Complexity when Crafting


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Cromulent submitted a new resource:

Complexity when Crafting - Adding complexity to the crafting system

One of my favourite games of all time was Vanguard: Saga of Heroes and a large part of that was down to the crafting system which was enjoyable even if you were not making items to sell and just wanted to level up in your crafting profession.

I never had the opportunity to play Star Wars Galaxies unfortunately as I have heard some amazing things about it and when I played EverQuest 2 when it first launched I didn’t really enjoy the game as much as I thought I would so never really explored...
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So in essence.... I think you're really talking about subcomponents (that can span multiple crafting professions). I agree, but I would like to expand it. I don't think (good) complexity is just about subcomponents.

First of all, a big yes to subcomponents. Subcomponents introduces interdependency among crafting professions, and interdependency is a really great thing for helping to keep very high-end crafts feeling rare and special. However, there's some caveats to that:

1) Basic, "low-level" recipes need to minimize interdependency requirements - if, starting off, you need 3 other crafters to make anything, you're probably not going to be a happy newbie crafter. People get into crafting because they want to make finished items, not because they see themselves making sword hilts to sell. So you need to keep the interdependency light, and then ramp it up as the recipes themselves advance.

2) You need to insure that each profession has both subcomponents and finished items that are equally valuable and useful. At EQ2's launch, the game had heavy interdependency in the form of subcomponents. This worked alright, except that it was lopsided - alchemists, for example, made subcomponents that were critical for everyone else, but their finished items really.... weren't all that exciting. This, along with interdependency requirements being a little too heavy, really agitated players, which (along with other factors) caused EQ2's crafting system to get a massive nerf about a year into the game, completely removing all the interdependency goodness.

For a modern MMO that does this well, I would look at FFXIV. As players progress and start making more powerful items, interdependency requirements gradually increase, but it never really exceeds more than 50% of the item. So the bulk of the work to make an item is still coming from the profession that makes it.

Anyway that's interdependency. But complexity comes from more than just that.

"Quality" mechanics - if every iron longsword always comes out the same, making an iron longsword is a pretty simple affair. But what if there were varying qualities of iron longswords that could be made? What if you, as a crafter, had to do the right things during the crafting process in order to get higher quality results? What if you could use better quality materials to boost your chances, but it wasn't a sure thing?

Games tend to fall into two major categories here - those that have "click to make item" crafting systems which don't really implement the idea of quality (a higher quality longsword is just a different recipe), and those that implement a durability/quality system where the player has to balance between the durability of the materials and perform actions during the crafting process to get the highest possible quality out of the finished item. I find that the latter style of system (durability/quality) is far more engaging and fun long-term as a crafter - specifically because it challenges me to craft items well, not just click the button over and over. Vanguard had this kind of a system, and EQ2 does as well (although EQ2's implementation is easy to trivialize). For a modern MMO that's doing this well, again I'd look to FFXIV, since they have achieved a strong balance with player skill (knowing which abilities to use and when) and mechanics (having good crafting gear, and materials) without completely eliminating luck/RNG as a factor. A very well-geared crafter who knows what they're doing and takes the time to do it can get that high quality the majority of the time, but it's never guaranteed. Meanwhile, a less well-geared crafter who tries can still get lucky and get the high quality.

So having a durability/quality system not only adds to the process of crafting itself, but also supports things like resource quality (better quality resources boost your chances), tool quality (having better crafting equipment and tools boost your chances), and even temporary buffs specific to crafting (having that bard singing the song of the stonemason is far better than just whistling while you work). It adds a lot to the game, from a crafting perspective, and if we're talking about added complexity being a good thing, I feel like we should include this aspect.

Optional subcomponents - one of the things that really made Vanguard's crafting system so unique and interesting was the "dust" concept. "Dusts" were optional subcomponents that you could use when making items, that would alter the properties of the resulting items in some way. They might give it minor bonuses or even procs. There were common dusts and rare dusts, and the rare dusts could result in very powerful and unique items.

