One thing that frustrates some players in MMOs is the use of multiple forms of currency in the game. A lot of players just want one simple form of currency to use for everything, just like they do in real life. And the problems associated with real life currencies are just as valid in an MMO as they are in a country’s economy.

Most games (pretty much every one I could think of) have a reward system that creates currency as it is needed. Whether it is gold, influence, ISK, or gil, the game creates it out of nothing when you earn it. As you do what the game asks of you, you are rewarded with more and more of the currency you are seeking. We’re essentially printing money, and many countries have collapsed under such inflationary tactics. Now in order to placate massive inflation, games put in “money sinks” (or simply “sinks”) into their economies so that players do not end up with a near infinite amount of currency.

Sinks are great in theory, but if done perfectly, they will frustrate the player. Why? Because their coffers will never get bigger. Every gold they earn is spent in maintaining whatever sink the game has thrust upon them. From a game balance perspective this is preferred, but it is not fun. Players want to accumulate wealth, as a symbol of status, almost like an XP bar.

One solution to this problem is to add a new form of currency to the game when you add something new for a player to acquire. This evens the playing field when that new thing is introduced. Captain Moneybags can’t just go and buy everything new on day one because you tied it to a currency that he has in abundance. If you did, Captain Moneybags would complain on day two that there was nothing new in the game for him.

Another reason this is good is because players tend to migrate towards the fastest time:reward, or easiest risk:reward ratios your game has to offer. Even if it’s grindy, boring, content, if its fast AND easy, players will flock to it and ignore any other content your game has to offer. This will give them an abundance of currency with not enough to spend it on.

That said, you can’t completely ignore hyper-inflated currencies. You can and should give players some “perks” for purging their cash reserves. Maybe they can’t buy everything in the new store on day one, but they might be able to get stuff at an accelerated rate from the rest of the populace by spending exorbitant amounts of currency for the privilege.

Another trick is to introduce two new currencies at one time. One of these currencies is “farmable”, earnable all day and every day in the game. The other of these is limited to only being able to be earned at a trickle, with cooldowns and lockout timers on earning them (earning them a second time within the cooldown period should earn the player the farmable-type of currency instead.) WoW did this with their Badges currency, and iterated on it with their latest Justice/Valor points system.

I may revisit this subject in the future, so I’ll stop now and read your feedback before delving further.

22 Responses to “Currencies”

  1. Fallenz says:

    City of heroes is up six now and you saying it a good thing? I got stuff I no longer can use or I max out I can buy. There is a point of lessen returns and we are at in CoH.

  2. kidengineer says:

    I can see much of this translated into what we have in CoH now. Interesting though that you mention inflation just before double XP weekend. There is no time outside of the presence of a wide spread exploit when the effects of inflation on the market are more apparent than DXPW. Now to go check if the name Captain Moneybags is taken on my server.

  3. Jessica says:

    For CoH specifically, I think the introduction of currency conversion was a big hit.

    End goal: shiny things. Methods for acquisition? Merit purchasing. Merit rolling. Alignment reinforcement. Merit+Influence Conversion.

    It’s that last one that really did it for me. I don’t always have the time, or–to be honest–the desire to log on and run 5 tips every day on a timer. But I will respond to an IM from a friend asking if I want to run an LRSF, and then soon find myself able to convert multiple types of currency into the final recipes I actually desire. That the rate at which I can deplete my influence reserve is tempered by an in-game requirement (merit collection) is something largely invisible to me.

  4. Ura Hero says:


    Currency is a great thing until Hyper-Inflation sets in. The the folks who have nothing better to do sit around and farm the markets until all the goods for sale on the market are constantly bought and used up or they mark the goods up until they are over-priced. This poses a problem for the newer players who cannot afford to buy anything from the market. The new players then get frustrated with the game since they cannot afford to do buy the things that older players can afford and they leave for other pastures.

    This poses a significant challenge for the developers. Do you make your older players mad by devaluing their existing currency or put more and/or different goods into the system to bring market prices down? As a player, I don’t see a very good solution to this dilemma. The hoarders still hoard and the newer/casual players suffer.

