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What methods can be used to make crafting fun for people? I'm planning a concept for an MMO in which 5% of the weapons and armor in the game are NPC store issue, 5% are unique and 90% are player crafted. How can I make it fun and balanced ?

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Original post by vaneger
How can I make it fun and balanced ?

With ingenuity and creativity. Think about things that are fun, and go from there. If you can't figure out how to make this feature fun, scrap it, go back to the drawing board and do something else instead.

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I have some ideas, You may think theyre corny but here they are none the less:

First off, most players dont like crafting because you find items, and just click repteatedly with said ingredients to craft what you want.

Heres what I would suggest to change that:

The first way I would say is you can gather hard to find ingredients, take them to a smith and then a smith crafts your item for you. The upgrades depend on the items you give the smith. This is the least obtrusive way to include crafting in your game because you still get the uniqueness of crafting, without the boring tedium of "leveling your crafting skill" and buying/finding tons of items to do it with (Final Fantasy XI im looking at you....) Maybe during the "smithing" process have it be a minigame where the better you are at the game, the better the item turns out. This will add a skill element so you dont rely on the luck of the draw to make good armor. This also helps with game economy cause not everyone will have the same pieces of equipment.

The best example of crafting ive seen in a game would be Asherons Call's tinkering system. (The first Asherons Call). You get the ingredients you want to make the attributes on the armor you want.

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I kind of agree with Chrono and I might like the mini game idea depending on the implementation of it. If you do a mini game type of thing it has to make sense and not just be there to be there. The reason I like this is if a person isn't paying attention while smithing, or whatever, they could mess up on even basic smithing (which happens), and if you allow a greater and greater level of refinement where the game keeps getting harder with the amount of extra tinkering you're attempting I could see where people with skills at the game will exceed beyond what most people can do, and I like that idea.

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Original post by Chrono1081
Not to mention the fact this will keep bots from appearing in your game for the most part since its not something thats really doable with a macro.


I don't think this will have any effect on getting bots, just the amount and type.

If you make it so how well you do at the mini game effects how good the end product is, then that actually encourages bots more! After all, who is better at a lot of simple puzzles? Humans, or a computer that can try every combination in the time we think up one?

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There are classes of problems that bots will not be able to solve under time limits. If you give the player a twenty second time limit (call it 25 seconds server-side) to solve a problem that has an exponentially large solution space, then you'll be fine.

NP-Complete Problems

Generate a solved problem, add spurious bits, then ask the player for the best solution they can come up with.

Suppose that finding a Hamiltonian circuit in a graph is the problem you decide to use to represent crafting a piece of armor. The player wants to create a mid level article, the server then generates a circuit of 50 nodes, adds lots of extra edges to the graph, then feeds the graph to the client and says, solve! The player creates the longest circuit he can in twenty seconds, and sends it back. The server then measures the length of the player's circuit and determines how successful it was.

Another nice problem to use is box-packing. Given a shape made out of boxes, and a set of boxes, pack them together to fill the shape exactly (think tetris without walls or floor).

Incidentally, tetris itself is also shown to be NP-Hard

These are all examples of mini-games that the player executes in order to successfully craft an in-game item. Short of minigames, I can't think of another way to make crafting fun, beyond having to go to the ends of the earth to collect the necessary materials (we all love grinding!).

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Random idea:

It would be cool if you could improve certain weapons *in battle.* For example, you could increase the damage rating of a "blood sword" by scoring critical hits. It could also depend on the enemy. If you deal a killing blow to an acid spider with a basic wooden bow, there is a chance the wooden bow will be upgraded into an acidic bow. There could also be special attacks that have a chance of modifying the weapon: use your 'flame-sword' skill enough and your blade might gain a few points of fire damage itself.

An RPG with this mechanic wouldn't really need traditional 'weaponsmiths.' How you would smith weapons is by starting with a basic sword or bow, and then fight various types of monsters, using various types of special attacks, to 'evolve' your basic weapon into something unique. Of course, you could specialize in smithing weapons, in which case you would have a vast inventory of basic weapons and ingredients, and you would travel all around the RPG world to slowly upgrade your stock and sell your finished goods.

