Crafting and Adventuring in Pantheon (Analysis of 8.27 dev stream)

Nephele

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Staff member
Last night’s developer stream gave us a look at the first steps a new character will take in Terminus during PA5. There was a lot of information discussed during the stream including open-world design, combat, movement and climbing, and how attributes and stats function. Crafting was not mentioned directly but if you pay close attention and read between the lines slightly, you can start to get a sense of how crafting will work alongside drops and quest rewards when it comes to adventuring. While there is more that should be done to ensure that crafting is a full-fledged gameplay sphere, having a good balance in this area is a critical component for ensuring interdependence and a functioning game economy.

Gearing Up

One of the things you may have noticed in the stream last night was that Roenick started with little in the way of equipment – just a basic shirt, some pants, boots, and a weapon. In fact, one of the first quests that he obtained was to bring a wolf pelt to an NPC leatherworker in return for a very slightly upgraded tunic. As he was killing various creatures and monsters, even at one point a skeleton or two, he was not receiving equipment drops He was, however, seeing many drops that looked suspiciously like crafting ingredients, including at one point a “High-Quality Wolf Pelt”.

Later in the stream, we saw Roenick at level 6 and he was wearing a more complete set of armor. If each piece of armor required a Standard Wolf Pelt to get from the NPC leatherworker, this would likely have been a fairly significant time investment. After all, not every wolf we saw Roenick kill was dropping pelts, and even when they did, often they were not the Standard pelt required for the quest.

This is the first place where we have really seen room for crafted items in Pantheon’s gameplay. Many people who played early EverQuest will remember either making or purchasing low-level equipment such as banded or bronze armor as they got their start in Norrath. While later that armor might have been replaced with drops or quest rewards, early on, it was quite common for players to collect crafting materials and then trade those to crafters in return for usable armor and weapons. This design immediately encouraged players to socialize in low-level areas even though they were still handling most combat solo. Likewise, it also created an economy in those low-level areas, where every wolf pelt or rusty weapon was something that could be sold or traded in return for better usable gear.

Attributes that Matter

One of the topics discussed during the stream was stat allocation for characters, and how multiple attributes matter for each class. For example, Shaman benefits not only from wisdom, but also from stamina, constitution, and intelligence – and potentially even strength and charisma. We can assume that other classes also benefit from multiple attributes in similar ways. Later, when we saw Roenick’s upgraded chest piece, it notably had an attribute bonus attached to it. The bonus was relatively small, but the team discussed how even that small boost can significantly impact the effectiveness of abilities that a character can use in combat.

Reading between the lines here, it becomes obvious that one of the things players will want to do in Terminus is to acquire equipment with attribute bonuses. After all, why wouldn’t you want to have more strength, wisdom, or constitution? However, unlike other games where you might focus your equipment on only one or two attributes, in Pantheon, you really will have to balance between multiple attributes. Depending on your focus, you might emphasize some attributes over others, but you will not be able to neglect those others completely. This will require you to make tradeoffs in your equipment choices to help “fill out” areas where you have lower attribute scores and enhance areas where you want higher scores.

If item drops and quest rewards are reasonably rare, this creates a massive opportunity for the crafting sphere. You might loot a piece of armor that has a great constitution bonus, but little else in the way of attribute benefits. However, your friendly neighborhood crafter may be able to supply you with additional armor pieces that help balance out the looted piece, making you more effective than you would have been otherwise. Likewise, if crafters can provide equipment with a range of different attribute bonuses, it then becomes possible for you as an adventurer to customize your equipment, instead of simply taking whatever you can get.

We are all used to min/maxing at high levels in MMORPGs (at least to some degree). However, given a slower leveling progression, a higher degree of challenge, and a greater impact from attributes, adventurers in Pantheon will likely start to care about their stats at a much earlier level than they would in other games. Not only will this help get players more invested in their character at all levels (rather than just at the level cap), but it will also help create a more vibrant economy at all levels, with equipment choices really making a difference whether someone is level 15 or level 50.

Consumables

Another thing that we saw briefly during the stream was food and drink. Roenick started with some of each in his inventory. Even though it was never used and was not discussed, this also confirms that consumables will play a role in Pantheon, even potentially at lower levels. When you also consider the number of loot drops we saw that were things like “meat” or “blood”, there seems to be an obvious hook for consumable crafting at low levels as well. If the items that can be created from those are useful and valuable, professions such as Alchemy and Provisioning will have a market to work with. This is in stark contrast to many other games where consumables are only needed or desired at the level cap.

