How do you do persistent crafting in a multiplayer world?

Nephele

Administrator
Staff member
Last week, I was fighting off a cold, and because I was not feeling all that great, my threshold for dealing with people was way lower than usual. As a result, instead of my entertainment being my usual MMO fare, I turned on the Steam client and went looking for something single-player to get lost in. What I found was a newly released crafting/farming/etc. game called My Time at Portia. Since I needed something to take my mind off the coughing, I figured why not. Look, I had a nasty cold and I wanted something I wouldn't feel guilty about not finishing. Don't tell me you haven't done the same kind of thing.

Here I am some 100 hours or so later wondering why this game is so addictive. I mean, my steam library is usually strategy games like civilization and Stellaris. I think I logged all of 15 hours in Minecraft before I decided it wasn't for me. So what's different about this one?

It turns out, I really enjoy the crafting in Portia. Not because it processes in sped-up real time as you watch patiently and wait for the machine to finish sawing planks or whatever, no. Not because you have to spend at least half your time gathering resources to make things either. And certainly not because there's not really any customization whatsoever other than how you choose to decorate your workshop. Rather, I think what has me hooked on Portia's crafting is that the items you make persist after you make them. When I made that printing press to help the newspaper get going, it's still there now every time I walk into the newspaper's office. Every time I run past a certain part of the map gleefully chopping down trees, I see the water wheel I built. The little bus stop things I use to travel around were ones I assembled myself. Not only that, but the NPCs remember and talk about my accomplishments. Like when I talk to the lady at the farm she still sometimes says thanks for the water tank I installed for her like forever ago. I can't make clothing, but I'm pretty sure if I could, the NPCs I made it for would probably wear it around town.

The things I make persist. They stay there, in the world, and add to it, and I see them and am reminded of the time and effort I put into them. It's these constant little reminders of the time I've already spent in game that keep me going - waiting for that next commission, upgrading my workshop to be ready for it, figuring out what else I can make to donate to the museum in town.

Why the hell can't we do that sort of thing in MMOs? Sure, we talk about a persistent world in an MMO, but let's be real - the bulk of the things we craft in MMOs are disposable. They're things that we will sell or trade away and never see again. The best we can generally hope for is to accidentally run into someone who's using that sword or tunic or whatever we made, but in a game with thousands of players, many others of whom are also crafting, those odds are really low.

It's not that MMOs haven't tried to make crafting feel meaningful and fulfilling to players. But in a world with so many of those players active, they can't really go around allowing us to build water wheels and windmills and bridges and whatnot - because if we could, we would do it... very quickly... and then there would be no more water wheels and windmills and bridges left to build. Maybe great for the first few dozen crafters to play the game, but nothing more than a disappointment for every crafter that comes later. So no, simply porting that style of crafting over into MMOs doesn't work either.

Imagine though if there were a way to make your crafting really persist and show up and add to the world in an MMO. Wouldn't that be a game changer? When you could log in and walk around and see stuff that YOU made that is now part of what everyone experiences? The trick, I think, is finding something that scales to the number of players (and crafters) in the game, and insuring that there's always more opportunities. For example, SWG and the way it handled everything related to crafting and housing was a credible attempt to let players build the world. Eventually though, the world was built... and then overbuilt. If it hadn't fallen apart for other reasons, eventually the urban blight and sprawl would have become a severe and serious problem in that game, just as it did in UO before it.

Phasing is another approach that could be used to provide the illusion of persistence, but it is only an illusion. Phasing is already something that a lot of MMOs use in quest lines to alter the appearance of a common space for people in different stages of the quest. So for example, if I help the town build a water tower, then when I next come through town I'll see that water tower there. However, if you haven't helped the town build a water tower, it won't be there for you - nor will anything that comes after. That's phasing. When I think about truly adding persistence to crafted items, I don't think of phasing as an actual solution. It's not shared.

