Explanation of Crown to Gold Conversion

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Many newer Wyvern players are confused that low-level get less gold for their Crowns than high-level players. This page is a detailed explanation of why the rates are the way they are, and why the game constantly evolves to try to prevent people from "getting around it".

Guiding Principles

Here are the guiding principles of Wyvern's game design, at least the ones related to this topic.

1. Wyvern must make money, or else die. This one should be pretty obvious. Linh and I pay around $5000 per month out of pocket, out of our own savings, to keep Wyvern running and add new content to the game. We have been doing it since the game launched in late 2016, but it should be clear that it is not sustainable long term. The game is not making enough revenue to cover that cost; in fact it makes less than half of that.

2. Crowns are Wyvern's revenue source. There is no other way for the game to make money. In particular, we are not running advertisements in the game, and I'm sure you appreciate that.

3. Easy games are boring. This is well-documented. Games that are too easy lose interest quickly, whereas games that have a challenge get much longer gameplay out of their users. Wyvern is actually too difficult to learn, but we will work to fix that. Once you have learned the game, it is pretty straightforward, but it is still challenging. That's important.

4. Wyvern is not Pay To Win. We could make it that way, but it is not our style. We have 2 demigods who made demigod without ever buying a single Crown -- one very early, and one near #50, which spans an 18-month period. So we are pretty confident that Wyvern is not P2W -- it wasn't in 2016, and it isn't now.

From these guiding principles, we can conclude that Crowns must give players some value -- enough that the game can make money -- but should not make the game too easy (or it's boring), and should not make it P2W.

That leaves us with a bit of a design challenge, which we cover next.

Crowns for Gold

One option, which we may ultimately settle on in the future, is for there to be NO WAY to convert Crowns to Gold. This is still up in the air.

But we currently allow it, because you get gold through grinding, and -- stay with me here -- Crowns are all about saving you time. They should not put you way ahead of other players, but saving you some time is OK.

A low-level player can grind maybe 2k gold in 30 minutes. For experienced players it is quite a bit higher, and for brand-new players it may be lower. But as a very rough approximation, that is about how much low-level players can make in 30 minutes.

A high-level player can grind maybe 200k gold in the same amount of time. That's a difference of 100x. It's a big difference.

The basic design problem we face with Crowns-to-Gold is this: There is no single conversion rate that does not violate at least one of our Guiding Principles.

If we were to choose a very low number, such as 1 Crown for 10k gold, then it would be useful for low-level players (for whom it might take 2 to 4 hours to make that much gold). But it would be completely useless for high level players, who can make that much gold in about 10 seconds. So nobody above 10th level or so would ever buy Crowns again, and the game would die very quickly.

If instead we were to choose a very high number, such as 1 Crown for 10 million gold, then everyone would be cash rich, and the game would present no challenge whatsoever, and everyone would get bored and leave. And the game would die quickly as well. This is the classic "token economy" dilemma. If the teacher is handing out gold stars, and a kid breaks into the teacher's desk and gives everyone a pile of gold stars, then they lose all meaning. Gold has to be scarce for Wyvern to survive.

This is why skill training is so expensive. It's a way of keeping gold as a very scarce resource, no matter how high level you get.

So there is NO fixed conversion rate that works for all levels. Any number we choose, and the game is dead within a few months.

 * If we pick a low number, it's useless for high levels.
 * If we pick a high number, it's overpowered for low levels.

Moreover, if we pick a high number, then Crowns become less and less valuable the higher level you get. It will also keep high level players from buying crowns, because they're not getting the same value they did as low levels. A million gold just isn't as useful to high level players.

With that in mind, let's look at the problem of cheating the system.

The problem of transferring money

A basic problem we have is that the game allows trade between players. This is another design dilemma that is currently up in the air, and may change in the future. Because trading between players, even though it feels like it's speeding you up, actually hurts the game when there is a surplus of loot -- which there is, in Wyvern. There are too many items that are too readily available. And this means the game gets too easy, and boom, everyone quits because it's boring.