    WoW is a great example of this in action. Without running raids, dungeons, or playing the market it is impossible to make any significant gold. It takes thousands of gold to be able to fly. Thousands which most newly minted top level characters just don’t have unless they team upon a constant basis. Which is understandable that the game is a MMORPG, but frustrating when the older players won’t team with ‘The Noob’. Consequently ‘The Noob’ struggles to get invited to Dungeons and Raids to get geared up. Most get frustrated and quit. For WoW at least ther eis the Dungeon Finder which helps immensely with getting groups for undergeared players. What it doesn’t help is getting the experience with the game that older players have. I don’t think there is a solution available for that style of elitism.

    Multiple currencies is not always a good thing. For one thing it is confusing. Which currency do I use to buy the special eggs? Was that frings or was it detro’s? I think I have enough. Unfortunately I spent 15 minutes of my precious game time traveling to the vendor to find out that it wasn’t frings or detros, but jinks. I don’t have any jinks saved up. Too bad I didn’t know this before I traveled all the way over here. I could have converted the frings and detros into jinks at the last place I was at. Now I am going to spend another 30 minutes traveling. Huh. I just blew 45 minutes of my precious, precious game time traveling. Stupid game…

    Right now in CoH, white common salvage is going for crazy amounts of inf while rare orange salvage is pretty much the same cost as it has always been. I’m not sure where all of the common salvage is going to unless it is to AE farmers. Which if this is the case, then the solution would seem to be to put salvage drops into AE at a somewhat lower rate than normal missions.

    At least the recipes and crafted enhancements seem to be coming down in price lately. They were at unreal prices when GR dropped. Here’s to hoping that I20 has some inf sinks to remove more of the inflation from the game.

  5. Fallenz says:

    With this weekend being double xp weekend, I do not see the inflation coming down at all. If anything, it will be the same or just a bit higher after this weekend is done. With so much currency types in games like CoH, you lower the value of the first one and then start a cycle that you will not be able to stop. We have currency to buy recipes, salvage, and enchancments. We have currency for our bases, for merits as rewards for doing Taskforces, story arcs, and trails. We also have currency for Vanguard and for the end game stuff for the upper levels now. What happen to keeping it simple for the player to keep track and use? I understand the need to get said currency out of the system but in the case of City of Heroes, you the devs, wait over 12 issues to deal with it so you really are behind the eight ball to get out now. I just do not understand why putting more types of currency in to the system will fix it? Or how so many types of currency helps the game or keeps the players in said game.

  6. Muckbeast says:

    CoH is the poster child for excessive currencies gone wild. It is totally out of control. There are far too many currencies to keep track of, and it seems like instead of efforts being made to balance them they just get jettisoned and replaced with something new. That’s sloppy design.

    One currency is good. Two is not as good. Three is worse. Four or more is a disaster. CoH is up to what now… 6? 7?

    I think once you got to the point of Merits and Hero/Villain Merits, the shark was really badly jumped. It has gotten to the point where the names for currencies are getting re-used. We have TWO different kinds of “merits.” I mean seriously!

  7. Muckbeast says:

    Actually, we have three different kinds of merits for crying out loud. Having three total currencies alone would be excessive, and we have three kinds of MERITS.

    Some games have currency inflation. CoH has inflation of the number of currencies. Its out of control.

  8. Golden Ace says:

    I have to admit it is a bit ridiculous having all the different currencies. I’m waiting for CoH to have server based currency next. :(

  9. Muckbeast says:

    Vanguard Merits
    Hero Merits
    AE Tickets
    Base Salvage
    Invention Salvage
    Special Salvage
    Event Salvage
    Incarnate Shards
    Incarnate Components
    Notice of the Well
    SomeotherthingIdontremember of the Well

    That’s 16 different currencies that have existed so far in CoX’s lifespan. Have I missed a few?

    That’s really out of control.

  10. Victoria says:

    I think Influence/Infamy/Information should be counted as one currency.

    I am not so sure all the different types of salvage need to be regarded as different currencies. Otherwise, why stop there? You could stretch that to say every type of drop is its own currency.

