Olympia and economics

Andrew Boardman (andrew@lamar.ColoState.EDU)
17 Apr 92 19:11:04 GMT

Article 1:

>At present, the game appears biased towards having many followers, just so
>as to provide enough money to train groups. Also the current combat system
>may benefit many unskilled fighters as opposed to fewer higher skilled

Well, I don't know about that, but I think the game in general *is*
biased towards large groups rather than smaller groups with more
training. This isn't necessarily a bad thing! As long as there is
a limited pool of people that can be hired. This would reflect,
more or less, the economy of the middle ages fairly well. I do,
however, think the skilled/non-skilled differences should be worked

>At present, with money harder to come by than originally, it is difficult to
>gather enough money to train specific groups to decent levels, so one is
>forced to either :- gather many followers and use them to gather the required
>funds while a small group trains, or resort to violence and seize the
>required funds.

Theoretically this should just raise the value of money. However,
since there are a number of 'fixed' costs in the system, this can't
really happen. Markets, training, and unit maintence need to all
be more fluid. Markets should be run by players (for instance
merchant characters, or their factions, could put up shops). Putting
up a shop should require some investment, and then the trading
methods could be made a little more generalized. For instance a simple
method of creating demand and supply curves for different commodities
so each side sells and buys at prices that are good for both, or none
are sold at all. The computer can do the number crunching and take the
place of the haggling that would be done in the 'game world'.

As for the teaching: I think that anyone learning a skill must either
be taught by a specific entity who's higher level than they are, or
they learn on their own. Learning on your own, of course, is actually
'research', and should therefore take a lot of time and resources.
The teacher could set the price for teaching. There could also be
a 'teaching' skill which sets how easily the knowledge transfers
from teacher to student.

>If working earned more money, this would be less of a problem, and one
>would be more able to train larger groups with more diverse skills.

Naaaaah, having huge groups of people with large skills is a rather
sad way to run a game. Most people would have no skills or very few,
and very little skill. After all, nobody's really opened a 'school'
yet. Also, keep in mind the time line. I think, if anything, learning
skills should be more difficult and more expensive. To encourage
things like apprenticeships. My character is already level 6 ship-
builder, and we're not all *that* far into the game, and I joined
pretty late as well. This isn't too realistic, considering what
level 6 is supposed to indicate.

>On the other hand, shortage of money creates conflict and the development
>of more conflict may be the desired result of cutting down on the money.

Shortage of money, as I mentioned earlier, should just increase the
value of money. This is stifled by fixed costs. Sort of shows you
the effect that governments have in real life, eh? :-)

>Which do people prefer ? Having fewer followers who achieve higher skills,
>or having more followers who achieve much lower skills ?
>Or just having more conflict in the game ?

I'd just prefer that the game get tweaked bit by bit. I don't want
a certain strategy to win out... I'd rather more realism get added
as we go along.

Article 2:

>There are definitely some problems with money in Olympia. Training
>and maintenance costs are both unbalanced and artificial. It seems to
>make for a good game balance, but it does seem a bit strange. Why
>does it cost more to train 10 men for the sword than 1?

Because the teachers charge more? :-)

>But I think the real problem is that there aren't enough interesting
>and diverse ways to earn money in Olympia. Few of the skills have
>"USEs" that can bring in money, and some that do require some fairly
>laborious and lengthy game-playing (i.e., using Equestarian 2).

Making large amounts of money *shouldn't* be so easy. In fact,
I think its too easy as it is! For instance, the 'work' command
for units that I own.... Essentially, they're earning the minimum
acceptable wages at the time doing unskilled labor. WHY ARE THEY
WORKING FOR ME? I'm not paying them nearly as much as this
*minimum* wage, and all the profits from this go to me! In other
words, at the very least, the amount of money that I have to pay
my workers is way below what it should be. They should have left
long ago to do their 'work' full time and made a great living from

>I think the "right" solution (albeit not an easy one) is to have a
>more complete economy, and I think this is where Rich is going. For
>one thing, markets should be more-or-less staffed by players and not
>be the automatic supermarkets that they are now. There should be "raw
>materials" in various provinces which can be harvested and brought to
>market, and a base economy of farming/livestocking. This would lead
>to some interesting interactions as people tried to protect various
>resources. And interesting things happening if there was, say, only
>one unit in the game capable of making longswords. He could price
>them very high, but he might get robbed, and so on.

