Dessine-moi un mouton

If there were a game with crafting and loot and the two didn’t impinge on each other but could complement each other, what kinds of things would we be able to make?

– Furniture (from sofas to sculptures)
– Food & drink
– Non-combat clothing
– Combat-gear enhancements? (Stuff to put into other stuff that’s looted.)
– Teleport or Travel stones (however they might work)
– Mounts? Mount enhancements?
– Pets?
– Ships (e.g. Vanguard) 

What else? I’m only on my second cup of coffee, so don’t be expecting a lot of idea freeflow from here yet, but I bet there are dozens of things players could make without impinging on, or — more importantly — competing with loot. The idea is for the looters to have fun opening corpse-boxes and working towards genuine item-type rewards, while the crafters can feel useful by making things that aren’t found in the pockets of Foozle002. I’m not so much concerned with what crafter would make what items, but rather with a general list of all the stuff that could be produced for entertainment and consumption without treading on adventurer/looter toes. Fact is, many of us love the whole kill-loot-and-maybe-level mechanic, even me, and I think just removing that from all games (or most games) would be a shame.

And then, of course, there’s the question of raw materials. Do you get them from nodes around the landscape? From corpse-boxes? From NPCs? As quest/action rewards? All of the above?

craftingAnd finally, while it may be totally impractical, in the interests of horizontality I would love to see a crafting system that isn’t just as tiered as the combat system. You know — level 1, use copper; level 10, use tin; level 20, use iron; level 30, use steel, and so on. It’s silly, it’s limiting, and it means crafters are forever progressing upward so that eventually you can’t find someone to make the lower-end stuff because NO crafter ever has the means to keep every kind of resource on hand. It’s supposed to make entry-level crafting less of a barrier in more mature games (young crafter has wares to sell) but that very rarely seems to be the case, and gets worse as a game matures — especially in vertical-progression games.

Crafters need a relatively constant demand to stay in business, which in itself has proven hard to achieve as games mature. So that would be another challenge: providing enough time-limited or decaying or consumable types of goods to keep non-crafters looking for wares. Working towards a +2 sword to replace the +1 sword isn’t enough, because eventually everyone has those. Besides, why should crafter progression be designed exactly like combat progression, with crafters able to take on bigger and bigger recipe-monsters as they go up. Sure, you need to represent increasing skill and experience somehow — both to provide an indicator for comparison with others and as a measurable goal for players to work towards — but as with combat, pure numbers-based levels aren’t the only way to do it.

Plenty of games have tried variants on crafting and gathering, and have tied the loot economy and the crafting economy together in various ways. I used to advocate for a 100% player-crafted economy, but although I don’t really care about combat, I do like opening the corpse-box to see what’s inside; doing away with loot isn’t such a great answer (though less of the crap loot wouldn’t hurt).

There is of course no One True Answer (TM), because with MMO design there are always dozens of answers, and some methods will work better for some games than others. We keep asking for diversity in MMOs and yet we keep trying to imagine the single Perfect MMO when there may, in fact, be no such beast. Hell, maybe there shouldn’t be; we’ve already seen what having an 800lb gorilla does to the gaming industry.

For my own part though, I’d like to see a game that’s heavy on crafting but where the crafting doesn’t necessarily interfere with (or impede) the non-crafting parts of the game, and vice versa. I’d like a game where crafting is NOT just something you do when you can’t find a group — hobby-crafting bothers me deeply.

(Yes, many people love hobby-crafting. Good for them. I don’t, and it’s my blog (so neener). Give the hobby-crafters something else to do while they’re waiting for groups, just don’t let them make freaking aircraft carriers in their spare time. And no, I’m not being crafter-elitist, I’m being crafter-egalitarian. I want crafting to be an integral part of a game, designed at the same time instead of being tacked on at the end *cough* LOTRO *cough* and not designed as the poor drooling cousin to the almighty combat game. In fact, I’d like to see the almighty combat game taken down a peg or two, but that’s not the subject for today. I understand that this threatens the combat-only types, but it won’t stop me. Equality for crafters! No item-creation without representation!)

