Tobold's Blog
Friday, June 20, 2008
 
Crafting, what is it good for?

Great discussion going on at Psychochild and Hardcore Casual about what crafting is for. One point of view discussed there is that crafting is often done by socializers, who use crafting as an opportunity to stand around and chat. For that audience crafting shouldn't be too interactive, because if they have to click all the time, they can't chat simultaneously. For that kind of audience the current crafting systems might actually be suitable. But me, I don't really like the crafting system of WoW and other games using similar systems.

One thing I dislike is the current mechanism of resource gathering. It's fine that you have to travel around to find resources, but not so great that your success in resource gathering mainly depends on how many other people are online. Why should it make a difference whether I gather herbs or ore at 5 am or 5 pm? It only leads to players starting to hate the other players, who swooped in before them and "stole" their resources. I liked the resource gathering system of Star Wars Galaxies much more, where you had to prospect for high-quality resources that shifted position every week, and then harvest them, with the player coming first getting the best yield, but not a monopoly. In a game like WoW I'd much prefer if ore nodes and herbs would NOT always be in the same few locations, and if they would NOT deplete for all other players once the first players gathered there. What if resource nodes were redistributed every day, but would stay there all day long, and if you used a particular node it would be empty for you, but not for everyone else? Star Wars Galaxies also had one huge advantage in that copper ore wasn't always just copper ore, it had stats. Using resources with high stats lead to items with higher stats, while cheap resources with low stats were mainly used for practicing.

Regarding crafting itself, I'd rather an actual game to craft something. Best system I've seen up to now is smithing a blade in A Tale in the Desert: You start with a block of metal, a template which you should try to reach, and a set of hammers. You hit the block with the hammers, which changes its shape in a logical way. You can stop at any time, but the closer your metal block resembles the template shape, the better the quality of your blade. Other possibilities are systems like the one used in Puzzle Pirates: Every different craft is a different puzzle game, and the better you get with the puzzle game, the better quality of goods you can produce.

The basic principle for me is that crafting should be a game, an activity, with rewards that aren't much worse than the rewards from adventuring. Why should one hour of adventuring give you money and xp, while one hour of crafting only loses you money? People talk about adventuring having more risk, but that is an outdated concept dating back to Everquest, the last game where you could actually lose a lot by dying when adventuring. In WoW you can only lose time and repair money if you die, and that could easily have an equivalent in a crafting system. Craft badly and you lose time and money for materials, same thing as if you do a bad pull when killing monsters.

MMORPGs already have a variety of activities, most of them centered around combat: You can fight solo or in a group, against mobs or against other players. A crafting system which would be a game by itself would just add to the possible activities you can do in a virtual world. The more different and varied activities a MMORPG has, the more it feels like a world, and not just a linear game in which you rise to the top. The more there is to do, the longer it takes for people to get bored. Creating better crafting systems would be in the interest of the game developers.
Comments:
I liked the implementation of crafting in UO later in its lifecycle. The randomness introduced countered the tendency to gravitate towards one optimal route or item nicely. The latter is ultimately dull: it leads to every crafter making the same top item(s) (or at least aiming for it) and if for some reason (availability of resources etc) you cannot get to that pinnacle of your profession, crafting is essentially useless. In UO luck played a major part, you could make a pretty good weapon with the lowest grade tool (hammer, sewingkit ect) and lowest grade resource: all different aspects (type of damage etc) of the weapon were randomized. Higher grade tools just gave you more effects on you weapon. All in all this resulted in countless different variations of player created items.
 
Have you read the crafting information over at Massively on Warhammer. I think it sounds great. No resource farming at 5am, and no competition between gear/crafting as you cant make armour/weapons, but instead crafting is used solely to make things which are extras over gear such as consumables/enchants etc. I think the system sounds very interesting. Link here:-

http://www.massively.com/2008/06/02/massively-goes-to-war-insights-into-warhammers-crafting-system/
 
I think that a major appeal of crafting for socialisers is that you can make something rare which encourages other players to socialise with you in order to acquire it. The process of making it is less important.

Its the trade side rather than the crafting side. And I don't agree with Psychochild that the economics of tradeskills are some kind of extra chore -- for the players who enjoy them, it's part of the fun of the minigame. (A lot more fun than pressing a button and watching a green bar.)

I think the best crafting 'game' around is probably Second Life. It's painfully hard to use but there's a huge appeal to being able to build anything in game that you can imagine, and sell it to other people.

I can't see anything that freeform in a MMORPG but a crafting system that let the crafter use his/her own creativity as part of the design is the sort of thing I want to see.
 
