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ShadowBit

Crafting system for (fantasy) mmorpg

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In my free time, I've been toying a bit about the design of a MMORPG and right now I was thinking how to implement classes of "artisans". A bit of background: medieval/fantasy mmorpg, the player can choose among several classes, that we can group as Fighters, Mages and Artisans (Fighters fights [omg! really?? :p], Mages use offensive/defensive spells, Artisans create items like potions, armor, etc...). A player can also be multi-class, but I'm not considering this part for now. The game world has a few villages (a few are enough for now ;) ), and every village has its own NPC merchants who buy/sell; the prices are not fixed, but vary (indipendently in every area) according to the supply. I've been playing a few online games, and most of the time crafting items is just a minor activity, and not something by itself; since I'd like players to be able to choose to not fight at all if that's what they want, I've been thinking how to put it ingame. How I've seen it done in other games: a) making an item requires the player to buy/gather the materials, and then use them together b) the creation process by itself lasts a few seconds, and give experience points to the player c) the player sells his products to NPCs or other players (a) sounds fine to me, some variety can be added by having materials of different quality which result in products with different stats (b) I dislike this part, since it results in the player making loads of items just to level up: this results in items good for levelling simply flooding the market, because they are made not to be sold, but to get experience (c) this is fine by itself, but because of (b) it results almost impossible selling to players, and the NPC prices (not fixed) will sink to the lowest possible quite soon My idea on how to modify (b) *) When creating an item, the player doesn't get exp at all (so no more market flood required by levelling) *) When making something, the player has a "training" option to enable, if so he gets experience but doesn't get the item created [I've half an idea on how to make this plausible, but I'm leaving it vague for now] *) The villages (or the single merchants) generate some "orders", that any players can decide to try to fullfill - when you accept an order, you'll have a limited amount of time to complete it, and you must make the items yourself (can't just buy them and turn them in) Problem The above method removes the "I want to get exp, so I'll flood the market" issue; but if the materials are easy enough to get so that a player can actually train, this still leaves the option "I'll flood the market, just because I want to" Solution: in all the games I've played, making an helm or a potion requires like 2-5 seconds; we just increase the time to something like 5 minutes to make 1 item and no more flooding of the market. Clicking the "Make" button and spending 5 minutes looking at the screen is pretty boring, so instead I was thinking of breaking the production process in various steps and make minigames for each of them (the results of the minigames will affect the quality of the final product). Ideas or comments on the above? does it make sense?

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I've long held the opinion that about the only way you can make a 'crafting' systems to be fun or interesting is to not actually have one that player directly does. Rather a 'crafting' class player is a merchant class that has far better skills at hiring NPC crafters that actually do the 'work'. Similar to EVE Online's crafting system, where you get the materials and blueprints, take them to a factory and then fly off for the hours/days/weeks it takes for the thing to finish.


How about a game where much of your character's 'power' level comes not from their own gear and skill, but the NPC followers that join you. Just as a thought, your average player can attract up to 5 followers.

On his own, Brander a Merchant Class Player, will be about the equal of Einar, a Fighter Class Player in a fight. However, Einar will be able to gather 5 heavily armed and skilled fighters to his cause, where as Brander will struggle to get more than two well armed and decent skilled fighters. But Brander will be able to gather 5 skilled craftsmen to build stuff for him, that he can then sell to other people or NPCs, and then hire body guards to protect him.

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Here's some random thoughts for ya.

You can give XP when an item is sold. This would work well with your (great) order idea. And more XP the more valuable the item is. Another option is that the XP is more based on how much it is sold for, but that is more open to cheating I think.

Another step towards limiting market flooding is by the supply mechanic. All but the most trivial items would need raw materials that the artisans cannot get for himself. He can't fight the spotted wobbegongs, so he has to buy spotted wobbegongs from the fighters who are killing them for XP. And if the artisan only makes one kind of item, that item's price will be lower than the NPC price for spotted wobbegong fur. Which means he'll lose money.

I'd try to steal features/mechanics from combat and try to apply them, since combat is obviously fun.

