Wasteland Diaries: Player-run economy

Edward Marshall
E. Marshall|10.07.11

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Wasteland Diaries: Player-run economy
Fallen Earth screenshot
The economy in Fallen Earth has been stagnant for a while. The auction house has been just a place for trader clones (with maxed social skill) to post wares with a small markup from the NPC vendors prices. In some cases, these traders would post mats that could only be bought in PvP conflict towns or found in secret or dangerous scavenging spots. It was hard to be competitive in a market like that. Every resource had an unlimited supply thanks to the vendors. There were a few items that actually worked on the supply and demand principle, like vibrant and volatile chemicals and pre-fall tech. These items had prices that were dictated completely by the players. Through competition, the prices got pretty reasonable (and I even bought a few pre-fall techs to allieviate the Citadel grind).

All that has changed now, and the Fallen Earth team has made some massive changes to the way the economy works. In this post, I'll take a look at what has changed. I'll try to give my best guess about what will happen to the economy in the coming weeks. A great many players are already freaking out about this concept on the forums and in global chat. While I admit it's too early to tell what will become of us in the near future, there's no need to panic. People were rage-quitting the game mere hours after the changes were made. If you ask me, it's a bit premature to make a decision like that. Nobody really knows what will happen, but click past the cut to see my best guesses.

CHOTA 2nd anniversary group photo
The devs have taken the training wheels off of the economy and given us a good push. Most of us were well-prepared for what was coming and stocked up on some of the things we thought we might need. The patch notes stated very clearly that most crafted items would probably not be available from NPC merchants after the patch. An example of something we stockpiled was bandages. These little guys were selling for 13 chips each for the average variety, which is incredibly cheap. If there was one thing that was going to get beaten down by the nerfbat, it was bandages. The cost of bandages has increased by a factor of about 20, making each bandage cost around 2 blue chips each. That's assuming you craft them yourself, which you will be doing unless you're lucky enough to find a merchant that sells them.

The real test will come after everyone's stockpiles begin to diminish. It's going to take a couple of weeks for things to equalize, and this is only the first phase of the economic changes. Some of the changes have made a lot of players nervous. Some common materials, like fasteners, are now so rare that they must be purchased almost entirely from merchants. You can no longer make (from steel) or refine fasteners. In fact, many of the create and refine recipes have been removed. The merchants' inventories have been reduced, and most of the high-end materials can only be harvested through killing mobs, scavenging nodes, and collecting FCP parcels. Some high-end mats can still be bought in the conflict towns; the merchants' inventories in the PvP towns are more expensive but otherwise unchanged. I'm not sure if this was intended or an oversight.

Riding through Blaine
My previous article on this topic is now almost completely obsolete. The nodes are now spawning in a seemingly random fashion. They don't seem to spawn in clusters of similarly themed nodes anymore. Marie Croall, FE's lead designer, assures us there are still clusters of nodes out there -- we just need to find them. I haven't found any yet. The downside of randomly spawned nodes is that the sheer variety of them will fill the slots in your pack and mount long before you approach your maximum weight allowance. It also makes it much harder to find particular resources when you need them. Maybe this is intended to spur player trading -- I'm not sure. And remember all those waypoints you saved for all those great scavenging spots? Most of those are going to be obsolete now. I see both the good and the bad of the random nodes, but the bad is pretty bad.

I want to see a player-driven economy succeed in Fallen Earth. The more the devs take the game in the sandbox direction and away from the themepark, the happier I am. I want to see FE not only reach its full potential but also achieve the financial success required to keep it afloat and to continue to pay for its development. I like seeing a more gritty apocalypse, where you can't just go to the Los Alamos Walmart and grab everything you need. There should be begging, borrowing, and stealing in the apocalypse, but I'll settle for some cutthroat competition on the auction house, even though I don't believe the player-run economy will reach its full potential without a buy-order system for the auction house. The auction channel is a good tool, but it's only effective in an active sense, whereas buy orders would be more passive and persistent.

Shopping in Los Alamos
Without the faction veteran mobs' insanely generous loot tables (or the Tannerfield Well) injecting loads of chips into the game when the players sell materials to the NPC vendors, there will be very little capital working against chip sinks like fast travel and towing costs. PvPers still need a way to make chips. This could be a way for the devs to inject more chips into the economy. Most PvPers don't want to do the PvE grind to support their homicidal habits. You want to see PvP go nuts and inject chips into the economy? Put nodes that drop cash only in the PvP zones. I doubt we'll ever see something like that, but sometimes the simplest solutions work the best. Alternatively, the team could simply make the circuits in Office Park tradeable. While this wouldn't add chips to the economy, it would surely move some chips around.

As I stated before, I really want this economy to work. Fallen Earth goes F2P in less than a week. I am guessing we will have a large influx of players, new and old. The naysayers are jumping the gun, in my opinion. Many players, including me, have huge stockpiles of materials because we knew these changes were coming. The server population may well be increasing dramatically. It's going to take a few weeks before we see where these changes will take us. In the meantime, try to find those juicy scavenging spots (all over again) so we can PvP on the auction house in a new player-driven economy (hopefully). Remember: Stop and pick it up -- it might be just what you've been looking for. See you next week.

Ed Marshall has been playing Fallen Earth since beta and leads the KAOS clan. Wasteland Diaries is his weekly column that covers all aspects of Fallen Earth: PvE, RP and PvP. To contact Ed, send an email to edward@massively.com, find him on the official forums as Casey Royer, or hunt him down in the wastelands as Nufan, Original, Death Incarnate, and Knuckles Mcsquee.
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