A third approach would be collaborative projects that result in persistent-world effects. EQ2 did several events where players worked together to build fast travel stations (griffon towers, portal spires, and so on). While these were fun at the time, and involved hundreds of players across many servers, they weren't really part of everyone's normal day to day gameplay. You heard the event was coming, you went out and did as much as you could to finish it fast, and when it was done, you got the title. Anyone starting the game later still missed out. Another thing that became obvious over time was that once players figured out how these worked, they optimized to complete the events as fast as possible - meaning what should have taken days was instead completed in a few hours, because players stockpiled materials beforehand. So again, another attempt at making crafting persistent, that doesn't really hit the mark.

Still, there's probably a lot of room here for us as crafters to think about how games could really make what we do feel like it has an impact on the world. I have a few ideas along those lines that I might talk about at some point, but in the meantime... what does everyone else think?
 

Trasak

Apprentice
Staff member
Staff Writer
It is an interesting read and really highlights one of the issues that separate MMOs from Single person RPGS and table top. I usually think of the concept more as the players footprint on the game. Crafting is usually a very good visual representation of that footprint but the outcome of combat is also important. Even Skyrim only had a small amount of player footprint on the world though I guess that game is more than 10 years old now but it kinda set the minimum bar of what RPGs need to be.

The best way I can think of facilitating player footprints without covering the world in footprints is a cyclical dynamic world environment. The actions of players could push a macro event that may take as long as a month to push from beginning to end. At the end of that final event a change happens that forces the flow to reverse directions or return to the beginning. This is usually much easier to achieve in PVP heavy games where the two player sides are the force driving the change and not scripted events but a well defined multi zone wide spawn behavior can be used to facilitate this.

For example in a PVE environment you could have an outpost town that is constantly being harassed by goblins. The goblin camps spawn close to the town and assault squads consistently attack the town but never completely destroy it.

As players arrive they get quests to go out and push back the goblins. They can go to each of the goblin camps and destroy them. On set intervals the second ring of camps will send a strike force to rebuild a lower tier camp possibly at a different specific location. The only way to stop this reinforcement is to kill off one of the second tier camps as that will be rebuilt before the first tier ones are. In that time all the tier one camps can be destroyed.

Once the tier one area is cleared then quests will open up in the town to expand the town into the tier one area. These can include crafting quests that will effect the look and feel of the game for a time and the completing player will retain credit while it stands.



If the second tier is not kept in check or defeated they will begin assaulting these player made/quested structures and once destroyed would need to be redone. The other option is that players can force deeper into the rings of camps to further push back the goblin tribes.

Eventually through a back and forth of military attacks and infrastructure build up the city will be big enough for the goblin boss lair to become accessible. At that point a raid can be assembled to kill off the goblin lord and end their blight. Once killed the city will enter a special period of prosperity.

After a certain amount of time though a new goblin horde will sweep in from the wilds and destroy everything including the original city hub and return the valley to goblin held territory.

This will in turn open up a quest in the capital to get players to help refound the outpost and the cycle starts over.

It might be possible for the faction and reputation with that city only be effective for that iteration. After the city is destroyed you will need to build back up your faction with the new city and there may be benefits for high faction while the city is in its prosperity stage that can only be accessed if you helped in building it up.


PVP is easy in that the factions just destroy each others stuff which is basically the Camelot Unchained model.
 

Barin999

Journeyman
I do like your eq next example there Trasak, I was sold on as wel when I viewed that video.
GameSpot Trailers


A lot of it is however deeply connected and oriented towards adventuring and combat.
I would like to point to 58 secs on the video. There lies, I think, a key for making crafting persistent in Terminus.
AI.
@Nephele , yes you are correct, ones all bridges are build, there is nothing new to offer for new players or they need to make all bridges dissappear again. Or go into phases, where again the new players can not experience the "early" stages of things.
When you craft you gain experience but you gain standing /faction as wel. Every NPC crafters in the game could react differently to each player. So for example; I'm a blacksmith and all NPC blacksmiths will emote differently towards me, compared to an NPC scribe. This could envolve; difference prices, different perception pings /-quests, different products they are willing to purchase or sell to me. They could even hint towards nearby faction institutions, hidden tradeskill specific lore, recipes or working stations. I'll try to explain a bit more with this; when I'm selling bows, I'm more willing to allow a customer to try out my newest bow, when I know that costumer is a high member of the bowmen society or when I know this is a master bowmen and will not steal or ruin my expensive bow.

