16 Sep 2013

Crafting and CREDD

WS_Settler_Scientist07Have you ever heard of the tale about the everlasting fan belt? The story starts with a small inventor who became frustrated at high garage bills for maintaining his car. Every time he visited for a seemingly minor problem, the sparkplugs or fan belt needed replacing. After one expensive visit too many, he decided enough was enough and worked on fixing the problem once and for all.

After a few years, the young inventor perfected an item that would revolutionise the car maintenance industry – an indestructible fan belt. He secured a patent on it, and began to tout the idea with various car makers the world over.

The inventor found a buyer, so the myth says, and rewarded him handsomely. But the belt never made it to market. Sensing what it would do to the lucrative car maintenance industry, the buyer (who owned a chain of garages) never sold a single belt using the patent. Instead, he continued to profit from the built-in obsolescence, guaranteeing a steady stream of regular customers.

How does this relate to MMOs? Let me explain.

Most modern-day MMOs, particularly World of Warcraft, have terrible crafting systems. If you’re a tailor making Green Linen Shorts, those freshly-made items will last for ever. The same applies for almost all weapons and armour, all the way across the crafting professions. We are all making variations of the everlasting fan belt.

Since there’s only a finite number of characters on each server that would find these items useful, and a fair few can make their own, crafting generally becomes a way of improving your own gear. It’s only really useful for levelling, and usually gets replaced by better quality loot from heroic mode dungeons or raids.

In fact, the only way of reliably making money from crafting professions is to produce things that people will need regularly (such as potions, gems or enchantments), or things that almost every player is guaranteed to need (like huge bags for storing all that loot). There are ways of ‘playing the market’ to spot trends on the auction house or ‘flip’ items, but they operate outside of the regular process of harvesting, making and selling items yourself.

An unreliable way of making it rich is to luck out with a rare recipe, particularly for a highly desirable weapon or unique piece of armour that’s comparable to the top-end loot from raiding. Even better if it’s for a consumable, like a rare gem cut or potent enchantment. But these are statistical anomalies that aren’t gained from persistence or training, but good fortune.

There’s also a ‘tiering’ of professions. If you’re a carpenter you might start out by harvesting, shaping and carving pine. After a while you move up to ash and beech, before finishing with Mystical Mahogany or some other specially treated wood-of-the-gods. It means that the top-tier resources become incredibly valuable and farmed to extinction, while the low-end stuff becomes worthless beyond the first week of launch.

None of this is a big deal. Crafting has often been seen as optional content – if you want to make stuff all day then go play Minecraft or buy a crate of Lego (I recommend the Technic variety).

But it could become a big deal very quickly with the advent of CREDD, WildStar’s way of exchanging in-game money for an account subscription, at a price set by the players.

The idea behind CREDD is that it strikes a balance between those players who are cash rich but have little time to play, and those who can’t afford the subscription but can clock up the in-game hours. I like that approach – it appeals to my egalitarian nature.

But I’m also concerned about it from a crafting point of view.

A great way to make money with crafting is to sell things that people want on a regular basis. With previous MMOs like WoW, consumables have been limited to a few specific professions. The rest have had a handful of ‘strike it rich’ recipes, while mostly being a loss-making, gap-closing or vanity-fulfilling distraction.

Should WildStar head down the same path, I can see an equilibrium form:

  • People join the game, pick some tradeskills and race to level cap.
  • Once they reach cap, they find the tradeskill pointless and swap to one that makes consumables.
  • The market gets flooded, players give up on crafting and find some other way of making money.
  • Prices stabilize, people move on.

There’s a difficulty, and it’s where you come up against the argument that people should be free to play the content they enjoy. For some that’s rampaging through dungeons. For others it’ involves killing every living thing in the arena. And for a few it’s about harvesting and crafting. If it’s not possible to earn CREDD from crafting without having a super-rare recipe, it’s going to suck for that group of people.

There are a couple of solutions though, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the folks at Carbine have latched on to them already.

One is to make sure that every tradeskill can make things that players will regularly want at end game. Maybe it’s a widget for Circuit Board Crafting. Maybe it’s a path-gadget for dungeons and raids. Either way, it’s a reason for money to regularly flow from one player to another.

