On the universality of resources

Canadian ore

Ore straight from Canada – question is what it will become and where will it be? (©Mike Beauregard)

Almost every game has some kind of resources. These might be money, ore, copper, energy, bullets or even arrows. Most games may be divided either into “production economy” type – where all (or most) goods must be produced, and “magic economy” type – where you only need money to buy anything you want.

There are a couple of differences here. In the production economy, there is typically a whole “food chain” – where one resource is required to produce another one at some intermediate stages. This introduces a lot of micromanagement issues, and can be lot of fun. It also usually (but not always) imply some kind of delay – products don’t just appear from nowhere, it takes time to make them. Examples include The Settlers, X3: Terran Conflict, Civilization and a range of other strategy and economy games.In the magic economy the only thing you need is money. Pay, and you always instantly get, what you want. This model is great for FPS games, and a good example is Counter Strike Source, or most RPG games, like Skyrim, Mount&Blade and Zelda. It does not require planning, there is no delay. Since these games typically relay on only one resource – that is money. There are a couple thoughts for you in this article as well – and much more focused articles coming soon (including next week’s article: “Why being Scrooge McDuck is not a good idea”, also covering aspects of sharing in teamplaying).

Ok, so we want those fancy tanks. But for that we need steel, to make steel we need coal and iron, to dig iron we need a mine. But we also need to feed all those workers, so we need grain – therefore we need a farm. See, where I’m going? In most games (and in real life) you need land to do anything. You need natural resources, you need food. Therefore our first, basic resource is land. It is usually the most valuable resource you can get – Civilization V is a great example here – the more land you have, the more resources you have access to. This is the basis, and to do anything worthwile you need a solid basis. 

This however leads to issues such as defence of large area – this will be covered later on in the series in the article “Secure the perimeter!”. For now let’s just consider this as what it really is – a cost.So you have your land, and your resources. This is quite obvious. But often you have iron, but your friend has all the uranium. You need to exchange – and to do that efficiently you need money. What is money? Well, frankly it’s just another resources with a couple of perks really. Lots of players put too much weight on money – thinking it is some kind of a benchmark. Heck, I like to have a lot of money. But the only difference between money and any other resource is the ability to exchange it for almost anything else. You can sell your wood and buy an aircraft carrier – that’s quite a change, isn’t it? Obvious, isn’t it? Well, that’s the thing – it’s like Newton’s laws of dynamics. Everybody knows them, but only after 3 getting your engineering degree you really begin to understand them. So just a couple of ideas for you to better understand, how to treat this resource:

  • Money is worth nothing by itself. Never think “Hey, I’ve got 10 million on my account” – think of what you can get for that. An army of Muskeeters is much more useful, then some stupid number.
  • Money is your rapid response special force. When something happens and you need to defend yourself NOW – production facilities won’t help you, since they take time to actually produce something. With money, you can get mercenaries. You can bribe someone. You can get some special badass ammo for your favourite gun.
  • Money is waste. Yes, and it is not a contradiction to previous points. If you have money on your account – it means you have a resource that is being wasted. Invest whenever you can. But if you want more security – economical or military – there is a price for it. You are simply losing all opportunities you could have followed by investing.
  • Money sometimes allows you to grab a passing opportunity. If you see some resource you can buy cheaply and then sell it at a profit – and it is only temporary – money is your best friend.


[Money and resource reserves will be discussed in more detail in next week’s article Hey, look at my wealth]

As you see money has it’s advantages and disadvantages. I bet you can think of a couple more rules – use comments to share them. The bottom line is and always will be: In order to succeed you must weigh your options, and control your cash flow so that you don’t risk too much, but can efficiently invest and grow. Balance is the key.Let’s go back to general resources now. With the knowledge you have about money, another statement can be made now: Resources are only worth as much, as what you can produce using them, or the money you can get by selling them. You don’t care how much wheat you have – the think you care is that you satisfy a need (e.g. to feed your people), sustain production and earn money by selling. And we get back to money. Again, some might say I am contradicting myself. In fact, I am not. A resource you have no use for is a waste – money rule applies here as well. Once your needs are satisfied (plus some surplus maybe – your reserves will be discussed in more detail in next week’s article Hey, look at my wealth), you have no use for it. So what do you do? You sell it if you can, or convert it to something else either useful or sellable – if you can’t do that, it means you have excess production capacity – meaning waste again. Why do you sell it? To have more money? No. To have more booze and girls? Maybe. To invest and support your current production? Sure thing. Supporting your current production often means buying another resource, that you either can’t produce or it is not reasonable for a number of reasons to do so (examples will be discussed later in the series). What’s the conclusion from that? Same as before: You sell excess resources not for money, but to obtain other things. Therefore, again, money is just a medium of exchange and is… worthless.

One more thought – did you ever think of your time as a resource? You should. In case of games, it is the time you spend playing. Assuming you have 2 hours a week to play – do you really want to spend 15 minutes searching for a better deal for a piece of equipment, if you can earn twice that in 15 minutes of doing quests? Sometimes it’s fun by itself, but is it always more fun, than doing something else?

Finally, a special part for MMO and browser games. Most of these games, especially FTP/F2P ones (Free-To-Play) have some sort of “premium currency”. Either it is gold (World of Tanks, Crime Craft), Godfather/Reward points (Mafia Wars), or anything else – the common factor is that you have to pay it (or in some cases earning it is an option, but slow and painful). 

Again, this is just another resource. Nothing more. But it allows you to buy things you otherwise wouldn’t be able to buy. Want some? Just do the quick maths. How much do I earn per hour of work? How much it would take me to make up for whatever I could buy using premium points by playing, and how much fun would that be. Obviously, if you have to work for 10 hours to get “1 hour” better – it is not worth it. I’d rather play 10 hours, having fun and making up for that tenfold. Or I’d do something else. But if 1 hour of your work saves you 10 hours of boring clicking, and you REALLY want it – plus you are a busy man and want to have fun – you’d might as well consider it.Bottom line? If you are wearing a suit at work – pay, it’s not worth your time. If you are to young to work – you have time, trust me. The problem is, your minds people usually trick you into doing the opposite. Well, at least I tried pushing a bit of common sense through your ears.

Adam “Fanatyk” Wojciechowski

This article is our part of a series “Gamers, get your suits on!” on application of management skills and common sense in computer games. You can find the rest of articles here.

About The Author

Adam "Fanatyk" Wojciechowski
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I am a co-founder, admin and manager of this site. From time to time I also write articles here. In real life, I am doing my Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering with Management at the University of Edinburgh. Besides gaming I am an avid cyclist, fountain pen enthusiast and windsurfer.

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