Another way is to work in apprenticeship-tasks in it. You, the player, are the apprentice. So if you're working on those and you come across another blacksmith, they might be able to "tell" you more about your craftingclass. Not so much that you only need to visit one blacksmith NPC, just one piece of the puzzle. When your apprenticeship is completed and you return to that blacksmith NPC, they might converse with you in a different way. Hinting back to the day you visited him for "suggestions" in the skill of Blacksmith. (If you see what I mean.)

You'll be remembered or remembered by those NPC's.
Changes in the response of NPC's might come from building up faction with tradeskill institutions. (Mind you, I'm not talking adventuring factions or city factions, but actual TRADESKILL ONLY faction NPC's). They might not look at you in the beginning, but as you gain standing, they'll greet you differently or might even offer quests or products.
What this means is: Two players enter a city. A ranger and a blacksmith walk into town and get greeted by the city guards. (based on having done some adventuring or minor quests). They go further into town and mingle with the crowd in a market. The Blacksmith gets greeted or adressed, but the ranger is not. You as a blacksmith have a persistent experience, purely based on what you've done as a crafter.

Persistence could also be, when you could lose faction if you're not envolved with said faction for a period of time. They 'forget' about your important deeds in the past. We've talked about this earlier, so I won't go into it much further. A side suggestion would be that as you gain faction, the npc's would start demanding more and more from you. What this bottles down to: as long as you keep the questlines long enough, it will feel persistent: engaging enough so you don't feel you're at the end of the line. But that's a pretty vague remark.

Badge system:
It's already been discussed several times. It bottles down to, allow players to showcase their achievements in the game. For a crafter this could in fact be some sort of badges they could wear on their appearance gear.

The NPC apprenticeships. Where you have to teach your trade to npc's. And in time, these roaming npc's would settle down for a vendorstand and you'll get a nice price on your sales as you approach your former apprentice with goods relating to their trade.

Upgrading vendor-stands. The phasing aspect of the game. Although I enjoy it quite a lot. Coming back with an alt, immediatly makes me feel on a treadmill. 'O yeah, I need to do all these first before...' Upgrading vendor stands in a town of any size, could entail providing better wooden beams, dyes, symbols, trophies, benches, fabric etc. However, I would design it so that it does require a lot of time and a lot of players to reach that cap. The difference, I would see, is that we're talking about a cover. So next expansion or season even, the npc would prefer a different look and players can start working on that new look. When a player comes around and passes the shop they've been supporting. They'll see their appearance, or when eventually it has changed, they might be intrigued to see what the npc wants this time around. Yes, it's a temporary thing, but if you work in faction gain, xp gain, certain quest rewards. All that might be enough to trigger that player to work on the next look of that shop. And when its completed, EVERY player will view the changes. A plate could state who worked on this appearance.
Now if you link this sort of content with specific tradeskills, then things get really interesting. As you'll see the shop's look, changing less frequently. And other players would be able to view/scout valuable crafters as they examine the participants plaque attached to the shop. If you design an access restriction to it, it again gets even more interesting and even more of an achievement. Now you'll see only the very skilled crafters participating on it. And those devoted crafters will have their name on the plaque. And it's those kind of crafters other players might seek out in the future.
You could in fact, build in a scaled design. Where novice crafters could aid in smaller shops and as you level up or gain faction, you're allowed to participate on more exclusive shops. This allows new players to experience this kind of content as wel. And if no one changes it, you'll return as a master crafter looking back at the novice shop and viewing, 'hey that of my doing.'

Cyclical marketing events based on your progress as a crafter. Markets come and go in a routine timetable. During the "event" npc's ask/offer things to crafters. So that could be construction, gathering or retrieving resources. Or perhaps just displaying their current skill. The last one could be, build me this difficult sword and I'll display it on my salestand. Next time around the market hits the town again. The blacksmith player has gained skills and levels, the market npc's however recall the player from his previous transactions with the market npc's. So that sword he made, is displayed on the npc's salestand. The npc's now recall the player and converse with him differently, and new content opens up. The key is that our player revisits the cyclical markets and keep seeing things he did for them in the past.
The difference here lies, in the fact that the player is not reminded every day of his connection to this market. But only when the markets hit the town and he visits those markets. (perhaps with enough standing, he could get an ingame "message"; stating, 'hi honorary member, we're back in town, care to visit again?) The message alone could give an insentive to, hey I'm a part of this world. The world responds to my actions of the past.
 

