Tobold's Blog
Friday, June 29, 2007
From recipes to building blocks and beyond

Imagine you are a level 30ish caster in World of Warcraft, and you want to tailor yourself some gloves. Even if you have all the existing recipes, that isn't as easy as it sounds. There are a couple of recipes for level 24 to 25 gloves, for example Truefaith Gloves. But then the next recipe is for level 37, Crimson Silk Gloves. You wouldn't want to wear gloves 10 levels below you, and you'll need to wait another couple of levels before being able to wear the next one. And then you might not like the bonuses on offer. What if you'd really like to have gloves with a stamina bonus? Sorry, no recipe for that anywhere below level 57. Finally, if you are aesthetically inclined, you might find that the Crimson Silk Gloves of course are red, and the color clashes horribly with your green robe. In short, your limited selection of recipes often prevents you from crafting what you really want.

There has been quite some discussion in the MMORPG blogosphere about crafting recently, for example from The Common Sense Gamer or The Ancient Gaming Noob or potshot, who comes up with some good suggestions in his second part. But all these seem to be welded to the principle that crafting is based on making items for which you have a recipe, maybe with some possibilities for modification, like the WoW jewel slots. But what if we just got rid of the recipes?

Why shouldn't you be able to make level 34 green cloth gloves with a stamina bonus? Or any other combination you wanted? The item level would determine how high the bonus is, and what materials are needed to craft it. This could be implemented in many different ways: In the simplest implementation there would be building blocks, so you make those gloves by choosing the gloves building block, plus the green building block, plus some armor class building block, plus some stamina bonus building block. In that case the armor class and bonus chosen would determine the item level. Once you have built your recipe, it would then tell you what ingredients you need, and then you'd go and gather them and craft your item.

But beyond simply choosing blocks, other implementations could introduce more game elements into the crafting process. How about instead of choosing the final result, you get to choose the ingredients? Besides the obvious need for cloth and green dye, some experimentation would be needed to find that Buzzard Wings give a stamina bonus which leads to a level 30ish item. For those who don't like experimentation, websites will soon have the effects of all ingredients.

Or what about some sort of real game of combining runes to create recipes? One problem of current crafting systems is that it is boring, once you have the ingredients. If you would need to play a game, arrange runes on some playing board to create a recipe before you can craft, that would add a whole new dimension to crafting. Crafting could be a mini-game by itself, not just a couple of clicks of the mouse.

Previous blogger have focused on the need of crafted items to be as good as looted items, to create a player-run economy. That isn't going to happen, crafted items will always be slightly less good, so players are still encouraged to go adventuring. But if there was a much larger variety in crafted items than in looted items, the crafted items wouldn't need to be strictly better to be desirable. Somebody always wants that one special item that looting can't get him. And by making crafting itself non-trivial, crafting wouldn't need to be the "easy way" to get items. If you design it right, crafting an item can be as long and interesting a game than killing monsters for an item.
I think then you are referring to Puzzle Quest which is based primarily on a Bejewelled concept. So fighting enemies is via combining gems and thus scoring hits on the enemy. The game also allows u to craft items by combining 3 components of your choosing (thus allowing for combinations that you find will suit you the best). Once you have chosen the combination, you will then need to play a variation of bejewelled where you must destroy/match a certain number of anvils to successfully craft the item.

This is quite a fun approach really. However if done in a too difficult level, it will deter people from trying. That being said however, its probably the same effort as one trying to grind for a purple ingredient (remember skinning the beast? oR abmonination stitchings?)
To be able to craft a set of gear for yourself, appropriate to your playstyle/spec/style, appropriate for your level, and in the colors of your choice... that would be just too incredible for words.

And if you crafted your "Black Demonmaster" set for yourself at 35, then craft it again at 40, and 45, and 50, and always getting the mats together to do it, like you say, mats appropriate for the level of the item you want, your favorite gear would in fact "level up" with you. Maybe two versions of the item recipe. The "crafted from scratch" and the "enhanced from lower level" versions.

