Where I discuss crafting again

Lately, with the promise of upcoming sandbox titles I keep feeling more and more interested in the crafting of these titles. I love PvP and that is a huge part of the appeal to titles but I often think it is the economy and crafting system that binds a sandbox together to something more than just the usual linear questing mmo.

It seems Massively must have the same growing excitement as me for these upcoming titles and while I don’t see eye to eye with their posts quite often I have to at least begrudge them that point of respect. They recently had a Crafting round table event on their Podcast where a few of them discussed the various mechanisms of past mmo’s as well as recent features of mmo’s they enjoyed and would like to see more of. They discussed a lot of good points but there was a few areas I just wanted to touch on a little further and, i don’t believe a comment section is appropriate for such word spam.

Focus of Features

One part that keeps being brought up in the discussion is that you  can either focus on crafting or combat as the foundation of the mmo when, that you need a focus on crafting above all others for a sandbox to work when this seems a little counter-intuitive. It should be a collection of features and content points integrated together to create a mmo. Each part should be an equal focus of development while also taking into account the others so as to work them into the design of a whole experience.

Funnily enough after starting to write this I see the post by Leo’s Life about Cohesive Design which is really everything I wanted to say here. There shouldn’t be one key content style or Gameplay mode that gets the most development or is the key feature to the experience. They should all interact; combat focus for those that want to kill for their components or maybe certain rare drops; gatherers around the place and crafter’s creating items as well as a variety of other interests. It is about creating and having Options of play that are each important, useful and interesting in their own way.

Components of Crafting

Some of the presenters seem to have their heart set on crafting as gameplay in order to make it better, like having a little mini-game will make crafting more interesting and see more use from players but I have to disagree. Personally I hate those little mini-games for crafting, they are usually pointless with little reason beyond taking up the players time. Simple click mechanics that honestly belong more in an Iphone game.

It’s not these mechanics that create an engaging and interesting crafting system, click mechanics don’t help create useful crafting… it is the options inherent in the crafting system. I agree that there should be player input but it should be about the player being able to create unique items, or at least an end product that isn’t just a basic copy that everyone else is making as well. Crafting needs Options: it needs ways to create new items, items tailored to specific players, content and builds as well as ways of personalising the item to say it was lovingly crafted by you. Options enough, and ways of attaining these options so they can be sought after commodities and not disposable pieces that get dropped within a single level or a dungeon run.

The Gear Grind

I’ve always suspected that we give too many allowances towards those with the hardcore raiding mindset. It feels like there is some sort of entitlement not just that they must always have the best gear but that no one else should have it either. This is a problem.

One of the points debated in the podcast, one that I have always thought over is the question of drops in dungeons. I hate the current model of progression as it really only serves to increase the time spent replaying the same content but also that it completely locks out a large portion of players from attaining the same items. It’s restrictive in a way that creates distinctions between certain playerbases and conflict points around these.

To me the most elegant solution is to have the completion of these boss bottles reward some sort of epic material, like being able to skin/disenchant the boss in order to get crafting ingredients that can be then turned into whatever gear you require. Of course these shouldn’t be soulbound but tradeable components. The reason I say this is because it then makes a lot of the other professions and gameplay styles viable in the end game.

The raiders get their gear, first of course but then they would also have a very reliable source of income from the activity allowing them to gear up and stock up in advance for the next activities. They still get rewarded for their activities and the completion of harder content relative to others. This way though, crafters would be earning enough to afford their own, it would be attainable to gatherers and even the people who just like grinding out mobs and events would eventually get enough to afford the group as well. A friend wanting to play can also be gifted gear on a whim in order to play together and contribute.

It is a model that free’s up the various other playstyles while not enforcing playing one particular piece of content in order to progress. It creates… wait for it… that key word. That’s right, OPTIONS!

Bringing Balance

One part I don’t think they went into enough was about the economy itself. There was talk of balance and the part developers are oh so keen about, creating sinks and faucets but only the faintest hint of any sort of complexity. A slight nod towards inflation ruining economies but really nothing else when I believe this to be the main point of a crafting system.

