Theorycraft: An MMO without Currency, could it work?

Would an MMO work if there were no currency in the game, Platinum, Gold, Copper? People would resort to other resources to fill its role, or would they?

This popped into my head while I was returning to an old game (mmo) the other day while I wait for Ashes. When I was heavy into the game a number of years ago, things cost an average 10, 20 platinum with a very rare item costing 500... A handful of years later I returned once again and prices were 100, 500, and 20,000 for items of a similar scale.. Returning last week things are out of control with 100,000... 500,000.. and 8,000,0000 platinum being tossed about like nothing. Damage numbers have kept pace but reaching into to billions on a single spell.. but that is another topic.

This triggered a thought, what if there were no currency in mmos? What could be some possible outcomes? People would have to barter for items with other items. it would have to be more involved over a flat currency. The more complicated downside, if even possible, would be purchasing items from NPCs.

Perhaps a no-trade currency?

Not saying this would be right for Ashes, but just toying with ideas is all. This would stop gold sellers and bots in their tracks though.... maybe...


  • Undead CanuckUndead Canuck Member, Braver of Worlds
  • AzathothAzathoth Member, Braver of Worlds
    I think this would lead to a variety of resources being used as currency, basically a bartering system. Bartering systems are good as long as everyone has fairly equal access to goods, or greater access to some and little access to others.

    I think this could go either was for a traditional fantasy MMO. A loose example could be a merchant that tells you his sword is worth 3 pigs might not need the pigs after you go acquire them. Instead you would need 2 cows. He might no longer need something from another merchant that needed the pigs, but now wants to trade with a cattle rancher.

    Although, in the end, everyone might adopt pretty standard units like red berries, raw ore, and diamonds. At that point, they may as well be coins. Where as everyone in an MMO will always need currency, even though the price might jump from 500 to 1000, at least the 500 you collected still put you closer to the new price.

    I think even barter heavy games still have currency for a variety of reasons, inventory being one. Would still be fun to play a bartering system though. It could work like in Catan, everybody be offering you wood for sheep so they can build there house.
    +1 Skull & Crown metal coin
  • DygzDygz Member, Braver of Worlds
    I was thinking of cows as well, but it wouldn't work for an MMORPG, where players are expecting to be able to kill everything. Western players are going to want money and the ability to kill whatever they want.
    Also, Western players won't know how to navigate an economy based on barter.

    The devs would have to not only design a system that works well in theory, but also anticipate how players will support the system and maintain a healthy economy. It's highly unlikely that the devs would be able to accurately predict that.
  • Yes it could work, players would find some other "basic" currency to replace gold that could be universaly traded or just a simple bartering system.
  • Players would just make their own currency. I remember GW1, were players started trading in ectoplasm instead of the normal game currency. XD
  • I'd be interested to see the framework and potential theories of how this could be done. As it stands i am skeptical and would not support such an mmo. Seems too radical an idea that doesn't look like it'd work on paper
    Where there is light, there is shadow. I am the shadow without the light. The shadow of nothingness. The VoidShadow
  • AtamaAtama Member, Braver of Worlds
    I’m guessing none of you have played Path of Exile. It is a Diablo-esque online ARPG with no currency at all. Everything is barter. Common items like magic scrolls and upgrade components end up taking the place of coins. But there is literally no regular currency in the game.

    Does it work? Sure. The game has been getting along fine for 6 years, holds a 90% approval rating, recently expanded to Xbox and PlayStation platforms, and in my experience it’s pretty fun.

    You can argue that it’s not a “real” MMO but I don’t see what difference it would make if it was. You are still interacting with NPC vendors and player-to-player trades the same way you would in a game like AoC.

    So yes, not only would it work, but it has been successfully and sustainably implement already. And there’s no reason it shouldn’t work; the economy works the same whether you’re trading coins, electronic credits in a computer system, or livestock. You assign a relative value to items and services and then exchange them in a mutually acceptable deal. That’s how all transactions work in video games and real life.
  • While it works just fine in Path of Exile, it does make trade between ppayers far more confusing. It means you have a half dozen or so different common trade items that all fluctuate in value that you have to keep track of.
  • The same thing would happen with poorly managed bartering system.
    You save up thousands of iron, take a break and when you come back the iron is scrap metal noone wants.

    Economy that is taken into account in creation of the game and before releasing updates is mandatory for long lasting free trade economy.
    When this rule is disregarded inflation runs rampant.
    You're seeking perfection, but your disillusions are leading to destruction.
  • BluehBlueh Member, Pioneer
    Nah some other item would become the new currency.

