Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
 
Wildstar crafting imbalances

In my opinion a MMORPG crafting system should do two things: Produce useful items, and be at least cost-neutral, if not provide a small profit. Wildstar is doing very good on the first count, the weapons and armor you can craft are frequently better than the gear you find questing. On the second count Wildstar is simply unbalanced: For some professions like tailoring the cost of the necessary vendor bought material to craft an item is higher than the vendor sales price of that item, so you not only need to provide the other resources, but also lose money on each craft. For other professions, like architect, it is just the opposite, with the crafted items selling at a huge profit to NPC vendors.

I didn't want to switch tradeskills to architecture to try this out, but after doing the numbers I found that if I crafted refined sapphire power cores from auction house bought resources, and then made titanium weapons from them with AH bought titanium chunks, I could make up to 40 silver per weapon in profit. Not something I would want to do all day, because it involves a lot of boring clicking. But for proof of principle I did that for one hour and ended up making 1 platinum piece (100 gold). If I wasn't such a lazy bastard, at the current CREDD prices of 5 platinum I could earn a monthly subscription by crafting one day. I suspect there is a nerf coming, or the CREDD prices are going to go up a lot.

My previous money-making scheme, making refined sapphire power core and selling them on the AH, is inherently slower, as you rely on other players to buy your crafted stuff. And the more you try to sell, the lower the profit gets, as the AH prices come under competitive pressure. The new scheme is a lot more solid, as this time it is only the buying that is done on the auction house. For example I need 7 chunks of titanium for one weapon, and on the AH on my server there were 14,400 chunks on offer. I could craft a long time before the AH runs out of resources. And the NPC always buys at the same price, regardless how many swords I sell him.

To me the huge quantity of resources on the AH suggests that collecting resources might be somewhat too easy. It is not only that the vendor prices for some crafted goods are too high, but also that the AH prices for some resources are too low. If I can make 1 plat in 1 hour with a level 18 character (and I could have done it with a level 10), you can imagine what kind of virtual money the sort of people who do this for a living can make. We'll have to rename the Chinese Gold Farmers into Chinese Gold Crafters soon.

Comments:
I think it's fine if a crafting profession lets you sell stuff to other players for a profit but if you can sell stuff to a vendor for a profit it's a problem. Moving money around between players is a reasonable economy. Generating massive amounts of money at a vendor is just going to cause stupid amounts of inflation.
 
Your second point (the crafting should be at least cost-neutral or give a small profit) is debatable. I do not see why crafting cannot be used as a money sink (craft pretty soulbound decors for you home) or a way to prepare a bit more for raiding (at a significant cost), or a way for casual to get epics without raiding (also at a significant cost).
 
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I was wondering if the CREDD exchange was game-wide or server based, as both the CREDD I bought were 2 Platinum each I guess that answers that question.

I went with both gathering skills but most of what I get I vendor, unless I'm reading the auction house wrong a lot of materials now have sell orders for less than the vendor price.
 
Architecture has been nerfed twice since release, the most recent time being on 6/14. If you can actually find profit in there from vendoring,I would be really surprised (especially given the addidive costs).
 
Are there any current MMOs where you can, by design, make money from crafting by selling back to NPCs? I can't think of one. Surely no commercial MMO can possibly afford to have NPCs buy any crafted item for above cost, or at least not unless there is also some other limiting factor such as time involved.

I can remember a few times when an expansion or patch added crafted items to Everquest that sold above cost to vendors and in each case it was deemed serious enough for there to be unscheduled downtime to fix it. I'm pretty sure on one of the more serous examples we even had a rollback.

As for what an MMORPG crafting system *should* do - it should entertain. That's what every game system should aim for. Anything beyond that is a bonus.




 
Surely no commercial MMO can possibly afford to have NPCs buy any crafted item for above cost, or at least not unless there is also some other limiting factor such as time involved.

The limiting factor is the gathered resources. You can't craft with ONLY vendor-bought resources, you need to add gathered resources to the mix. That implies either time or money (on the AH) spent for those resources.

If I craft an item using a vendor-bought component for 10 silver plus several pieces of metal/leather/cloth/herb or whatever appropriate, I do expect the vendor to buy the crafted item for at or above 10 silver.
 
