September 1st, 2013


Irrational Markets and Flight Rising

Like all game economies, Flight Rising's is quirky. Some of Flight Rising's quirks make sense to me but are intriguing nonetheless.

For example, most MMO economies experience inflation, often rampant inflation, as more and more treasure chases the most desirable goods. But most of Flight Rising's player-based markets have been either fairly stable or deflationary over the month or so I have been informally watching. Silver ore has a low of around 1k and a high of around 3k*, gold ore has a low of 8k and a high of 15k, basic dragons of plentiful breeds have highs and lows from 3k to 10k depending on how hard-fought dominance is. Gened dragons and rarer breeds have become cheaper. When I first looked at imperials, the cheapest was 700k. Now, the cheapest is 350k. Cheapest pearlcatcher a few weeks ago was around 80k; now it's 40k. There's a few other miscellaneous goods that I watch that have stable price ranges.

(* Price ranges are based on "cheapest available at the time I looked". Players set the price for their goods when they offer them for sale to other players, so often there will be similar or identical goods for sale at several times the price of the cheapest.)

Dragons are a product of the passage of real-time: plentiful-breed dragons can breed once every 15 days and clutches take 5 days to hatch. Treasure is mostly a product of time spent playing the minigames, with a cap of 75k per day. There are some treasure-sinks: gene scrolls and other goods from the NPC marketplace, expanding your lair, adding nests, etc. Apparently, the treasure sinks are actually keeping up with treasure production to a degree. Demand for dragons also drops over time as lairs fill up and people have the kinds of dragons they want for their collection. Dragons consume food ( = money) and the only thing they produce is more dragons -- and that only if you've got nest space for them. So a lair stuffed with dragons is likely to cost more than it brings in. Now, many players (myself included!) are not playing to maximize revenue and want more little pictures of dragons populating our lairs regardless of monetary advantage or lack thereof. But the deflationary impact is still clear. Dragons don't die; you can choose to exalt them (which takes them out of play, contributes to the dominance struggle for your flight, and gets you a small amount of treasure) but that's the only way they leave.

Which is interesting but not inexplicable.

No, what perplexes me is the irrational pricing on swap goods.

The game doesn't have crafting as such (yet). But there's "Swipp's Swap Stand". Every two hours, Swipp offers a new site-wide trade, generally of a format "lots of X gets you one of Y". Here's a list of all his swaps..

Let's look at one of these: 200 Nightwing Bats (a food item) for 1 Runic Bat (a familiar). I think Swipp's is the only place you can get Runic Bats, and the only thing you can do with Nightwing Bats is eat them or trade them to Swipp's.

Cheapest Runic Bat on the player market right now is 28,000. Most expensive is 42,000.

So I'd expect Nightwing Bats to sell for no more than 1/200th of what you can buy a Runic Bat for, or 140-210 each. There might be some upwards pressure -- people who have 190 bats might be tempted to pay more to get the last 10 when the swap is available -- but also some downwards pressure, because it's annoying to visit Swipp's every two hours to see if he's got the right swap yet.

Actual price range for Nightwing Bats? 500-1000 each.

So the right economic ploy if I want a Runic Bat is to sell Nightwings to players and then buy a Runic from a player. (In fact, I just bought that 28k Runic Bat, even though I don't particularly want one, just so that I will never be tempted to save up Nightwings to do the swap.) And it's not that these are fictitious sell prices (ie, players hoping to get this much but there are no buyers) -- I have sold dozens of Nightwings for 450-750 each.

There's another chain that I play around with:

20 copper ore + 20 iron ore = 1 silver ore
5 silver ore = 1 gold
5 gold + 3 rusted chests = 1 gilded chest.

The first swap I don't bother with -- copper sells for 180-1000 each, which puts it far out of the range to justify making silver. Silver I will buy cheap and swap for gold, and then sell the gold. If I can get 15k for the gold (and I have several times), that makes the swap for a gilded chest about 83k (around 3k each for rusted chests). Gilded chests have been selling for 50k-80k lately, so not really worth it. Opening gilded chests seems even less worth it -- it's been something like 'one familiar, one clothing item, 6k-25k treasure, and a few random pieces of junk' for me, although perhaps there's a lottery effect where you might get something much more valuable from them.

You can also use 3 gold ore to make a platinum ore. Platinum ore sells for less than gold. I don't know if anyone ever does this swap; maybe people dig up the platinum that sells on the market instead. I really hope so.

Anyway, in other MMOs where raw materials sold for more than crafted goods, I understood that people were "skilling up" and didn't care about making money on the intervening steps -- perhaps didn't care about making money at all, even long term, just liked seeing the number rise. But the swaps are not a skill -- anyone can do them and you don't improve a stat by doing them. So it's interesting to me to see people still pursue them even when there's a monetary cost to making the swap over selling materials to players and buying the final good from players.