What We Learned in the Crafting Developer Roundtable

Nephele

Administrator
Staff member
As most of you probably know, each month, Pantheon’s Community Manager Ben “Kilsin” Walters invites someone from the development team to sit down with him for an hour and answer questions about what they’re working on. The questions come from VIP supporters, collected in advance, and during the roundtable Kilsin “interviews” his guests using those questions.

On Friday, August 30th, the Developer Roundtable featured Corey “Ceythos” LeFever, who is the Senior Designer at Visionary Realms working on Pantheon’s Crafting and Harvesting gameplay and in-game economy. Corey isn’t new to crafting in MMORPGs – earlier in his career, he helped write content for and support the crafting and diplomacy systems in Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. To say we were excited when this roundtable was announced might be understating our reaction.

Below is our summary of what we learned in the Roundtable – which was quite a lot. Apart from a few minor features about gathering in some newsletters, the last time we heard very much about the crafting sphere in Pantheon was over two years ago when Bazgrim interviewed Corey after Twitchcon. Because of that, this roundtable ended up being very much an info dump of epic proportions. We learned more about every aspect of the crafting sphere, and it’s clear that there’s still much more information to come.

Before we start, one word of advice from our staff: If you’re listening to the roundtable, listen to the whole thing before you react. The questions weren’t presented in any particular order, and so the conversation moves around quite a bit. There’s a lot of good information there, but it’s the sort of information where you really need to think about the larger picture and connect some of the responses together to understand what’s happening. We’ve done our best to do that for you below, and we have included some cleaned-up quotes from the audio where possible. If you’re listening for yourself (and you should!), we strongly recommend listening to the whole thing before you start trying to analyze it too much.

So, let’s dive in!



Design Goals for the Crafting Sphere

Towards the end of the roundtable, Corey spent a few minutes talking about his goals for crafting and harvesting in Pantheon. Since so much of the design may still change based on tester feedback, this might be the most important information in the entire roundtable. Here’s what we heard:

  • The crafting sphere must be approachable - intuitive, easy to get into and understand. The team doesn’t want to scare people off from trying it by making it very complex or difficult up front. However, it does not have to be simple. The goal is for it to have depth but not necessarily a steep learning curve.
  • Crafting and harvesting need to be valuable gameplay. They should influence the world, and items made by crafters must have their own identity and be valued by adventurers. The team wants crafting to produce "iconic" items that people treasure, just as they might treasure a piece of loot that they won in a dungeon.
  • Corey wants to avoid obsolescence, whether in the launch game or in expansions. Old recipes and materials should still be useful at higher levels, or even years after the game has launched.
  • Corey wants to try and negate mudflation as much as possible. He is willing to adjust things to keep the economy functioning over the life of the game and wants to build in ways that make those adjustments an easy and relatively painless process. He’s also very interested in finding ways to prevent the oversupply situations that plague so many mature MMORPG economies.
  • Corey has a design goal for crafting and harvesting to work with other gameplay systems, but not to require those on the part of an individual player. So, while a crafter might have a use for materials obtained while raiding, they should not have to be a raider themselves to craft something with those materials.
  • Corey doesn’t want progression as a crafter or gatherer to rely on simply making things. Players should be doing something that matters in the world as well as part of advancing their character. They should have a stake in the world just like adventurers do.
Again, this might be the most important information from the entire roundtable. Having clear design goals is vastly important for any complex area of gameplay. It also provides fans and testers with a way to objectively think about whether what is shown during Alpha and Beta is really working out or not.



The Relationship between Loot and Crafted Items


During the roundtable, Corey spoke to several questions around how crafted items and loot will work side by side. This has been a big concern from many players, so it was nice to hear some of the thinking the team currently has around it.

Corey started off by reiterating that they want items to have an identity, and not be perceived by players as being easily disposable.

“It’s very important to the team that items have and largely retain their own identity. Both categories will provide unique items that can only be found either by looting them, or crafting them, or looting parts of them first and then crafting them. Rather than looking at how they can compete with one another, I'd rather see it as how they can complement one another.”

Corey went on to say that some of the ways to make the two co-exist might include allowing crafters to potentially alter or upgrade looted items to make them stronger or transmute them somehow. Another possibility might be having crafted items that can be traded to NPCs along with looted materials for alternate versions. As a goal, he wants to try to balance it so that crafting and loot work together to make the best items, rather than having the two methods always in competition with each other.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean that there won’t be powerful items that are purely crafted, or finished, usable items coming from loot. However, it seems likely that many crafted items will use components obtained as loot or via the salvaging system, and it sounds like many of the most potent items in the game will generally have a crafting component as well as an adventuring component to them.

