What's wrong with Olympia today (long)

Dennis Faherty (dennis@tellabs.com)
Mon, 18 May 1992 22:36:18 GMT

First off, let me say that I really like this game. I enjoy the role
playing feel to it, and I the fact that the turns are slow enough for us
people who have to work to be able to play :-)

This discussion of newbie bashing, game balance, realism, and
where the money comes from brings up some interesting points.
Being a new player myself, kindly take these thoughts as worth
what you paid for them (nothing!). These are just my opinions,
and I don't know what I'm talking about.

rwallace@unix1.tcd.ie (russell wallace) writes:
> ...how about implementing a full market economy?
> It wouldn't involve that much more code than the many separate elements
> there are now (markets, entertainment, mining, catching horses, WORK,
> unit maintenance costs, construction costs...). Basically the way it
> would work is that each province would have an indigenous population as
> well as the units there (I mean an actual population, not just a
> "Population X" in the description), and certain commodities such as
> food, weapons, ore, lumber etc. would be produced, bought and sold. Each
> buyer would bid to buy a commodity at no more than a certain price, and
> each seller would bid to sell a commodity at no less than a certain
> price, and the computer would determine a market price for that
> commodity for that month. Thus, market prices for goods, manual labor,
> entertainment etc. would automatically fluctuate up and down according
> to the laws of supply and demand. I can go into more detail on this if
> anyone's interested.

I would be very interested in your solution (and I mean
that sincerely). I puttered around with writing a game a few
years ago, and tried to put an economic twist to things. I had
trouble with the market economy, though. Would the indeginous
population buy and sell things, too, or would the players be the
only ones to affect the price (the latter would imply that the
economy would not be very interesting if not enough players
participated. Not everyone will want to be a trader.)

Another pitfall is that the market may not react quickly to
changes. In the board game "Supremacy", a player can buy as much
of a commodity as he wants for the price that is given that
turn. In theory, you could by the world's oil supply for $20 a
barrel, then, because of the shortage you created, sell it for
$1000 a barrel. This goes counter to logic, because for every
buyer, you must have a seller. The first thousand barrels would go
for $20 a barrel, the next thousand for $22, etc. It would
follow that in the real world, a person could make a killing by
cornering the market in a particular commodity, but it would not
be as easy as just issuing a buy order for all the world's

Also, since this is supposed to be a medieval era, the market
would vary greatly from town to town (especially if someone buys
all of commodity X in a certain town). This would add an
interesting new way to make money in the game, but recall that
money is also a supply and demand type of thing. If the price of
something rises astronomically high, all the gold in Olympia may
not be enough to purchase it.

The assumption that is programmed into Olympia now is that there
is sufficient quantity of items to satisfy any demand in the
town. For example, I can buy 2 longswords or 2000 longswords,
and the market in town will have them to sell. It becomes much
more complex if all interesting factors regarding the economy
are managed by software. Rich has simulated the differences in
markets by having slightly different prices for goods from town
to town. Perhaps a short term fix would be to include buy prices
for items the town market does not currently have to sell (of
course, then he would have to keep track of how many items where
bought, so that only an equal number of items could be sold, to
players or the indigenous population).

fletcher@netcom.com (F. Sullivan Segal) writes:
> 4. There should be a banking system which allows money to
> be deposited safely in the name of the faction so that there
> will be no reason to kill PC's except for revenge.

The banking system could be started by an enterprising player
(sort of like the Starlight Courier). This would allow banks to be
robbed by attacking the stack which represents the bank branch
in the town. The bank should turn a profit, if banks accept deposits
for a fee (Knights Templar would guard people's money for a
percentage during the Middle Ages). Banks could lend money (how
would you foreclose? You could take possession of a ship or
castle, but if a madman spends it on an army, what are you going
to do with that?) Banks would allow the easy transfer of funds,
given the deposit of money in the 1st National Bank of Drassa,
and withdrawn from the Bank of Port Aurnos. Banks could even
issue their own notes (money), effectively increasing the money
supply (as long as there wasn't a run on the bank to exchange
paper money for gold). The possibilities are interesting....

To solve the newbie killing problem,
jwoolsey@cad1.gfx.engga.uwo.ca (John J. Woolsey) writes:
> [Information about the locatin of the ] newbie is not widely
> available. ie There isn't a sign on 7K gold players
> saying shoot me in the foot.

How about newbies starting with 1500 gold the first turn, then
get paid another 1000 the next, etc., until they reach 7000.
(sort of like collecting $200 when the pass GO). They would not
be as valuable a target the first turn, and would get a chance to
spend some before they die.

From: jrives@tridom.uucp (Joel Rives)
> First of all, just showing up with 7000 gp and no skills seems a bit naive
> and contrived.

I had reasoned that new players are the children of
aristocrats, given money and sent out into the world to find
their fortune.

