The In-game Economics of Ultima Online

Description and Analysis

Zachary Booth Simpson
Computer Game Developer's Conference
March 2000


Who am I?


What is this talk?

What this talk is NOT

What is "economics"?

Right tool?

What is an economy?

Bad Economy Symptoms Part I

Bad Economy Symptoms Part II

Bad Economy Symptoms Part III

Semantic Nit-picking

What virtual goods? A sample

Armor50Bronze Shield, Leather Gloves, Orc Helm, Plate Mail Leggings, Studded leather Sleeves
Weapons44Bow/Arrow, Battle Axe, Dagger, Halberd, Mace, Spear
Clothing43Bonnet, Earrings, Fancy Shirt, Feathered Hat, Kilt, Skirt, Wizard's Hat
Food69Bowl of Peas, Fish Steak Raw, Fish Steak Cooked, Pitcher of Wine, Wheel of Cheese
Reagents8Black Pearl, Garlic, Nightshade, Spider's Silk, Sulphurous Ash
Tools74Ball of Yarn, Cleaver, Hammer, Iron Ingot, Ore, Potion, Magical Scroll, Sextant, Tinker's Tools
Provisions49Backpack, Bedroll, Fishing Pole, Lantern, Map, Torch
Miscellaneous170Basket, Book, Broken Chair, Chess Piece, Fork, Horse Dung, Kettle, Painting, Tribal Mask

Where do baby items come from?

Weaving Skill Rebus

An example skill rebus from

Problem I -- Over-Production

Practice Makes Perfect

Incentives To Produce

The Result: Oversupply

Oversupply: so what?

Econ 101: Shifted Supply Curves

Problem II -- Broke Shopkeepers

The Shopkeeper Failure

To subsidize or not?

But, before we punt NPCs...

OK, punt.

Black Markets

Econ 101. Soviet Retail

Problem III -- Inflationary Gold, Depleted Resources

UO Resource Flow

Original UO Resource Flow

Original Flow

Hoarding Is Rampant

Whatís wrong with this picture?

No dragons to kill!

Econ 101. Liquidity

Econ 101. Liquidity of Currency

Let it rain!

New Flow

So Now Itís Inflationary

Problem IV -- Counterfeiting


Effects of Counterfeiting

Effects of Counterfeiting (cont.)

Lessons Learned -- An Abbreviated Summary

Lessons Learned Part I

Lessons Learned Part II

Lessons Learned Part III

Lessons Learned Part IV