MMO Economic Comparisons

GW2 Trading Post Graph

After playing World of Warcraft back in 2011-2013, then Tera and Guild Wars 2, I’m back playing Wow again. I’ve been watching two things:


  1. How to level up most efficiently.
  2. How to make enough gold to progress in the game.

There have been a few changes in Wow since I played it, or at least there appear to be. And this note looks at those changes in the economics by comparing Wow with the other two games I’ve been playing.

The first thing I’ve noticed is that changes in a game that are made to allow folks to level up faster greatly affect the economy, or can. And in some cases they can basically wreck the economy for some groups of players.

Tera – Changes for Leveling

I started pretty early with Tera as it came to North America through Enmasse. At first, leveling was pretty straight forward. There were “Story” quests that lead you through the game from area to area and told an over arching story of the attack of the Argons. Zone quests filled in extra XP needed to progress. Story and Zone quests gave about equal XP and other rewards. The quests gave armor and weapon rewards to allow you to progress and gear dropped from kills both in zones and in dungeons. It was sometimes hard to find dungeon groups, so often one skipped dungeons.


After a while – a year or so? – Avatar Weapons were added. These are powerful weapons that are given from drops of relics that occur in appropriate zones for your level. You are guaranteed to get Avatar Weapons pretty much when you need them. They are powerful because they are 100% crit – critical damage or double damage – for mobs in the weapons intended level range. This makes leveling a breeze.

When the expansion was added, a new type of quest was added: Vanguard Requests. These are more like Dynamic Events or Heart quests from GW2 in that they are not given or rewarded by NPCs but through a dialog in the interface. At first these gave extra XP, but then the zone quests were completely nerfed for XP and the Story Quest XP was greatly boosted. This made Zone quests completely unnecessary.

The reason for talking about this is to lay groundwork for how the economy has changed with these changes to leveling strategies.

More recently, gear drops were changed and an Avatar scheme was added for armor and accessories. This involves relics or pseudo-currency that is given for Vanguard Requests. This currency pops up a dialog and allows purchasing just the gear that you need at your level. This gear is not the best in the game, but it is good enough to efficiently level.

For a time it was efficient to level in Tera by just doing Dungeons using the Looking for Group interface. Over and Over until you reach level 60. I did this with several characters of a few different classes.

But more recently no one is running low level dungeons. It is efficient to use Story and Vanguard Requests to level up and gear up to level 60.


Notice the captions above. This economy is seriously broken. Crafting Materials have no value since low level gear is free from Vanguard Requests, and high level gear only comes from dungeon drops. High level gear is greatly inflated. To turn real money [$$] into Gold, one buys Storage Box keys on the EMP store and then sells them on the brokerage. There is explicitly no way to turn Gold into EMP or $$ that is sanctioned by the game. There are sites that offer to provide gold directly for $$, but these are against the rules of the game. Selling Storage Box keys on the brokerage is permitted or encouraged. It is also possible to trade gold for items purchased as gifts directly from the store. This video shows how to do this:

So, Tera’s choices for accelerating leveling has destroyed the crafting and brokerage economy for all but max level players, and has greatly inflated prices for high level gear. They probably don’t care. The goals of the changes were to make it quick and easy to level up to 65 and then grind dungeons, which is the only new content they make now. Gear item levels are way out of control.

Here’s my gear at the end of leveling to level 65.


Notice the number 361 in the middle left of the screen? This the combined Item Level for the gear. Here’s a list of the dungeons at End Game:


Notice that the max item level is 429. Way above my item gear. And the only content between 361 and 429 is Dungeons and Battlegrounds [PVP]. No PVE questing or other content is available. Clearly Dungeons and Battlegrounds are easy to make compared with wide open spaces with quests. And gear is apparently easy to make too. So folks doing this are basically grinding and spending lots and lots of gold to upgrade their gear.

Not the kind of game that I want to play. And a very twisted economy. Tera provides no API so that websites can provide any insight or help with their brokerage. As twisted and useless as it is, it’s no wonder they don’t want more visibility into it.

Guild Wars 2 – Much more Sane


The GW2 leveling acceleration scheme is entirely different. It’s based more on how long you’ve been playing than some short cut. That is, you get short cuts the longer you play. These short cuts come in two forms: Birthday presents include Experience Scrolls and Tomes of Knowledge. The Experience Scrolls provide an instant boost to 20, 30, 40, 50 or 60. These are “birthday gifts” for characters you already have, so having a character for a long time gets a gift to encourage you to make another. Tomes of Knowledge are a boost to the next level whatever level you are. These are rewarded for playing or made up from daily quests or completing maps. After a few months of play, you will have enough to boost a character to max level of 80. In other words, it’s only a long process to level your first character or two – a week or two – but after that, you’ll get boosts to make leveling future characters much easier. Like Tera, GW2 is designed so that game play really begins at max level.

