Balancing Consumables - a Neph Proposal

Nephele

Administrator
Staff member
There's an entire side of crafting that doesn't really get discussed as much as it should: Consumables. Potions, Food and Drink, Bandages, Ammunition, Kits, and Tools - all of these are things that we have seen in many games. Quite often, entire crafting professions are based solely around them.

We don't talk about them often when we're describing crafting because they're not glamorous. Baking some bread doesn't sound nearly as cool for most people as the idea of forging a sword is. Yet we still want to see player chefs and alchemists and scribes, because it makes sense that in a virtual world, these items would exist.

Lots of games have gone out of their way to make consumables useful to players, but that hasn't always been well received. In many games, players feel like they are required to have the best consumables for the content they're working on - like it's a tax. Further, because the durations of those consumables tend to be short, players feel like they have to carry around big stacks and devote a significant amount of their inventory space to these things that they click just for a short-term effect. Even in games with a survival element, where consumables are required to keep your character functioning over time, many players tend to regard them as an un-fun aspect of gameplay. This viewpoint was reiterated by Joppa in the recent developer roundtable.

Likewise, many games have tried to provide crafting progression through consumables, with the idea that a low-level cook might bake simple bread with moderate effects, and a higher-level cook would create more advanced foods with better effects. While this idea seems great on paper, eventually, the majority of adventurers are at the level cap and care only about having the best consumables available. While this problem is by no means confined to consumables, it becomes obvious in that part of the economy much more quickly and can be a big deterrent to players choosing consumable-based crafting professions. In turn, that causes prices on those high-end consumables to stay high, and be a thorn in the side of all the people who use them.

So, how do we make consumables actually meaningful? And how do we do it in a way that doesn't unbalance adventuring gameplay, or create a situation where only the highest-grade consumables are economically viable?

I want to submit the following proposal for consideration by the community. This is based on my own experience in many MMORPGs as well as countless discussions with various community members. Let me know what you think of it.

Neph's Proposal for Consumables and Consumable Crafting

Tenets of this Proposal:
  • Consumables should all have potent effects. Having a consumable should make a significant difference for the person using it.
  • Consumables should have lengthy durations. Players should not feel required to carry around stacks of the things, and may only need one or two for a standard 3-hour play session.
  • Consumables should be generally rare and special so that they are used specifically and situationally by players, rather than simply being a "must have" for every encounter or area.
  • Consumables should be as complex to create, from a crafting perspective, as more durable goods.
  • Consumables should have unique effects. Ideally, different "tiers" of the same type of consumable should not exist
With those in mind, here's how I envision each aspect of consumable crafting working out:

Food and Drink - the concept of Meals

In most games, food and drink are items that everyone carries around in their own inventory and uses to gain some kind of short-term buff. Whilie this is somewhat effective at making food and drink matter to players, in practice it tends to run into many of the problems I outlined above. Worse, it does nothing to increase socialization among players, because everyone is just carrying around whatever they think is best for them personally.

So, here is how I think food and drink should work in Pantheon.

1) Food and Drink are delivered in the form of items called Meals. Meals deliver a long-term (2+ hour), multi-part buff to the entire group. Only one Meal buff can be active at a time.
2) Meals can only be used and activated in NPC or Player taverns, or in campsites (around a campfire). Obviously, any town or village likely has a place where meals can be consumed, but campsites can also be found in the world or rarely, in dungeons.
3) The meal item itself is a "package" item that is custom-built by a player Provisioner. The components the provisioner uses in building the meal will determine the overall effects.

Example 1: A picnic lunch

Kumu, our favorite halfling bard, has decided to pack a picnic lunch for their party's hunting expedition. Kumu is a provisioner of middling skill, and so he adds in some fresh bread (+stamina), sliced roasted venison (+maximum hp), spiced potatoes (+experience gain), and a cask of light ale (+mana). Obviously, he had to create each of the components going into the meal beforehand, but as his group embarks on their adventure of the day, they stop by a campsite and enjoy the lunch together, gaining the buffs for the next several hours.

