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Googleshng - November 11 '04- 4:00 Eastern Standard Time

So I'm tracking a package being sent from California to Connecticut. For the last few days, there's been nothing to see, but tonight there's all sorts of stuff. The first thing to catch my eye was this: Nov 10, 2004 10:48 pm Departed FedEx sort facility HARTFORD, CT

Excellent. It's been sorted and sent out from the capital of my little postage stamp of a state, should be here tomorrow afternoon. Then I saw this one: Nov 11, 2004 2:20 am Arrived at FedEx sort facility PROVIDENCE, RI

I can see the logic here, but I still find it amusing that FedEx's hubs are arranged in such a way that a package coming towards me crosses the western border of the state, goes right to the middle, stops, dashes off to the east across another border, then doubles back for me.

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Beyond the Sun

IÕve heard you rant at times that "Beyond the Beyond" and "Golden Sun" are "pretty much the same game." Wrong. They are *nothing* alike. BtB, while it has quite a few puzzles in its dungeons, doesn't place as high an emphasis on them as the Golden Suns, for one. Second, BtB's battle system is completely devoid of any fun, what with that horrendously unpredictable Active Playing System, which just involves random button mashing that rarely ever works, and customization, at that, since no equivalent of the Djinni system exists. What exactly made you believe that "Beyond the Beyond" and "Golden Sun" were alike?

-Jeremy, the Duke of Otterland

Well, they're made by the same people, have the same hyper-cute visual style, a good deal of puzzle solving, similar story structures... the only real difference is the whole djinn system there when you come right down to it. So... it's rather odd how many people say they hate everything about one but love everything about the other.

Our prices are insane!

In your last Q&A section you briefly mentioned the economic "problem" inherent with online RPGs, and by that I assume you mean MMORPGs. I agree with you in the description of what happens and how to change it. With inflation, the purchasing power of your currency goes down, so you now need more to buy the same amount of something, right? The current methods of earning this currency were summed up fairly well by your statement "be it cash dropped by monsters, rewards from quests, or goods craftable from infinitely replenishable resources".

My point is this: during periods of inflation in MMORPGs, you will have to kill more monsters, complete more quests, and spend more time crafting to achieve the same level of gameplay that you were familiar with before. From a gamer's perspective, inflation is a design flaw. However, I'm guessing most developers concerned with revenue would enjoy people playing their game longer. Part of what makes these games so successful is this addiction-fueling gameplay. Maybe one day these companies will find better ways to keep customers playing their games besides leveling treadmills and economic sinkholes. We can only hope.


I'm guessing most developers don't stop and think about this stuff enough to be quite honest. Besides, it really has something of the opposite effect. We have inflation because there's a steady supply of new money being magically created from killing monsters etc. all day every day. There's a couple things in the game that suck your cash out again, like say, paying to train new skills or something, those costs are never going to increase, and any cash you have left over you're going to spend on buying one of those Allmighty Swords of Kurgoth the Destroyer being sold by that one guy who can actually manage to kill Kurgoth. The cost of things you buy from other players because you're too lazy to earn'em for yourself will go up constantly sure, but the things the game actually requires you to save money for you can get no problem just by selling off one item.

Upkeep Costs


Believe it or not, I came to the same realization about MMORPG economies a while ago, I think when I wandered into a message board where everyone was complaining about IGE and gilselling in Final Fantasy XI causing huge inflation. Yeah, any game with an inflow of capital from "nowhere" (anytime the server gives you cash from a mission, or killing something or whatever) it increases the net cash in-game. Unlike real life, there's no need to spend money simply to survive. A character can apparently go months without food or drink and they don't pay rent. Therefore, all money goes to the acquisition of a fairly narrow selection of goods. As far as I can tell, there are only 3 ways to keep this from turning into runnaway inflation, which is a very bad thing for the non-powergamers who suddenly find the next set of armor they need will take them a month of farming to afford. First, spread the money around by continually introducing new players to the game. This is why the in-game economies look stable for the first 6 months- 1 year after release. Although there is still money flowing in, it's split between an increasing number of players, so no inflation. Option 2 is to somehow siphon cash away from the players to NPCs at a higher rate, which few games do if the economy is supposed to be player-based. The last option is to dramatically increase the rate of rare drops, spiking supply and sending price way down. That's a temporary fix, because once everyone has sword X, they'll go looking for spear X+1, and so on until you reach a point where inflation is, in fact, an issue again or the entire idea of camping is trivialized as the rarest stuff drops once every ten minutes. Hmmm... since this is a Q&A column, I should probably top this off with a question, so here goes: Should MMORPGs allow players to control the economy, or should there be some kind of ingame controls that keeps price and supply at an "acceptable" level, at the cost of player involvement, sort of like a fantasy version of Alan Greenspan? What about games like City of Heros with NO economy whatsoever?


