"Needs" - dynamic crafting and gathering content

Nephele

Administrator
Staff member
This is a refinement of something that I have talked about before, so it may seem similar to things I've said in past discussions. I'm posting it because I had one of those moments a short while ago where things just "clicked" in my brain and everything suddenly fit together with crystal clarity. I'm posting this idea for everyone to read, comment, and expand upon. It's something that I hope the game will do.



Before I get to the idea itself, I wanted to do a quick rundown of my position on some things. This will hopefully make it a bit easier to understand where the idea is coming from:

1) I want crafting to be very integrated with the game world. Just as players go out and adventure all throughout the world, players should also go out and craft or harvest all throughout the world. It shouldn't just be an activity that's confined to cities.

2) I like the idea of crafting quests, similar to what was seen in Vanguard - but I absolutely do NOT like the idea of repeatable crafting writs or work orders as seen in EQ2. Content should be there to add story narrative to the crafter's journey, not as a grinding mechanism.

3) I want NPC factions to really matter for crafting and gathering as well as for adventuring, and to be something that a player might choose to continue doing for a long period of time, rather than simply grinding the faction up to a certain level for some reward.



4) I want crafters to be forced (somewhat) to travel in order to continue their advancement and progression, just as adventurers must.



So, here is the idea:

Structures and Conditions

In the world, there are various buildings and structures. Guard towers, merchant shops, inns, and so on. We walk by them all the time, use their services. But do we ever stop to think about the NPCs working there? How do those structures get built? How do they get repaired after bad weather or other events? Where do the NPCs get replacement equipment and tools, or even lunch?

What I propose is that each and every NPC structure and building in the game, or at least many of them, have a "condition" associated with it, that independently decays over time.

Conditions work on a scale as follows:

Destroyed - the building or structure is in an unusable state. The NPCs that would be based there are simply not present or can't perform their function.

Very poor - the building or structure needs serious repairs, the NPCs that are based at that structure are missing or barely able to perform their jobs.

Poor - the building or structure needs repairs, the NPCs that are based at that structure are hindered from performing their jobs.

Average - the building or structure is in decent shape, and the NPCs that are based there are able to function at normal levels.

Good - the building or structure is in good repair, and the NPCs that are based there are functioning above average.

Excellent - the building or structure is in great shape, and the NPCs that are based there are well-supplied and functioning at their peak.





The Inn in the Wilderness - Part 1

As an example of how conditions work, consider an Inn that sits along the road in the Wilderness. The Inn offers a place for food and respite to travelers. Merchants frequent it and do business with passing adventurers. Guards stop there along their patrols to keep the roads safe. Or at least, that's what happens when things are working.

But what happens if that Inn falls into disrepair? The innkeep has to raise prices because he's trying to keep the place running. The merchants stop coming as often or have less of a selection and higher prices when they do. The guards don't come through as often either, since they don't really want to go out of their way to stop by what's sure to be a ruin in the near future.

So, as an example of how this works, let's say that our Inn has fallen on hard times and is in Very Poor condition. The building itself has been damaged. The guards almost never come by. The innkeep only has the most basic supplies. And the only merchant that ever shows up is a shady looking fellow who charges prices akin to highway robbery.

In his desperation, the innkeep has posted a small bulletin board outside with a list of things he needs to try and improve the condition of his inn. Given how bad things are, he's just focused on the basics right now.

- Wooden planks and nails for performing repairs

- Various gathered resources for the kitchen

- Spears and crossbow bolts for the guards to use if they ever start coming by again.

Players who are passing by have the opportunity to turn in some of those items to the innkeep via a nearby drop box. When doing so, they'll be rewarded with a small amount of coin, as well as some faction standing.



Improving Conditions

Since buildings and structures can have conditions, and those conditions govern how the NPCs attached to those structures function, it becomes possible for players to help raise the condition of the building or structure. This is done by fulfilling the Needs of the structure and its attached NPCs.

In the case of my example of the Inn, the innkeep is fighting just to keep the place standing, so right now, his needs are very basic - things that are critical for him to make repairs and turn conditions around. If players fulfill those needs however, the condition of the Inn improves. The kitchen is stocked with basics, so the innkeeper has a better selection and slightly better prices. The shady merchant is replaced by a few more reputable sorts with a better selection of things. And the guards notice the change and start stopping by a little more often.