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I favor crafting done by minigame (for example the materials you are crafting from are the fee for starting the minigame, and the number of levels you survive or bonuses you collect determines the type or quantity of the craft produced).

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Want to make crafting fun?

Allow people to choose textures for their items, and personalize them.

For example:
Cool design on side of sword.

Imagine if the side of your sword could look like that?
Now imagine how expensive it would be.
Now imagine how less expensive it would be if you had a high crafting skill.

-Alex :)

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Original post by Symphonic
There are classes of problems that bots will not be able to solve under time limits. If you give the player a twenty second time limit (call it 25 seconds server-side) to solve a problem that has an exponentially large solution space, then you'll be fine.

NP-Complete Problems


NP-Complete means that it's not possible to come up with a perfectly optimal solution in reasonable time. However there are many fast ways of finding suboptimal solutions to these problems, and for a bot that's good enough. Anyway, if the NP-Complete puzzle required an optimal solution, not even a human could complete it :)

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The 'mini game' part would make sense in a crafting setting, provided it makes sense.
For example to craft a sword you might need some materials, for example iron, and melt it. While melting you might add some other materials, so you can enhance the iron (statistics and looks).
Now you have to cast it. Depending on skill level/crafting plans provide the player with a set of casting molds. Let the player choose some (maybe 3) and cast the molten iron.
By choosing the casting molds the player can once again choose stats and looks.
To fool bots you might add a random element to the casting molds, so that the result will be sub par if certain logic errors are made ( casting mold a doesn't line up with casting mold b and thus lowers stats, unless they are aligned by the player). These misalignments should be obvious to spot for humans, but hard for bots, and the alignment process itself could be more or less random.

A similar thing might be used for alchemy. You have to solve ingredients in a solvent prior to blending them together. Again here you can randomly decide which solvents are optimal and which are less optimal for the given ingredient. Try to pass this information to the player in a way that bots don't understand, for example by using colors/shapes/bubbles/smoke/etc.

To help players learn to cope with the crafting system, help them with the lower level items, and warn them when they are not crafting an optimal item. You can have the smith npc tell them for example. For higher level items, players are on their own. Greater risk, greater reward so to say.


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Personally, I don't like the idea of crafting being TOO fun (or easy for that matter). I've never liked the idea of crafting being something everyone can or wants to do. There should be a certain amount of real work required.

Why? If it's too fun, everyone and their brother will want to do it, and soon you'll have a server where everyone has crafter mules, so there's no player economy. Who wants to buy an item from someone else when you can have a good time making it yourself?

I like the idea that it takes a certain type of player to become a successful crafter. The kind of person who's willing to put in the work, do the advertising, gain the necessary name recognition.

If I were making a mmorpg, I'd want a system where anyone can do trivial crafting, such as doing repairs or creating simple items. But true crafters, the ones who can craft more impressive items, should be in the minority.

Sure, there can be fun aspects. Like elaborate recipes, adventuring to acquire components, social interactions with other players such as bartering.

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Original post by hh10k
However there are many fast ways of finding suboptimal solutions to these problems, and for a bot that's good enough. Anyway, if the NP-Complete puzzle required an optimal solution, not even a human could complete it :)


I didn't think of that

Correct on both counts though. Hamiltonian Path detection is not constant-factor approximable, as are certain other NP-Complete problems. Also Implementation of many randomized partial solvers is non-trivial (I know that won't stop them, but it will hold them back a little).

So conceivably, you can have a bot that will give you an OK solution every time... but hopefully humans do better? I dunno, it depends on the puzzle. Maybe you get some autistic player who can get them all perfect.

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What I would like to see in crafting is more freedom in creating the items. For example, instead of the common

5 Items A plus 3 Items B plus 20 Items C = Item D,

...I'd think about slots, like:

5 Metal Ingots and 1 Rare Gem = Gemmed Sword,

where both Metal Ingots and Rare Gem are not specific items, but slots. You can then make a Gemmed Sword with 5 Ferium Ingots and 1 Opal, or possibly with 5 Titanium Ingots and 1 Ruby or any other 5 items that classify as Metal Ingot and 1 item that classifies as a Rare Gem. Each of that would produce different items - let's say that Opal improves attack rating, where Ruby improves damage; making the sword out of Ferium Ingots improves the created sword max durability, while a Metal Ingots are so much cheaper...

