Wednesday, April 15

Games should know what I want

I wanted to write something for you guys, and in the interest of assisting Lani with lowering the bar ;) here it is...

I recently took one of those Jung personality tests. It told me I'm an ISTP. Clicking on a link to tell me what that was, it said I was a crafter/artisan. I guess maybe that's why I tend to enjoy crafting in games so much.

Anyway, I have yet to find me a crafting system in a game that completely satisfies me. Something that totally relies on my skill an not on some random chance method.
I did enjoy crafting a tad in World of Warcraft; however, it was more of a collection system. You had to gather the appropriate elements and once you had them, with the click of a button, voila! Your item is crafted. It does well for the sense of accomplishment, but does absolutely nothing in having pride in your work. Once you've crafted something, you can tack your name to the list of a thousand other people that have crafted exactly the same item.
Many crafting systems are typically the same. Go get one alligator eyeball, two hollowed out flamingo legs, and a phoenix feather and all of a sudden you have a fancy looking telescope that resurrects people... just like everyone else.

The closest crafting system I've found yet is that in Vanguard Saga of Heroes. For those that don't know, check out Phe's excellent post about it (Phe, you did write one here somehwere, right?) or here we go...

First you have to gather the materials. No biggie, we aren't God, we can't make something from nothing. Then you have to prepare the pieces. Once you have the pieces, you have to put them together. Sounds simple right? Not really. When you craft something, depending on how well you spend your crafting points (argh!!) and a little bit of luck (argh!! x2), your item is assigned a quality which determines some of it's stats. Notice my frustration with "crafting points" and "luck?" Those are what makes Vanguard's crafting system so much better than the rest of them, and yet makes me long for the simplicity of WoW (oops, I think my desire for instant gratification is showing.).

I long for a crafting system that allows me freedom from luck and yet requires skill. Vanguard offers use of skill, if you enjoy resource management in deciding how and when to spend your points. I'm not a fan. Typically I either way undershoot my spending (thus ending up with poor quality items) or else I overshoot and waste my time, blood, sweat, tears, hopes, and dreams...(excuse me while I go sob quietly in a corner for a moment). In any case, have you ever had a time when you felt like your head was trying to simultaneously implode and explode? That's about the feeling I get when I've spent too much time trying to play the numbers game that is Vanguard's crafting.

And then the luck...complications (argh!! x3). There doesn't seem like rhyme or reason to when they come up. You'll be crafting happily along and all of a sudden all the hinges unhinge themselves and run off with the bolts of their own volition. Not fun.
But there's definitely satisfaction in knowing "I MADE THIS!" when you get that good quality item as the fruit of your labors. So they did something right. Perhaps it's rooted in the complexity of the system. All that luck and number crunching are worth something after all? I'm sure, but that doesn't mean I'm happy with it. I'd rather be crunching fingers under a hammer because I suck at hitting the nails (or because I'm awesome at hitting the (finger)nails), than crunching numbers only to find out that my luck ran out about 10 barrel straps ago.

So, what would make an awesome crafting system IMO? I don't know. There's a reason I'm not in game design. I'll wait for someone to make it then I'll tell them if they got it right on or not. ;) Also...what good would it be for me to answer all the questions? There would leave no room for discussion, because I know I'm right. *insert evil laugh here*

Despite the love/hate relationship I had with Vanguard's crafting in the past, I still think it's the best (and here's the qualifier) of all the MMOs I've played so far.

-the entity formerly known as BP (blackphoenix for you non-acronymic (wee, I made a word (wanting to see how many parenthesis I can embed here (are you confused yet? I am.))) folk)


  1. Hooray! Hooray! Today is a wonderful day. BP made a post. It is posted under my name, but it clearly has that fracturedBP smInfinity smell to it. I have invited him as author too now, so he can make more of these great posts on his own.

    And a second Hooray! For 'Ding! Gratz!' for receiving our first roaming internetz user comment. Ok, it is just spam, but we are being noticed!

  2. Of all the crafting I have done in games, and that is quite a bit, I agree that Vanguard does it best. I love the three argh!!'s (crafting points, luck, complications). It keep you on your toes and does not reduce crafting to simple button pressing. Another thing that is great about it is that it gets more complex as you level up. In oldie game DAoC the only added 'fun' of getting higher level was that the green progress bar between clicks moved slower and slower.

    So if the skill of Vanguard's system is not it. Do you want something like the crafting system from Fable2? As you became a more skilled blacksmith a success/failure needle swung up and down faster and faster. You needed good eye/hand coordination to get your swords right. Personally I wouldn't like that. Crafting should not be about quick responses.

    But beyond how that items are crafted, I think the most important part of crafting is how useful the work is you are doing. Nothing gives more joy than making that cool piece your friends can use, or that surprisingly sells for several gold because others want what you make.

    And that's where things get iffy. First time round in Vanguard I reached a point in where I didn't see the use of crafting anymore since all I could make either looked cookie cutter, or was already out there on the market in plenty.

    My ideal crafting system would be where I can really make something unique. Where I can put in my own design and look. But it will be hard to accomplish that because it means an endless number of user generated meshes that need to distributed to all clients. But one can dream ...

  3. Oooh! Very nice first post Fractured Phoenix Reality! I'll be looking forward to your further contributions!

    I still think you two should try the EQ-2 Trial sometime, specifically so you can try out and experience the Crafrting System in that game.

