A Crafter's Journey, Part 3: What I'm hoping for in Pantheon

Nephele

Administrator
Staff member
Hi everyone, this is the third and final installment of this post series. If you haven't read Part 1 and Part 2 yet, I hope you will. They sort of explain where I'm coming from.

Just like the other two posts, I'm not only posting this to talk about myself - I am hoping that it encourages other crafters to talk about themselves too. So far that hasn't happened, but I guess we have a long way until Pantheon launches still.

When it comes to how crafting will work in Pantheon, I tend to think much bigger than the actual act of crafting an item. That's important, but there's all kinds of other things that go along with it that are important too. So, in order to talk about what I'm hoping for, I have to talk about all of that stuff as well.

Purpose and Meaning

The first and really most important thing to me for Pantheon is that everything should have a purpose and a use, and feel meaningful. If there's a resource I can gather, or something that comes from a mob I kill, it should be used in crafting somewhere - and not just in a single recipe either (unless it's super rare). Likewise, if something is craftable, it needs to be economically viable. It needs to be something that other players want, need, and use. I say this because crafting items that serve no purpose isn't fun for me at all, nor is looting or gathering things that I'll never actually use.

When it comes to the loot/gathering aspect, some people like the idea of selling excess stuff to NPC vendors for coin - that's not me. I don't really feel like those vendors should be willing to buy a bunch of useless monster parts, not unless those monster parts actually have a use. To me, it speaks to the believability of the world when I know that those bat wings are actually used in levitation potions or dexterity charms, and they're not just there to be vendor fodder.

As far as crafted items, there aren't many worse feelings as a crafter than spending time and effort to make something, only to find out that no one will ever buy or use it. This is an itemization problem that comes up in a lot of games. Crafted items are too weak compared to loot, or rare resources are too easy to get, or even sometimes, no one seems to like the model that goes with an item, or the effect the item generates. The result is a lot of wasted crafting recipes, and that's something that really grates at me. So my hope for Pantheon is that it does a good job in itemization. There can't be so much loot or rare materials entering the game that normal crafted items are worthless, and there can't be such a different in power or desireability between the two categories that crafted items are second-class either. In order for crafting to be a worthwhile thing for players to do, it needs to provide things that people can't get easily elsewhere.

Along these lines it's also important that crafted items be actual items. A system where we're just adding bonuses to someone's loot isn't fun for a lot of people. Most fantasy blacksmiths are there to forge swords of power, not set gems into pommels. That's not to say that there can't be an augmentation system or re-crafting system or whatever, but that system absolutely cannot eclipse crafting original items.

Viability

The second area that's very important to me is insuring the system remains viable over time. I've played a lot of games where players who started at launch gained an insurmountable advantage over anyone who came later. While I do think time invested should matter when it comes to crafting, things need to be set up so that new crafters can get into the economy and compete while they build their skills, learn more recipes, and start accumulating more and better things to craft with.

I think there's a few components to doing this right - one is definitely insuring that recipes don't get trivialized as crafters progress. If I start out making iron swords as a new crafter, and that's all I have to compete on, then someone who's progressed a ways into crafting should never get to the point where they can bang out dozens of iron swords without an appropriate investment of time or effort. That doesn't mean that we can't get better at making iron swords as we gain in skill, but it should never be a trivial exercise to the point where we can flood the market with superior iron swords and lock those new crafters out of being able to sell anything.

Another component of viability is insuring that there's still a market for those iron swords over time. One of the great risks of any level based game is that players pool at the top end, and all that lower level stuff quits mattering. Obviously Pantheon is trying to mitigate that with the Progeny system but either way, it's still likely to occur to some extent. So, there probably needs to be some higher level recipes that take an iron sword as a component, or quests where we arm all the guards with iron swords, or something to help generate demand for those lower level items.

Finally, a third component is making sure that the more powerful and exotic stuff requires powerful and exotic materials to create - and that those materials are much more than simply rare. If creating an adamantium sword just requires me to go to a high level area to farm up adamantium, then eventually, the market will be flooded with adamantium swords. On the other hand, if high level crafted items all have unique and very rare requirements, and finding the materials for those items is not as easy as just going to a place and hitting a node, then that keeps supply of those items low - and it allows new crafters who level up into those recipes to be able to compete with the established folks who are already there.