One of the common arguments for a non-game crafting system is the RPG skill approach: You don't start to utilize the skills of the character but the players own skillset (eye-hand coordination and reflexes to shape a sword, players experience on how much heat / hammer beats to use etc.). The idea of RPG is that you control a character who owns the skill of blacksmithing.

That said, I'd like to have more fun crafting games! The skill of the character should only indicate what general level or type of workmanship you can produce, the crafting itself should be more fun and XP rewarding (whereas XP systems are outdated too, I'd prefer skill-based RPGs).
 
The idea of having the gathering nodes change places every day and be available to everyone until its picked by that particular character sound interesting. It would also lead to less monopolizing of the economy.

Yesterday I was checking the price of Terocone and the same person had up all the stacks on the AH, for 70g each stack. There were about 10 stacks or so.

If the nodes depleted once they were picked by that character and if there were a set number of nodes of Terocone in Terokkar Forest, for example, that player wouldn't be able to continually fly around the zone picking the same nodes for hours on end and likely wouldn't have as many herbs to sell to monopolize the market.

In other words, a player who only has an hour to gather herbs and perhaps doesn't have an epic flying mount could theoretically compete on the market with someone who has more time and epic flying, because they both have the same number of gathering nodes available to them in every zone each day.

It would also mean, when I go out to get a stack of Terocone to make agility potions, I'm pretty much guaranteed to get what I want without too much hassle. ;)
 
"One thing I dislike is the current mechanism of resource gathering. It's fine that you have to travel around to find resources, but not so great that your success in resource gathering mainly depends on how many other people are online."

This was exactly the reason why I really only did Skinning and Leatherworking in WoW. The resources ran right up to you, and you got XP and other loot and possibly quest progress in with the deal. That was really the only way I could palate gathering.

I also agree that the SW:G method was great, though I wish the resource allocation wasn't quite as abrupt as they did it. For example, I would have preferred if the resources moved, grew, or diminished slightly every day, instead of being completely different every week.

Doug
 
I think SWG .. pre NGE change. Had some great gathering and crafting. In fact you could play as a crafter. I never had the patience to go full boar droid engineer however admired fellow players who had ships, with NOC shop keepers, etc.
I enjoy the crafting LOTRO has . .. very similar to WoW however; it seems the crafted items I have done (with my 20’ish and 30’ish characters) have been equal too or better that any quest item or drop.
That to me makes a huge difference .. nothing better than swinging steel made by you.
 
Honestly, most games have really lame crafting systems. WoW's crafting is basically an alternate way to grind purple BoP gear, which is stupid.

At least the actual mechanics of crafting in WoW aren't totally painful. EQ is a prime example of how bad this could be - in order to create anything, you had to manually drag items into a special "combination kit" and hit the "combine" button. What's really cool is you could "combine" anything, causing whatever was in the kit to disintegrate (whether it was part of a valid recipe or not), and you had to perform this operation manually for every single combine attempt.

One of the neatest systems I've seen was AC2's. In most games, crafting requires additional overhead in terms of resource gathering. AC2's system, though, allowed you to directly combine loot items in the field - so a sword would have (e.g.) "5 metal" and boots would have "5 leather," and you could combine them on the fly to craft a shield.

With most crafting systems, I just can't be bothered to care. Wandering around and clicking on resource nodes is not my idea of fun, and during the leveling process that time is more effectively spent adventuring.
 
I find this thread funny because so many players out there want things like "a player-based economy" and "a real virtual community" yet all MMOs focus on combat and drops. They are missing a huge chunk of potential customers that are not into killing things. ie. the female deompgraphic. Many of them like puzzles and crafting.

The problem with crafting in systems like wow is that crafted items are generally rubbish compared to drops. So, why not make loot drops be mats only? That way there would be a real need for crafting in the economy and value for those who pursued it.

Also, games like wow make items trivial with low repair costs and easy upgrades. Why not have items break and be non-repairable? Or, make items repairable or improved ONLY by other players?

This would be great to allow non-killer-type personalities to participate profitably in a virtual world.

I think games like EVE on close to this model and seem to be doing well with it.
 
In theory, I love crafting, but the WoW system does leave a lot to be desired.

Leatherworking is probably one of the east painful because, as mentioned, skins are easier to come by. Alchemy is not too bad either - while it's not always easy to find herbs, at least the bulk of my items are useful.

And that's where the real problem comes in. For professions other than alchemy, most of the items produced are worthless. For a leveling character, usually by the time you've leveled to the zone that will supply you the mats, you've outleveled the gear you'll produce. You also have to produce an immense number of junk items, some requiring expensive or hard to find mats, in order to get your skillups.

It's just icing on the cake that these often sell for less than if you just vendored the materials, making the whole thing a huge money sink.

