Tobold's Blog
Monday, March 29, 2010
Cooldown-based crafting

Imagine a MMORPG in which the best-in-slot items are crafted from cheap, vendor-sold materials, by just a click of a mouse, without requiring hard-to-get recipes. It is easy to see that such a system would quickly ruin a MMORPG economy, and the other gameplay as well, as there would be less motivation to go adventuring if crafting was so easy. Crafting needs to have *some* limiting factor to prevent players from getting too good crafted items too easily. But you can think of different crafting systems each using a different limiting factor.

The system of World of Warcraft uses mostly resources, and to a limited extent access to recipes as limiting factors for crafting. As resources are needed not only for making the items you actually want, but also the items you just craft to skill up, this has led to an economy where the low- and mid-level resources are worth *more* than the items you can craft with them. Crafting is extremely unattractive for new players, they are better off just taking gathering professions and selling overpriced resources on the auction house. On the other end of the spectrum are twinks from characters with thousands of gold, which just buy tons of resources and level up a profession from zero to mastery in an hour. The act of crafting isn't valued at all, many players are outright angry when they bring the mats and the crafter demands a fee. As resources are tradeable, the whole WoW crafting system with resources as limiting factor doesn't scale very well.

At the level cap of WoW, people don't buy resources any more to skill up, so crafted items are worth at least as much as their resources. But if you look at the whole value chain, you quickly notice that the biggest crafting profits are done at the steps which have a cooldown. An alchemist for example can make 100 gold in 5 seconds every day, by transmuting rare gems into epic gems. Patch 3.3.3 removed the cooldowns for cloth and titansteel, and prices for those items dropped sharply. Items with cooldown are valuable because you can't make unlimited quantities of them, remove the cooldown and supply rises to meet demand, crushing profit on the way.

Thus I was thinking that a crafting system limited not by resources but through cooldowns would work a lot better than the World of Warcraft system. Instead of having 450 skill levels there could be just as many as there are levels, 80 now, capped at the character level, and every item would at least take 24 hours to craft. So new player or twink would both take at least 80 days to master a profession. Blue items and purple items could take longer to craft, lets say 2 days for a blue and a full week for an epic. There would be less items crafted just to skill up, and more that are actually useful. Crafting a really good item would have value beyond the cost of the resources. And as crafting was limited by those cooldowns, there could be more items along the level curve where crafting them would be a good alternative to hoping for a drop from a dungeon.

Basically cooldown-based crafting is fairer than resource-based crafting, because you can't just buy your way to the top. Players have vastly different amounts of gold and resources, but every player has exactly the same amount of time per day. By limiting the output, crafting could produce better items, making crafting more interesting, without killing the economy.
Turbine has gone with a hybrid of this approach in LOTRO - instead of flooding the market with useless items, you can make items on a cooldown that get you rep with your crafting guild.

That said, fair does not necessarily equal fun. This type of system heavily favors people who log in at least once a day over, say, someone who clocks the same amount of time but only logs in once or twice a week.
Yeah, the root of the problem is that in the real world, the price of a manufactured item is determined by price of raw materials + value of skilled labour + profit.

In WoW, the value of the labour is negative for most crafting: it takes no time or effort to click a button, and the crafter is happy to do it for nothing or even for a loss, if he can get a skillup for it.

Other implementations to consider:

* EVE has manufacturing time, which I believe can be quite long for bigger items. And since there is no connection between manufacturing and skillups, nothing gets manufactured as throwaway junk just for the skillup. Everything that gets manufactured is to meet a real or perceived demand.

* Fallen Earth also uses a background manufacturing time, I can't recall how the crafting skillups work though.

* Atlantica has its "workload" system, where to craft an item, you need to generate an amount of workload either by fighting and earning xp, by using books of "crafting secrets", or very slowly by sitting down and autocrafting. The highest end gear takes massive amounts of workload, and will take a very long time for an individual to craft - hence the "guild crafting" system where everyone in the guild can contribute to the crafting effort by fighting and earning xp.
I like the idea, even if I usually profit from the system WoW uses right now. Makes you really angry if you are a freshly minted tailor and every item craftet out of wool means a loss of about 9 gold.
Everything that gets manufactured is to meet a real or perceived demand.
In theory, yes. In Eve, the primary limiting factor is the market capital required for production. Beginners can start with cheap items like ammo, modules or frigates, while manufacturing capital ships requires billions invested in blueprints, materials and infrastructure. The secondary limiting factor is time. It's either spent learning manufacturing skills, research used to increase the blueprints' efficiency, inventing/reverse engineering T2/T3 blueprints and finally manufacturing itself. A small batch of ammo takes just five minutes to build, but making a big ship can take days or even weeks.