Well, there's two ways around the problem. The first is to have a closed economy, where there is a fixed amount of money in the game, a fixed amount of materials for things to be made from, and so forth, and just leave things with a player driven economy. The second is to throw in upkeep costs that balance out the cash inflow.

A few months ago for example when I was researching this sort of thing, I stumbled onto a MUD where there is a tremendous upkeep cost involved in owning anything. Anything you own goes poof every 24 hours if you don't build a castle to keep it in. Huge costs involved there, which get higher the more items you need to store in it. Then there's upkeep costs on these castles, repair costs on the items, and just for good measure, NPCs will periodically steal stuff from these castles unless you spend even more money outfitting them with various traps locks and sentries. The more stuff you have, the more upkeep you have to pay on it, so the cash in and cash out stay pretty much in balance.

Take a number

Hey Goog, just wanted to help you out a bit with your Castlevania series info.

Ground Zero is the original Castlevania Trilogy on the NES: Castlevania, Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest, and Castlevania 3: Dracula's Curse. Then on the SNES, there was Super Castlevania 4. While all this was going on, there was a trio of games put out for the original B&W Game Boy, the Castlevania Adventure, Castlevania 2: Belmont's Revenge, and Castlevania Legends. Here is where things start getting a bit fuzzy, but here goes. Castlevania made its first (and to my knowledge, only) appearance on a Sega system when we got Castlevania: Bloodlines, and then we saw a second SNES game called Castlevania: Dracula X, which I myself only heard about less than a year ago. By the time the series moved to the Sony Playstation, it became clear they gave up trying to number them, as we got Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and then Castlevania Chronicles. The Game Boy Advance saw the releases of Circle of the Moon, Harmony of Dissonance, and Aria of Sorrow, and finally we got the last Castlevania game to date on the PS2, which was Lament of Innocence. I think that's about it, and I'm not counting any PC or other versions of the games, since odds are nobody has ever played them (or would admit to it if they did), but there it is.

Now for a question: as we can see from this example, they stopped numbering the Castlevania games after 4, even though the bulk of the series was released after that. This has happened in many other series as well (Contra, Zelda, Super Mario Bros/World/Land, Metroid). I want your opinion on this, is it a desire by the companies to make the series seem less dated (for example, when you go out and buy Castlevania: Lament of Innocence, you're really buying Castlevania 15), or do they just feel the numbering is no longer necessary as long as it has a catchy subtitle? If that's the case, how come we get, for example, Final Fantasy 10 instead of Final Fantasy: The Curse Of Sin, or any other example using RPGs, which seem to have mostly stuck with the numbering system?

Robust Stu

That's a good question. I'd imagine the reason varies from series to series. Some people will use numbers for the main series and give subtitles to the weird offshoots (WarCraft vs. its expansions, Resident Evil... although I still don't see how CV is considered a side game and 3 qualifies as important). Some people I'm sure are just trying to hide age (presumably the case with the Castlevania games here). Then there's some people who just end up developing multiple games in the same series at the same time and don't really want Game 4 and Game 5 sitting on the same shelf (The Zelda Oracles games, Metroid Prime and Fusion).

As for why RPG developers seem less prone to do it... I'd imagine it's that they don't want to be perceived as making side story games you can live without. Either that or it's just an acknowledgement of the fact that, well, people EXPECT to get the same thing over and over again from RPGs. It's the most unchanging genre out there. Game 7 will almost definitely be the same thing as Game 6 except for the plot, but for some reason, that isn't the sort of turnoff it would be if we were talking about platformers.

I'm a 10th level Vice President!

Hi google

I myself am deciding if I should buy Valyrkrie Profile or wait till I can buy a PS2. I am short of money please help me decide. Around my area Valyrkrie Profile is from 70 to 100 just to let you know. I myself have played most of the good PS1 games and am waiting to expand my horrizens to a PS2.

Well, VP is an older hard to find game, so if you wait a year, odds are you won't be able to find it, or it will cost even more. On the other hand, wait that long to get a PS2, and the price will come down. Whether the half-dozen decent RPGs for it will be cheaper or more expensive there is something of a crap shoot admittedly, but since you can't afford them right now anyway, VP seems to be the smarter bet. Worst case scenerio, you sell it on eBay for a profit.

The Last Laugh:

Well, off to bed I go now, with visions of shipping trucks dancing in my head. Well, not so much dancing as driving in circles. Anyway though, enjoy your weekend, I'd probably suggest cutting the MMO economy thread for now since Andrew most likely would prefer a more varied mix of questions. I'll explain what's in the box on Monday.

Googleshng "Shiny....."

Hint: It's something I can't really live without.

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