A player-run economy brings a game’s world to life. When players are responsible for everything, things as mundane as gathering, crafting, and transporting can offer the biggest adrenaline rush in an MMO. Every time a loaded-up crafter gets ganked, the ambushers gain some loot, but the crafter loses hours spent laboring for materials. Within a player-run economy, the stakes in a gank are so high that even the anticipation of one can make a play session thrilling, and a game’s world feels meaningful.
Crowfall wants to offer this level of exhilaration, and their player-run economy is certainly inspired by EVE Online, the pioneer, and trailblazer. You’ve might never have played EVE, but if you’ve played or read about Crowfall before, its concepts will sound familiar. It’s an MMO where players control an avatar that learns skills over time and enters a new body whenever it dies. All materials are gathered by players, and all items are crafted by them. It’s not wrong to say Crowfall was at least partially inspired by EVE.
Occasionally, EVE makes the news whenever a massive space battle results in the destruction of tens of thousands of real world dollars, yet its player base is relatively small for an MMO: 30,000 players, including alts. It is a fascinating game to read about, but not necessarily fun to play. The Crowfall team has taken note of EVE‘s shortfalls and made very interesting choices in their design that make their in-game economy drastically different.
An Economy with a Reset Button
EVE: No | Crowfall: Yes
EVE is in space, but it’s not in a loot vacuum. An essential difference between EVE‘s and Crowfall’s economy is that EVE’s has been slowly building since 2003, while Crowfall’s will reset with the campaigns every 1-3 months.
The campaigns vary in their rulesets, and some do allow migration of assets between campaigns, but it’s a limited and inefficient process. In the most rewarding and challenging campaign rulesets, everyone starts the campaign naked, with nothing but an axe for chopping wood, and any items created are lootable off the corpses bearing them.
The economies in these campaigns are effectively vacuums and ensure that Crowfall will never have the entrenched class of elite guilds that EVE has, who use their billions of ISK (EVE’s currency) to manipulate markets on a whim or build humongous capital ships that can annihilate player-built stations.
In any free market, the rich get richer, but the disparity will not be as pronounced in Crowfall’s campaigns as it is in EVE. Within Crowfall, the oldest guilds won’t have the advantage of more raw resources and capital; it will be the most efficient guilds, creating their own capital faster, who dominate in the long-term.
A Massive World
EVE: No | Crowfall: Yes
Obviously, Crowfall is not in space. This drastically changes how transportation and logistics work. It’s a bit counterintuitive, but it’s going to make everything a lot bigger. Instead of warping from system to system, Crowfall campaigns will be one seamless, sprawling world like a traditional MMO. This means there will be fewer chokepoints for gankers, but it also means players will be vulnerable to ganks at all times, and transportation will be a long trek rather than a quick series of warps.
Players cannot rely on the massive scale of a server’s world to hide them from gankers, either. The sound in Crowfall is a work in progress, but already gankers use the noise of pickaxes or dashes (the only time movement makes noise so far) to hunt down players a parcel away. It will be easier to find you than you might think. Security services for transporters will be a much more viable market in Crowfall than in EVE.
EVE: ISK | Crowfall: None
The biggest balance concern in EVE’s economy is ISK, which is controlled by the CCP, EVE’s developers. The CCP can use mechanics like bounties, which add ISK into the game, and blueprints, which drain ISK, to control the money supply.
On the other hand, Crowfall does not have a fiat currency. Instead, it plans to have commodity currencies, meaning items can be bought and sold for anything. Supposedly, one commodity will win out as the de facto currency for trades, like gold historically was. Crowfall’s currency will likely be a raw material, but what that material will be is currently unknown. Ideally, the material would be in high demand, in high supply, and reliable, meaning it does not fluctuate too much in value.
The biggest concern with a commodity currency is that its value will not be entirely in ArtCraft’s hands. The meta is controlled by the players, and the meta ultimately will control the demand and thus the value of any commodity. For example, if the currency is iron, and everyone has stockpiled enough gear in the campaign to no longer need it, inflation will skyrocket until the players settle on a new, more stable material to trade with. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but expect things in the markets to get a little chaotic, especially when seasons change and supplies shift with them.
Every Market is Destructible
EVE: No | Crowfall: Yes
There is one key difference between EVE’s market system and Crowfall’s. EVE has a central trade hub for the entire server, an NPC-owned station named Jita. Jita is impossible to destroy and is guarded by NPC police, although suicide gankers attack unlucky haulers anyway. No such central hub could exist within a Crowfall campaign. There is no time to organically develop a central hub the way Jita developed, and even if one guild opens their castle gates and lowers taxes to zero, other guilds would siege it, lest they lose their customers and crafters.
As opposed to a monolithic hub like Jita, there will likely be several trade-dedicated castles owned by the most competitive guilds, each competing for supplies with lower taxes, and a broader range of benefits. The result of this is the potential for several fractured micro-economies contained within each campaign; one for each major alliance (and the likely first target in any war).
There are other features in Crowfall’s system that diverge from EVE’s, each worthy of their own articles. For instance, the passive skill tree with up to four branches training at a time, the flexible recipe requirements, and the unique properties of each material type will all have major ramifications for crafting and gathering in Crowfall. As of now, Crowfall’s pre-alpha does not have many hints of the deep economy ArtCraft has in mind, but over the following months, we’ll likely see these unique economic features rolled out. Here’s hoping they all make it to beta.