Accessibility


The third area that's very important to me is that the system is accessible to players regardless of how much time they can spend. I'm not saying time invested shouldn't matter, or that we need instant gratification but people who only have a few hours to play or who are busy with other aspects of gameplay should still be able to participate in crafting and the economy. For me in particular the biggest component of this is the ability to sell items while offline. Whether it's through some sort of game service like an auction house or an NPC vendor that we hire and place and maintain (which is what I'd prefer), the game can't require someone to be online to sell the things that they make. All that will do is push people out of the economy and likely out of the game altogether.

It goes beyond just buying and selling though. It also means that resources and components need to be tradable. If every carpenter has to go out and chop down trees themselves, then only people with the time to go chop down trees will succeed at being carpenters. However, if the game allows for players to be lumberjacks without also having to be carpenters, and allows them to sell the wood they collect, now every carpenter has a choice. They can spend some time and save some money and collect wood on their own, or they can spend the money and purchase the wood they use. It probably sounds silly to bring this up but it's something that not every game seems to understand. Some games seem to assume that everyone has equal amounts of time to invest.

Depth

Fourth, the crafting game needs to have a lot of depth. This means a few things. To start with, the act of crafting can't be a simplistic process or something that just requires muscle memory or hand-eye coordination. Crafting an item should be a challenge, not just in terms of success percentages, but in terms of how you go about it. Do you use this ability or that ability? Do you push for more quality or progress the item closer to finishing it?

Another aspect of depth is customization. If every steel longsword is the same as every other steel longsword, not only is that kind of boring, but it also limits the number of people who can effectively sell steel longswords (because there will almost always be more sellers than there are buyers). So there needs to be a way for crafters to make their own versions of steel longswords. Maybe mine do slightly more damage but they weigh a bit more. Maybe someone else's have a dexterity bonus but they hit for slightly less.

Depth also means there needs to be a real sense of having to work to progress as a crafter. I'm not talking about huge grinds, but more about having to hone my skills, pay attention to my tools and equipment, and venture out into the world to learn the lost knowledge needed to make the most exotic recipes. There should always be something new to learn or discover or acquire - it should never simply be a matter of maxing your level or your skill number.

Interconnectedness


The fifth and final thing I want to see in Pantheon when it comes to crafting is interconnectedness. That might sound like a weird word to use but what I mean is that crafting can't just feel like a tacked-on aspect of character progression, no matter how involved it is. It needs to be part of the world of Terminus. It needs to matter just as much as killing monsters does. And more importantly it needs to matter for every other part of the game, and those parts of the game need to matter for crafting. Obviously, adventurers will (hopefully) buy and use crafted items, but crafters should need things that adventurers bring back as well. Rare resources and recipes should be hidden in the troves of bosses and the depths of dungeons. Keepers should be able to leverage the perception system to find fragments of rare recipes and lore about how to craft exotic items. The NPC factions of Terminus should have quests for crafters - not simply a means to earn some crafting experience and coin, but ones that actually lead to new recipes or equipment for the crafter to use. Crafting should be a portion of adventuring epic quests and adventuring should be a portion of crafting epic quests. In addition to all of that, crafters should be making things for each other as well. Not just components that are used in crafting other items, but tools and equipment as well. Need a new apron for the forge? Talk to your outfitter friend. A new set of cooking pots? The blacksmith can help.



I realize all of this was long and wordy, but I didn't want to just point a list of bullets or say "it should be like X game". Not only would that be really limiting, but I think I'd have ended up missing something important that way. That's not to say that I probably can't add more, but I've gotta stop somewhere :)

Like I said at the top, half the point of me posting this is an attempt to get everyone else to talk about where they came from, and what they want to see. I hope some of you will indulge me.
 

DesignOTG

Novice
Great series, Nephele!

While I am no where near the accomplished crafter you are, I agree 100% with your views on what would make a crafting system valuable and enjoyable. I've dabbled in FFXIV crafting and did a fair amount of it in WoW back in the day. I tried crafting in ESO for about 5 minutes before giving up. :)

Viability and Interconnectedness are key for me, personally. I want my efforts to mean something, for me and for the people who use what I create. My focus would be on helping guildies gear up and get prepared for their adventures, and less on becoming a powerhouse in the in-game economy. I have great memories of things like farming leather to create leg armor in WoW to help prepare for raiding. It's one more way to build up those around you and provide a key role in your group's life, even if you aren't leading groups -- or even joining in!
 

Nephele

Administrator
Staff member
Just bumping this back up since I just tweeted the URL. Would love to see more folks respond with their thoughts :)
 

kazyovka

Novice
I agree with most of what you're saying!

