⚙️ Game Economy - Faucets and Sinks

What are Faucets and Sinks in a Game Economy and what are their use cases?

Ususally theses terms are associated with:

  • How Players can earn in-game Resurces/Variables.
  • How the game makes the Player consume their earned Resources/Variables.

With Game Maker 0.10, Creators can now have access to a feature called Variables, which allows to put this concept into action. Variables can be transalated into Resources

First, let’s get a clear understanding what Faucets and Sinks mean:

It’s a Game mechanic that it’s intention is to reward Players with a Resource/Variable. Imagine a Tap that is open and it’s pouring out Water in the game: Currency, Coins, Gems, Resources, Ammo, Points, Candy, Leather, Ores, etc.

Usually the Faucet is opened by completing tasks, objectives, missions, goals or achieving milestones. We’ll use as an example a fictional harvest game called “Carrot Crop” :

  • When the Player completes a Quest, the Game rewards 10 Carrot Seeds.
  • When the Player Crops a lot, the Game rewards 3 Carrots.
  • When the Player unlocks a new level, the Game rewards 5 Coins.

The rewards given to the Player, are like the Water pouring out of the Tap. your goal as a Creator, is to find a balance to not flood your In-Game Economy with Water (Resources/Variables).

If your Game is flooded with Water (Currency, Coins, Points, Ores, Ammo, Gems, Carrots, etc), then there is no real challenge in acquiring those Variables/Resources. - This leads the Game into Hyper-Inflation mode - There are more Variables/Resources being generated than the ones being consumed.

So, how do you remove the Water from the Game?

Sinks are mechanics designed to remove the Water (Variables/Resources) from the Game, if in one hand there is a Tap pouring Water, it needs it’s counter balance to remove the Water from the Game.

Sinks are systems that allow your Players to consume the earned Variables/Recources, maintaining a balance in your Game Economy.

There are multiple ways to Sink Resources/Variables out of the Game. The most common Sinks, are tied with Game Progression. Some of these Sinks are more direct, while others are more indirect.

Let’s start with a direct one and use the same examples provided above:

  • The Player used the 10 Coins in a Shop to buy different Carrot Seeds - The 10 Coins got Drained out of the Game Economy and the Player bought progression, he has now more gameplay options .
  • The Player used his 7 Carrot Seeds to Plant them. - The 7 Seeds got drained out of the Game Economy, and the Player bought Progression, he is accumulating in-game wealth.
  • The Player purchased a Lot for 3 Coins that allows to plant the remaining 3 Carrot Seeds. - The 3 Coins got Drained out of the Game Economy and the Player bought progression, he expanded his play area .
  • The Player extended their Game Play time by spending 5 Coins. - The 5 Coins got Drained out of the Game Economy and the Player bought progression, he got an extension of it’s Play time.

For indirect Sinks, there are main two concepts that are regularly used in a Game Economy: Traders and Converters.

The name itself is very straigh forward, you want Players to convert one Variable/Resource into another. Crafting is also a common name used for Converters in a Game Economy.

Usually this is tied up to a concept called “Soft and Hard Currencies” - Let’s use an example of an Harvesting Game with Carrots:

  • Soft Currenct are easy to obtain: A Player earns a Carrot every time he harvests his crop.
  • Hard Currency are harder to obtain: A Player Converts 10 Carrots into a Carrot Soup.

This simple Converter can be translated into an In-Game Feature:

  • A single Carrot gives 1 Health Regain when consumed.
  • A Carrot Soup gives 15 Health Regain when consumed.

Players will optimize their game-play and consume single Carrots for Carrot soup for the purpose of getting more Health Regain.

Another example would be:

  • A Single Carrot can be sold for 1 Coin.
  • A Carrot Soup can be sold for 15 Coins.

Players again will optimize their game-play and sell Carrot Soup over a single Carrot.

While single Carrots are easier to obtain, this mechanism is inviting Players to trade their single Carrots for a Carrot Soup. It’s a Sink that removes the Carrot Variable/Resource through Trading.

Traders are usually found as Vendors or Shops inside a Game. They Buy and Sell Variables/Resources at a price designed by the Creator.

Using the last example. We linked a Converter into a Trader:

  • A Player can Convert 10 single Carrots into a Carrot Soup and then he can Trade the Carrot Soup for 15 Coins on the Shop.

Another way to set up the Trader, working the opposite way would be:

  • A Player can buy a Carrot Soup from the Shop for 20 Coins.

What this mechanism is telling to the Player, is that it’s more profitable to Harvest single Carrots and then Convert them into a Carrot Soup, as opposed to buy them directly from the Shop.

This will tie directly with your Game Loop and intended Game Play. As you’re giving the Player the option of either spending time to get a cheaper Carrot Soup, or the option to buy directly the Carrot Soup from the Shop at an higher cost, making the Player save time.

Having both options, some Players will opt to buy the Carrot Soup from the Shop, originating a new Sink from the Traders and Converters.

As final notes, this is a basic overview of Game Economy principles, there is much more depth into all the topics mentioned above.

We hope this was helpful and don’t hesitate to contribute to this topic, we’ll update it as much as possible.