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Alchemy System, what would make alchemy fun?


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#1 Th3Allstar   Members   -  Reputation: 162

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 04:05 PM

Lately I have been brainstorming ideas for an alchemy system. For my game, I want an alchemy system that is interesting and addicting. I want the player to experiment with different combinations to see what cool potions and poisons they can make. So far I have designed a system where each ingredient will be made up of certain components and depending on how those components are combined, they will make different types of potions or poisons. However, I feel that this is still too simple and I am not sure if I want to settle on it or not. So I was curious to see what other people think would make a fun and addicting alchemy system before I made my decision. What would make alchemy fun for you?



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#2 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4579

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 04:34 PM

Maybe you could also make dyes to customize clothing colors or hair colors or mount colors?  Or use one when crafting a sword to make it colored or give it a permanent glow?


I want to help design a "sandpark" MMO. Optional interactive story with quests and deeply characterized NPCs, plus sandbox elements like player-craftable housing and lots of other crafting. If you are starting a design of this type, please PM me.

#3 Dodopod   Members   -  Reputation: 474

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 05:02 PM

It might be exciting to have intermediate steps, each one creating a potion which is useful on its own, but even more useful in a later/final form, like the steps of the Magnum Opus. Of course, if one had to go through multiple steps to get the final product every time one needed more, it could easily become tedious. So, there should be some way of automating the steps once one has done it once (like fast travel).

 

Or a potion might need to be mixed at the same time it's used, so creating a higher level potion would be impracticable in a fight, unless one has cover. Then, I don't know that this is supposed to be that kind of game. But this kind of mechanic may still be applicable outside of combat.



#4 Ludus   Members   -  Reputation: 966

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 06:21 PM

It would add a great amount of depth if there were some kind of underlying principles that determine the outcome of a particular mixture of ingredients. Perhaps these principles would involve mathematical formulas where each ingredient would have certain values which are used in a formula to determine how it reacts to other ingredients. The amount of each ingredient would also play a role, as well as preparation methods (e.g. grinding an ingredient into powder before mixing).



#5 Khaiy   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1342

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 06:41 PM

For me, the most important thing is that the products be useful enough to justify the trouble of collecting the ingredients and spending the time needed to make them. After that, I always like to see a broad range of possible effects (by broad I mean more than just "Potion of fire damage" vs. "Potion of frost damage").

 

After that, I like lots of different mechanisms involved in the process that behave in different ways and possibly affect ingredients differently, just like real chemistry. It's fun to need distillation apparatus of a certain quality, or with certain intermediate components or conditions needed to extract some compound from an ingredient. So a big part of the alchemy piece of the game becomes building, stocking, and maintaining a lab so that you can make the things you want.

 

Finally, I always like crafting processes to be part of a larger aspect of the game. This becomes more important to me the more grinding is required. Something like a store where NPCs can come to commission things for you to make, or buy from a selection of wares you've already produced sounds like fun to me. If there's some kind of reputation system in which you can become better known by making better products and then charge higher prices or get access to better NPC customers that would be even more fun for me.



#6 Th3Allstar   Members   -  Reputation: 162

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 09:25 PM


It might be exciting to have intermediate steps, each one creating a potion which is useful on its own, but even more useful in a later/final form

 

I do like the sound of having intermediate steps in order to make a powerful potion. It would make alchemy interesting and if done right maybe even fun. Thanks!

 

 

 


involve mathematical formulas where each ingredient would have certain values which are used in a formula to determine how it reacts to other ingredients. The amount of each ingredient would also play a role, as well as preparation methods

 

Yeah I think having different preparation methods is a must and depending on how the potion is prepared should definitely affect the outcome. The amount of an ingredient could also be fun to experiment with when making potions. Thanks this has given me some ideas to work with!

 

 

 


I like lots of different mechanisms involved in the process that behave in different ways and possibly affect ingredients differently, just like real chemistry. It's fun to need distillation apparatus of a certain quality, or with certain intermediate components or conditions needed to extract some compound from an ingredient.

 

I think I might study more on some real life methods in chemistry to see if I can come up with anything. I think having different qualities/conditions of ingredients affecting the outcome of the potion would be cool too. Thanks for your input!


Edited by Th3Allstar, 12 December 2013 - 09:25 PM.