Although I loved EQ, I don't think the crafting system of EQ was great.

I'm only familiar with one game that has a crafting system which delivers on your manifesto, and it's the ARPG Path of Exile (POE).

Here's how POE delivers on your points:

Purpose and Meaning

> If there's a resource I can gather, or something that comes from a mob I kill, it should be used in crafting somewhere - and not just in a single recipe either (unless it's super rare).

In POE, there are no coins. All "currency" items in the game are consumables that have a dual use as a store-of-value and also are components of crafting, and conversely, most dropped items are consumables with a crafting purpose. Typically value drops as "orbs" which are itemized consumables that can be expended on an item in order to modify the item in some way. That, or it's an actual item that could be crafted *on*, a so-called crafting base.

The POE community has organically settled on two such consumable items, the Chaos Orb and the Exalted Orb, as the silver and gold coins of the game. Everything is priced in terms of these two orbs, and they are used both for their exchange value and also their use-value in crafting.

> if something is craftable, it needs to be economically viable. It needs to be something that other players want, need, and use.

In POE, most of the best items in the game are player-created, not drops. High-end "rare" items, which are player-craftable, tend to be better than custom-coded and monster-dropped "Unique" items.

Viability

> The second area that's very important to me is insuring the system remains viable over time. I've played a lot of games where players who started at launch gained an insurmountable advantage over anyone who came later.

POE doesn't really solve this problem in a way that translates to a game like Pantheon. In POE, the economy resets every 4 months when a new "league" comes out and everyone makes a new character with zero gear. Indeed there is a huge advantage to being an early mover in the start of the league, so much so that people practice "league start" and schedule time off just to binge in the first three days of the league.

To editorialize, though, I think the goal of allowing new players to enter the market on equal footing is diametrically opposed to an equally-important goal of respecting the value and the effort that established crafters have put into their trade. Why should an upstart be able to compete with me on equal footing if I have sunk in 1,000 hours and have accumulated a huge amount of resources? They should have to work their way up to it, IMO. And of course it'll be harder than it was on day 1. That's how all economies work - the first movers have an advantage.


> One of the great risks of any level based game is that players pool at the top end, and all that lower level stuff quits mattering.

POE solves the problem by being more of a gear-based game than a level-based game. Max level is 100, but due to diminishing experience returns, is very hard to attain within the timeframe of a single 3-month league. The power differential between a level 95 and a level 100 character is relatively minor. There is a MASSIVE amount of difference between a char with GG perfect gear and medium or even high-tier gear, both int erms of cost (frequently 1000x as much per item) and in terms of player power (say you have to spend 1000x more to get 5x as much damage or defense). A level 95 char with great gear is immensely more powerful than a level 100 character with mediocre gear.

There is an *excellent* distribution of player power levels and nobody really pools into the super-elite ranks of the game.

Accessibility

> The third area that's very important to me is that the system is accessible to players regardless of how much time they can spend. I'm not saying time invested shouldn't matter, or that we need instant gratification but people who only have a few hours to play or who are busy with other aspects of gameplay should still be able to participate in crafting and the economy.

I would say that POE doesn't really solve this problem either. Crafting *is* available to lower level players (e.g., there is no crafting skill that you have to level up, you can just use the orbs and modify items right from level 1). In fact, *if you are very knowledgable*, crafting is useful right out of the gate. But unfortunately, most POE players consider crafting to be a high-investment and high-skill area of the game that requires a lot of knowledge before you start turning a profit. So I'm guessing that fewer than half of players seriously craft. To editorialize, I think it's fine that not everyone crafts. In fact, I think it's better than way. It's not required to enjoy POE, but it enhances the experience for those who enjoy doing it.

> It also means that resources and components need to be tradable. If every carpenter has to go out and chop down trees themselves, then only people with the time to go chop down trees will succeed at being carpenters.

Absolutely, vehemently agree. Soulbound items are GAME DEVELOPER LAZINESS. They are what you add to force people to play your game in lieu of constructing a functioning player-driven economy. Soulbinding is an abject admission of defeat on the part of the game developers. In POE, there are essentially zero soulbound items. Everything you find in the game is tradeable. It makes items feel much more meaningful.

Depth

Of all the points of your manifesto, POE's crafting delivers most strongly on depth. It is an insanely deep crafting system with this ultimate result: Every piece of gear that a crafter works on is a unique puzzle that he's trying to solve. Rare gear is ironically more unique than unique gear - no two pieces of rare gear are alike. In POE, crafters invest astounding amounts of currency into crafting each piece, and we become familiar with the pieces we craft on, think about them while we're away from the keyboard, and call these unique pieces by their generated names. I just made an amazing poison bow called Fate Fletch that I can't stop showing off to my friends. There are probably less than ten poison bows of comparable power in this league.

