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Michalson

Craft classes and economy

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Some discussions (insert link to secondary characters thread) lately have touched on the various secondary classes, how they work (link to my experience for other classes thread) and how they are balanced. Of particular interest are the secondary classes that are entirely removed from the usual RPG formula of killing things, the merchant/craftsman classes. As discussed they are usually not very interesting – there is no real system for using them so they are reduced to simply “buy/sell/produce” button pushers. Lets go back to a basic oddity of most RPGs and MMORPGs: economy. It is almost a given that they all have pillaging based economies – people go out and either find gold and items that just happening to be sitting around in dungeons, or they kill things, that for no apparent reason, are all carrying gold and items useful to the player (but often not to themselves, like the skeletons that drop health potions and the rats who drop gold). What if you had a real economy – out in the wilderness you have basic resources (which in themselves are not useful items) but that can be collected (usually by the appropriate class – while anyone can collect a few fallen branches, you need to have lumberjack skills to really get some wood). Once collected they can either be directly used to create things, or sold to others who create things with them. This need not even be a one step relationship – a sheppard may collect fleece, who sells it to a weaver, who sells it to a tailor, who sells it to anyone that needs a shirt. In effect you want to create a real working economy. At this point the question is how to work in warriors and other fighting classes (without in effect having two separate games – though that’s not an entirely bad idea if everyone can have two accounts). One way would be to perhaps abandon the idea of “heros” completely. Instead average joe farmer can buy a sword, practice swinging it a bit, and go out to kill something. The entire idea of classes could be dropped entirely, instead replaced by a skill based experience system divided evenly between crafts and combat. While going out and killing monsters might still be the ultimate aim, those rats and mole men aren’t going to be the ones financing your campaign of genocide against them anymore. As I said before, there are no heroes, and so characters will depend on material goods to aid them in their quest (rather then becoming inhumanly strong, you simply become better at using your sword, and buy a heavier sword [which you are now skilled enough to use], to inflict more damage), feeding the economic requirements of the world. So, discuss (for example, how to make craft classes more interesting then “produce”, and how to develop/balance the gathering classes so they aren’t just warriors hacking down forest elves to get wood in place of gold)

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Not sure if you've played SWG, but it does achieve a lot of these things.

A real economy, where monsters don't usually drop money, but humanoids might drop a piece of equipment occasionally, and other mobs can be "harvested" for skin, bone and meat.

To add to this, there's several comprehensive skilsl for foraging, mining and harvesting natural resources.

The crafters have to get hold of these resources (which have varying properties, so the crafter has to find the best available resource), which even makes "resource gathering" a viable profession.

There are no NPC vendors selling standard goods, so you're really forced to buy from crafters (or their NPC shops) when you want newq equipment.

All of this means that crafting is far more interesting than usual, and so is resource gathering.
They've even managed to make cities be, well, cities. You actually spend time there, healing, resting, buying goods, training and just chatting. They're crowded enough to actually look like cities, which I haven't seen any other MMOG achieve.

The combat system is too simple and unbalanced, though.
The economy is a bit out of whack, and there are numerous other problems with the game, mostly to do with a lack of polish and not enough content. But on the whole, they achieve a lot of what you mentioned, and they do it well. I think Gamespy is still offering a free trial, so might be worth checking out. (I played it in beta, and the trial a few weeks ago)

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How do you go about crafting items in SWG? Is it still basically a "collect all the parts and press button" and press the produce button, or is there some sort of "game" to it? i.e. if it's possible to script a set of actions to just constantly produce an item, its not very good - this kind of thing would destroy an economy based game since the "cheaters" could drive everyone else out of the market with their high quantity/low margin goods.

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Perhaps you wouldn't need classes like lumberjack, perhaps you could buy slaves or hire npcs to do that for you, to cut down trees, to transport the goods and sell them. The player could explore the nearby woods for a place where the tree quality is good. Then he would try to get a permit from the local warlord to send his workers there, build warehouses and stuff, maybe wait until the price of timber is high (maybe he has heard a rumor that the warlord wants to build a new fleet). All this is starting to sound like some business simulator, but just cutting down trees and selling them is...boring. An industrialist character could still do some adventuring, he could hire a small army to do all the fighting for him. In general, money should have more power than it has in most rpgs.

