"Fulfillment" through Crafting

Nephele

Administrator
Staff member
Yesterday I got involved in a discussion about loot vs. crafting with some other Pantheon supporters. The topic of the discussion was whether crafted items should be competitive with looted items and whether that should extend all the way to the "top end" of items in the game. As you might expect, my position was that yes, they should be competitive, but there were plenty of other supporters whose thoughts I respect who weren't so sure.

At the core of the debate was a simple concept: How do you make an activity in game meaningful and fulfilling for players?

For many players (including most crafters), loot is a really important component of adventuring gameplay. It functions as a reward system which helps make the experience of overcoming combat challenges much more fulfilling for people. It gives those players things to look forward to and goals to strive for which get them to go out and challenge themselves against tougher and tougher things. It's very important that those looted items feel both meaningful and special. This makes a lot of sense when you think about it. If what you loot is mundane and useless, it's not really a reward, is it? You don't really feel like the game is recognizing your accomplishment.

One of the main reasons why people say they don't want crafted items to be competitive with loot, is that they fear that the loot will be less valuable, less meaningful. If anyone can go to the market and buy a +3 sword, how is a looted +3 sword a worthwhile accomplishment? After all, all those other players had to do was go farm up some cash, and now they can have a +3 sword too even though they probably didn't do the hard content that you did.

On the flipside of that though, if a game is going to have crafting in it, then that crafting needs to be fulfilling for players that do it. While some crafters are content to simply make consumable items like potions or food, or to have crafting relegated to a side game that doesn't really compete with looted items, the reality is that many crafters are not. That's because of where fulfillment from crafting comes from - if fulfillment from loot is about discovery and reward, then fulfillment from crafting (at least, in my opinion) is probably more related to creation and socializing. Those are really abstract terms so I'll explain: Creation means that we get fulfillment from creating something new. Socializing means that we want those items we create to be useful and meaningful to others.

This is why I tend to argue that there shouldn't be artificial restrictions on what can and can't be crafted in MMOs. If you can loot a +3 sword, you should be able to craft a +3 sword. Saying things like "well, you can craft +2 swords but not +3 swords" doesn't really sit right with me because it impacts the fulfillment I get from crafting all-up. Likewise, saying things like "You can't craft swords, but you can loot them, and you can't loot cloaks, but you can craft them" doesn't really work either, for similar reasons (not to mention it really stretches believability to do something like that - I mean, who made the swords you're looting?). Finally, saying something like "crafters can't make +3 swords but they can augment them" doesn't really work either, because it works against the Creation aspect.

Because of this, at the end of it all I still end up saying that crafted items need to be competitive with looted items. You can't have one be "better" then the other because it would harm the fulfillment players get from the other system. Artificial restrictions end up harming player enjoyment of those systems for the same general reasons. That doesn't mean that you can't balance things so that looted items and crafted items are equally valuable. No one said it had to be really easy to craft a +3 sword or that crafters should be able to simply churn out dozens of them every day. Likewise, no one said that the +3 crafted sword had to be identical to the +3 looted sword - there can, and should be distinctiveness between items that players use, whether those are looted and crafted. I think a key point that people tend to forget in debates about this is that if there's only one or two items that are "the best", then the game has failed to provide players with meaningful choices. That's true whether we're talking about looted items, crafted items, or both.

This is a topic that I'm sure a lot of people have thoughts on, so please feel free to post your thoughts below!
 
That's a big can of worms, righ there. I love to sink my teeth in to.
I'll divide it into two replies.

This topic lends itself easely to become; what do you want it to be. But that's not the question here, so in a way one needs to talk about this topic in a certain setting. This to prevent it from becoming a filosophical discussion.

First up; Do the dev's want to design choices in the game?
Yes, obviously. One of these choices: you can fight your way to get loot or you can craft your way to get loot. Ingame economy is their real design choice. If there would be no such thing, then crafting would indeed be a side game.
No player is obligated to exclusively kill for gear or to craft for gear.

What I've understood so far, is that they designed to economy to be meaningful and not a trashcan for selling useless items. What makes an economy matter in this game? Well that there are opportunities to place and find items that are on par with what one could normally expect to encounter in the world. It is, after a all, a "real" in-world (read in-game) economy, driven by the playercommunity. Or at least that what the dev's are stating they are designing it for. One needs to really consider how to place this term 'in-world economy'.