#7 KulSeran   Members   -  Reputation: 2164

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Posted 13 December 2013 - 12:30 AM

I really liked Oblivion's alchemy system (Skyrim's was almost the same, but _something_ about it made it not quite as good and I can't place my finger on it. I want to blame the UI though).  There weren't many parts to it.  Either the potions were "good" and you could drink them, or "poison" and you could apply them to your weapons.  Effects were instant, or over time.  The attributes were either fixed bonuses (+5 max health for 30sec) or temp/restorative bonuses (+5 to current health now).  There was a bonus for just about every stat your character had, an the occasional 'spell' equivelent oddball bonus (like night vision).  This meant that you mostly didn't make strange and new random potions, but picked the potions that affect the stats you care about.

I think the key parts that made it fun:

 

1) Hidden attributes.  Ingredients combine so that you need any two ingredients with the same attribute to create a potion with that attribute.  Unless you went to a guide, you had to explore each ingredient's capabilities though leveling, eating an ingredient, or mixing it with something that happened to share an attribute.  This made it useful to explore different combinations of ingredients for the same potion.  You would get cases where looking at your invintory you'd see X+Y is a health pot, but X+Z also a health pot. Upon trying out both combinations you find out X+Y is only a health pot while X+Z is a health and stamina pot revealing stamina on both ingredients.

 

2) Bad atributes.  Since each ingredient had 4 attributes, you could get ingredients that look beneficial, but combined with the wrong ingredients would add a detriment.  At the same time that seems bad, it was also good. It meant that some ingredients would heal if combined with a good heal ingredient and also made for a good poison when combined with other poison ingredients, while only a select few combinations would yield the useless heal+poison combo.  It also meant you could get risky potions that you'd only use in a pinch:  Vanish from sight for 30sec, but take 5 poison damage/sec for 30sec.

 

3) Potion making was instant.  I'm my mind there's only two acceptable ways to do crafting. Either it happens instantly (like Oblivion), or it happens over time but you walk away (Eve online, minecraft).  The terrible "time-sink" mechanic of WoW style crafting where your character sits there and crafts for 20min just kills the idea of crafting for me.

 

4) Ingredients were plentiful, yet uniquely located.  If you wanted to farm flowers, find a field or warm mountainside. Lillies show up in water, along with fish and pearls.  Some plants only show up in the other world of Oblivion.  Mushrooms grow in caves, and mosses in fortresses.   I found myself wondering to different types of encounters to find specific classes of ingredients, but due to how plentiful they were I never found myself actually hunting for anything. I'd just grab random plants as I wondered around and would figure out what I had when I had to get back to base.


Edited by KulSeran, 13 December 2013 - 12:31 AM.


#8 Luckless   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1628

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Posted 13 December 2013 - 06:03 PM

One of my classmates made a really fun tech demo back in university that was just potion making. It was basically potions class from the Harry Potter series, in game form, and went so far as to include what amounted to a dissection simulator and soft body physics sim as part of the harvesting/ingredient prep process. Making a potion wasn't simply a matter of taking item A, B, and C, dragging them onto a panel, hitting a button, and then waiting for a progress bar. To make something you might have to actually cut the heart out of a giant leech, and only the heart, to get the full effect. 

 

Bits and pieces of the ingredients had traits associated with them, and then actions also had an influence on the out come. Potions were a complex language, and there could be a dozen different ways to 'say' an effect. 

 

So part 1 of Item A might have 'fire', part 2 of item A might have 'negate-all' (failure to properly remove part 2 from part 1 would mean the potion failed as the effect was negated.)

 

To make a 'fire potion' you would use a cauldron to simmer the item which applies the 'activate' action to it. From there you might stir with a silver spoon for the 'enhance' action. During the creation you could apply various other modifiers to change things up and the end result could range from something that created light in the bottle, warmed the drinker up, or caused them to burst into flames. 

 

 

It was complex, it took a long time to develop, but it was interesting and fun all on its own to see what kind of effects you could generate with the system, and eventually learn the 'language' that was his potion system. 

 

 

However, if you're not putting the effort into it to make it complex and interesting, then you either need to have it take no time at all to do in the game, or at least walk away. 

 

If making potions in your game involves a progress bar, then please beat yourself with something heavy. 


