Looted vs. Crafted

I can’t believe I don’t have a “crafting” tag yet. Ah, how far I have wandered from my roots. Well, here’s a return to them, while I take a quick stabby ponder at a debate that’s been pretty quiet of late: loot economies vs craft economies. ‘Course, since most of the blogs I read are — or were — WAR themed, and since WAR has neither real crafting nor a real economy yet, the lack of a lively crafting economy debate shouldn’t be all that shocking.

I finally came to the conclusion sometime last year that you can’t have overlapping loot and craft economies. You can have both, provided the stuff you can craft can’t be looted, and vice versa. Why buy a gun from Fred the Gunsmith when you can rip it out of the cold dead claws of a foozle? (Yes, foozles have claws.) Or, why bother killing UberSlash the Foozle King for the gun he drops when Fred can make one that’s almost as good if not better?

Let me clarify: you can’t be a happy full-time crafter in a mixed economy, not as they’re implemented right now in most games I’ve seen. I don’t know how that works out for looters, not being much of one myself. (I love to open the corpse-loot box, but I don’t really care what’s in it as long as it’s shiny. I’m a bit indiscriminate that way.)

Every game I’ve played that’s mixed looted and crafted items of the same type has ended up trivialising crafting, which pisses crafters off immensely and pleases the hobby-crafters and loot-firsters immensely. SWG started out as a 100% crafted-item economy, and it worked. Now it’s a bit of both, with some overlap, and since nothing decays the only thing that does decay is the number of crafters.

(Oh yes, tomorrow — or Monday, I’ve decided I may give myself weekends off, except for Haiku Sundays when I remember them — we’ll talk about item decay in MMOs. Another happy shiny topic everyone loves to agree on. /maniacal cackle)

Vanguard was going to be heavy on the crafted item side, and let’s just say it didn’t end up that way. Which is probably just as well, since the crafting system ended up making you want to gouge your eyes out with a rusty spoon (oh, not at first, no indeed. But after 5,000 work orders? Trust me. Rusty spoons. Or splintered chopsticks.). There may have been a tug of war between loot type devs and crafter type devs — or so I like to imagine, though I expect I may be glossing a little — and the loot type devs, damn their hide, eventually won, though it was a little back and forth there for a while at the end of beta and right around launch. (Remember the fairy godmothers in Sleeping Beauty? “Pink! Loot!” — “Blue! Crafted!” — “Loot!” — “Crafted!”)

EQ2 used to be loot and crafted, though it’s been several years since I last played it so I don’t really like to comment on what it’s like now.

All three of those games have items only crafters could make, primarily of the house decoration type, and as far as I’m concerned that’s the only mixed loot/craft option that’s going to work in the long term — the only option that doesn’t piss off the loot-firsters, the crafters, or both. Let the crafters craft, but don’t make them compete with loot, or vice versa.

Sure, you’ll still always have people who bitch that they can’t loot a house pillow and those evil crafters have a stranglehold on feathers, and you’ll have the others who bitch that looters are constantly trying to rip off the poor crafters who can’t get foozle claws for themselves… because everybody bitches all the time. I’ve finally understood that too. But for the most part, if you let the crafters make things that are in real demand (and don’t forget consumables — eh, one can dream), and if you let looters loot things they’ll really value (usually armour and stabby things), everyone will bitch be happy.

53 thoughts on “Looted vs. Crafted

  1. A quick note.

    One of the major problems is that really really really great Crafted items, like those in WoW are BOP only, which makes passing out or auctioning off such gear impossible.

    This forces people to choose certain types of Crafting in order get much needed gear later in the game, which is honestly why some classes, specifically Priests, are pushed to take up skills likeTailoring for instance, because they need the high end robes to do instances so they can get the better items.

    This gives crafting a bitter taste in some players mouths. I know that I would have preferred trying something else like herbalism with my Mage, if I didn’t need the Shadowfrost gear pre WOTLK. Same with a few other players I’m sure.

    I do like the EQ2 crafting, but unlike WoW, some of that stuff is more fluff and you can’t really work the economy with it, especially if you can get better items by questing. In WoW, the crafted armor is on even keel with most questing stuff, its only in the big raid situations that some crafted gear becomes obsolete.

    Wow, that was a lot for a short thought. lol

  2. That’s how it works in WoW — but it doesn’t have to be how it works everywhere. I keep forgetting how much WoW influences everything else, even crafting, or at least people’s perceptions of what crafting is.

    We approach games from entirely different directions, Oak, heh. When I craft, my intent isn’t necessarily to “work the economy” with the stuff I make. There’s pleasure in the making itself, and in providing stuff other players need, which I think the loot-based player (as you seem to be) just doesn’t understand.

    Once again, never the twain, it seems.

  3. Have you checked out Atlantica Online yet, Ysh? If you can get over the heavy console Japanese-RPG influence, you will find a game with some very innovative takes on MMO staples like crafting.

    Some highlights are being able to craft any item that can ever drop, mentoring other players so they can raise their crafting skills, and crafting progress tied into how many mobs you kill.

  4. It would seem WoW has trained us all to be selfish first, and if we cannot profit from an activity (crafting) at all times it’s a waste.

    Oh, and Vanguard made me want to gouge my eyes with rusty spoons fairly early. I think my Dread Knight is still only level 8 at crafting with little desire to go higher.

    Of the various post-EQ (or post-WoW if you must) games I’ve played, LOTRO has done the best job of balancing loot vs. crafted gear. Despite having (like WoW) permanent items with no decay, LOTRO is just about the least *gear-dependent* game I’ve seen, and the crafted gear is on par with everything except the raid gear. Even then, the raid gear is only slightly better and the set bonuses are really only the most beneficial while you’re actually in a raid instance. Same with the PvMP gear from what I understand (I’ve never done PvMP with my freeps).

    But nothing was quite like the old-school SWG days where crafting was important and meaningful. Items decayed (if I’m remembering correctly?) so eventually you’d need to find (or become) a crafter to make a replacement or to step up to an improved model. Want a home? Buy one from an architect. Want a spaceship? Find a crafter.

    I guess crafting in EVE is also pretty important since everything can be destroyed, and the game has a heavy economic (and economic PvP) influence.

