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!
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