The recent articles by each of the three members of the MMO Round Table, Moorgard, Nerfbat and Aggro Me, got me thinking about my experiences with crafting in MMO’s.
As anyone that knows me can tell you I’ve never been a huge fan of crafting in most MMO’s. EQ1 crafting was so tedious that I’d find myself nodding off after only 5 minutes. WoW wasn’t that much more exciting but at least I didn’t risk carpal tunnel from all the clicking and dragging. At launch the actual act of crafting in EQ2 was entertaining but having to spend hours doing sub-combines to make the components that you could then use for the final object you wanted to make was annoying to say the least. About the only system that I was able to tolerate for any length of time was the one in DAoC and that was only because I just had to have my components, go to the proper crafting station and click on the button to start it. I could then walk away and do something else while the crafting process completed. If I didn’t have anything else I wanted to do though it was boring as heck watching that little bar fill up.
The recent changes to EQ2’s crafting system have actually made that system entertaining for me, I have a couple of characters that have a higher tradeskill level than adventure level even, so thinking about the new system and reading those posts got me thinking about a perfect – for me – crafting system.
Besides playing MMO’s…and spending hours a day trying to land a job in the games industry…I also have a few other hobbies, one of which is woodworking. I recently got a mini lathe and have started turning small projects including pens and pencils. Overall I find the process of creating a new pen very relaxing and rewarding so you’d think that a crafting system based on that real world process would be just as relaxing and rewarding. You’d be wrong but let me elaborate.
In order to make a pen I first need a pen blank, this is a small piece of wood about 6 inches long and maybe 3/4 inches square, the easiest way to get this is to take a larger piece of wood and cut it down to size. At this point you’ll also want to break out a pen kit, this contains all of the metal hardware that you need for the pen including the ink cartridge. Also in this kit will be 2 small brass tubes that make up the inner lining of the pen so you’ll want to take your pen blank and cut it down to the same length as each of those tubes. Next you drill a hole through the center of each length of wood large enough to hold those tubes and glue the tubes into the hole. Once the glue is dried you need a special pen mandrel and the appropriate bushing set for the pen you’re making. You then mount the blanks on the mandrel, using the bushings to keep the 2 parts seperate as you’re turning them, and mount the mandrel on your lathe. After all of that you’re finally ready to get down to making the pen. This is where you actually start the crafting process, using your skills, honed from experience, to make a unique crafted item.
For those of you that were familiar with the crafting system of EQ2 before the recent changes this might sound awfully familiar. You have to spend time making sub-components using sub-sub-components and then combine those with raw materials to actually get the item you wanted. So why do I find the process of making a pen in the real world relaxing and rewarding when I hated the crafting system of EQ2 at release?
A lot of it has to do with time and more importantly type of time.
When I go down to the shop I can spend 10 minutes to an hour prepping sub-components to make new pens, the longer I spend the more sub-components I have ready for the next time I want to make a pen. Just like in the old EQ2 crafting system I could spend several hours making nothing but sub-components so that the next time I wanted to craft I’d have them ready and waiting for me. The difference is that when I head down to the shop what I’m looking for is a chance to get away for awhile, throw on my headphones and listen to some of my favorite podcasts and just relax. When I log in to an MMO what I’m looking for is to be entertained by the game, not by some outside resource, and while I occasionally find it relaxing to run around bashing things that isn’t the primary goal of the activity.
The recent changes to EQ2’s crafting system have gone a long way towards making that system meet my needs. I can now log in, decide I want to craft something, grab my supplies from the bank, head to the crafting instance and within a few minutes have a finished product that the mechanics of the crafting process made entertaining for me to make. It wasn’t just click-drag-drop-hit combine or hit a button and wait for a bar to fill up or even just hit a button. It kept me engaged in the process with a tangible reward, maybe not a great reward…most of my crafters are below level 30 after all…but at least it was the item I’d set out to make and I gained exprience as well.
Does this mean that the new EQ2 crafting system is the perfect system for me? Not exactly, though it is the closest of the systems I’ve seen.
So what would be my perfect crafting system? Glad you asked, but keep in mind this is MY ideal and I realize it won’t work for everyone.
To start with there needs to be two levels to the crafting system.
The first level would be used to improve your skills, making simple consumable objects such as food, drink or ammo, stuff you can use but isn’t really game altering or going to make you rich. I invision this as a more social type of crafting, the mechanics of it would be relatively simple but the process would take some time, not some click-fest, so that you could spend the time chatting with friends or guild mates. The DAoC system was great for this though their crafting times for higher level items were far to long.
The second level would be for making those game defining items, that uber-weapon or coveted piece of armor. This process would be far more time consuming, not in the doing the same thing over and over to make sub-components way but in the it’s going to take you 20 minutes of crafting to make that one piece. It was also be far more involved, similar to the current EQ2 mini-game system but more in depth. Something, much like a combat encounter with a named, that keeps you focused on the task at hand with no time to chat. The process should take long enough that you can only turn out one or two of these a night, tops, and it should be expensive enough that you can’t afford to turn out that one or two every night.
If I was building the ultimate system I’d have this second stage require rare components that could only be acquired as rare drops or harvests from the most dangerous areas. For those that wanted to be nothing but a crafter I’d implement a system similar to the enchanting system in WoW. The adventurer that has the rare component and wants to get something made with it finds a crafter that’s willing to make it and they negotiate the price through a modified version of the trade window. The crafter then gets the item and begins the crafting process. If he’s successful in making the item the item appears in the adventurers inventory while the amount of coin that was negotiated is removed from the adventurers bank and transferred to the crafter. If the crafter fails then the rare component returns to the adventurer and he’s free to either re-open negotiations with that crafter or go elsewhere.
Yes this means that crafters would be relying on adventurers to get them the rare components to make the ultimate items but the two tiered system means they wouldn’t have to rely on being able to craft those ultimate items just to gain skill in their chosen craft. It also means that crafters wouldn’t be able to churn out 100’s of weapons and armor, creating an economic nightmare but that’s a different issue, just to make money. The best would be able to make plenty of money by using their skills to make the occasional weapon or armor just as true craftsmen, furniture makers say, only make one or two major pieces a month. This would mean that the first level, skill up, items would need to sell back to vendors for at least the cost to make them.
But even if they can sell back their skill ups how do they get the money to get started and how to they get money to continue through the crafting levels? Well how about a series of quests. The first would kind of walk them through the process of making the skill up items for their chosen profession, starting them with a few components so that they’ll be able to make enough money to keep going down that line. The second series would teach them the process of making the more complicated, hand crafted, style items. Just have an NPC play the part of the player with the rare and use a similar system, minus any true negotiation since the NPC is only going to pay a fixed amount. Once the item is made the crafter gets the money and the item disappears. If you limit the number of times at each tier, with a tier being say every 10 crafter levels, that the NPC will pay them to make these higher priced items then you can reduce the effect of the system on your economy.
Like I said this would be MY perfect crafting system so I don’t expect everyone to agree with it, and I know there will be hardcore crafters out there that hate it, but feel free to pick it apart. Better yet, propose your own perfect system.
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