However, there are a few game mechanics that do deal with useless items: Scrapmetal Processing skill and insurance. Scrapmetal Processing is fairly benign. If someone wastes materials producing an useless item, someone else can buy that item and regain some of the materials. It's not unlike using Disenchanting in WoW to gain some value out of otherwise-useless crafted greens or random drops.

Unfortunately, insurance does encourage crafting useless items. Currently, in many cases it's worth the trouble to build a ship, insure it and self-destruct it. The insurance costs and payouts are hardcoded, so they act as a minimum price for the ship and by proxy, the materials used to build one. If someone tries to sell materials below the insurance price, someone will buy the materials, build a ship and self-destruct it.
This idea is both genious and terrible. It's great because it encourages every day play, gives a reason to log in (and if you logged in, you will most probably do something else too). It's also great because it would let a newbie make some money on the way up.

It would be terrible because:
* Alt army would be more or less required for success, supporting no-life playing.
* The crafting bonuses must be perfectly balanced, as the players can't reroll in a day for the new flavor of the month. (therefore would be outraged if the flavor of the month is not their prof)
* Most people are M&S who would not be able to gather materials for a profitable item, waste their cooldowns on crap, so the better items would be extremely rare
The biggest problem I see with this that it would generate more and more alts so as to space out the cooldowns. Blizz would love it because they'd sell a lot more boxes.
As Green Armadillo said, Turbine already does something like this in LotRO. Basically, all crafted items that actually matter (i.e., the best item that can be made for any particular slot for any particular level range) are gated by cooldowns. For example, the best heavy chest armor a tank can wear from level 31 to 40ish is on a three-day cooldown and requires a crafted component that is also on a three-day cooldown (plus a semi-rare shard and some regular materials). You can also make this same item using a one-shot recipe, the same semi-rare shard and a bit of luck (random roll to see if you get the "normal" version or the better version). But since both the shards and the one-shot recipes are bottlenecks, most crafters will use the cooldown-based recipe instead.

The biggest problem with this system is the cooldown for the crafted components. If a semi-serious crafter wants to keep the components on hand (so as to make an item on demand, for example), there is a perceived "need" to craft one of the components whenever the cooldown wears off. Needless to say, if you have all seven crafting professions, each making four tiers of two components each, etc., etc., it starts to feel like a job.

It's not a bad system, but if implemented incorrectly it can easily drive off casual players since it creates a significant "barrier to entry" (the need to create components on a fairly strict schedule in order to "compete" with the "serious" crafters).
Pirates of the Burning Sea used a system like this. Every account could run up to ten production facilities like lumber mills and shipyards. Each facility could produce only a certain number of goods per day, which limited the amount that can be crafted. Because the limitation applied to an account, rather than individual characters, the limits couldn't be circumvented with alts.

Also, as in EVE, the act of crafting did't raise crafting skills, so there was no incentive to produce goods that can't be sold. It worked pretty well back when I used to play PotBS.
Because the limitation applied to an account, rather than individual characters, the limits couldn't be circumvented with alts.

I don't really see what the problem is with alts, not if your crafting level is capped to your character level. So a bunch of level 1 characters won't help you. In fact this is exactly how alts crafting already works in WoW.

If there was really an alt abuse problem, account wide crafting cooldowns could be a solution.
Assuming you want to ensure people that only enjoy crafting have something to do too, this seems a bit flawed to me. All they can do in a session is make an item and then they have to wait a whole day until they can do something fun again?

Sounds like Farmville to me.

What I'd prefer to see is mini-game based crafting- there you won't see inflation as crafting takes some skill.

Then again, Blizzard is probably aiming at a target audience that enjoys crafting at its most basic form.
What a deeply dreadful idea.

Crafting isn't just, or even mainly to "make something useful". It's gameplay.

Look at Vanguard's excellent crafting system, which is a full game in itself. Or EQ2's highly-rated system. These are systems where people can and do log in every day for a full session and do nothing but craft just because crafting is fun to do.

On your same logic, why not set a limit on the number of mobs an adventurer can kill per day? Or the amount of adventuring experience he can gain? Or go the whole hog and just set a specific real-time cap on all in-game progression.

