Okay... I'll start with my experiences in the first couple of hours.
I joined the server and was quickly greated with friendly people. I thought I was in a pretty great place.
Shortly after starting, the world was wiped, and we started new. It was recommend to me that I go farmer, and not really knowing that much about the game, I went farmer, because it was a highly specialised server and no one had taken it.
This was my first mistake.
After building Soil Testers for everyone, my skills were practically useless. Saving some stamina on tilling the land when I'm surrounded by cheap food? What's the point? Seed production? I had more seeds than I could ever possibly use. I was running out of space to store them and couldn't sell them, as it seemed people had more than enough of their own.
I really wasn't making much. The cook in town was paying me 0.10 for Corn, assuming he had the space to actually take it. He was charging... take a guess? How much do you think they were charging for Corn?
It was 0.50. Wowser. So for every piece of corn, with the efficiency this guy had, he paid out 0.10, paid about 0.00001 worth of energy costs in fuel to cook, and took 0.50 per corn. Of course, he wasn't using a full piece of corn, he was only using 0.80 of that corn. His total costs? 0.08001, total revenue, 0.5. Every piece of corn that went through his shop was earning him 0.42.
It didn't take me long to figure out, that my patch of corn, 3x8, was barely earning me enough money to pay to harvest my wheat crop, and no one was buying wheat yet.
This pattern occurred all over, with a few main people in the designated town square all applying the same pricing practices. If they were passing on any efficiency gains, it was minimal. Most weren't. Most were applying a mark-up.
Stores claimed to be buying a particular commodity at a particular price, but they were always full. There was no space to take the inventory. Frequently a price would be advertised, but the store was mysterious disabled.
It didn't take me long to figure this...
This was deliberate. It was a ruse to give players the impression that things were more expensive that they actually were. The only time you could actually sell anything? You had to sell it at about 15%-20% of the highest bidding offer, or "the market price", as players would put it.
It was a false economy - you were never, ever, ever, going to get the "market price" for what you were selling.
The price collusion between players in a small minority, quickly became apparent. Especially when one accidently let slip that he was selling Iron Ingots at half the "market price" to one of his mates.
But that "market price" was factored into the costs of everything they sold, with no efficiency gains passed on.
When you sold something? You had to pass on the full efficiency gains. When you bought something? You got none.
Of course when the election came around, the little in group who dominated the server and coordinated this price fixing racket were over half the server, who quickly voted in one of their own.
Suggest a bill? Instantly opposed. Even if it was in their own favour. They couldn't possible let anyone else pass a bill. Most players, realising the insane monopoly power players on this server were abusing, rapidly quit.
Decide to compete with one of their monopolies? Good luck. They just adjust prices so you're no better off and making no money all over again.
With massive houses giving huge skill gains bonuses, they could rapidly retrain into any field if you decided to compete with them.
Then came research.
Withholding supply of materials needed to research particular topics was commonplace, whilst they charged insane amounts of skill scrolls.
That Chef? For a Advanced Campfire Skill Book - you needed 3 ingredients. He'd only cook 2. Meaning if you wanted to research it, you were out of luck, unless you spent a tonne of skill points on it, or dropped one of your current specialisations.
Then came the fee for service. Want someone to smelt iron for you? Well, be prepared to give up half of your ore! When I denied the price, told them exactly what they would be making at the rate I offered (enough to pay off their Blast Furnace in under 3 hours, vs what they wanted - for me to pay off their blast furnace twice over in the first hour, with a little bit on top).
I decided it would be cheaper just to buy my own Blast furnace, and get them to start it for me, and pay them a fee for starting it...
They straight up refused to start it for me, citing 'environmental reasons'. Keep in mind, that at this time, as a farmer, I had produced practically ZERO emissions since the game started. In fact the agriculture I had performed was part of the carbon sequestration process.
They expected me to pay a premium for my emissions - directly into their pocket. Who did they pay their emissions premium to? Well to themselves of course.
I politely refused and they got angry. How dare I deny their price? I walked away, telling them the price they were offering was absurd, and even running the numbers by them. Their excuse for such a high price constantly changed.