Example 2: The Heroes' Feast

Vandraad's guild is getting ready for a big raid attempt, and he wants to make sure that they're well-fed going into it. Vandraad works with his guild provisioners to create a special and expensive meal just for the raid - the Heroes' Feast. For ingredients, he chooses flame-seared wild boar (+constitution), sliced roasted venison (+maximum hp), Dark Myr Red Wine (+intelligence), Caramel-glazed apples (+wisdom), and a grilled vegetable medley (+strength). Since the raid will require 18 people, Vandraad has to make three sets of the Heroes' Feast (one for each group). Since one of the groups has more melee types than casters, Vandraad makes some substitutions to provide more agility and dexterity to that group, instead of intelligence and wisdom. As part of preparing for the raid, Vandraad's guild gathers at a nearby village and makes use of the tavern there to consume their meals and get set up.

Potions and Scrolls

While food and drink are built towards long-term attribute buffs, we also want things like potions (made by alchemists) and scrolls (made by scribes) to be unique and powerful in their own right. Here is how I envision these working:

Potions and scrolls provide either instant (one-time) or short-term (30 minute) effects. However, these effects are not simple attribute buffs. Instead, they are highly situational and sometimes come with drawbacks. In general, potions take effect on the user, and scrolls can be used in a targeted fashion.

Examples:

A potion of fevered regeneration might immediately restore a player to full health, but inflict them with a 30 minute debuff to their constitution and stamina that cannot be removed.

An Elixir of Warmth might boost a player's Frigid Acclimation for 30 minutes, but reduce a player's Scorching Acclimation for the same amount of time.

A potion of cleansing might immediately remove poison or disease effects from the user, but also remove any beneficial consumable effects (such as food or drink) at the same time.

A scroll of sunburst might damage all undead in the area with holy light, but inflict all players in the area of effect with a 2-minute blindness debuff as well.

A scroll of swift passage might teleport the group in the direction that they're facing, but by a random distance - meaning they have no control over exactly where they end up.

This isn't to say that there might not be potions or scrolls which have solely beneficial effects, but these should be rare. Likewise, potions and scrolls themselves should be very difficult and complex to create. The basic idea is that a group might have one or two of these things based on where they were going or what they were doing, but individual players would generally not be carrying them around all the time.


There may be other types of consumables made by various professions, but the general goals should always be to make those items both potent and situational - rather than them being something that players carry around in large stacks, they should be the sort of thing that you bring along one or two of because you're expecting that you might need them.

There's a lot of room in this proposal to come up with all sorts of unique and interesting consumable items, and have the crafting of those items be both fun and profitable, but in such a way that we avoid some of the problems we've seen in previous games. At the very least, I think it's a starting point for really making consumables matter, without overdoing it and making them feel as much like a tax on high-end adventuring as they sometimes do.

I hope everyone will discuss this further and add your thoughts and feedback to this thread.
 

Barin999

Journeyman
I’m not going to stumble over words here so I’ll try to reply in spirit of the OP.

Anything that is beneficial to a player can become a requirement. A lot will rely on what those benefits might be.

The duration of these products may vary. The scale of beneficial effects should be reversely linked to the duration. The longer the more plain/unspecific it will become. There is a lot of fun and tactics involved when using 1-5 minute products. Bringing this to Pantheon specifically…distance and travel should matter. And therefore you already have some frame to position your consumables in. Several aspects can be considered; terrain, region, time of day, season, actual basic travel duration,… All these factors could be imbedded into the variety of consumable products, aside of the actual character, raid/group or combat boost. Staying focussed on only one type of consumables to me is not fully acting on the full potential of these consumables.

I could go on about other ways consumables can affect the world as a reaction to the player consuming a product. But I don’t think that’s the true scope of the OP. It might become too detailed and as mentioned earlier, it’s not about choice of words.

Terminus is designed to be a mixture of incredible amounts of varieties and challenges. Many aspects of the game could be altered by using consumables. Player stats, group, guild, raid, faction, player output, return. As long as additional content keeps mixing up with what is already out there in Terminus, your consumables can matter. It now becomes a question of How many different shades of X can I produce, before I completely have to move on to effect Y?