The best way is to actually look at a real life economy.
Allow me to try and give an example: adventure looted item = factory product (no disrespect) and a crafted item = artisanally produced item. What I mean here with factory product, is that one doesn't see who made it, it's generated and put out in the world to be bought by everyone. This is somewhat similar with a dungeon or mob drop loot, it's generated for players to have acces to. The cost and time invested in the product is not weighing on the value of the looted product (or has none, since its generated ingame).
If actual artisans put their products on the real life markets, they usually aim for a high quality and placing a price on a product becomes a real consideration. Here, the real life crafter needs to make decisions if they want to survive/be successful in the economy. The artisan has to calculate the value of their resource regeneration and the frequency of that and the actual time they invested in creating the item becomes very important (amongst other factors).

Now we go back to align this consideration with what we know so far of the design choices the dev's of Pantheon made.
Time investment will be a thing in game. Be that adventurer or crafter.
The fact that adventurers will go out and kill mobs is a given. On the other side, they are designing a game where crafters will be spending more time then in most mmo's. Now this time-investement needs to be weighed into productvalue or prices on the ingame economy. Failing to do so, will cause players to avoid crafting or playing the game altogether if crafting was their playstyle. This sounds very much like what's happening in other mmo's today, which again is something the dev's stated they want to avoid from happening.

So far, this was concerning generally produced products, be that generated ingame (by drops) or by crafters. From this point alone, players can reach financial security (ingame ofc). Just keep selling dropped loot or keep selling commonly crafted goods at market prices. AS LONG AS the time invested to get the loot or goods is in balance with the price, one gets from it. From this point it could already turn ugly, but let's say that it doesn't.
Now, not every players wants to play the game of grind or enjoys this kind of play for a long period of time.

And so now we turn to, items more valueable then the general output.
What are those? For adventurers this could be, from a difficult fight or a rare/unique fight or something that took a very long time to obtain. For crafters, items made with rare components, rare/unique recipes, something that took a lot of time to achieve, their place in the ingame economy or chosen market (such as: guild of friendslist).
Here, I turn back to the real life economy-example.
Instead of the factory products, the advenurers have chosen to look for a niche-product. They are willing to get the product with a nice Label/Brand on it. Who made it is still unknown, but at least the product's name has gotten Value as wel. And the adventurer finds that important. Now they have a sense of achievement, they are walking around with a "Gucchi-Ashen bow". It has costs them a lot of cash/effort/time to get it and they are rightfully proud of it.
The artisan in this part of to the comparison is now aiming to place its products in a more high end market. They do not aim to compete with supermarket items, it becomes more exclusive now. Their resources might become more expensive and not as frequently available to them. A higher quality product is their result and they place a price on it that is higher as wel. This to cover their costs and their decision not to stick to general goods and resources. It's an economic risk for them, and with the higher price, they hope to turn that into profit. Ingame 'mastercrafters' (if I may use that word here for a moment) have very similar choices to make. They have more unique and higher end recipes that they can craft from and with some more effort than usual they can obtain the resources to make it. This for them puts a pressure on the price again, to raise it if they want to maintain economically viable.

One could say that last one included raidcontent as wel. It's not.
Lastly, I turn to exclusive items and products.
What can we gather from the dev's design so far.
It's known that this game will have raid content. For adventurers so far, this means exclusive gear.
The value of this exclusive gear will be not comparable to the investment that players made to obtain gear lower then that. But so far, the crafters' gear and the looted gear could have the same ingame-value. Up to this point at least.
The dev's have not stated so far that there will be any design towards "epic-crafts". This void of information could be interpreted differently. It does not include or exclude this in future designchoices.
 
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Meaningful and fulfillment will be determined differently depending on the playstyle.
In a broad sense you'ld have three divisions: a) crafters, b) adventurers and c) those inbetween.
I doubt Pantheon is willing to design in a format that would exclude any of the divisions.

For players that aim to kill and explore, loot obtained from such content would be enjoyable. They will seek to experience it again.
For players that aim to craft and explore, items will need to be derived from a different aspect of the game. (Not excluding possible combinations such as dropped resources or recipes on a kill).
Lastly, the third division has little issue with either aspects of the game, as long as they are able to dive in as far as they desire and the reward is well worth their efforts.

