How I would do crafting.

As the topic of Warhammer Online’s crafting system was briefly mentioned here recently, I figured this was as good a time as any to throw out my somewhat fleshed out idea for a crafting system, and see what flaws or issues people might find.

First some basics before we get into the details. My idea could only be applied to a game from day one; it’s not something that can be attached to an existing game. The system would also determine many other aspects of design, and the assumption is that those aspects would indeed work. Finally, this is just something that I randomly came up with, and while based on my previous MMO experience, it’s not an adjustment of any one particular system.

The game in question here would be a mix of level and skill base, something similar to Asheron’s Call. Crafting would not be available in any way until a certain point, sometime around halfway to the level cap. Itemization itself would be radically different than what we are use to in most MMOs today, in that all weapons of a certain type (sword, axe, dagger) would have only a very minor difference in dps stats. A bronze sword is nearly as effective as a diamond megablade. Skill points factor heavily into a weapons total power, so someone with low sword skill will do significantly less damage than someone with near-max (softcap) sword skill. No item would be bind on equip or pickup, and all items would have a durability score, which would eventually lead to an item being destroyed with enough use. Death quickens the destruction process.

When you first pick up a craft, let’s use weaponsmith as an example, you are able to craft the most basic of weapons, those being bronze. As you advance in your craft, more options become available, such as iron, steel, diamond, etc. Now remember that the difference between diamond and bronze is mostly cosmetic, as the stats increase only slightly. The only time stats could be improved more significantly, and this would be rare, is if the smith ‘crits’ during crafting, resulting in a bonus power increase, or he uses a rare extra ingredient, which would result in a minor side buff, such as a bleed effect or stun. Both crit and side buff items would also receive some kind of secondary cosmetic change, be it a small glow or extra gem in the hilt.

All items, even the most basic bronze, would be harder to craft than what most MMOs offer today. While the exact balance would need to be tuned, something along the lines of both a time limit (1 sword per day) and a skill check (mini-game to determine success rate, with a possibility to create junk) would be involved. All higher level items, the iron, steel, diamond gear would have increasing difficulty in crafting, both in the time cooldown and the mini-game, plus an overall increase in materials needed.

The intended result would be this: bronze weapons would always be useful, as power-wise they are comparable to all but the rarest weapons, but cosmetically they look inferior to higher crafted gear. Since all gear eventually wears out, characters would store multiple sets of gear. A low cost set for day to day use, along with more specialized sets, be it a ‘look cool’ diamond set or a very expensive ‘best’ set used only for serious challenges (PvP or PvE), and however many in-between sets. As gear does wear down, all players would constantly be looking to replace broken pieces, creating an infinite demand for crafters. As crafting would require spending character points (or whatever advancement system is used), a crafter would be weaker in combat than a pure focused fighter/mage, although still able to hold their own in all but the most extreme cases. This inherent weakness would limit the appeal of crafting, making it rarer and hence more desired. In addition, crafting drops during adventuring could be sold, creating a secondary market between adventurers and crafters. Deals could be made between two people, with one providing rare materials and the other crafting at a discounted rate, in exchange for further material supplies.

I envision a scenario where a warrior finds a rare gem, and seeks out a top crafter to craft a new sword. The warrior would be wise to find the highest skilled crafter he can, as the gem is rare and the result is not guaranteed. Let’s assume the crafter is successful, he crits, and the warrior now has a very rare, very distinct sword, both in power and looks. This not only bring a bit of fame to the warrior, but also to the crafter. And while the warrior was successful in acquiring a new sword, its time is limited, and eventually with enough use, it too would need to be replaced.

On top of all this, since gear never gets out-leveled, quests and mob drops would be mostly related to gold or crafting ingredients, and less about actual gear drops. The idea of raiding or grinding to acquire that one awesome weapon would not exist, replaced with the constant need to upgrade and replace, steadily being able to afford using more powerful or fancy gear more often. A poor player might own a special sword, but he won’t be able to afford using it during normal questing, while a player of great wealth will have more freedom in what gear is uses in day to day use, and will be able to pursue and purchase rare pieces.

I could go on, but I think that lays out the basic ideas. More detail could always be applied to each scenario or example, but I’m curious to see what others think. Let me know!

