Role of Items (in multiplayer games)
Why would a player want to buy an item? Here are a few reasons.
- to Enhance Status
ex: clothing, medals, pets, houses
May also affect the UI, like a game replay recorder that you wear.
- to Provide an In-game Advantage
ex: enhanced weapons, armor, speed, accuracy, food
Usually provide a mild effect, for the sake of balance.
Often they are consumable, rather than permanent.
ex: new skills or combos
- to Provide Deeper Controls
ex: extra spell slots, advanced hotkeys
Allow harder-core, more skilled players to have more nuanced control, with a cost of increased difficulty and complexity.
- Rare Items to Sell Back
ex: special premium items, items from raffles or lotteries
Special occasions like holidays are good times to give out limited edition items.
Not all items last forever. Keep that money flowing! :p
- Consumed - use once (but may buy large quantities)
ex: food, potions, grenades
- Charge - buy refills in order to use
ex: bullets for a gun, batteries for a calculator, armor that must be repaired
- Rent - use for a limited time period or duration
ex: demo skis, effects of a magic spell
- Permanent - unlimited use
ex: clothes, decorations, tools
Don't let the items you sell upset the balance of the game.
- Defensive items (temporary shields) should be bought, while offensive items (missiles) should be found in game.
This is psychologically more acceptable than the reverse.
- Rental items, limited edition items, and item buyback by the game can be used to minimize the effect of poorly balanced items introduced into the game world.
Item buyback is when players can directly exchange their items for game currency, and the items are then taken out of circulation completely. If an unbalancingly powerful item is mistakenly introduced, it is often better to offer players appealing amounts of game currency in exchange, rather than doing nothing or forcibly removing the items.
In order to prevent gold-farming, players must not be able to simply convert from one currency to another. They should be able to trade with other players however, such that the amount of currency in circulation remains stable. See this article for further explanation.
- for time-rich people
ex: green shells in GoPets, awarded through normal gameplay (an equivalent of experience points)
This is the simplest, most obvious sort of way for players to earn currency. Basically every game uses it.
- for money-rich people
ex: gold shells in GoPets, directly acquired by putting in real money
This is the way you actually make money. Any game relying on an item-based business model must use it.
- for idea-rich people
ex: pink shells in GoPets, awarded for creating icons for the pictographic communication thing
Currencies can be derived from any sort resource a player might have, whether it's creativity or free time.
In designing, first make a good free basic game and get an audience, then add real-money items carefully.
Most people just nibble media, so the real-money items should be subtle enhancements that harder-core players will want.
Think of item-based games as selling bits of service, bits of UI, a metagame - not just a game design.
Players must be able to trade items with each other. Otherwise, their sense of ownership is not complete.
Players will often sell micro-stories to each other, even if it's not explicitly built into the game.
- In GoPets, players would take different food items and sell combinations of them as a meal, with a blurb of text to explain. They might take lettuce, tomatoes and spinach and call it a garden salad (or whatever). I really like this possibility.
Players set their prices too low when selling to other players! They don't care about money. So set a minimum price.
What do you think? I personally find this design space fascinating. I'm eager to try it out someday. :)