You can also make the created items have some kind of sockets or rune-slots, where something can be set - something like sockets in Diablo 2 or WoW or something like matrices in FF7. The things to place into these sockets can be created in some other entertaining way - think about how to make how to make alchemy, enchanting - that could be fun.

As about the improving skill or not... having a skill that has to be leveled has one advantage and that is you can limit number of skills that the player can take and so you force the players to enter a PvP market.

Creating custom items instead of using or creating preset ones is something I'd very much like to see, good luck!

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Original post by Symphonic
Maybe you get some autistic player who can get them all perfect.


So, you're suggesting that someone should design an MMO, a genre noted for social interaction, such that it can tap into the autistic market? [smile]


On topic: I don't know how much I like minigame ideas. I don't think you should take the player out of the game they're paying for. Or, you could say that they're then paying for the minigame, but why not just play a flash game? I think what I'll be describing could be thought of as a minigame, but you should try to make it feel as integrated as possible. You want to keep people from thinking of it as a minigame.

I think to make it fun, the first thing you need is to make a market for crafted items. I think that this requires both that crafted items be better than what you can get otherwise (or people will just get the stock model) and a sink for those items. I think the sink is the hard part. Nobody wants their well-earned gear to stop working. Most solutions involve some sort of ability to repair the equipment, which negates the effect of the sink. I think you have to make the hard choice to actually have equipment break beyond repair after some "reasonable" amount of time. Otherwise, crafted gear simply won't be relevant and, being irrelevant, won't be fun to create.

As for making the action itself interesting, you need to make it as fun as the other activities in your MMO (I'll assume the most common activity is playing goblin exterminator) and require as much work to perfect as those activities (otherwise it'll just be offloaded onto a mule character and everyone will have their own "pet" crafter). I don't know, maybe things have changed, but when I hear crafting, the process I think of is basically dragging a couple items together, the server performs some sort of skill check, and, if you succeed, you get whatever scripted output comes out.

I say, mix player skill and character skill in a way similar to combat. Have the player actually go through a process to make the item. Let's say the basic process is to smelt the ore, cast the molten metal, and then shape it. Now:

  • Character skill should have a significant effect on the distribution of the equipment's attributes. Say, a higher skill will allow the player to create armor with a higher average defense and to a tighter tolerance; maybe increasing skill even causes the distribution to skew more to the right.
  • Have the player have to babysit the process. Have each step take time, but have that amount of time vary. Make the player have to watch it to know when to "take it out of the oven". Make this an interesting choice by giving tradeoffs. Maybe smelting longer creates a purer metal, and thus a better end product, but maybe it decreases the yield.
  • Give the player ways to enhance the basic process. Maybe there are items that can be thrown in during the basic process that need to be added at just the right time to create various effects (and maybe the same item creates different effects when added at different times). Let the player heat treat the finished product to try to improve its properties. Make it so heating too much or too little, quenching at the wrong time, etc. decrease the properties.

I guess I'm just trying to think of the sorts of things that make the main grind interesting (why is it fun to babysit your character hacking at a goblin?) and don't require a UI separate from the sorts of things you'd already have in place (no separate minigame, the smelting process is as much a minigame as the killing goblin process).

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Original post by Symphonic
So conceivably, you can have a bot that will give you an OK solution every time... but hopefully humans do better?

No, they don't. The studies that have been done have consistently shown that humans do not contain a magical NP solver, and I'm not aware of any NP-complete problems where humans employ heuristics that cannot be replicated by computer.

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Personally, I agree with Way Walker. Im not sure I like the idea of "minigames", or at least the term specifically, because it implies that there is something fundamentally different about it to qualify it as a seperate game, rather than being part of a coherent whole.

The way I see it, theres no real reason why the gameplay of crafting cant be fundamentally the same as that of combat.

The combat mechanics generally have a few phases, or possible activites:
Preperation - Gearing up, choosing the right equipment, etc.
Buffing - Using abilities or equipment to give a temporary boost to chance of success.
Combat - Attacking the opponent in a repetetive fashion, adding variety and attempting to increase success by using special abilities, while the opponent attacks back in a similar repetetive fashion including special abilities or random events.