The idea of optional subcomponents wasn't new or specific to Vanguard, but it's still one of the best implementations to reference to show the value of including these things. Done well, optional subcomponents can add a new dimension to crafting, especially high end crafting, by enabling crafters to specialize what they're making in some way. The additional item diversity allows for more crafters to co-exist in the market - if I'm making steel longswords of strength, someone competing with me could differentiate themselves by making steel longswords of dexterity. Which longsword do you buy? It depends on what you're looking for. That's just a very basic example, but you can do a lot with optional subcomponents, especially if you keep them rare so that non-augmented items still have value.

- This one might be a stretch for Pantheon, but it still bears mentioning. SWG did something that pretty much no other MMO has done (that I've seen), and that was the concept of experimentation. When you were making an item, the game factored in your resource quality to determine the stats of the finished item. You then had "experimentation points" which you could use to tweak those item stats. So if you were making a blaster, you could use those points to boost the range of it, or the rate of fire, or the minimum or maximum damage values, or even the elemental damage values (if it was the right kind of blaster). Or the ammunition capacity. You could spread your points out and broadly boost an item, OR you could focus them and boost a few strategic areas. All of the different values generally had meaning, so there was no right answer. You spent them the way you thought best.

This system obviously adds a new dimension to the crafting process and makes for *tons* of item diversity, but the reason it's hard is that it requires a different item database structure in order to support it. That impacts every item in the game, not just crafted ones - and so in a game where loot is really meant to be a factor, that can be a big hurdle to overcome. Not insurmountable by any means, but it makes balancing between loot and crafting much more difficult, because you don't want to create situations where you completely devalue one side or the other.

Anyway, if we're talking about complexity I would add these things. I broadly agree with you that interdependency is an important part of crafting, so if we're just talking about that, my response is "absolutely yes". I just don't want to leave the other stuff off the table either :)


Staff member
As always I love your ideas :).

Let me address them.

1) I kind of saw low level crafting being done via work orders like in Vanguard. You didn't need any materials and you just completed a set of items to make for a vendor and would just grind your way up the levels. It was pretty boring but for leveling up it was much better than having to use (and possibly lose) dropped items that might be hard to come by.

If a player wanted to make a "real" item that is when the complexity comes into play. I sort of see the leveling process being separate from the real business of crafting which is to make items that players actually want and need.

2) Yes. I agree. Each crafting class has to have a reason to exist and, as such, needs to be interesting to play. If you are stuck as a crafting class that just makes subcomponents that is going to get extremely boring, although, having said that, it could extremely profitable as well.

What is needed is, for example, a split. Where crafters have a certain percentage of recipes which are subcomponents and a certain percentage which are finished items. The subcomponents will be used by other crafters and the finished items will require subcomponents from other crafters.

The leveling process will be handled by simple work orders that don't actually produce anything that enters the players economy.


I agree. I'd like to see low level crafters only being capable of making poor items. Mid level crafters being able to make normal items and high level crafters being able to make exceptional items.

Furthermore if a high level crafter uses a poor subcomponent in an exceptional item then it should knock the quality of the finished item down to normal or maybe even poor in the worst case scenario. In order to make the best item not only should the crafter doing the combine be high level and very skilled but all the subcomponents that they use should be from high level or very skilled crafters to ensure maximum quality of the finished item.

Optional Subcomponents

I loved the dust concept in Vanguard even months after release I was still getting server firsts in combines because I was playing around with all sorts of different dusts in my items to make some unique items that no one had ever made before (at least on my server). This drove my desire to play around with the crafting system and see what all the different combination were to make different items.

Which leads us onto...


I agree that this sort of system really needs to be designed into the game right from the start if it is going to work as it requires a completely different way of thinking about crafting.

Having said that I do hope that there will be some scope for mixing and matching ingredients from different sources in order to make items that no one has made before.

