Friday, May 30, 2008

Durability and Crafting Revisted

Syncaine of Hardcore Casual has an excellent entry up about how he would handle "crafting" in an MMO. The article is really less about crafting and more about itemization. I wrote two articles on the subject in which I first discussed why the WoW system is broken and then followed it up with my solution for the next MMO.

The conclusion I wrote in those articles is that itemization in the next MMO needs to include a durability system in which equipment and inventory are eventually consumed, used or broken. Syncaine's article echoes those sentiments and goes on to explain how such a system could be implemented.

Syncaine and I are very much on the same page with regards to how this would positively impact crafting. The critical thing to consider is that when equipment breaks -- it needs to be replaced. Crafted gear could be a very viable and important component in keeping yourself properly equipped. A good crafting system shouldn't be allowed to become stagnant and it's a shame that the WoW system promotes the creation of so many useless items while you level the skill. I find it interesting that my 375 Leatherworking and 375 Engineering skills can make over a hundred different items and less than 10 are worth making.

Syncaine takes the idea farther by saying that the benefit gained from a Bronze Sword shouldn't be much less than the benefit of a Diamond Edged Mega Blade. While I like the idea of narrowing the gap between the two, I would say that making the difference between them "minor" might be a bit extreme. I believe I would prefer numerous "minor" upgrades (Bronze -> Iron -> Steel -> etc.) that resulted in a pretty significant difference by the time you got to the top-tier item. Perhaps the Mega Blade is 200-300% better than the Bronze. By comparison, a WoW item can often be 2000-5000% better. So I definately agree with a scale back, but maybe not to the extreme that Syncaine would indicate.

Syncaine also goes on to paint a scenario where a warrior discovers a rare gem and then seeks out a crafter to create the top-tier item. I definately like this idea and would take it even farther, allowing players to "upgrade" existing items into more powerful items.

One thing that is interesting about the crafting system in Warhammer Online is that it is not recipe based. Instead, it seems to be based on the idea of experimentation. Mix this, plus that and see what you get. In some cases, you get what you expected and in others you get something far more unique and powerful. The "what" of what you are creating is based on the ingredients you use to make it. The reagents themselves will appear to have properties, so this class of regeant determines duration while others may determine potency.

I find this system of "mix and match" much more appealing than the standard recipe based mechanic applied in Wow. For one thing, you could still create a potion or item with similar effects even if you couldn't find all the best regeants for the crafted item. If the +60 minute mat is too expensive, maybe I buy the +45 minute one instead. I lose 15 minutes, but maybe I can make two 45 minute ones for the same price as one 60 minute one.

Now imagine a durability system where items break due to durability and leave something leftover that could be used in crafting. Perhaps your favorite sword breaks but leaves a component that allows you to take it to a crafter who can use it to make a similar item.

The crafting and gathering possibilities are really endless in a system where items are constantly being used and consumed. Perhaps there are even "skills" that allow you to destroy an item as it nears the end of it's usefulness to gather a component from it for a future crafted item.

I'm very much reminded of a game called Dungeon Master which had a very unique spell system in which spells are cast by sequencing spell components together. The player could discover spells by finding scrolls that told them the order to sequence the spell or by trial and error. One of the more memorable things was learning what effects the various spell components was intended to provide (oh! that one is Fire and that one is Water!).

In other news... I am writing this from my condo in Hawaii. I've been on vacation for the last week and had pretty limited computer access. The weather has been good and the snorkeling has been great. I don't write about real life crap, but I thought an explanation for the lack of posting was warranted.


Garumoo said...

The combine system of WAR is certainly very attractive. I just think there's still room for learning recipes though - just make learning the rare recipes be possible in more ways than drops in obscure abandoned dungeons.

I propose a system where you could discover new recipes as a side product of exercising your crafting skill, similar to how alchemists in WoW can discover new potion/elixir/transmute recipes.

Also, if recipes can be learned by players, they could also be taught by players, which opens up yet more action in the crafting economy. You'd need to be of a higher skill level to teach of course, thus driving further efforts in improving your skills, if you so desire.

Garumoo said...

Ooops - wrong link in previous comment. I meant to link to my post on discovering new recipes.

Anonymous said...

One thing that's always annoyed me in the WoW crafting is that what you can find is ALWAYS better than what you can have made. (Yeah, I know, there are exceptions - up to a point.) It's a contribution to the issue of having hundreds of recipes of which only a handful are useful.

I actually like the underlying idea of the infinite (or near-infinite) repair, but I suspect in part that's because the equipment wears out so swiftly in the game. And yes, it does. I realize that's because there's no real ability to measure 'maintenance' other than 'fix what's broken', but it's still absurd on the face when a healer who never gets hit has lost 25-50% of his or her armor by the end of a rough instance. (Swords get dull, but breaking is rare, that sort of thing.)

hmm, just realized there's a germ of an idea. Everything as a 'base' value and a 'max' value in its combat use. Use wears down the item's value, which: a) reduces its effectiveness; b) increases the chances of the item irreparably breaking; c) affects how high the 'max' value can be. That is, if you diligently work to keep your weapon above 90%, the max will stay at or near 100% for a long time. If you keep running it down to 0%, though, the max drops to 90%, 80%, ...