17 Responses to How I would do crafting.

  1. Talyn says:

    I’ll need to re-read your actual crafting mechanisms before I have an opinion, but let me touch on this: you mentioned crafters would be weaker than adventurers due to application of their skill points. Are you in favor of how every game handles this, ie. every adventurer can also craft and become a master craftsman? Or would adventurers having limited (or no?) crafting abilities, while you can create another character who can strictly craft (only one per account, no crafter alts of crafter alts) be intriguing? This is assuming there’s a full-blown crafting game with plenty to do (eventually owning a shop, employees, gatherers, economic PvP, etc.)

    This is a concept I’ve been exploring a little. I’m just wondering if the possibilities that every, or most, adventurers would be able to gather. Perhaps very limited crafting abilities, like making a bandage or whatever for very limited healing. But if you want to really craft you can make one Tradesman character type per account, per server. This prevents the inter-dependent crafting going awry such as in LOTRO where rather than actually being social and dealing with the other players, everyone just makes an alt and mails stuff back and forth.

  2. syncaine says:

    Yea I support having to make a choice between crafting or all out adventurer. You are correct that the crafting itself would need to be a full time deal, with a shop and everything else.

    I don’t know if you have to limit it to one per server, just make it tougher to get good at crafting beyond spending a bunch of money. If leveling and gearing up a character was a set amount of time required, why not crafting? If a game is serious about crafting, don’t make it a tacked on feature.

    Both EVE and UO force you to make a choice between crafting or power. UO with the skill cap of 700, EVE in that you take time away from training combat skills. I think it works great in both games.

  3. Swift Voyager says:

    Having to make a choice about professions at character creation seems flawed to me. Sure you can have races that get bonuses if you want, but why limit it by character class? In addition to the way Eve does it, you could also just make the act of crafting time-consuming and/or complicated. A single character may become a superior warior and also a superior crafter but if you have 4 hours to play in an evening, make them have to decide how they spend their time. The trick is to make crafting “fun” in some way, but also real-world time consuming. I like the idea of adding a “skill minigame” to the crafting process. Perhaps some kind of brain teasers like Sudoku or a point and click reflex game like whack-a-mole, depending on the type of crafting you’re doing. That way crafters could actually get experience by practicing their trade and maybe have a little fun too. There’s a TON of different kinds of puzzle games that aren’t copy written material. You could even have different difficulty levels of challenge which affect the results of your work. That’s how questing works. Harder quests give better rewards.

    I also totally agree with the concept of wear and tear. Heck you could even get really complicated on item creation and make it a system of interchangeable parts. For example you could make axe handles and axe heads. Then players could use the elven wood 4 foot long handle with their choice of axe, mace, hammer, etc heads. If you make the system for determining how a weapon works complicated enough then you give people all different ways to customize based on preference, rather than purely having everyone want the blue kind because it’s the best in the game since the last expansion. Then you can have crafters who make and repair parts as well as crafters who assemble them. The customizable weapons are also cool to me because it makes such variation in the market, and would encourage people to offer contracts to crafters when they want a special type of item constructed.

    Just my two cents. So, I agree with everything you said except making it impossible for people to spend an evening crafting if they are tired of running quests. Why force people to create alts? Keep them in one character and it builds identity and imersion.

  4. Talyn says:

    On the one hand I agree with the whole “this is the identity of this character” bit, but I’m also looking at it from the LOTRO perspective. Inter-dependent crafting was supposed to be a big deal, and a way for players to be more social but in fact, all that happened was everyone made alts of each crafting profession and end up soloing the entire crafting game. I’m also looking at old SWG which had total non-combat professions. There are players out there who prefer a way to advance their character but aren’t into adventuring and combat. Vanguard at least made crafting its own separate sphere of gaming, and it has a rabid base of crafters who never adventure at all.

