Tobold's Blog
Friday, June 05, 2009
Greedy Goblin on Inscription

Greedy Goblin Gevlon has a great post on inscription up, in which he realizes that he is making lots of money with that tradeskill because it is completely borked. Quote: "I start to realize that when I say "go sell glyphs", it's like Kungen saying "farm Mimiron hard mode". Trivial for someone who has the skills and the infrastructure, impossible for others."

While I do agree that inscription is probably the worst designed tradeskill in World of Warcraft, I don't rate the others very highly either. That is because unlike Gevlon I don't just consider the ability to make money to evaluate the design of a tradeskill, although I *do* consider that to be an essential part. But another essential part for me is that a tradeskill in an MMORPG has to be entertaining. WoW tradeskills fall short in this respect. If you have the money, you can get any tradeskill from 0 to skill cap in less than one hour. It'll cost you a fortune for mats from the auction house, but there is no skill, and no game, involved in actually crafting things and leveling up. Thus being a master crafter is no achievement at all, and they all have the same recipes; except for recipes that only drop in raids, which is even worse, because instead of offering an *alternative* mode of gameplay, it just links being a master crafter to being a master raider.

For me a good crafting system would allow people to choose between various careers in the game, mastering either an adventuring career or a crafting career. Crafting your way up to the skill cap should not require significantly less effort than adventuring up to the level cap, but one should be possible without the other. A virtual world which has both heroes and crafters feels so much more real than a world in which everybody is a dragonslayer.
I made 6k with inscription the first week it was out, and although I have it maxxed on one of my alts I never use it - it's just too much of a logistical headache, and theirs nothing even to do with that much gold.

The time I spend playing I like to work on achievements or play with friends and family, not have it be a second job.
Ironically, in order for master craftsman to be an achievement, it would necessitate that a large number of other players be unable to reach the crafting skill cap.

This could be through a variety of reasons, be it slower reflexes, insufficient information, inadequate time etc.

And then you get into the problem of players complaining that professions are designed only for the top 5% of players... sound familiar?

I think that WoW professions, being essentially an economic activity, have their skill in knowing what to craft and what to sell. Most profession guides are essentially useless. I would argue that a true master blacksmith is one who made 2,000 gold while levelling to 450 as compared to someone who spent 10,000g to do the same.
I just put in a few thousand gold and power levelled inscription in an evening. It takes no skill except the skill to make some starting gold. And I did pick it just to make some profit, there is little other incentive to take a profession. The bonuses are on par with each other and most items are boe.

But I do agree with Gevlon. Picking up inscription is not the easiest thing to make gold with. You just need so much third party addons to make it efficient:
-A mass auctioneer who can put up a good price for your items.
-A mass auction canceller
-A mass miller
-A tool to show you the glyph prices
-A tool to show you which glyphs sell best
-A bank alt with 4 32 slot inscription bags.
-A tool to see your bank alts inventory.
-A capital to start with
-A tool to get all your expired glyphs from your mailbox.

It's a lot of work to turn inscription into a money maker and I'm sure most people don't want to spend their time on it.
I'd say the one game that does crafting about the same as you talk about is Vanguard. It has its other flaws--but one of the most intriguing features, in my opinion, is the three level system--where your adventuring level, crafting level, and diplomacy level are separate. Add to this that there are equipment for crafting, to help differentiate itself more, and it actually proves to be a game where you can focus more on non-combat than combat, without any ill effects.

Of course, that didn't stop me from getting bored with it...but it's still a nice model that I'd like to see more games pick up.
"For me a good crafting system would allow people to choose between various careers in the game, mastering either an adventuring career or a crafting career."

It's interesting to note that this is exactly what Star Wars Galaxies did. It drew a fair number of people to the game who wished to be full-time crafters (such as myself). One of the great tragedies of the game's first 2 years is that SOE basically told us we were not welcome with the two major revamps the game went through in 2005 that essentially removed full-time crafting and the ability to run one's own business from the game.
Which games' crafting system is best integrated into the gaming world itself? This is another factor that makes crafting really good or just fluff. For instance in WoW, most armor/weaps/engineered items that are crafted are unnecesary to game play. At the highest levels, you only need potions and glyphs, which is covered by 2 professions. Whereas in Atlantica Online for instance, everything of value is player crafted period, even though the actual act of crafting is somewhat boring. EQ2 strikes a nice balance, with the act of crafting being somewhat fun, and the usefulness of crafted items very high, although at the highest levels of raiding you don't NEED crafted gear/weaps.
I don't understand why all these 'market experts' don't leave the kidding pool and attempt to make a living as a trader in games that provide a challenge in that area, like EVE. Considering players were hitting the gold cap back in vanilla, is someone doing it with the hyperinflation of WotLK really that big a deal?

Granted should they succeed, they would have a smaller audience to impress, but at least it would be something more worthwhile.
I've asked for alternate advancement models, especially crafting, for a while now. The WoW method of tying the crafting to character level is another unwelcome facet of the system, shunting crafting even further into second class status.

