Over the last weekend, I decided to embrace my inner adult (eh…) and play a game which at least visually looks like it’s aimed at kids. Wakfu is, in a sense, the sequel to Ankama’s incredibly popular (at least in France) Dofus and uses the same visual design – in fact, the two games share a lot of game features as well; including the isometric view, character classes and turn-based combat. It’s more of a sandbox game than Dofus though, with an ecosystem the players control and a political system where the players vote for a governor of their nation every two weeks. It looks naive and sweet, but it’s actually pretty hardcore – especially if you define “hardcore” as being grindy.
One of the more interesting facets of Wakfu is the economy. First of all, you can’t sell anything to NPC vendors; you can only sell stuff to other players (either using the market boards or your own personal shop). The money, called kama, is minted by the players using mined materials. Depending on what materials you use, the more money you get – since I’ve just started, I have to mine 10 iron ore that I can turn into a single kama. That process takes a while. Iron is easy to find, the nation I’ve chosen isn’t very populated so there’s not much competition for the iron, but I still have to run around and look for it since the spawns are spread out across the zone. I then bring the materials to a bank where the minting machines are located.
It should be pointed out that I have no education in economy, what I know about it is based on common knowledge and books like The Undercover Economist. But it’s hard not to consider the kind of research that could be done on this kind of microcosmos. When I pass another player’s shop, I check the prices – even if an item is being sold for one kama, that kama isn’t only a kama; it’s a whole process. That might change the more kamas you have, at some point you are probably “rich” enough to not having to bother with minting your own money. If the market works, then kama flows between players. And since there are no money sinks through an arbitrary NPC market (at least that I know of, remember that I’m a newbie), any kama minted stays in the economy (with the exception of money hoarded by some players).
CCP used to be open about the economy in EVE Online through the economic reports they released every quarter (“we have an actual economist on staff” was a mantra they kept repeating). I’d love to see something similar from Wakfu, and other sandboxes in general. Most games have some form of NPC market though, and money is usually created out of thin air – even EVE, with its complicated market, creates money this way. There’s no doubt that there’s been an inflation over the years as more and more ISK enter the system (again it’s important to point out that a lot of this ISK is hoarded by richer players, which in turn keeps inflation down).
But what happens to a market where only the players can create the money? What impact does the process of having to mine materials to turn into money have on the economy? Is there inflation? At what point does the shift from minting your own money to only using the market happen? Does it happen at all? Since a kama can’t be broken down into smaller parts, what is its actual value for the players?
Sadly, Wakfu doesn’t have that many players right now – it’s hardly barren, but it could do with some more people. I’d love to see a more active culture, but perhaps I’m spoiled by EVE Online. I decided to sign up for three months, I found a nice guild through Reddit, and will give it a proper go. But if there’s an economist out there who would like to take a look at a game completely in the control of the players, I’d recommend Wakfu.
In future posts about it, I’ll probably go back to my own interests – media, culture and sociology. After all, Ankama have created a trans-media product; both Dofus and Wakfu are examples of convergence culture.