    It's radically different from the Vanguard system and yet it's the only system I ran across that comes close in any way. Even though there is a luck/randomness factor (RPG's are built on dice-rolls you know) it's a bit different. It's more set up like a combat for one. Where VG is turnbased, EQ-2 is real-time with moving progress- and quality bars. You can speed up or improve quality using several techniques (think skills on your hotbar) but each technique has a cooldown period and you also need those techniques to fix complications. Laws of absolute randomness ensure that over half the complications occur right after you used the technique required to fix it. THere's a brief period in which you can respond to a complication so sometimes you're checking two timers at once.

    The result is that it's a bit more engaging than VG's system and they also don't have you grinding endlessly on workorders for no better reason than that they have an out of control faction system/timesink.;-)

    Youtube EQ2 Crafting movie: The speaker has a heavy cold, bear with him :-)

  4. Btw, while trying to lower the bar, you may have inadvertently raised it somewhat :-)

  5. Lani said...
    "Btw, while trying to lower the bar, you may have inadvertently raised it somewhat :-)"

    Drat! Just my luck...

    But yes, I agree with you guys, and Phe picked just the right title for me! I think this sums up best what's in my head (you been pokin around in there without askin me first Phe?)...

    "My ideal crafting system would be where I can really make something unique. Where I can put in my own design and look. But it will be hard to accomplish that because it means an endless number of user generated meshes that need to distributed to all clients. But one can dream ..."

    Just had a thought... I wonder how remote computing might be incorporated to solve the issue of distributing myriads of meshes and textures issue? Rather than running the game client on your PC, it could run on a server, then stream it to a remote desktop client or something. Methinks the internet doesn't have enough bandwidth to support that yet.

    One thing I didn't adequately address is how I think the randomness and crafting point system was a necessary evil. Without something to diappoint, the successes become common place and boring. Adding in the chance of failure gives the successes that much more satisfaction to them. That's part of what, I think, makes Vanguard better than WoW.

    I've done the EQ2 trial before. Never did get to try crafting. What you describe though, is more like what I was thinking. A crafting system that relys on eye/hand coordination, just as it really would if you were actually etching out a piece of metal, or cutting strips of fabric.

    Yes, I'm aware that RPGs are built off dice rolls, but that's something I've lived with because I had to. Not that I've yet found a system that is superior to it, IMO. I suppose I had a little hope when they said "real 1 for 1 movements" about Red Steel for the Wii, but that didn't pan out in the end anyway. In reality, I'm slightly afraid of "1 for 1 movement translation" because it'll show much how much I really do suck at pretenting to be a [fillin blank with fantasy term of choice]. lol

    But anyway, now I need to figure out how to harness that mood I was in yesterday that resulted in this. Then I could bottle it, sell it, and I'll be rich! $_$

  6. When I figured out how to bottle my own inspiration, I'll license the system to you ok? :-)

    The dice roll is a necessary(sp?) evil true. But I don't think it's what bugs me about the VG or EQ-2 systems. IT's that you're maintaining the status quo, which is a good quality finished product. The complications are trying to destroy that and you're trying to prevent this from happening. This is somehow not a constructive gameplay imo. It's still miles ahaed of combining ingredients of a recipe and watching a 20 second animation of your avatar doing something to an air-castle apparatus (AoC) but it's really a generic mini-game with crafting terms thrown in for flavor. In some ways a game like World of Goo gives me more of a building something feel than the crafting games do.

    P.S. You might want to check out this old post on serverside gaming. You don't need to transfer textures or lighting or anything other than streaming video data. Essentially, you need something that can decode DvD quality video-stream and bandwidth similar to used by your digital TV cable company :-)

  7. I like the eye hand coordination idea alot, I'll echo that it makes sense to the RL crafting process. I do like the slim chance of an accident occuring but agree that too much chance is not a good thing. I really enjoyed Vanguards crafting system, did'nt advance it enough to see how it progresses but those little 'accidents' made it that bit more fun, making fixes to them by manipulation of objects, fast enough and with the right choices, rather than through just happening to have chosen the right solution prior to beginning, would be more fitting to the idea of a more skilled craftsperson and more interesting to develop.

    It would be awesome to have the ability to make unique looking items, even maybe a choice of dyes and textures, probably alot easier than having unique meshes? Or a small selection of interchangeable meshes that could be combined?

    Another idea going along the 'create unique items' road : Advancing in a tree of specialised 'stat' combining maybe? Create unique stats, specialise in different areas such as - buffs, debuffs, armour, invuls etc. That way you can also work with gem cutters and the end user gets more specialised choice (notice how I love to over complicate these things?)

    I love crafting, I yearn for a game that could provide it really well, like BP i'm still not sure exactly what would do it should create a whole sphere of game play within the game though thats for sure.

    AoC's has to be the worst example ever, I made a long rambling post about it on the AoC forum and got 3 replies, with that kind of community feedback guess AoC wont be inspired to make it any more interesting soon..../sigh (of course the lack of replies had NOTHING to do with my non sensical ramblings)

    Great post BP, keep 'em coming! :)

  8. There is one thing aout VG crafting that really, really starts to annoy me after a while, and that's toolbelt selection.
    You have your profession's tools, you need specific tools to deal with specific problems. These are scattered across three toolbelts. SO often you'll have to select the one belt you need so you can then use the tool inside.
    Now what bugs me is that I can't simply click the bleedin' bag, I need to click 'n hold as if I were going to drag it before it selects. That really gets to me as it always manages to kill a groove and it shows poor tech skills. It's too small an issue to get fixed any time soon (hasn't been nlloked at for 2 years) but along with the lack of sights to see it's what has me dropping out of the crafting school each time.