Would we want a player economy?

| Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Yes the title implies an understatement of the player economy in WoW. But I didn't make this blog to be reasonable.

How much do crafters really matter in WoW?

With a very few exceptions, the gear we make is equivalent at best to NPC drops. In other words, our gear, in the grand scheme of things, isn't making us any more power. At best it speeds up our power gain early on, before we start getting marginal gains from raids.

Enchants, gems, and armor patches are all enhancements, and are important, but how much? These are rough calculations, but are close enough:
My paladin has 5175 AP, 589 from gems, enchants, and patches. This excludes NPC items such as my head and shoulder enchants. Berserking can be calculated to an average uptime of around 170 (numbers I found varied, this was highest, making i the most favorable to players). That makes players a total of 759/5175
1014 crit rating, about 123 from crit (I am rounding up to 1agi=1crit), and 3% crit damage, which I don't quite now how to factor in, but let's just call it 3% to crit, worth approximately 120 (1000 accounts for about half my crit chance, so I doubled and took 3%). That's a total of 243 from gems and enchants.

In total the player economy contributes about 10% of my AP and 25% of my crit. That's significant. And yet, less than a shouting orc in ICC does. Compare that to what I gaineded from leveling and getting gear from NPCs and players look well, not very significant. Consider also that there are some items which would have fewer gems slots in favor of more other stats, reducing the real contribution of gems.

Did anyone notice that I ignored the much harder to calculate glyphs? Even those probably wouldn't kill us. They're not game-changers.

If there were no player crafters of any sort, we could still down bosses. We'd go slower, we'd have to farm more gear, but the sad truth is, player crafters are a convenience and not much more.

But what if player crafters were essential?
Players could be responsible for much larger stat gains. Enchanting could be expending to cover everything rather than a select few slots. Gems could be stronger or we could add more sockets. But still, this is all surface area stuff. Unless normal bosses were as hard as hardmodes, we'd still get them down. We'd still get our gear and that gear would still account for the majority of our stats.

Let's start with a middle ground, in which players are essential, but not the total picture. Imagine needing an enchanter to remove the evil in looted gear. No stat gain, but you can't wear it otherwise. Or a blacksmith, leatherworkers, or tailor would need to refit the gear. An engineer would need to adjust the sights on guns and bows. NPCs would still provide the gear, but players would be essential. Would we actually enjoy this greater influence of other players?

I don't think so. WoW has gotten where it is, and the community has become what it is, based on other players being mostly irrelevant. We level up alone. We gear up anonymously. We might get loot in groups, but it is our loot and we need no one else to be able to use it. Once we get our hands on it, other players can go screw themselves. Thanks to scrolls we can even use our own enchanter alt to enchant our gear. Who needs a community when you have a lot of time? Needing people to make our gear usable would interfere with our independence.

Let's go even more extreme: Players as the primary source of gear. Think of EVE where players make the ships, weapons, even ammo. If you want a new chestpiece, you don't join the scheduled guild raid. Instead you hope that someone is crafting them, posting them, and not charging more than you're willing to pay. We'll overpay for a few gems, especially when dailies can feed us more than enough, but think of that crafted piece you recently bought and if it had cost twice as much, and you couldn't go to the raid and pray for a drop.

It's a strange thing that player crafting would seem to create a guarantee of gear and therefore be desirable, except it creates heavy dependence on players crafting. Whereas the RNG of a boss feels safer, because we know he's supposed to drop the item sometime and he won't charge us twice as much this week. We prefer our bubble of NPCs to protect us from other players.


Stabs said...

The problem with player crafting is that it devalues loot.

Imagine if the only point of raiding was to get valuable and rare components that might make you an uber-sword. It's a lot less immediately satisfying for most people.

In Eve nearly everything comes down to Isk (the money). Nullsec wars are fought over farming rights to sweet spots. Even griefing and player hunting are often essentially a form of isk denial.

It works for me and it's fun. I don't think it would work for everyone.

Two other big drawbacks with player crafting. You need destructible materials. Otherwise once a crafter sells you the best in slot it's the end of his gameplay. They did this in SWG.

