Crafting Energy, the elegant compromise between time and materials

Trasak

Apprentice
Staff member
Staff Writer
Ultimately the only resource that cannot be farmed (without violating most EULAs) is time. As such time is the most powerful tool to use to make something valuable, everything else including the most rare of items is simply an output of time spent.

One of the main reasons crafting becomes worthless in many MMOs is that it takes too little time to max crafting skills so long as characters have adequate material resources on hand. If any adventurer with enough money saved up can become a master crafter in one afternoon then the supply of master craftsman is too high for there to be any real demand. Outside of the first couple crafters to receive a BiS recipe each expansion there is no reason to seek out a specific crafter, anyone will do.

The second main reason crafting becomes worthless in MMOs is that crafting is not included in item progression except for a few one off crafter only BiS items. It is simply too easy for a crafter to crank out items between mastery being common and all items needed for crafting being by nature tradeable. If an adventurer could spend a weekend farming rare ingredients to get a BiS item why would they bother to raid week after week for a small chance at having the exact similar item they want drop.

For crafting to be meaningful it must be a conscious choice of how a player spends their gaming time to craft vs adventuring. Crafted items must also be comparable to the items in the same area that the materials come from. For balance reasons near BiS crafted must be made with materials from the zones where other BiS items drop and preferably involve defeating the same mobs that drop the BiS items. This makes the crafted items technically harder to get than the mob dropped items as they take a second step. Ideally the crafting process of a BiS item would be significantly more challenging than your average item of the same level.

The crafter/simulator nut in me ultimately would love to see a set of minigames that closely mimic the actual crafting process including opportunities for creativity and utter failure. This would make the crafting system engaging, responsive and time consuming. It would also be a bloody nightmare to create and frankly many gamers are just not that interested in full immersion. A similarly distasteful system is the dreaded one click and wait system where players are forced to sit still and watch a time bar burn down to completion. This does limit the rate at which you can level crafting but its play experience is so bad that it does not bare considering.


A system that I feel could balance the positive play experience with the need to make leveling crafting time dependant while also making crafting the most desired items tactically challenging is crafting energy.

Crafting Energy System

  1. Crafters have an exponentially increasing Energy Pool based primarily on their crafting class level (each level would add the crafting level 10s to the base pool of the previous level).
  2. Crafting Energy regenerates at an exponentially increasing rate based primarily on their crafting class level. For example a level 1 crafter will regenerate their entire 10 energy pool in 1/50th the time it takes for a level 50 crafter to regenerate their 12750 energy.
  3. Crafting classes gain experience based on the amount of energy spent on a completed crafting. The amount of energy required per tier of advancement stays relative to the base energy pool (the amount of energy that needs to be spent to go from level 49-50 is 1225 times the amount needed to go from 1-2).
  4. Each sub-combine and assembly process has its own turn based or long timed tick mini game.
  5. The number of turns/ticks required to complete a process is based on the difficulty of the process vs the crafters skill in that specific process. (I invision each crafting class having between 20-50 total individual processes that share maybe 10 ui minigames)
  6. The target quality of the process will act as a multiplier on both the number of turns to complete the process in the minigame and the amount of resources need. (a crude iron dagger would only take one bar of iron and take half the number of turns as a normal iron dagger. A Mythic iron dagger (Crude->Normal->High Quality->Exceptional->Masterwork->Mythic) would take 10 iron bars (2 for normal times 5 for 5th tier) and a terrifying normal turns^5 (yup a base of 10 turns for normal would required 100,000 turns for a mythic dagger if your small blade crafting was at skill rank 1)
  7. Item power level is a function of the base material and process quality with additives from optional materials that also increase the energy required to create the item.
  8. The amount of energy consumed per turn/tick is based on the crafters mastery of that specific base material from 1% to 100%.
  9. Masteries for both processes and material are improved by the amount of energy used while working with them. One can reach maximum crafting level without having mastered all processes or base materials available to them.
  10. All processes will have variable but non optional base material slots and optional material slots (possibly increasing with each Crafting class tier). These optional materials will have many different possible effects including; additive increased item power at the cost of an increase in number of base turns, base material modifiers that multiply the energy cost per turn will adding material qualities, consumables that decrease the number of turns to complete an item, and consumables that improve the workability of materials dropping the per turn energy cost.
  11. Each turn/tick has a chance for one or more events. These events are either opportunities that can improve the final product or decrease the total energy required to craft the item or mistakes that must be corrected or the quality will drop and the energy cost to complete the item will increase.
  12. Event response abilities cost energy to use and also have levels and are acquired in a variety of ways from crafting class progression, master teachers, special tools or special crafting stations. Each crafting class has event response abilities common to all crafters and class unique responses that can be either soloy focused on their own class or beneficial to another crafting class.
  13. GROUP CRAFTING: Crafters of both the same crafting class or different crafting classes can group up to craft an item. By grouping up crafters are able to pool their crafting energy. Very advanced crafting may have events that can only be countered by other crafting classes who have access to the response. Crafters will earn crafting experience based on the energy they provided to the crafting process both from responses and base drain.
  14. Crafters will have opportunities to gear themselves with items in various ways. Items will affect Energy Pool size, energy pool regeneration rate, grant access to responses, and give skill modifiers to both processes and materials.
  15. Top tier items will require the right combination of gear between all the grouped crafters, job assignments, the right crafting stations, high levels of coordination and a degree of luck.
I apologize that my TLDR is still a wall of text. It is difficult to condense a system into a list of bullet points without leaving out key points that balance the system vs other systems.