The Trading Post in GW2 is accessible via an API.

Also, as you can see, there is a sane and reasonable trade both in gear and in crafting materials. Crafting “Exotic” level gear is quite reasonable at level 80 and is quite useful in the game. Crafting “Vanity” Legendary or  Ascended gear is much harder, but only gives about a 7% boost to stats. So if you want to play the game with Exotic level gear and forego the grind for Legendary, then that’s reasonable.

Gathering Wood and Metal, and salvaging dropped gear for cloth and upgrades is a very reasonable means to collect mats for crafting and for selling to make gold.

Exchange between Gold and Gems is provided

It is quite easy to use the trading post to exchange between in-game Gold and Gems [purchased for $$] so there is no need to use intermediate schemes such as Storage Box keys.

As an example of the effectiveness of crafting, I usually leveled characters to about 70 and then did the last 10 levels by maxing out a crafting discipline.

The other thing to note is the differences in how the Trading Interfaces work:

Tera provides a no-bid scheme with a Buy-Now price and if the other player is online at the moment, you can negotiate a better price. The time that sales are in place for is quite long – 7 days. The search tools for the brokerage are quite good.

Guild Wars 2 provides a buy-order and sell-order scheme. So you can place a buy or sell order for a number of items at a fixed price. Folks can buy or sell immediately to fill their orders. GW2_2017_06_28_18_17_56_582x.jpgThe search tools are quite good so you know the prices of a range of buy and sell orders. The good news is that if the buy and sell prices are close enough, you need not wait to sell or buy your items. The buy or sell orders do not time out. They stay active until cancelled.

The GW2 trading post is quite active and during a couple of years of play I didn’t see any strange prices or out of whack items. Some vanity items are quite expensive, of course. But crafting materials always seemed quite reasonable based on the level of the item and it’s usefulness in the game. Once during my time I spent Gems to buy gold for items that I needed. But leveling was never a problem due to the Experience Scrolls and Tomes of Knowledge that I had accumulated. I have heard rumors that the GW2 trading post was “Managed” at some level to control prices. One can imagine adding or removing items from the TP to influence the prices when they drift out of a reasonable range. This would also control folks trying to scam the market for certain items. Since the items are “virtual”, the game managers could simply invent buyers or sellers of any item to influence prices that get out of whack. I’m not sure whether that’s true or not, but whatever is going on seems to work very well.

World of Warcraft – Heirlooms and the Economy

Heirlooms are gear items purchased for in-game gold ,or other currencies, that automatically level up with the character. They start at level 1-60 and then for more gold, they can be upgraded to reach higher levels. These are a lot like Tera’s Avatar Weapons in that they are powerful for their level. But they also give an XP boost so, with for example four pieces of armor with 10% boost each, a character levels 40% faster.


And like the GW2 leveling strategy, the Heirloom leveling strategy is designed for long time players. Unless you buy a ton of gold, as we’ll see in a moment, Heirlooms seem quite expensive for starting players. But for long time players who have a high level character, they are actually quite inexpensive.

I was able to buy a large set of Heirlooms to level my Alliance characters by having my Horde characters on another Realm buy them since the Horde characters had gold to spare. However it is expensive –  2000G for Armor and 5000G for Weapons – to upgrade them to level 100. At this point I had about 30 Heirlooms and so I purchased a Wow Token. Which is Wow’s way to allow purchase of Gold with $$. One Wow-Token was worth about 123,000G. Yes 122 Thousand gold. That was plenty to upgrade all my heirlooms to level 100, to purchase a few more I was missing and with gold left over.

The Wow Token

But the problem is…

Heirlooms sound like a great idea. But there are a few problems:

The need to craft gear as you level up is completely destroyed. Heirlooms are so cheap that there is no need for serious players to craft gear. Glyphs are completely cosmetic now, so there is some reason to craft Glyphs for vanity looks, but it’s not that hard to do that yourself, at least for some of them. And the others are way out of reach. Many require mats only available in Legion – 100+ level – and so the cost on the Auction House to buy them is very high.

This means that there is no way for low level players to gather and sell crafting mats to other players. So there is no way to make gold at lower level.

As you can see from these tables from a Wow Auction website, the numbers of items sold each day is in the 1 – 2 digits. Abysmal.

So the good news is that Heirlooms are great for leveling. And terrible for the economy.

Unintended Consequences.