Then again, WoW is more of a game than a world, and things like the economy and crafting are naturally less polished simply because of the focus. A game that angles to be more of an interesting world would have a more robust economy and crafting (and other non-combat) suites of things for players to do.
There are 3 separate issues:

1) Can you be both a fighter and a crafter? On one extreme, you can only choose a single profession, which can be combat or non-combat. On the other extreme, you can be everything (Free Realms).

2) What is the effort required to achieve max level/skill? Getting to max character level in WoW requires almost no skill, just time. Getting to max crafting level also requires no skill, just money. There's your time/money tradeoff. :-)

3) At max level, what differentiates players? It's a boring world where everyone is 80/450/450 (or 20/20/20/20/20... in Free Realms) and can fight and craft everything. WoW puts a lot of effort into separating players by combat skill through raiding and PvP. Much less so in crafting. Free Realms has more interesting mini-games -- it takes a decent amount of skill to craft the level 20 Summersaber. Luminary would be much better if not everything was a clone of Bejeweled and capped at a +10% bonus.
I don't know Tobold. I agree that crafting definitely can be fulfilling and fun, but a lot of people simply aren't good enough in economics to make profit off of it in-game. That can lead to a captive audience to the small percentage of business-saavy crafters, and ultimately lead to scams, massive inflation, and other things. Kind of like real life.

I think what would be an excellent idea for an MMO is one that just gets rid of the fantasy trappings and makes it a pure economic game. That way people know going in what they are playing-no going into a fantasy MMO to find out that levels are less important than how much money you can make or buy.
I'll take another moment to plug Puzzle Pirates. The major forms of progress in that game are player skill and money/stuff acquisition. (And "stuff" doesn't affect player skill, so you can't equip "Boots of Bilging +5".)

Their mostly player-driven economy does allow for players to build careers around crafting, and highly skilled crafters (especially Distillers and Shipwrights) can make good money, without ever going out to pillage. (Pillaging is the PvE gold fountain that fuels the bankroll for crafting, and pillaging can't happen without some crafting to provide supplies like run and shot.)

Nearly everything in the game is driven by minigame puzzles, and most of them are very well-designed games in their own right. (Swordfighting, for one, is extraordinarily deep for what some might denigrate as a "minigame".) True, if you're not a fan of puzzle minigames, it's not going to do much for you, but the interplay of crafting, pillaging (PvE, usually cooperative), player skill and an intricate economy make for a great place for players to carve out their own niche.
I evaluate tradeskills with one criteria: How does this benefit my character performance in raids and dungeons?

Can I improve my tanking/healing/dps with the tradeskill? How much benefit do I gain relative to other classes?

The monetary gain the profession can provide is secondary. In fact, my experience has been that I can make significant sums of money with almost any profession.

While Leatherworking is generally considered a profession that is not profitable, I can consistently make 600-1000g per day in LW with maybe 30 minutes of work.
Bottom line for me is that I love the system, but I feel WoW shot themselves in the foot and underminded their crafting system.

I agree Tobold, it's not worth it, there's no "achievments" for becoming a master crafter.

I feel the main problem is they put too much emphasis on getting the best gear from PvP.

I believe a crafting system should be the main way to get the best gear. The main argument I hear against this, is that people want good reasons to do high lvl raiding with good rewards.

My answer is you can have both. You can have some awesome raid drop sets(that crafters could enchant: add to) plus have the best stuff being recipes. It takes some balancing but totally possible.

I'm enjoying Runes of Magic crafting but it's too young to keep up with my appetite, and there's no reason to lvl it in WoW, so I searched and players say Everquest 2 has the best craft system, so that'll be the next one I try.
When I leveled my first character a year ago, I chose complementary gathering/crafting professions so I could use the mats i found to make armor that I could use. That just made sense to me.

I used or sold EVERY piece of armor I made (until Outland), as well as sold every single green BOE I found.

I was mystified that when I got to Outland nothing would sell, then I realized that I couldn't even use my own crafted armor because the quest rewards were so OP.

What happened to the balance of a game that was so much fun and seemed to make so much sense?

I think crafting should be more difficult & time consuming with better and more varied rewards.

How cool would it be to have "Crafting Guilds" which would link mentor's & apprentices? And quests of real scope to learn specific recipes?
Bristal I think crafting was originally calibrated to be awesome in the old old game---when BRD was the end game instance the arcanite reaper PWNED, or something to that effect. Ever since then Blizzard has pitched it as something that is useful for the first few months of an expansion and then becomes totally obsolete very quickly. Blizzard is probably afraid of having to deal with the issues a healthy crafting system would cause.
Star Wars Galaxies had a very good resource gathering and crafting/selling system. It was probably the standard bearer for "mainstream" MMOs (it's much different now than it was originally).