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#9 Iron Chef Carnage   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1794

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Posted 13 December 2013 - 08:15 PM

Some thoughts:

 

Intelligibility:  Don't make the player memorize recipes off of GameFAQs to make the potions they want.  Instead, let them learn The properties of different reagents and processes, so they can think their way through making a potion, then tinker with the method to tweak performance in a more opaque way.

 

Physical vs. Chemical changes:  Let the interaction of the ingredients yield a "flavor" of effect, and then the preparation of the end product determine the nature of the effect.  A fire potion is a simple recipe, but the same ingredients can be mixed in different concentrations to get a different effect.  A heavily diluted potion could be drinkable and raise your body temperature, a lightly diluted potion could be a molotov cocktail, a concentrated potion would be ore like napalm and a totally dry mix would work like gunpowder.  Same works for other effects, and mixtures that have more than one property.  So I could make a flask of goop that contains dry fire and wet poison and it explodes on contact and spatters the area with venom, or I make a mix of thin fire and dry health that'll immediately cure status ailments and give me a five-minute resistance to cold environments.

 

Equipment requirements:  What should require a lab, and what can be whipped up in the field?  What role should character skill play in the success or failure of an experiment?  Is it practical to carry around a bunch of test tubes with you?

 

Player skill and time-critical processes:  Maybe some tasks would have a fun little minigame for how long to leave it on the heat or how vigorously to stir it or whatever, and there would be a "sweet spot", akin to swing strength in a golf game, so you can whip up a decent mix fairly easily, or you can try to paint the line and run the risk of burnign it or blowing it up or otherwise wasting your reagents and hurting the end product.

 

Risk and precautions:  I saw a documentary about early 20th-century chemists working with extreme low temperatures, and the glass equipment would routinely shatter.  Half the researchers in the group photo had eye patches on.  Take off your +4 Helm of Telepathy and put on your +2 Goggles of Lab Safety, man.



#10 ActiveUnique   Members   -  Reputation: 769

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Posted 13 December 2013 - 09:59 PM

There are many cases where archaic lore is used to represent alchemy formulas. An anecdote to explain how thx1 was used to empty the room may suggest how it is meant to be used without telling the player in plain English or forcing them to guess.

Telling the player right away what something is as they gather can be a pretty stale delivery method. Worst case scenario, the player drinks a super growth hormone when lore said "totally radical for turtles".

 

If the process is long and uninspiring, and a chore, I'd rather have the option to skip after the first time. 30 minute cooking creates immersion, but it's a lot of nothing happening. If the process is really easy and builds up momentum I guess it's ok, it may even seem necessary. Use 15 of ingredient A to make 5 of ingredient B, so it can produce potion X. For this recipe alone someone's going to check their recipe list 15 times before they have 15 ingredient A.

 

I'm not into puzzles because the previous statement applies, but I can think of a reason they would be interesting.

I've witnessed some abstract processes, especially alchemy, represented in puzzle games, but they would only reward me with level completion. This can get a little too complicated for me and results with unproportionate sized reward-to-difficulty is a pretty big downer. If the reward was something amazing I'd be looking forward to the next.


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#11 reenigne   Members   -  Reputation: 199

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Posted 14 December 2013 - 01:34 AM

I'm with Iron Chef on this one. Let them learn the recipes and so on.

You could also add in a good bit of realism in the formulas. You could look at old and common formulas used to make all sorts of stuff and look up how stuff was made in the past. Gun powder, oils, soaps, medicines such as aspirin and other narcotics, perfumes, and more have been made for ages.

 

Granted you don't want to go to far in it you can make stuff far to difficult for the average player if you do. Then again it might not hurt them to learn something.



#12 Luckless   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1628

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Posted 14 December 2013 - 10:10 AM

Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to potion creation is that if it isn't going to be a major feature and prime focus of the game, then it needs to be quick, easy, simple, and nearly thoughtless. If the game is a pure hack and slash where I'm wading through blood of enemies, then keep your potion list short, and have a fairly direct conversion process. Drag the three dozen bluebell flowers from your inventory to the potions table, and 'bam', I have 4 level 1 mana potions. Drag those 4 mana potions to the potion table again, then drag 8 bottles of refined spirit, and 'boom', I have 4 level 2 mana potions. I'm recycling the trash that naturally gathered in my inventory as I play, I'm not putting a ton of thought into it.