But, just because the Inn is doing a little better doesn't mean that it still doesn't have Needs. In fact, the Needs have evolved as the condition has improved.



The Inn in the Wilderness - Part 2

With his most critical needs now met, the Innkeep is able to focus more on making his Inn very successful. In order to do this, he's going to need a lot of things however. New dining tables and chairs, for starters - the furniture he has is mostly broken or barely holding together. He'd also like to get some more exotic things for the kitchen, maybe some additional types of meats or ales to have on hand for a better menu. He's also lobbying the kingdom's guards to create a permanent post at the Inn, so that instead of waiting for the weekly patrol, the patrol is based there - but to do that, he'll have to make sure they have supplies on hand to use.



When players look at the innkeep's bulletin board they notice that his needs have changed and are now more complex than they used to be. Instead of simple planks, food supplies, and weapons, now the inn needs finished furniture, cloth and leather, as well as some sets of armor and weaponry for the guards. In addition, the innkeep wants to get a few barrels worth of good ale, as well as additional prepared foods such as smoked meat, cheeses, and so on.

Of course, since the Innkeep's business is doing better now, he can afford to pay a bit more for these things when they're delivered.



Evolving and Randomizing Needs

As you can see from the example, as the condition of the building improves, it's needs evolve and change. But things can go in the other direction as well. If players neglect the needs of the Inn for long enough, or if an orc raid sweeps through or a violent storm occurs, the condition of the inn might degrade. The building might now need repairs again, for example. This means that those more basic needs will sometimes reappear, alongside more advanced needs.

In game terms, fulfilling a need influences condition by some amount. If we think of a building's condition as a scale from 0 to 10,000, then bringing wooden planks to help repair the building might improve that condition by 200 points. Once the condition rises above a certain amount (let's say 4,000 for this example), new needs, like furniture, appear on the list, alongside any remaining old ones. The key with these higher-level needs is that while they pay better in terms of coin, they may actually influence condition less. This means that the higher a building's condition, the harder it becomes to influence it upwards. It's still possible with concerted effort, but getting a building to Excellent condition (10,000) takes a serious amount of work. At the same time, the rate of decay insures that if players stop contributing to a building's Needs, condition will begin to deteriorate.

The other thing that's important about Needs is that they should be somewhat randomized. The inn might not always actually need furniture. Furniture is one of the needs that might pop up based on its condition, but if the innkeep just got new tables yesterday, he probably doesn't need any more for a bit.

In the list of different potential needs for the Inn, each Need might have some different numbers associated with it:

- Percentage chance for that Need to spawn at a certain condition. Needs might be able to spawn on the list at multiple conditions

- Amount of condition points generated by fulfilling the Need

- Amount of coin/faction awarded by fulfilling the Need



What this means is that some Needs could be more common than others. For example, any time the Inn hits Very Poor condition, it's a safe bet that wood planks are needed. However, at Poor and Average, there's still a chance the Inn needs more wood planks - just a smaller chance than if it were at Very Poor.



Scaling the system out worldwide

To explain how the idea works, I used a single example of a single building in a single zone. But the point of this kind of system isn't that it's just selectively applied to one or two buildings here or there - it should ideally be applied to everything that makes sense, everywhere in the world. Whether we're talking about an Inn, a stable, a guard tower, a blacksmith's shop, or even just a bridge across a river, there should be work everywhere for the crafters and gatherers who go looking for it.

By fulfilling the Needs of the different buildings in the world, crafters and gatherers not only get to practice their trade and gain some coin and faction, but they also improve the services provided by those buildings as well. Everything from better prices at merchants, to new services becoming available, to even just more and better-equipped guards on the roads to help keep them safe. This means that now, instead of Needs just being a personal experience, they become a way for those crafters and gatherers to enhance the experience of everyone else as well.



Logical Extensions

I've tried to outline the basics of the idea here, but this could be expanded further:

- The game could track the overall condition of zones as an aggregate of the condition of buildings in that zone, and dynamically trigger zone events (both good and bad) or even change spawn cycles based on that information. As civilization expands, the monsters are pushed back... but monster raids become more frequent and targeted as well.

