There seems to be a certain stereotypical perception on crafting in MMOs. I feel, right now, that Guild Wars 2 does not fit the mold. With minor adjustments a whole new economy has emerged. It has a lot of people wondering whether it’s a failure, success, or what. Conventional MMOs work on the basis that crafting is a smaller niche in gameplay. This is why I feel it is much harder for many to wrap their heads around the economy that Guild Wars 2 creates.
I would call Guild Wars 2 a gathering-based economy.
The first difference is that in conventional MMOs each character can only gather a fraction of the items available. In Guild Wars 2 every player can gather every material. This is a huge change. In World of Warcraft only an herbalist can gather herbs. Herbs are used for alchemy and inscription crafters. Characters gathering herbs are either going to be crafters themselves or suppliers that care not about crafting. In Guild Wars 2 everybody can be a supplier without eschewing crafting.
I am working on cooking and artificing in Guild Wars 2. When I decided to run through a lower level zone I had already outgrown my need for tier 1 crafting items, but I was still gathering them. My choices were either to sell them or collect them for a rainy day. Many, many people are going for 100% world map, and they too are faced with the same choice. Well, the market is pretty lucrative right now.
The second difference is that character leveling experience gained from gathering and crafting is not only present, it is significant. Each hit of the axe against a tree is some small amount of experience. I think I read somewhere it was on the order of 0.125% of the experience needed to level. Crafting items provides an even bigger experience share to leveling. The first person to hit level 80 did so by back-loading all the leveling needed until just the end. Crafting supplied it all.
Compare this to a conventional MMO where the only reason to craft is to either level crafting or to create. In Lord of the Rings Online, there are two parts to the crafting economy: the beginning because a lot of people start crafting and demand materials, and the end where people actually will use the highest crafted items. The middle is this dark place where players must press on through drudgery to once again see the light. Quite a different experience. Then even at the acme of crafting, players are constantly harping the balance between dungeon-gear and crafted gear.
I have to bring in a few excellent blog posts today. The first is Spinks using a blog post by Eric at The Elder Game to springboard her views on economy. My favorite part about her post is the anecdote about the sheer stupidity and laziness of players. With secrets still being found daily in the Guild Wars 2 crafting world, ignorance abounds. Tobold springboards off of Spinks to discuss market efficiency. I agree with them both, there is strong market efficiency and stupidity.
We have a gathering economy in Guild Wars 2 with market efficiency aimed at the materials. The market does not care about the product, and this is where laziness comes enters the equation. This is the opposite of most conventional MMO economies. It is also why a crafted scepter that might have a market value in raw materials at say 15 silver will be sold on the trading post for a small fraction of that. Players are already rewarded for gathering and crafting so throwing the scepter away at a loss does not feel like one.
Players are simply wrong when they say Guild Wars 2 has a “failed” economy. Players that claim failure have a misconception of the economy they believe the MMO should have. It isn’t failed because supply and demand are working, just not in final products. The supply of a final product far outweighs demand, even with the trash compacting Mystic Forge. Still I’ve seen plenty of profit that can be made with small amounts of market inefficiency or player laziness. A failed economy would not provide such opportunities.
This economy’s pinnacle is found largely in legendary weapons requiring massive resources necessary to build Gifts or Statues. People are not making legendaries for other people, and I am pretty sure they are soulbound or account bound to begin with. Again there is demand on gathered materials instead of crafted materials. It is more evidence of a gathering-based economy. Of Sardu’s list of 80 things to do at 80 over 15% are based on consuming or collecting gathered items, many for personal-only use.
Already ArenaNet has made small adjustments to various minor gears in the economy. Butter is one material that momentarily shifted in worth, but since it is all that the denizens of Tyria appear to eat, it has become nearly worthless. (Word on the street is that this might have been fixed.) There have been other small shifts too. It will be interesting to see if they do provide a shift towards to give crafted items more worth. Until that time though, enjoy the cornucopia of crafted items.