    I think experience, however, should be added to the list of currencies.

  11. Golden Girl says:

    I like the idea of different types of currencies for different systems – I think it helps make them more unique, and also helps them feel more like mini-games in their own right.

  12. krellen says:

    Seriously, just say “screw you” to Captain Moneybags. He isn’t representative of your player population anyway, so who cares how bored he is? Anyway, Captain Moneybags has accrued his wealth specifically so he could buy anything he wanted on Day 1 one relief, so not only does introducing new currencies annoy everyone with having to acquire new thing (often in a new way, requiring new play styles that may not be preferred), but it SPECIFICALLY annoys Captain Moneybags, completely invalidating the time put into acquiring his moneybags in the first place.

    New currencies basically just serve as a giant “**** you” to all your players collectively.

  13. Muckbeast says:

    So now we know at least 3 more currencies are coming.

    incarnate threads
    astral merits
    empyrean merits

    Seriously? SERIOUSLY?!?!?!?!

    You actually did a moderately decent job with the incarnate shard thing. It was fun. You could earn them slowly but consistently by just playing the game normally (defeating level 50+ mobs). Or more rapidly by doing TFs. It was perfect.

    But apparently you can’t even be happy with your own success, and have to ruin it. So now shards are going to be significantly diminished in value, because you are heaping on these 3 new currencies, for which I’m sure there will be some kind of BS overpriced conversion, effectively ruining the nice, gentle curve that incarnate shards had.

    Do you realize how insanely difficult this game is to pick up for a newbie now? Or how hard it is for a returning player?

    When you have to learn about 10 different currencies, how they are obtained, what they are used for, how they interact, it is a gigantic mess. Trying to explain this to a friend I want to recruit to the game is nigh impossible: after a few minutes they just say “yeah no thanks. too much hassle.”

    All you need in this game are:

    1) Experience.
    2) Inf.
    3) Merits: 1-100 earned by TFs, 200 instead of a hero/villain merit, and fix all the prices accordingly.
    4) Incarnate shards. Dropped from level 50 mobs, and TFs.

    That’s it! That’s all you need. No other insanely complicated garbage.

  14. Consumer Unit 5012 says:

    “Do you realize how insanely difficult this game is to pick up for a newbie now? Or how hard it is for a returning player?”

    I’ll just point out that CoH does do a decent job of introducing them gradually. The Shards/Astral Merits/whatever don’t even appear ’til you’re level 50.

  15. Eiko-chan says:

    You know, Mr. Miller, I used to think Paragon Studio’s success post-Jack was because of you. I’m increasingly convinced, however, that it has been despite you. I think you need to seriously take a break, sit down, and really think about what your players want, and what you’re actually giving them. I don’t think these things are meshing up.

  16. Starcloud says:

    Another, important thing to remember about currencies is to NOT make too much dependent on any one form.
    If you have one limited form currency that’s used for power boosts, and costume parts, and character advancement, AND you make it harder to get than whatever your base currency is, you have to be careful not to induce the desire or compulsion to repetitively grind out tasks that produce that advanced currency.
    This is exacerbated when character advancement is also gated behind a random reward table that rewards attacking instead of working intelligently to solve encounters.

  17. Alexis Awesome says:

    Although I still have a special place in my heart for City of Heroes I honestly don’t have a lot of respect for the design choices that are being made. As a player, I don’t know of all the factors involved when design choices are made, but in the end that really doesn’t matter. What matters is that I don’t have as much fun playing City of Heroes as I used to. It’s not JUST the currency, but currency is an issue.

    Instead of perpetuating the cycle with another currency every issue maybe you (the devs) need to think about what is being bought and why. As others have suggested, boil all of the different currencies down to 1 or 2 and stop there. Set up a conversion system to get rid of the excess and you will be golden. I would suggest that the two currencies be Renown and Cash.

    Renown is what you would get for doing missions for members of certain groups. As you build renown with various groups those groups would give you perks: costume pieces, temporary powers, base items and perhaps access to super-secret contacts (which would allow you to access new content, gain special temporary powers, or obtain complete enhancement sets). Renown with the Well of Furies would get you the Incarnate abilities.

