Gold for Quests: The Beginning of the End

| Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Once upon a time there was not a conversion of xp to gold when a player hit the level cap.  If you were level 60, quests gave whatever the reward was, and that was it.  The xp part just didn't exist anymore.

Imagine the economy without quests, particularly daily quests, giving large amounts of gold.  Instead gold would come from a scant few coins from quest rewards, fewer still from mob kills, and then there was vendor trash.  We needed that stuff badly.  It was the source of gold in the economy.  Nowadays you might throw out those few copper of charred boar glands, but back then, those charred boar glands were good stuff.  Bag space could be an issue but thankfully, no one ever needed more than one set.  That last part was a blatant, ironic lie.

Then one day that changed.  Excess xp, which was of course all of it at 60, turned into gold.  And there was much rejoicing.  Verily, did we prance about Silithus in our clown costumes of non-set green gear of the monkey, and we quested and it was glorious.  Gold, precious gold!  Oh the feeling, as if we'd been in a desert and seen a drop of water.  I suppose I was actually in a desert, so... anyway, it was pretty neat.

Or was it?

Without quests giving gold, the notion of dailies seems a bit ridiculous.  Why would we have these strange quests that are the same, day after day?  For reputation they make no sense, since dungeons give that.  They are bosses, so we can't expect them to give loot.  Aha, gold.  But wait, why would dailies be a way to get gold?  Quests don't give gold.

When quests do give gold, without dailies, they players hit the cap and start racing about to find more quests because that's where gold comes from.  And then they use up all the quests and have run out of sources of inflation.  They could switch to farming to get materials to trade for gold or farm mobs for gold, but the first one doesn't add gold and the second is slower.  They learned to expect inflation and ended up with the strange idea that the way to play was to print money rather than generate actual resources.  In effect, they had learned inflation expectations and then wondered where they printing press had gone.  Dailies came to the rescue, giving a new way to dump more gold into the economy.  In the process, they made it necessary to get even more gold by driving up prices.

The concept of going out and farming the materials can get lost on people.  This isn't helped by the tendency of someone to pop up and say "I farmed it for free", followed by a few dozen people saying that they didn't because nothing is free and ranting about opportunity costs.  That's a useful economic lesson, except when you're dealing with "I farmed it for free", you're also not dealing with people who are applying the minds much (this isn't a judgement, merely a statement; it is a game after all).  After a round of "no you didn't farm it for free" there is a tendency to get the "farming is for idiots" idea instead, which is equally ridiculous.

I don't much like the proliferation of dailies.  A few are good.  But they've become excessive.  Yet scaling them back is difficult.  Now that the economy has adapted, as best it can, to this steady influx of gold, removing that could prove as damaging as adding them.  If no new dailies are added in Mopland, players could feel compelled to run the old dailies, causing them to have less fun.  Or if all were removed, then there would be huge imbalances of wealth which would be semi-permanent.  That's where you get violent revolutions, or worse, customers quitting.

So as is typical, my advice is to make a time machine and go back and make everything right.


Rohan said...

Heh, maybe if we didn't have dailies, Blizz wouldn't have given the crafting professions combat perks, and a regular raider could take a gathering profession. (I'm still unhappy I had to give up mining.)

I'm not sure I agree with your thesis entirely, but it's an interesting argument.

NetherLands said...

I agree completely that the ''convert XP to gold'' system is one of the main root causes of the money spiral. Combined with things like Dailies and Random Dungeon Bonus, it leads to creating vast amounts of gold out of nothing.

One of the reasons people 'need' gold are Repair costs/'wipe tax'. Besides likely having an impact on the often sour mood after a wipe in LF, the fact of the matter is that you don't need to run content that leads to wipes - yet you still get Gold amounts tuned to you wiping.

If they'd remove the 'xp to gold' system and at the same time Repair costs (death penalties work in niche games, not mass market ones), they'd might pull it off and thereby reduce the amount of gold pumped into the system.

Instead of optional goldsinks like BMAH (btw: what happens if you get outbid? right, that 20k flows back in your pocket with nothing to buy), they need goldshrinks instead.

Klepsacovic said...

@Rohan: I don't understand the chain of causality there, how dailies led to crafting combat perks. I thought that stuff came from them trying to balance engineering, with engineering getting weaker and the other professions getting stronger.

@NetherLands: I think repair costs work well, since they hit everyone in small amounts and only dedicated raiders in large amounts. This means that the average player has little incentive to farm a lot of gold. Compare that with the big ticket gold sinks. Those create an incentive for everyone to farm large amounts of gold and even worse, turn it into a habit. That's where the inflation spiral can really get going, because prices go up, so we farm more gold, driving prices higher, and so on.

Rohan said...

Without dailies, a player needs some way to make gold. A gathering profession is much more useful, and may even be necessary.

So when Blizz was debating adding profession bonuses, having players drop their gathering profession for another crafting one becomes a bigger downside to the scheme.