The economy seems to have been a part of MMO development that receives the least attention or when it does, like even hiring an economist to help, the developers fear making the harder decision to create something more than a system with no real value beyond the top tier or those that create insane grinds as a restrictive measures. Eventually though these restraints run out and they constantly have to create new gold sinks. Sorry but that isn’t an economy, not even close.

I’ve said it once.. or twice.. or more times (I forget) already and I’ll probably repeat it endlessly but for an economy to work in-game you need item loss; a consistent sink that both incurs cost and fuels the use of materials in crafting. That keeps people gathering, creating and dungeon running.

Item Degradation shouldn’t be the dirty word of the industry. The dirtiest most cringe worthy swear you’ve ever heard and every time it’s said you can feel the collective sneer and butt-clench of the entitled mmo generation. A filthy disgusting word that is so abhorrent as to repulse but once you get used to it you realise it’s actually far better for you. If you want a world and not a ride you have to take it off the rails and occasional incur some loss.

I have always both loved and hated crafting. I love the promise of what it can bring; the freedom of play it provides and the social aspects it brings out. The interdependence and the progression not merely measured by some sort of gear stat but at the same time I hate HAAAAAAATE the usual implementation of it. The only mmo I really got involved with the crafting with was Firefall, I’ve already written my love story for its mechanics and surprise, when you do it right the vast majority of players engage in it, begrudgingly so but they do.

#Crafting #ArmchairDeveloper #MMO

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9 thoughts on “Where I discuss crafting again

  1. Thanks for the link. A few items of note.

    WoW can out with an infographic this week. Apparently, there are 3.6M pet battles per day, 970k PvE runs (dungeons, scenarios and raids) and about 500k PvP matches. Given the player ratios per event type, it would be hard to argue that the player base isn’t diversified. It would however be easy to argue that the focus is more on the raid aspect.

    Now for item loss. I like it. It was frustrating as hell in UO but it was always a question of time/effort. I could regear and get back into content after a few minutes. Maybe a week or so to find gear of a similar power level. WoW does not have that. It takes weeks/months to get gear and if you lose it, you lose a massive amount of power. A possible solution is that every expansion, there is a vendor who insures your gear and also sells gear at 50% of the current ilvl power. This way, if you lose something the power hit isn’t so bad and the insurance can be of ilvl-1 patch. It’s an idea but the entire gear treadmill thing is a beats i’d have to think long and hard about.

    • what about those just aimlessly gathering, or the ones alting.. or the ones in timeless isle(is that it) doing those dailies and killing the champions. They have only measured a few key areas, not that of the whole just yet.Also how many of those Pve encounters are current max level stuff, how many of the pvp are the higher ranks.

      Also, to me it looks like pet battles are the clear winner =p

      As for degradation in wow I think that would definitely be a good thing. Like I said in the part before that having the drops be tradeable materials rather than soulbound gear lets active players easily stock up, regear and for other players to get into such gear with time and effort in other areas.
      It’s hard to solve for a system so ingrained with that modelo thoguh and I’m definitely not advocating for it to be a mechanic of every mmo… that would just be daft.
      For sandbox titles, and those wanting an economy it seems to be needed

      • You know a prime example of that in WoW? Inscription from WotLK to Cataclysm. Items were consumed on use, there was a massive market (I made about 200k a month) but it didn’t jive with Blizzard’s easy mode attitude towards class customization. Glyphs became soulbound and single use and the entire market crashed.

        I mean it was a massive gold sink due to AH cuts. Wow has no market, it’s just an ATM.