Seeing as farming was making me practically nothing - I finally decided to just drop it. Everyone was farming their own food anyway. No one was buying the fertilizer I produced, and there was no one to buy the output of my mill.
The wheat needed for the baking skillbook? What's the point. The only person who could actually research it was the price gouging chef who cries poor whilst getting 500% back on practically everything he produced. Can I trust him to give me the book back, or even give me a scroll, if I let him research it?
I thought about it for a while, and came to the conclusion that I couldn't.
It was time to drop farming, milling, fertilizers and every other speciality I had.
So I went fully into Smelting and fiiiinally I could smelt all that ore, and offer everyone a great price on ingots. Or, at least I would if everyone else would pass on their efficiency savings to me. But they wouldn't, so I didn't, but still undercut everyone on market.
Then the greifing started. Oh no... the greifing. Cutting me off from stores, jacking up prices on things I needed completely needlessly, saying "Oh look more inflation" to justify what was simply profiteering, and all the while, these people would cry poor whilst making 200-400% back on every dollar they spent.
Whilst I was expected to pass on my efficiency gains in full, they weren't passing on their.
Then there was the negative rep - and fake stories about the horrible things I'd done.
Claims that I had been given so much support to get me along, and wasted all my skill gains because I couldn't use their furnace for free.
The truth? I got absolutely NO assistence. Everything I got was bought and paid for, at exhorbitant prices, and I offered them a fair price for using their blast furnace - they just wanted to be greedy.
There's plenty more to this story. I copped plenty of abuse for pointing out how much people were making on things as they cried poor. Was told I was being "rude" for disagreeing - like a 40 year soccer mom tells a child they're being rude for having a difference of opinion. Rejecting someone's price was unacceptably - how dare I not pay for goods with 400% markup on them whilst they offer me 1/5 of what it takes to make them for my output?
I indicated I planned to create a store in the middle of town? The cronies all decided to claim as much land as possible around town and put cute little signs up saying there was land for sale.
Decided I was going to fund some research? The person with the only thing I needed for that research that I couldn't get elsewhere decided to block me from their store, and when I tried using a contract to get around it, they jacked up the price deliberately after that person accepted it, forcing them to take a loss or me to pay for nothing.
These people are happy whilst you co-operate and slave away to provide them with everything they need for a pittance. But anyone who spoke up? Disagreed? Pointed out how ridiculous it was? They were called things I can't repeat here.
The number of people who came along and quit within a few hours of starting because it was impossible to get anywhere is astonishing. I'm surprised I stuck along as long as I did, but I was hopeful that, given enough time, enough people would enter the server to introduce competition and actually get the ball rolling. Unfortunately, when I finally decided to cut my losses, with a 30 skill point house (which given the circumstances took a lot of effort to create), there were fewer people logging in then there was the day the new map started.
Lesson to be learned?
Friendly faces don't always mean friendly people.
Run your numbers. If they don't add up, challenge it. If they won't play ball, don't play with them at all.
So currently we have a system of restrictions based upon enacted laws, such as "Each player may not kill more than X elk per day".
My suggestion is to allow players to trade a particular right that they have to another player.
For example, if the law states that a player may not kill more than 2 Elk per day, and I don't have the hunting skill, then I'm never actually going to use that right at all. Furthermore if my hunting skill is too low, I will not have as much to gain from exercising that right than a player who has a high hunting skill.
A simple work around would be for me, as a non-hunter or low skilled hunter, to sell, trade or give my right to kill 2 elk away to someone who can make better use of it.
Perhaps this would need paper or some other form of transfer which basically states:
"I AParticularPlayer hereby grant AnotherParticularPlayer my right to kill 2 elk per day, for the next X days."
Those rights can be traded for another item or simply given away for free.
The same could be applied to any other right, for example, the right to produce tailings. I could for example sell my right to produce tailings to someone who will get a much more benefit from producing them than I would.
Essentially, it's a form of emissions trading scheme.
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