Sunday, May 29, 2011

Making Crafters Matter

In a fun little discussion with a friend today we designed the best-selling MMORPG in history that will make you rage-quit real life. And we did it in just a few hours! It has a 100% player-run economy, of course.

Part of it was also this crazy idea:
Items have three different qualities: effectiveness, durability, appearance.
A better appearance is translated by the game into a modified 3D-model for the item.

The crafter uses a pattern to make a weapon. For example, an "iron long sword". An "iron long sword" has some base effectiveness, base durability and base appearance, but the crafter can improve these qualities by using more resources.

For example, he can decide that he wants to make a really sharp iron long sword. Thus, he adds some points to effectiveness. These added points will make the crafting process require more ressources. How much more, is determined by his skill compared to the skill the pattern requires.

The name of the sword is always "Iron longsword". However, he can chose to sign the sword. His signature always includes his name and a few additional letters. For example, he can chose to add the letters "Calamad" to the signature; or "Your mother". Depending on his age, you can guess which letters he chooses.
He can also not sign the sword at all, of course.

Now, here comes the trick about this system: Only the crafter knows the qualities of the sword! His customers have no idea! They only know that it is an "iron long sword", and his signature, if he added one.

I'd love to hear your opinions as to what kind of game would evolve out of this.


  1. I like the idea. People will remember the name of the crafter who provides a memorable item.

    Of course at some point hundreds of serious crafters/money-makers will be competing with each other, which might drive prices down.

    The other argument is if players even want the gear. Crafting gear is competing with other gear in the game. If crafting gear is awesome, then everyone is crafting it rather than playing through the content.

    I would love more dimensions to my games though.

  2. Crafting gear is competing with other gear in the game.

    Most non-crafted gear on mobs is standard-gear and worse than carefully crafted gear.

    In this game crafted gear is the best gear. There are just a few exceptions, which decay in time, like all gear.

  3. If all the best gear is crafted, then what does the game give you for quest/content rewards? This is always the Achilles heal of designing crafting systems - For instance in LOTRO these days it's so easy to get good crafted gear (purples are the new yellows given the high drop rate of crafting crit items) that quest rewards and drops have been rendered obsolete.

  4. I don't see the problem, Roq. The game gives you the crafting materials.

    For example, to reach the especially rare and expensive iron, you need to venture into an old mine and retrieve it ..

  5. But... the location and method of obtaining the old iron will be up on a wiki in hours, so there will be disorderly queues of disgruntled craftsmen waiting there for the next old iron spawn...

  6. The problem with reputation based crafting systems is how does a new crafter break in?

    In the real world, an artisan blacksmith can only make so many swords per unit time. So if you want a sword, you may have to go to a lesser crafter in order to get it done faster.

    You would have to build something like that into the system, something that "gates" the artisan high-rep crafters and creates space for new crafters.

  7. That's an interesting idea. My gut sense is that a lot of crafting would take place within guilds, because presumably you'd be able to trust your guild crafters. It's also possible you might see crafting and/or trading guilds that guarantee the quality of items sold through their members, although they'd need some way to test items to verify their quality.

    And I love the idea of separating an item's stats and appearance. I've never understood why more MMOs don't do that, unless there's some technical issue with running databases that way.

  8. As you said, materials could be hard to find. But it might be more fun, and allowed for easier design, if crafters tended to be recrafters. By that I mean, they'd tend to work with already-found items, figuring out how to tweak them or change them into something new.

    I think a "crafting cycle" could work. Cloth gear could have leather added to it, creating leather armor. That could then have chainmail added on top. Finally plate over that. Plate could then be disenchanted (not the current system), extracting the magical elements which tailors could then weave into new gear. Cloth-leather-mail-plate-dust and then back to cloth. This would make loot more flexible as well.

  9. I actually did a variation of this in Star Wars: Galaxies.

    I was an Armoursmith and the top armour was very time-consuming to make and very expensive. I labelled my products [Black] and coloured them in a specific way - red in certain places, black in other places. It was quite distinctive, I never saw another suit with the same pattern by chance. But all of my suits (several dozen) had the same pattern and I refused to make any other colour armour. Some people (not many) refused to buy from me. Most people agreed to buy from me if they wanted a suit of composite armour. Some people became followers of my designer label and refused to buy from any other smith because they wanted my look.

    Galaxies depended on many mechanics that would be very unpopular today to make an interesting crafting game. Only one character per account (so you dont get to power up 6 crafting alts); crafting skills used up a skill point allocation that could instead be spend on combat skills (so crafters were weaker in battle or even non-combatants); item decay and poor loot drops from epic monsters.

  10. Would that system be fun for non-crafters?

    Or if everyone would be a crafter, what would we need a sword for? Would you then craft especially good plowshares?

    My problem with crafters in a game is that either:

    - Everyone will be able to buy the item which will turn player in a stupid "factory" like WoW does for gems and glyphs.

    - Everyone will be able to buy the item but it depends on luck who gets the very limited pattern like WoW did for some things. That just makes you rich and a slave to the game mechanic at the same time.

    - Only a few player will be able to master the trade AND will have a very limited output of this item. That greatly reduces the availability of those item on the market. Now those rare items will be distributed by "out of game mechanics" like within your guild or friends. For me that breaks immersion as I have a hard time grasping why an excellent crafter would service just one guild. The best crafters would work for kings or mighty villains, maybe even multiple of them and not just one guild going for server firsts...

  11. Sounds like a fun idea to me.
    I've discussed this topic with a commenter on my blog a long time ago - I would really love to see crafting be responsible for all the gear in the game. quests, bosses etc. don't drop items, they only drop materials.

    this way you solve many issues at once: make professions and trades meaningful and at the same time remove the 'random drop' problem for guilds that try to farm gear but are doomed to hope for the right class tokens.

    I would also re-discuss the sense behind BoP items in this context, by the way!

  12. What exactly can you do to an iron sword that distinguishes it from other iron swords at a particular level, but without making it overpowered for content at that level? The options are somewhat limited and certainly not sufficient to create an economy based on crafting reputation.

    In reality, you are just creating a system whereby crafters can scam other players to a greater or lesser extent.

    In the end most branding comes down to cosmetic differences - there's not really much difference between a Gucchi bag and one from a high street store in terms of utility; that applies even more in a game where the ability to imbue unique quality into your items is not really feasible without inventing some totally new game mechanic.

  13. This idea, while having different mechanics and hidden stats, shares some of the "feel" of crafting in Darkfall. Durability and damage depend on the crafting skill and wisdom of the crafter. Given that the amount of materials needed to craft it is constant, you get much more bang for your buck from using a highly skilled crafter. The problem is, the economy is highly localized, it's difficult to find who are the good crafters, and very few people will ever hit the maximum crafting level. Thus, when you find your "brand" of weapon, you stick with it.