Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Second Life and Eve: raw materials

One of the similarities between Second Life and Eve Online is, that both have an internal economy. CCP, Eve Online's creator, even employs a full time economist to monitor this aspect of the virtual universe, while Linden Labs maintains web pages with all sorts of interesting looking statistics concerning economical activities. Both worlds have their own currency, which can be bought or sold in world, but also on independent web sites - although in case of Eve Online's ISK, this is deemed illegal by CCP. In both economies, large quantities of currency change hands (between players) over the sale of goods: land and luxuries in SL, ships and hardware in Eve, mostly.

There is one big difference however between the economies of SL and Eve: raw materials.

In SL, objects are built from prims. They are the basic building blocks of SL! Prims can, literally be created from thin air. Any user can create prims, just like that, by rightclicking and choosing 'create'. Existing prims may easily be copied as well (under normal circumstances, depending on the rights you have on the prim of course). This means, there is no way Linden Labs can control the amount of prims (and, hence, objects) that can be created. The only limit I can come up with, is the physical limit to a given SL parcel: the maximum amount of prims the land is allowed to carry.

Creating objects is possible in the Eve universe, too. You just need a blueprint (which you must buy on the market) and raw materials in the required quantities. This is an important difference between SL and Eve: Second Life does not require raw materials for content creation in world, but Eve Online does.

And CCP does have some control the amount of raw materials available in the Eve universe at any given moment. Raw materials are usually acquired by players mining asteroids for ores, as depicted in the snapshot above. These asteroids are obviously programmed by CCP, who can control what ores and what amounts of them will be available for mining. This gives CCP control over an important part (the source) of the raw materials market.

Another aspect of Eve's economy, is loot. When I destroy an NPC ship (a game generated 'enemy'), the resulting wreckage has a cargo hold, that often holds one or more objects: ammunition, devices, goods, drones or weaponry for instance. These objects are (part of) one's reward. You can tranfer them to your own cargo hold, keep what you need, and sell the rest on the market. Mind you, some players loot dozens of objects like this on a given mission! You can also choose to reprocess objects, instead of selling them. This breaks the objects down into their individual compounds which can then be sold off as raw materials again. Again, CCP controls the contents of NPC ships (they are game generated, remember), hence CCP has control over the amount and types of objects that will flow to players on a given day.

Of course there are limits to the bandwith of control that CCP has. If one day asteroids would turn up empty and NPC wreckage would no longer contain loot, a player revolt would probably ensue. Players are used to certain amounts and types of ore or loot. But CCP could, by gradually turning the dials - a little more here, a little less of that there - definitely finetune or shift the economy.

To determine whether CCP actually does that I would have to read the Eve quarterly economical reports, and frankly, they don't interest me that much. But it's an interesting difference between the two in game economies.

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