    All the new sandboxy games on the horizon also feature player-crafted economies. Darkfall, Earthrise, I think even Fallen Earth which doesn’t strike me as a sandbox at all but does place a very high importance on crafting which also takes place in “real (game) time” so if you’re crafting a dune-buggy for someone it might take 2 days for your crafting shop to finish it for the customer while you’re out adventuring.

    Maybe having item decay is *one* good way of making PvE-ers and PvP-ers important to each other (one makes the items that break, the other uses and breaks the item and must buy more) rather than the current trend of drawing a divisive line in the sand between the two.

  5. I love crafting in games. I think it has to do with my love of creating things — I like getting a pile of stuff and turning them into something useful, or valuable, or decorative (a pile of yarn becomes a crocheted amigurumi Cthulhu for my husband, for example).

    I enjoy making money in MMOs — I consider it a sort of mini-game for me, and I actually have fun trying to figure out how the market in a particular game is and what sells or doesn’t, and which niche items could fetch a good profit margin (such as reselling things that NPCs sell, which can fetch me a 1,000% profit margin with little effort on my part). The reason I mention this is that crafting tends to be a money-and-time sink in most games, and even when I feel like I ought to stay away due to my adoration of seeing my pile of coins grow bigger, I invariably find myself sucked into the whole crafting thing and glad that I did.

    Because, in the end, it’s all about fun — and I have great fun crafting, and earning skill points and being able to craft more stuff, and figuring out the most efficient way to get more skilled but at the same time create useful things either for my own characters or for other people.

    I know it’s a purely ego thing, but I like seeing my name on items. More than that, I like being able to create items that my characters can use. Sure, they will get loot drops or quest rewards that are better, but not for every single slot — and that’s where the crafted items come in. I find crafting rewarding in this sense. I don’t have to be decked out in all-crafted gear/gems/whatever to feel that the craft was worth it; just a few items here and there as I level to help bolster characters would be enough to satisfy me.

    I can usually find ways to make money with some part of my crafting (for example, my farmer/cook in LotRO — who is level 17 at the moment — has made almost enough money to buy a deluxe house, just by selling the foodstuffs that she farmed and cooked herself), so if the other parts demand more time or money investment, the balancing act still results in me having my pile of coins. A smaller pile than it would have been if I had just chosen gathering professions, of course, but I have a ton of fun creating stuff too. 🙂

  6. I’m much the same way, Mallika. I invariably find myself crafting even though I know it’s a money sink because it’s an activity I enjoy. Good thing I can usually earn more than enough to fund my crafting pursuits in most of the games I play.

    There’s just something about gathering up the different mats I need and creating something out of nothing I find highly satisfying. If it won’t sell, it’s no biggie to me as there’s always other ways to make some coin.

  7. Most games that have item decay these days let you cheat the system by throwing gold at it… it ends up being a gold sink system, not a gear-rot system, if you know what I mean.

    I do think you’re right, Ysh. Crafting for “fluff” items (like house items) and expendables (potions/food/etc), looting for gear, seems to be the only way to balance things well.

    One of the interesting aspects of EQ2 (to me) is spells/skills. There are 3 tiers of competence for each skill: Apprentice, Adept and Master. Within each tier are a couple of levels. In theory there is Apprentice I, II, III & IV. I believe in Adept there is Adept I & III, and finally Master has Master I & II (I think? Don’t shoot me if I have this wrong).

    You get the base level, Apprentice I, “for free” when you level. Apprentice II, III & IV are crafted from common materials and so easy to get hold of off the broker, and in practice you almost never see II or III… for all I know they may have been removed at this point.

    Adept I is a loot drop, reasonably common.

    Adept III is crafted using rare harvestables.

    Master I is a rare loot drop

    Master II is level-based and gotten through a game mechanic.

    While I’ll grant you its all a little confusing, this interweaving of crafted and looted tiers seems to keep everyone happy. Of course the fact that none of these items are BoP helps, since you can shop on the broker for loot items (which tend to be pretty expensive) or just settle for a crafted tier if you can find what you need on the broker.

    Mind you, I’m not an uber EQ2 player, but from being on the outside looking in, it seems like its a nice balance.

  8. I like crafting very much and I don’t think you have to have crafting just to sell items for your personal gain, I enjoyed making bags, boxes and furniture in EQ2 very much.

    I remember spending days just harvesting items so I could make weapons and armor. My issue was that the time invested in those types of endeavors didn’t give out an equal return. Meaning, I could spend hours looking for a rare item, but what was crafted from it, might not help advance my character’s ability to improve his adventuring skills. Basically, if I spend weeks harvesting, then weeks crafting a hilt, blade and shealth, then I want the weapon to do more than +1 damage against frost creatures…you know what I mean. I want the end reward to be proportional to the effort put into making it, and in some situations in EQ2, it just didn’t seem like that was happening. And I didn’t mind the failures or the broken items and such, that made the crafting so much more interesting to me. I don’t want it as easy as it is in WoW, but I do want it to not be mind numbing either.

    Now, I’m sure others feel differently. They enjoy spending hours sitting at a loom, fireplace, forge or tool bench and don’t really concern themselves with the reward in the end. Me, I want it to be fairly proportional, and at times, it just wasn’t and I had already spent a good bit of grind crafting in EQ 1 that I didn’t want to spend 2 days grinding out +1 stamina pies before I could make the +4 stamina fish stick.

    In WoW, crafting is straight forward, easy and simple. Get raw materials, press button, out pops item. Some would say that crafting in WoW is soulless for sure, but you got items that you could use and get an adventuring benefit from right away without having to spend several days crafting before you could get something decent.

    I personally want something in between, but there isn’t anything out there currently. I do miss the fun I had crafting in EQ2 and I plan at some point to get back into it when I have the time, but I’m not against a crafting game, as long as the reward is proportional to effort put into it.

  9. One of the biggest reasons that crafting systems fail is…*I’m so dead for saying this*…guilds.

    Most guilds craft to gear their members. Crafters have a purpose and members save coin. After everyone is outfitted, the crafter turns to the market. But there isn’t one, because every other guild is doing the same thing.

    At the same time, guilds are busy adventuring together and getting all the good loot they can. Crafters start to lose their signifcance within the guild as the members gain levels and start finding better gear.

    When a game is new, crafters can do well with players hitting new tiers. Often they buy player-made gear so they are better equipped to get better looted gear for that tier.