Give the player the equivalent of go-kill-those-rats-quests. If they're a novice blacksmith, they could go to the city forge and take a job. They'll get a quest like "make 30 helmets" which then are sent to some NPC warlord's army. I.e. they are never seen again. He get's money, experience and no market is flooded. This idea assumes that making 30 helmets fun. Or at least as fun as killing 30 rats. This city forge could also be the place where a crafter has to rent some space if he wants to make his own items. Makes a good moneysink.

Introduce teamwork. In the spirit of Tanker/Mage/Rouge you might need a Blacksmith pounding the steel, an Enchanter to make it magical and an Engraver to make it fancy and expensive. All working together in some way that I haven't figured out.

Make it a "fight" where you must dish out enough "damage" without getting to tired, using whatever feats you have at your disposal. Cooler raw materials usually means more "damage" needed. A dagger might need 100 Points to be created. Every stroke of your hammer will create some Points, but will also exhaust you. If you exhaust yourself completely the item cools into an unusable state and the raw materials are lost. Spice that up with some healing potions (maybe just water bottles for the 1lvl guys), some abilities like "Keep going after exhaust" which causes real HP damage and the possibility to enchant items. The really cool items might also fight back. Imagine trying to bind a demon soul into a blade while it tries to bind your soul into it instead. Or maybe if you fail a check somewhere the demon is released into your shop.


I totally dig Talroth's idea btw.
Let the artisan run some kind of shop. At first he might create stuff but after awhile he will just create the designs/recipes and let his NPC minions do the creating.

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Original post by samoth
What do I do (as a player) during the 5 minutes it takes to make a helm? :/

I've thought of divinding the creation process in several steps (prepare the furnace, heat the metal, hammer the metal to prepare [???], put the pieces together, etc...), and making a minigame for each of those steps: so the player can actually influence the final product (skill level and quality of the materials used count too).
If the abpve steps don't look very clear... it's just because right now I've no knowledge of how I could make an helm, that's something that I'll research :)

Quote:
Original post by Kekko
You can give XP when an item is sold. This would work well with your (great) order idea. And more XP the more valuable the item is. Another option is that the XP is more based on how much it is sold for, but that is more open to cheating I think.

Not sure if you mean selling to players or NPCs, but selling to another player is open to cheating, especially if the exp depends on the price (just sell stuff to a friend) and selling to NPCs makes possible the "buy exp" scheme which I dislike (the NPC is paying 95 coins for helms, playerA buys helms for 100c each, and then sells them to the NPC - he has a little monetary loss, but gets exp without having put any effort in gathering materials or having spent time to make items).

Quote:
Make it a "fight" where you must dish out enough "damage" without getting to tired, using whatever feats you have at your disposal. Cooler raw materials usually means more "damage" needed. A dagger might need 100 Points to be created. Every stroke of your hammer will create some Points, but will also exhaust you. If you exhaust yourself completely the item cools into an unusable state and the raw materials are lost. Spice that up with some healing potions (maybe just water bottles for the 1lvl guys), some abilities like "Keep going after exhaust" which causes real HP damage and the possibility to enchant items. The really cool items might also fight back. Imagine trying to bind a demon soul into a blade while it tries to bind your soul into it instead. Or maybe if you fail a check somewhere the demon is released into your shop.


I like these ideas, especially the demon one :p

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Im strongly in favour of Kekko's point about making crafting a "fight".

To me its simply good sense that if you have a genre where the gameplay mechanics are traditionally 90% combat, and you introduce a non/low combat class, you should adapt the combat mechanics to fit that class' goals as well.

By using roughly the same mechanics as combat, you can avoid the "mini" part of the minigame. When it is the main activity of a class or group of classes you dont want to turn it into something simplified, you want that activity to be just as deep and engaging as the activities available to all the other classes.


Kekko I think described it well, where you have something like fatigue and completion replacing player health and enemy health. As he says, it opens up a lot of play possibilities to use feats, potions, etc. Id add, it also adds a lot of MMO activities that are usually limited to combat. For example, group "raids" to forge super complex items that require multiple players to create multiple parts at once and work together to combine them; "gearing up" - when crafting is more like combat you open up the possibility of gathering equipment to wear for different crafting purposes, gathering sets, etc; "PvP"? You could set up competitions to compete to craft an item first, or you could make it directly head to head by having players competing to enchant the same item - each player tries to tire the opponent so that they can win the enchantment.
And so on...