Uh, where was I? Ah yes, crafting that permeates a game on an equal footing with the other activity systems. And ideally something new and not just the tired old nicely tiered resources/recipes/product. Chop chop, people!

31 thoughts on “Dessine-moi un mouton

  1. Ysh, the crafting system in Atlantica Online is very solid IMO. Especially in a good guild that does a lot of guild crafting, it has a lot to offer for crafters of every stripe; be they hobby or hardcore.

  2. I also think that crafting needs to go beyond just outfitting yourself or other players. That economy dries up after a while. I think there needs to also be an NPC economy where crafting things for a cause can be measured in some meaningful way.

  3. The most robust crafting system I’ve ever seen was in SWG. Don’t know what it’s like now but you could spend your entire ‘career’ doing nothing by farming nodes, making stuff and selling stuff on your own NPCs (out of your own houses which you could build yourself no less!). EQ2s system was pretty robust but no where near as complex as SWG.

  4. Have I ever explained the full crafting system I want to implement in my game, Ysh? I thought I did, but it includes many of the points you brought up, even addressing the need for “lower tier” items to be crafted as well.

    Perhaps I shall blog about that today.

  5. @Ventris — it hasn’t changed all that much in execution (the SWG crafting), though its purpose isn’t quite what it used to be. That and with no item decay, all anyone ever needs is whatever they need for a given level range. Once they hit 90, it’s all #(*&@ instance loot now anyway. /grumble

    Also, the SWG system in general suffers from a little too much “must log in to play maintenance!” stuff, especially on harvesters and whatnot. And probably from a little too much resource diversification. A lot is great, but… much though I love the SWG crafting/gathering system, they’re not perfect. (I also find it really weird that with sampling specs one char can now pull up as much as (or more?) than an elite harvester in a day’s worth of AFK sampling, but that’s another matter.)

    EQ2s system… Yeah. To me it ended up being whack-a-mole, once you figured out what to do to counter what event. (Cook to 70 back in …2006? whenever, and a few others in the 40s and 50s, so I’m not talking entirely out of my backside.) The “grade” system for products is flawed too for the most part, because people aren’t actually willing to pay less for crapper stuff, so “A-grade” (or whatever was the top) ends up being the de-facto standard anyway.

  6. @Wiqd – Not sure, you may well have. Remember (hah!) I have a really, really bad memory. 🙁

    @Winged — don’t tempt me. Do. Not. Tempt. Me.

    /goes to find download

    1. It’s free to play, after all…

      I’ll second the Atlantica recommendation. It even has a great loot drop and gear upgrade system. 😉 Everything that drops is a crafting ingredient or useful in its own right, and gear can be fused with others of its own kind to “upgrade” it, even in the field.

  7. @makkaio — fer shuer. Actually, an item sink is a very good idea, given Mudflation in general. Item- and gold-sinks are useful in universes where something is produced out of nothing, continuously (eg loot).

  8. /tempts Ysharros some more.

    Seriously, there is some genius development work going on with this game and it really deserves more exposure. Can’t do it by myself. :p

  9. I tried Atlantica Online and was impressed by the turn based combat, but was turned off by the crafting and the PVP-centric nature of the game.

    Perhaps it’s changed, but I’m playing TOO MUCH stuff right now with RoM, CoX, W101, WAR and LotRO.

  10. Oh hey Wiqd, where did you DL ROM? I’ve tried about 3 times and either get 40k download rates (official site) or end up getting nothing but corrupted files that the installer won’t install. I got irritated enough just to stop trying, but I’d like to see their housing and stuff.

  11. I had the same issues with the RoM install. Try the site that chops the install into 4 parts. That was the one that ultimately worked for me.

    @Wiqd: Not saying the appeal for AO will be universal. If you don’t like crafting or PVP, that’s surely going to be two strikes against AO. The game design reminds me a lot of Eve without the sandbox. But where Eve intentionally fosters a harsh dog-eat-dog universe, AO goes the opposite route to intentionally foster a social network where it pays to be nice to each other.