Another is to make sure that players can actually have involvement with the end-game item sets. Nothing is worse than finding your tradeskills made useless by better quality items being obtainable through other, easier means.

A less palatable way is to introduce obsolescence to everything crafted that players regularly use. A Bag of Holding might deteriorate over time, becoming a Tote of Carrying and eventually a Pouch of Pointlessness. Just as in the real-world, players would be pushed into replacing equipment periodically. There would be no ‘everlasting fan belt’ that’s player-made.

The final, and probably trickiest one though, is ensuring that there are multiple viable ways to earn a CREDD. Whether it’s living inside dungeons, arenas, or the workshop, each endgame route needs to have a reasonably balanced earning potential. If not, players will flock to the path of least resistance, and feel pushed into doing so as it’s the most efficient way to earn coin.

Oh, and if someone does strike it lucky, make sure that it’s a temporary thing, like a recipe that can only be used five times. If it’s a licence to print money, let’s make sure the print run is short.

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5 Responses to Crafting and CREDD

  1. Mithrildar says:

    I don’t really agree with the point that there is no gold to be made with crafted gear.

    My guess is that you’re one of those folks who needed some gold and saw that you could potentially double your gold by crafting an epic, you quickly ran to the Auction House and bought those expensive materials with hesitation, the price was high, but you expected to sell it at a good profit within an hour so that it was no problem to have no gold for an hour. Once you started barking in trade chat you noticed that there were less people interested in your epic than you thought and that all the offers that you did receive were by cheapskates offering half your crafting cost. A week of barking went by and you gave up and sold your item at a tiny profit. Crafting gear sucks right?

    This is actually great, because this is one of the many reasons that keeps the casuals out of this market:
    – “High” risk of not being able to sell the epic and not being able to make back that investement
    – Hard to earn recipe
    – Hard to earn materials

    I can see through those reasons though, the investment is not that high for me (I’m already rich anyhow), I know these epics will sell (if gear enhancements sell then there people that still don’t have full best in slot gear, so there are probably people for who my epic would be an upgrade) and the recipe is just an onetime investment. Hard to earn materials could be a potential problem though, as I try to keep my time investment limited.

    People are thinking wrong: This market is not for those folks who quickly want to make their gold back, for people with patience who are not scared to invest their gold into it. I made a ton of gold in WoW by selling epics and that was because I approached it in the right way, instead of barking in trade chat (most of the people will try to negotiate to the point I make no profit, not the people I want to sell to), but instead I put it on the Auction House if and only if I can sell it for atleast a profit and close to the market average (above market average will work too). This saves me from all the negotiating: People see my price and they either decide to purchase it, or not, and I don’t get to hear why they think my price is too damn high. The problem with this approach is obviously that I’m getting a lot less attention, the buyers now have to actively search for these items on the AH instead of seeing me advertise it, but that is easily solved by just putting a wider arrange of epics on the Auction House, if I have more items on it I have a higher chance to sell an item. The thing is, you already need to be rich to do it this way, which will make the market seem horrible to a lot of people.

    The horrible market in my opinion are the consumables, everyone knows these markets and the items are so cheap to make that nobody is scared away from dabbling in the market. This results in the market being heavily camped (at least on the higher population servers) and if you want to make more than a few gold you’ll need to camp too. At the same time however I could post my epics once per day and expect to make similar gold per day as camping the AH 24/7 with my consumables.

    Making sure that players can earn gold in other things than trade skills is going to be hard by the way, because all gold will flow to the market and if there’s more gold on the markets then people will simply raise their prices as they don’t think in absolute gold values, but they want to sell for an amount of gold that is equal to the amount of effort and risk they put into acquiring an item. If you give players a lot of gold then prices obviously inflate. What they could do is giving players gold for doing the hardest activities in-game (because this won’t allow the whole player-base to suddenly print gold), but Carbine has to watch out when content gets easier (either by nerfing or by people getting more gear) so that this hard to get gold won’t suddenly be very easy to get which would cause massive inflation.