- Players might come across buildings that are completely destroyed (0 condition) and by rebuilding them, open up new additional content for everyone. For example, repairing the bridge across the gorge allows players to access a part of the zone they couldn't get to before.

- Thinking forward to outposts and housing which we hope to see in expansions, the concept of condition could apply to player built structures as well, and be used in addition to traditional coin upkeep to help act as an economic balance.



Anyway, that's the concept. I think that if Pantheon could implement this it would make for a much more integrated crafting and gathering sphere than we have seen in other games. I hope, if nothing else, that it's gotten everyone else thinking about the possibilities :)
 

Barin999

Journeyman
I'm short on time but I'll reply more extensively later on.
First off, yes, fun read. Enjoyed it.
This reads as a nice storyline for craftingquests. They are also within my expectations. The idea of things changing visually and degrading is also nice.
What I did not read however was the location where the crafters doing the actual crafting. As you stated, it should not be oriented within city boundaries alone. So my remark would be, depending on the needs, craftingstations might be present (in any kind of condition). The harvesting and recipe bit is still up to the crafter, but at least they can fulfill the order locally, instead of traveling back to hometown to craft. Which brings the direct downside ofc, pulling away the community out of the cities, especially crafters might make the towns empty out. It's something to consider when producing an amount of quests, such concept as you suggested.

to be continued.
 

Nephele

Administrator
Staff member
I purposely left details like that out because the system doesn't actually depend on them. Whether you allow someone to craft right there, or you make them go back to the nearest crafting station to do it, it doesn't matter. It works either way ;)

My philosophy: I feel like it's important that when we talk about different aspects of what we want to see in Pantheon, we set them up so that they can work together without hard dependencies. After all, we're not the ones making the game - so at best, our ideas may just help spark the imagination of the actual developers. While it's fun to flesh out all the details and generate a complete end-to-end picture, whenever we do that, we're immediately assured that it will never actually happen in-game. By presenting high-level concepts that can fit together in different ways, there's a better chance that some of our ideas make it into the final game - and possibly, even put together in better ways than we ourselves imagined.

Plus keep in mind this isn't just crafting. It's entirely possible that a Need might be for gathered resources as well.
 

Trasak

Apprentice
Staff member
Staff Writer
Due to the size of the game and how hand crafted the zones I don't think that decaying buildings fit Pantheon but I do love the idea in general.

On a more helpful note I think there might be a way to get some of what you are after even in Pantheon.

In my mind your idea breaks down into three parts.

1) NPCs need Non static lists of crafted goods

2) Non trivial transportation of crafted goods to said NPCs

3) Crafting of crafted goods or collection of raw materials

I could see giving all NPCs that have an actual function a list of items that they want over a given time. Depending how much they want it they can offer different levels of rewards. How fulfilled their needs are could also affect the level of services that they are willing to offer and certain desirable functions will only be available when all of their needs are currently met.

Anyone who delivers the items the NPC needs will get the reward and anyone who accessed the NPC while the NPC has all their needs met will be able to access the desirable functions assuming that they have high enough faction.

What this will do will create a player driven consumption of crafted goods for the purposes of keeping key NPCs fully satiated as well as an opportunity for crafting only players to craft goods and deliver them where they are needed most. This will hopefully generate a cyclical craft and consume process that will allow for a crafter player to focus on crafting and selling rather than mostly harvesting and a little crafting.
 

Nephele

Administrator
Staff member
Copying/pasting from my response to you on the supporter forums Trasak re: world size, just for continuity.

I love where you went with this but I think you misunderstand what I was going for here :)

This is something that can work regardless of how big the zone is - the only thing that's needed is for the structures that are in that zone to be addressible objects in some way so that a condition can be tracked for them. That works whether it's a "small, hand-crafted zone" or a massive place full of player-buildable structures.

Think about it. A bridge is a bridge, regardless of how big the zone it's in happens to be. Same for an inn, a tavern, a guard barracks, a stable, a blacksmith's shop, etc. If you can see a thing in the world, there's no reason that it couldn't use this system, regardless of how it got to be there in the first place.
 

Trasak

Apprentice
Staff member
Staff Writer
Yeah we a little bit had ships passing in the night with the timing of these posts.