    But when players start twinking alts or guild members start handing out duplicate gear…crafters again lose their value.

    You see this happen with crafted or loot economies. I think that in the end developers ignore how players will actually play the game just to put systems in place. How you get them to stop that, I don’t know.

  10. I addressed this very point early in the design of my ever-evolving game (and no, I’m not nearly done with it). I personally LOVE crafting and all it offers to a game. In fact I’d love to see crafting be its own staple in a game someday.

    I had the idea of having players of my game being able to create only 2 characters per server; one an adventurer, one a crafter. Then you put in just as much content for crafting as you do adventuring, while tying them together.

    Can you imagine being able to build your own shop from nothing, setting up trade routes through the land, being the first to forge a trade route through undiscovered territories? You’d have to hire escorts for your caravans, or be able to sack those caravans if you were a criminal! Everything would be player made. Everything.

    Crafting in any game out right now is always an afterthought. There’s nothing beyond making weapons / armor for adventuring. Yes some games allow you to make neat furniture and stuff, but to what end? You can’t sit on them, there’s no housing tradeshows to show off your talent save for out of game screenshot forums 😛

    I just don’t think the idea of having a full on crafting portion to a game has been looked at yet and it should. Let a grandmaster crafter be able to craft something you’d normally find off a raid boss in WoW and LET HIM SELL IT. If that’s how powerful weapons are made in your game, why not?

    I figure that as long as you have a good plan to follow for something like that where perhaps you don’t loot the epic ass-kicking sword of bad-assery, but you loot the ingredients to make it and have someone forge it … that could be fun.

    I know it cuts into instant gratification but I think people have taken that WAY too far in games lately. Let people work for their awesomeness.

    There’s much more I’ve thought about / written on the subject of crafting as a class, but I’ve written a lot already 😛

  11. @ Oakstout — I do see what you mean, and I agree. I think I’ve just become resigned to the fact that in almost every game out there, effort put into crafting or harvesting never equals the sort of gain (if only in xp) that you can get from adventuring. It’s partly intentional (“Our game is an ADVENTURING game, dammit!”) and partly because of the grind that most crafting has become.

    That of course is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish: the “You crafters take no risks, so you don’t deserve the same rewards!” argument which means crafting makes you waste 3 times as much time to achieve similar results (in terms of xp, or whatever). Oh boy did that one get thrown around a lot when Vanguard was in development. They won in the end, too. 😛

    .. And that leads to the current grind-based game design paradigm, which isn’t just a kettle, it’s a whole freakin’ cauldron. 😀

  12. I don’t agree with the argument that crafters don’t take as many risks. I agree that yes, crafting (as implemented in any game out right now) less dangerous a road to travel because resources can be bought / sold, but you’re never truly playing in an online game AS a crafter right now.

    Crafters don’t have to worry about competition, losing their store, braving the wilds to collect resources (as pure crafters). But all this is simply due to crafting being implemented as an afterthought. Design a game around crafting as a pure class and design a game around adventuring with using crafted items as another component and put the two together.

    Personally I’d like to see the loot dropped from mobs (that’s not a mundane broadsword) be something super powerful, but also have “quirks.” Like let’s say you kill an evil Lich and he drops his phylactery (which you take and keep) along with some magic orb. Through use of the orb you realize it does insane amounts of magic damage, but that it’s not always controllable. Sometimes it targets your enemies, sometimes your friends. What you don’t notice is that the orb is slowly repowering the phylactery you picked up and stealing your soul to reawaken the Lich. Use the orb too much and BOOM, the Lich returns, killing you in the process 😛

    To avoid things like that, you take stock in your local crafter to make you magically infused weapons that bind to a specific life force of their choosing. Perhaps the sword you WANT to buy just won’t work in your hands so you have to settle for something else until the crafter can figure out exactly how to make one that WILL work for you.

    Meh … crafting is so awesome and so overlooked…

  13. just a quick note on this:

    “EQ2 used to be loot and crafted, though it’s been several years since I last played it so I don’t really like to comment on what it’s like now.”

    EQ2 crafted loot is pretty nice, yes you can get better by raiding and going some long quest lines, but the master crafted stuff is really nice. I think they did a nice job of balancing looted vs Crafted.

  14. @Wiqd, you need to look at POTBS, maybe. Materials come from “factories” that you have to build (in quotes because the ‘factory’ could be a farm or a mine or a logging camp, etc. Then there are other factories to turn raw materials into finished materials, and finished materials into usable items (everything from shot to ships). You can’t do it all….the number of “factories” you can own is limited. So if you want to be a ship builder, you’ll have to partner with a sailmaker for sails, blacksmith for cannon, provisioners for provisions, and so on.

    There are some “government built” ships but they’re pretty inferior and only there in case the player economy falls apart (or for when a server is new and no one is building ships yet).

    Horizons is another game that was very heavily crafting focused.

    A Tale in the Desert has a huge emphasis of crafting.

    There are a lot of games beyond WoW, EQ2, Warhammer and LOTRO… we all fall in the trap of not looking in a broad enough circle to find alternatives.

  15. @Wiqd: I’d wondered about doing the same thing, allowing an Adventurer character and a Tradesman character. Or regardless how many character slots each account gets, *only* one can be a Tradesman.

    Adventurers can gather *some* basic materials the Tradesmen can use, and can learn basic low-level apprentice crafting abilities in a given trade, but since their chosen “profession” is adventuring they can never master crafting; only the dedicated Tradesman can do that.

    The trick is, no one has ever really attempted to make a full crafting game. It’s always a full adventuring game with an optional crafting mini-game. (Note: I mean this differently than ATITD which is a crafting *only* game, no adventuring.)

    If I say the Adventurers cannot master crafting then it’s only fair that Trademen cannot master combat. If I make a Tradesman character which is by all rights a non-combat character, I don’t feel it’s fair to confine that character’s existence to staying in towns or whatever and working the auction house for materials to hawk his wares. I want the full experience of learning to gather, learning to craft, eventually getting to setup shop, eventually being able to hire NPCs as “employees” who did extra gathering (think the harvester machines from SWG that did the gathering for me rather than forcing me to wander the fields in search of randomly spawning resource nodes), perhaps expand to having my own “corporation,” and so forth.