I love the idea of a crafting mini-game. Alternatively, more crafted items that are useful would be great. Many professions have a couple of token things that 'expire' - I like the charges on some of the JC necklaces or sharpening stones, that sort of thing. The problem with the stones is that I believe they go green far too quickly.

Useful items should provide skillups longer. This also includes items that are used to make more advanced items. Maybe a skillup bonus if you complete a project from piece to piece, crafting each along the way.

I also like randomness - useful randomness. When I was LWing in my 40s/50s, I got a huge kick out of the wildvine pieces. Never knowing what stats I'd get was great.
 
They are missing a huge chunk of potential customers that are not into killing things. ie. the female deompgraphic. Many of them like puzzles and crafting.

Hey! I do like puzzles and crafting, although I'm pretty sure Tobold would object to you ascribing that as a 'female' trait.

But I *also* adore killing things :P
 
The Tale in the Desert crafting system sounds really cool. I would love to see something like that make its way into games like Warcraft.
 
Why should it make a difference whether I gather herbs or ore at 5 am or 5 pm?

It makes a difference because it's an MMO. If you want to be completely unaffected by other players, this is not the style of game for you.

Tsk, tsk, it even says "Tobold's MMORPG Blog" right there in the browser title bar! I think WoW's focus on solo play is seeping out into the industry's idea of base game design, and it's not a good thing.
 
Why should it make a difference whether I gather herbs or ore at 5 am or 5 pm?

It makes a difference because it's an MMO. If you want to be completely unaffected by other players, this is not the style of game for you.


Having a competetive gathering/harvesting/farmning system actually kind of works against player interaction in a way, it encourages people to use resources when less are around, and doesn't provide for cooperation.
 
That's actually a really interesting idea! What is a resource actually gives the players more result if they work together at a resource? Say a mining node last for, I don't know, 10 "time units" if mining. If one person is mining, they get 5 ore/unit. For each additional person, they each get an extra ore. So N players mining, 4+N ore per time unit mining. People would solo-mine if they had to, but I'll bet you'd get actual mining groups forming so players could get more ore. There's player interaction right there.

Do the same for herb gathering. Say an area is marked as gatherable for herb H. Solo gather, you get a certain amount, but the more contiguous gatherers there are, the more each one gets. You'd have whole fields of herb farmers! What else would they have to do but chat while helping each other gather the resources?

Doug
 
Tem: One of the common arguments for a non-game crafting system is the RPG skill approach: You don't start to utilize the skills of the character but the players own skillset (eye-hand coordination and reflexes to shape a sword, players experience on how much heat / hammer beats to use etc.). The idea of RPG is that you control a character who owns the skill of blacksmithing.

If I recall correctly (and that's a big "if"), SWG managed this by making the minigame completely random, with chances of success based on your character's skill. You could make a run-of-the-mill Smork helmet, or you could tinker with the helmet and make it more protective and/or lighter and/or more durable... but the more you tried to improve it, the better the chance you'd completely mess up the helmet. Better armorers had more points to toss around in improvements and better chances to successfully change the design.

Overall, the SWG system was fantastic, and I'm surprised no one's imitated it in a pre-industrial MMO setting.
 
Overall, the SWG system was fantastic, and I'm surprised no one's imitated it in a pre-industrial MMO setting.

Because many casuals found it entirely too complex. I think the big issue with crafting is that much of what is crafted is worthless.

[..]I find it interesting that my 375 Leatherworking and 375 Engineering skills can make over a hundred different items and less than 10 are worth making.[..]

Breakable gear changes that dynamic...
 
...absolutely nothing? :)

I don’t agree. I suspect, as usual, that the value of crafting is in the eye of the beholder.

In WoW, I have a 250-ish JC, a 285-ish enchanter, a 367 leatherworker, ~360 blacksmith, 375 tailor, and 375 engineer, and various gathering and non-primary professions at 375 as well.

As for the “leatherworking/engineer ... less than 10 items are work making” comment - I have had a very different experience.

I personally have found leatherworking is among the most useful and helpful professions I’ve tried. I make many items and kits of various levels for alts, friends, and guildies. My leatherworker has literally always worn some crafted gear from very low level to his current level 66. He skilled up from about 350 to 365 for free on the Heavy Knothide Leather kits by buying the leather off the AH, crafting the kits, and selling them on the AH slightly above cost (plus kitting out his own gear). Lately he made a handy riding crop for my main.