For those of you willing to read the system I hope you enjoyed it and might open your eyes to the possibilities both for Pantheon and crafting in other MMOs that might be able to adopt a similar system.


Trasak
 

Nephele

Administrator
Staff member
I like the overall concept of an energy pool, or some pool of "points" that are spent during crafting. I think there's two different ways to approach that concept in general:

1) Points regenerate very slowly, so the pool you have is all you have regardless of how many items you are making, and that means you will either need to plan accordingly, or take breaks, if you have a lot of items to craft.

2) Points are specific to each item that you make, and effectively serve as a limit on how much you can do to influence the outcome of the crafting process.

Thus, I have a question about the intent of what you're proposing. Are you looking for this to be a throttle on mass production? Or are you thinking about it being a throttle on how far a crafter can push the quality of an individual item? Both are worthy goals but I don't know that trying to address them both with the same mechanism is the best approach. Are you leaning more towards one, or the other?
 

Trasak

Apprentice
Staff member
Staff Writer
The really short answer is that your maximum energy pool, solo or grouped, is the limiter on the maximum complexity of an item. Your energy regeneration rate is your limit on the ability to mass produce, rather than having the mini game take 5 minutes have it take 5 minutes to regenerate enough energy to make the item.

Mass production is usually only done to speed grind while leveling a craft, consumables would be the exception. Ultimately both in terms of cheapening the value of maxing a tradeskill and the economic effect of flooding the market with many more copies of an item then the market can consume mass productions is VERY bad for the health of crafting systems. For consumables I could see a sub setting of the quality setting being quantity that would ultimately give you a total energy spent discount over making them one at a time.

I was using Crafting Energy as a very generic currency. It could potentially be subdivided into focus (for the base per tick cost), ingenuity to respond to opportunities (either a pool or a # of uses per process), reflexes to respond to errors, and knowledge that may give you general buffs and could be more like stances. In this case only focus would regenerate over time and the rest would be available each crafting.

It is also important to note that quality level of an item was intended to affect the item level. If iron was tier 1, steel tier 2, high strength steel tier 3, aluminum alloy tier 4 and titanium tier 5 with tiers being 10 levels different in base and quality levels representing a 5 level boost for each tier you could have a masterwork steel dagger having the same item level as a normal aluminum alloy dagger.

Different materials would favor different enchants and over all secondary stats as well as general availability of materials so there may be times you favor one over the other.

The exact tiers and math will need to be tweaked on item balance, target progression speed and how relatively rare max level crafters should be.
 