Now on to the most basic "problem" I have with the game.
Inhabitants of the towns don't *do* anything!

gl8f@fermi.clas.Virginia.EDU (Greg Lindahl) writes:
> Cities have city guards. Combat is illegal. So if you initiate combat
> in a city, the defender will get a free city guard unit stacked with
> them of size proportional with the attacker's force (i.e. the bigger
> you are, the more ruckus you raise, the more guards can get there.)

fletcher@netcom.com (F. Sullivan Segal) writes:
> IMHO it *should* be nearly impossible
> to kill a PC. I am interested in wandering around, exploring, learning,
> gathering, and generally adding to the athmosphere of the world. I am
> not interested in a contest to the death against players who started
> 20 odd turns before I did.
> I don't really see this as a competitive game. If it were everyone
> would start out at equivalent levels, and there would be some incentive
> (such as winning conditions) to kill other players off. THIS IS NOT
> 1. It takes all of the fun out the of game to have your character
> killed. Would you play Ultima more than a couple of times
> if you had to start from scratch each time your character
> was killed? I wouldn't.
> 2. There *are* other professions besides 'rampant killer' available
> in the gaming system. It seems to me that anyone who depends
> on this profession for character development lacks the most
> basic sort of creativity. I *want* to role-play my character
> as it develops (perhaps one of these:
> Professional Spell Researcher
> Thief
> Explorer
> Trader
> Performer
> Miner
> Engineer
> Banker
> Bum
> Grave digger)

jwoolsey@cad1.gfx.engga.uwo.ca (John J. Woolsey) writes:
> 5) Make the law a real force. Lock people up for 4 updates if they kill
> someone, and there is a witness. Or at least pump out a real force to deal
> with them in capture mode. Of course you can get out of jail for a mere
> 20K gold :-)

From: jrives@tridom.uucp (Joel Rives)
> A major factor that makes entrance into Olympia unusual and difficult
> is the presence of civilization without an established legal system and
> the means to enforce the laws. Granted, this sort of thing is being
> slowly implemented by players. However, i would expect to see something
> already in place before the first player ever sets foot in Drassa. Such
> a thing, would require a certain amount of 'intelligence' for the NPCs
> responsible.

All of this leads to one conclusion. Someone said that Olympia is
like a frontier, and the local populace must enforce the rules. This is
fine if the local populace is the player characters, but some towns have
4000 people. How can you have that many people living together and not
have a police force? Certainly they would have some sort of militia to
protect the towns assets from raiding neighbors. Looking at history,
people live together because they can help each other out by
specialization and sharing the work load. Once a group gets large
enough, they begin to collect wealth (crops, cows, etc.). Since anyone
can come into their group and take this stuff, the group develops some
way to protect themselves from opportunists and bandits. Sometimes it is
a class of professional warriors, sometimes men can be enscripted when
danger threatens, sometimes it is just homeowners who form their own
militia. As a town gets bigger, it is likely that they will have full
time professional guards, police, gendarmes, knights, whatever you want
to call them. This requires money. Since they serve the public interest,
the money comes from the public, (and here is my point), i.e. taxes.

This is the problem in Olympia. There is no way to tax the local
population to support a police force. Players are beginning to form
their own, but at their own expense. How are they able to afford this if
they do not have other units earning money for them by working,
entertaining, etc. How long can they afford to do this?

How about this? Each town pays taxes to who ever is the governor of the
town. The governor (or sheriff, lord, duke, count, etc) then can use the
money to raise town guards and enforce the laws. He can also abscond
with it, too! The governor could attack other town's armies and expand his
dominion. The governor with the most influence becomes King. Usually,
(but not necessarily) this would be the person with the most territories
he governs (that is, the biggest army). I'm not saying that kingship
would be an expicit game parameter. Anyone could proclaim themselves
king. They would likely have to have the support of their lords (other
players) in keeping his kingdom, however. Treaties could be made and
published in the Times, saying that all towns North of Rimmon and West
of Cnossa form the Kingdom of Penross and are ruled by Ethelred the
Unready, while those South belong to King Ludwig of Buloremia.

This proposal opens several avenues for players to role play. The first
being warrior/sheriff/lord/king, and the second that of trader/explorer/
magician/etc. The warrior class would spend most of its time fighting
amongst itself (why bother to attack explorers, you only get a little gold
and it leaves you open to attacks from your real enemies). For game purposes,
you may need some factor of loyalty for a town so the serfs can rebel against
high taxes, failure to enforce laws, etc. This would also allow others to
become non-fighter types, those who want to build a financial empire, explore,
whatever, to do their thing without worrying as much about being attacked.
Who knows, if a person becomes rich enough, they could buy their way
into the political system.

The key to this whole thing is the economy. The economy provides the
basis for the taxes. Players currently turn to attacking innocent people
because a) they are bored (the politcal solution above would solve this)
or b) they need money. If players can make a reasonable living doing
legitimate things, they will only resort to violence when it becomes
necessary to change the polical picture.

If you do this, IMHO the game will become deeper than it is.

e-mail:dennis@tellabs.com    -or-    ...!uunet!tellab5!dennis