Supplemental to this is the fact that all these uberskilled players can repair... nothing. But an NPC who can repair at all can repair EVERYTHING.



sid67 said...

One thing that's always annoyed me in the WoW crafting is that what you can find is ALWAYS better than what you can have made. (Yeah, I know, there are exceptions - up to a point.) It's a contribution to the issue of having hundreds of recipes of which only a handful are useful.

Agreed. There are a couple of things that they could do to address the problem in my opinion that would improve crafting drastically in WoW.

One would be allowing a crafter to "disenchant" to have a % chance of learning how to craft it. The higher the item level relative to your skill level, the lower the %.

The other is to have powerful item drops as one of the reagents to a more powerful items. For example, what if crafters could upgrade the Tier 1 dungeon set into the Tier 2 set. Or alternately, what if crafters didn't have to turn in Tier tokens at the vendor, but could use them as a reagent component in a crafted item.

Terroxian said...

You guys are hitting on my biggest peeve on crafting in WoW. At the very least, WoW crafting should scale better with where you are in the game. In other words, at lvl 43, you should be able to craft things that are useful to you now and that are relatively easy to make (and that are very similar to things that drop/rewards). Same goes for lvl 70. Its far too often that you are much better off just running instances or quests for the rewards than spending hours and hours farming 26 wind scales, 14 primal winds, 12 primal waters, 8 heavy knothides, 1 primal nether, and the list goes on....all for 1 goofy piece that could potentially be replaced with a single run through Kara.

I guess I'm saying, also increase the longevity value of something I take the massive time to create.

I also like the ideas you have submitted on mixture recipes and ways to keep crafting as an ongoing skill instead of stagnating out. However, I would add that if you are going to have to continue doing something over and over (like re-craft something because it is consumed) then the mats required for that item should be reduced the more often you do it (b/c you get better and better at crafting it...thus another component to skills in don't get a number value increase, but you get consitently better at crafting a particular item. FWIW

Have fun on the beach!

Garumoo said...

Terroxian, do you mean less mats for the same item or more items for the same mats .. like WoW has with it's random procs of Potion/Elixir/Transmute mastery?

In the real world, I'd prefer the less mats required approach, but in a game world having random procs is more interesting and rewarding. Not because I think that would be more logical, but because variable reinforcement schedules are simply more effective.

I like the WoW potion mastery system for that reason, but I do dislike the coarse granularity of that implementation: once you are a Potion Master every high level potion you make has the same chance to proc, regardless of how many you ever make. I would prefer a system where you have separate skill ratings for each item you learn. By having skill levels earned against every item recipe you know it would be madness to grind every single one to Mastery level, and there would be more scope to specialise.

Terroxian said...

I actually really like the random proc design of the mastery system. If something new was implemented as Sid and some of the others have suggested that keeps you creating the same item over and over b/c it wears out over time, then I would prefer a new mastery system to supplement this new design. I would want less and less mats required for the same item.

For example:
X item requires
10 knothide
5 p air
5 p water
2 rune thread

After you create it 10 times, each of the above is 1 less. At 20, it drops by 1 again...down to a minimum of course.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Terroxian, I'd prefer a different "experience benefit".

Instead of needing fewer mats, make the item a wee bit better. In context, a minimum would be an increase to endurance, or how long it takes to wear out the whatever. For some items there'd be a slight increase in pluses - a stat of some sort, be it armor or weapon expertise or whatever. All subject to a cap, of course.


sid67 said...

I think this whole idea could fit nicely with my suggestion of crafters being allowed to destroy an item in order to learn how to craft it. Imagine that right after destroying it, you could only make a slightly inferior version. But after you made enough of them, you would progress into making a slightly superior one to the original drop. The difference should and would be minor, but someone who “went into business” crafting them would find that their product sold a bit better and had a built-in competitive advantage.

Andrew said...

I would like the ability to melt down other magical weapons and use the metal to create a weapon that will share some of the stats of the previous weapons. Which of the stats acquired in the new item, would depend on randomness and/or points in a skill.

To touch upon what skill one would need points in ... it would be nice if WoW introduced something like AA (alternate Advancement) points that Everquest 1 had.

And a tough choice would need to be made between picking the tradeskill rare item option over some other skill tree.

I just would like to see the ability no matter how rare to be able to create a rare epic item through tradeskilling.

Like when Bruenor Battlehammer forged the hammer for Wulfgar (in the IceWind Dale Trilogy).

I wish the tradeskill system was one that would make invalid the websites that tell people exactly what needs to be done to make a tradeskill item, a system in which there is not a definate list or directions that make some of the best items, or what some of the best items COULD be.

Perhaps when a rare item is made via a tradeskill the recipe to make that item no longer works on that server or depending on the item or it's ingredients, the "recipe" is automatically changed. This would prevent many copy-cats and make a well-crafted item more valuable/rare.

Now that my mind is wandering....

And to add a twist and to ensure that purple tradeskilled items are used and not just hoarded by collectors and put in a bank ... make them not soulbound, and if not wielded, (unless it is in the AH), make the item burden its owner i.e. if they have it and are not using it. they run slower or limp or can't ride their mount for more than a minute at a time., etc.