Also, in regards to xp for selling: Perhaps it might work to apply xp only for selling items that you crafted yourself. That way reselling and finding good deals dont become a problem, because they arent eligible for xp.

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"Dark Messiah" had a crafting mini-game. Very funny the first 1-2 times, then it grew extremely boring.

I would want to make crafting more interesting as well, but it is a hard job to do, I fear. Repeating the same steps over and over again will become quite tiresome.

Make sure that you do extensive gametesting when designing this. Make sure it doesn't get too repetitive.

One thing I have thought of to solve this (but haven't playtested), is making the minigames at crucial times. Maybe the first few times you can craft a new item, until it becomes routine, at which point you can automatize (maybe when your skill is at a certain high level above what the item requires?).
And whenever you want to make a high quality/magic item.

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Quote:
Original post by Mercenarey
"Dark Messiah" had a crafting mini-game. Very funny the first 1-2 times, then it grew extremely boring.

I've never played it, but searched on the web for a description of it, and yes, it sounds similar to the "steps" I was talking about (I also remember something similar but much smaller in Gothic); what makes it boring, is probably that it involves lot of player actions, and poor player interaction: repeating the same process over and over is boring, that's why I want to make them some minigames (not necessarily all of them, or not necessarily always the same: this way making a sword is never the same, no matter if you already did it before).

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Artisans as a standalone class is a little redundant.

Simply put, everybody would have one as their alternate character to make stuff for their main character.

Just have item crafting as a sub-class or something.

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Original post by Cpt Mothballs
Just have item crafting as a sub-class or something.

I've played a few mmorpgs where that's how it works, do you know what the result is? everyone is a figther/mage, everyone is able to craft, most of them do, and the game world is full of items that nobody will buy because about everyone can make its own (and the few ones who actually are interested more in crafting than fighting get frustrated).

Quote:
Simply put, everybody would have one as their alternate character to make stuff for their main character.

That's why I've been thinking of required levels both for using and making items:
you play a fighter and train it for a month, now you want some new armor and sword, sure you can make an alt... and train the alt as blacksmith for a month to be able to make those items; if you do, that's fine for me, but who is not interested in crafting, why should make an alt which will require time to train, when he could simply buy from players who actually enjoy crafting? :)

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Quote:
Original post by ShadowBit
Quote:
Original post by Cpt Mothballs
Just have item crafting as a sub-class or something.

I've played a few mmorpgs where that's how it works, do you know what the result is? everyone is a figther/mage, everyone is able to craft, most of them do, and the game world is full of items that nobody will buy because about everyone can make its own (and the few ones who actually are interested more in crafting than fighting get frustrated).


Also, when everyone can craft, crafting becomes useless. Like they say in "The Incredibles", "when everyone is special, noone is".
Everyone becomes self-reliant, and that works against player interaction. There is no need to contact other players to trade with them.

To counter that "everyone will just make an alt", simply make a limit on characters. If you make a character limit of - for example - two characters per server, then a player can only have a crafter next to his adventurer, and thereby he can only specialize in a single craft. Many players would probably take two adventurer characters and no crafters, so that way crafters will be fairly rare.

voilá - a game where players need each other and will interact meaningfully. Isn't that what MMO's is about?

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Original post by Mercenarey
Also, when everyone can craft, crafting becomes useless. Like they say in "The Incredibles", "when everyone is special, noone is".
Everyone becomes self-reliant, and that works against player interaction. There is no need to contact other players to trade with them.


I'd counter that everyone being able to craft isn't the problem - it's everyone being able to craft to the same degree of quality. In my opinion, a class-based system is a bad idea in the first place, and to have a crafting-only class (presumably reducing combat skill) just prevents crafting players from accessing the whole of the content (which is normally designed towards combat-orientated players). Raiding, looting, farming for gear - this is what we lose. Not that I enjoy designing repetitive gameplay like this, but players of an MMO expect it - and in an MMO, players are your primary source of income. I wouldn't like to know that I'd been denied a major part of gameplay just because I enjoy crafting more than fighting. I challenge you - what is the harm in allowing players to be a renaissance man for once - a jack-of-all-trades? They may not be the master of one, but they sure as hell get all the content they want. Balanced properly, an open class system is, in my opinion, far superior to a closed class system. Let me give you a simplifyed example: In Angels Online (which I played for a short time), you can choose 8 skill areas. The pre-made classes have a specific choice of these, but they can be swapped out at any time. I simply swapped Heavy Armor skills for Medium Armor skills, traded in Axe and Hammer skills for Magic Skills, and there I had it - a Magic Swordsman, or Spellsword.

