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Old 02-06-2008, 08:29 AM
Brandon J Brandon J is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2008
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Strategic Insights: The Tragedy of the Commons

First off I would like to thank you for your articles. Your insights and ideas about game mechanics outside of programming or complex game theory mathematics are refreshing.

In your recent column, I agree that the incorporation of resource degradation is underutilized in games today, and that its addition would allow most games with any resource-management component to blossom.

I was wondering though, is there a difference between degradation and depletion in this theory?

In your example of a pasture, there has to be a point of maximum saturation, where the negative impact of one more sheep by any of the players allows the negative component to exceed the positive component. If, for example the pasture had a gross value for how much ‘nutrition’ it has stored, and this number is increased each round (as pastures are a renewable resource) by a set amount. This gross storage figure is then reduced each round by the number of sheep collectively kept on this pasture by all players.

This is where degradation vs. depletion is important. If you were to adjust the pastures renewable increase in ‘nutrition’ each round based on the total sheep population or based on the numerical value of the pastures own gross ‘nutrition’ value, you are introducing degradation. If the total sheep population never affected the pastures renewable increase of ‘nutrition’, but merely withdrew the appropriate amount of ‘nutrition’ from the pastures gross total, them we have depletion without degradation.

Adding both seems to be the most interesting way to add this theory to a game.

What this would allow, like your Survivor example, is for all players to choose between personal greed at adding more sheep with the risk of not only diminishing returns, but also completely ruining a resource for everyone.

By introducing degradation and depletion to this theory, it also allows the theory to become important even in single player scenarios. If only you have access to this pasture, you still must decide at which point of sheep vs. nutrition you wish to maintain, changing your overall economy to either short term wealth or long term sustainability.
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