Thursday, March 26

Games of Chance and repetitive tasks - Crafting

Valaire: not a Hunter/Gatherer just a Crafter/Gatherer :)

What is that makes crafting so appealing? Whatever it is it gets me hooked everytime. It's probably that idea of self sufficiency and being a master of whatever art you decide to pursue. Most games have it to varying degrees of success, done well it becomes as important, if not more so, as your leveling up as a character, when I enjoy it my characters PvE level tends to suffer in favour of reaching new dizzying heights as a crafter, it's usually when the crafting lvl requires a higher PvE level that I pick up the questing again.

It's both a grind and time sink (yes I know the 2 are one and the same) but one that actually provides benefits beyond your characters storyline and done well should compliment your journey through the game.

It makes sense to me that crafting should provide you with the ability to create items that are always better than bought and 95% of the time better than drops for your level, whatever your level. The cost in time spent should reflect that quality, it's a damn good tool for developers to use to keep those of us into crafting well occupied for hours and hours and hours.....for a subscription based model it makes sound financial sense. The costs both in time and monetary value should also reflect the longevity of crafted pieces, nobody is going to buy that uber level 15 helm of super powerfulness for vast amounts when level 16 is just several hours or a few days of gameplay away, it has to be relative to the leveling process but at the same time it has to be good.

As a crafter your going to need resources, again another time sink and another ability that needs to be leveled up
in tandem with your crafting and PvE progress, you could of course forego the whole gathering process in favour of using your hard earned cash at the local auction house/trader to buy your resources but if your anything like me then part of the whole crafting ball game is to cut costs and gathering is no exception.

On the whole the problem with gathering is it's pretty damn boring and in most games only gets livened up when rare resources pop up while your gathering, as Lani mentioned in another thread at least AoC spices it up a bit with random spawns of 'Jealous Prospectors' who aren't happy your after their resources.... In most games though it's just avoid the mobs and find those nodes that are more remote so you can gather undisturbed. Sometimes that might be just what you want from your game time, something simple and undisturbed that provides it's benefits but most of the time, feeling forced into this repetitive task, it just gets a little bit boring, as long as the carrot on the stick is your next level and subsequent ability to gather better/rarer resources we usually stick at it though (he says having exited a game only after gaining another level in resource gathering an hour later than originaly planned).

What does crafting and resource gathering really need to set it apart from the dull and predictable and make it something really worthwhile both in terms of gameplay and in end product ? the end product bit I think I've already answered for myself, the gametime is another issue. Vanguard probably has the best crafting system i've come across so far in any MMO, WoW I have to admit comes a close second while AoC gets the thumbs down pretty much all round, even the latest additions of Culture and City Armour recipes seem more like a band aid rather than anything really will change for AoC but I fear not enough.

After that ramble lets get to the game of chance bit : I haven't played Vanguard long enough to see if your progression in crafting and an increase in creating 'A' quality items leads to a better chance of success and a lesser chance of accidents happening? The accident part is a nice touch - I like the fact you can sprain yourself, miscalculate the size or even set fire to yourself, it adds a nice random aspect beyond the quality/type random generators of other crafting systems, you need to know the different crafting tables and what type of accident your more likely to have using it before you start so you can equip accordingly, it's a nice touch that exercises your brain cells just a little. Vanguard's chance system is more about those accidents and how many of your allocated points for the job you need to spend to fix it, less points = a lesser quality end item. The end item in Vanguard is exactly what you start out to create, it's the quality of the item that is affected by the random generation of faults. AoC at the other extreme has a rather frustrating and somewhat pointless randomisation with it's gem crafting system, there are literally hundreds of possible end product, the only brain cells you need to use is a quick bit of research to find out which cut fits the equipment you want the gem for. There is no way of improving the chance of getting what you want, higher tiers just mean higher lvl items all with the same risk of wasting alot of gems to get the desired product you need, it's a frustrating experience, boring to do and can be rough on your pocket, see the two cuts from the same gem and their pricing currently on the AoC trader.

In my perfect MMO chance would exist but would reduce as your skill increased, your getting better at your job so of course it should follow you will make less mistakes.

On to the repetitive task part of the title - gathering and crafting requires a degree of repetitiveness to increase your skill and progress, now as an aside from the daily grind of killing stuff it can be very relaxing when little thought is involved, that relaxing without killing doesn't necessarily have to mean 'with nothing else added' which is where some MMOs go horribly wrong again. What really helps is a story driven progression through your crafting (maybe even gathering) progression, being simply asked to collect 20 of this or cut 2,000 of those until the rare drop occurs is just a cop out in my humble opinion. A well written progressive story that documents your rise to a master of your art provides a whole new sphere to the gameplay experience, being told that you need to find your next tutor and maybe even rescue him/her in order to progress is far superior to simply being told 'go do the the next one then...'.

