Thursday, November 25, 2010

Inscription and the Player Market

One of the most interesting things happening in Cataclysm/4.0 is a change to Inscription. Glyphs are now permanent one-time purchases, but changing glyphs requires a [Vanishing Powder] (for 80 or lower) or a [Dust of Disappearance] (for 81+ characters).

What is really interesting is that both items can be crafted by scribes, but they are also sold by NPC vendors. Vanishing Powder is extremely cheap from the NPC, but it looks like a single Dust of Disappearance will cost 10g or so.

To me, it looks like Blizzard is experimenting with setting an upper bound on the player-to-player marketplace. If supply and demand lead to an auction house price of less than 10g, players will buy Dust of Disappearance from the marketplace. But if the price rises to above 10g, then people will switch to buying from the vendor.

This is really the first time that we have seen this behavior in WoW. Normally, NPCs serve as the lower bound for selling items on the AH. If the AH price of an item drops below the NPC price, you sell the item to the NPC instead.

I expect that Blizzard is doing this to keep the Auction House accessible to everyone. Buying and selling on the Auction House is fun, but if prices are too high, that makes the game less fun for the subset of the population with less gold. Theoretically, the upper bound serves as a brake, ensuring that no matter what happens to the market, necessary items are always available at a known maximum cost.

It's also possible that we may see a similar pattern for Enchanting Vellums. Currently there's only one type of vellum, and it is available from vendors for cheap. A second, higher-level vellum for an upper-bound price would mimic the same structure as glyph dusts.

Edit: I forgot one other aspect. On a low-population server, there are occasional shortages of items on the Auction House, just because there are fewer crafters, and the entire stock of an item gets bought out before a crafter can replenish it. When I played on Lethon, this would sometimes happen with flasks. It was never a permanent thing. Having the Dust being sold on an NPC guarantees that it is always available, that you are never completely blocked from changing glyphs.


  1. I was going to post a similar post, but you got in first :)

    Yes I agree that it seems that Blizzard are creating a few gold sinks, plus making sure that inflation doesnt take over the economy.

    I think Blizzard tried this in other ways previously - frozen orbs trade-ins, Borean Leather for Arctic fur exchanges are just two examples where blizzard reeled in the price of some trade goods to the benefit of the masses, but the detriment of the goblin.

  2. Hadn't noticed that in the beta, but will look at it more closely once I get the time to log back in.

    Is this this only example of an upper bound you found?

    I have a feeling this is patient zero, and depending on it's success, it may be become the tip of the upper bound NPC iceberg.

  3. I wonder what they are going to do with the mage portals. It's neither fun to look for a mage nor is it fun for mages to constantly be bothered.

    They moved reforging to an NPC instead of giving professions that functionality. But they moved the (free) NPC portals to a single class which is the other direction.

    What are they going to do? With a normal inflation of 10x which was the case with every expansion, mages will start asking for 100g for a portal. It looks silly to create an upper bound of only 10g for a dust which can be sold on the AH but not to a service which only the few mages in your area can offer.

    - Teleportation spells (but onr portals) for every class? With a cooldown?
    - Teleportation NPC in the major cities (captain placeholder anyone?)?
    - Scroll of Teleportation: Cityname created by Scribes and sold on the AH?

  4. I'm not sure if the intent is to put an upper bound on the prices so much as to allow scribes a cheaper way of getting something that everyone needs (similar to how tailors get substantially discounted leg enchants). By converting glyphs into once per character, patch 4.0 theoretically removed a gold sink (AH fees on glyph sales) from the economy. Vanishing powder etc restores the prior status quo, and allowing scribes to craft the powder allows them to continue to use their own herb supplies in lieu of cash for their glyph needs.

    Also, as a mage, I wholeheartedly endorse Kring's suggestion that scribes be allowed to craft consumable teleport scrolls. Forcing everyone to hearth to Dalaran was not a good design, but neither is having such a massive gap in travel time between mages and everyone else.

  5. This isn't the first time Blizzard has put an upper bound on an item.

    One word: Bags

    Granted, nowadays with cheap Netherweave bags it's not really applicable anymore, but in Vanilla it was absolutely the case that people could sell their tailored bags on the AH, but if they priced them above the vendor price, people would buy them from a vendor instead. If I recall correctly, you could buy up to a 10 slot bag from a vendor, and in the days of Vanilla, when gold flowed far less freely, there were plenty of people upgrading their bags slowly.

  6. Yes, teleportation spells are an advantage for mages. But so is playing a hybrid and being able to tank or having a 40 meter instant attack to tag mobs or having a pet to tank elite quest mobs. Also some professions have advantages like being able to disenchant your own gear.

    That's not a problem for me. (Although I would wish that not all holiday events were created in a way that mages have a huge advantage :)

    But I do have a problem with the portal spells.

    Since the cataclysm took place you can login to any city and about every 3 seconds you'll see in /trade a "Looking for mage for portal to cityname". For me that hurts immersion, a lot. And it shows that this is a broken part of the game. You see much more "looking for portal" calls then you see "looking for tank" calls.

    And for a mage it's even worse. Your a heavy armed battle mage, defender of the world. You've killed the LK and ended the advance of the burning crusade. And all people want you to do are casting portals because they can't be arsed to take a 2 minute boat ride? Are you kidding me?

    I think something must be done to stop these portal requests from withing the main cities. Either by giving everyone the ability for teleportation in the cities (scroll, NPC, multi-binding-heartstone) or by disabling portals altogether in the cities and the surrounding zone. That would improve immersion for me.

  7. Green Armadillo, the difference between this and the leg enchants is that the leg enchants are Bind-On-Pickup. Since the dust is not BoP, it can be sold. And if the scribe can produce it for less than the NPC cost, they can sell it on the AH and undercut the NPC.

    Talarian, you raise a good point about bags. I forgot about bags because there's many different situations with bags. Small bags are NPC sold, random drops, quest items, and crafted. Medium bags are reputation rewards and crafted. Large bags are NPC gold sinks and Bind-On-Pickup loot.

    So it's not as simple a situation as Dust is. I do wonder what effect the new rep reward bags will have on the bag market.

  8. in Vanilla only mages could teleport. Once Cata hits in like a week, no one is going to Northrend except for alts. Hopefully the portal-entitlement will vanish with the new expac.

  9. It might be worth noting that, at least on my server, your first glyphs at level 25 are by far the most expensive thing you have to buy. It reminds me of saving up for a mount at 40 in the old days. You could spend more on gear of course, but there is no alternative to buying glyphs without your own scribe. I'm always on alts these days (so 30-50g for a glyph doesn't matter), but it doesn't seem like the inscription market is serving a leveling character very well.

  10. WOW has infiltrated the movies! Awesome!