to the average player. It would also mean spending a lot of developer time on implementing something that may backfire in unforeseeable ways.

When I wrote my last blogpost, I was about use the sentence: “treat the energy field in the trade window as non-existent”. It kinda struck me there: what if the energy field actually got removed from the trade user interface? Technically, that’s no biggie. Just delete a few lines from an UI XML file and deliver it with the next patch. Practically, this gives us “bound” energy without the server having to do any extra accounting. It’s also easy to revert in case it doesn’t work out.

How would it work out? Well, we could still gift each other energy by mail and removing the direct trade option certainly doesn’t prevent the energy market from getting walled up. It does, however, have a rather sneaky effect: it completely discourages merchants from trading high profile items for energy, eventually turning energy from currency to commodity. In other words, the plan here is to remove an incentive to treat game credit as an investment by limiting its use to the supply depot.

Let’s look at this with a hands on example where a merchant has a piece of bling which a casual player desires. The casual realizes that getting the bling by grinding crowns would take him longer than he cares to (not to mention that the merchant might find another buyer in the meantime), so a credit card swipe later, he pays the merchant with Energy. Merchants don’t spend a lot of time in the clockworks, therefore game credit is more or less useless to them (at least for the intended purpose of actually being able to play the game). For a merchant, energy is just an article of exchange. And now this particular merchant has a boatload full of it. Every additional sale just increases the pile. This is where the rules of the market kick in. According to the rule of supply and demand, any surplus should result in dropping prices. However, that is not in the best interest of our merchant. Dropping prices would devalue his stash. So he has every incentive to speculate on the stock market in order to keep the energy price as high as possible.

Now, let’s (hypothetically) implement the UI change and strip the energy field from the trade window. Once that’s gone, the merchant can no longer (safely) accept energy as payment for his bling. The casual can still buy with real money, but will have to exchange game credit for crowns on the market first. In other words, he pays some anonymous F2P to do the grindwork for him (that’s how the system is designed/suppose to work anyways). The energy (likely) goes to someone who actually intents to spend it instead of to someone who is motivated to withhold it from those who need it. As a curious side effect, we would also get a large crownsink as you cannot (reasonably) avoid being taxed for cr/E conversion any more.

I predict that removing the direct P2P energy trading option. Will (more or less) immediately result in a market crash. Making crowns the sole ingame currency gives a strong incentive to everyone to cash out of energy.