Barin999

Journeyman
@Nephele I've enjoyed those group events in EQ2 as wel. After a couple of years however, those events were really getting rushed and if you weren't on in the few starting days, you've missed it already. And that did not feel good at all. A rat race to achieving this exclusive content is anything but immersive. What I want to point out here, as things are completed. Life goes on ingame. But other then another title (of which many players don't know the meaning after a while), there is nothing linking your ingame efforts to the things that are actually permantely in the game. And that's a shame. Things get lost/forgotten the minute you've completed it. Participant boards that permanently showcase who was aiding, might be sufficient enough. Granted it's just fluff and extra dev' time, but it could be meaningful enough for crafters to feel a sense of persistence.
In rare occasions, after events are completed, the participants were allowed to display a fluff cosmetic. Sadly with eq2, they downgrated all of it, so it became easy and all access to every player that came along after the completion of the events. This removed any sense of uniqueness.

With that, ingame housing could open up a sense of persistence for the crafters.
I've had several ingame stores decorated/build in my homes. So my provisioner's home was completely designed into a bar, and similar for my woodworker, tailor etc.
When a crafter has reached a certain goal, reward, status or other unique point in their carrier. A housing item, might provide the crafter with that persistent feel. As they enter their home (I hope, would be on a regular base), they'll be reminded by those key points in their carrier. Yes, it's more subtle then a bridge in the world. But every bit helps, just imagine if it wasn't available in the game. You might experience it as a missed opportunity. And key here is; every player can view it. Just it's not just a phase thing.

Lastly (I think), my suggestion with personal vendorstands could tie in with a persistent world. Look at the salesmenstand as a displaycase. It's a standard shop, but it has a lot of options. Those options can only be filled in as the crafter covers that content. So each time they've completed an end goal, they might be able to display into their shop at a fix location.
The fix location is necessary from design point of view. So, every player is, over time, able to distinguish which crafter has done what, if they compare one shop with the other. This is viewable by all players, so that could again give it a persistent feel. As each time the crafter sets up his shop, they're displaying their history as a crafter. I'd like that very much.
 

Trasak

Apprentice
Staff member
Staff Writer
@Barin999
I've never watched that video before. Watching in though I'm not too surprised that EQ Next failed. They are leaving things too derivative and mutable such that it can easily get clogged up and and ironically meaningless.

More than fully mutable I was suggesting something that was cyclical with a limited quantity reward that must be competed for. Part of why EQ Next most likely failed is they tried to do something too big. My suggestion is more along the lines of the original Alterac Valley in WoW. The two sides spawn mobs that fight each other with objectives to capture and map quests to complete. Rather than having players on both sides only have players on one side and buff up the NPC only side. By focusing your dynamic content on a specific cycle you can limit the "choices" to a tighter band and know where you will end up if not the exact path or the time it takes to get there.

That being said both of my examples are very much adventure drive. A few months ago I made a lengthy post on NPC guilds where certain cyclical objectives are competed over between different trade guilds. This was a way to drive meaningful crafting quests where how much work you do has a visible effect on the game environment and time spent based rewards. This could be tied to doing tasks that change the world but only for a limited amount of time rather than permanent or phased.
 

Barin999

Journeyman
@Trasak I think, this video is more suited then my previous one. Keep in mind crafting content when he's talking about goblins rally call.
0xzi

minute 26.16 or starting at 31.08.

I understand what you aim for there. I did like your thread on NPC guilds especially with focus on crafting only content. It could be a nice addition.
How would you explain temporary changes being different then phased? If things are cyclical, which can be ok if there is a good story around it, would that be considered persistent?
Again, I get what you're aiming at, a prolonged visual effect of the player's efforts. So, that's pretty similar to my previous reply.
 
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