MMO Mechanics: Material storage and the Guild Wars 2 economy

Guild Wars 2 launched its second expansion, Path of Fire, a few days ago, and as you might expect, a new expansion means some immediate priority shifts will deeply affect the game’s economy. New materials are added, which are required by the newest recipes and are thus highly sought after, and other materials will fluctuate in value depending on their usefulness within the new content’s scope. Players typically react to this short period of market turbulence by keeping the materials that they farm until they are absolutely sure of their uses and worth: There’s nothing worse than selling a big pile of a rare material you thought you didn’t need only to realise your error later.

However, ArenaNet decided to temporarily keep a “handful of items” off the list for the game’s material storage system in an attempt to force players’ hands: The company is attempting to combat the shockingly high prices seen for expansion materials back at Heart of Thorns’ launch by discouraging player warehousing of valuable yet abundant materials. The news has caused quite a splash in the game community and it’s exceptionally interesting mechanically speaking, so I just had to dedicate an edition of MMO Mechanics to the topic.

Guild Wars 2 material storage mechanics in summary

Most MMO fans will be familiar with the concept of material storage, though I thought quickly letting you know how it operates mechanically in Guild Wars 2 would be useful for those who haven’t played before. The material storage pane, while accessed via the bank pane, allows players to build extensive stores of a wide variety of crafting materials without expending valuable bank or inventory space to do so. Stacks of up to 250 can be stashed away in GW2, which is a significant stack that is adequate for all but the most complex recipes in the game.

One of the most convenient inventory management mechanics comes in the form of a handy “deposit all materials” button that is found in the character’s personal inventory. It will automatically scan your bags for materials and send those into your storage stacks, cleaning your inventory quickly and making room for players to salvage gear, open loot, and otherwise perform post-run bag maintenance. For many players, materials that go into storage remain there until a full stack is gathered and the surplus materials start gathering in a character’s bag space: It is then that players decide if it is worth transferring the stored stack to actual bank space or expending the materials in crafting pursuits, or whether the stack should be sold to make room for future farming.

Why did ArenaNet decide to forgo storage for some mats?

The decision to temporarily keep some new materials out of the storage system might be controversial, but the logic behind it is relatively straightforward. ArenaNet’s Gaile Gray explained that decision before the expansion launched to make players aware of the irregularity.

“Why? Well, at the launch of Heart of Thorns, we noticed a peculiar behavior: most players will deposit first when clearing their inventory, and then proceed to take actions like salvaging, opening chests, or, crucially, putting items on the Trading Post. This tended to mean that before a player will post an item on the Trading Post, they’ll wait to accrue a full stack in their Material Storage. During the early period of Heart of Thorns, this significantly contributed to the early expense of flax, which was abundantly available but, for the most part, was ‘warehoused’ in the banks of players.”

For me, the solution to the economic problem ArenaNet is trying to solve doesn’t lie with the storage mechanics and how players use them but is rather tied to the wider set of looting and item utilisation mechanics underneath the bonnet of Guild Wars 2. For now, let’s look at why players stash items and why many are complaining that ArenaNet has, at best, misproportioned blame for inherent mechanical flaws onto the player and, at worst, made a decision that will inadvertently rinse some players of their newly gained ultimate edition gems.

The stashing mentality

Let’s consider storage from the player’s perspective: You finish running some content or completing a story arc and your character’s bags are bursting. The first thing most players will do to combat inventory bloat is to quick-stash those materials that are cluttering your inventory. From the player’s point of view, these tiny piles of materials are the bane of inventory wars: There is a great deal of variance in materials and unlike items obviously do not stack together, so clutter is inevitable if you interact with the game world at all. On the flipside, however, the player also has an incentive for keeping materials, not least of which being because materials are inherently useful by nature and have an innate, fluctuating value.

While we get to know the merits of materials as we play MMOs, when a new expansion hits those values can change drastically, and new materials that are launched are entirely unknown agents in the economic space. It stands to reason that players are reluctant to offload materials that they don’t yet fully understand: If you’re unsure of the specific uses or actual value of a resource, you’re right to worry about letting it go and then finding out that it was worth holding onto. Having stash stacks start at 250 pieces means that the material storage mechanics give players a decent amount of room to hold stock until a market value has been established and the uses of each material are clear to the player without sacrificing precious — and expensive, but I’ll get to that later — inventory or bank space.