The first two phases have obvious parallels in crafting.

For the third, I dont see why it cant also be implemented for crafting.
Essentially what you have is an opposed race where you attempt to get a success before the opponent causes you to fail. The biggest stumbling block is a replacement for the enemy attacking you.
Instead of having an enemy, I see failure as when the material being crafted reaches an unacceptable quality before the crafter completes the item - say, through burning the ingredients while crafting a potion, or the metal becoming brittle when smithing a weapon.

So the process becomes very similar in style and gameplay to combat, simply with a different theme and feedback.
Crafting a sword for example:
Preperation - Equip a leather apron, enchanted smithing hammer, etc.
Buffing - Drink a potion of strength to swing the hammer better, prepare the hammer with a special oil, etc.
Working - The character heads in swinging the hammer, with miss chances etc, just like in combat. The metal is being heated over the furnace and the temperature is changing and, if the player doesnt fix the temperature, slowly making the metal brittle. While crafting, the furnace may blow sparks, making it hard to see or swing for a few moments (parallel to a blind or stun effect in combat), while the character may pump the bellows and heat the metal a little more, or apply an enchantment or oil. If the players' successful swings reach the desired level (comparable to killing an enemy) they have the item; on the other hand, if the temperature drops far enough without the player preventing it (comparable to creature hitting player enough, killing player), the materials break and the crafting fails.

Obviously thats only a quick example, and how well it works depends on the level of polish and variety the designers give it... it could easily come across as a cheesy "crafting is like a combat minigame!" gimmick if done poorly... but if done properly I think it could integrate really well with the existing main mechanics and gameplay.

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Okay how about this

When your crafting you have a bar that says when it will be complete
this ticks along, at any point you can add in ingredidents, you could throw all the ingredidents in at the start

and instead of staff of healing, you get a staff of charcoal

Then the game is choosing when to add ingredients, what ingredients to add and in what order, diamonds might take along time to prepare if you want a diamond sword, but if your aiming for just a diamond accessory you would put it in late

There is no ideal time to add ingredients, so when you add them just affects the stats and ability, it also depends what else is already in there and how long its been added Say silver all the time then last minute a wooden stick, you would end with a silver pole put the stick in first then the silver near the end and you have a black wood silver tiped pole

I dunno how fun it would be, but it would be interesting

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wow i actually had a similar idea for a mmo like this...
but i didn't think of a minigame crafting system.

the crafting part seems really cool, but i have a question that may
seem irrelevant. what is the setting?
i know that sounds like an odd question. but if the entire game takes place
along several islands or land-masses
could you imagine crafting your own boat? with a customizable hull.
say, if you wanted to be able to craft a weapon or item, or maybe even heal while
waiting to get to your destination. imagine being able to buy or build the healing area or workshop to smith.
it would add a bit of personal touch to an otherwise dull aspect of most mmorpg's
(sorry for the irrelevant post, but i think its a good addition)

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Original post by gharen2
Personally, I don't like the idea of crafting being TOO fun (or easy for that matter). I've never liked the idea of crafting being something everyone can or wants to do. There should be a certain amount of real work required.

Why? If it's too fun, everyone and their brother will want to do it, and soon you'll have a server where everyone has crafter mules, so there's no player economy. Who wants to buy an item from someone else when you can have a good time making it yourself?



I have to disagree with this statement. EVERY aspect of a game should be fun. You can still balance the game when crafting is fun. Such as: Items are harder to come by, the quests to get the items may be hard or the item could be a rare spawn.

To make crafing non-enjoyable just to balance an economy (im not picking on whoever wrote this) is a bad way to go about it and can actually hurt the economy. If its a pain in the @$$ and people dont want to do it then there are less awesome player made items to go around and be traded / sold. In my opinion I think successful player economies are based on just that, the players, anything the shops offer should be second rate so you dont run into the issue of everyone having the exact same gear (Final Fantasy im looking at you again)

Not to mention if you dont want EVERYONE crafting make a change to keep that from happening. For example, say you have different races in your game, different races can craft different things. Or people from different starting towns have different items they can craft with, etc. Crafting, no matter how fun still wont take the place of the actual game play (unless your gameplay sucks or theres no story advancement.)

