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The exchange of resources and services in Eco is based on an entirely player-created economic system. Unlike most games which only allow players to buy and sell items, Eco allows players to handle the exchange of resources, items, work/labor and other services in a store, a contract board, and via other objects.
While the store system creates a thriving resource exchange, contracts can be used to handle any other service. The game offers presets for transports, road building, terraforming, house building, item exchange, and more. Or you just create your very own contract with special clauses. Work parties are a special kind of contract, being used to complete any crafting project (e.g. put carpentry labor into a wood board project or put iron concentrate into a iron bar project).
Economy in Eco is similar to the real world. BUT:
- players in Eco have a real life
- players in Eco can always decide to leave the server and play on a different one
- societies in Eco are quite small in general. Social effects on economy will probably differ from real world (bigger impact, more dynamic)
Keep those three facts in mind when trying to apply real world economic theories (same is valid for government topics).
Stores are the backbone of the player economy system. They are furniture which must be placed inside a room for players to trade items. Stores can be set by the owner to buy and sell certain items.
This can be useful for all players. For example, a smelter may buy Iron Ore and sell Iron Ingots. They would make a profit because they have a higher smelting efficiency than the player selling them the Iron Ore.
A store is using a currency selected by the owner. This can be none, resulting in barter trade, or a player credit or minted currency (see below). Barter trade means, the shop owner does not hand out any credit to a customer. So after the trade has been done, neither the store owner has any debt nor does the customer. By using a player credit or minted currency, the store owner hands out credit to the customer, if the customer sells more then he buys. This means, the store owner now has a debt and the customer might return later, to buy something, in order to reduce this debt.
Contracts are a written agreement between two or more players. What is agreed in a contract is entirely up to the player who created it, and as such they may vary wildly. Since it requires consent from everyone involved in the contract, if the contract is too complex, impossible to complete, or no other players want to agree to the contract then you won't be able to find anyone who wants to take part. Any player may write their own contracts and post them on a Contract Board that has been placed in the world.
The game cannot force anyone to complete the contract. But any party of a contract (creator or members) can give negative reputation in case the other party does not comply with the contract.
Work parties can be created for any crafting project on a contract board. The owner can add clauses (e.g. insert 100 log or perform 1000 carpentry 2 labor) and can adjust available roles. Any other player that has access to the contract board can then accept a role, if he passes the requirements (e.g. carpentry 2). The owner can change adjust the reward for the participating players. Most crafting projects will already prefill the work party configuration once you create a work party, but this default configuration can be manually adjusted.
Currency is what players use to buy and sell items or services.
There are two types of currency in ECO: player credit and minted currency.
Player currency is created automatically when the player joins the world for the first time. Each player currency is unique to a specific player and can only be acquired by selling items to their Store(s).
If you sell stone at the store of the player Iceberg, you receive 20 Iceberg Credit. This paper allows you, to buy something worth 20 Iceberg Credit at this store again, at any time later. It is like a promise, written on paper. If Iceberg refuses to accept your 20 Iceberg Credit to buy something from his store, then he breaks his promise. He might also break his promise, if he inflates his currency a lot (e.g. when you sold the stone, you would have been able to buy 20 logs for that money, but now you can only buy 5, because he raised the price). Both things are a reason to give negative reputation.
Compared to barter trade, player credit is way more dynamic and free. It removes some limits (e.g. you don't have to buy now) but it also has disadvantages in case people are not holding onto their promises.
While player credit can be created without any effort and up to infinite amounts, minted currencies (also called backed currency) can't. In order to create new currency, you have to use a resource (item). This item can be selected by the owner of the mint, but it can be selected only once! If you want a different resource for backing, you need to create a different currency.
A minted currency can be backed by a cheap resource (e.g. wood pulp, fiber), a rare resource (e.g. gold) or a limited resource (claim papers). A mint might be operated by only the owner itself, or everyone might have access to it and be able to print his own money if he provides the necessary resources. When the currency is created, the owner of the mint must select a ratio for currency to resource. This determines how much currency is produced, per provided resource. The minting is NOT reversible, you cannot obtain the raw resource used to create the currency anymore.
Some governments create laws that prevent creating new currencies. Some even prevent buying and selling in any other currency then the government currency.
Keep in mind: the minimum value in a store for any item is 0.01 (so even the cheapest material like wood pulp must either be sold for 0.01 or for free).
Examples (there is many more possible combinations)
100:1 gold backed currency with public access to the mint
Everyone that has a gold bar can create 100 currency for one gold bar. Advantages
- creator does not need to actively spread the currency, people can get it when they need it
- creator does not have to care of liquidity problems (not enough money available, e.g. because of many new players)
- amount of money will not grow exponential (compared to very common items like wood pulp)
- some trust into the currency (because of some growth limits and public availability)
- not everyone owns gold (only smelters can craft gold efficiently, only miners can obtain gold ore efficiently)
- currency amount might grow when new gold veins are found or new technologies arrive (e.g. skid steer or industrial elevator)
- important resource (gold for electronics) is used to create money and not products
- a good claim paper to currency ratio must be chosen (too low: missing money, too high: no gold left for production)
1000:1 wood backed currency with private access
Only the creator of the currency can create 1000 currency per one wood pulp. Advantages
- the money crafting process is more publicly visible and easier to follow then with player credit (although you can see the total currency in use of both kinds in the economy viewer).
- no resources are used for money printing, they can mostly be used to craft products
- creator has to take care of spreading the currency (via work contracts, work parties, store, gifts)
- creator has to take care of liquidity problems (not enough money available, e.g. because of many new players)
- currency amount might grow due to additional printing of the creator, leading to inflation
- trust into the currency depends on trust into the creator and vice versa
500:1 claim paper backed currency, mint in control of government
Government buys claim papers from players (for 500 currency each) and converts them into currency. Advantages
- currency amount only grows when new players join or when people progress in the skill tree (this normally also means more products on the market, so no inflation even though currency amount is rising)
- currency growth is very limited, prices are stable or falling (due to efficiency gain)
- high trust in the stability of the currency
- new players can obtain cash quickly, buy resources and then abandon the server (loss of resources, inflation due to more money and less products on the market)
- a good claim paper to currency ratio must be chosen (too low: missing money, too high: people have less claimed areas for production, especially farmers and loggers)
- claim papers being destroyed in order to setup a currency
A player can interact with a bank in order to create multiple bank accounts. By default, a player has a personal account (that cannot be deleted). This account will be used for every transaction by default. Using multiple bank accounts is especially important for the government, but even as a private person, it makes sense to have a dedicated bank account for your shops. This eliminates the risk of running dry on money, since you can always keep same backup money (e.g. 100 dollars) on your personal account which is not being touched by your stores. But be aware: government might tax transfers between your own bank accounts!
Bank accounts movement and value can be seen in the economy viewer. This is also the place where you can transfer money.