Storage space has an inherent cost to the player

One of the most obvious problems with this decision to temporarily shelf storage for PoF mats, before I even get to periphery mechanics that are tied to storage, is that player habits are not that easily broken and hoarding will not be drastically prevented by the decision. Players who still feel the reluctance to sell I described above will simply move that stack of materials to the player inventory or bank, which will simply fill the space sooner and cause frustration and perhaps even impulse storage expansion purchases on the gem store. It’s problematic to me that storage has an inherent real-world cost to the player via the gem store, and it unsettles me that sales of such items might increase because of this call. The ultimate edition of the game was bundled with 4,000 gems, and I can’t help feeling that some players might well use those gems to focus on storage optimisation due to this decision despite its temporary nature. Consider also that some players have used storage upgrades for the specific purpose of not having to deal with frequent auditioning of materials and are temporarily being barred from making full use of that purchase, and you can see why some players are so irked.

Making storage trickier for the player comes with a quality-of-life cost too, of course: Anything that slows down adventurers and necessitates a return to town is not fantastic game design in my estimation, and this includes having to hit the bank to offload mundane materials that you do not wish to auction and cannot currently stash from anywhere. While I agree with ArenaNet in saying that flax prices were initially much higher than they ever should have been, I feel that the presented case is an isolated edge case that shouldn’t cause them to restrict players in the way they have been. Flax was required in frankly insanely high proportions, and although it was abundant the sheer volume needed in so many spheres of in-game development is what caused prices to rise. Flax cost was intrinsically linked to gaining guild housing and prices soon stabilised after the bulk of interested guilds had managed to secure their guild halls. There was a sense of collaborative responsibility to succeed in securing guild halls caused that pressurised the community into going wild for this resource, but this phenomenon has yet to be replicated in the game since and should not be used as a model for how players usually react to new materials.

I fell into a burning fire of fire.Is the problem really about the storage mechanics?

In my opinion, player behaviours are not to blame for the flax anomaly and the solution to the problem won’t lie in a temporary material storage restriction. Without having access to the metrics and data ArenaNet has, I’m never going to be in the position to give a more definitive answer to the problem because the game features a wonderfully complex economy, but from a player perspective, it seems that other game mechanics play more of a part in economic trends than storage does. Crafting demands via scribing and the introduction of a highly coveted and visually impressive game feature that both rely on vast amounts of one resource, like in the case of flax, is a problem that can be addressed without inconveniencing players. Guild halls already demanded a collaborative effort in securing them via combat, so the resource costs could have been diversified or reduced without diminishing the satisfaction of securing the halls.

One of my major problems with this decision is that early sales of new resources will be purchased largely by market manipulators and speculators anyway: Before a true market value is established, most players will be content to farm new materials if they need them quickly rather than take a risk on fresh auction pricing. If ArenaNet needs players to dump resources into the auction house out of frustration that quickly, perhaps there is an initial farming issue that could be more swiftly dealt with without irking players. Overreliance on one core material instead of spreading the load across a variety of abundant materials is another mistake that is entirely fixable, especially if developer metrics show some common materials that are underused that could be revisited in new recipes. Lastly, having a drop system that simply encourages the uptake of inventory expenditure is problematic for players, even if it is lucrative for development teams.

Over to you!

It’s important to be realistic about the small scope of the problem: We are talking about a handful of items, after all, and only a few weeks of not being able to stash them. However, the precedent of experimenting at the detriment of players is an illogical one, especially when there are periphery mechanics that could be investigated instead and we’re reacting to an edge case item that was uniquely in demand at the start of HoT.

I feel as though the flax anomaly has been considered statistically without giving as much consideration to the context and mechanics in play. Inconveniencing players to solve mechanical issues isn’t the right approach and I am hoping to see the new materials entering storage very soon to limit the frustration. Am I wrong? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

MMOs are composed of many moving parts, but Massively’s Tina Lauro is willing to risk industrial injury so that you can enjoy her mechanical musings. MMO Mechanics explores the various workings behind our beloved MMOs. If there’s a specific topic you’d like to see dissected, drop Tina a comment or send an email to tina@massivelyop.com.
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29 Comments on "MMO Mechanics: Material storage and the Guild Wars 2 economy"

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James Slate

It’s actually very interesting, because at the very base level, it’s actually probably a really good idea to keep players from being able to stash a few items, at least in the beginning. Sure, Guild Wars 2 has lots of other issues with inventory, but this is a fairly simple one to figure out why they would do it.