    Just exploring some concepts…

    All in all, I’d say item deterioration is a great way to make crafting meaningful, but now we’re alienating the players who prefer drops to escape the tyranny of the crafters’ prices…

  5. syncaine says:

    You don’t make the choice at character creation, you make that choice at a later point (thus limiting crafting alts as well). Like EVE, it would just limit your power growth a bit, since you focus some time/points into crafting rather than all out power. Of course you gain the ability to run a shop and make a profit off crafting, so its a plus/minus situation. And you can still quest/group, you just won’t be the absolute strongest member of the group, but with good design, that would not limit you too greatly, sort of like running missions in EVE, bringing more pilots, even total noobs, is only a plus.

    edit: you posted right as I did Talyn, so I’ll just add this in. I don’t think prices would be as crazy as we see in WoW/LoTRO, where regular items are near worthless, and the rare stuff is beyond overpriced. The issues there are more that at max, you NEED those overpriced items to stay competent, while in this example it would simple be a nice perk, but not required.

  6. Talyn says:

    Beware, this comment goes off into a few tangents! :grin:

    With respect to your description of weapon power, that seems very similar to Guild Wars. Each weapon type has an absolute maximum damage output. But then players can tweak them with additional parts for other bonuses. For example, my Monk has a max damage healing staff, but I have applied some modifications to give me a 20% chance that any healing spell would cast in half the time, and 20% chance that a healing spell would refresh twice as fast. That type of thing. That way I can customize things to my particular style of play. What GW offers though is tons of different skins even though the actual dps stats are always the same. The same goes for armor. Max armor rating is max armor rating — the main difference is the appearance — though again armor can be customized with insignias and runes to tweak things.

    Exploring another concept, do you prefer crafting to be the WoW/LOTRO “combine ingredients, click ok to auto-craft” or something more directly interactive such as old SWG or Vanguard?

    I wrote a post forever ago about how I view a very distinct difference between a Character and an Avatar. I’m an old-school pen-and-paper RPG guy, so when I play an RPG it’s to direct the role of a Character I’ve created. On the other hand, an Avatar directly represents ME such as a forum avatar or my avatar in a shooter or racing game. That’s me running around shooting and getting shot, that’s me posting in a forum or blog. In an RPG I’m spending all this time to get my character’s skills up, not my skills. I’m not getting better with axe combat. I’m not getting better at crafting enchanted wands. The Character I’m directing is. I appreciate in LOTRO that my Character has half a brain and knows if a mob is in melee range. If not, auto-switch to ranged attack. The more directly interactive a game makes it (AoC) the more it starts to seem like an Avatar because this character I’m directing is nothing more than a pixel puppet and has no abilities whatsoever that I don’t tell him to do.

    Crafting in Vanguard is involved, it’s too clicky, and I can’t say it’s particularly enjoyable to me. But I do appreciate being able to tweak things a bit or at least having some say in the matter, even though it seems like a RNG has final say-so. What I dislike is that I can’t see a problem coming. In combat I can see the visual cues if something went “wrong” (stun, debuff, crit) and I have my health/mana bars as well and can come up with a tactic to either try to regain the advantage and defeat the opponent or not. In crafting I decide which ability to use at a particular stage, but then the RNG takes over and *BLAM* there’s suddenly a problem I had no way to avoid because I couldn’t see it coming. So if crafting is going to be interactive, it needs to rely less on the RNG so we can adapt our tactics just like we would in combat.

  7. Khan says:

    Overall I like your ideas! Personally, I like the idea of having crafting be more necessary in games. One way to drive that necessity, as you mention, is to make items break and need replacing. The mid-leveling process crafting decision would discourage creating alts solely for crafting. Thus it would encourage the crafters to work together. Maybe crafting guilds would form to help moderate prices between crafters. I like too the idea of getting away from the raiding grind for loot.

    As an extension of your idea, I also think it would be cool if crafters could repair items. Perhaps item repair would cost more than replacing an item but it always seemed a little silly to me that an expert weaponsmith couldn’t offer to repair other player’s weapons. So if you got the Diamond Sword of Bling and were willing to pay the extra costs, you could get it repaired to brand new again and keep using it.

  8. Thallian says:

    I like the diamond sword of Bling.. thats funny. :) Also I personally prefer to actually make things or at least approximate it. Not to just queue up work orders and wait forever.

  9. Talyn says:

    Yeah auto-crafting is boring, no doubt about it. But, to me, so is Vanguard’s more involved crafting. So was SWG, if I recall, even though it got really in-depth. I think I was a bio-engineer or whatever it was called, always working with combining DNA from creatures. Interesting stuff, and I made some cool creatures, but I don’t remember it specifically being what I’d call “fun.”

