The Great Value Inversion

Any other trade skill aficionados in the house? Between crafting and badges, I could go through entire games without killing things. I look at my time in A Tale in the Desert, and I wonder how much money I spent for the privilege of pretending to make charcoal. Good times.

Tuebit at WorldIV has some The Lord of the Rings Online™: Shadows of Angmar™-specific discussion of one of the great problems crafters face: raw materials are worth more than finished products. Go, read, see how gold ingots are worth 0.005 gold each; how treating raw wood (the only thing you can do with raw wood) makes it fall in value; and how you can reduce the value of your raw materials by 85%, simply by making a finished product. Now you know why you can carry huge stacks of metal ingots around: each is far far smaller than a gold piece.

People are paying to make progress in a profession that is so wholly un-enjoyable it is preferable to not play that profession, but rather, to grind cash and, in effect, purchase the profession.

Very strange.

: Zubon

14 thoughts on “The Great Value Inversion”

  1. I noticed the same thing in RuneScape. The conclusion I came to was that crafting doesn’t add value (as in the real world), you are in fact extracting the valuable xp from the raw materials. The other conclusion I made was that prices were set by the players most insane….

    I see the same thing (to a lesser extent) in WoW, and suspect it occurs in most games.

  2. Indy makes the point, and the players set the value. The reason why materials are worth more than the items crafted from it, is demand.

    Crafters demand the materials so they can “skillup”. Instead of spending the time harvesting for the “Holy Sword of Smiting”, the mats are bought off the AH. The items are built, and skillups ensue.

    Now, at any given point in crafting, crafters are working on the same object in order to skill up. So the “market” is flodded with identical items, which become worthless as crafters only want to recoup a portion of their costs. The items to make those skillups, or as Indy puts it, XP, still hold their value.

    The only way I can see this changing is if items crafted have unique (and sometimes awesome) random properties upon creation. That Holy Sword of Smiting is one result, the other is the Holy Sword of Sacrifice. Random bonuses, etc. Will make some worth more, some worth less, but at least there is some sort of difference.

  3. There are solutions to The Problem of Crafting(tm) in MMOs, but they’re either very, very unpopular or we don’t have the technology to implement them properly just yet.

  4. I don’t see why it’s so hard to correct.

    Just make the finished product more valuable than the components. This is how it should be – it gives you a better reason to craft things yourself (cheaper to make yourself, and a way of making profit).

    All you need to do is make the finished item actually useful, like Braack mentioned. Suerly the players wouldn’t price a stick of wood higher than a finished bow, if it was actually useful to say, an Archery skill?

  5. HumbleHobo: They would if it takes 10 of those bows to skill up enough to reach the next tradeskill item to grind on. Although WoW is particularly bad about this, most MMOs will at least let you make back whatever you spent on merchant goods (bottles, fuels, etc.). What most of the comments are talking about is the player economy side of things…the auction house or whatever equivalent is in your game of choice. There, the players with too much time on their hands tend to profit on those that need/want to shortcut the process. Combined with a tradeskill system that requires grinding, raw material prices will inevitably be more expensive than finished goods.

    Braack: the problem with “sometimes awesome” random properties is that only the awesome ones have any value on the player market. FFXI had a similar system where you could occasionally get a plus 1 version of what you were making, particularly if you had a higher skill than the recipe required. This led to only the plus 1 items having any value on the auction house…all those other attempts became little more than vendor trash.

  6. Interestingly enough, both LotRO and WoW had positive-value tradeskill aspects in their betas. In WoW, during beta, fishing was actually profitable (before high-level stat foods). You could vendor stacks of fish, and at low-middle levels, one could make few gold per hour spent fishing. In LotRO I took up farming, and one could vendor product for enough to buy more raw materials, which made a fair bit of sense (because there’s really no excuse for finished products being worth less to a merchant than their base materials).

    See FFXI for an example of the wrong way to do things, or: “Ah just dropped all of mah gil and three hours on skillin’ up mah fishing from 0 to 0.9”.

  7. The way to fix this would be to make crafting skillups not be tied to actual crafting, but I’m not sure how to work it otherwise.

