The drone thing inspired me and I just thought this might be fun to discuss. I think introducing a standard currency that can only be earned in game might be beneficial or necessary. Here're some thoughts:
Why I think it is needed:
For now, the only currency we have is CMU. But that is a premium currency, And I suppose XM was originally designed as a standard currency but, because of the massive XM consumption during regular in-game actions and the introduction of power cube, it is now only an unimportant fluid in a tube on the screen that we need to refill from time to time. (I understand that XM was rare and valuable in the early years but power cube can't just be deleted)
The economy of the game is still a barter/agricultural system. How do we get stuff? 1. Farm. 2. Pick up things others drop on the ground. 3. Buy them with CMU. 4. Redeeming Codes. We get them mainly by farming. And we used them firsthand. This is primitive. Why? Because when the only thing you can get are items, then the only thing you can spend/use/enjoy are the items. (AP is excluded because it can't be spent)
As the drone kicks in, more one-time functional demands will be appear. For example, people will want drones that can charge portals. How to "price" one charge?
- It's a one-time thing so it can't be restricted to levels or stats, as that would make drone charging non-available for unqualified and available for infinity times for qualified.
- It's an action that can't be made free because that devalues in-person visits and keys.
And that is just a tip of the iceberg. There are too many actions that can have prices other than just burning out some XM. Eg. adding a heatsink can reset the cool-down time and burn-out limit. This little perk could've have a price rather than costing a permanent mod which is designed to be used many times.
Some demerits that are easy to think of
Inequality: Considering how much hardcore players this game has, the introduction of a currency earned by in-game actions without any marginal utility diminishing mechanism will surely polarize players especially if some functions can only be paid with the currency. But we can make this currency harder to acquire as one play more often in one short period of time or in one location. The currency can be in the reward for hacking (to borrow the cool-down and burn-out mechanism) or for some daily tasks. Also, currently, rare items like VRLA is already luxury and unequally possessed. But its utility is tamed well so the game remains balanced.
Cheaters/Bots: Yep. Whenever you suggest some new features, there will be someone says, "But cheater might abuse that". I mean, there are even some people saying they are afraid hackers might use the new drone feature to spoof.
"Drone Net was invented in 2020."
Hackers in 2019: oh no i cant spoof :(
Also, there have been and there will always be those who use bots or whatever method they have to gather stuff. Items or badges in this game all have clear real world prices listed on some random websites or even eBay (downvoting/disagreeing me isn't going to deleted the listings). There is a Chinese saying: you shouldn't starve yourself just because you are afraid of choking. With careful experiments and enough discussions, I think it is possible that we keep the economy robust and not too much affected by cheaters.
Additional thought: a friend of mine @Xyinkl mentioned that he prefer an activity-reward system. Eg. if you log in for 7 days in a row you can get some VR load or your quantum capsule can produce 2X or VR items. This is because the incentive for consecutive activity has a large room for improvement. We used to have guardians and now only the sojourner. When I lost my streak at 60th day, I never felt any reasons to keep logging in everyday because I just can't pass that record. I believe many other players feel the same although the number of days might differ.