For starters, I wouldn't focus on making it "contested". I would focus on making it compelling and challenging. Pantheon is a cooperative PvE experience. In this context, contention as a speedbump or delaying mechanism is a poor substitute for actual challenge.Let me turn the question around for you @Nephele . If you were to design contested content. (so not only player versus player commercial competition, but by game/world design)
How would you do it. What are you incentives?
With that said, here are a few potential ideas:
1) Resource types and distribution
- Suppose for a moment that not all resources are just going to be lying around for the taking. Sure, some things are harvested, but even among those things, they may come from different areas, and some of those areas will be more dangerous in general - requiring players to work together. Perhaps mythril ore can only be found in a few deep caverns in the world, and invariably all those caverns are overrun with monsters. Or perhaps sablecat fur is renowned for its strength and resistive properties, but hunting a sablecat is no easy task, and entire expeditions have often gone missing in the valleys where they tend to be found.
- Also, suppose that some resources cannot be acquired via traditional gathering but instead must be salvaged or scavenged from items found out in the world. For example, the ratkin harvest the glowing mushrooms of the caves, and through some process that they have been unwilling to share (and which is probably disgusting) they extract an oil from these mushrooms that is highly sought out in alchemy. Or perhaps the orcs have developed an alloying process that no one else understands but that results in superior blood-steel. Unfortunately, the only way to get it is to melt down orcish weapons, since the orcs really aren't interested in trading or selling their secrets.
2) Recipe acquisition
- While a great many recipes are widely known to the crafters of Terminus, there are many that are less widely known. In order for an enterprising artisan to learn these recipes, they may have to seek out someone to teach them. Often, these teachers will have requirements of some kind - perhaps earning the trust of the local village, or creating some other item of power in trade for the recipe, or even sometimes simply having achieved a relative level of fame and notoriety.
- When it comes to recipes created by less hospitable races and people, sometimes the only way to recover these recipes is to claim them by force - when they're even written down.
- In the many planar collisions that have happened on Terminus, and the ensuing wars and conflicts, much knowledge has been lost. It may be possible through painstaking research and investigation to piece together some of this knowledge. For example, Gento blades were long known for their sharpness and durability. However, the techniques used by Gento smiths were lost when the last Gento villages were overrun by the Revenant during the Deicide War. What clues might survive are found as fragments, bits and pieces that must be pieced together and examined in order to understand them.
3) Legendary Tools
- To create legendary items of power, legendary tools are needed. For example, to forge blades of Dragonsteel one must wild a special hammer crafted from the bones of wild drakes and meteoric iron. In addition, the smith should consider their own protection, donning specially made and enchanted gloves, apron, and goggles for the process. Finally, only a few anvils and forges can withstand the immense heat and pressure required for the process, and the smith must locate one of these as well. Only a few such forges exist and their location is a closely guarded secret.
None of this is specifically meant to be "contested". None of it is specifically putting players in contention with each other for the various things they might want. Sure, those situations may arise, but they are not the point of the design. The point is to make each activity fun, challenging, and compelling to take part in.