Nephele

Administrator
Staff member
Mass production is usually only done to speed grind while leveling a craft, consumables would be the exception. Ultimately both in terms of cheapening the value of maxing a tradeskill and the economic effect of flooding the market with many more copies of an item then the market can consume mass productions is VERY bad for the health of crafting systems. For consumables I could see a sub setting of the quality setting being quantity that would ultimately give you a total energy spent discount over making them one at a time.
I consider myself about average for a dedicated crafter, in terms of how much crafting I might do during a single play session. I have met many players who spend far more time of their time crafting than I do. Let me provide some real-game examples based on how I personally have crafted in various games, we can think about how the energy pool concept would apply to these:

EverQuest:

I would sit in the Greater Faydark and advertise banded and bronze armor at 1-2pp/ac (the standard for my server). Before doing this I would usually spend 30-40 minutes pre-making a set of each armor type, and then just make more as the orders came in. I would do this for a few hours and generally walk out of it with a bunch of crafting skillups and a small profit. During a high-traffic session I might craft as many as 50 armor pieces.

EverQuest II:
My strategy with crafting items for sale via an auction house/market board is to only make one of each item (unless it's consumable or in very high demand) so that I don't compete with myself by getting myself into a price war - because yes, there are lots of people (or, sadly, bots) that seem to spend every waking moment looking at market prices and then repricing everything they have to undercut anyone that looks like a serious competitor. In EQ2, I would generally have anywhere from 100-200 items listed on the broker at a time (I had several characters running different crafting professions). Each week, I would look at what had sold, and then devote a play session to a "restock", where I would cycle through those characters and make whatever needed to be put back up for sale. Some things (like armor or weapons) sold relatively slowly, while other things (like backpacks or arrows) sold out almost every single week. Still, in an average week, and counting components that I needed for my other characters, I would have generally 20-50 items to make on each character during my restock session.

SWG:
In SWG I sold items via my NPC vendors, who were listed on the galactic market (so that people could find them) but still based out of my city. Each vendor only had limited space and I only had so many of them, so my sales strategy was to list only small quantities of finished items like blasters or ship engines, and larger quantities of consumables like grenades or missiles or repair kits. SWG had customization built into crafting, so it was possible to make multiple variants of the same item, but in general most players only looked at a few attributes so actual variety wasn't really encouraged as much as it could have been, and as a result I tended to just stick with only one or two "formulas" for the things I would make. SWG had factories where mass production could be handled offline - so you as the crafter would make the initial schematic (which was the same as making a finished item), and then you pass that schematic and the materials to the factory and it churns out however many you had set it for. I would still spend several hours each week dedicated to making schematics, along with near-daily runs out to harvesters to gather their resources,, refuel them, or move them around if the resources had shifted. At the height of my crafting career in SWG (due to my reputation, quality, and prices) I was selling 100-300 items a week from my vendors and restocking about the same amount through a combination of prototyping and factory crafting. A particulary heavy week might cause me to have to spend 8-10 hours in game just working on restocks, and that's with the factories assisting me.

Vanguard:
Vanguard featured item customization during crafting, meaning that if I made five iron longswords, I could make each one different from the others in terms of the resulting stats. As such my strategy for making and selling items was generally to make a variety of them with stat bonuses (and procs, when applicable) that made sense - not all the possible combinations really did (no one would buy a sword with an INT bonus, for example). Once I learned the system, I generally operated the same way that I did in the games above, where I would spend full play sessions of 6-8 hours crafting items to sell, then put those up for sale, and come back the next week and do it again. During a crafting session, if a lot of things had sold that week, I might craft 30-50 finished items, each of which consisted of multiple steps like smelting the ore, making the components, and so on.


I think a design goal for your system needs to be to set things up so that the player who wants to spend their time crafting is never prevented from doing that. It's ok to put in minor waits in between individual crafts (ie, taking a minute or two for that bar to refill before you start the next one), but if you put them in a position where they can't do anything for multiple minutes or hours, you're just going to make them unhappy by breaking their groove.

I do agree with using energy as a throttle on how far you can push an individual item. However I think for producing multiple items, the throttle should be more in the time it takes per item in general.
 

Trasak

Apprentice
Staff member
Staff Writer
@Nephele

I think I am seeing your point and at the same time trying to think up a good solution on how it fits together. Ill tell you my analysis of your situations and how I think the energy system would effect it.

