The Economy BailoutOctober 14, 2008
You may have noticed that there are a few (okay, more than a few) aspects of Warhammer Online I’ve barely touched on here at WAAAGH! That’s due in part to not having any fixed plan and talking about whatever strikes me fancy that day, but another reason is because I’ve yet to really delve into those areas of the game. Like mods. Addons. Haven’t done a one. I’m a little wary of slapping in addons into a product that’s only a month off the shelf and patching like crazy, but sooner or later I know I will.
Today I wanted to talk about crafting, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I really wanted to talk about Warhammer Online’s economy, of which crafting is one link in that chain. I think we can all agree that there are some parts of WAR that have been done extremely well, offer deep play, and are on their way to greatness — and then there are some parts that, while they sound good in concept, are more like that second grade kid who the teacher marks “Has Good Potential But Needs To Work Hard” on their report card. Take trophies, for instance. Trophies, great idea, but buggy and vague in practice. I have three trophies on Syp and I can only make one show up, and it’s not in the right spot (and yes, I know all about the little arrows, thank you).
Or crafting and the economy. Good potential, but needs to work hard. I would describe the economy in WAR as somewhat below stagnant; I know people use the auction house, but there seems to be a fog of malaise drifting over this game’s economy, where people enter into it and emerge shrugging and going “meh.” I’m starting to wonder if WAR really wasn’t designed to have a strong economy at all — I recall Mark saying way back when that they were working hard to make this game very difficult for gold farmers to operate, and one way to do that is to put more of an emphasis on bind gear (PQs, quests, etc.), make crafting a fun “hobby” but not a productive industry, and to de-emphasize the role of the auction house as much as possible. Whatever it is, WAR is suffering from a strong economy, from goods that players really want to sell and buy, and it needs a bailout to get it back on track.
Going down the links of the economy chain:
- Crafting – Good idea, needs work. Talisman making is just plain awful and tedious, and I admire anyone who’s stuck with it past where I pooped out at. The end product of this crafting skill is less-than-thrilling: just minor-to-middling stat boosts. Apothecary is a little better, and melds well with cultivating, but the very lack of in-game recipes are forcing players to go to out-of-game sources, which kind of defeats the purpose. I can see dyes as being a much sought-after item, especially when folks have their rank 40 gear they want to pretty up, but other than that Apothecary is all about temporary potions. Gathering skills also seem a bit lost for purpose… do we really need four gathering skills for two crafts? Crafting also suffers from a little too much of everything — there’s too many seeds, too many types of same-tier potions, too much clutter in your bags for the dedicated crafter. I know this is all randomly spewed out here, but I hope that illustrates that crafting/gathering isn’t seen as important, is seen as counter-intuitive at points, and doesn’t really fill a serious niche in the game other than coloring armor, providing stat boosts and producing potions. Potential fix: talisman making and apothecary need to be retuned and made more useful, and once that’s done, we need at least one or two more crafts in the game.
- Gear: There’s a lot of non-binding blue and purple gear out there people have been raking in, and a lot of it either ends up in a guild vault or on the auction house. The problem is, because good gear is relatively easy to come by in PvE (PQs particularly), the AH isn’t really needed. Perhaps for strictly RvR types who want better gear than what little drops in scenarios and what renown vendors can sell them, but even that is a bit off. Because nobody crafts gear, the AH sees less use, period. Potential fix: I dunno… Mythic isn’t going to implement gear crafting, and unless we could start selling formerly-bound gear sets, the AH won’t be the “go to” place to gear up.
- Non-Gear: This is where I feel Mythic’s “no fluff” approach hurts them — other than gear and crafting components/products, there are no other fields of tradable goods. You can’t make or sell trophies. You can’t make or sell temporary abilities, friendship bracelets, titles, non-combat pets, player housing components, gear housing components, or even those quirky little pocket items. People don’t need ammo, there aren’t any extra siege components they can’t buy at a warcamp vendor, and players can’t market any services through the AH.
- Auction House: Surprisingly, this functions very well and quickly, and although I wish I could see price histories or whatnot, it’s a very robust tool. However, it’s linked to…
- The Mailbox From Hell: Whether it’s lag or a bug or the demonic seed of Beelzebub spawning deep within its depths, the mailbox is one of the most horrid features in this game right now. Want to see what’s in your mailbox? Click and wait 30 seconds. Want to open a piece of mail? Click and wait 30 seconds. Want to take an item out of that piece of mail? Click and wait 30 seconds. Want to delete that piece of mail? Click and… you get the picture. It’s so slow that I’m starting to strap notes on the backs of turtles to get post to their destination faster. Strangely enough, sending mail seems to go faster, but it’s still too slow to be useful — and without a fast, reliable mail system, wave bye-bye to the economy. Possible fix: mail needs to be opened quickly, sent quickly, and we should have the ability to send multiple items at once. Oh, and auction house sales should just go straight into my pocket, as I don’t see a need for having to click to open a note and take my money from there.
Like the too-quiet (limited) chat system, some people might well hail the minimized economy in WAR as a good thing — taking the power away from potential gold farmers, keeping us in the battle more, etc. But to me, things like the economy are part of the whole world experience, and when it’s restricted, I feel restricted in the game.
If nothing else, Mythic, give me the ability to blow up the mailbox. Once a day, please?