I'm fiddling around a bit on a vaguely builder-ish type RPGesque thing-like game. I'm operating on the theory that it would be a pretty fun game if ever completed, but by its nature, it takes a lot of in-game resources to get started; you have to obtain land, construction materials, construction labor, supplies, hire NPC workers, etc. That represents a lot of money, and there's a problem when starting out takes a lot of money.
The standard RPG solution to this problem is to start players out with three pennies, a stick, and a piece of string, and expect them to work mindlessly for a couple hundred hours to save up money so that they can get to the real meat of the game, but I'd rather avoid this.
The quick fix here would be to just give new characters a sizeable wad of cash to work with so that they can at least get a good start, but this leads to easy abuse because players can just create new characters, hand off their cash to a friend (or an alternate key!), delete, and restart. Making new characters would be more lucrative than any in-game venture could possibly be.
Of course, it's entirely within my power to simply design the game such that all necessary resources can be obtained quickly and easily. But this undermines the idea of being a game; what's the point to trying to build up a successful logging enterprise when anybody can get all the wood they'd ever need within 3 seconds, or a farm in a world where there's abundant food available to anybody? At this point the game is no longer a game; it's just a fancy toy world (I think it would still be kind of neat, sure, but that's not what I'm aiming for).
So, anybody have any ideas on how to fix this problem? Is it feasible to do so? Is it actually necessary to do so?
I'm currently leaning towards giving new characters the money they need but keeping some strings attached, but I'm still unsure of what restrictions I should go with. Limits on how often a key or IP address can create a new character and/or recieve the full starting cash would be a start, but these limits would be insanely easy to get around. Giving the money out over a new character's first several hours of play time rather than an instant lump-sum payment wouldn't be too bad, because players could still start doing whatever it is they want to do and they'd be getting supplied as they go along, until the point where they should be self-sufficient (or at least close enough to it). This wouldn't really stop players from harvesting the starting bonus by continuously making new characters, though. I could have it keep track of "newbie money" (I don't like calling it that, but I just know the players would be doing it anyways) and resources purchased with it, and having it all deteriorate once the new character is deleted or goes inactive, but this would add a lot of overhead and could still be circumvented.
The most comprehensive solution, I think, would be to force new characters to be manually approved by an admin (by which I mean "me"). Hedgemistress was talking about something along these lines for HrH towards the end, but I'm kind of leery of the idea because I know it would turn off a lot of players from the game. And while there are plenty of players who need turning off, these wouldn't necessarily be the ones who were actually turned off by the approval delay; I know I myself would probably not bother with a game that had a system like this unless I was already familiar with the game or was really bored. Builder-type games, even ones with a focus on autonomy, don't work nearly so well when there aren't enough players to play them.
And, duh me, I just realized that I could let players make characters and play around and make it so manual admin approval is only necessary to get the cash bonus itself, which I think is about as good a solution as is going to be possible. But since I already typed out the whole post I'm going to go ahead and post it and see if it brings any good discussion.