Systemic Concerns About the GW2 Economy

It may seem a bit premature to wonder about the Guild Wars 2 economy, considering the game has only be out for a week or so. But a comment by Chris K over on Syncaine’s GW2 Review post got me thinking about whether the game’s structure makes the economy unlikely to ever “recover” from its current bizzaro state:

“The trend [of crafting being pointless] will not persist. Currently people are levelling crafting only for the xp gains. It is, essentially, buying levels with gold. When the majority of these people hit the level cap then you’ll start seeing a decent economy forming.

At least I hope so…”

I have reported before that the GW2 devs made it a point of pride that the crafting system alone can get you to level 80, assuming you feed an alt enough mats. But Chris makes an astute observation that crafting, even when the market is vendor+1c, has a point: easy, scaled XP gains.

So think about it. Going 1-400 in one profession will net you 10 levels of XP at increasingly large costs (primarily in vendor mats, but also karma recipes, etc). Or you could simply go 1-40 (etc) in all eight crafting professions and net 8 levels’ worth of XP much more easily. Why wouldn’t you do this on all your alts? Or your main for that matter, considering that you continue earning Skill points for “leveling” past 80 to spend as Mystic Forge currency.

Changing crafting professions to a new one is a completely painless process with no upfront costs, and all your progress in a dropped profession is saved. Switching back to even a 400-level profession only sets you back 40s – not a completely trivial amount at current gem exchange rates, but way less than I expected. There are no profession bonuses that I know of, and even if there are BoP gear recipes, the lack of gear progression at endgame makes it a mostly moot point.

All of this + the global Trading Post + the existence of Buy/Sell Orders makes me think it unlikely that the Guild Wars 2 economy will ever meaningfully mature from its current state. I have every incentive to start all eight crafting professions on all five of my character slots, and so does everyone else. Doing exactly that will continue to put huge Demand pressure on low-level mats, even if gold inflation raises prices across the board. I can maybe see higher level gear selling for more than vendor+1c once fewer people are leveling crafting past 125 (etc), but the moment it does there will be ten thousand wannabe goblins squeezing into the margins.

Not that I am particularly complaining about the ease in which I can finance cash shop purchases here. I just think ArenaNet really screwed up in the incentive department, on the same level and scale as Blizzard did with Diablo 3. I never thought I would look back on WoW’s discrete Auction House markets and extreme Profession-hopping disincentives with nostalgia, but here we are.

If there is ever a Crafting system failure metric, the “vendor+1c” phenomenon is it.

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Posted on September 7, 2012, in Guild Wars 2 and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. “Or you could simply go 1-40 (etc) in all eight crafting professions and net 8 levels’ worth of XP much more easily. Why wouldn’t you do this on all your alts”

    Because one could assume that one plays for fun and not just for levelling sake?
    Because doing quests, events and killing monsters should be funnier than buying mats and clicking the craft button (or whatever mechanics GW2 has)?

    “Hey mate, come kill some centaurs in this event! It’s fun!”
    “Nope, I’m buying wool at the AH and in one hour of crafting I should get the same xp”

    • The first time you go through the content, maybe.

      Afterwards, it’s the path of least resistance for most people.

    • What prevents you from doing both?

      And if you craft for 1 hour, expect to get about 20x the experience gain of that centaur event, so there’s that as well. A single event at the mid 30s nets around 1.2k exp, which was the same as levelling cooking from skill 1 to skill 3.

      I went from level 35 to level 37 yesterday, simply by doing 25 minutes of cooking.

    • You get scaled down no matter where you go, so you do not actually ever skip any content by being higher level. In fact, being higher level earlier will give you more Skill options to play around with, presumably increasing your fun.

      I personally enjoy being higher level earlier, if for no other reason than not be constrained by level “requirements” for Story missions, dungeons, etc.

  2. Chris K. here…

    First off… woohoo, someone quoted me! Am I e-famous yet? *cough* Seriously, though… the whole marketplace discussion is a pretty interesting one and I should be getting a post regarding it soon-ish.