Right now, it's not an issue if players have to have 2 crafting professions for raiding, because they can get gold from dailies. But if they can't get gold from dailies, then pushing them towards 2 crafting professions becomes an issue.

Klepsacovic said...

@Rohan: For the sake of clear terminology, can we agree to use "make gold" for when gold is generated (dailies, vendoring, coin drops) and "get gold" for when gold is exchanged between players?

Without dailies, gold is made at a slower pace. Gathering professions move around pre-existing gold, but do not create any. In the absence of combat bonuses, people would chosoe professions based on some mix of profitability and personal taste, so that we could expect that crafting and gathering will be in some sort of equilibrium, with high material prices and low crafting profit driving players toward gathering and the inverse, so that things will be roughly balanced, though not perfectly.

It seems to be that the causality may be going the other way: in an effort to balance out the PvP dominance of engineering, other crafting professions gained combat bonuses, which then caused the bias toward crafting. That meant that players needed some income in order to buy the materials that they use but cannot gather. Dailies, printing gold, was Blizzard's solution, which only further enables the problem without fixing it. I'd have rather seen more killing-based farming opportunities.

Kring said...

Dailies were introduce with TBC but they weren't a viably source of money until they opened the gold island. Up until then, there weren't enough dailies to really farm money when you needed it.

There were some profession perks in TBC but they were extremely unbalanced. (read: every raider and his mother had leatherworking, regardless of role or spec.)

The balanced profession perks were introduced with WotLK (read: every raider and his mother was forced to drop leatherworking for jewelcrafting.)

I don't see a connection between those two events. But I think all gathering professions should be secondary professions because gathering and crafting is a different kind of fun and I don't see a point in locking a characer out of one of those.

Azuriel said...

I dunno. I would assume dailies were born out of a desire to have predictable, useful, repeatable content at the endgame. Without dailies, there would be little incentive to log in every day, which encourages sociability (can't be social when the 25 people in your guild only log in sporadically), and ostensively gets people out in the world. Herbing also gets people out in the world, but only in competition with each other; nobody groups to herb together, and that is one thing from GW2 (individual nodes) that needs to be replicated to all MMOs posthaste.

Personally, I don't feel inflation is all that big a deal. Ultimately, most gold flows into the hands of AH Barons who get obscenely rich but otherwise don't purchase anything, which effectively removes it from the economy anyway. Or they quit, with the same result. In any case, the Black Market AH will fix it (TM).

Hyperian said...

My brother is an AH Baron... its nice to have family to mooch off of.

Klepsacovic said...

@Kring: I might go in the opposite direction: reduce it to one profession and have the gathering perk automatically go with it. Enchanting would be the secondary for tailoring, since those two don't have any other logical pairings. Along with that I'd remove any generic combat benefits such as special gems or armor kits, though they could still make gear.

@Azuriel: From what I've seen, the effect can be the opposite. You get people logged in, but they're logged in to do dailies and are reluctant to run an instance with guildies. That results in people logged in, but actively refusing to play with others, not good for social cohesion. In contrast, thanks to teleporting dungeons, players can go out and farm and still be accessible to group activities. That herb isn't going to vanish if you don't pick it today.

Trying to get people to spend more, without assuming that they're going to earn more to do it, is hopeless. Adding gold sinks only increases the gold farming obsession. Though you do have a point with the barons, that they are essentially gold sinks, I suspect they only became possible due to dailies and certain professions, specifically jewelcrafting which created a perpetual transfer of gold and for a while, inscription.

@Hyperian: Thanks for shattering the illusion of the meritocracy. :)

Kring said...

Actually, enchanting already has it's gathering profession. It's called disenchanting. That's already powerful enough.

And for tailoring it would make more sense to no longer drop cloth but you would disassemble clothing. I can kill this Defias and luckily he had a piece of linen in his bag but I cannot undress him and recycle his cloth? Even though I'm a master tailor? (WotLK even had a quest where you had to undress killed Orcs to collect their cloth...)

Maddy said...

There is also people that does dailies not necessarily because of the gold, but because they like them, like me. :)

Am I crazy? Maybe; but the fact remains that having some some questing to do every day makes me feel as my character is doing something useful for the world she lives in. Yes, like working in RL. What? There people that actually likes working in RL. ;p

Klepsacovic said...

@Kring: Enchanting and tailoring are unusual in that for both of them the 'gathering' is based on looting rather than the outdoor farming that other gathering is. I suppose tailoring could be changed to use 'untailoring' as the main cloth source.

@Maddy: Do you think you'd do dailies if there was very little gold attached and no reputation? Could you not find a similar activity through farming or mass murder?

Hyperian said...

@ Maddy You are a strange person indeed, but more power to you if that's how you wanna experience the world.

Me on the other hand....enjoy my bounty hunter like status and expect to have gold in my hands when I hand over that A hole centaurs head who like many an immortal NPC keeps coming back to life each day at 0200. No qualms on my end, I do so love gold in my pockets.

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