What if crafting had no vertical progression?


Staff member
In all of the conversations that I have had with other Pantheon supporters about the economy, one concern keeps coming up - the number of items that get dumped into the economy by people grinding their skill/level up in crafting. This creates oversupply situations, often forces low-level crafters to operate at a loss, and leads to the economic frustrations that most people seem to incorrectly blame on their game having an auction house.

Sidebar: Auction houses, or any sort of consignment-based system, don't cause economic problems on their own. They allow more people to participate in the economy as sellers, and in most games force competition solely on price, and allow people to react faster (or even automate their responses) to market conditions, so they can make problems that were already there (like oversupply) appear worse because they make those problems more visible. But the problems were always there in the game's design, well before the auction house ever entered into the equation. The real problem is almost always either over- or under-supply in the market.

So, what if Pantheon did something crazy, and eliminated vertical progression for crafters altogether? No grinding whatsoever. No skills to raise, no experience to earn. If you make an item as a crafter, you're either making it expressly for the purpose of selling, trading, or using it, or you're making it so that you can hand it over to an NPC for a quest or quest-like thing.

This would remove the primary driver of oversupply situations in the market, especially at low levels. As a new crafter, you could jump in and start selling items alongside everyone else and not be as worried about people dumping things on the market for less than the cost of creating them. Oversupply situations would undoubtedly still exist - because in most MMOs with crafting, there are always more people making items than using them - but they wouldn't be as pronounced at lower levels since you wouldn't have all the added grind items showing up. Plus, you wouldn't have to do that ugly grind we're all so familiar with to become a viable crafter.

In terms of gameplay objectives, this would shift the emphasis from "becoming a better crafter" to things like acquiring resources and recipes. You would still presumably have plenty of things to go and do in order to be recognized as a master of your trade, but the objectives would be more horizontal than vertical. If you happened to have everything you needed already on hand, or people willing to give it to you, this would enable you to make those "top" crafted items right off the bat, as soon as you pick up your profession.

Still, it at least partially solves the oversupply problem that plagues most MMOs that have crafting systems.

As a note, if it were me designing Pantheon, this is *not* how I would personally set things up. But it is a viable option. And as such, I wanted to throw it out there for people to discuss.


In a sense your design sets new players up to mass production right from the get go.

Why? They do not gain xp, but they can produce in order to sell. A starting player does not start with its bags full of coin and the path to getting from poor to wealthy is usually a long one.
The starting player can still, produce a lot of the same items and try to sell it. The value of those starting products/recipes will be low and lower. Sooner than later, will those products will be sold under production value.

Stating that "those added grind items wouldn't show up" might be turning a corner too sharply. In a sense you're shifting a grind items but not removing them. They will just look like something else than what you're used to in other games. A starting adventurer killing mobs might not be perceived as grind, why would you imagine it being the same for a starting crafter? If you feel the game is a grind from the get go....Well perhaps the game design and fun factor might be your problem, rather then looking at the xp gain and oversupply as the main cause of the "a grind feel".
Several years after launch, you'll have starting players chatting with veterans and no matter adventurer or crafter, the veterans can state; "Well, grind your way through your first levels killing X or crafting Y. And you'll get into the good stuff." Can you prevent this? I doubt it, but if you design the starting phase fun, challenging, entertaining, meaningful, dangerous, those new players might be ok with these initial levels they go through without feeling too much of a grind.
In your suggestion the veterans would just say: "Go to X or obtain Y,Z and you'll be able to join us." That doesn't sound much different does it?

Looking ahead, you'll have a threshold of some sorts, that will reveal where most crafters have dropped out and others have continued. From recipe or level X, you'll see products again being put on sale for a reasonable price. And from that point onwards, the crafters will again be beneficial in the selling the items that they produce.
I fear, that the stage before this treshold will be full with dissappointed crafters with a lot of products made but little to show for it, as you've designed the xp again out of that stage. Don't forget, they will not have experienced the sensation of their character improving as there are no skill points to gain either. There is no growth curve, no history with their character, (no depth?). And they have not be able to secure a decent amount of cash to enjoy this part of the crafting journey.
Do you really remove a drive to oversupply? Perhaps you've created a big gap between starter and accomplished crafter, where many might not be motivated or succesfull enough to leap that gap.

Removing the drive to oversupply would require a big chunck of craftingcontent where items are created on request or where indeed a desire to equip is stimulated. And depending on the pace of consuming this content, you might still end up with a lot of short time used items to be dumped at lower levels.

A game becomes a grind, when there is no or limited content. And I as a player, choose to consume or reproduce the same content over and over again. If this occurs at early levels, the game has made an insufficient design. If it happens at end game or higher levels, it's totally the players doing. Can you prevent an uncreative player to create its own grind? No. Can you anticipate that players might experience a grind sensation when consuming (limited) content? Yes.

I can see the value of a design where obtaining resources/recipes, the manner how you obtain them and what you choose to do with them will map out how you evolve as a crafter. But, this might just be stating the obvious and is not per se related to your suggestion to remove xp gain to prevent a devaluating economy.
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If crafters are only going to create items they can use or sell.
How is that going to compete against the amount of loot/products available from adventuring?
One crafted item, might have several adventurer products (if i'm allowed to call them that) in comparison. How will it contain enough value to compete with those items but not destroy the market itself by becoming to decisive?
Or is it not meant to be competing against one another?
If not, what's the aim for designing crafting in the game then?


The one thing that really bothers me about the idea of non-linear crafting is that there's no pass/fail unless it's just plain old RNG. I make a level 1 character and immediately get to crafting. Why? Because I really want to dig into the meat of this aspect of the game and see what I can do and what I can't do. That being said, what difference would there be between me who logs in my level 1 "adventurer" character, gaining no exp of any sort, spending coin I can scarcely afford to make a mid-level crafted item? Would it be fair to someone who's been crafting for let's say.. 6 months while I only started yesterday and he fails his craft, while I make the same item right off the bat?

Unfair, unjust and I think just begging for players to not craft in a game with so many other things to spread out and see and do. Just my 2cp, that is all.


What if instead of eliminating vertical progression, you gate progression so that crafters can decide where they want to build? Like if you want to do master armoring, you have to concentrate on the higher end items and lose knowledge of lower end armor because the master crafting is now you're focus. Then taking this one step further, make crafting perishable if you stop using it after x time. This would make items scarce enough for crafting demand, and give fulfillment to even new crafters as master crafters would have to either make a novice crafter alt or rely on other crafters for different tier stuff.
Also what about making harvested items have a shelf life to reduce just anybody bloating the market with all kinds of materials?


I mentioned this in my barter economy framework, but the principles apply to a hybrid barter/coin or a coin economy as well, in particular..

There should always be demand for crafted goods, raws, or items, inherent in the world. This demand should exist as part of NPC guilds, NPC temples, NPC political organizations, NPC sentient races, NPC crafters, NPCs as part of every non-combat game loop. Ultimately, every NPC in the game should have persistent wants or needs, and offer rewards for meeting them.

However, ideally? Those rewards should not be coin, adventure XP or tradeable currency, for a bunch of historically proven reasons. :)

But yes, donations, sacrifices, and similar "I give, I get" mechanics would, I think, drive positive emergent player behavior, provided the rewards were commensurate with the donations/sacrifices.

Personally, I'm not a fan of skill decay, and objectively, if harvested raws of any kind have any value (as in coin value to an NPC) then the economy is guaranteed broken, again, historically proven in many games.