In my long rambling way I come to the point of why is crafting a second thought to some developers? It could and should create a whole richly developed world of play in itself.


  1. One of my original reasons to play Vanguard was their notion that crafting can be as important as adventuring. It was not going to be just side game to do while waiting for a team for the real game, but an equal partner. Certain hard to get recipes would require you to get strong adeventurers to get you to the depths or some dungeons.

    Of course wonderful visions and actual gameplay didn't really match. My little Raki sorceress managed to become a pure crafter. And she a really great time doing so. (If you are interested and haven't read these already you can read some of here adventures HERE.)

    One of the problems I ran into as crafter is that I am not as fanatic with anything I do. This means the only person I craft for is myself. In all the guilds I have been in there were better crafters, and the world as a whole had many more better crafters than me. So I started to wonder what I did it for. More so than I do with adventuring.

    With adventuring the scenery changes. Vanguard did a wonderful job spicing it up with quests, factions, tiers, collective building projects, etc, but in the end a workbench is still a workbench.

    And I think that's why many developers struggle to come up with an exciting way of doing it. Perhaps they go the easy way and just stick to adventuring since they know that better.

    In my crafting hay days (shortly after I butchered poor merchants outside the dark elf city) I started wondering if it would be possible to make a game without fighting completely. There are a few posibilities, but they become quickyl nothing more than chatrooms.

    Maybe a world with only resources as loot might be an idea. But I have the feeling too many players, and especially crafters, are just money hungry bastards. Being self sufficient is a great thing.

    It all comes down to guild vs solo. A good guild setup needs players that play a lot, or at least play consistent. Without it you are depending on the market, and that sucks for time constrained players.

    Hmm, my post is just as rambling as EG's. It is all Lani's fault!

  2. "Hmm, my post is just as rambling as EG's. It is all Lani's fault!"

    Still, they were both entertaining none the less. So, I can blame Lani too then, for the good reads? ;)

    -the entity formerly known as BP

  3. Why don't we just make the Blog's subtitle "It's all Lani's fault" and have done with it?
    Will respond in full ramble mode later. Wanna play VG now :-)

  4. Yes using 'it's all Lani's fault' as the sub header sounds a good plan to me.

    I'm just not disciplined when it comes to writing and rambling is something I don't seem to be able to control....I had this piece on edit for ages, didn't edit it just rambled even more and then published, which is actually all Lani's fault :)

  5. Finally getting around to this (it's a slow day at work in case you're wondering).

    First of all I don't know that grind and timesinks are the same thing. Yes, a grind is always a timesink but a timesink isn't always a grind. But that's my opinion.

    With me crafting always tends to be something I throw myself at with great enthusiasm but it soon falls by the wayside of my exploring the world of whatever game I'm in.
    Crafting almost always follows a pattern of a rather involved set of quests forming a tutorial. After that you settle in for a long grind. I'm not familiar with WoW's crafting system. From what I heard it's mostly a click and combine system which sounds awfully close to AoC. Vanguard is the uncontested victor, but EQ-2 is my close second. It's the Crafting Real-time strategy versus Vanguard's Turn-based strategy.

    I'm more of a gatherer than a crafter if I'm honest. That's in part because gathering satisfies my Explorer's need for changing vista's better, but also in part because crafting tends to take on a mesmerizing effect. You end up dreamily clicking with your mouse on auto-pilot until you suddenly realize you don't have enough action points / been ignoring a complication. In short, it's not exciting.

    Gathering tends to have systems to break up that mesmerizing tedium. AoC has the previously mentioned spawning jealous prospectors. Vanguard has mobs that will still attack you when you get to close even if they're 10 levels below you, and the best nodes always seem to be amongst mobs a lot higher than you. That keeps it exciting. And when it doesn't. If you can run an eternal loop of several nodes you end up with the same mesmerizing tedium, but without the complications.

    I've been trying Crafting again in Vanguard and on the Isle of Dawn it's fun. There's lots of quests ivloved in the tutorial and there's people around you working the benches. Beyond IoD there's a lot more doing endless workorders, a lot less quests and with the population as thinly spread as it is you'd not know there are other crafters around without the global craft channel.