How rewards are perceived is again very dependent on the playstyle and expectations of each individual player. It would be a list too long to summarize here.

Loottables of a mob do not garantee that specific loot each time you kill the mob. So it might take a while for an adventurer to have the chance to loot that item and to actually own it.
If you want to equalize the value of dropped items and crafted items, this needs to be considered.
A crafter would have to spent as much time as the other one is spending on trying to get certain loot.
It quickly shows, that the gathering, creation and selling process of crafted items should take quite a long time.
In order to maintain a fun-factor in crafting, one is not always able to design that the time spent. So that it is equal in both drops and craft. When you design it so that crafted items can be produced and sold more quickly then a player can obtain it from killing. This will impact the economic value. Depending on the rarity of that item, it will vary substantially.
In any case, the crafted item has (usually) taken less time investement then the other.
A quick hind-thought: what if mobs didn't drop 'trash/general'-loot as frequently..how would that impact the value of it and what kind of goods can a crafter make and put on the market that provides similar value..(temps? consumables?).

Now again, who's buying or looting the item will vary on what playstyle one has. Some might choose not to look on the broker, some might just do only that. Is one better then the other? No.
If the player has a good time killing and trying to get his loot. Then what ever item is resulting from his effort might just suffice for him to keep going at it.
If the crafter has a fun time, harvesting, buying, creating and selling goods. Then, it might provide enough motivation to keep crafting.

Should the stats of the item reflect the market value of an item. Yes, and it most likely will be that case in this game as well. This brings me to inferior products. If you restrict crafters to producing inferior products (just under the loottable-stats), then you'll loose crafters. It would be clear as day, that crafter would be designed to be an inferior thing ingame. A side game, optional if you have some extra time. Crafters are usually looking to be competitive with others and other items ingame.
My suggestion here; if they are not allowed to create the same items as in the loottable. Allow stats to be different but within the same range. So a dropped sword might offer 3str and 3sta, but a crafted one might offer 3mit and 3 sta. So it's up to the buyer and their playstyle to choose which items suit them the most. Also minor adaptations on the looted items, done by the crafter might be a way to close the gap.

I'll try to end here by saying:
I have a fulfilling time crafting, when I've enjoyed collecting my resources, learning my skills/recipes, when I have a riskful thrilling crafting experience and I can enjoy selling my wears. I want to invest time in it, even so much that I might not even get to stage of selling an item in one 2hour session. But I can look forward to putting it on the market next time I log on. Or when I can log off with my inventory stuffed to the brim, ready for a crafting session during my next gaming session.
The cashreturn, is nice when it's balanced. This will depend on how the loottable and recipes are spread out or woven into each other.
Seeing that we don't know that in this game, it's all very much still in the air.
 
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Trasak

Apprentice
Staff member
Staff Writer
All in game items should be the product of a recipe. This needs to be done for no other reason than to control game balance. The appearance and the flavor text of an item does not have an effect on game balance and therefor can be more arbitrarily assigned.

Even raid items will need to be designed using some point buy formula otherwise you will end up with a mix of garbage items and dev pet items of extreme power. It is a very short step to translate the point buy choices into equivalent materials appropriate to the theme of the area the item dropped in or the lore it originated from. These materials could be swapped into the generic versions of the item to create a replica of the dropped items without special flavor text or unique graphics.

Getting all the materials to create the replica of the dropped item and finding a crafter with the ability to use all the materials at the same quality level of the dropped item will be much more difficult than camping a named mob until it drops the item. Assuming there are zero no drop items out side of epic quest rewards as previously hinted then there is no increase in the level of availability for non raiders to get a raid level item as they could already buy the drop directly.

Where things get more challenging is when/if raid items become untradeable. Untradeable items have the restriction of needing to be present to receive and therefor any matching crafted item would also need to have some form of similar flag to be able to use. The specifics of that can be hammered out but assuming an appropriate participation flag is met even untradeable items should be able to be copied with the same resources, skill levels and crafting stations of the original item.

The benefit of crafted items comes in from customization. A crafter could combine different types of ingredients to create an item that does not have a matching dropped item but would have an equivalent item power point buy with the crafters skill level being a point buy free power boost if over the required skill level. Crafted items will also have more flexibility to match a players desired ascetic, the desired stats could be added to a players desired appearance within a reasonable range of choices for the materials used in construction of the item.
 
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