The biggest leak I see in the economy right now is the amount of premium currency handed out for leveling up. It’s net positive to buy another character, level them up quickly, and fund yet another character. You can earn the first 7 levels (and all their cubits) probably without going more than a few plots from your main base, and get a stable of 10 characters in an afternoon.
I’m sure nothing in the game was balanced for players having 10 characters. You can be entirely self sufficient, since it takes only a couple of days on a character to get their respective tenth of the skill pool. So the skill pool concept is moot; everyone has all the skills. But can they easily share them? Yes! Portal hubs mean all your characters are never more than five minutes apart from each other. And as a consequence of the genre it’s trivial to transfer items from one character to another, safely and asynchronously. The objectives that are like “Get a earthyam! Hold a hammer!” are basically auto-completed on characters 2-10 because everyone has some laying around in storage.
This completely collapses the leveling curve. It’s a magnitude easier to do the first 15 levels 10 times than to earn 150 levels once. Not just because the XP requirements are so much lower, but because objectives don’t always consume the items so you can keep “turning them in” on each character.
The longer this sits the more irreparable the economy will become. A power chasm will grow between those who were around to exploit the system and those who weren’t. Everything must then be designed for these player patterns at opposite ends of a spectrum.
IMO devs should patch the game to make the level-up crate contain 3 plots directly, instead of cubits which can be turned into more characters. This is the fastest way to stop the bleeding. From there I would honestly disable the ability to have alt characters and try to buy back these extra character slots from the players. Incentivize them to delete their alts by transferring the cubits, plots, XP, etc onto their main character. This is an attractive deal for the player to consolidate their power yet end up back on the leveling curve; so it is win-win, given the situation. I’ve never tried a buyback idea like this before but I have been stuck balancing a game with players on opposite ends of a power chasm (due to an early economy exploit) and it sucked enough that I would actively try to not be in that situation again.
My advice if they want to drip premium currency into the economy, is to only do it from sources they 100% control. Only thing I’ve seen like that in this game is the daily/weekly rewards. Put the cubits in those boxes and keep alts disabled until they can predict the drip rate well enough to price alt characters without creating an exploit. Giving out alts in a f2p game is like making a deal with the balance devil. If you’re going to offer them, at least get paid Real Money since it will take Real Work Hours to balance the game with them around.
Sorry this turned into a rant, but I am actually a bit worried about this exploit and I think your post hit the nail on the head that we may be seeing a downstream effect of an alt-plosion stressing the game balance in a way no one predicted. Devs can easily investigate this claim to see how bad the problem is and if it’s worth patching.
Only other quick hit I can think of is for the devs to run community events regularly. Something like November is Build With Black Stone Month; with prizes, to create a temporary rush of demand for black stone (e.g.). They don’t need to add new drops and recipes to the game to have an event. They just need to figure out how to temporarily incentivize everyone to want 1 of the existing items, and make sure the demand is great enough to drain everyone’s stockpiles. The player economy will handle the rest.