Thinking recently about economy design in games, I kept coming back to From Software’s design of the soul economy in Dark Souls (and the almost identical blood echo economy in Bloodborne). In my opinion this is one of the best game economy designs in recent memory – very simple on the surface, but it underpins every aspect of the Dark Souls gameplay. Accumulation of souls and their potential loss upon death gives players an incentive to explore the world, a reason to engage in combat and a means to improve at combat, as well as creating the series signature sense of tension as the player risks losing their stock of souls with every encounter.
To attempt to illustrate both the simplicity of this design and its importance to the entire of the Dark Souls experience, I’ve created a diagram that outlines soul currency system.
It excludes some of the ancillary systems that support this design – the bonfire/estus system that provides an upgradable safety net for players, or the acquiring of various types of titanite to upgrade weapons and improve combat proficiency – but should give an illustrated overview of how the accumulation and expenditure or loss of souls is at the core of a Dark Souls game.