Procrastination Amplification: Punditry on MMOs and games in general.

My Crafting System – Part 2

I got some very nice feedback to my first post on designing my own crafting system, be sure to have a look at the comments there if you haven’t yet. I will continue in the same style, simply exploring ideas and slowly developing a structure from those while being open to suggestions and to changes in my own heart. From now on these posts will be a little bit more structured with a section pointing out new ideas I’ve picked up from comments, a section detailing decisions I’ve made for the direction of my system, and then a section dealing with actual advancement of ideas. Today’s main topic will be the question of player skill vs character skill, but first:

Comment Roundup

Klepsacovic (of Troll Racials are Overpowered fame) suggested a combination of crafting and combat that goes further than simply crafting things that help you in combat. He suggested that using a certain type of weapon might make a character better at creating that kind of weapon as well. I consider this a very good idea – first hand practice should allow one to find flaws in a creation and to try out ways to fix them.

Tesh also gets props for using "fungible" in an actual sentence. (image: xkcd)

Tesh pointed out that hidden character skills require that players can somehow adopt their character setup to accommodate these new skills as they will feel bad when they realize that their past decision make the use of their skills impossible. I don’t think that this necessarily means that players have to have the ability to do a full re-specialization (i.e. paying some money to an NPC to re-allocate your stats as you wish), but it definitely mustn’t be the case that a player develops an ability he or she can’t use. This definitely requires further though. Tesh also points out the difference between player skill and character skill that I’ll talk about further below.

Belthil makes a case for stats being different in flavour only – i.e. an increase in critical strike chance having the exact same influence on your damage output as an increase in speed. Personally I’m quite torn on that subject. I find it quite boring to play games in which your choice of stats does not matter (and I have ranted against that in the past) but I also wouldn’t want a certain choice to simply be stronger than the others. This is a dilemma I don’t know a way out of just yet. Suggestions are always welcome of course.

Belthil also reemphasizes something I consider to be very important: Unique crafters are a very good thing(TM). Being THE go-to guy (or gal) for people with specific needs can add a lot of fun to being a crafter. Few things are more annoying than spending time on improving your crafting skills and then never using them because everybody else can make the same stuff you can.

Decisions

This section will detail decisions I’ve made for my crafting system since the last post, but please note that none of these are final yet. I have to narrow own the design space a little if I ever want to reach my goal, but I’m in no way opposed to throwing away decisions if they turn out to be wrong.

First of I have decided that my game will have a limited set of attributes for characters that will be able to influence crafting. Think strength, agility, luck even though I haven’t actually thought about what these stats will eventually be (or how many of them would be needed.) These stats will influence both crafting and other gameplay and they will be controllable by the player in some way or another. Whether these stats are determined through straight-up spending of points or through repeated use is something I’ll decide later but they will not be picked randomly.

My final decision for today will be that there will be lots of opportunities for specialized crafting in the system.

Player skill vs. character skill

It’s quite an odd thing that crafting in MMORPGs (and most other RPGs for that matter) doesn’t usually include player skill at all. Combat on the other hand relies on both player skill and character skill – you wouldn’t bring a level 78 to a level 80 raid in World of Warcraft just as you wouldn’t take someone who bought his or her character on eBay, no matter how well equipped that character is. Combat requires both your character to be well prepared as well as the player to be able to control it well. Some might argue about the amount of skill required for raiding in a game like World of Warcraft, but there can’t be any doubt that there is a certain amount of skill required.

Crafting usually doesn’t work this way. The character will be able to advance some stats that influence crafting, learn recipes, and craft. The player will have little to no influence on the actual crafting process itself. Where a good player might be able to navigate an under-equipped character to victory in combat, it doesn’t matter how good the player is when crafting. Puzzle Pirates does this differently by employing minigames instead of the good old “click button to create item”, but these minigames are often only loosely related to the process of crafting (and the final outcome).

I’d like crafting players to be able to make actual decisions in an interesting way. I’d like videos of someone crafting to be watched on YouTube with amazement just as you’d see a video of a particularly skilled WoW arena or Starcraft 2 player.  Achieving this isn’t easy at all and will probably be the hardest part of designing a crafting system. Essentially what you’d need is a crafting simulator – not necessarily one that depicts reality at all but one that follow internal rules and seems as if it makes sense. Simpler crafting steps would be easy to understand and follow – such as heat turning steel into something that can be moulded into the shape of a blade with certain heat resistant tools, and cold water stopping the metal from losing the form it was given over time.

More experienced crafters would then learn through experimentation and exchange with other crafters that certain temperatures are more suited to make a durable blade than others and that iced water gives an even better effect than simply cold water. Even more experience might teach players to fold metal many times or to use one very durable type of metal as a core while using a coating of another metal to form a sharper blade.

Ideally the crafting process would take the player through the steps of crafting an item in real time, giving them various options at various points in time – just like combat already does.

  • I like where you’re going with this, but I want to add that interactive, skill-based crafting might be best as a non-twitchy process, meaning give a few seconds to respond to potential problems or opportunities. For many, crafting is the relaxing alternative to combat, so they don’t want to be on edge the entire time.

    Skilled/interactive crafting has the perceived problem of not fitting well into the spam crafting that we’re used to; after all it could get annoying to one by one make three dozen netherweave bags. The obvious solution is to allow engineers to create and rent Imitationbots which can imitate your actions; get enough and crafting takes no time at all, though the bots aren’t cheap to make, and therefore to rent.

  • Agreed. Crafting should probably be an interesting but relaxing part of gameplay. That depends on the type of game we are talking about though and the role crafting plays in it.

    As for spamming, I wonder whether there’s a need to keep spam-crafting in the game if you make it skill-based (and somewhat time-consuming).
    scrusi´s last blog post ..My Crafting System Part 2

  • The skill-based crafting seems like a nice idea, because it could foster the differences between players; someone might have a natural talent at making extremely durable swords, while someone might be better at balancing them, all depending on what part of crafing they get best.

    Also, I think skill-ups from failed attempts at crafting would make sense, what’s better than learning from mistakes after all? That could also tie in to getting rid of spam-crafting, you don’t learn anything new from making 20 identical bags, but trying to create a new, more complex bag would increase your skills, whether it fails or not.

    A way to make crafting more relevant could handing over repair duties to players. Merchants could still be able to fix regular items and damage that isn’t too extensive, but when your super special Dragonbone Kujang of Hellfire ends up snapping in half or something, the only way to make it as good as new would be to find a really good crafter to fix it. Maybe some kind of enchanter to recast the magic effects.

    In case my tl;dr comment didn’t give it away, this is actually a very interesting idea.