I think I get where you are going with this and you likely have a more complete perspective on the layout of Pantheon zones than I do. Each structure could have its own inspectable stat page with its current condition and needs. If the structures are not unique you could possibly make several levels of repair appearance for each building to have a quick visual on the condition of the building.

My main concern with dynamic structures is time. It has taken more than 4 months at this point of all hands on deck sprinting to get Project Faerthale completed and to my knowledge it still isn't. If Project Faerthale only represents 1 of 8 starting zones and "Project Thronefast" is already done then we are still looking at at least 24 months of sprinting before the starter zones groups are completed. There is no way VR has 24 more months of capital left to burn before they can even really get into beta. Adding on a system that affects art objects will only make this worse as all the structures I have seen are hard coded into the geography.

If the dynamic content is more focused on the NPCs and their functionality then it can be done without assistance of the art teams. Then it can be worked on concurrently or even as a post launch system. Again I am all for the basic concept just thinking about the limitations of what VR will be able to produce. If I were VRs program manager I would be thinking about dropping dwarves, arkai, gnomes and skar from the release races and eliminate their starting groups from the work chain before launch. Once the game has launched and is functioning I would begin having world events where the shards join Terminus and unlock the different races and starting areas. The shards joining could be staggered by 4 months to give time to fine tune each shard.
 

Nephele

Administrator
Staff member
I never said that the artwork for the structure needed to change :) That would be a nice-to-have, obviously, but it actually doesn't need to be there for the system to be linked to structures. The only thing that's needed is for the structure to have an entry in a database table somewhere, that corresponds to some little interactable bit - a signpost, a bulletin board, a dropbox, whatever.

Now, the ideal would be for the visible portions of the structure to reflect it's condition, but you are correct about art time - so you could accomplish the goal of the system without having to do that.

Sort of in-line with my response to Barin. I think it's important for us to talk about what we want to achieve in as bite-sized of a way as possible. That allows the devs to take the ideas they like and work those into the game in whatever way fits best. But by the same token, we should never limit ourselves based on what we think the devs can or cannot do. That's for them to figure out. I used to write for a MUD, back in the day, and our administrator there once told me: "It's a computer, we can do anything. It's just a question of how hard it's going to be."

Also, the reason that I am focused on structures rather than individual NPCs, is that I think structures can and should impact multiple NPCs. My example of the Inn in the Wilderness is one where you have multiple NPCs tied to the structure. Some structures may be NPC-specific, but not all.
 

Trasak

Apprentice
Staff member
Staff Writer
"Also, the reason that I am focused on structures rather than individual NPCs, is that I think structures can and should impact multiple NPCs. My example of the Inn in the Wilderness is one where you have multiple NPCs tied to the structure. Some structures may be NPC-specific, but not all. " @Nephele

More or less a mini structure based faction. I think it has good possibilities. Now if Cythos would only cough up some details. We may be trying to solve problems that don't exist or we are attempting to polish a turd, both being pointless for their own reasons.
 

Nephele

Administrator
Staff member
LOL yes, it would be very nice if Ceythos would start spilling some beans for us more regularly than he has been. Hopefully we will see more information soon :)
 

Barin999

Journeyman
Concerning the NPC's, it might seem easier to have them placed there, just not interactable unless that specific treshold has been crossed. Or the NPC might not sell you everything and it can be unlocked after stage X has been completed.

My thinking to your concept was to cross Terminus and find structures and NPC's where I can craft locally. Now this can be tradeskill specific or in general. The makeshift or other craftstations might be present and the resources could be found locally. So you'ld be harvesting and crafting around that location and progress that quest.
The upside on tradeskill specific contents like that is, that it could make feel players like that have their unique contribution to the world. If there is doubt that the target group would be too low for such design, one could open it up for all crafters instead.

The items that are required in those NEEDS, could indeed be harvestables or produced products or perhaps goods that need to be bought elsewhere specifically.
The produced items could be of a lesser quality or lower recipe. This would put back some value in items where players have moved past and are no longer in use. So with that one could even allow this to new players as wel, instead of offering to advanced players only. If you see what I mean?
Special NEEDS could require special / advanced crafters, but in general it might be less demanding of the player's crafting experience.

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