The other is one character per account (or as Eve slightly more elegantly does it, one skill queue per account). Otherwise everyone just floods the game with crafter alts.

Anonymous said...

"Imagine if the only point of raiding was to get valuable and rare components that might make you an uber-sword." - we're at the point where a number of folks in our guild are mostly only doing the 25-mans in order to help build Shadowmournes; we've got all the drops we want from the bosses we've got on farm, and the casuals won't commit to another night of raiding so that we could progress further.

Glyph, the Architect said...

What if bosses didn't drop loot? What if instead killing them meant you got the chance to raid their treasure store which would include large amounts of money, crafting materials, or maybe very rare or legendary equipment? Or maybe some combination where bosses only drop equipment for some slots and the rest have to be crafted?

I'm still of the opinion that having a player based economy, at least for many things, makes a game better. It might not make it more successful, as I know many people wouldn't want to bother with it but some people would find the game more preferable.

Mike ... said...

What if gear didn't have stat bonuses?

What if all stat bonuses came from gems and enchants etc?

In that case better gear would come with more slots or the ability to accept higher enchants.

That close to the model EVE has. Which I have to say I prefer.


aka DPS.

Klepsacovic said...

@Stabs: Perhaps this could be combined with my previous idea of some extremely rare, and hostile, loot. 10% from bosses, 90% from crafting, with the rare drops being a bit more powerful or perhaps filling a streange slot, similar to how trinkets used to be somewhat rare.

Gear would have to be destroyed by some means, or require some sort of constant player-based repair, perhaps this would not be a characteristic of boss-dropped loot.

The biggest problem is the flood of caster alts, for which I have a dozen terrible ideas and no good ones.

@Anonymous: That sounds like a good situation for selling raid spots on the farm bosses.

@Glyph: I think you've nailed it: player crafting isn't popular, but perhaps it is stable: it won't draw in WoW numbers, but it will create a player base that sticks around.

@Mike: I like the idea, but if gems were the method of scaling (just as an example), then we'd have to have a whole lot of gem slots, or else we'd have massive stat jumps between tiers, such as 3->4 slots being a 25% increase, not to mention a constant increase in the cost of raiding, which could end up replicating the old Naxx problem of raiding being exclusive by the sheer cost, in addition to other factors.

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of some slots only having crafted gear.

This sort of existed at various points when the BiS ammo was crafted.

Making BiS items that are crafted but permanently lose 1 durability per death could work. They have to be replaced eventually. You wouldn't use your most expensive set for farming.

In someways it brings back an increase in the use of consumables. Massive consumable use and farming made high end vanilla raiding a terrible grind. (e.g. farming Whipper roots or Demonic runes because they didn't share the pot cooldown).

Tesh said...

Puzzle Pirates has a solid player-based economy. Nearly everything decays, fueling crafting, and nearly everything functional is player-made. (There are some things that are only PvE loot drops, but those are cosmetic.)

Of course, there are no levels and no stat gear there. Everything is based on player skill. There's just a different mindset and philosophy to the game.

...and now I'm wondering how the A Tale in the Desert economy functions. I've heard it's similarly almost entirely player-based.

Notably, neither game is as big as WoW or even LOTRO, but they do both seem to have a solid core of players who rather enjoy the interdependency.

It's worth noting that I detest forced grouping in combat-heavy games reliant on loot drops, gear and levels, but I like interdependencies in an economy. It means I can carve a niche for myself in asynchronous mutually beneficial behavior, largely by my skill in understanding the market mechanics and my fellow players. That's the kind of multiplayer I like.

Klepsacovic said...

@Anonymous: The 'consumable' issue is worth worrying about, but perhaps raiding could give materials to help offset the cost. So maybe raiders burn through 10 mats per raid but the raid grants 8 mats: still a loss, but not a huge amount, and then once people have the hang of the raid it can be a source of materials.

I'd be worried about bag space if we started needing significantly differenty sets for farming and raiding. It's tricky enough managing three role sets plus some variation pieces. Though in my case the true problem is probably my insistence on carrying a dozen cosmetic items at a time.

@Tesh: Have you read Tobold's diary of A Tale in the Desert? It doesn't go into a huge emount of detail, but it does give a few hints of how it all works.

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