I'd love to feel like I was actually making something special when I was making items. Perhaps I had found a certain combination of items that produce an awesome item and I kept it secret so that people who wanted that item had to come to me in order to get it made. That would make crafters feel really special.

Also as a little aside it would be cool if crafted items had the name of the crafter who made it on them so that people knew who to talk to if they wanted that item in the future.


Staff member
I think we're very much in agreement except for one aspect - and that's early crafting progression.

I don't agree with your position that crafters should have to progress via work orders before entering the economy as actual suppliers. I'll explain why.

First, while story-driven crafting quests can be interesting and engaging, repetitive crafting "tasks" (work orders) for NPCs are generally not interesting. In fact, I'd go so far as to say they're boring. REALLY boring. Part of this is the way that they tend to get implemented in games, and part of it is just the fact that the ONLY reason you are doing it is to advance some number somewhere. You're doing them for more experience, more gold, or more faction. It's not "real" crafting, which I would define as making actual useful things that have an impact on the world and players within it.

This isn't to say that work orders are a bad concept. They can be useful for giving crafters a way to progress or earn some money when sales are slow or markets or flooded. They can be useful for faction systems where you need to build up your reputation with an NPC group in order to get access to something, like recipes or even areas. They can even add a sort of procedural type of story content for a game if done a certain way, as I've described in the thread I'll link below. But we should not look at them as the primary or most desirable means of progression.

The adventuring equivalent would be saying to someone "Cool, you want to be a warrior. Here, you need to level up to 10 on this training dummy before we'll let you fight real monsters."

I say, how is that any fun? How is that challenging? How is it more than a glorified tutorial? Why don't you just let them skip to the part that actually is fun/challenging?

Second, I am a firm believer that the majority of "true crafters" - that is, people for whom the crafting system is a core component of a game - are people who *want* to participate in the economy and/or make things for other players. That's their goal. Why should we make them jump through a bunch of hoops before they can do that? Sure, there will be people that just want to craft to make their own adventuring lives easier, and there will be people that do crafting just because it's there and it's an aspect of their character they can progress. But those people will probably be happy (to an extent) with any crafting progression you give them. It's the folks who really want to make crafting their "day job" (or at least a very strong second job on top of adventuring) that are going to be the ones who drive server communities and economies. So, it's important that the game not get in the way of them doing that.

Third and finally, I'm a firm believer that every single item crafters can make should be useful to somebody other than the crafter. If a recipe exists ONLY for grinding, why bother wasting the database space on it?

So, what I would propose instead is this:

- Novice crafters have a few, simple recipes that they can make. These recipes are light on complexity and material requirements in order to help crafters get started. However, they produce useful things that other players need, especially new adventurers, but even advanced adventures. Example below.
- Novice crafters can also choose to advance via work orders, at a noticeably (but not cripplingly) slower pace than they would through making finished items. This provides an alternative progression path if economic conditions are unfavorable or if materials are simply unavailable. Work orders may also provide different incentives, like faction gains or by leading to recipe unlocks, such that every crafter should *at least* view them as a secondary activity
- As crafters progress, the complexity of the crafting process demanded by the recipes they're unlocking increases. More stringent material requirements, subcomponent requirements, quality variations, and so on should all play a role. Early on, the impact of that stuff should be minimized to keep a level playing field for new crafters - but, as skill increases, there should be more emphasis on this to provide additional areas for crafters to compete with each other.

For more of my thoughts on crafting progression, see my (second) response in this thread on the official forums:

Here's the example I promised above.

Suppose that every starting alchemist gets a basic recipe for a "lightstone". Lightstones are light sources that last longer than normal torches or lanterns (though, they're not permanent). Lightstones are relatively easy to make, but don't provide very much in the way of advancement or progression past a certain point. Players need light sources, because dark places are dark and hard to see in without them. Because of this, there is *always* a market for lightstones. Thus, new alchemists can immediately enter the market by making and selling lightstones, and gain some progression along the way.