Well, obviously all this would have to be simplified quite a bit in order to implement some of those features, but i think the idea is still ok. There could be npc serfs and mercenaries who can handle all the truly mundane and boring tasks efficiently and with relatively low costs, just like it was in real life. The player(s) could represent the more fortunate nobles who give orders to those serfs, if they want to.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Michalson: SWG's crafting system works like this. It's a long process, so beware.

There are 8 crafting professions in Galaxies: Artisan ("newbie"-level, doesn't make a whole lot of useful items beyond vehicles), Weaponsmith, Armorsmith, Droid Engineer, Chef, Bio-Engineer, Architect, and Tailor. Some support classes like Doctors and Combat Medics do significant amounts of crafting, but have much greater roles outside of making things. As players advance in a chosen profession, they gain access to schematics (grants ability to make specific items, like a blaster carbine barrel) and skill modifiers, which increase their ability to experiment on their items -- more on experimentation later. Master-level craftsmen make by far the best items, as they have the highest experimentation numbers and greatest access to schematics. However, this is considered by many to be a poor design decision, as it makes anything but a master-level craftsman completely worthless. It also makes it impossible for a low-level craftsman to sell anything he makes, as his goods will never be close to the quality of a master's.

Crafting starts with resource gathering. There are three major categories of resources: Organic, Inorganic, and Energy. Organic resources, like hide, meat, and bone, can be harvested by Scouts and Rangers from certain animals. Inorganic resources, like metals, radioactives, and water, can be surveyed for by Artisans, who upon finding a particular spawn can hand-sample the resource or set up large mining facilities which collect the resource automatically and at a much higher rate, but cost Energy (collected by fusion, wind, and solar generators) and credits to maintain. Beyond the basic level, resources are further organized by several levels of "type", which can be considered the equivalent of an animal's species. You can envision this like a tree:

Inorganic:
Metal:
Iron:
Dolovite Iron
Copper:
Kelsh Copper
Gemstone:
Crystalline Gemstone:
Rainbow Crystalline Gemstone
Vertex Crystalline Gemstone

etc., etc. Here, we see that Dolovite Iron is a type of Iron, which is a type of Metal, which is an Inorganic (this tree is greatly simplified). Some resources are even further defined by the planet they come from (Tatooinian Avian Meat vs. Dathomirian Avian Meat). Finally, all resources have a "name", which comes into play a little later. A full tree is available here: http://www.swgcraft.com/resourcetree.php.

Resources have various stats that make them desirable for different professions. All resources have a "Overall Quality" (OQ) rating, in addition to several other stats. Metals typically have Cold Resistance, Heat Resistance, Conductivity, Malleability, etc., whereas Organic Meat will have Potential Energy and Decay Resistance.

Resources spawn at various intervals on various planets with random stats approrpriate to their type. Each of these resources spawns are given a name to identify them. For example, my server recently received a spawn of "Auvansis" Duralloy Steel with 909 OQ, a valuable spawn. Each spawn is usually around for about 10 days, though the full length is random.

As you can see, the big picture is thus: resources spawn with random types, stats, and locations at random times. Players must locate these spawns themselves using in-game tools, determine their quality, and harvest them. Resources with high stats are very valuable, particularly a few months after they spawn if no other comparable resources have cropped up. The quality of a resource directly affects the quality of the item produced, so craftsmen will always try and get their hands on as much of a high-quality resource as they can. This makes resource trading a huge market in the game, and gives rise to a very wealthy and powerful character type, the resource trader, who pays other players to place harvesters are specific locations and buys the resources from that location at a low rate.

On to crafting... creating a finished item, like a simple Laser Carbine, is actually a very involved process. Complex items like armor and weapons are made up of several sub-components which must be constructed prior to the finished item. In our case, the Laser Carbine requires several Power Handlers, a Rifle Barrel, optional Rifle Stock and Scope, and additional amounts of specific resources (50 units Link-Steel Aluminum, 30 units Non-Ferrous Metal, 12 units Metal).

To make an item, crafters must "use" a crafting tool and select a schematic from their available schematics list. The crafter then must supply the required resources for that item. If a schematic calls for a specific resource, like Link-Steel Aluminum, then only that resource may be used. If, however, the schematic specifies a more-generic type, like Non-Ferrous Metal or plain Metal, then any resource which falls under that type in the resource tree can be used. In our case, Metal could be satisfied by any form of Copper, Iron, Aluminum, or Steel.