    In any case, I believe we will not start seeing any serious market trends until either the majority of people hit 80 or until the MMO tourists trail off to new games. But as I said over at Syncaine’s ,I believe that the current spike in the mat prices is due to how easy it is to level with just crafting. I do exactly what you’re describing, I level everything up to 70-80 or so, where it starts to get expensive, getting a truckload of xp for minimal costs. I do end up missing out on cash from selling the mats, but… ehh *shrug*

    And the current situation will definitely get worse before it gets better, as people transition to the the 40-60 areas and the earlier mats become even more scarse.

    But all this is conjucture, and we’re not even taking alts into consideration, which could end up being the ‘endgame’ for a lot of players. There are characters that will (probably) skip on crafting altogether (because it’s expensive as hell and you already have everything to a reasonable level on your main), so they will just funnel materials into the trading post.

    Who knows?

  3. And the other thing is, given that profession progression pretty much dies at level 30, people seeking the elusive “ding~!” feeling will find it in crafting, which is another reason people will craft.

    I knew as soon as the GW2 devs started touting “you can level to 80 just with crafting!” they’d completely missed the point of an engaging crafting system and didn’t understand what makes it fun or worthwhile.

  4. Did you consider that the level cap is not the end of XP? You’ll continue to acquire skill points which can be used for a legendary weapon. Even if most people don’t get a legendary weapon it’s still something to work towards. Like farming argent dawn reputation…

  5. The point is “what is a good economy” ?

    For now GW2 economy seems to be driven by cost : as object creation is very easy (and easier the more you create a bunch of it), crafted object does not cost more than materials. And crafting need multiple craft to level : I have not the exact number, if you have to create 10 time each object to level, that means that at most one tenth of the playerbase shall be crafter to completely feed the market : if there is no other source of materials !

    Why the problem is worse than real life ? Because first in real life, creating something cost someting – physical object -, OR there is unlimited number of different object that can be bought – music, movie, etc… In GW2, there is a limited number of different object, there is very no unvolontary object destruction, and people want to craft for the sake of it ! Crafting have a negative cost : people are ready to pay to be able to craft, VS being paid for crafting in real life.

    But you have to look at ArenaNet goals about crafting : – it shall be fun for those who like crafting – it shall be easy – it shall produce same quality as others object – it shall be as easy to product one than to product multiple – you shall be able to lvl through crafting -it shall not be an obligatory way to play.

    It has never been said that GW2 crafting shall be profitable.

    The second problem is the economy impact : by creating surproduction crafting dimish value of object. As there is some measure to prevent too strong monetary inflation, the price diminish to the floor. Is it a problem and if yes why ?

    Advantage : easy access to object for player, especially for low level player
    Inconvenient : no money for crafter, not a lot of money for grinder

    This go to the same direction that the whole game : grinding is useless, low level and high-level difference is reduce in term of in-game stats.

    The bad consequence is that you cannot “play” the economy. But I never remember ArenaNet saying that they want to implement this part of the game.

    • Well, crafting is certainly less fun to me as a player for being so utterly pointless (aside from easy XP) in every other respect. You are correct that ArenaNet may be catering to people who enjoy crafting for its own sake… but those people are crazy. It’s just like crafting in Diablo 3: the absolute worse way to accomplish your goal.

      It is not fair of me to be judgmental in this respect, but I cannot contain the cognitive dissonance required to hold both GW2′s crafting system and a global AH in my head simultaneously. At least in WoW and other MMOs, it is possible to imagine it being less expensive to make the item yourself. But even if you imagine you farmed the mats for free (many players do), you cannot escape the mind-boggling vendor+1c price floor.

      These are not just items crafted below the material price. These are items crafted below the vendor price. Tens of thousands of them. You can lease upgraded equipment for 1c.

      Words fail me.

