Hello, guys! First of all, I’m officially new here, but have been a lurker for a few months now and learned quite a few things about writing, so thank you.
Now, I have found myself with a problem regarding in-game currency, trade and inventory items. I have this story that is kind of a magical school (not Hogwarts Legacy, lol) where the protagonist is required to sell their expertise to pay tuition and whatnot, I also want to introduce a few items/potions to help making/unlocking dialogue choices. The thing is… I’m really stuck on how to go about all this… That is why I have a few main questions that I would really appreciate if someone could at least provide me with an idea or path.
How to properly introduce a balanced coin system? I’m afraid of making the game too easy or too hard, like, sure I want said amount of coins to properly trigger “paid tuition” path, but I also want the player to spend money donating to other students or buying potions and the price should be fair. I’m a bit lost.
Then there is the biggest currency of all, time. How can I link the proper amount of time x coins x quests? Let’s say I have to work (quests) 10 times to earn 100 coins but I also only have 5 days (this is random btw). I don’t know how to start making these calculations where I give the player enough time to properly do stuff, but not be so forgiving that they won’t reach a bad end ever. Is it just a trial and error type of thing or is there a smart way to go about it?
I got this idea after playing the novels by Philip Kempton, especially Swamp Castle, although limited it did give me this refreshing rpg vibe that I liked a lot and it’s something I want to bring to this story.
Any help or directions would be awesome, maybe some articles recomendations, anything really. I’m that stuck.
You could have “gold coins” and “silver coins.” Big ticket items (like the tuition) cost gold. Everything else will cost silver. In the parts of the game where the player can spend money, one of the options could be to “convert coins.” The player can trade one type of coins for the other. For example: I pay the player 2 gold and 5 silver to do a job. The player now has 10 gold and 25 silver. They now have a few options. Trade the silver for gold, coming closer to paying the tuition. They can spend the silver on whatever they want, but they won’t be any closer to finishing. Or, they can spend gold to get something REALLY cool.
So, the player has a certain amount of time time, and they can (but don’t have to) work to earn more money?
Make it clear how much time the player has. For example “5 days until first payment is due.”
Make it clear how long each activity takes. Example: “restock apothecary: all day”; “study date with Justin: 2 hours.”
Make it clear how much you earn per activity. For example: “restock apothecary: 10 gold”; “clean Mr. Whiskers litter box: 15 silver.”
After that, it’s up to the player to prioritize properly. Find out how much time it would take to earn all the money, then give the player just a few more terns left. If it takes 3 activities to earn enough, give the player 5 or six. And maybe have a tier for how much you need? Have all the money- something good happens. Have a decent amount, have some consequences moving forward. Ex: need to earn more next time, can’t participate in the school dance, etc. Have basically nothing to show for your time? You’re screwed, you should start the game over, there’s no way this’ll end well
You could also add a lot of non money making activities, in order to tempt the player. But some players won’t care about romancing Justin or befriending Mr. Whiskers, so you could alway use the plot in between these sections to make it harder. Example: chapter 4 has a party, so in chapter 3 the player needs to buy an outfit or suffer socially in the next chapter
I also wanted to say that I really like the idea! The money adds a nice element to an existing genre. I love games set in a school, with everything that comes with it, so I’ll definitely check it out when you have a demo. I hope my brainstorming helped
Thank you, Anna! I spent a few long minutes thinking about your ideas!
Dude! This idea has never crossed my mind for even a second before, but somehow it makes so much sense because it gives the player one more layer of agency. I will have to really spend some time on it so I won’t make mistakes, after all, different currency, means more currency problems, kinda? lol Still, I love it!
Oooh, it definitely sounds really simple now that you wrote like that, it kinda organized the mess in my head! No joke. But then everything else really does sound like trial and error, right? As per your example, really think about the price of the secondary or cool items for the remaining 2 or 3 activities so that the player won’t be able to purchase everything they want without making sacrifices that will possibly impact their future choices.
Anna, you’re a genius! I probably have played many games that utilize this tactic but somehow I completely ignored it, guess the first novel comes with many newbie “oopsie” moments, lol.
Thank you so much! It’s still early stages as I’m still thinking about how to bring the plot and gameplay elements in a way that won’t feel disconnected, but hearing this brings me joy! I also adore magical school themes, hehe!
You gave me so many new ideas and solutions, I certainly will still have a few worries about this even though I can’t think of them right now, but I will see how I would be able to try the stuff you just said! Thank you so so so much! It helped a lot!
IMO, you’re working in the wrong direction: you’re developing a system and then applying the system to the game for a result.
Try it the other way around: figure out how much you want the player to reasonably spend (how many months of tuition, how much each month costs, how much you consider reasonable for them to give to NPCs and spend on potions), how much of their free time you want them to devote to earning money, and THEN decide how much each “earning task” gets them.
You’re worldbuilding from scratch, so take the opportunity to make the system serve the goals instead of shaping them (which is what you’ll have to do if you make a second game in the same setting).
I guess that is precisely the problem, it isn’t so much about the value of coins per se, but making a coherent system between time (which I plan to be a few actions per day with some having more or less length than others) and gold that impacts future choices.
Like, I could say a year is 3 months (short lives, lol) so 3 blocks of tuition and each month cost 100 gold, sure, but then I get stuck with “how much I consider reasonable” everything else without making it all really easy or too difficult. Essentially I want the gold system to be able to “reward” the protagonist with a new route or a gorgeous dress for a party (Anna’s example), maybe helping a friend in need while risking not having enough to pay the tuition. I’m not even sure if anything I just said makes any sense at all, to be honest, lmao.
I get confused because I don’t want the player in a single run to be able to see and have everything, so what I “consider reasonable” is murky waters, haha. Would you be able to recommend a game with a system that you enjoy so that I can understand exactly what you mean? Or maybe a few examples?
Can you elaborate on this, please? I see what you mean but then again I don’t, I’m a complete newbie… I’m sorry.
I mean that right now you get to decide everything, because that’s the only context people will have. If you say “A day working in the coal mine gets you 100 coins, a very fine dress costs 200 coins, a good meal costs 10 coins”, then that’s just the way things are and everybody rolls with it, because there are no previous values that you have to take into account, so you can make the numbers whatever you want for the purpose you want them to serve. But if you make a second game where you say “The mayor gets paid 50 coins a day”, people are going to start asking exactly WHY either the mayor gets paid so little or that coal miner got paid so much.
As for the rest: you say you don’t want a single playthrough to be able to see everything. How much do you want them to see? Are there groups of content routes that you feel like work together? Now you have a baseline of “the player needs to have enough money to do these things in a single run”. How many time blocks do you want a player to use for work, leaving the rest for other activities?
I suggest starting without values. Divide activities into expense level categories. Like, let’s say there’s four characters that you can give money to during the game. One of them owes a lot of money to the mob, one has several months of rent due (which, honestly, is just “owes the mob money” again) and is getting kicked out, one wants to buy their mum a nice present, and one just wants an icecream a day, because goddamn it, they deserve something nice.
So the first two you put into the “super expensive” category, the third into the “mid-level expense” category, and the last into the “super cheap” category, leaving the “cheap” and “expensive” categories empty for now. Do this for all the expenses a character can have. Then, group the activities into playthroughs. That gives you a baseline of “how much money do I need to throw at these people, minimum?”.