In Guild Wars 2, Flax was in high demand, but it also had very very little supply from the fact that players didn’t sell, heck, I have guild mates who have stacks of flax from HoT release, and never sold it, and probably never will, they just don’t look at mat storage, because it’s not something they use all the time, thus Flax started at a super high price, and when it finally reached it’s supply and demand equilibrium, the price was still super high, out of proportion to how easy it is to get.

The other angle of this is another weird thing with Guild Wars 2, if you’re selling things on the trading post, and the material has “gotten jammed” aka 500k buy orders at X price, when people go to buy the thing, they just add to that 500k orders, inadvertently keeping it at that price. Sure, it’ll even out eventually, but that could way later than anyone cares to keep playing.

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haishao

The thing with flax is that we need 60 vial of linseed oil to make an HoT armor set and 10 more per weapons and a stack of 250 flax seeds only makes 12 or 13 vials. So if you wanted to make yourself a full set of viper armor and weapon for example, it requires between 7 and 8 stacks of 250 flax seed.

On top of that, you need a few hundred vials of linseed oil for Guild hall upgrades.

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James Slate

While I don’t disagree that you need an obnoxious amount of flax, you also need an obnoxious amount of other resources for other things, but those aren’t crazy inflated like Flax, simply because they didn’t start out insanely priced.

Things like Thick Leather spiraled out of control when legendary armor, and other crafting recipes started using tons of it, but that still took many many months to reach it’s high of nearly 2 silver, and even now it’s back down to it’s original price of about 75 copper.

To me, since this is an MMO, and the laws of regular supply and demand don’t exactly apply. It’s all about that starting price, if the overall player base knows that people will pay 3 silver for something, forever, then it’s going to be at 3 silver forever, until enough of the player base finally says, no, I’ll only pay, 2 for it, etc.

In the case of PoF, you can already see the mats they wanted to not be inflated, have not been inflated, even though it takes a large amount (6-7 stacks of base for armor) to make one of the new stat sets, Grieving, which is already in pretty high demand.

Meanwhile, the item they didn’t, which is ALL OVER the desert, lentils, is crazy priced, and the things they are used in, only require 3-5.

Korra the Legend
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Korra the Legend

Guild Wars 2 material storage mechanics is horrible really it is, there are so many items they don’t really stack and extra bank/bag slots cost money! It’s a huge pain and one of the worst things in GW2 and this new xpack didn’t help at all to fix the problem.

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rafterman

GW2 is easily one of the worst offenders when it comes to ridiculous drops that only exist to make people buy more bag/bank/stack space. Do they really need to have a thousand different crafting items?

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Sally Bowls

Isn’t this just generals fighting the last war? Without scribes and guild halls, just what will these new mats be used for. I.e., what I read is that nobody crafts HoT armor; craft cheap zerker that does not require 450 things from the intestines of TD, put in an insignia and transmute it in the MF. So I assume few will be crafting new armor, just restating existing armor.

What are the crafting goodies that will make these mats so in demand?

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Arktouros

There’s basically 3 new looks of armor. Elonian is available via the POF story. Royal is available via massive achievement collections that span all of POF and take a lot of events/etc but does offer new stat combinations. Beasthunter is available as crafting recipe drops (I got one but not 100% sure where from).

The most crafted item from POF is probably the Mordant weapons because they’re needed for the Specialization Ascended weapons. Their stats are bad and there’s no way to choose.

Most people making Ascended gear either utilize the Fractal/WvW/PvP methods or craft then change insignia/inscription method. However to my knowledge no one has found the new insignias yet.

To be fair their plan is working. Most items you can’t store are incredibly cheap. However a large part of that simply has to do with the fact that you generate a fuckload of them and we haven’t found any good use for them. Even then those that do have a good use (Branded Sparks for Mordant weapons) do sell pretty high regardless. This just reinforces what everyone else was saying, there was too much demand on materials like Flax which was the problem and not the ability to store them.