Would be nice to see some future MMO attempt to have a good crafting/resource gathering endgame tied in to a well done PvE endgame.
sid67 wrote:
"While Leatherworking is generally considered a profession that is not profitable, I can consistently make 600-1000g per day in LW with maybe 30 minutes of work."

I won't call you a liar, but I suspect you're exaggerating here. I would be interested to know how you do it; I hated leatherworking with a passion because it was a moneysink, but I can make a lot of money with other tradeskills. I suspect you're not including something like having to go collect rare materials, or perhaps some quirk in the economy on your server.

The main complaint I have about leatherworking relates to the main reason why inscription is (was?) so profitable: most inscriptions are consumable. Especially before dual spec, people would have to buy a lot of inscriptions if they wanted to chagne specs often (between PvP and raiding, for example). Leatherworking only really has one main consumable that isn't better than an alternative, and that's the leg patches. Having a continual demand for your items, consumables such as potions, etc., makes it easier to make money.

I'm curious how dual specs have affected the market for inscriptions....
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I loved Vanguard's crafting system, when I could afford to play the game. It actually did involve some judgement and skill, you could make money at it, and skilling up didn't require ever spending a copper piece--though you did have to pay for recipes, but you could make enough money on work orders to pay for that easily. So much better than WoW's crafting system, they were hardly in the same universe.
One of the issues does come down to players.

On something like inscription, the overheads IF you are really hardcore about making money are very very high. Becuase there's a ton of glyphs you can make so if you want to take the whole market, you need to do all of them, and relist them all frequently so that you can respond to other people's changes in prices.

But how much of that is the game's fault?

Or is this just another example of hardcore players (in this example, in the economy) making their own lives difficult and less hardcore trader's lives almost impossible?
From the mentions of Vanguard's crafting in the comments here, I'm not seeing anything that wasn't already present in EQ2?

What did Vanguard add to that model?
I won't call you a liar, but I suspect you're exaggerating here. I would be interested to know how you do it

No exaggeration. I spend about 30 minutes at it. The "trick" is in making good buys and listing the full selection of craftable epics on short auctions (12 or 24 hours). The reason you chose short auctions is so that you can cancel them and relist if you are undercut.

I log on to a bank alt about three times. When I start playing, once sometime in the middle, and once before I log. Each time I log on, I scan the AH and maintain my auctions. If something sold, I craft a new one and list the replacement.

I also use a spreadsheet that gives me an idea of the threshold where it is NOT profitable for me to list an item. So if I am undercutting a lot and the market on Trollwoven Spaulders goes in the tank, I know the minimum I can sell and still make an acceptable margin.

Because I keep maybe 3000g invested this way (mats + listed items), I pretty much own the market for LW epics. I typically sell between 4 to 6 per day at 125-200g profit.

This really is less about LW and more about knowing how to control markets. As Gevlon and others have said, you are either going to have an aptitude for it or your not.

In fact, Gevlon's tactics for the Inscription market are very similar but involve a lot more work due to the sheer number of glyphs that have to be watched and inventoried. However, the margins and volume are significantly better. Jewelcrafting is the same way.
Carson 63000 said...

From the mentions of Vanguard's crafting in the comments here, I'm not seeing anything that wasn't already present in EQ2?

What did Vanguard add to that model?

7/6/09 02:42


Vanguard's crafting start you with a limited pool of skill points and also the item at bottom quality. As you move through the crafting process (which is turn-based, not timed) you can choose to take certain actions -- some to increase item quality, some to increase progress, some to do both, etc -- and as you gain skill you gain new actions which are better than your basic skills, but have a correspondingly higher skill point cost.

You can also steer your stats and skillups toward certain specialties as you craft -- not only what you're making but how you craft the things and also how you respond to problems when they crop up. For example, you can choose to steer your skills toward primarily using your crafting tools to craft and deal with problems, or you can steer yourself toward using reagents instead. Tools only cost what you initially bought them for, but tool actions tend to have higher skill cost, while you consume the reagents (and thus have the cost of replacing them) but then have a lower skill point cost.

So... you're making the item and keeping an eye on how many skill points you have remaining, gamble on how many times you can increase the quality instead of the progress, hoping that you make it to the end without getting an "event" that makes you run out so that you fail the combine. And of course, keeping enough points in reserve to properly "polish" the item as a final step as well... otherwise quality suffers again.

EQ2 is a real-time crafting system, you only have a total of 6 skills, and you're constantly spamming the progress increase to make it all go faster. Quality starts at 100% and falls over time, but you can also spam a button to keep the quality up as well, and if it falls too low, you can all but halt progress while rebuilding durability -- and so long as you've got power you can keep going and it's frelling HARD to run out of power while crafting so you can more or less guarantee perfect results each time.

I enjoy EQ2's crafting well enough, and have an 80 jeweler and a 72 provisioner. I've done some of the crafting and harvesting quests, though I still need to get my "crafting epic" for the jeweler (preliminary stuff is done, just need to actually start and do the quests). But even with that, I will say I definitely prefer VG's crafting system.
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