Twofish Elements: Virtual World Economy in a Box

twofish-logo.pngLast year, Om wondered aloud what Lee Crawford at the Venrock and Rustic Canyon Partners-backed startup TwoFish was up to. Well now we finally know: Twofish Elements, billed as a “turnkey solution” for companies with online worlds and game networks that want someone to handle in-game currency, micro-transactions and other features that comprise a virtual economy.

While potentially lucrative as a revenue stream, these systems are highly volatile and difficult to control, leading to strange gamer phenomena like gold farming or panicked runs on virtual banks. With that in mind, I asked Crawford, Twofish’s founder and CEO and a veteran of both game and financial software development, to provide some more background on how Elements will work.

How is your economics system created, and how do you protect against inflation, currency devaluation, etc?

Most of the policy decisions about how an economy is structured will be decided by our development partners. Twofish Elements gives them the tools they need to intelligently make those decisions…and we put it all in a format that is easy to understand and even simpler to administrate.

Think about our U.S. economy — there are many different schools of thought on the best way to manage its health, and we expect that game developers will also take different approaches to managing their worlds. However, by using Twofish Elements, our partners will know immediately if something is changing, and they’ll have real-time access to the dials that they can tune to bring things back into balance. And because this type of analysis is so new to many of our partners, we’ll be helping and advising along the way.

What online games is this system being used in?

The first full implementation of the platform is a first-party, proof-of-concept auto racing title. We are also in the early stages of
integration with several third-party partners, from large publishers to independent developers. Twofish Elements is completely scalable to the differing needs of our different partners.

Does it have solutions to account for gold farming, RMT, and other emergent player behaviors?

These are issues we take very seriously. We actually believe that many emergent player behaviors arise as a result of poorly executed economies. When players can’t do something in-game that they can do in the real world, they find alternative solutions to work around the game. By making economies more realistic, we make games more engaging and flexible for a broader set of users to enjoy, and we expect that this will help curb many of those problems from the start. However, should an emergent behavior arise, our partners will know about it long before it becomes a problem, and will have the tools to be proactive about managing their reaction.

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