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Sally Bowls

I agree and then some. It feels like trying to make things a considerably larger hassle for a very minor benefit.

Part of the problem is the “inefficient” TP; i.e. there is a fairly high overhead. In SWTOR, if you just wait out at most 48 hours, you get your deposit back. The 5% in GW2 is gone forever. EVE allows you to undercut someone without paying the full fee again. Also in EVE, if you sell to an open buy order you don’t pay a fee, which encourages trade. But in GW2, I am hesitant to use the TP without pondering. There is no way I would just stick up 17 of something on the TP. If there is a deluge of people undercutting me, that will someday need to be cancelled and lose the 5%. I happily, quickly, without thinking throw stuff on the SWTOR GTN; the onerous GW2 fees mean I want to think about what I am selling. And probably mean I will not put a full stack.

IMO, waiving the listing fees on new mats would do far more to increase the velocity of mats and more quickly find the equilibrium price than this annoying, ham-fisted way.

BTW, we are hoping a few weeks of this crap, but have devs said that? Could this be six months?

Reddit claims the 32-slot bag takes 12 supreme runes only obtainable via ecto gambling and the chances are bad at under 250 ectos and 100g per gamble attempt. Sigh. Lots of inventory issues.

miol
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miol

32-slot bag takes 12 supreme runes

Actually you need an extra of 6 supreme runes with 18 in total, as you need to craft the 24-slot bag >>> in order to craft the 28-slot >>> in order to craft the 32-slot bag every time!

https://wiki.guildwars2.com/wiki/Supreme_Rune_of_Holding

miol
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miol

On average through gambling and considering current TP prices for Ectos: ~788g for the Runes alone per 32-slot bag!

There is a second gambling “game” you need to do for another crafting material with a 50/50 chance, 4 times per day max. allowed, with 1g cost per try:

https://wiki.guildwars2.com/wiki/Curious_Bowl
https://wiki.guildwars2.com/wiki/Spool_of_Deldrimor_Thread

And you need in total 12 of it per bag, so on average another 24g to the sum of pure gambling costs!

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Sally Bowls

TY for the additional info.

So the img on reddit of all 32 slot bags was more … impressive is not quite the right word … extravagant than I thought. In EVE article style, that is over $60 for each bag.

miol
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miol

“BTW, we are hoping a few weeks of this crap, but have devs said that? Could this be six months?”

I don’t know why Tina has chosen to cut out just the very last 4 sentences in her quote of Anet’s original post:

Once we are comfortable with the supply and price—which we believe should become apparent in weeks, not months—we will add them to material storage.

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Arktouros

I don’t get the point of 32 slot bags. I have 160 slots and 20 shared slots and I feel like I have way more Shared Slots than I’d ever need and 160 is way more than enough to carry an extra set of gear and way more than enough for loot. Even if you wanted to save on slots and only buy 1 bag slot (5) for the same 32 slot bags in 5 slots (160) it’d still be incredibly cheaper to buy the gems and then the slots and get 160 that way.

miol
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miol

I did some math, it would cost more than 9 times to get those same 160 item slots!

>4169g vs. ~443g

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Suikoden

Interesting points. I personally like the storage game, with a few exceptions. I don’t mind buying storage space, but what I hate is when I’m getting items that I don’t know whether I should hang onto or not. GW2 does it very well. It lets you stash them without having to visit a bank, and it is pretty clear on what you need and don’t need, as long as you are paying attention. I hate how Elder Scrolls leveraged the crafting bag. Of course, typically at first you’re not sure what you do and don’t need, but eventually you should have a good understanding of it. Any MMO I’m in I easily spend hours organizing my inventory and bank space, but like I said, I enjoy it and don’t have an issue buying space, as long as I know what I’m hanging onto and why.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

You can say it. The problem is one of design that they created themselves. The premium on storage for mats is a design they created themselves. They are pushing it back to players in what will be an ineffective attempt to modify behavior that is the result of their design.