Engineering I have mixed feelings about, because I took it up as the PvP profession (as still advertised on the official WoW web site) before TBC, only to see it almost completely locked out of Arena PvP, and nerfed in BG PvP. New profession vanity pets have been moved under JC, and combat pets were crushed with the nerf-bat. However, my ammo/arrow kits and mana/healing injectors are always in demand, and I can farm my choice of five types of motes quickly (5 primals in 30 minutes) with a fast flying mount (with Riding Crop :) ), google-minimap-detection, and a mote extractor, storing them in my 24-slot engineering toolbox. The bombs and charges are somewhat useful, and the helicopter somewhat novel. I can provide the odd quest item here-and-there (deadly blunderbuss, mithril casing, etc). But many engineering items cannot be easily shared except with other engineers. A sidebar: High-end fishing and engineering dovetail quite nicely, as crates frequently contain engineering mats.

Overall, as in much of WoW, professions tend to give return in proportion to time and research invested.
 
I personally have found leatherworking is among the most useful and helpful professions I’ve tried. I make many items and kits of various levels for alts, friends, and guildies. My leatherworker has literally always worn some crafted gear from very low level to his current level 66.

The problem is that the crafted item can be bought on the AH for less than the raw material cost. This is due to all the people who made 20 of them to level the skill up. The lower level armor kits are a great example.

If you "gather" the materials on your own by skinning, the item is ususally long past it's usefulness to you by the time you skin enough leather. In other words, by the time you get enough leather for that level 36 item -- you are level 46.

If you have a high-level character to support the crafting on your Alt, you CAN craft some gear for yourself as you level. However, you never need more than one and the 19 others you created with it just go on the AH for cheap.
 
This is a bit of an aside, but I know that very few folks ever played EQOA, and the crafting system was both simple and flexible. It's not a combination I've seen elsewhere, I though I'd lay it out.

To make a basic item you buy all of the components off of vendors. However, while you are out adventuring mobs will occaisionally drop gems. You can add these in while crafting a item to add stats to it.

The gem system was flexible, you could add pretty much whatever stats you wanted to any piece of gear you made. Want to deck out your Warrier in a full set of Int plate? Stupid, but sure...go for it.

Gems could add to a single stat, two stats, or add procs. Any piece of gear could be made with one gem. The amount that a gem added was determined by the level of the item you used it on. Once the item was made, it was permanent and the bonuses could not be changed.

The gear you could make was all pretty solid. Real upgrades to crafted gear were quite rare for most classes.

Unfortunately, in recent years the crafting has sort of broken down in EQOA. So few players are in game that it's often hard to find the correct gems to make a given item on the AH.
 
Star Wars Galaxies had an awesome crafting system. Millions of different outcomes depending on how much effort you put into making the final item. Top made items generated top dollar in the game. Games like Everquest 2 are just the opposite. Everyone makes the same items and they actually sell for less than the resources used to make them. Blah.
 
The best 'crafting' system I've seen yet was the first, in good old Kesmai's Federation II. Factories, trade runs, stock markets and the end result is designing your own zone (granted, much easier in such a MUD than a graphical MMO).

Crafting to me is a system where players not just socialize, but take pride in sharing achievements. It's not just personal, you literally give or sell or otherwise enjoy the fruits of your efforts with other players.
 
Following up on Doug & Dillion with more A Tale in the Desert fandom:

Mining in ATitD was very social (and quarrying, and a few other occupations), because character stats limited how frequently a character could harvest the material. So if I could only haul a load of ore out of the mine every 90 seconds, two or three friends could sit around with me chatting and still get close to our optimum yield rates from the mine, at what would otherwise be an intensely boring activity.

This was aided by the flexible guild system, which made building & managing a shared mine feasible.

Gathering wood, mushrooms & herbs all functioned like EQ2 (or, I assume, WOW), with the nodes being depleted by your harvest and not available again for several minutes / several hours / disappearing completely.

Farming or fishing could be done socially, although I didn't see that done often.

The game designer paid a *lot* of attention to mixing up solo and group activities.
 
When I first started playing wow crafting was fun for me. It was something I could do to keep my self geared up and It really made me happy to be able to make gear for my friends. Then I got close to 60 and realized I would never be anything but a mediocre apprentice compared to the in game drops. I quit grinding mats and that money sink was lost to blizzard. Its a small version of why I quit LOTR. I had that same feeling in everything I did.

Crafting should be valuable and profitable for those that wish to do it. You should be able to craft stuff just as good as drops. OR even better I don't think it should be easy to get all the mats. But it also shouldn't require 25 runs of an instance for a random pattern drop and then 25 runs of the current end game instance to make one piece of substandard gear for the person that can actually do that content that way. When I can see 30 epics drop before I get the first piece of epic gear crafted that is actually an upgrade thats a problem. And why can't I sell the good epics to people? Sure you end up with a few rich people from crafting. But it takes a lot of money out of the general pool and isn't any different than someone who can grind motes and epic drops 15 hours a day getting rich.
 
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