    On the issue of prices increasing its possible to keep the inflation at bay with gold sinks and taxes, but the dmg and stuff is just natural progression i dont think it can be solved.

    in maplestory the dmg numbers cover half the screen and prices have gone from 100k a scroll to 100m, there ppl are trading items for like 60b when max coins are 10b on the character so you need 6 characters just to buy something lol.
  • MakinojiMakinoji Member, Warrior of Old
    I can only pay in ERP if that's the case
  • BluehBlueh Member, Pioneer
    edited November 2019
    ERP was fun untll the furries and real females arrived. Just being two lonely dudes pretending to be lesbian elves very exciting.
  • OP, your issue seems to lie in a lack of decent gold sinks more than anything else. If you put in large enough and appealing enough gold sinks that affect mostly the most wealthy (aka castle upkeep being 1000g a month, and apartment upkeep being 10g a month), and adjust drops to be materials more than gold (which so far is what the Ashes team is going for), then inflation won’t be so massive an issue as you’ve seen.

    The lack of a global trade system will also help keep prices somewhat stable and hopefully bot-free for the most part.
  • AtamaAtama Member, Braver of Worlds
    Blueh wrote: »
    ERP was fun untll the furries and real females arrived. Just being two lonely dudes pretending to be lesbian elves very exciting.
    That just reminds me of this old WoW story (so old you need the Wayback Machine to see it) that still cracks me up.


    Warning, some “mature” (debatable) language there.
  • ShoklenShoklen Member
    edited November 2019
    Interesting points everyone. Much food for thought. It seems to be an issue with a games that been out for a long time. There may not be much money coming into a game, but over time huge stockpiles develop. A new player walking into a game that has a ten year old, inflated, economy can feel very overwhelmed.

    Playing a few more days in the "mmo" I've noticed I'm just not buying anything either. There is no need to buy anything really. Gear seems to be given out like candy in quests... With some of the top gear coming from very long quests or raids. Just feels like there were more useful items for sale when there was less currency in the game. Dose that even make sense?

    @Atama -- LOL, I have never played WoW and I even heard of that story... That and the story of Leroy Jenkins.. :)
  • VentharienVentharien Member
    edited November 2019
    Not really an MMO, But when i played ARK, there was no currency, and my play group got everyone on our server to pay/trade in pearls and obsidian. Worked for about a year lol.
  • MorashtakMorashtak Member, Braver of Worlds
    Some good points posted;

    - Currency is an easier mechanic to code and control; assign a variable to be the prime trading item and then add item depletion mechanics to reduce the player's pool of said item.

    - Or allow the players to assign value to one or more low-drop-rate item(s) which become the de-facto currency. Devs control the market values by changing the drop rate variable. Players react and adapt to changing market values.

    One currency vs many;
    - Assign trade value to only one item (gold).
    - Assign trade values to multiple items (copper, silver, gold, platinum).

    Is the currency an item that takes up space and has weight?
    - As in the real world, when the barter system became too cumbersome (cows are not easily or quickly moved around) governments would create easy transportable currencies (coins, notes, etc).
    - Currencies have weight/space and can be dropped, stolen, traded, etc which affects the players total carry weight.

    Or is it just a number on the character sheet?
    - Players can "carry" vast amounts without the worry of encumbrance.

    Monetary supply;
    - Is there a currency cap and how do the devs control the total amount of currency in the game?

    Would multiple currencies and exchange rates work without being too complicated?
    - Dünir as/denarious/aurues coins, Niküa copper/silver/gold barter rings, etc.

    NOTE: As this post date/time "gold" is a place holder name and has no weight. While this could change as the game develops this does indicate that the programmers will take the easy route when it comes to in-game currency.
  • So a thought I had while reading the above post...

    It would be fairly awesome if Intrepid were to allow a node at metropolis to mint their own coins, and then have a system behind this to make it a whole mechanic.

    This system would start when a node hits metropolis for the first time, one of the first decisions to be made by the leader would be their currency system. They could decide on a currency system where they have a base currency (Crown, Doubloon, Drachma, Denarius, etc), they could decide on what value a secondary currency is worth (1/8th, 1/10th, 1/12th, 1/100th etc), what this currency will be called, and then they could also decide on the metal composition of the coins.

    From there they could either build a central mint and buy in the raw materials from players, or contract out the minting of coin to players in it's entirety. Once enough coins are products, the leaders of the node could - if they wanted to - opt to declare their currency the only legal tender in their ZoI.