    If someone figures out a way to make crafting as entertaining as adventuring…

  10. Swift Voyager says:

    I would also like to see mechanics that make it more fun to do group crafting. Imagine a functional workshop where guild members can gather under the leadership of the master of the shop, who takes on assistants and apprentices to achieve better quality or shorter work times. Or perhaps allow assistants and apprentices to “copy” the work of the master in order to produce inferior copies of whatever the master is working on and gain experience or learn new skills in the process.

    Another area where you could add something like a mini-game to enhance trade and crafting professions is logistics. Picture adding something approaching “Industry Giant” as a mini-game to hone your skills at trade and marketing or as a way to acquire resources. Would this be a viable way to replace the standard resource gathering found in nearly all MMORPG’s? You could even make the mini-game semi-competitive against other players in stead of some disconnected instanced mini-game.

    There’s clearly a lot of room for improvement in that area of MMORPG’s.

  11. Garumoo says:

    I like this system – the durability, the specialisation, the bonuses from extra ingredients, the skill points to be allocated between adventuring and crafting skills.

    I would add one thing though, and that is to measure crafting skill in a profession on a more granular level. By this I mean have ditching the system that says just because you are skill level X you can craft every lower level item equally well. Make it such that you could specialise in crafting steel swords, while leaving your bronze and iron sword crafting skills be rudimentary. You could also invest in becoming a world master bronze sword crafter, and the best of your bronze swords would be the equal or better than most iron or even steel swords.

  12. Arrow says:

    Maybe I missed it because I just woke up but I didn’t see what the difference is between the copper sword and the diamond one other than cosmetics. If the two weapons are comparable in stats what’s the incentive to make a weapon that is both harder to create (thus greater chance of creating junk) and is more expensive? People would just over farm the lower lvl areas and only spend enough skill points to make the most basic of gear. Players need incentive to do anything in these game and sadly most are number crunchers that care little about cosmetics. But, of course I could be wrong and just missed where you stated the advantage of the higher tier of crafted items, if so I am sorry.

  13. Maarkean says:

    That system sounds very similar to the crafting system that existed when StarWars Galaxies launched. Crafting was a skill based that took points away from combat, though crafters could still hold their own. Items decayed through use and over time requiring new items to be brought into the market. The damage difference on weapons was mainly tied to character skill (mainly having to do with a characters accuracy). The skill of the weaponsmith and the quality of the weapons played more of a role than it sounds like you suggest. However, there were rare loot items combatants could get and take to a crafter to make a better weapon.

    So all in all sounds very much like the old SWG system. People loved the system so there is a good chance it could work. Though many people also hated the decay aspect, which is pivotal to it working properly.

    Having a long cooldown on making a certain item I see as a positive and negative. It does prevent the market from being flooded with items. But if you can only make one sword a day, how much are you going to want to sell that sword for in order to make the time worth it? If you can only make one bronze sword a day but make a diamond sword and steel sword while the bronze sword is in cool down that might be able to work.

  14. syncaine says:

    Interesting to hear that SWG had something similar, never actually played it myself. People always rant about how crafting worked in SWG, so it makes sense :)

  15. Talyn says:

    Yeah old SWG crafting was cool. Involved but understandable and not an inane click-fest like Vanguard’s. People are so accustomed to having non-destructible (other than paying repair bills) gear these days… having everything destructible keeps crafters meaningful.

    Earthrise will be taking a similar approach: all items can be disassembled and re-used in new items, but disassembly will cause decay, in addition to the normal decay from use.

    I haven’t really read up on Fallen Earth’s crafting mechanics, but I do recall they were planning on having “real-time” crafting, in that say you wanted to craft a new dune buggy. It takes three days to craft a dune buggy, so you’d get your shop working on it, and you can’t craft during those three days until it’s done, but you can go out adventuring while your shop continues work. I think? So that’s another way of combating the auto-crafting and also bringing the value of crafter’s time into focus.

  16. […] breaks down the general ideas behind crafting in his recent post, a topic that was addressed here on this blog not too long […]

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