Greedy Goblin

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Medieval guild purpose

No, I'm not talking about gaming "guilds", but the original medieval organizations.

In order to work in a profession, one had to be member of a guild and this was enforced by cities and monarchs. To become a member, one had to be accepted by the existing members. The members were mandated to uphold certain standards, working conditions and prices. No wonder that Adam Smith and the other early capitalist scholars considered them an obstacle of improvement. Even today scholars consider them rent-seeking cartels that benefited the members against the general public and upheld their privileges by cooperation with the power holders.

The Black Desert Online economy rules largely resemble old guild rules. You can only have 30 market orders, there are no addons to manage it for you, you can only trade with fixed prices, your inventory is limited, your crafting speed is limited by the real time cost of the acts and this cannot be sped up by hiring employees (multiboxing). Comparing this economy with the WoW economy (which is more or less free market capitalist in the niche of not bind on pickup items) explains why medieval guild rules were necessary and for the common good.

The BDO rules guarantee that no one can dominate the market and get very rich. For example I craft lots of Magic Crystal of Infinity - Power. It's very profitable to do so. Yet I can't achieve monopoly, nor I can manipulate the prices. There are about 600 such crystals sold a day. In WoW I could simply mass-produce 600 a day and list them with a click, then cut the prices until all competitors give up. I did that with Glyphs in WotLK and got to goldcap when most players struggled with flying costs. In BDO, these crystals don't stack. I had to manually refill the market window 20 times a day. Since listing has 15 mins wait time and buyers won't appear instantly, probably I would spend all day front of the computer doing it. If competition undercuts, canceling-relisting would take another 15 mins while I don't sell at all. It would also lock me out of everything else, since all my market orders are used. The inventory restrictions mean that I can't just AFK craft 600, I have to make it in batches of 40-50. So I don't dominate this market, I merely fill up my empty market orders with crystals.

If I could dominate this market, I could make 90M/day just from this crystal. The "buy pearl item and sell" exchange rate is about 1$ per million, so I could make $30K/year just from this. But I can't. These limitations allow everyone else who want to craft to participate. The economy is full of small business owners crafting this and that. For a video game it's great: having a bunch of engaged players, from very casual to "processing 20+ hours a day" everyone can make some money.

In WoW and other games a few professional players, often multiboxing could dominate whole markets, making the little guy totally uncompetitive, forcing him out of any activity besides basic grinding. This is what happens in the real world economy: a few major businessmen owning billions of dollars dominate whole markets and the little guy has no other option than being an hourly paid grinder, doing alienated, repetitive parts of the creative process.

This fueled the economic boom of the last century. However it needs something: large markets. In WoW a server suffered badly when the major player left. When I stopped crafting glyphs, the AH ran dry and people couldn't buy glyphs. In BDO, I doubt that anyone would notice my departure. This isn't an issue now when you can buy alternative products from overseas. But in the Medieval times, when transportation was done on horse carts, a city couldn't risk having no bread because the capitalist bakery burned down or the baker died or went into price gouging. The guild rules guaranteed that there is not one big capitalist bakery, but many small-business bakeries. The loss of one bakery for any reason did not affect the bread market (which was a literal market with stands), as the other bakers could bake some more and could employ the apprentices and journeymen of the destroyed bakery, guaranteeing both supply and employment. The Medieval guilds were great things and only became obsolete with railroad which allowed importing large quantity of goods from other parts of the country.

I believe MMOs - where the purpose is not maximum GDP but maximum player engagement - should apply such guild rules on various productions, limiting industrial-scale crafting and farming.

7 comments:

Smokeman said...

WTF? Who are you and what have you done with Gevlon?

I'm sure there's going to be a big reveal in a post or so... but I have to wonder.

Meh. Wondering is for slackers. I expect you will to try to form the "BDO Crafter's Guild" and lord over their domination of BDO's economy. That will be fun to watch.

Gevlon said...

Why? What's ungoblinish in realizing that small isolated markets have different optimum than global markets?

Or realizing that games are entertainment products and not scientific simulations? Sure, when the game becomes a "everyone gets everything, best way to progress is not loging in or pay-to-win", that's a problem. But as long as there is competition and progress depends on player performance, it's OK to dampen the competition a bit.

dobablo said...