With a properly-balanced open class system, players can become what they want to be, rather than what the designer wants to write for. You can dispense with class-specific gear, and simply give gear out with shifted stats. Class-specific quests also go out the window, but these can be rewritten in with checks on the player's skill (for example, if the player has 10 offensive magic skills, they may get the 'Master Wizard's Plea' quest).

In short, use an open-class system instead. It's better for players, allows them to see more content for their money, and also prevents economical recessions that were being talked about above by making only weak items readily available to the general public, while they'd need to see a specialist crafter for the really good items.

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As far as crafting goes.

I'd like to see crafting being made into sort of a mini-game (as was mentioned about). So when crafting an item, the quality or result of the item is dependant on ur proficiency in playing the mini game.

I'll start with an easy example, but one that doesn't quite apply to fantasy games to give you an example.

Imagine a sci-fi MMO where 'hacking' a network involved a tron like game (could be any of the usual tron classics) where the difficulty depended on the level of the item/network being hacked. As you became a more accomplished hacker, u could get bonus weapons, or powerups to make hacking low level networks/items easier, and making higher level hacking do-able. Its doesn't have to be a long mini-game, but more skilled players could progress faster due to skill, while given enough time everyone could still level up (get enough points at the low levels to get better hacking tools, ect...). There's a whole continuum of options from total skill based to only semi-skill based, semi-time based. You could have easter eggs open up new recipies or abilities (ie. hack a network in less than 1min, or hack a network without use of x ability, or what have you) opening up specializations or discoveries.

Another simple example would be lock picking in thief.

How would u apply it to a fantasy crafting system? Alchemy could be a klax type mini-game where incoming 'reagents' react with each other in a series of vials (obviously the UI would be different than the standard klax convayor belt setup, but the gameplay would be similar). Or perhaps a puzzle bobble type setup, where the play screen is a flask that u shoot reagents at bubble to 'reduce' them.

Blacksmithing could be closer to a game of whack-a-mole or the old school mario-paint game where u smacked flys. Or imagine it closer to a game of time crisis. You could use a button to heat the metal, then have to hammer out imperfection in a short amount of time. You only get 'x' hammers per 'reheat' (it would be similar to firing at enemies then reloading). Meaning u have to hammer fast and accurate. The final stats of the item could be a % of ur final score. Different recipies would correspond to different levels.

Or it could be like a para-rappa the rapper game (a rhythm game) with different hammers/tools/actions mapped to different buttons. As u learned a recipe a master blacksmith (ie. NPC) could hammer the item out and u'd have to repeat each sequence (heat, tap, tap, tap, heat, hammer, tap, hammer, ect...).

The possibilities are endless and people would go nuts at how much fun just crafting stuff is. And they don't have to be in-depth or complicated. Just play a game of mario party to get an idea of the plethora of mini-game ideas that are out there.

Bottom line is if there is no player interaction in the crafting process, its gonna be boring no matter how you cut it.

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Delphinus:
Personally I prefer an open skill system, but I guess the end result is somewhat similar to what you propose with an open class system.

I just don't like levels, since they segregate the population.
Anyway, thats a bit off topic :)


Ryan_001:
Im all for what you propose (I like especially your idea for blacksmithing). Just be aware of the boredom factor. The most fun mini-game will become boring if repeated thousands of times, as is required in all MMO's I have played so far.

As said above, I would use the mini-game at only strategic times (like when crafting at the limit of your skill or when crafting high quality/magic items).

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The point I was trying to make is that everybody that's a long-term player will have one anyway and thus, be self sufficient.

Look at Rose online.

Everybody over level 50 has an Alt. Dealer that they AFK all night.
It's pointlessly annoying.

Just throw in some crafting mini-games or something that will frustrate unskilled players and let the people with the time and the patience make a profit instead of the people with the deepest pockets to begin with.

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