I am not sure that the typical MMO dev considers vendoring stuff as crafting to be encouraged. ( I actually liked making and self-destructing for insurance battleships in EVE but the devs deliberately fixed that.) WoW had huge inflation with getting vendor prices of ore/herbs components (gems & shoulder enchants) wrong.

Can't you just vendor the gathered resources directly? I would assume that using GR + 10s of vendor mats to make something that vendors for 9 or 10 even 11s is *not* about making a profit. Rather most professions in most MMOs cost money to level. So I calculate and minimize the net cost per skill point achieved. Usually I can find something more efficient than the prefer-quick leveling guides recommend.

My impression is that crafting needs to be driven by some sort of consumption. (Leveling is never enough; partly because of the huge spike in leveling players and not a lot of volume after the first month.)

While the "I do it myself" crowd would not be pleased, but it sure seems like a good economy is interrelated. E.g. to make a weapon you need components from several non-weaponsmith professions that you had to buy from the auction house. If high level recipes used low level components, then it is more efficient for high level craftsman to buy them than take the time/production slots to make them. Which gives the low level crafters something to do.

My next big MMO disappointment will be EQN. I really liked their example that they wanted high level recipes to require starter zone copper. As long as the gathered resources are desirable, then the vendor price of the made-to-level item is just a cost of leveling and there is no problem at all with it being a small net loss.
 
The problem isn't the sword vendor price, but the probably insane amount of bots that provide you the cheap materials.

Please note that "If I craft an item using a vendor-bought component for 10 silver plus several pieces of metal/leather/cloth/herb or whatever appropriate, I do expect the vendor to buy the crafted item for at or above 10 silver." naturally means printing money if the "whatever appropriate" is available for "free".
 
naturally means printing money if the "whatever appropriate" is available for "free".

You'd be the first one to tell us that something which takes time to gather is never "free", but has an opportunity cost equal to whatever money you could make in the same time with other methods, like farming mobs or running challenges.

As crafting always costs time, that is exactly why I think it is already "costly" enough, without in addition requiring a money contribution. No real world economy in which finished products are worth less than raw materials is sustainable. Why should that be a design for a virtual economy?
 
"You'd be the first one to tell us that something which takes time to gather is never "free", but has an opportunity cost equal to whatever money you could make in the same time with other methods, like farming mobs or running challenges."

It's free if someone will sell you large quantities of the item for "free", where free here was used by Gevlon to mean simply : a cost insignificant in relation to the other costs in the transaction (in this case, the 10 silver). Gevlon is clearly not saying what you think he's saying.

"No real world economy in which finished products are worth less than raw materials is sustainable. Why should that be a design for a virtual economy?"

No real world economy in which a magical NPC vendor buys unlimited quantities of your finished product for 'more than 10 silver' is sustainable either, so by your own analogy, that shouldn't be a design for a virtual economy either. I agree with you that crafting costing money is not an optimal design for a virtual economy, although it has indeed proven to be sustainable. Designing a virtual economy which people agree to be well-functioning is clearly not a trivial task, since so many MMORPG's have failed at it.
 
Crafting does not work as a money sink because it is optional. Players who don't do crafting will wind up with way more money, which punishes and discourages crafting. Developers should want to encourage crafting, both for the time sink to players and for a healthy player economy.

If you kill mobs for an hour, you wind up with X gold in cash and items. I see no reason an hour of crafting cannot also provide a profit, as long as it is less than X.
 
You'd be right, Samus, except that so many players seem to love - or at least be addicted to - crafting. So it works anyway, despite being hardly profitable.

I guess the ones who don't want to lose money tend to just take their time, gather stuff, and craft with that.

There's unlikely to be a true economy. Imagine a medieval state where one person in ten hopes to make a living out of making full suits of armour from free gathered components...

So the money sink works by encouraging people to spend to 'learn' greater crafting skills. But those skills ain't gonna make them rich...
 
Chain running Shiphands is one of the most profitable things I've found so far.
 
Chain running Shiphands is one of the most profitable things I've found so far.

I wonder how that compares to chain running challenges.
 
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