From our standpoint at Pantheon Crafters, getting the loot/crafted balance right is critical to the success of the game and the health of both spheres. However, it sounds like the team has put a good amount of thought into this so far and is going to be paying attention to tester feedback during upcoming testing phases. For everyone reading this who will be testing, we strongly recommend that you plan on giving feedback on this balance during alpha and beta.



Content for Crafters and Gatherers

Several times during the roundtable, Corey mentioned two things that he kept coming back to: “Writs” and “Events”.

Some of you reading this might be familiar with the term “writ” from games like EverQuest 2, where a “writ” was basically a crafting task that you would perform for an NPC in exchange for some coin, faction, and experience. Corey sees performing tasks for NPCs (writs) as an important component of crafting gameplay.

However, that doesn’t mean it will be something that you simply grind on. During the conversation, Corey mentioned ideas for writs having an impact on the world:

“I suppose another type of crafting related event I'd like to see is allowing crafters to complete certain types of writs to buff NPC's in the surrounding area. Completion of enough of the appropriate blacksmithing writ for example might give nearby guards better armor for a while, or completing enough woodworking writs might give nearby archers better arrows for a period of time. I'd also like to see crafters able to influence vendor supplies through writs, for example if you do enough of the appropriate stonemason writ it might spawn a limited supply of gems or some related crafting materials on nearby vendors that sell those kinds of things.”

In addition to writs, Corey also talked about dynamic events that could occur out in the world for crafters and gatherers – or potentially even groups of crafters and gatherers:

“I'd really like to see crafters be able to contribute to the world at large. For example, imagine provisioners meeting up at a tavern and having a cooking party. With enough participation a nearby table or counter might spawn a feast that people passing by could interact with for a buff. Similarly imagine a scenario where alchemists might gather at an apothecary and whip up some potions. A nearby cauldron or flask rack might have a random or fixed potion or poison effect that passers-by could consume.”

“It's really important if we're making a living breathing world where we want people to be immersed and have a stake in what's going on, that we give them meaningful ways to feed into that. It's not really so much about what you can create, but what can you do with your skills. “

As if that wasn’t interesting enough on its own, Corey also teased about harvesting-related events, time-limited events, events with their own unique recipes to create, and events that leveraged concepts we haven’t heard too much about yet, such as multicolored mana.

The entire idea of dynamic world events for the crafting sphere is exciting, and this is an area we want to learn more about in the future. In most games, crafting sort of begins and ends at the crafting station or guild in town. “Content”, at best, is usually only about making an item and then delivering it to some NPC somewhere. A system that rewards crafters and gatherers for getting out into the world and plying their trade would be a great evolution for the entire MMORPG genre.



Progressing as a Crafter or Gatherer

Although he didn’t go into too much detail, Corey did spend some time talking about progression as a crafter – at one point even saying that he’s exploring different ways to do things to try and see what “feels” the best for Pantheon.

“This is a bit of a bigger topic but I’m happy to try and tackle it. The current plan was to allow crafters to choose one of six professions and one of two specializations for each profession. We had it in place that you'd be able to drop a profession if you wanted to or drop a specialization at a cost of some of the progress that you've made in that path. If you wanted to restart in another profession - like say I was a blacksmith and I did armorsmithing for a good while, and then my guild needed me to swap professions or maybe some new recipes came out and I was really, really excited about that, I could jump over to another profession for a bit. I could dump that progress in my original profession to a degree and go start fresh in a new profession and then if I later had buyer's remorse I could go back and I'd have retained a certain percentage of that original progression. So if I go back to being a blacksmith as long as I have the necessary skill level still I'd be able to go use the same recipes that I'd already unlocked.

There’s a possibility that we might actually move to a more freeform crafting progression where that paradigm may no longer hold. It's going to depend on a few things, but the idea there would be more of like a point system, sort of like alternate advancement points. In this system you could purchase your way through what skills you want to work on. In that reality being able to maximize one full line of recipes for example would come at a particular rate, and then moving beyond that would have ever-increasing difficulty and time sinks associated with it. In saying all that, I've actually done a little bit of exploration on this. If we were to consider that approach then it becomes that much more important that we have social opportunities for crafting.”