      • The +1c price is a ArenaNet trap (intentional or not ?) : they say they add a idiot proof system to avoid selling at loss and people are confident : they think they sell just above vendor price.

        The problem is work VS fun, goal VS journey : for some players, the object they obtain – by crafting or looting – is a gift : they make no effort to have it – they play for the fun of it – no whatever the price they sell it is better than nothing. In fact selling to other player is easier that to go to a seller : you directly sell it from your inventory, clearing your bag, nearly instantly. For me, that was the big downside from being without auction house : a lot of thing were clinging my bags ! I would heartily have a copper less or two to avoid going to a vendor !

        “[Crafting is] the absolute worse way to accomplish your goal” : unless you have no goal other than enjoy crafting or wanting to be a high-level crafter. For exemple whereas i do not enjoy GW2 crafting, I love to wave my sword saying : this is MY sword ! i am proud of it ! For those people, they will craft and produce good that have no cost for them : thus there is no floor price.

  6. Is it a consequence of market design, or equipment design? If (as I’ve read) upgrades are relatively unimportant and BiS gear is easy to obtain, what incentive exists for the buyer? It sounds like a demand-side problem. Eve solves this dilemma by constantly destroying your stuff. Is there any game that actually maintains demand for non-consumable crafted products? Even in wow, which has a strong economy, only endgame-viable craftables have any added value above their resource costs.

    • SWG used to solve the dilemma by destroying your stuff as well — when you repaired an item, its maximum durability would go down by a small amount, so eventually it’d just break no matter how good your repair kits were.

    • I would strongly disagree. In fact, many of my early posts from Player Vs Auction House dealt with making gold from non-endgame items.

      Even with the rise of heirlooms supplanting the need for mid-tier leveling gear, there were still robust twink markets, vanity (turned transmog) markets, and other niche markets when I left a year ago. Most importantly though, the “artificial” scarcity that came from discrete AHs created value above the resource cost of most crafted gear. You got your 20g-100g margins because you were the only supplier to the handful of people who really wanted Black Mageweave Leggings or Purple Shirts or whatever. Even in crowded markets, there was always the chance you could be the only one with auctions up that particular day.

      I dunno. GW2 is only the second MMO I have played with a global AH (first being Diablo 3), and I am beginning to believe that vendor+1c is a necessary consequence of dumping everyone in the same marketplace. It doesn’t help that it seems to be so little point to crafting aside from XP gains.

  7. By co-incidence I just finished a blog post about crafting. Where’s this received wisdom coming from that crafted gods sell for vendor prices on the TP? I’ve sold most of mine at 2 to 3 times vendor and at that price they sell fast and consistently.

    Not the bog standard basics. Those do go for vendor+ 1cp and so they should. That stuff is dregs that no-one in their right mind would search out (unless it’s for the appearance). Now it’s true that my character is wearing some of it himself, but that’s because he needs to make it to level Leatherworking and since he’s made it he may as well wear it for the brief time before he makes the next piece up the line.

    In fact, nothing anyone wears to level up in matters a hoot in GW2, just as it doesn’t matter in most MMOs. The only reason to concern yourself over the stats on gear before level cap is if doing so is something you find fun. Otherwise you can literally equip whatever drops and carry on regardless. Seriously, how hard is it to level in GW2? It’s extremely easy and having poor gear is not going to make any appreciable difference to your leveling speed (unless you spend all your time soloing, when it will matter to a degree).

    Let’s not forget that in addition to the run of the mill tosh that’s crowding out the TP right now there are scores if not hundreds of recipes bought for Karma, or for coin from Event vendors and from rare ingredients. There will be many, many items made by crafters that aren’t ridiculously widely available, although in a global marketplace in a game that has sold in seven figures we may struggle to achieve genuine scarcity.

    It’s far too early to judge the economy. It’s like trying to review an MMO by playing through the first starting zone. Come back in six months and we may have some real basis to gauge whether or not it’s working.