EQ: I believe the banded mail you described is the perfect flow of crafting and adventuring through you were stuck selling at the same time. Sadly I think the banded mail example was a fairly unique fluke for several reasons. First at that time in EQ there really just wasn't much mob drop gear in the economy. What was there was not much better than banded mail. Secondly banded mail was great up to almost level 30 if I remember and most of the player density was in the first 30 levels at the time. So what we had was the optimum demand for a crafted product. As soon as the average level shifted higher and all that banded mail rolled down the market the active crafting market was basically killed off. Even by Kunark banded hey day was over.

I would love to see that level of players seeking out crafters to make their gear rather than just hitting the auction house for what ever mob dropped item high level players are liquidating. This is honestly more of an issue with the fact that crafting itemization basically was worthless shortly after launch with a short term spike with 2nd round racial gear and leather velious pieces.

My experience with crafting in EQ was farming a LOT of silk then making bags full of heady kiola and burning through both for only a few skill raises in maybe 100th the time I spent farming. The energy system here could have significantly reduced the amount of time I spent farming for the same amount of skill ups.

EQ2: I believe originally EQ2 had a much more time consuming and interactive crafting process that ended up being a major time constraint. My primary dislike of EQ2 was that it was still specific recipe based so you would only make an item if that named item happened to be itemized in a valuable way. I only played EQ2 a little a few years ago and everything had been over expanded and the challenge nerfed to pieces.

Again the energy regen I am not sure would make a significant different in the output or leveling speed.

SWG: SWG had item decay so therefor the rate at which items could be cranked out was significantly less important for supply and demand as there was always new demand until those indestructible tickets. I am not sure I would bother with an energy system though I might set a pretty harsh per out limit on factories.

Vanguard: The more I hear about Vanguard crafting the more I regret not playing it and the tragedy of other systems not being as good. As Vanguard never had an expansion I have no idea how it would have handled long term viability. If Pantheon crafting ends up closer to Vanguard than anything else I think we will be in fairly good shape. As Chris had a lot to do with Vanguard crafting hopes are high. My main concern is with the focus on named items. Itemization that prizes recognizable named items directly hurts the drive to have valuable but generic looking customized gear.


The main take away I see is for some form of crafting activity that takes time but not energy and is optional. Optional to the point that primary crafting only characters would choose to do it but adventurers would rather spend money to avoid. I could see crafting your own reagents through a time consuming minigame that perhaps even regenerates energy. I could also see sub combines being energy free and single quality and only the final assemblies require energy such that a crafter paces es themselves doing an item all the way through such that there is no down time for energy regen. Additionally the time it takes for a crafter to run his/her product to the commissioning NPC could eat up the down time.

Either way your point is well received and bares thinking about. The intent is to make crafting time dependent rather than material dependent, not an exercise in boredom tolerance.
 

Nephele

Administrator
Staff member
EQ2: I believe originally EQ2 had a much more time consuming and interactive crafting process that ended up being a major time constraint. My primary dislike of EQ2 was that it was still specific recipe based so you would only make an item if that named item happened to be itemized in a valuable way. I only played EQ2 a little a few years ago and everything had been over expanded and the challenge nerfed to pieces.
There were only two real differences between EQ2 crafting at launch and EQ2 crafting after the big nerf.:

1) At launch, you needed to make or obtain subcomponents before you could craft the finished item (hilts, patterns, etc). About a year into the game, this was changed so that you only needed the raw materials that you would have used on the subcomponents, and could proceed straight to making the finished item. The actual time required to complete an item and the time spent crafting remained roughly the same, although this vastly reduced interdependence between different crafting professions - so if you were someone who ran 7 alts to make all your own subcomponents, it absolutely saved you some time.

2) At launch, there were different "grades" of finished items, with Grade A, or Pristine, being the best in terms of resulting stats, and Grade D being a useless failure. When crafting was changed about a year into the game, Grade B and Grade C results were completely removed - you either made it Grade A (which was trivial once you learned when to use your reactions) or you failed and got a useless item back. The process of crafting remained exactly the same, so there was no time savings involved. As a note, this might sound like a horrible nerf, but the truth is that prior to this change, the only thing that would sell was Grade A anyway. So in that regard it actually did new crafters a very small favor - at least, for another year or so before it got to where the only thing anyone would buy was an item made using rare materials.