    The adventuring game rewards those who put in the time to level up and defeat epic encounters. If you’re going to include crafting, it’s only fair that the people who dedicate that much time should also have some type of reward system. (Rewards do not necessarily have to be tangible “gear” either.)

  16. I totally forgot about Ultima Online. In my Opinion had the best crafting system of any game. Most people used crafted items as well.

  17. Wiqd, if you’re thinking about designing crafting systems, feel free to pick brains. I’ve done a fair bit in my time and, while I’m no programmer, I think I have a pretty good understanding of crafting as it fits into games. Genda probably knows even more, and there are many others out there.

    There are reasons crafting is either a mini-game or an insane grind in most games right now — if not both. The main reason is, in almost all cases, the only thing limiting crafting levels is time available (and often resources), which leads to a fear that everyone would max crafting really quickly and then get bored (the MMO nightmare). But since adventure-levelling has become, to a large extent, MUCH easier than it used to be, I’m not sure that’s such a good argument anymore — levelling is also pretty much dependent on the time available and has really very little to do with skill.

    Interestingly enough, a telling or two ago ATITD had a supposedly skill-based crafting method. Sadly, what it ended up being to me was a CAD-knowledge-based crafting method (you had to know where to tap a representation of a shovel blade in order to make a good shovel blade), and while it was innovative, it was also pretty frustrating.

    Crafting *cannot* be realistically represented in a game. Seriously, if you want to pretend to do woodworking as it’s done in the workshop, learn how to work wood in real life — it’ll be a damn sight more tactile and rewarding. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t “pretend-craft” in games and have complex creation systems and still feel like we’re making something worthwhile.

    This is going to merit some more posts. I had no idea you lot cared about crafting. Now you’re really got me going. 😛

  18. @Scott

    That’s pretty much the road I was looking at taking. My thoughts were:

    As a crafter, let’s say in this case a blacksmith, then being in front of a forge, hammering iron all day and whatnot, you’re undoubtedly going to be pretty strong and good at swinging said hammer. So if you did choose to go harvest for yourself, you wouldn’t be undefended. You couldn’t master combat moves like an adventurer, but you could defend yourself from a kobold or 2.

    As far as rewards for a crafter, my ideas are from the game we’re designing so there’s a lot going on in my mind that correlates with things no one else who reads what I post know about 😛 One of those ideas is the ideas of factions playing a HUGE role in a game, but not like in WoW or EQ2 or anything like that. Cities would have several if not many factions in them aside from central ones like the kingship, etc. But should you get in good with say, the Princess and whatever faction she reigns over (and by “get in good” i mean exalted, but exalted would mean a LOT more than it does in current iterations of faction implementation) she would choose you to design and make armor / weapons / housing, etc for her personal palace guard.

    When it comes down to it, the rewards for a craftsman are fame (or notoriety) which leads to money rolling in, which leads to an expanded set up, which leads to harsh competition, which leads to caravan assaults, underhanded scheming, and all manner of trade interaction like that 😛 You could hire people to steal plans or money, or hire people to protect your own stash.

    Again there’s things in my head I know I want in our game that people reading this can’t see, so it may not fill out the right way, but hopefully you get the idea of what I want in a crafting / adventuring balanced game. I want as much content for crafting as I do for adventuring.

    I also want an interactive crafting implementation that is more than just pushing a button to combine elements. I want skill to play a part, whether it be judging how hard or how many times to hit a piece of metal, or how many times you fold something, whether or not you know how much of X to put into mixture Y so end product Z is of a worthy quality.

    I also want crafting to be more than just learning patterns over and over. If I’m smart enough to make a really good short sword and someone comes to me to buy a nice longsword, I’m not going to say “sorry, don’t have the patterns or the molds for that.” I’m going to think “ok well, a longsword is a longer version of a shortsword! … with some tweaks obviously” and try to make that. If I do successfully, BOOM … a learned skill.

    Though, our game is skill based … no classes, no xp.

  19. @Ysh

    Actually I’ve done what you recommend 😛 I was so interested in smithing that I questioned a smith at our local Ren Faire last time it was here and am looking into buying a forge of my own with some starter tools so I can get into smithing. One of the guys who runs a Viking guild here in town already has one set up, so I go over and pound rebar to practice with.

    As far as picking brains, I’ll do that a fair bit, methinks 😛

    But here’s the thing … people were worried about “maxing” crafting when levels were what MMOs were all about. So what is “maxing crafting” in an MMO where there are no levels?

    I believe if the crafting content is designed to offer challenges that need not only be conquered once, but many times over a given amount of time, that’s one way to do it.

    As an example, let’s take Ms Ysharros, fine crafter and purveyor of tailored goods to the people of her village. This fine young crafter starts to feel that her village is a might small what with all the traders coming and going from her village regularly, so she sets off on her own to establish her own trade route, beginning with the closest town to her. She knows they don’t have many cotton or jute plants to harvest near them, so textiles are in constant demand.

    Problem is, to get to said town, she has to pass through some nasty territory (as an aside, gives a good reason for travel time in a game. I hate instant teleportation) so she hires some people to protect her. Her caravan is attacked, but she makes it through after a day or so and sets up a little stall on the outskirts of town. Now, she’s new here and fairly alone, so bandits make her a target quite often in the beginning, so she has to find ways to protect her stock while still bringing in resources from her home town to make it all worthwhile.

    The constant challenge of basically running a business in the game is far more interactive than running an instance and killing a boss in 45 minutes 😛

    Perhaps she decides to trek into an undiscovered part of the country and takes a couple hired NPCs to protect her for a week while she builds her shop on the side of a highway to give people a “last chance side shop” to bundle up before they head into the freezing mountains ahead. She’s out in the open here though, so she’s very exposed to raids from small bandit gangs and wandering kobold hunting parties. Starting to see what I’m saying?

    Now, let’s say you get your … we’ll call it “renown” (sp?) up far enough to impress the princess of your area. She asks for a sample of your work and loves it so much that she asks you to make a bulk load of it. You don’t know why, but the next time you visit the palace you see all her handmaidens wearing robes you designed.

    Interactivity with an ability to shape and change the world you view around you. I guess my dreams are too big 😛

  20. “Seriously, if you want to pretend to do woodworking as it’s done in the workshop, learn how to work wood in real life — it’ll be a damn sight more tactile and rewarding.”