Here here. Although, with a little 'research' or training someone
else could learn how to make the longswords in a while. And then,
with enough capital, they could offer competition. :-)

>As a start, maybe there should be a "FARM" skill that would be cheap
>to learn, and which could be used effectively in plains areas to
>generate income. But the number of farmers in an area would be
>restricted - as more moved in your income would go down. Similarly
>for "FORESTING" in woods areas and "MINING" in mountainous areas.
>Maybe "FISHING" for coastal areas.

And people could use some of the ships built by shipbuilders as
large fishing boats? I like it! :-)

Article 3:

>But seriously: yes, it does make sense to have more of an economy
>where people harvest various sorts of raw materials and then trade
>with each other. But I've yet to see a commercial game which had a
>satisfactory economic system, so do keep in mind that it's very hard.
>Things you want to avoid:
> o letting the people with the most money earn more, so they get
> richer and richer and run away with the game

*sigh* This is *not* a bad thing! I think Olympia takes care of
this problem tremendously well! How? By having a maximum amout
of things a certain entity can do in a time frame! To make more
money, they must get more entities involved. And if a player is
willing to write up huge turns for everything under their control,
they deserve the wealth. :-) Amongst the things that need to be
changed so this doesn't get out of control, however, is the amount
(percentage?) of money a single entity who works for a player needs
for 'maintainance'. If I have a faction that does most of my
trading, and they're bringing in lots of money, the more money they
make, the more they'll expect in wages for their work. Right now
if I have a faction, they'll give up *all* the money they have to
me, as long as they get their 100 gold per month or whatever it is.
If they don't get paid enough, they should leave the employment of
the player who isn't treating them well enough, and offer their
services (and skills) to another player.

> o making the system have a lot of luck involved (gee, I found a
> gold deposit 100 times richer than normal, aren't I special?)


> o making economic activity much more profitable than exploration
> (or much less, for that matter)

Fine tuning the economic system would do more good, I think.
Exploration idealy would happen: (a) when a player has enough
capital to finance exploration to search for new goods/markets/etc
(b) when competition in a market is so fierce someone has to take
a chance and look for an edge up over his competetors, and so
they risk financing an exploration.

>Personally, I think it'd be plenty if there were GM-controlled markets
>which produced goods and depended on players to buy them and take them
>to the places where they were consumed. Limited production and
>consumption would drive profits down if a route were over-traded,
>forcing players to spread out. A wealthy player would have to work
>hard to exploit many trade routes and force the competition out.

Nah, no GM-controlled markets, just increase the power players have
over the market *now*. It'll expand of its own right.

Article 4:

>How about some new types of structures? I mean add things that would act
>like forts but wouldn't give defense bonuses...
>Example, FARM: Allows use of 'FARMING' Skill to earn money ( or with a
> more complete market, create food, which would be sold on the market)
> MINE: Allows creation of 'Ore' commodities...

I like it, this can be expanded even more, as well!

>also, how about a new peice of equipment, 'woodsmans axe' which, when
>USED, creates 'lumber' commodities in a forest region?
>Also, I think there should be a 'shakedown/street tax' command, where you're
>men just basically go around the province shaking down commoners for 'tax money'
I think a system by which this stuff could be 'invented' by research/etc
would do wonders for the game!

Article 5:

>My main problem at this point (although I've only played a few turns)
>is the lack of any sort of goal. The game mechanics seem sound, the
>turn entry is pretty comprehensive yet easy, but I don't have any real
>goal for the game. How do I win? :) The only real goal I see is
>trying to control some provinces..which is by no means an easy task.

You *don't* win! The greatest part of this game is its like life
in that you make your own goals, or you don't. You set your own
conditions, or you can be in it just to have fun. I DON'T want
that to change. Its a thing that's been missing from 90% of the
games I've played, and its something that keeps me very interested
in Olympia.

>A question to everyone playing..what goals have you set for yourself?
>What will you do when you have met those goals?

Right now I'm trying to set up a ship building company, which I hope
to expand, maybe to other cities, and then maybe try my hand into
other businesses.

Article 6:

>This is a serious problem. I need to think of some ways to
>limit growth of large factions without simply imposing limits
>(you can only run 40 units, for example) as some PBM's do.
>I'd rather it be more natural.

Like I said before, I think this would be a great mistake. You just
need to figure out a way to make 'profits' harder to come by. Factions
need to cost more money, etc.

>A player recently complained that Olympia was too economic,
>and there weren't enough fantasy elements (monsters, quests, etc.)
>Some additions this turn should begin to remedy this. :-)

More economic! More economic! :-)

Anyway, that's my babbling. I think Olympia has a *lot* of potential,
and I'd like to see it expanded and made more powerful. I'm also
willing to lend a hand, if the writer(s) are interested, as I have some
experience programming theoretical/research related economics and
simulated markets.

-- Andrew