You can do the same thing with every crafting profession. Simple, low-level weapons and armor for new adventurers. Basic consumables that *everyone* uses. That sort of thing.


Staff member
I didn't say work orders should be the only way to progress in crafting but as a level one adventurer who just wants to be a crafter you can't go and farm mobs for item drops to use when crafting and you have no way to make any money because you are not yet a crafter. Hence the need for something like work orders where an NPC gives you a list of things to craft and you complete the work order.

I would hope that the act of crafting itself should be fun. I don't want a system where the crafting is the means to an end (which is selling an item to players) I want to enjoy crafting itself.

If I am making a level 1 item I want to enjoy doing it just as much as I enjoy making a level 50 item.

EverQuest crafting sucked because all you did was put items in an a container and hit combine. That is the most boring thing I could imagine. Vanguard was better but I hope Pantheon adds even more complexity to the actual process of crafting.

I think we are at crossed purposes here. You see crafting about being about making an item (and therefore a sale) I see the process of actually making the item (no matter what is) being what crafting is all about. If Pantheon can make the crafting process itself fun that it really doesn't matter what you are making it will always be fun even if it is just a simple work order for an NPC.

Edit: It is pretty obvious that a lot of MMOs have failed in crafting if people don't even consider the process of crafting itself and think that work orders are boring by default. People just assume that the actual process of making an item will be boring because so many MMOs suck at crafting. I really hope Pantheon changes this.


Staff member
I must have misread then. Your last post came across (to me anyway) that you were thinking that NPC turn ins should be the primary way to advance.

I absolutely agree with you that the act of crafting needs to be fun and challenging. So, perhaps we are in violent agreement here? :)

I think what I am opposed to, in general, is the grind-to-advance mentality that is so prevalent among players and has been reinforced by many, many games. For adventuring, this is why I'm in favor of a slow progression, to try and get players to focus more on the content than on the leveling. For crafting, it's why I'm in favor of thoroughly complicating the progression with things like diminishing returns or parallel progression paths, because I want people to actually participate in the economy *as* they advance, instead of just grinding up to max level and then trying to enter the economy. I realize that might come across to some like trying to get everyone to play my way, and maybe it is a little, but it's mostly because i truly believe it's healthier for the game's economy and community when people do that.


Staff member
No it was my fault. I wasn't very clear at all.

I think we are in agreement I'm just not that good at expressing what I mean.

When I was talking about work orders I was primarily talking about having them as a fall back position. So if there was no other crafting that you could do either because you were out of ingredients or out of money or just didn't feel like doing something super complex you could always come back and do work orders to progress.

I wasn't really thinking about them as being the primary progression method but they do offer a really useful fall back position for crafters who can't do anything else for whatever reason.

I know some people will say you can always go adventuring, and perhaps this is just me, but if I'm in the mood for crafting I just can't get into adventuring. On the other hand if I am in the mood for adventuring I can't do crafting so it goes both ways.

From my personal perspective a player should always have choices. The choices don't always need to be great choices but if you give a player a choice they will feel better about doing something even if it isn't optimal because that is what they have chosen to do rather than being forced into it.


Staff member
Staff Writer
I agree Vanguards crafting system was the best I have ever seen in an MMO I would love a similar design in Pantheon.


I've said it before myself and I agree with most of the suggestions above.
I do fear that allowing for low level crafters to make "low quality" items, will just make them of little value ingame for players and might up as vendortrash and a hidden grind towards valuable content.

About work orders, those can be fitted into a questline, event, last minute market 'preparations' or traderoute schedule. (I won't go into the traderoute schedule, since I've already said my bit in another thread relating to that).

I also experienced eq2 early day crafting and loved it to bits (get it? ...bits..). Anyway the fact that it took you a very long time to finalize things, requires a lot of devotion of players. This amount of devotion for crafting is not for everyone out there and that in turn makes crafters become very desirable and valuable. So I sure hope they keep that in mind as well.