    That’s not really fair, Ysh. I could turn around and say “If you want to learn sword-fighting, get a sword and start practicing, join the SCA or something.”

    And combat is not even remotely realistically represented in games. So it seems unfair to single out crafting.

    Games are both an escape and an opportunity to try to experience something we can’t in real life. It may be something like spell slinging, which just doesn’t exist in real life, or it may be something that *does* exist in real life but which is out of our reach for one reason or another.

    I did have a workshop once where I did woodworker, and it *was* a much better experience than virtual crafting. But where I am in life right now limits my access to woodworking tools, so doing woodworking in a game should/could be the next best thing, if done well.

    Sorry to be like a terrier and bite into that one statement and shake it like that… 🙂

  21. That wasn’t quite what I meant, Pete — I was taking issue with the argument that to be more interesting, crafting has to be more “realistic.” Interesting in games absolutely does not have to equal realistic, and you make my argument for me.

    I’m not saying woodworking in a game can’t be fun. I’m saying that the people who argue that the only way crafting can be fun is if it models real life crafting are limiting the options games offer us.

    I was also trying (tangentially and badly) to say that real, live crafting of stuff is intensely rewarding but isn’t usually structured in a way that can necessarily be transposed into games — an hour planing a block of wood *is* fun in real life, but might not be in a game.

    As usual my thoughts are clearer than my words. The day I learn to perfectly express what I’m thinking is probably the day I’ll explode, or attain Nirvana. Or both.

  22. @Wiqd … When I can purchase your game again? 😀 I read your thoughts and ideas and stuff and I am sitting here wanting to simultaneously cry my eyes out that there isn’t a game like that, and drooling at the prospect that one day there could be one.

  23. No, no, that was my bad. I was skimming a bit too much; I failed my reading comprehension saving throw. 🙂

    Though I’m not sure I’d agree that an hour planing a block of wood is all that fun. 🙂

    Which I say in jest, but which immediately triggered off a tangent: that ‘virtual’ activities do tend to toss away the dull parts of ‘real’ activities in the name of fun, but how much of the satisfaction of a job well done (in real life) comes from having done the tedious part of the job conscientiously. Planing (or worse, sanding!!) the wood is work that has to be done in order to make a quality item but is often rather tedious. Is the reward of a well-crafted piece enhanced from having put in the extra time doing the ‘dull’ bits? I kind of think it is.

    If virtual crafting added more tedium, would it become ultimately more satisfying?

  24. @Pete

    I think if tedium was introduced into games nowadays, with no other pre-existing weening off the instant gratification methods put in place currently, people would be ultimately turned off.

    However, look at something like Eve or Fallen Earth where construction takes place in real time (I suppose Vanguard can fit in there as well). You have to wait, but in the end you’re excited when the time rolls around for you to have a new skill and thus pilot a new ship or have a new house to live in / show off. Personally I think time spent doing something is well worth the heightened quality of the output.


    As soon as I can find someone crazy enough to back all my lunatic ideas 😛

    I mean … just imagine that you, as a crafter, have your unique seal stamped on the royal palace guard armor that anyone and everyone can inspect and see.

    Something I thought about earlier as well, incentive wise, was the idea of using in-game crafters to make real gear for people out of the game. There are some very talented people out there and if given the right tools and atmosphere, could make some stunning things in game. But what if what you made in-game could then be produced out of game for actual physical consumption by the public? Like you design and make something, then depending on your stature in the community (and ultimately with companies in the outside world willing) you could produce your stuff en masse, or just for your guildies? Examples could be tabards or certain types of clothing, etc.

    I guess I’m just looking at ways to make being a real crafter in a game pay off. I believe there’s so much content out there that could be explored by a pure crafter … not to mention the fact that I believe in order to be a grandmaster crafter, that’s what you have to focus on. Not going out and slaying monsters, but improving your craft, adding in your own little nuances to make your crafted items your own.

  25. The trick is first coming up with a fun crafting system. I don’t necessarily mind the WoW/LOTRO style where I have the materials, select the pattern and click the craft button and my character does it. I usually do that in the morning while I have coffee and wake up and am not up for something more attention-intensive, and I can chat with friends and guildmates while the progress bar goes by.

    [Side note with the auto-craft system: I never consider my characters to be “me” like some people do so I don’t have it in my head that “I” have to do everything. I have no problem giving my character an instruction and they just do the damn thing instead of standing there like a pixel puppet making me pull every single string.]

    Any crafting system is first and foremost going to be about collecting a certain amount of ingredients and assembling them. Make dinner sometime and that’s exactly what you’re doing. Same with making anything else. It’s what you do from there.

    Pete asked: “If virtual crafting added more tedium, would it become ultimately more satisfying?”
    Go give Vanguard a shot. It’s by far the most tedious form of crafting I’ve ever played. You have to click stuff for each Phase of crafting an item, and usually each Phase has multiple steps to enter the next Phase. You have N Action Points to spend and correcting any mishaps that could occur during each step uses Action Points. Enough mishaps could expend all your points before the item is crafted. It’s active yes, but I also found it too *reactive* rather than proactive, in addition to being a massive clickfest. Tedium Incarnate.

    Speaking of tedium…

    [Tangent Alert]

    Wiqd said: “as an aside, gives a good reason for travel time in a game. I hate instant teleportation”

    Oh no, don’t tell me you’re one of those “meaningful travel” types? Doesn’t exist, mate. “Travel” is just another form of tedium; there’s no meaning behind it whatsoever. I’ll even refer to a post I did in ’07 on the matter. Mind you, I’m a huge explorer and I want to be able to explore vast, beautiful interesting virtual places but when I *need* to be somewhere or worse, when a group is waiting on me, I want the option of some fast or instant form of getting to them. I don’t appreciate waiting on people so it’s not fair to make them wait on me.

    [/End Tangent]

  26. “Go give Vanguard a shot. It’s by far the most tedious form of crafting I’ve ever played. You have to click stuff for each Phase of crafting an item, and usually each Phase has multiple steps to enter the next Phase. You have N Action Points to spend and correcting any mishaps that could occur during each step uses Action Points. Enough mishaps could expend all your points before the item is crafted. It’s active yes, but I also found it too *reactive* rather than proactive, in addition to being a massive clickfest. Tedium Incarnate.”

    I do play Vanguard, a bit. Well, while its free.