  8. The way to fix this would be to make crafters sought-after and valuable rather than “yet another stat I need to boost”. The way to do that would be to:

    – differentiate them from other player types (you can’t be both a master blacksmith *and* a high-level barbarian monster killer) (Ultima Online)
    – take measures to ensure crafters specialize in a tiny sub-section of their craft – make them excel at being “Old Toby Pipeweed Farmers” rather than all-around awesome “Farmers” (Star Wars Galaxies? Anarchy Online?)
    – introduce player skill (rather than just character stats) into the crafting equation, through the playing of a mini-game or somesuch (Vanguard?)
    – make the crafting equation more complex – allow for a type of ingredient rather than a specific ingredient, where each specific ingredient interacts with other ingredients as well as the character’s (and player’s?) skill to produce unique results (Saga of Ryzom)
    – make crafting more worthwhile in the game then just an alternative method for producing goods you can kill stuff with – of course, this would imply that your game has more to it than just killing stuff (A Tale in the Desert)
    – make crafting an absolutely integral part of the game – even if the game is mostly about killing things, without a strong guild economy you simply cannot purchase the goods required to kill things effectively (EVE Online)

    Instead of integrating lessons learned from other games, even very old ones, into the latest and greatest YAFMMORPG, designers are snoring on with “new” ideas like “reverse engineering”, “slotted items” and “custom colourings”. All the while pandering to the idea that everyone should be able to be a top-of-their-grade crafter just by repeatedly clicking a button, and that crafting is just yet-another-stat-to-boost timesink.

  9. Players value crafted items less because there is no scarcity at all in dropped or quest-reward finished items.

    Even if there is a boss that drops a great item, that boss will get camped, or if in an instance farmed, until it’s not scarce anymore.

    I don’t see any way around it without having no dropped items at all. Will the average players stand for that?

    The second problem of grinding and only the best products available per level being worth much, well I don’t know, even in real life practice makes perfect. Perhaps a way to recycle finished products would help with that.

    I think the scholar profession of LOTRO is a good example of how things should work. I used to hate it since it was so expensive to level up, but now that I can make the best products the money is pouring in. Because you rarely get those products from mobs in the world, only from me and other scholars. With time the profit will lower once more people increase their scholar skill.

  10. To reply to Silvanis, I disagree that most mmorpg’s allow you to make a profit on your base costs. As one of the first 1750 club members in EQ (actually, it was worse than that as I was also one of the first in the game to max Research as well), I never made a profit, or if I did, it was minimal. If I had my chanter bot chain cranking enchanted metal out, I stood to make a hundred or so gold profit off of a 150 point spread, while losing thousands on the other levels. And that was just for Jewelcrafting. I was the lone advanced researcher on Test from it’s introduction to me quitting a year or so later, and I went through money like mad.

    In WoW, I had a max leveled crafting character of every class except leatherworking and blacksmithing (well, I had one, but they were both very low). My enchanter was zero profit – unless I sold the mats (massive profit). My tailor only got a call when I wanted to use my own nethers. Leveling up tailoring/chanting/alchemy/something else I’ve forgotten up cost me around 10k gold.

    DAoC was nil profit. You’d beg to sell stuff, even if it was just enough to cover half of your mats. Only guildies would pay for your costs, if they were in the mood.

    LoTRO only continues the trend. I can sell Barrow Iron Ore (fairly common, teens-level ore) for 5-6s EACH. I can take that ore, make it into a bar (2 ore cost), and get maybe 2-4 silver per bar. I can take 2 of those bars, plus a coal (mined, or bought for a further 2 silver) and make low-grade steel. This might, if the market isn’t saturated, sell for 4-5 silver. Minus the fairly hefty AH cut.

    That said, I’ve spent several gold (yes gold, I had 6 gold at 20, simply from selling raw ore), making sure my crafting is absolutely maxed for my level. I have all purple gear, a lot of which I’ve self crafted and worn – seeing as how it’d be worth almost nothing on the AH. Crafting is for suckers. But suckers have more fun.

  11. Lachek: Don’t forget EQ2 as far as non-combat-oriented crafted items go. I had a great time making furniture.

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