At any rate, as mentioned, neither of these changes really impacted how much time one would spend crafting to any great degree, with the exception of edge cases where people were trying to avoid interdependence by doing everything themselves.
 

Trasak

Apprentice
Staff member
Staff Writer
The validity of different quality levels for roughly the same recipe is entirely dependent on how itemization and the level power scale functions.

In my example rather than saying quality levels I could have said item tiers from tier 0.5 to tier 5. Each tier takes more of the same base raw material and takes exponentially more energy to craft representing that a higher level skill is required to craft it. Both the design tier and the raw material tier would affect the final item level. This only works if you are restricted by level on what items you can use and you always want to have the highest item level you can use.

In a logarithmic power growth system I would only have 3 quality tiers; poor/failure, normal and masterwork. Poor/failure would be junk results that you would immediately salvage and not gain any experience for. Normal would be basic items that you succeeded on that would be acceptable results for crafting writs to npcs and in an item decay system would be serviceable tools with a good cost ratio. Masterwork items would really only be craft able by someone at or close to mastery in both the technique and material being used. The masterwork version would only be maybe 10% better than normal items but due to the cost of enchanting items only masterwork items are worth enchanting/adding optional power ups.

Materials themselves would have a couple tiers as well. 0.5 for low strength materials (bronze, bone, stone, bone, rabbit pelts, common weeds, blue gill, pine and the like. Tier 1 would be the workhorse materials that most things are made from at relatively full strength and would include things like iron->steel, oak and maple, bull hides and exotic animal pelts, porcelain, garden grown medical herbs, copper/silver/gold, common gems. Tier 2 would be materials with roughly the same strength as tier 1 but would have special attributes and would be much rarer to find. Tier 3 would be your magical materials that have both special properties and increase the design strength by 10% or so and would be extremely rare or would require extensive and expensive preprocessing of tier 1 and 2 materials.

All that being said I can understand why EQ2 dropped the quality levels once they trivialized the responses. Also as I said before strict recipe systems will have items become worthless much faster than a design systems where materials have trade offs..
 

Autherial

Apprentice
Staff member
Staff Writer
I really like this idea, mainly because it it begins to delve into the major problems with crafting in mmo's. You don't want to be able to flood the market with cheap crafts, you also don't want to just have hundred's of crafters using the same skill set making the same things. So it comes down to how do you control this, how do you reduce market manipulation while still providing a rewarding experience. Which goes brings up the other issue, how to make the crafting process fun yet complicated enough to provide uniqueness, without detracting from the enjoyment of it. Also from a development standpoint making the system that runs smooth and has as little bugs in it as possible. A crafting system too complex you might have to have one coder dedicated to just crafting haha.

So I tend to look at other examples where this has been done. Archage had the work points system where you had a certain amount, and as you gathered or crafted those work points where used up, then you had to wait until the regenerate. Black Desert Online has something similar, they have energy and you expend that energy gathering and crafting, the higher your skill the less energy it takes, at some ranks you can gather or craft and it doesn't use any energy. So I can see the value in a system like this for Pantheon.
 

Barin999

Journeyman
@Trasak It's a good summary of various threads we've been discussing on this forum.

The material tiers-design could make the item output explode and the markets will need to be designed so that this number of different items can maintain their value and still be delivered to the market for costumers.
One issue might be; over time, if I know that oak will render me a better item then when I use bone.. Bone itself will drop in value perhaps even to the point of being pointless.
So the tiers in materials might have a temporary effect, but on the long term it's effect will be numbed down, based on the knowledge of the game and the items in it.
If you'ld keep this system going, over time, it might just look like too much hassle for a temporary thing. One could doubt the choice of this design at that time.

Still, it's a nice concept and it would work well with the nr. 10. statement in your initial message.

Edit: I'ld like to add something that could work with your suggestion @Trasak ;

We'll have to see how the dev's of Pantheon choose to design their balance between item value, crafting time, quantity and the entertainement factor.
 
Last edited:
Top