  12. When you frown upon hobby-crafting, what exactly do you mean by that? In reading the post, I get the impression that its people who craft when they have nothing else constructive to do – as a sort of last resort. So does that mean hobby crafting is mostly about attitude?

    I agree with taking the combat centric nature of mmo’s down a notch. I think that would help with alot of issues actually. I thought at the beginning that Vanguard might swing that way, but it was just wishful thinking.

    Maybe it could be sort of a three axis thing? The further you progress in say, combat, the harder it is to progress in crafting or social? Meh, I’m too much of a visual thinker, I need a virtual whiteboard to draw this on…

  13. @ HZ – I don’t frown on it, exactly… And what I usually mean by it isn’t so much the people who do it but rather the type of game DESIGN that sees crafting as a tacked-on, “let’s keep the crafter nerds placated” kind of thing. Crafting is the red-headed stepchild in many MMOs, there either as an afterthought OR by way of achieving something else (WoW’s “crafting is totally a money sink, we designed it that way” admission some years back).

    Now, crafting *as a hobby* in a game isn’t a problem in itself. I object to it when it’s the only way crafting was designed (let’s give the poor schmucks something to keep em online when they’re sitting LFG) and how it’s subsequently treated. Vanguard is a pretty good example of this — crafting started out with a strong focus early on, but gradually got pushed aside by the almighty loot and the even-mightier combat.

    Now, in traditional highly combat-centric games, maybe that’s a good thing, or at least not a bad thing. But a large part of what *I* am about (and have been for the last few years) is to allow a little more space for more than just kill ever bigger 10 rats. Let’s see if we can’t make games that aren’t ALL combat or not ALL “sims-like” (which is the common cry of derision of the combat player, along with second life comments). There’s a lot of segregation of playstyles going on still, which I think does a disservice to the industry. Make targeted niche titles, sure (more power to them, too) — but as games like EVE show, most players are capable of handling more than a single focus in a given game.

    Listos version: I’d like crafting (and other non-combat systems) to get better treatment in MMO design. 😉

  14. @Winged I LOVE crafting, but not so much PVP. I didn’t see anything special about their crafting system, but I played it almost a year ago or more so maybe it just wasn’t in yet? I dunno.

    @Ysh on RoM’s site there’s a place to download the client (should be like a 386k file) and it will install a patcher that will download the whole 3.8G for you. Then it will install it and patch the game. Takes a long time, but it’s more reliable in the end to do it that way. That’s how Makkaio got his to go as well.

  15. @Wiqd I’m not prepared to live with 40kbs download speeds from the official installer. If I get desperate enough I will, but in this day and age, seriously, that’s a ridiculous rate. Right now, I’m not desperate enough. 😉 (not to mention seriously short on HD space anyway)

  16. You only get 40k download speeds? I downloaded the 3.8 gigs in like 45 minutes. Weird.

    The patching only takes a long time because of their patching implementation, but the files downloaded pretty quick for me.

    SUX 2 B U! 😛

  17. @Wiqd – maybe a recent spike in interest? They “officially” released not long ago, right? I’m thinking if I wait a few weeks it’ll improve.

  18. I enjoy crafting to some extent, but never had the crafter mindset. But, the one game that I did do alot of crafting in was Galaxies. I used to love running around trying to find the best places to plant harvesters and amassing huge amounts of materials. The only crafting profession that I mastered was Chef!!

  19. I’ve tried Atlantica Online a few times and never figured out what people like about it. The turn-based system would be interesting if it was a bit slower, I think. I don’t ever get making a turn based system and then giving the player 2 seconds to make a choice. I get that you want to keep things moving but damn, it takes my old eyes 2 seconds to focus on the icons. 🙂 But I guess once you get into the groove that’s not such an issue.

    EQ2 Crafting: “EQ2s system… Yeah. To me it ended up being whack-a-mole, once you figured out what to do to counter what event.”