We allow trades, but with all sorts of rules and restrictions, such as min and max prices. Player auctions are a great way to encourage a community, and many people love selling. We recognize that. But it has to be controlled carefully, so that we do not wind up in a situation where players are getting unfair advantages, or are getting bored.

The way they get unfair advantages is by using trades to transfer money. How does that work? Well, if nobody really wants the item in question, but they pick something of a suitable price, agree on the largest price possible, and do the trade, then what was actually happening is a higher level player is giving a lower level player money.

We can't allow that. High level players, especially endgamers, have a surplus of money. That's OK -- it's like winning, and being a rich person, and it feels good. But we can't allow them to give all that money away, because then there's no challenge for anyone else, and the game is boring and everyone quits and we die.

A lot of design options end up with "we die".

It's very, very important, almost important enough to be considered a Guiding Principle, that high level players should NOT be able to give money to low level players. It defeats the entire challenge of the game, and moreover, it's unfair to low-level players who don't happen to have rich friends.

So we disabled gifting money, except with VIPs, who can only do it with their own alts (if I remember correctly), as a perk for being tremendous supporters of the game. But we enabled gifting crowns, because there's no harm in giving someone time. If you save a low level player a few hours of time, it's way different from giving them 2 million coins, which can save weeks or months of time. That's too much. But a few hours is fine.

With that in mind, Crown gifts were a way for players to do trading based on time rather than money, and it was basically fair, and more importantly, Wyvern was not going to die and go away and make you play Call of Duty instead.

Remember, we have to make money, or we die.

Demigods are not cash machines

Clever and enterprising players have, for a while, been working around these carefully designed crown to gold conversion rates, by doing a delicate dance with demigods.

 * They give the demigod some crowns.
 * They auction an expensive item to the demigod.
 * The demigod buys it for max price.

By doing this, they are violating the principle that high-levels should not be able to give money to low levels. And they are violating the principle that Crowns should save you a fixed amount of time, regardless of your level. They are, in fact, undermining the entire economy of the game. It might feel harmless, but it is, quite literally, killing Wyvern.

It's not illegal though. I hate making stuff "illegal", because then you need moderators to go police the players, and that has been proven not to work very well. Moderator police turn into Nazis. Happens on every site and every game in the world.

But it's obviously against the spirit of the game, and everyone knows this deep down. If you are doing something that requires complicated steps, and the game explicitly disallows the simpler way to do it, then you're not supposed to be doing it.

But many of these players don't want to admit that not only are they cheating, they're actually stealing money from me and Linh. Sorry, but that's the reality.

After pondering what to do for several months, I made what I think is a pretty good step towards making things work the way they're supposed to work.

So that Wyvern doesn't die. Remember, that's the goal here.

The step I took, simple enough, is that you can no longer gift Crowns to people more than 3 levels higher than you. Because let's face it:

 * The demigod doesn't need the item you agreed to auction.
 * They don't need your Crowns either.
 * So the only actual reason people do this in practice, is to cheat.

It's not an inalienable right for low-level players to be able to have access to endgame gear. So don't use Sokoban items as an excuse to justify the system. Those items are for endgamers, period. That's why they're incredibly rare and incredibly expensive. I may even simply make it so that they all have a minimum wear-level of 45 or so.

So there you go. That's why we made the change. Anyone who feels hurt by it, plain and simple, was cheating. And also killing the game they love so much.

I will continue to give people large rewards for reporting exploits which work around the Crown-to-Gold conversion rates. They still exist today, even now, but they are gradually getting closed off, and hopefully in ways that don't harm legitimate players.

But in the end, if we don't make money, then stuff will have to change even further. So please do us a favor and don't try to cheat the system. Go out and earn your gold the old-fashioned way, and be happy that there are supporters who are keeping the game going (barely) with their generous donations.

NOTE: On May 6 2018 we changed it so that the game counts your total experience across all your characters to determine your effective level for Crown conversion rates. This is much more fair for non-demigods, and still meets all the guidelines and the spirit of Crown conversion rates.