    But its tedious because you’re sitting there creating 1,999 elm staves or something. If we relate this back to ‘realism’ then, when I was in my woodworker shop, I was going to make *a* table or *a* bookcase or whatever.

    In fact, I’d argue that Vanguard’s system is really interesting if you need to make 1 or 2 of an item. Its when you’re going to sit there and “grind” items that it gets tedious.

    In ‘real life’ you generally don’t grind things. You don’t have to make 5000 footstools to get good at making footstools. Your second one is going to be much better than your first, and I’d guess by about 10 you’re going to be damned good at making them, and from there out its just a matter of minor honing of skills.

    So what if making a sword in an MMO took 4-5 play sessions of an hour or so? You wouldn’t have the problem of people flooding the marketplaces with “a rough iron sword” because they’ve had to make 100 of them to advance, and assuming you were working on different steps every day, even if they were complex steps they wouldn’t get dull because even if you’re “mass producing” rough iron swords, it’d take many hours of playing to return to a given step.

    Just kind of thinking out loud here. More about the economy and crafting than anything. Because one of the reasons loot > crafted goods in many games is because a single individual can mass-produce goods in most MMOs. Ergo a single crafter can really supply gear for probably 100+ other players, which means unless fewer than 1% of your players craft, there’s going to be a surplus of goods…♠

  27. I suppose in my desire to reduce grinding, that would apply to both adventuring and crafting. In adventuring we have to kill N monsters (plus quest reward XP) to level. In crafting we have to craft N useless items to level.

    Sure, if we’re having surgery we like to see the doctor has “ground” 5,000 of those surgeries prior to us but that doesn’t make it fun for him and bottom line — these are GAMES which are supposed to be FUN. Mindless repetition != fun.

    I do like the idea of slowing down the crafting process and making each individual item more valuable though. If we’re shooting for some semblance of pseudo-realism then look at the real world — an individual can have a Mom & Pop furniture shop where they sell whatever they can make, but a corporation can mass-produce.

    If crafters could form a corporation (ie. crafting guild) to mass-produce specific items (look how many types of handguns there are, for example, each made by a different company) to have more of an economic (and economic PvP… even leading into combat PvP) influence on the game…

  28. @Scott

    That’s one design issue I’m looking into right now: The idea of having a fun, yet complex crafting system that is mass production friendly. If it takes you 100 steps to make a stool (just an example :P), no one is going to want to repeat that horrific event more than once.

    Some of the ideas I had were: Make the system involving, but the better you become at doing something, require less steps. Example:

    I start out as a smith and I know a thing or two because my father was one and taught me a few things. I can make horseshoes and other mundane things, but there’s only 1 thing he taught me that I really want to put to use: swords. So I set out to make a short sword and I carefully heat everything up, fold the steel, hammer it, etc until I have something I’m proud of. Now, having successfully done that, during the process there’s things I found I could do faster or better than Pops showed me, so I try it. Over a couple attempts I can fold steel faster, my hammer hits shape better with less hits as I grow stronger, etc.

    The above scenario shows progression without really having a flashing aura around you and playing Final Fantasy victory music.

    Now let’s say I start in a small village (since that’s the idea I have for my game; everyone starts out as a regular Joe Blow from a small village somewhere) and I can keep up with either the player character commissions for weapons each day, or even providing armaments to the fort close by that protects us. Soon I’m going to want more. I’m going to want to make and sell things for more people and get better at what I do, so I pull up stakes and head to a larger town.

    Once I arrive I find a place to set up shop but I notice that this town, being larger, already has a smith! Well, I’m not going to just pack up and leave since I just got here! Instead, I’ll use what little diplomacy I have and try to strike a deal, maybe combine shops for double the output and therefore double the income! Maybe we can teach each other something.

    This touches on a subject I DEARLY want to incorporate into the game as a skill all its own, which is diplomacy (no, not some lame card game :P), but that’s a discussion for another time.

    See, as long as the crafting game itself is fleshed out there are TONS of things you can do. You say you hate “meaningful travel” but “meaningful travel” is a very important part of caravaning and trade routes. I understand the need for instant transport to be someplace your friends are so you can group, but there is actually some fun to be found in purely exploring and being on the open plain. I just don’t think anyone’s done it correctly yet.

  29. I think my problem with the phrase “meaningful travel” is that I draw a distinction between “travel” (going from A to B) and “exploration” where sure, I’m “moving” (travel requires movement of one type or another) but I don’t necessarily know where I’m going; it’s more a “hey what’s over here?” thing. To me, “travel” implies I have a destination in mind. When people say they “love traveling” what they really mean is they love being in new destinations and exploring the various cultural and/or scenic offerings there, not the actual travel to those exotic locales. “Travel” in and of itself is just a means to an end, and it’s that “end” which we seek.

    Sure, travel is important for trade routes but, do we honestly expect a player to be doing that? It’s one thing to drive a truck — or in my case, a plane — as a job in life; it’s another thing entirely to expect me to come home to play a game but be forced to have a “job” within that game going back and forth from A to B to deliver someone else’s goods. No, trade caravans sound like a job for NPCs to me…

    Diplomacy could, I suppose be accomplished through BioWare-style dialog trees where your responses will garner an increase or decrease with your “reputation” with that specific NPC and perhaps to a lesser degree the faction that NPC may be associated with. I’d love if various NPCs actually reacted differently depended on how I directly interacted with them in the past. The catch is not using NPCs (or at least those NPCs) to block content since my standing (and therefore my story) will likely be different than those I’m grouped with.

  30. @Scott

    I think we’re saying the same thing, it’s just a matter of semantics. I don’t think establishing a trade route for a crafter would be exploration in general as such, as opposed to say a specific outing or a quest. So the caravaning, the actual moving from one place to another would have goals along the way that would take you across the wilderness and along the way you could theoretically explore the area you’ve come across if you set up camp, etc.

    In my experience it’s generally a bad idea to leave an area SO open that the only means of people even finding it is by pure luck (some of those are ok, but a whole world probably wouldn’t work so well) and also having absolutely nothing to do while making someone run from point A to point B for no other reason than to create downtime via travel. That’s not what I’m after 😉

    Consequently, this brings up a point about travel I’ve thought about which is basically the ability for crafters to set up horse stables along the way for riding waypoints to speed along travel after they’ve discovered a good way to get from point A to B so the ridiculous travel time doesn’t have to be repeated beyond the 2nd or third time.