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Arktouros

The crafting is soooo limited compared to HOT. With HOT we got a ton of new stats (1-2 per map) and everything was all over the place with needing Flax. I mean the Guild hall upgrades were 600 flax for 10 kegs for a ton of upgrades then another 12000 flax for the Tavern 2 restoration.

What concerns me is that no one has found the Grieving Insignia yet that I’ve been able to read about. It’s not available to be purchased on the WvW vendor either. Grieving is a huge new stat combination and we have no idea what it’ll take yet and whatever it does will explode in price soon as we do.

kalamari_
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kalamari_

you can buy it in the tomb from a vendor after you finished a collection.

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Sally Bowls

TY, I had not realized that. To my nub eyes pre-launch it appeared that the new stats were FOTM Grieving and some meh. So this has to be causing some anxiety.

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Arktouros

Well Grieving will still be good for some classes, but lack of expertise is a huge detriment to a lot of classes that constantly push out tons of Condis. My Revenant needs things like the +25% duration from runes and Expertise from Vipers/Trailblazer in order to get high durations for Torment, Poison and Burning. By comparison the bulk of my condi damage on an Elementalist is largely Burning and some Bleed so I could easily forgo expertise in favor of Frenzy since majority of my skills are high power damage as well.

The only way to get Grieving at the moment I’ve seen however is either through PvP or WvW and WvW takes around 1300 tickets (2800 if you want jewelry) which is 4 weeks of Skirmish Tickets.

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Terren Bruce

Honestly while playing PoF I haven’t really been that annoyed by it. I don’t think they needed to do it because Flax was a very special circumstance (guild hall upgrades, scribing, and nightfury all required it and it was all introduced at the same time). But the items restricted aren’t that many either and it hasn’t really been a bother.

The problem is a non-issue and the solution to that problem is also a non-issue and only temporary anyway.

I agree with Tina that the problem in HoT’s was having so much depend on Flax rather than spreading it out among other materials.

miol
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miol

Even if I appreciated, them emphasizing that it’s only weeks and not months of this temporary measure, it would have been nice of them saying which exact materials we are talking about (“handful” is this sensitive case of communication simply too vague), so phantasies would have run less wild.

And they also forgot to remember people that only 2 months ago, they’ve just added over 110 items to the material storage and how much space you’re saving with collecting only stacks of unindentfied gear instead and no more sigils taking up precious space to relativate the impact of this rather desperate last minute decision!

It feels almost like someone just panicked with this decison, shortly after waking up sweating from a nightmare about flax! ;P

I totally agree with Tina’s suggestions how they could have approached it otherwise!

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Rottenrotny

This hasn’t been an issue for me as I can’t find any use for crafting at all.
So I just horde the materials with no use for them in sight.
Not a good crafting system imo.

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Terren Bruce

You use crafting to make ascended weapons and armor, and to get the HoT’s and PoF stat combos. It’s also for scribing if you’re the sort to care about decorating guild halls.

If you don’t care about any of that stuff you should be selling the mats for gold because that’s the main way to make gold in the game.

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Paragon Lost

I agree with Rottenrotny. This actually is the first mmorpg that I’ve not found a real use or desire to crafting. I horde the materials and sooner or later I might actually do something about it. I tend to doubt it though since from the start of the game I’ve been rather meh about GW2 crafting. As for gold, I buy it flat out when I need some from ArenaNet.

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haishao

Plenty of armors and weapons stats only exist through crafting and are account bound on acquire. Especially stuff from LW season 2, HoT, and Season 3, and now PoF. So you have no choices but to craft them yourself.

miol
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miol

Even WvW, sPvP or Fractal vendors expect from you some crafting, except Raid vendors, but also players who raid already expect from you to have ascended gear to begin with!

atatahir
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atatahir

ArenaNet are trying t solve a non issue. In every expansion new useful materials have high price for the first few days because of high demand and low supply. Eventually as more player realize where to find these new resources the supply increases and prices normalize.

They are using ‘problems’ with flax as an excuse for their ‘solution’, but flax pricing actually shows how there is no problem to solve in the first place. The price of flax started with above 30s and went down to 10-13s in a few days and down to 3-5s in a month without any intervention.

This is how normal supply/demand economy works there is nothing to fix. You do not set prices based on first few days of demand. You set prices for long term demand which worked out really well for flax with their initial supply and demand.

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