    Once multiple currencies are in circulation on a server, they could make an "Exchange" a building that any node from tier 3 up could build, allowing players to exchange one currency for another, at what ever the current exchange rate is. This exchange rate would fluctuate based on the amount of activity in the ZoI of the issuing metropolis.

    This gives players in a metropolis a means of conflict with another metropolis other than war.

    When a metropolis is successfully sieged, all nodes that were in it's ZoI and using it's currency now default to being able to use any active currency on the server - their entire government structure has collapsed, so it's only fair that they have a messy economic situation for a little bit.

    Then when a node takes over as a metropolis for that same region, the leadership of this node have the option of starting up a new currency again, or making the currency from the old metropolis legal tender once again - which will mean that the old currency is no longer legal tender at all (though players may still opt to trade it between themselves).

    A few points on this that are worth mentioning...
    • Getting a currency up and running needs to have value to all nodes for this to work. The best way to achieve this is to make it something that players desperately want, so that the leadership of the node have to include in order to keep the population happy.
    • There would need to be some form of currency in the game before the first metropolis.
    • Players with a large amount of a given currency may lose a lot of wealth if the node that minted that currency is successfully sieged.
    • Currency is always able to be melted down to retrieve it's raw metal value. Thus when minting a coin, using a cheap metal may allow you to get more currency out faster, but using a more expensive metal will increase player confidence in your currency as regardless of what happens, they will always be able to retrieve that base metal value.
    • The value of a currency needs to be tied to it's use, among other things. The game could simply look at how much of a currency is in the ZoI of the minting metropolis, the value of exchanges in to and out of the currency, and how much trade is being conducted using that currency to determine it's value in relation to other currencies.
    • If the above point is true, this means either wealthy players, guilds or nodes would be able to purchase up large amounts of a competing metropolis' currency and take it out of the ZoI (possibly via caravan?). If successful, and if enough is taken out, that would artificially inflate the value of that currency as there is less of it in the right place to be used in trade.
    • If this currency is bought back in to the ZoI, that would deflate the value of that currency. These two factors in conjunction could be used to conduct economic warfare between nodes.
    • The leadership of the node should be able to produce more coinage (either in their own mint or by issuing more contracts to mint) if they feel the value of their coin is too high. They should also have detailed information about how much coin is in the ZoI, and how much trade is being conducted with their coins.
    • If events transpire that increase the use of a given metal, the value to players of that metal may rise. This could make the value of the metal in a coin worth more than the coin itself, and players may then melt those coins down to get the raw metal. This would increase the value of the remaining coins, as there would be fewer coins to be used for trade.
    • In order to give economic nodes a mechanic specific to this, it may be an idea to make them the only node type that is able to mint a three tier currency (or 4 tier even). This could have two practical effects - more coin types means more metals, meaning your currency system is less susceptible to the issue in the point above and also - assuming coins have weight - you are able to carry around much higher value of coins.

    One of the things I think would be cool with a system like this is that after a server has been running for a while (assuming no server wipes to accommodate mergers and such), a numismatist inclined player could have a coin from every metropolis that has minted a currency, and it could act as a kind of history of the server.
  • I don't think so, and i don;t think it would be a good idea.

    Money is extremely useful.

    It's basically a value exchange, instead of carrying around stuff with you like vegetables or cattle etc... you just use money, which is far more direct, fast, in general far more efficient.
  • midgardmidgard Member, Braver of Worlds
    you will always have your "gold" .
    it might have a different name like platinum or cows or gems or runes .
    once you start trading the community wil find a item that can be used by olmost every class and use it .
    for instance :
    diabolo 2 has gems and runes .
    if gold inflation becomes a bigg issue trades will happen whith other curency .
  • TheCouchNerdTheCouchNerd Member, Braver of Worlds
    It could definitely work. All that would happen is the playerbase would just substitute platinum, gold, silver, copper, etc with in-game items. Similar to how Path of Exile, or Diablo 2 functions. In Diablo 2 players don't trade or buy items with gold. Instead it's a barter system where people have put value in runes and some specific uniques. I'm pretty sure the MMO would function similar to that. A barter system.
  • AtamaAtama Member, Braver of Worlds
    midgard wrote: »
    you will always have your "gold" .
    it might have a different name like platinum or cows or gems or runes .
    once you start trading the community wil find a item that can be used by olmost every class and use it .
    for instance :
    diabolo 2 has gems and runes .
    if gold inflation becomes a bigg issue trades will happen whith other curency .

    Do you have 5 chickens for a cow? I want to buy a new crossbow and don’t have change.
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