    Just like combat in most games, no? You figure out what skill to use to counter a given event, then you use it. I’ve found crafting in EQ2 to be easy when making easy stuff, and a reasonable challenge when making difficult stuff. I wish you could learn recipies ‘above your level’ to have the equivalent of higher level mobs in the crafting space.

    But the biggest challenge is being efficient. Using enough skills to keep crafting times short, while not using so many that you run out of power.

    That said, they’ve streamlined crafting in EQ2 quite a lot. No more sub-combines and all that stuff. Plus there’re entire quest lines that require nothing but crafting items, including quests that work best with groups of crafters.

    All that said, I can’t think of anything to add to your list of Things To Craft. Except, well, crafting tools to make you a better crafter, which sounds circular, but when you fight monsters you hope to get a gear drop that helps you fight monters better, right?

    Actually I did just think of something to add to the list. Community structures. In Horizons, the bridges and mineshafts that the community had to build to unlock new areas and races. In EQ2, the gryphon towers and spires that had to be built.

    Problem with these is that they’re 1 time (per server) events.

  20. Yeah, the timer was a major turnoff for me as well. But I do understand why it was needed both for PVP and PVE reasons. I’m no spring chicken (as Ysh can vouch for) and my guild leader is a spry 50-something. Not saying the timer doesn’t still catch either of us by surprise, but that it’s something you do get used to. The timer is based on how many mercenaries are in your formation. By level 50 when you get the full contingent of 8 additional mercs, you get a full 30 seconds to act on.

  21. A few things to add to the list above…

    Crafted goods:

    – Art (e.g. portraits, landscapes, and sculptures based on screenshots)
    – Features for real estate (e.g. hearths, windows, and other fixtures)
    – Buildings
    – Vehicles
    – Crafting tools
    – Other consumables (e.g. enhancements, debuffs, weapons like bombs, etc)
    – Toys used in minigames
    – Books and other media
    – Maps

    Crafted services:

    – Horticulture & Landscaping
    – Pet training

  22. @Winged Nazghul — I’ll have to give it another go, then. Oh, and for everyone else, I realize my post may have sounded like they literally give you 2 seconds. I should point out that was hyperbole. I don’t honestly remember how long it was, but it was short enough that I felt like I was just “picking something!” rather than thinking about what to do.

    But that angst would ease with familiarity, I’m sure.

  23. I highly recommend AO, and the crafting is unique.

    In a different pocket universe, there’s Puzzle Pirates crafting; the almost completely player driven economy uses puzzle minigames to “craft” most things. As Saylah notes, if you don’t like minigames or puzzles, it’s not going to do much for you, but the overall economy and crafting system makes for a lot of interconnectivity between market-minded players and those who can and do make crafting the focus of their game experience. (Or you can go out and just steal stuff from bad guys, whatever.)

  24. I remember the crafting was kind of cool in Tale in the Desert back when I played that.

    Different types had their own minigames. I loved the smithing .. you actually got a graphic of a bit of metal and you had to pick the right hammer and hit it in the right place to try to get it to go roughly into the shape you wanted.

  25. I always end up being amazed at how much I’m similar to you in terms of crafting, Ysh, as well as a lot of the other readers on this blog. Then again, “birds of a feather” and all that, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. 🙂

  26. While LOTRO does have the “hobby crafting” system, at least it’s better than WoW’s. Each tier does have awesome crafted stuff that is useful to players within that tier. Most (every?) profession has at least *something* that is constantly in demand. For my scholar, I can always sell morale/power potions, +crit% crafting journals, etc. for example.

    On the flip side of that, it does use the generic system of crafting stuff (useful or not) to “level up” your crafting skill, and I dislike that aspect. It just leads to “ok, time to craft, I’ll queue up a hundred or few items, click OK and AFK for 30 minutes while I watch TV.”

    I’d be interested to see if the so-called “theme park” with all the quests, quest npc’s with their bright icons, etc. could be merged with a more sandbox style crafting system where all items have decay and crafters suddenly become important members of the economy. So far all we’ve seen in theme park MMOs is Hobby Crafting.

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