Just my 2 cents.

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Ah Sneftel, you're right.

About the minigames vs integrated experience thing. It's all minigames anyway, in most MMOs combat is a minigame about when to press which buttons to swing the little progress bars in your favor, with some loose spatial reasoning WRT the world.

Another minigame idea: Server pushes a few images of puzzle pieces to the client, client has to arrange the images so the pieces fit together. Client sends back the list of translations and rotations for each quad.

I know, I'm stretching it now, plus uploading images of any worthwhile resolution will be a pain. That said, it will be much harder to write a bot with image decompression and recognition built in, (theoretically the decompressed images live only in texture space on the video card).

Coming away from the more visual/algorithmic minigame ideas: How about the crafter creates a recipe. To make a sword, you need a blade, a pommel and some leather-work (we'll assume done aftwerwards by another player).

The smith wants to make a sword, so he goes into the smithy, up to the forge and selects the 'create>weapon>sword' then he inputs his recipe:

Add Iron
Heat
Hammer Pattern Basic: Sword (+something to sword damage)
Add Iron
Heat
Hammer Pattern Basic: Sword (same)
Add Iron
Heat
Hammer Pattern Advanced: Resilience (+something to durability)
Water Cool

And something similar for the pommel. This way there are skill trees to be learned, skills will affect how long the smith can keep working the same sword before he ruins it (limit on number of steps), etc.

Personally, I'm not so excited by this construct, but it might fly.

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Quote:
Original post by Chrono1081
Quote:
Original post by gharen2
Personally, I don't like the idea of crafting being TOO fun (or easy for that matter). I've never liked the idea of crafting being something everyone can or wants to do. There should be a certain amount of real work required.

Why? If it's too fun, everyone and their brother will want to do it, and soon you'll have a server where everyone has crafter mules, so there's no player economy. Who wants to buy an item from someone else when you can have a good time making it yourself?



I have to disagree with this statement. EVERY aspect of a game should be fun. You can still balance the game when crafting is fun. Such as: Items are harder to come by, the quests to get the items may be hard or the item could be a rare spawn.

To make crafing non-enjoyable just to balance an economy (im not picking on whoever wrote this) is a bad way to go about it and can actually hurt the economy. If its a pain in the @$$ and people dont want to do it then there are less awesome player made items to go around and be traded / sold. In my opinion I think successful player economies are based on just that, the players, anything the shops offer should be second rate so you dont run into the issue of everyone having the exact same gear (Final Fantasy im looking at you again)

Not to mention if you dont want EVERYONE crafting make a change to keep that from happening. For example, say you have different races in your game, different races can craft different things. Or people from different starting towns have different items they can craft with, etc. Crafting, no matter how fun still wont take the place of the actual game play (unless your gameplay sucks or theres no story advancement.)

Just my 2 cents.


Quoted for vehement agreement.

Also I wanted to make the point that crafting should not BE combat. Minigames exist to give the player a mental break from the main gameplay. So if one is turn-based and strategic, make the other be about quick reflexes and instincts. If the main gameplay is about killing stuff the crafting should probably be non-violent: perhaps puzzle, sim, or gambling gameplay. Even better have two different types of crafting be two different types of gameplay. That will naturally help balance your economy as individuals will spend more time doing the type of gameplay they like best, and different people will prefer different types. Also you can use cross-rewarding - crafting results are good for fighting and fighting loot is good for crafting so people will trade.

[Edited by - sunandshadow on January 13, 2008 8:12:26 PM]

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Well, FYI, the concept I have is a sci-fi setting so no "magic runes" here :) .

Generally speaking, I'm thinking of having a vendor class and a subclass for actual crafting and a subclass for acquiring and working raw materials into useful components.

Vendors can hire crafters and crafters can hire material workers, or one player can do all three.

Players will be able to dabble in creating their own items, or go to NPC vendors for generic model items, or player vendors for unique items.

Mini games seems a good way to go for the crafting and material worker classes.

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