Sometimes, when you’re starting out, you just can’t find a guide to help you out on the most basic thing that just about every game has: an economy. Because I felt the hardship of not having these resources when it was my time to create something from scratch, I decided to share my personal cake recipe for building a F2P game economy. It takes as little as 4 steps to make and can serve as a good starting point for beginners to get their games going. It's good to note though, that just as any cake recipe, this is my cake, and it's just a recipe for a good ol’ chocolate cake; it can be endlessly incremented and improved upon by each designer as they apply it to their own project with their own characteristics. Let’s get started on this cake!
Step 1 - How to Start: Fixing values to USD
The whole concept of this cake is based on values for sinks, things that drain resources, and for sources, things that yield resources, in this example, we will use two currencies, hard and soft currency.
The first thing to do is ballpark how much you want each unit of SC and HC to cost in USD (or whatever currency you’re using). In this case, I’m making a F2P game with two currencies where I usually use a 1-20 ratio but that’s up to you, in this example 1 SC is worth 0.005 and 1 HC is worth 0.12. This is going to be important to define how much things cost in your game.
Soft and Hard currency unitary values compared to 1 dollar
The second thing to do is to define how many dollars per day you expect your user to receive from the rewards, you can do that by level, trophies, or whatever division of progress your game uses. In this example, we have 7 different level tiers, starting with 1 dollar per day at the first level tier and ending with 3.1 dollars per day at the last level tier. These values were chosen thinking on the ballpark of how much I want things in my game to cost, so if I want to sell 5$ items, I should be giving out less than that much per day.
Dollars per day for each level tier
In this example we’re getting the SC/day by simply dividing the dollar per day by the cost of the unit of currency, in this case, 1/0.005 on the first tier, or 3.1/0.005 on the last tier.
Step 2 - Setting up the Sources
This fixed value is what I’ll call ExpectedBaseIncomePerDay affixed to the level tier, so for example, when you’re referencing them on your spreadsheet you can find ExpectedBaseIncomePerDayLevel1-14.
To set up the source of income for the player, you can take the thing the player is going to do, in this case, complete a stage, and how much does winning one single stage at that point in the player’s lifetime (look at this level tier) represent percentage-wise. So if we expect the player to get 10% of their ExpectedBaseIncomePerDayLevel1-14 from beating 1 stage of the game the formula will be ExpectedBaseIncomePerDayLevel1-14 * 0.1. The 10% is just a value I chose for sake of exemplifying the logic, but maybe it’s a boss stage that the player will only do once and it will take many days for him to get there so we can make it 30% instead, it's up to the designer to define these values.
Step 3 - Configuring the True Income
Now that we know how much currency the player gets from a source we can start measuring how the player will interact with that source by planning out the player’s session. This is something you should do by level tiers as well, but you can do it in smaller or larger bits to fit your project, for consistency, I’ll work with the same level tiers I used for the base income.
So say we expect the player to clear 10 levels every day during levels 1-14, the formula for 1 day of income would be, 10*AverageStage1-10Rewards. We use the average of all rewards the player will collect in the first world of your game and multiply it by how many times we expect him to get it every day while on this level.
The player’s actions and how many times he executes each one per day
In this example, we will look at all actions the player does in the 1-14 tier, and in this case, it includes challenges as well since they are also a source of income, that being so we will multiply them by the number of times the player interacts with them.
We should add all sources and how many times the player will interact with each one, so in my example, for tier level 1-14 it’d be and the first 10 stages it’d be (10*AverageStage1-10Rewards)+(9*AverageChallenge1-10Rewards).
This is the true income of the player, it’s usually considerably higher than the base income as you’ll likely achieve more than 100% of the base income from the source actions given the number of actions the player does per session.
Step 4 - Configuring the Sinks
With the true income in hand, we can start working on the sinks, and the easiest way of doing this is to use similar logic to the previous steps: determine a percentage of income used. So, a sink would be buying an upgrade or a new weapon for example, which we’re going to define based on how long we want the player to grind for, so the formula would be, TrueIncome1-14*TimeOfGrind. This is done so we can balance out how long it will take for the player to achieve a certain point in the game given the expected session actions of the player.
Cost of an upgrade and how long it will take to obtain it
In this example, it's going to cost 160 soft currency for the player to get an epic upgrade in 0.2 days. Ideally, you should make the number of days (the percentage of the true income) an open variable you can easily tweak.
There you have it, a cake recipe for how to make a game economy from scratch. It contains all the simplest ideas behind a model that can be easily expanded and enhanced to fit many diverse needs, with the key takeaway being: how much of this should it take for that. That is the base mindset of this model and it has been working for me for a few years now and I felt it’d be a good resource for up-and-coming designers who have never done this before. Hope your cake turns out good :)
If you have any questions feel free to contact me at [email protected]