    Since this post is about crafting, I’ll leave it at that, but the possibilities for crafting as it’s own class in a game are SO numerous that they tie into everything else 😛

  31. Or the caravan (again, NPC-driven) could be kinda like our modern semi-truck system. Sometimes one truck hauls products for multiple stores. Others haul the entire truckload just for one store, but those are typically the larger corporations.

    Say we work our merchant level (should selling be a different trade than producing? That’s kinda why I started my first few comments calling them Tradesmen which is kinda both in one.) so he can afford a basic NPC horse & wagon/truck/shuttle (just to hit every genre) which travels along a route. Depending on our standing with various factions, perhaps our NPC courier becomes flagged and players of an opposing merchant faction can try to hit it; either destroy it or steal our wares. Even NPC bandits might try to steal the stuff, opening the door to influence more standing by hiring someone (our adventurer alts? ha!) to get it back. The higher our “level” the more product we can move in bigger “vehicles?”

    As you can see I’m trying to think of ways to have a fully fleshed-out game that incorporates adventuring, crafting, PvE and PvP synergistically rather than keeping them all separate.

  32. Well it’s meant to be synergistic. I had no notion of not combining PVP / PVE / crafting together (as I’ve said a lot of the ideas I put out are already combined with other ideas I have in my head :P) and as a matter of fact, PVPing / PVE interaction is one of the major locks between the content of all 3.

    PVP provides the necessity for people to hire themselves out or become criminals (which is possible via an infamy system) to steal from the caravans, PVE provides the basic necessity to even have crafting in the game 😛 and of course interaction between factions and NPCs and other crafters provides the last bit of the economy.

    So yes I’ve thought about all of that, I just haven’t commented on it til now because of the topic of this post 😛 However if you wish to provide a sandbox of sorts where I can go over my ideas fully so you can understand them all, I’m all for it;)

    As to what you’ve said so far, I believe the PC would be instrumental in the original creation of the trade route, but thereafter NPCs could use it and pay a tax to the kingship of the land for using it, of which part of THAT goes as a royalty of sorts to the initial discoverer of the route, or something 😛

    And yes crafters, if they had their own class basically, would be both sellers and producers with a mercantile skill. That, combined with diplomacy would be huge as you moved markets.

    On a side subject, I thought about many different ways to make the actual act of crafting engaging and came up with a first person view of a workshop where the crafter participates in somewhat of a game to actually create what he wishes to make. It’s hard to describe so maybe one day I’ll draw it, heh heh.

  33. Ok, on selling then: AH or shop? Or other? I loved that in SWG we could setup our own vendor machines *however* the downside was that they were in our homes.

    It did have an AH (called the Bazaar if I recall?) but we could put notes on it, so I could put up a few items then mention I had a shop at X,Y location for even better deals. I’d routinely get orders for certain items I could make, then I’d use my income to put in orders to some other crafter for a new bigger house or a new speeder or new harvester, etc.

    But I didn’t like having the shop in my home. If there was sort of an in-town merchant district we could setup shop that would be cooler in an RP-ish sense, but then isn’t that what an AH is anyway?

  34. Well, the game we’re building puts a lot more focus on more interaction and less automation. I really want the world to feel alive and be breathing. To that end, putting up a shop in the merchant district of town and selling your wares from there. You open your shop and close your shop so you can hire people (NPCs) to run it while you’re asleep, etc… but honestly I dislike the idea of Auction Houses.

    Our game is going away from the instant gratification methods of games like WOW where everything is centralized. Having a bazaar area or zone (a la EQ if you played it) is one idea, but with the way games and worlds are heading, it will be just an area of town you walk to soon enough (read: zone lines won’t be necessary).

    Trade routes and caravans will be how you send your wares to far away towns / cities and word of mouth will be how your renown grows as a tradesman 😉 Of course, as your renown grows so will your operation, with whatever rewards that brings (read: recommendations from the township or other merchants / customers, display rooms for some of your finer goods, etc).

  35. Not sure how I feel about the shop closing idea. It’s more “realistic” but given how the day cycles in most MMOs work, our characters are out adventuring for several days and nights straight in a couple hours of players’ real-time. If my shop is closed and someone needs the items I make, they’re either screwed or they’ll find someone whose shop is open and I could lose a regular customer (again going back to SWG where some players did have favorite merchants they would buy from).

    It’s back into the instant gratification but you did say you’re building a game not a world simulator.

  36. Yea … granted I know I need to make the distinction between “deep” and “fun” 😛 I’ll find the cutoff line eventually, probably through discussions like this 😉 But that’s also why I suggested being able to hire NPCs to run the shop during closing, if you wanted to. That way you don’t HAVE to close and you also don’t HAVE to be at your place of work the entire time you’re logged in either 😉

    You’re right though, it’s a game and not a world simulator, so some things will have to be overlooked in the name of fun.

    However, it was my intention to have things like shops closing and whatnot, part of the experience to add to the level of difficulty. As you get bigger in your operation, you’re able to hire more hands to do the mundane things that make your production go faster, or hire people to be able to run your shop at night / when you’re away (since I haven’t even given any thought to the day / night ratio as far as game hours goes.

    I do remember the SWG days though. I would only ever buy weapons from one person: Zarathustra. If he wasn’t around, I’d go run some bounties and come back occasionally to see if he was around.

    The other thing is commission submission as well. You may not have to be at the shop to take a commission order as you’ll receive it when you come back to the shop and begin to make it.

    Obviously there’s still lots to be decided on the design of it.


    Sorry for stealing your thread!

  37. Fair enough. I just did a quick write-up to inspire design conversation about permadeath in MMOs on my blog 😀

  38. Ysh? The English, French-ish, New Hampshire-ish Ysh? Technical writing, once-upon-a-time-Atriarch-story-helping Ysh? Is that really you? If so, the internet is a smaller place than I realized.

    Um, what was the topic? Right. I’ve never been real big on the looting game myself. I’d love to see a game where monsters aren’t creatures you constantly seek out, but creatures you constantly try to avoid. As long as they are the main resource in MMOs, that’s not really possible, so I’d like to see monsters and MMO resources de-coupled. Monsters then become the truly frightening things that get in the way of collecting resources.