    In the end I think that CREDD shouldn’t be easily acquired by anyone, because this would make CREDD so cheap that nobody would think it’s worth their real life bucks. I do think that a player willing to farm for hours that isn’t great at playing the AH should have a good chance at earning a CREDD each month. The thing is though, are you willing to spend your months earnings on something worth 15 dollars or would you rather just pay for your sub with money and use your gold to buy fun stuff in game?

    It’s cool to see someone writing about the economy in Wildstar though!

    • Gazimoff says:

      Interesting post! Let me respond with a couple of elements.

      Actually, my crafting experience in Warcraft is somewhat different. On my tailor/enchanter, I’ve always been self-sufficient. I’ve crafted my own gear where possible, made my own bags and stockpiled materials. As a miner-jewelcrafter, I’ve fetched my own ore, prospected it when it made sense to do so, tracked the most profitable cuts and made a healthy income.

      That said, I stopped playing WoW in patch 5.0. I didn’t even try the market in the latest expansion, as I lost any motivation to play the game. The sea of daily quests killed it for me.

      Tailoring had a number of problems though:

      – Making bags was hard work and difficult to do profitably, particularly at the top-end.
      – Most of the good tailoring recipes were bind-on-acquire, and couldn’t be sold.
      – Almost everything that could be made had an upgrade available from heroic mode dungeons or badge rewards. There was little incentive to invest in the skill because the NPC economy (drops, rewards, etc) consistently offered better.

      It’s that last part that’s annoying as a crafter – that there are better items out there that are much easier to obtain, simply by grinding simple heroics.

      The CREDD system is very similar to EVE’s PLEX, and on the face works in much the same way. But EVE’s economy is radically different to Warcraft’s, in many fantastic ways.

      – You can lose your stuff. Someone else can blow up your ship, whether it’s a player or NPC. This creates a market for replacement ships, fittings, modules and so on.
      – Almost everything in the game is player-made, either directly or indirectly.
      – Almost all resources are used in every single crafted item. The most basic ore – Veldspar – is still used to create the top-end ships.

      It means that there’s an economy in which everyone can regularly participate, either through crafting ships and supplying resources, or by blowing stuff up and indirectly generating demand. It means that even beginner industrialists can start somewhere and get a foothold. It means that most of the currency rotates around players, rather than being looted off a mob in order to buy something from an NPC.

      The real beauty of it all though is that the market decides what price a PLEX should sell for. Too cheap and players won’t put them on the market. Too expensive and they won’t sell. The same will happen with WildStar’s CREDD. I’m just concerned that, just as with Warcraft, the market participation will be limited to a few people, instead of being open to the masses as with EVE.
      Gazimoff recently posted..Crafting and CREDDMy Profile

  2. Angerina says:

    Spellthreads and leg armor always sold good. As did defensive plate gear, since tons of people try to tank, but quit after a few dungeons. As long as you know what to sell, people will buy it. And copper in WoW? Ridiculously expensive.

    And this is the way I approached selling self made epics: advertise that you will craft them for a set amount of gold and the buyer has to bring all the mats or a fairly higher price if they don’t bring the mats. This is how I smith-ed on my main tank and did my daily alchemy cooldown thingy on my alt tank; this is how my husband tailored, leather-ed and enchanted on his two healers. No need to waste resources.

    I also used the action house for very specific things to sell. Once a week I’d throw all the things in and double my money, but I’d be broke until a couple of auctions would be bought.

    I only played till mid Cataclysm though.

  3. Anhrez says:

    I have a few of the same concerns about Crafting and CREDD as stated but they are only light concerns as I know we will get more information soon and that will either appease or amplify them. My single greatest concern is the ‘mostly closed’ system that Eve has versus most MMO’s. There are only a few gear/item faucets that are not on a crafting cycle. Are there Honor tokens to trade for high end armor? Is there Warplot currency to trade for a Gatling gun. Other than killing players are there any item/gear drops at all? PLEX works well in this closed ecosystem, will CREDD work as well with all the item/gear faucets we will see in Wildstar?

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