Neph’s proposal

The potency of the Temporarily Effect (TE) should indeed be felt. You cannot prevent players from stacking up on TE’s before departing. Some might just carry to hand out to others. The actual effect combined with the challenge rate of producing the item should determine its duration. As I’ve mentioned before, you can have TE’s that influence other factors that can be beneficial outside of combat. So I’d suggest keeping a good mixture of “required TE’s” and “commonly used TE’s”. This inevitably leads to some products having more value at some point of the items’ existence. Risking deflation if it’s usage is not guaranteed in a long term design.

*) Sidenote remark: I recall a game where you could keep mixing TE’s and create better versions, discover new versions, lesser versions or both components causing the destruction of all components. If you give this some more thought, one can imagine TE’s being valuable over time. (no one is saying it has to be a 1-1 science)

Returning to Neph’s proposal.. All products crafted should have equal investment requirements from the player. We’ve discussed this already in other threads. But the creation of end products for all skills/classes should have equal amount of investments. The difference here could be: crafting duration, number of components required, availability of components, expenses required throughout the crafting process, skill ratio, other requirements… All these could create different experiences for different crafts, but all would have invested equally. (Don’t get me or Trasak even started about Heroic Crafting, group crafting or more complex scenarios)

From a crafting experience point of view, I’d disagree with not having different tiers of the same type of TE. What you’re saying is, the outcome is assured when crafting. That, for me, would be taking away a big part of the fun/challenge of crafting. I would however agree that TE could be different when comparing the effects themselves with benefits you gain from other sources in the game (gear, stat, faction etc). In the sense that the TE would not stack or compete with other benefits coming from other factors that are not TE. This difference on its own, could make the world of TE much more alive and meaningful. I’m not saying TE’s are not allowed to be useful in combat situations. But the majority of them might be aiming towards other parts of Pantheon mechanics/challenges.

*) Before going into the actual Concept ideas, I’d like to mention that one needs to keep in mind, what the TE design is aimed at? Do you want to work towards TE that work only in group, only on self or a mix of both? As each one has its own lengthy discussion there.

TE’s that benefit the group, sound fun but how does it compare to crafted products that do not? Especially when crafting classes are in a game’s design. How about impacting playstyle choices? If it influences personal playstyle preferences, how meaningful is personal design if it can be overwritten by another players group TE?

What happens with the TE after death? Unimportant question perhaps? If you’re using group TE’s and are aiming towards decreasing the inventory management side of things, it might not be. How useful are TE’s with personal effects if you’re stacking up on Group TE’s only? Why group only? Pantheon is aiming towards a group based playstyle. So now you’re back on, who’s got the best group TE factoring in the current location and duration of the TE. Is the potency of the TE felt if you die and rise again with TE still on you (and does it makes sense)? Do you still feel the TE’s potency hours after consumption or are you habituated? In this last consideration you’re contradicting yourself a bit there Nephele. By prolonging the effects, you’re decreasing the impact experience of its potency on the player’s experience. That on its own is guiding the design towards BIS. By decreasing the duration of the effect, you’re leaving the decisions with the player. This makes TE’s a lot more personal/meaningful in the overall player experience.

Do I really feel the TE as a design feature in a game, when I only use it 1-2 times in 180 minutes of gaming? (An action that will most likely take up 1-5 seconds of my 10800 seconds of playtime? In the case of group TE’s perhaps no time at all.) Many other aspects of the game might quickly overcloud it.

We don’t yet know if the devs want the use of TE’s matter as a meaningful choice in their game. Their overall take on things seems to be such that decisions are going to matter in during your game session. And therefore it’s plausible to state that TE’s should be designed with that in mind. Making long duration TE’s less likely to be common in this game.