  39. Heya Phin, how are ya? 😀 Yep, that same Ysh — I don’t think there are any others around yet, and I’m not famous enough for anyone to steal my weird-ass name. (But it was Connecticut, not New Hampshire. 😉 )

  40. Wow, I missed this gem?

    I agree with your original point, Ysh. Crafting can’t work in a game that also focused on killing stuff and getting loot rewards. Crafters want to sell their stuff and make money. Killers want to kill stuff and find upgrades.

    Crafters want to have the stuff they craft be worthwhile to killers while killers don’t want to find someone sitting on their ass pushing buttons without any risk can make something better than the drop they finally got off some foozle (I know, it’s hypocrisy).

    VG was pretty broken in this regard. Stuff from two tiers back crafted from (not so) rares was often better than stuff that took adventurers forever to get by faction grind and collecting drops (hi Vol Tuniel).

    EQ2 went a bit of a different route (eventually) where crafted was better than store bought and (not so rare) crafted stuff was better than most quest or dropped items. Raid stuff still ended up being the best – which I think was fine. The main problem EQ2 had was there was no real reward from quested stuff because the rare crafted stuff was better. I think it still is sort of like that, though they tweaked the drops from named mobs (in dungeons) to be somewhat better than rare crafted for that tier.

    Do you also get the image of a little Dutch boy trying to plug leaks in the dam?

    (I wrote this a year and a bit ago – Scott manifested there too: http://smakendahed.blogspot.com/2007/09/what-do-i-want-in-mmo-part-3.html)

  41. @Smak

    I wrote some long reply comment about this, but I decided to change it to simply say:

    The reason you come across these fights between crafters and adventurers is because games are SO gear-centric. We need to get off the notion of gear being the end-all be all in a game and focus on other things that could provide a higher sense of progression or completion that wearing phat purps.

  42. I”m not sure we *can* get away from gear-centricity, Wiqd, because aside from anything else, loot is popular. Hell, I’m not gear-centric and I *love* opening the corpse loot-box. 😉

    I still think there are ways to please both sides, but I do think it would take segregation (of whether something is produced by loot or crafting, but not both).

  43. Sure we can, Ysh. We just need to make it so the player still enjoys looting the corpse, there’s just less shiny purps on the other end 😉

    Think for a minute on how often you either A: loot only coin from a mob (which is fine) and B: how often you loot trash loot or “vendor” loot. More often than not, right? Now when you go and fight a boss, you’re expecting the awesomeness of new gear to be on the body (which in itself is pretty weird if you think about it. I mean where does this monster keep all these things on his person?! :P).

    Raiding a dragon’s horde for money or significant items is perfectly fine, but the significance of those significant item is reduced when you can just return and get another one, or return and get something else “significant.”

    Take WOW for example. Epics USED to be rare. Now if you’re not 80 w/ at least 3-4 epics, you’re useless. You NEED the epics to be worth anything when you reach max level.

    What’s wrong with using a finely crafted mithril blade that’s been beautifully handcrafted? What if that blade could be inlaid with runes or enchanted to have some kind of aura? That’s pretty neat, but surely would require money and a master of their craft for both the weapon and the effect.

    I don’t know if you ever played EQ but you should go back and look at some of the stats on the weapons they had 😛 +1 dex Dervish Cutthroat Ring was AWESOME! I’d actually venture to say that slaying a dragon in a party of 5 or 6 with someone who has a max of 300 hp is a bit more heroic than 25 people slaying a dragon with the highest person’s HP topping 50k. It’s all the same since the enemies have more health and do more damage, but you have less hp to lose and therefore it’s psychologically more important that you DON’T lose even 1 of those HPs, whereas having 50k hp means you’ll get healed if you take a huge crit and be fine.

    A non-gear-centric game is possible, there just has to be alternative reasons for adventuring, questing and crafting than shiny purps is all.

  44. I’d have to be convinced that you can make a game that is satisfying over the long haul (har har, I made a pun) without loot.

    Blizzard firmly established the monster pinata concept in Diablo and ever since that game, I haven’t seen anyone come up with a better scheme.

    Let’s face it, everyone loves presents, and monster pinatas are great at scratching that itch. The gambling itch. The surprise itch. What’s going to be in THIS one!??

    That itch goes all the way back to playing cards, or dominos, or whatever… something hidden becomes revealed… its a surprise and its fun.

    I don’t disagree that we can get satisfaction out of lots of other things… the story in a single player game, or even the satisfaction of crafting a weapon.

    But I think ditching loot is going to require a whole new genre of game.

  45. I don’t think you could ever just ditch loot, but I know what you’re saying. It’d definitely be tough to pull off, but I’m sure there’s a way to get away from gear-centric MMOs. It just needs a model that hasn’t been thought of, or carried out yet. I’m sure there’s plenty of people who have sat down and tried to wrestle with it, but they either lacked the ambition (read: balls) to try something new or they didn’t have smart enough people 😉

    Loot isn’t the end all be all. Personally as long as I don’t die in fights, I’m happy. I don’t need to be top geared to win the game. Hell, most skilled players don’t. Look at the guilds in WoW that conquered the new raid stuff in their blues and greens. If you know how to play the game and play it how you’re supposed to, you’ll beat the encounters (except those that require special resists :P) with little help from gear.

    So we just take that part of it and expand on it. Problem is, people like seeing huge numbers now so it’ll be tough to pry them away from that. Hell I remember how awesome it was to get 4k health in EQ! I had doubled that by 50 in WOW and I wasn’t even properly geared so… yea.

  46. Maybe we need to differentiate between “Loot” and “Gear”. You seem pretty focused on +stat gear drops, Wiqd. But for me, if I’m playing and I kill a drake and it drops a cool painting for my house, or a sweet piece of “appearance gear” with no stats, I’m still pretty happy.

    Think about how much time people spend trying to get social pets to drop in WoW.

    So if you mean we need less +stat gear dropping, I find it a lot easier coming along for the ride than if you’re saying no loot at all.

  47. Yea that’s definitely what I mean; sorry for the mix up 😉 Loot itself is fine and I’m all about decorating my house with stuff 😛 But gear that just causes stat inflation for no other reason than “We raised levels, so to make our encounters harder we just need to increase enemy HP and damage dealt and increase player HP and DPS a bit” is so last year 😛

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