Control of how a player spends his or her time in game should lie with the player, not the game systems.
So you want to make WoW in to one big webgame. It reminds me of games like Travian. You get x resources per minute no matter how hard you play.

Cooldown based crafting isn't a bad idea but it needs limitations. Putting a one day block on crafting epics? Sure but for greens? Hell no.

Inscription leveling is already time-based too. You can only learn one recipe a day so it takes months to learn them all.
I think cooldown based crafting is a pretty good system. Much better then Kara/Sunwell BoP recipe drops.

I have a bit of a problem with "Basically cooldown-based crafting is fairer than resource-based crafting, because you can't just buy your way to the top." You *must* be able to buy your way to something, or else what is the point of gold, AH and professions. It might be an acceptable game if the only gear is BoPs from ICC. But in that scenario, why would anyone do professions or dailies or AHs?

I think professions suffer from the WoW disease: essentially 1-79 and 1-449 are pretty irrelevant.

If you are trying to protect the lazy, then the cooldowns need to be weekly since otherwise the log in every day on six alts will pull ahead.

I like cooldowns as the gate. I also like the diminishing returns of EVE or WoW fishing. 1 fish will get you from 1 to 2; it might take 12 for that last point.

BTW, those who talk about pressing "a" button in WoW have never run a 300-glyph profession and milled 200 stacks in a sitting.
Having a cooldown is basically the same as having a crafted item take longer to craft except you get the result at the beginning. This works in other games because they have a queue of some sort, and the "cooldown" varies depending on the complexity of the item. An easy way to implement this in WoW would be to have individual cooldowns for each item that vary depending on item level and color. This way a crafter can blow all his cooldowns, and in effect fill up a sort of crafting queue. Reducing the skill to the same as the character level would not be advised in this setup, but reducing it by some amount might be helpful.
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This idea really gave me lot of thoughts and finally after some hours I figured out what's the problem (or unique strenght) of it: the limiting factor would be real time.

NOT play time and NOT skill (like Farmville). It would reward scheduled but little playing. If you just log on for 5 mins every day, your gold/hour is maximized.

That would hurt the hardcore (he can't farm more, especially if the cooldown is account based).

It would hurt the casual who logs in totally randomly, as missing a day of crafting cannot be fixed the next day.

It would hurt the undisciplined player who logs in get carried away by questing or chatting, forgets to craft (and also can't make up). Alternatively he remembers that he MUST craft, but then he MUST farm materials NOW.

It would hurt the uninformed newbie who reaches lvl 80 without professions, and when someone finally informs him how he crippled his character, he has 80 real days until he fixes it, and during this time he is excluded from groups "lol scrub low prof"

It would reward the disciplined, scheduled, yet not "no life" player. I would love this system (and I'm sure you as a fellow scientist would love it too). However I doubt if you could make a mainstream game that is aimed on me and you.
I love the idea. CD on greens would be to harsh, but some hours on blue and one day or two on each spesific epic maby ok. Think Bliz has ruined the crafting game as it is now. To bad really.
I don't really see what the problem is with alts, not if your crafting level is capped to your character level.

Well, that can be a problem for people (like me) who prefer crafting as a main activity. Restricting crafting to high level adventurers makes it less accessible to those who don't have a lot of time to play. The nice thing about games like Eve and PotBS is that you can make crafting your main focus without having to grind up your adventuring level first.
The best system would tie crafting with actual gameplay, so people would make money by selling their time/skill to other players, instead of 'selling' their ability to manage massive amounts of crafted mats/items or 'selling' their manipulation of the auction house.

That would solve many problems, not the least of which is that in the World of Warcraft, a world of quests and dragons and adventure, you mostly make money by playing Ebay Jr.

I always say it but it's worth repeating : Puzzle Pirates has an awesome crafting system.
I think part of the problem of crafting is that the items made are so much worse (at lower levels) than the millions of greens dropping all over the place and then landing on the AH. Why would anyone want to spend their time doing crafting unless they really like it?

I like the idea of both using cooldowns and changing the stats on the crafted items to make them more desirable.
For the WoW system, it seems to me that the biggest problem is the amount of items needed to skill up, which guarantees lots of low level items flooding into the system. Reducing the amount of items needed to level the crafting skills (and gathering as well, since the material requirements are also reduced) would be an effective way to deal with this issue.
I mostly agree with what Gevlon said, but I think - just like the weekly dungeon only requires you to spend 30min-1h per week for your 5 Frost/5 Triumph - a weekly crafting cooldown would fix some of these problems.

