[GW2] The Gathering Economy

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.


10 thoughts on “[GW2] The Gathering Economy”

  1. Large player-based game economies will always fluctuate. For anyone to try to pin failure or success of a large game economy after the first couple of weeks after release is unfair to the developers. They aren’t looking at a short-term process, but a long-term goal of a self-sustaining, self-moderating structure. And thus far, I have seen the market itself fluctuate to reflect a long-term focus on sustainability.

    There may not be monetary value in chopping down 100 trees, but as you pointed out, there is other value in the process. In Guild Wars 2, a system has been created which integrates fluidly with other systems which were created to integrate fluidly with every other system. I have yet to find a system that simply does not work in conjunction with the other systems in-game. Even the gem system, built on micro-transactions, integrates fluidly with the entirety of the game.

    In a game like Guild Wars 2 everything is meant to work together, not on it’s own, because it is as it is in real life. If workers stopped harvesting fruit, eventually, the market would run out of fruit supply.

    The perfect example of the effect of economy on the world can be seen in the Dust Bowl. While not being the only factor, it contributed to a worldwide economic crisis, and thus the effect of how market dynamics are impacted by world events could be seen. The same will hold true in Guild Wars 2.

    When the droughts come, the economy will react and the prices will settle accordingly. And it will be worth having those 250 green wood logs, when green wood logs suddenly become depleted or harder to find. Just like in real life.

  2. “In Guild Wars 2 every player can gather every material. This is a huge change.”

    EQ2 has always worked this way. Not only can everyone gather anything but there are tutorial quests making it clear why it’s in your interest to do so and a major gathering quest chain going from level 1 to level 90 that people tend to do even if they have no interest in crafting.

    Coming from EQ2, I find games that limit what you can gather to be very peculiar. GW2 gathering just seems like a return to the status quo to me.

    On the GW2 economy in general I largely agree. I think people are still struggling to get their heads around GW2’s inclusiveness. If the economy has a purpose it seems to be to provide everyone with the easiest, cheapest access to good gear possible short of just creating it in your pack as you level. This would seem to be directly in line with just about every other design decision in the game.

  3. In a game where the appearance of your gear and weapons plays a big part of the experience one would think that making crafted items help fill this roll would be a given. If you want to bring value to crafting then make crafted items unique looking and not just the legendary weapons. Hopefully they will add karma based recipes for unique skins on armor and weapons.

    1. There are some unique looking items that can be made with recipes from karma vendors, like a rather crude looking wooden sword, or a meat cleaver, or a 6-piece charr lumberjack armour (costume?). The recipes for rare runes have to bought for karma too. Buying up all the recipes for karma is quite expensive when done at level. What is even more of an inconvenience that some players could turn into a profit is recipes available after certain events. I’ve only seen one example so far after a fairly simple and frequent event, and I’m only in mid-30s so don’t know if there is more examples later on.

  4. Uh … everyone is leveling professions.

    What do you think would happen if Blizz reset all professions in WoW and made new ones? Same thing. It’ll settle down as the player curve trends towards level capped and profession capped. Brand new MMO is brand new.

    1. This. I’m kind of surprised by the tone of this post, actually – How the economy is in GW2 is how it is in pretty much every MMO ever. It’s exactly the same in World of Warcraft and such as well, and pretty much always has been.

      Tradeskill materials have always had value, because they can be used to level up your crafting abilities. Barring a few specific recipies, however, that vast majority of crafted gear is pretty much just junk – you get good enough gear on your own levelling, and tend to burn through gear quickly enough that it’s not worth actually buying… even if it wasn’t flooding the market.

      The material cost of a crafted item in an MMO is irrelevant if nobody really cares about said item.

  5. The economics laboratory aspect of MMOs has been a big draw for me ever since I started playing, in AC1. (My undergrad career was in economics, and I worked in finance for a while. I’ve a lifelong fascination with this stuff.)

    The GW2 economy is playing out like many other MMOs, with an interesting twist. As people skill up when the game starts, there is high demand for raw materials, and not much for finished goods. LotRO had a similar start, and we’ve all seen this pattern elsewhere as well. There are arbitrage opportunities — a single morning made me 8 gold, buying and salvaging drops to resell me the raw materials. That is also not particularly noteworthy for an MMO.

    The twist in GW2 is that the final products require something made from rare drops (gems, small fangs, tiny totems, etc.). Players are skilling up instead on the intermediate goods, and dumping them on the market, since it is a cheap way to skill up with minimal effort. In doing so, they open a unique way for other players to skill up, something I have not seen elsewhere.

    The most cost-effective way to skill up in GW2 is to buy most of your intermediate materials on the Trading Post, and do invention. Almost all intermediate materials are selling for less that the cost of the raw materials, even the ones made with the rare components. And skill gains from grinding one item are far inferior to gains from invention.

    I like the fact that, even in crafting, the designers encourage us away from grinding behaviours.

  6. I think the economy is fine despite largely disfavoring crafters, but they failed with regards to their promise that crafted gear would be useful. That’s the case for jewelcrafting, but otherwise I typically had better gear than what I was crafting. Crafted items are generally obsolete by the time you make them unless you buy your mats, or you happen to like a particular skin. Cooking is independent, and again, always useful when leveling if only for the xp bonus, and jewel crafting is mostly independent (copper is shared yet easy to come by) but all armor and weapon professions are fighting for many of the same materials. I cared less about crafting to make a profit and more about crafting to make useful items as my characters level, and I feel a little let down by that. Love jewelcrafting though. Ahead on that profession, always playing catch-up on the others.

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