This would require, no, allow, crafting to be an ongoing and constant element of the game if you're relying on crafters, or yourself, for your gear.

Let crafters make the basic things, right up the itemlevel chain. If you want to add some difficulty to this process, make the "flavor" elements harder to get. "Basic gloves" is taught by the trainer. Bartlett in the Undercity sells the "Metal Studded Knuckles" pattern enhancement. The "Hellfire Horns" pattern enhancement drops in Azshara off Feldemons. Make some of the enhancements "Bind on Pickup" if you want to limit availability.

This would be applicable to gear and weapons.

Excellent idea.
Currently in WoW, tailoring is only really useful for making bags, equpping twinks or friends at lowish levels, and making the specialist 375 recipes.
My character knows a lot of tailoring patterns, but hardly makes any clothes for levels 1-60, except for some RP costumes.

It would be nice to be able to take the stats of one robe or shirt, and paste it onto another robe that you like the look of more.

I know a lot of mages who are complaining about how ugly their Spellstrike outfit is compared to the Shadoweave outfit used by frost mages/warlocks.

Would swapping skins be so difficult?
You should look at how crafting is in Star Wars Galaxies (SWG). Don't know if still as was at beginning as SOE had made many changes (making it a totally different game).

Anyway... how crafting was?
Beside training in a specific crafting system (like tailoring vs weaponsmith or whatever).
And beside getting better in skill and being able to learn new item building/crafting....
As you learn and able to make an item you can make it but you have to choose materials. Materials gathered can vary in type and quality.

For example a recipe for a gun could need copper while another rcipe could need any kind of metal.
Beside that you could find many kind of copper like materials and different qualities.

Items procuced can take advantages on some of the qualities associated with such materials. For example a component for an energy weapon could be better if produced with copper having good conducibility. Final weapon could be better if produced with good material and good subcomponents (that are also better using good quality materials )

Same material could also be exceptional for some kind of applications and not so good for others.... add to that a random spawn system.. et voila'... you get an interesting crafting system altogether with a trading system that will value materials.

Also add ability to tweak items while making them and you'll end up with items that are unique.

why not so many play SWG?
basically because is too much bugged and other problems that are too long to be discussed here :) (@tobold: if interested I can write you to explain in detail)
Jack, I played SWG in its early days. The harvesting of materials was fun, because the locations changed every week, and every ore etc. had a set of stats, which influenced the stats of the item you made with it.

But SWG still had recipes, and you needed to grind the same recipe over and over to gain skill points. I had to make 1650 Mabari chest plates to get to master armorsmith, which wasn't fun at all. And of course you did that grinding with cheap materials with whatever stats you could find. But once you were master, you would search for high-quality resources to make high-quality items. That was fun. But I'd rather have a system that is fun right from the start, and not only after a grind.
DAOC: Spellcrafting + armor/weapon crafting...?
But if the components from crafting were only found adventuring, that would encourage people, without destroying the value of crafted goods.

For instance, the critical success gear in LOTRO requires Barghest tails, etc. What if every piece had a similar requirement, or different requirements depending on what stats you wanted.

I think that would be enough. We could do away with a lot of loot drama then. Humanoids would mainly have money, or armor scraps that could be recycled by a crafter.

Everything would work but bosses, I'm not sure how to reward for those, certainly some would have good items, probably lore related, or have each boss have a quest associated, you could turn in his sword for some greater reward. Of course I hate the concept of bosses anyway, i think they're holdovers from old games before good AIs could be built, "let's just double everything". Since in intelligent species, the boss isn't the biggest and strongest, but the most crafty.

But to the other points: yeah, I have fallen asleep crafting in WoW and LOTRO, so something needs to be done to make it more interactive and fun.
I take it no one here has played Horizons then? The system described (save for the whole-minigame thing) is exactly the system in HZ. Armor-crafters got receipes for new patterns every tier or so. A tier was 10 levels, but they were staggered, so it was something new every 5 levels, like 5, 15, 25 = Chain, 10, 20, 30 was plate. Each equiment slot had two patterns, for example there were 2 types of patterns for legs, one was a plated kilt look, the other the more traditional armored-knight kind of look. Each had the same stat, just different appearance.