@Smokeman
A BDO crafters guild would be irrelevant. Market prices are capped so supply and demand cannot be exploited and crafting couldn't be restricted to just the membership. There would be no incentive to join and setting up a new non-guilded crafter is trivial.

I like the barriers to entry model in MMOs, but am not a fan of cartel based production limits. I would much rather see free trading with limited production (because making things is slow and difficult).
I would prefer to simulate the the medieval craftsman-apprentice model. Entry into the market is limited by a shortage of available education and expensive start-up costs for facilities and equipment. The overwhelming majority available of recipes should be via limited supply skill-books that take days/weeks of offline time to learn (during which crafting is prohibited), can only be progressed in the vicinity of the trainer and consume training resources while doing so.

maxim said...

I'd say this only applies to MMOs where crafting is not just flavour, but is a major focus.

The "major focus" part here is important and easy to confuse. For all the grandstanding, WoW is example of flavour crafting which is not a major focus, because there are very few actual game mechanics tied to said crafting in a significant way. It is essentially a collector's game, not a crafting game. Complete the collection -> "craft" a nice thing.

Something like BDO's crafting system is more interesting, because it introduces some risk-reward factors on top of resource collection. Even more interesting are crafting systems found in some action-RPGs, involving crafts where you can actually fine-tune the resulting stats. Beyond that are games which feature minigames for crafting. Beyond that still are games which essentially simulate crafting, making it the game itself and not a minigame on the side (haven't seen any of these in a while, though).

The more focused the game is on crafting, the more it will benefit from a "medieval" guild. The less focused the game is on crafting, the more important for it is to simply have the appearance of a marketplace for flavour, even if provided by NPCs.
Goldcap moguls operating essentially as NPCs for other players, but providing some token variance in the actual market situation, are the happy middle, perfect for something WoW-like :)

Slawomir Chmielewski said...

Current mega corporations only thrive on their connections to government. They are absolutely inefficient in everything they do.
A small and medium company utilises every possible pair of hands to its maximum potential. The boss-owner knows and sees everybody and has a vital interest in keeping his company afloat.
Large companies are rife with slacking and politics. They have bloated back offices with useless drones doing no work whatsoever, and usually doing negative work (that is, doing nothing while at the same time wasting the time of the people that should be producing).
The only reasons large companies dominate the markets are government regulations and government contracts. A large company can hire a team of lawyers for a small percentage of its income and find all the loopholes they need. Large company can optimise taxes. Large company can bribe officials for government contracts.
"But a large company has huge buying power and can purchase their consumables cheaper, thus having advantage over small ones". Bullshit. Small guys pay less for everything, because they have much better control over their spending. Large companies have hired purchasing clerks, which are just as lazy as any other office drone and couldn't care less about their company's budget. Being B2B salesman I can see it first hand every day.

Now, there are some exceptions, notably in creative market. Large companies have the budget for research and can make better use of patents. Though, again, their patents are only so valuable because the state allows them to destroy small companies with litigation for merely offering a similar product, patent infringement or not.

Anonymous said...

Its important to notice, that both mass producing and limited producing have both good sides and bad sides. Its ironical that free market has harder entering costs then guild system, because mass producing and monopolized market makes investment cost for new player impossibly high. If there is less competition, there is more chance of shady corruption. Totally free market abuses everything whats possible to make their product cheap as possible. And they do, abusing of environment, workforce, avoiding tax etc. Bigger the company, harder is to implement regulations. Guilds on other hand have no problem on regulations and dont let the competition to kill eachother. Cost of regulation is usually, either shortages or higher price of product. Best way is having something of the middle - let there be significant regulations but let the price of the product free. Dependent on product, regulations vary alot.

Anonymous said...

How weird, reading this from you, since the Guilds were based almost purely on greed.

The point of a Guild was to create a "common monopoly" over a service or product. This monopoly was safe from competition because the competition simply didn't exist: to learn the craft one had to go through an apprenticeship... under one of the Guild members. No other way to learn a craft existed through most of history.

As long as the Guilds didn't gouge the prices too high(read: higher than what you could get by trading with Guilds in other cities) they held enormous economic power. Simply the threat of being blacklisted by one was enough to not even try and challenge them.