 

 

However, if the game's goal is to be a far deeper RP experience, with a far slower pace and more mental power put into playing the game, then make the system more complex. I might even say go so far as to procedurally generate the ingredient combinations on run time so that each time you play the game you start 'fresh', not knowing how to mix the potions but having to find the hints and details in books and such scattered throughout the game, and use well designed in game mechanics to research and identify what effects they can have. Part of what killed the Elder Scrolls potion making for me when it came to replay-ability was the fact that I already knew how the whole thing worked, and could generate some rather over powered stuff from the get go.


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#13 klefebz   Members   -  Reputation: 230

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Posted 14 December 2013 - 11:21 AM

I would certainly agree with procedural generated effects for ingredients, so the player experiments with different combinations doing "science", instead of following an online guide.

 

As for making it interesting, as stated before, it depends on the type of game. Now supposing alchemy has a large role in it i would suggest a system where ingredients have a combination of effects, some good, some bad, depending on what you want to get. So the player has to find what those effects are through experimentation, then find a way of isolating them through combinations.

i.e. you have a tree sap that can heal wounds, but also makes you slower, so you mix it with a bird bone powder that makes you faster to nullify that effect, however it also makes you weaker, then you add sulfur powder which makes you stronger but more vulnerable to fire. You can leave it there if you're not fighting fire using enemies.

 

Also you could make it so you dont get pure substances from nature, like a plant extract that is a combination of multiple pure substances, and then you would have to separate them with different methods depending on their properties, like filtration, decantation, distillation, etc.


I don't play MMOs because I would become addicted

#14 powerneg   Members   -  Reputation: 1288

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Posted 15 December 2013 - 04:21 AM

You can give some ingrediënts a special function, a bit like this:
ingrediënt A makes the potion stronger.
ingrediënt B changes the color of the potion.

ingrediënt C adds a feeding quality to the potion.

etc



#15 h4tt3n   Members   -  Reputation: 963

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Posted 21 December 2013 - 02:57 PM

Make it procedural. In ohter words, don't make a number of pre-defined recipies, but instead let the properties of the potion emerge from some pre-defined laws. THis way, not even the game designer himself knows what might happen in every case. This is essentially what makes physics-based games so rewarding, and why they have such a high degree of re-playability. So instead of pre-coding a limited number of recipies, you need to pre-code a limited number of laws or rules from which an infinite number of recipies will emerge.

 

Cheers,

Mike



#16 Paprik   Members   -  Reputation: 127

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Posted 21 December 2013 - 06:39 PM

A few points:

#1 MOST IMPORTANT POTION RULE OF ALL TIME: Please, make potions easy to use, even have the use somehow automated. 90% of the time, I just don't bother with alchemy systems and potions in games. If there's 40 different kinds of potions that I have to re-apply every 20 seconds for a 2% increase in a certain stat, then screw that. If I need to open an inventory and drag pots to a skill bar etc, screw that. If potions are limited to a stack of 2 and clutter my entire inventory, screw that.

 

- no progress bar (either alchemy is important, then make it an involved process or skip to the result)

 

- either a great mini game or none whatsoever (no point in a simple mini game that's just a repetitive time waster)

 

- don't just hide recipes - people will google them. You could use procedural/random potions and make them find/google the laws by which they're generated. This way the player will have to put time and effort to get the upper edge.

 

- balance & tiers - if all pots are equally easy to make and some are better, than no one is going to bother with the rest. Make the best ones super expensive and possibly permanent.



#17 mippy   Members   -  Reputation: 1002

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Posted 22 December 2013 - 03:57 PM

For recipe management, look at how cooking sites and apps handles ingredients and such (from a UI perspective). Things like auto generated shopping lists and pointers/instructions for less good players is crucial.

 

Also, don't make the mixing of the potions too intellectual/abstract. It was a bit too abstract for me in the elder scrolls series. Provide lot's of visual feedback and sound effects. I don't mean a rendered kitchen, just some form.

 

One thing could be that a effect is a result of a combination of two substances. Depending on how you prepare the substances the effect would be deployed differently.

 

Also having standard classes of materials, like

  • salt (silver salt perhaps for forging, inhaling)
  • oil (liquid silver, perhaps for eating)
  • chunks(pieces of silver, perhaps for combat)

in combination with a simplified purity level system 

  • coarse/raw
  • dried/mixed
  • fine/refined

The puzzle should not be how to combine and use the alchemy mechanic, it should be how to solve game-puzzles/challenges using its effects.






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