Each piece could then have 1 dye and 2 'styles' applied to it. Styles were sorta like sub-receipes the crafter had to learn in order to use. They granted various benefits and required certain semi-rare to really rare components in order to apply.

Many players would spend most of their levelling time specifically hunting down the ingredients list required for their next suit of gear, and due to HZ's dynamic class system, each suit was tailored to the individual who wanted it. Creating great demand for crafters/harvesters, not to mention lending a certain distinct appearance to all the players, since you could not only choose the look of the various pieces you had equipped, but could then colorize them individually.

As for mini-games in crafting, it's not new. This is how all crafting is being implemented in new MMO's, EQ2, Vanguard, and a few others at least to name a few.
Crafted items will never be as good as looted items because they don't want people who buy gold to be as good as people who work hard. Simple as that.
Previous blogger have focused on the need of crafted items to be as good as looted items, to create a player-run economy. That isn't going to happen

In City of Villains/Heroes, crafted items are better that those dropped from mobs and some items cannot be obtained any other way than through crafting - either crafting it yourself of buying the crafted item.

It does not stop people from adventuring, on the contrary - you need to go adventuring to get the ingredients and recipes or to get money to buy the ingredients and recipes - or the items themselves.

You could of course try to play the market to gain money. But I think most people are happy to do crafting as an additional activity when it suits them, since there is no "leveling" of crafting skill - if you have the recipe and ingredients you can make the item.
Previous blogger have focused on the need of crafted items to be as good as looted items, to create a player-run economy.

Player-run economies have some very bad flaws, since many of the harder to craft items require hard-to-get (drops off of specific mobs) or generally rare components. All or at least a sizable amount of these items almost inevitably will be claimed and farmed by many RMTs, where they can and will get a near monopoly on certain aspects of the economy and drive them up. Since those materials are required for high quality gear, people can't just turn them away, so it creates a situation where the only method of getting this high quality gear is to feed the RMTs, something that many of us despise.

As much as I hate doing run after run through a dungeon, hoping vainly for that one piece of gear I want from it, the alternative is just as bad, IMO.
I like the idea, Tobold. Especially since I'm now lvling new characters, and trying odd playstlyes in WoW, just for fun. It's kinda interesting to see what you can do with odd specs, but what I've found most hindering to it is not the difficulty, but the lack of variety in items pre-endgame. A freer crafting system would allow me to make myself some gear that would fit my odd playstyle better. The idea could also work well with other professions like enchanting. Why can't I put +stam on my cloak? Or +dmg for that matter? Why not put some +spell crit on my bracers? Sure in some cases Blizzard wants to limit just how much of one stat you can stack in different slots, but I have the suspicion that that isn't the case as often as them just not making enough different recipes.
Crafting I think was meant to be a time sink on WoW.

If they wanted a robust and intelligent crafting system it would require non-repetitive choices and a time:effort quality/quantity that satisfies the players. This isnt easy to balance overall, and If you did put this much thought into implementing crafting into WoW you may as well be playing world of craftquest anyway.

My thoughts for the WoW crafting system would be to fix all the craftable proffesions along with the auction house (both of which are fairly cumbersome and bogged by too much generic crap).

Make items actually unique. Blacksmithing does this slightly on some of their crafts as on armor you can have a base stat like +stam and (random stat) on top of it, for a few of the lower recipes. This could be elaborated and improved on imo.
Why not take this idea to it's next logical step; why do I have the same fireball as every other mage around, with the same base damage, and then a damage over time component? Let me design my own spells, set their damage and and add my choice of extra effects, slowing, stunning, a melee debuff, whatever.

Make every component of the spell cost "spell creation points" so that no spell can be completely overpowered. Player created content of this kind adds individuality, and expression to a game.
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