The viability of consumables often comes down to their effects, and we still do not know exactly how consumable effects will scale throughout the level curve in Pantheon. However, the foundation is there for Pantheon to approach this in a better way than many other games have done, and hopefully, we will get to see some examples of this during Alpha.

Conclusions and Suggestions

Overall, seeing these things in the stream last night was a welcome development. Even though crafting was not directly discussed, a big concern that many community members have expressed was that the game would be designed with an emphasis on loot or rewards and that there would not be room for a fully-featured crafting system. It was nice to see that, at least at a base level, things are being set up so that crafted items will be useful and desirable for players. While there is certainly going to be much discussion throughout Alpha and Beta on fine-tuning that balance, it does at least seem like it is achievable. It also seems like the design decisions around attributes and how they work will provide room for a larger variety of crafted items in general, and an economy where players are truly making choices about what they buy and use, and not simply following a “Best in Slot” meta.

In the interest of providing early feedback to the devs, I did want to note some suggestions based on what we saw last night. These suggestions are purely my own, but I feel confident that they would make the game better and more interesting for everyone.

Creature Loot

Rather than having massive amounts of creature parts drop as direct loot, it would be better to put these behind a “Skinning/Butchering” gathering profession. This would accomplish three things:

  • It would help keep materials rare where they needed to be. Instead of every adventurer coming back with piles and piles of eyes, meat, flesh, wings, and so on, players would have to intentionally focus on gathering these resources. Long-term this would be easier to balance for rarity than just having every mob randomly drop a selection of parts.
  • It would allow players to focus on the type of resource they really wanted. If players had a choice in which type of resource to gather, they might decide to focus on pelts (for armor), bones (for weapons), meat (for food), or reagents (for other consumables). This helps both crafters and non-crafters because people could then work to fill specific needs instead of collecting some of everything.
  • It would help keep players from overloading their inventory space. Once players realize that something is useful, their tendency is to always gather that item. Even though Roenick started with a small bag in his inventory, it was clear from watching him loot for a few minutes that inventory space will be something players need to manage. While stacking can help this, the sheer variety of different creature resources will still overwhelm it. By making these things a result of intentional gathering rather than just a default loot table, and by giving players a choice of what they are gathering, inventory space becomes much more manageable.
Item Descriptions

Depending on what games someone has played in the past, they may or may not make assumptions about the items that they gather from NPCs. For example, they may assume that most loot drops are primarily for selling to an NPC merchant. This is especially true if the player has not really done much in the way of crafting in previous games. On the other hand, someone who has done a lot of crafting may assume that most of what they are picking up is a useful resource.

While my preference would be that every potential drop or resource has a use in crafting, I also think it is important that the item description call this out. This can be as simple as having the description include something like “Crafting Material”, or “Salvageable” in the item description. Essentially there just needs to be a clue in the description so that people know what might be of use to other players when deciding what to keep in their limited inventory space.

Customization

Given the way attributes work, I think it is especially important that the crafting process includes a way to customize the results (when appropriate). While most low-level equipment may not carry attribute boosts, mid- and high-level equipment should do so. It should be possible for a crafter to choose during crafting whether to create a chest piece with a focus on strength or a focus on constitution, or whether to create boots with a focus on stamina or a focus on agility. Ideally, this customization should be part of the crafting process itself.

Allowing crafters to customize the goods that they make and sell will not only help provide more meaningful choices for adventurers using those goods but will also allow the economy to support more crafters in general. If the resources needed to create equipment remain relatively rare, you can create a situation where crafters are either specializing their inventory or where they only have limited inventory to sell. By doing this, there is more room for other crafters selling similar items to operate, and the economy is less prone to extreme over- or under-supply situations.

This Isn’t Everything

While everything that I’ve talked about here is very important for the Crafting and Gathering sphere in Pantheon, there are still many other things that will matter if we want Crafting and Gathering to truly be a co-equal form of gameplay in Terminus, and not simply a side system to support adventuring. Likewise, even though there appears to be a good basis for balancing crafted items vs. other items based on what we saw last night, there are still many details that will need to be fine-tuned over the course of alpha and beta. I am looking forward to more information from VR, more discussion by the community, and ultimately being able to test and provide targeted feedback when the time comes.

I hope this analysis is useful or interesting to people and help spark further conversation between the community and the team at VR moving forward.
 
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