While playing the fantastic game Civilization V, I noticed that the economics simulated in the game is incredibly simple and bears very little resemblance to the reality it is modeling. Granted, it's a game, and the game is fun despite this apparent "flaw," so one may argue (and I would agree) that it doesn't matter for the purpose of having fun.
But I also thought that a similar game that more closely emulates the real economic world could be fun as well. So here is my design.
The player takes on the roll of leader of a small band of people who are the only survivors of a catastrophe. The band has enough food to feed its existing population for one year, and has only a few basic tools. In that time, the player needs to establish a self-sustaining society.
Each person in the society is individually modeled with a number of variable statistics. They fall into two overall categories, proactive and reactive. Proactive statistics are those that affect the person's ability to function in the society. They consist of two subcategories: innate, or genetically derived, abilities called talents; and learned or trained abilities called skills.
Talents consist of Analytical Reasoning, Problem Solving, Strength Labor, Dexterity Labor, Management, and Socializing. The talent distribution of the starting population is completely and uniformly randomized. The population starts paired, and when a pair give birth to a child, the child is given a weighted mix of the parents' talents with a small amount of random variation. Talents do not change throughout the lifetime of the person.
Skills are picked up and increase as a person trains them or uses them. There are many more skills than talents, and they will be outlined further below.
Reactive statistics measure various aspects about the individual to represent their quality of life. They are Hunger, Thirst, Safety, Health, Sexual Satisfaction, Happiness, and Actualization. Collectively they govern the probability the person will cease their present job and seek a new job, and they represent the fulfillment the person receives from his socioeconomic situation.
Each statistic takes integer values between 1 and 1000.
Work, Jobs, and Businesses
Reactive statistics can also be considered "needs," and individuals will seek to perform actions in society to fulfill those needs. The two basic actions are trade and work.
The quality and quantity of work performed by a person is based on a weighted sum of their skills and talents related to their work and the amount of time invested in that work. Work results in the creation of products, where a product can be a physical object, a service, or an informational resource. Work can only be performed for a company, and it is the company that ultimately owns the result. In the beginning, people can immediately and freely create a company in order to work to fulfill a need, though a player may instigate some kind of requirement for future company development, such as a tax or organizational requirement.
If a person or company has an excess of a good or service, they can enter into a trade for a need they do not otherwise possess. Like work, trades take time, but far less than working to produce the good or service, and time spent can be split between the two partners in various ways (this is to simulate spending the time to deliver the product or travel to the person offering the product to pick it up).
Resources come in two forms*: physical and informational. A physical resource can be a natural resource, such as iron ore, land, or trees, or it can be a product transformed from other resources by human work, such as iron or wood.
An informational resource is the knowledge of how to do something, such as transform iron ore into iron, or wood into a birdhouse. Informational resources cannot be found naturally and must be produced by people. Additionally, informational resources can only be utilized by people, and they are waited by related skills and talents of the people using them.
(*) Time is a third resource that isn't really a resource like the others, as you can't improve time directly or process it into another form, but it is still treated like other resources.
Gameplay is divided into turns, where one turn represents one year of economic activity by all of the actors of the society. The further subdivision of turns is based on computation and simulation, rather than time. At the beginning of a turn, each person seeks to raise as many of his needs as close to maximum as he can, prioritizing baser needs (e.g. hunger) above higher needs (e.g. actualization). Each person knows what everyone else produced the previous turn and assumes they will do so again (excepting the first turn, where each person assumes no one will do anything). They will then choose their actions for this turn based on that information and what they expect to produce this turn. This information is broadcast to the other members of the community who may then change their choices of action and production. Finally, they each engage in the actions they decided in the analysis phase, such as trade and production.
At the beginning of the turn, each person estimates that every other actor in the economy will produce the same amount of the same product as the previous turn. The actor then calculates which course of production will satisfy the maximum of their own needs.
Production and Trade Phase
The actor uses the analysis from the previous phase to divide the resources they possess according to their plan. These resources are then converted into product, expending time as well.