  2. Re: Gear Grind, the simplest way to implement something like that I can think of is pretty simple… just have 10% of boss item drops, same proportion that come out Warforged or whatever, be BoE instead of BoP… better than the old system that had actual BoE items in the loot table, this would enable any drop (weapon, trinket, etc) to have a small chance to be sellable. That would also offer the side effect of offsetting the current guild gold deficit since TI has been a significantly gold-negative content patch for most guilds. With a low percentage like that even if guilds sold all the BoEs it wouldn’t have a significant affect on gear acquisition rates or shard availability…

    I realize that doesn’t help crafting one bit, if anything it hurts it, but I’m not sure crafting can be saved. At the very least, if they stick to the “2 slots per tier” crafting paradigm, it’d be nice if world bosses didn’t drop BETTER items for BOTH SLOTS. Spend a month crafting pants that many players won’t even need at that point.

    • Yeh I think just having more boe gear would be a nice change but it doesn’t help crafters at all, in fact I think it would hurt them even more as you can now get the best gear for a price. Better off just saving up a little more for that.

      My pet peeve is world is frequent world drops that are better than crafted. The entire time Leveling in gw2 I was constantly getting better gear than I could craft for a reasonable cost… Completely invalidates crafting at lower levels. That and how quickly you level anyway

  3. Haha, I was thinking about how the crafting system could affect gear progression as I was reading your paragraph about drops in dungeons. I wondered about whether you could just have all loot (not just from bosses but basically all non-junk loot) be crafting materials. Make the crafting system involve hundreds of different components across all professions….and then of course I read your next paragraph and that was exactly what you were thinking too! Great minds….

    I’d also welcome an alternative approach to gear progression, and making it economy-based is a good idea that I think only EVE has successfully managed to do so far. If you could adapt that to an avatar-based mmo, where your gear is only temporary because eventually it gets permanently destroyed through combat, then there would be a great incentive for specialised crafters, specialised merchants, specialised gatherers/hunters to exist no matter what class they play, and that top-end gear would be available to anyone who could afford it, not just the ‘elite raider/pvper’ set. I might try to get a post out of this, hmmmm…..

    • That is pretty much my dream mmo right now. An avatar based eve and I’m really surprised no one has thought to develop that yet as I always see a huge demand for it on forums. Not as many people can just get into that starship type play as it’s too impersonally but if it was a large open map, placing down structures and controlling resources than I think it could be quite big.

      As with the raid crafting I would love for it to have a plethora of components for every aspect of the game. Gear, potions, cosmetics, housing items.. Lots of options.

  4. Ultima Online’s item degradation was perfectly fine, outside the one skill (Maces) designed to break armor. That was a bit much since it not only gave you an excellent combat advantage, but it also caused extra grief. It didn’t help that the only solution to countering it was ‘carry more shields’.

    Other than, item degradation was fine because items weren’t complicated. With relatively few exceptions, gear wasn’t loaded down with a billion stats and they didn’t require a billion items. Replacing a set, while costly, was in most everyone’s range. In fact, more costly gear was typically just a cosmetic improvement in nature (which still drove up prices and put a target on your head).

    It was pretty lenient. You usually lost gear from people taking it or failure to recover your body, not it breaking. Still, every piece had a durability level that reduced with use. Blacksmiths could repair durability, but it would cost some the maximum durability to do it. In other words, you could prolong a piece of gear’s life a long time, but nothing was immortal.

    I believe that could work in a modern MMO. Instead of players socketing their own gear, socketing could be built into the customization process at the creator level. That would increase players talking to one another, making requests for tailored gear. Along with cosmetic differences rather than straight stat jumps, it would also support an economy of repairing or handing gear down. I’d even consider a new tradeskill/gatherer class that JUST melts down objects into special materials for new uses. WoW had something like this as part of their enchanting skill, but I think when applied more broadly, the mechanic could make a full skill on its own that further promotes getting old items out of the economy.

    Instead of stats being tied so much to rarity, I think rarity should improve durability, cosmetics, and maybe customization options. That way, that piece of gear that required that Epic Dragon Scale of +10 would naturally last longer, look better, and be more tailorable to specific wants, but wouldn’t be AS huge an item level leap as it would be in past MMORPGs.

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