Just imagine the scenario where a player has to invest 5-15 minutes of their time to obtain a TE. Or other scenario’s where a certain amount of a certain class are required to be in X location to create a TE that can be obtain by players who were present during this creation. (a lot of alternative scenarios pop up in my mind spontaneously). In this case, the moment of obtaining the TE was a worthwhile memory on its own. You might feel sorry to lose it on death for example or could value its uniqueness more based on the requirements to create the TE.
 

Barin999

Journeyman
Meal concept

Food and drinks are products consumed by players. What does it mean when the player is no longer required to actually consumed it in order to get the benefits of food and drink? Perhaps the concept of food and drink should be then moved aside to allow design space to invent another name for this TE feature. Group buffs can be granted using spells, songs or other actions, unless you’re saying you’re going to hand-feed every other group member, I don’t see how one can fill the bellies of all members with 1 hand. Or it has to be an in game interactive item. Where the “donator” lays it in front of all in group to interact and obtain the buff from. In this case, you’re talking about making in game items to be interacted with made by players and need to consider if any investment of the other members is required in order to gain that buff from the donated meal? Investment could simply be, drop down some coin as payment or interact with the meal and a time bar is filling up, while the character is emoting consumption of a meal based on its race’s behaviour. That’s another bottle opened right there.

I like the aspect of situational requirements in order to allow the creation of a TE. (doesn’t have to restrict itself to food and drinks only) As suggested above, I’d add in an investment requirement from the receiving player. This could be just being present, interacting with something, being in group with, duration of time present at the location. I’d aim towards interaction requirements to avoid brainless campers and dulling down the experience of an actual socially active community. Again lots of alternative scenario’s pop to mind when thinking about what these interactions or other investments could be.

3) Is a more technical aspect of your approach. But it makes sense that the identity of components used during crafting can impact the end result in some fashion. I don’t see the novelty in that (if you can explain a bit more, Nephele?).

What I do see here, is that the investment is mainly in the camp of the crafter. Not per se shifted towards the end user. I’m not against it, but that again is nothing new. It’s become meaningful in a way towards the crafter, as they have different recipes (components) to choose from. This was already present in older takes on food and drinks. How does it really differ? You’re unpacking TE’s in group instead of self-consume X and Y. The BiS approach still applies but the players choices are decreased as 1/6 or 1/24 is now deciding for you what to eat and drink.
 

Barin999

Journeyman
Potions and scrolls

What I’ve said as responds to Meals, also applies (mostly) to potions and scrolls.

I understand that you have 1-time use, short term (5-10 min) TE. A long term to me is 30 minutes. Time still needs to be scaled to the pace of Pantheon ones it’s being played ofc. So it might shift towards 15 min’s being short term and 30-60 minutes being long term. A magical TE longer than this, for me seems more like a spell-buff given by a class then a personalized consumable.

A more magical style of TE can have many more effects, more radical then Meals. Degrees in quality of product could already be impactful. These styles of TE could cause stat overflow, debuffs reaction, increase over time, decrease over time, and many more. This is only limited by the scale of complexity that Terminus will be in game.

For example: A long term dot can be mitigated or cured over time using this style of TE. So for me, I would not restrict this type of TE to 1-use or short term use only.

That said, the long term use of a potion seems unrealistic. But a long term use of a scroll does not, but it would require a certain degree of time investment/concentration to be maintained to use maintain this long TE. This could be weighing down on the caster or on the receiver(s). Losing a concentration slot (thinking in lines with Pantheon’s ability restriction choice) would already have a massive impact on the meaningfulness of that TE. Going along this path even more, the short term use and instant usage could have similar impacts on the character (stunned, slowed, dazed, drunk, otherwise being less effective, decreased regen) for several minutes of game time. Team that with a detrimental effect beyond the beneficial effect and you’ve got yourself another tactical choice. Mind you, I’m not saying you can’t continue playing after obtaining TE X. A detrimental effect that is too severe for the player, is just bad design to my view. As few will be motivated to use it and it’s pointless to continue with useless/badly designed content.

There most definitely should be beneficial-only TE’s here. Any self-respecting alchemist or sage would want to at least create those. Just imagine another crafting class making primarily items that have detrimental effects on their end products.
 
Top