    Cash can be what you get from selling the stuff you acquire when exploring the content. It would allow you to buy things like inspirations, new costumes (and to special order – read: get holiday specific items like ear muffs, winter boots, togas and Greek sandals outside of the event times), items from Wentworths/Black Market, and enhancements at stores that service your origin.

    Just stick to two (max!) and when you get the inkling to make more see how they would fit into the two that you have.

  18. Ura Hero says:

    I think we killed the blog.

  19. admin says:

    Nope, just too busy with work to update my work-related blog.

  20. Exhausted says:

    Dude, we heard you like currencies, so we’ve added currencies that can (legally) be bought with real life currencies!

  21. KWSapphire says:

    Hi Posi,

    Sorry to necro the thread like this, but I didn’t know about this blog until today (I am watching yesterday’s USTREAM marathon).

    Regarding currencies, I understand what you’re saying, and certainly I don’t have a lot of economics experience so I can’t really comment on keeping economies (real or virtual) stable. However I do think there are just too many types of rewards in City, to the extent that I do think it will impact new players. City was my first MMO (and I have only dabbled in other MMOs), but I’ve played a decent amount of video games. My experience has usually been that you get three main types of drop: items (persistent and limited-use), experience, and money. More specifically, you only get one of each type of these things: the items may be armor or potions or scrolls, but they’re all “Things you can either equip onto your character or otherwise sell.” There’s also only one type of currency, usually gold.

    City of Heroes has several types of item drop and several types of money.

    Enhancements are the equivalent of persistent items and inspirations are limited-use items, so that’s pretty easy so far. But our enemies also have a chance to drop additional types of items: recipes and salvage, which of course relate to the crafting system. These can be classified as component-items, which are used to make persistent items. Well okay, that’s not too bad yet.

    That’s the sum total of the item types that a brand new player is going to run into for a while, so let’s look at the other reward: money. A new player will receive the main in-game currency of inf(luence/amy/ormation), roughly analogous in most games to “gold”. New players will also get Prestige, which can be used by a player’s SG but not by the player. (I don’t know if this is clear anywhere in the game, does the new tutorial cover currencies in general and Prestige specifically?) But new players will also sometimes receive Reward Merits (with which they can buy component-items). So that’s already three different kinds of money used in three totally different ways. A brand new player may also receive AE tickets, yet another type of currency.

    So far we’re at four different types of items and four types of currency.

    At level 20, a player may start earning Alignment Merits as well. This is yet another form of money.

    At level 35, players can start getting Vanguard Merits. That’s the sixth type of money, the third of which is named “Merits”.

    Finally at 50, players get access to a whole new branch of salvage for incarnate stuff, which is another component-type item. Yes it’s still salvage, but Incarnate Salvage is different enough that it deserves its own category. While the other types of salvage (invention, event, base) can be bought, sold, and traded, the incarnate items cannot. Not to mention that all four types of salvage are used in completely different ways (crafting tables, a contact, in the base, in one’s own window).

    So lumping all the infs under one title is appropriate because they really are the same thing. All of the non-incarnate salvage can sorta be lumped together because it can at least all be treated in the same way, even if it’s used in different ways. But that’s still six different types of money and at least five different types of items.

    What’s more: while a new player is not exposed to all of these all at once *by the game*, they will be introduced to them *by other players*. I’ve heard returning veterans become totally confused at the several different types of Merit. (“I was told I can buy recipes with something called A-Merits.. are those different than reward merits?”

    I haven’t played the new tutorial arcs so I don’t know if this all gets explained in an easy to digest format. I do feel that the sheer diversity of reward types can be hugely overwhelming to new players. But I don’t know how to fix it while maintaining the control and balance that you mentioned in your post. So there you have it, not much to contribute other than bytes on the page!

  22. That Guy says:

    Alignment Merits
    Invention Salvage
    Incarnate Shards
    Incarnate Threads
    Empyrean Merits
    Astral Merits

    Yeah, it’s a lot of currencies, but saying any of this is complicated is laughable. Take a few minutes to learn and you’ll be fine.

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