After resources are accounted for, the crafter (if he is experience enough) gets the option to "experiment" on the item. Each item type can be experimented upon in different ways to raise various stats: weapons can have their accuracy, damage, or durability increased; armor can be increased in durability and effectiveness. Crafters receive 10 experimentation points throughout their skill tree, with the 10th at the master level, and each point allows further increases in item stats. Thus, master crafters always create the best items, because they have more experiementation points. Experimentation is not a guaranteed success, however, so it often takes several tries at making an item in order to get satisfactory experimentation results. Having high-quality resources is key to successful experimentation, which is why such resources are valuable.

After experimentation is done, the crafter is given three options to produce the item. They can either toss away the item in "practice mode", which gives them a bonus to XP but forfeits the item; they can choose to make a prototype of the item, which creates it exactly as specified; or they can create a manufacturing schematic for the item, which can be placed into a factory along with required resources in order to mass-produce identical copies. This is how large-scale merchants make their money: they make several attempts at getting great experimentation results on a particular item, then load a schematic into a factory and make thousands of copies while their resources hold out. Note that the exact resources used in making the schematic must be supplied to the factory. Additionally, if a schematic requires several units of a subcomponent (the Laser Carbine requires three Blaster Power Handlers, which must be constructed by a Weaponsmith), then those subcomponents must be provided in identical form. You can't make three Power Handlers by hand... they must come from a factory crate ensuring their identical stats.

That is Star Wars Galaxies' crafting system in a nutshell. There are more details to it (which stats matter the most for experimentation, for example), but they aren't important to the big picture. It's the most advanced, involved, and exciting crafting system I've ever played in an MMO. And while there are macros that can save you some button pressing, the user still must be at the keyboard during the crafting process in order to select resources.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Whoops. The resource tree was supposed to look like this:
Inorganic:
Metal:
Iron:
Dolovite Iron
Copper:
Kelsh Copper
Gemstone:
Crystalline Gemstone:
Rainbow Crystalline Gemstone
Vertex Crystalline Gemstone

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Oh screw it. You can probably see how it's supposed to work. I think I'll go register now.

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Here

Quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster
Whoops. The resource tree was supposed to look like this:

Inorganic:
Metal:
Iron:
Dolovite Iron
Copper:
Kelsh Copper
Gemstone:
Crystalline Gemstone:
Rainbow Crystalline Gemstone
Vertex Crystalline Gemstone


BTW, thanks for the very informative post.

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The issue of master craftsmen making newbies obsolete could perhaps be solved with the subparts. As you mentioned a blaster needs several parts to build. What if the game was designed to plateau your ability to make simpler parts (you can only make so good a handle or battery) at various levels. Rather then waste your own time collecting the resources and building many basic subparts yourself, you would effectively sub contract them out to lower level craftsmen. At the highest levels you'd have large complex objects (like say an Imperial Walker in this example) built from hundreds or even thousands of individual parts (but at any one level only a dozen or less piece to make each subpart that goes into the building of the next largest subpart).

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That was me above. Thanks for fixing my post.

That's a very good idea, as it gives newbies something they can actually sell, a major complaint about the SWG system. There are some instances of this type of relationship in Galaxies already, and they work rather well: all Architect buildings require a lot of "wall segments", which can be built by Novice-level Architects and offer no means of experimentation; thus, any wall is as good as another, and can be mass-produced by a newbie to sell to established Architects.

A proposal I've heard would be to grant all experimentation points at the Novice level, with schematic availability being the only thing differentiating newbies from veterans. This has pretty much the same effect as your idea, only very specific to SWG.

One small addition to the SWG economy: any character can plop down up to 10 harvesters to dig up Inorganics and Energy for them. There is no "miner" class, though that fact is somewhat unpopular with many Artisans. However, Organics can only be harvested by someone with the Novice Scout ability. Individuals with higher Scouting skills (and later Ranger skills) are able to harvest more organics from a kill. These facts mean that organics typically sell for FAR higher prices than inorganics, as they are very time-consuming to collect even in small numbers. Whereas the best iron might sell for 3-4 credits/unit, avian meat will go for 250+ credits/unit.

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