The very best items ever crafted are called "mirror-tier items". These kinds of items are so powerful that they have their forum posts and their names are famous. Many are crafted by consortiums of players who have pooled their resources together to make them. And it's worth doing, because once a mirror-tier item is created, it becomes a renewable income stream. People will pay a fee (a "mirror fee") in order to expend a special, extremely rare consumable item called a Mirror of Kalandra in order to create mirrored copies of these famous mirror-tier items.

> Another aspect of depth is customization. If every steel longsword is the same as every other steel longsword, not only is that kind of boring, but it also limits the number of people who can effectively sell steel longswords (because there will almost always be more sellers than there are buyers). So there needs to be a way for crafters to make their own versions of steel longswords. Maybe mine do slightly more damage but they weigh a bit more. Maybe someone else's have a dexterity bonus but they hit for slightly less.

In POE, every piece of rare gear is unique, since it is virtually impossible to craft the same object twice. Since rare gear is the best kind of gear, it naturally follows that every character's gear is unique. This is contrast to most gear-based games and MMOs, where every raid warrior is running an identically-named and identically-statted "unique" piece in every slot, and you can tell which progression dungeon his guild has finished just by looking at his sword for one second.


> Depth also means there needs to be a real sense of having to work to progress as a crafter. I'm not talking about huge grinds, but more about having to hone my skills, pay attention to my tools and equipment, and venture out into the world to learn the lost knowledge needed to make the most exotic recipes. There should always be something new to learn or discover or acquire - it should never simply be a matter of maxing your level or your skill number.

Since all items in POE are tradeable, and since, unlike in any other game I've ever played, crafting is actually profitable, in POE, after you have enough initial working capital to start making desirable items, it becomes possible for you to never venture out of your base. You could earn a fortune just by your skill and knowledge of crafting to engage in "profit crafting".

However, the knowledge required to turn a profit by crafting in POE is immense, and it changes all the time, as the meta shifts and new builds become popular. In order to profit as a crafter, it's necessary to follow the market. This ultimately means not only have a deep knowledge of how to create items, but also a deep knowledge of builds, to know which items are worth creating.

So, how does POE crafting work mechanically? That's a question for another post ;). It's nothing at all like EQ crafting or WoW crafting, though. Rather than ranking up artificial 'skill points' in-game, you rank up actual crafting skill in your brain. There are no fixed 'recipes' or fixed results, either. Such things seem far too limiting now, after becoming good at POE crafting. (I can't even say I've mastered it yet, because there is always more to learn).

But I do know that don't want a developer to decide in advance exactly what I'm able to craft and install a list of allowed recipes. I don't just want to craft "uniques" that ironically are the same as everyone else's items. I want to make one-of-a-kind pieces through a combination of cleverness, investment, and luck. (You have to push a lot of chips into the pot in order to give yourself a chance of crafting great gear! Requires an appetite for risk!).

Instead, I want devs to give me an array of tools to master, with which unfolds a vast array of possibilities and techniques. I want the feeling of accomplishment that comes from discovering a new crafting sequence, and the one that comes from seeing the hidden potential of a crafting base that no one else could figure out how to salvage. And I want the profit I receive from so doing!
 
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Barin999

Journeyman
@kazyovka I do want to mention, the entertainement /fun factor should not be forgotten. You can have a good crafting design but it's just not engaging enough. I'm working to test out PoA. Being a gamergeek is fine, many however are not looking to crunch numbers all night or bite into overly complex challenges.
 
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Autherial

Apprentice
Staff member
Staff Writer
I agree with everything neph said, I have high hopes for pantheon, the devs seem to really take the communities input and I believe it will grow to be a great game. The crafting I think will be pretty good, but will be behind the rest of the gameplay, at least for a few months until they can dedicate more time to improving it.
 

kazyovka

Novice
I should have mentioned that I think crafting in POE is really fun. Especially when you hit the mods you're looking for. But it's all probability-based with layers upon layers of RNG. Every extra mod you target when crafting an item multiplies the expected cost of creating that item. A lot of the skill comes from knowing that items which you accidentally create are valuable to someone else. I think POE's system could be improved upon by integrating the crafting more into the world - it mostly happens in your base.
 
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