I still have my gripes with the daily random, ofc it doesn't take long, but you're basically required to do it daily to maximize your income of Frost. Weekly is so much better in this regard, as I can choose the time in the week and I'm not punished for failing to show up for my daily 20min of boredom in Heroic UK with a totally overgeared group.
What Gevlon describes sounds a lot like EVE Online.

- Each account only has room for three characters.

- Only one character can be in active training (and trust me, you want to be training always, there are benefits to upgrading your skills.

- Skill training (like crafting) happens real-time, but you don't have to be online for it (you do have to come online to set up a new skill, and you cannot fill out the training schedule to start training a skill more than 24 hours in advance. Some skills take RL weeks to train to their highest levels).

EVE is very much a sandbox, it's difficult to pinpoint which players are "hardcore", and how: are these just the zero-security empires, the auction house traders, the high-end miners, the explorers...

Crafting is in effect cooldown based: you need to find an open timeslot at a suitable station, and then wait in real-time for the crafting to get finished, but you don't have to hang around to do so, and can do whatever PvE or PvP action you want while waiting.
Tobold, you just reinvented Warhammer's awful Herbalism mechanic of planting seeds and "growing" them into herbs.

Part of the problem with such mechanics is that you have to come back to it for the finish. At least in WoW, the cooldown happens AFTER you used it -- not during.

I'm not disagreeing that it's a useful way to control crafting, but is a cooldown "fun" or interactive in any way? Not really.

At one time, Blizzard used to require some soulbound items (Orbs) for the top-end crafted items. You could make a BoE to trade, but only if you had personally gathered up the soulbound mat that was a requirement.

I think if you are going to have a cooldown to increase the value of crafting, it needs to be for creating soulbound reagents. That way, you can make specific items harder to craft, but not everything.

Otherwise, you make crafting itself boring. And likewise, it needs to be the reagent that's soulbound or otherwise you just make the reagent valuable (shadowcloth) and not crafting itself.
I'd like to suggest a simple solution:

Just eliminate skill points from WoW. To craft an item you need materials and the recipe.

Distribute the recipes well and there won't be any junk any more.

What do you think ?
Frankly, I am much more in favour of a crafting system SWG had (minus the awful grind to get the skills). What really mattered in the end is how good the crafter knew the system and how to get the best results. The crafter had to know which modules to combine and which mats to use to get the desired effects and trade-offs.

My best crafting experience was in Earth & Beyond where I was a reactor builder. This was not a popular professions since only one class could make them but I liked it because it allowed to use my knowledge of the ins and outs of reactors in that game to built an impressive business. At any give moment I was able to recommend a reactor to a player based on a couple questions and have it made within a few minutes. In return I was able to charge 100% markups easily and got a ton of tips on top of that. Even without an AH I was able to sell hundreds of reactors a month.

So my preferred crating system is one that rewards a crafter for knowing the profession really well and being able to build a wide range of products that would be useful to players depending on a situation. WoW massively fails at this as the range of usefull items is rather pitifull.
Fallen earth has cooldown based crafting - it takes literally a week to manufacture a top level vehicle, it takes several times longer to skill up to this from 0 ( all the skill books on the way are long time too)

It is kinda neat, but everyone can have a crafter alt and resources are easy to get. So its not crafters market either
I've read over most the comments and I don't believe anyone has brought up the issue of scarcity. What if certain professions were less popular than others? (as already exists)

What if "LF Tailor (epic lvl 80 cloth) have mats and tip" only leads to every available tailor cant make that item because they made one already.

The scarcity of items in this system wouldn't be equal to the scarcity it is now simply because it is resources based, causing prices to skyrocket. Right now, the only time-based items are either items use FOR crafting another item or items that dont have need but provide convenience (prof. specific bags).

Not to mention the fact that, how would one balance between what is an acceptable cooldown? 1 hour, 14 hours? different cooldown based on iLVL? It would make the system far more difficult than necessary.

I would ammend your idea with a "crafting limit" of say, 10 of a certain item a day.

Besides, if rarity is dependent on resources, and that is your problem, going to the other extreme wouldn't help. You have to find a medium if you think the current system is flawed.
I like the idea of cool-down craft personally. Although I take onboard the problems with the more casual palyers. Here's the fix to that:
Rest bonus - just like with exp.
The longer you've been logged out then the better the bonus, capping at 50% time saved.
I responded here:

you don't have to post this if you don't want to.
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