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WildStar Column: Fighting for Riches

By Gareth Harmer on October 17, 2013

Convention season is finally over. With New York Comic Con being the last stop on WildStar’s World Tour (Garrett Fuller was there to go hands-on), the focus is now swinging back to beta.

It’s probably why Carbine chose today to unveil the Destiny. Crown of the Dominion fleet, this Arkship is a home-from-home for countless thousands of enterprising souls, resplendent with every luxury and indulgence one could ask for. Regardless of our history within the Empire, our adventures on Nexus are likely to begin here if you play Cassian, Mechari, Draken or Chua. Choose differently and you’ll end up on the Exile equivalent: the rust-propelled Gambler’s Ruin.

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It’s clear that the Dominion likes to travel in style, as you’d expect from a star spanning Empire. But while Destiny is likely to be a melting pot of would-be raiders and wannabe war-mongers, it’ll also be stocked with crafters and traders looking to do battle on the trading systems of WildStar. With interesting news that came out during the week, that battle’s about to get a whole lot more personal.

Small-town Traders

After last week’s column touching on cross-realm play, I was interested to find out if WildStar’s trading systems would work in a similar way. The answer was both interesting and surprising, with Senior Game Designer Bull Durham confirming that, while cross-realm trading was out, cross-faction commerce was definitely in. It means that there’s likely to be a huge focus on individual realm economies, with individual traders and craftsmen playing a greater role in the lifeblood of their server.

At launch, WildStar will provide two separate trading platforms. The auction house that we know and love will be present, stuffed to the brim with an assortment of shiny objects and useless junk. It’s here that we’ll be trying to offload that epic loot, or where we hope to bag ourselves a gear upgrade bargain. And, probably thanks to Protostar Corporation, we’ll be trading with the opposing faction as well. It’s a straightforward way of removing faction imbalances in the economy, but there’s a risk that the pistol you sell today might be used against you tomorrow. Want to keep it in the faction? Then start hollering in the trade channels.

Beside the auction house, we’ll also be able to use a Commodities Exchange to buy and sell the natural resources of Nexus. If you’re looking to pick up some ore for a crafting project, you won’t see twenty pages of listings. Instead there’ll be a single entry advertising the lowest price – more expensive offers won’t even get our attention. The mystery behind the commodity markets could be bad news for monopolists as, with an unknown number of listings, it’ll be difficult to buy all of a resource just to relist it at a higher price.

The decision to forego cross-realm trading is an interesting one, as it means that each server will develop its own prices and patterns. Prices of costumes on role-play meccas might be out-of-this-world, while a raid-heavy community might swamp an auction house with their ill-gotten gains. By and large though, prices will tend to be higher on low-population realms, as a smaller market means less competition. That’s nothing new, but it does that monopolizing resources becomes a lot easier.

The CREDD Question

Any discussion around trading markets would be incomplete without considering the impact on CREDD. To recap, players can buy a 30-day game time token with real money, and then place it on the Commodities Exchange for others to buy with in-game coin. It’s similar to EVE Online’s PLEX and EverQuest’s Krono, while RIFT and Guild Wars 2 use a variation for their item shops.

While these systems are aimed at catering to those cash-poor but time-rich players, there’s likely to be significant differences in the price of CREDD from realm to realm. With their larger markets, we might see CREDD users flock to high-population realms in order to get the best deals. Likewise, sellers might try to aim for lower-population places in order to get the best price.

The more difficult question to answer is whether CREDD is actually harmful to a realm’s economy. After all, it’s almost become rote that we equate gold selling with account hacking, exploiting, bot farming, spamming, and other nefarious activities. It also has a ‘pay-to-win’ feel in the eyes of some, with the fear that players could reach into their wallets and flood the world with CREDD to buy their way to success.

Ultimately, it’s a player-controlled market; if a seller demands too much gold for their CREDD, interested players are unlikely to buy. A balance will be reached where both sides feel like they’re getting a good deal. Just by using other MMOs as an example, this is unlikely to be near the levels that the dubious gold selling businesses used to tout their wares at. They might be able to buy an awesome mount that little bit sooner, but it’s unlikely to be a life-changing amount.

We also have little knowledge about gear itemization, particularly about the balance between crafted items and epic loot that can be sold to others, versus the character-bound rewards for slaying the 16-bit techno-dragon. Selling a CREDD might give you a temporary boost while you level, but it’s unlikely to get you raid rewards or warplot weapons. If you want the best gear in the game, there’s every chance you’ll have to work for it. The premise of pay-to-win assumes that there’s an incredible sword available to buy at an insane price, when it’s actually unlikely for that to be the case.

That’s the puzzle that Nexus presents. We know so little about WildStar’s overall economy, such as how crafting professions will interact with classes and how relevant they’ll be in the Elder Game. Some of the pieces have been revealed, and we’ve been given hints at a few of the others, but we won’t know the full picture until all of the pieces are in place. Until then, potential Nexian economists will use their experience in other MMOs to help formulate their plans.

Gareth Harmer / Gareth Harmer has been blasting and fireballing his way through MMOs for over ten years. When he's not exploring an online world, he can usually be found enthusiastically dissecting and debating them. Follow him on Twitter at @Gazimoff.

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