Corey went on to say that he’s definitely heard the feedback that people will simply create alts to get around interdependency, and so he’s interested in trying to find a system that allows people to enjoy crafting but still insures that there can be some level of interdependency and a social element to it.

From our perspective here at Pantheon Crafters, it’s both a little scary and a little encouraging to hear this. It’s scary from the standpoint that the crafting progression still seems like it might be in flux, but at the same time it’s encouraging to hear that Corey is really listening to community feedback and is open to doing things differently if a better approach presents itself.

Corey also answered a question regarding whether there would be crafting equipment or not, similar to what we saw in Vanguard:

“…that was a really good experience. It was really nice to be able to have a game play path like that for crafters and have that kind of chase for them to be able to get unique jewelry and unique aprons and things like that. I really liked chasing that as a player. We don't have a plan for it in the current pipeline iteration for crafting, but I would like to see it as a long-term goal again because I really liked that experience as a player. I think as a designer it's also good to be able to not always have to award people with a new recipe every time they finish a quest or to make rewards only about skill point progression, so I'm hoping we can get there one day. As it stands now we can have some special requirements for crafting individual items - so if we wanted to have a specific tool as part of a recipe that could be consumed (or not) during the process, we have the design and implementation space for that right now, so I would expect that to appear throughout parts of the progression.”

We were a little disappointed to hear about the lack of equipment progression in the current design, but it sounds like Corey really wants to try and do something there, so hopefully he can add it in before the game launches!



Crafting Items

As you might imagine, a fair number of the questions in the roundtable were around the process of crafting items. Corey didn’t go into very much detail (likely simply due to time) but he did talk about some aspects of the system. Rather than bombard you with a dozen quotes, we’re just going to summarize this part.

  • It sounds like the quality of components will potentially matter when crafting an item, but exactly how it will matter isn’t quite set in stone yet. Corey mentioned that using better or higher quality components would likely give you a boost in progress on completing a finished item, but probably not in terms of modifying or changing the stats on that item – although he didn’t rule out the possibility of granting a more rare or powerful version of the item on a critical success or something similar to that.
  • Corey confirmed that they’re not looking at in-recipe item customization like Star Wars: Galaxies, or even Vanguard. However, he left open that they might consider doing something where items could be modified after they’ve been created. For example, adding an additional effect to a sword that you’d created.
  • Corey mentioned that there would be complications or opportunities that occur during crafting and that the crafter would need to respond to by using some action. He also mentioned that they had started out with a purely ability-driven crafting system (similar to Final Fantasy XIV) but that internal feedback was that it felt too much like playing a spreadsheet where you were primarily concerned with determining the optimal set of abilities to use, and so they’re looking at something that will feel a little less like solving a math problem.
  • Corey also mentioned that crafting stations would be out in the world, and that crafters might have to travel to special crafting stations for certain items. This led to a follow-up conversation around climate effects – Corey shared as an example that to use to the Forge in Amberfaet, you’d need to be able to handle both the frigid climate outside as well as the scorching climate at the Forge itself.
  • Corey was asked about abilities to allow crafters to produce items in bulk and responded that he’s open to doing this sort of thing where it makes sense, but not to the point of allowing the crafting process to be automated.
Of almost everything that was discussed, the crafting process itself sounded like one of the things that has the most potential to change based on tester feedback. It seems like Corey’s emphasis here is on insuring that it’s fun and engaging for the crafter, while still always having some risk inherent in the system.



Gathering and Resources

A good chunk of the roundtable was spent talking about gathering and gathering nodes, and Corey shared a lot of information with us about where the game is headed in that regard:

“I think the person that really enjoys gathering will still be happy with our approach. When I'm speaking of node scarcity what I'm talking about is finding a balance where players will be actively hunting for resources rather than running the same predictable loop to get the same two dozen nodes every three minutes like we've seen in other games. Ultimately, I want players to feel great about finding a node without tripping over them. We'll be relying very heavily on server logging and player feedback to make sure we hit the right balance between feeling starved and feeling slightly hungry when it comes to finding nodes. With that said it will also be important that recipes not require mountains of harvested items to make a single finished product and that crafting components and finished items yields a healthy amount of crafting experience per craft. “

“Long term I'd like to explore the possibility of using harvesting specific abilities on nodes - so instead of just going up and right-clicking on them you might use something like Miners Precision or something to study and strike an ore vein, if you intend to try and target a higher rarity yield. Or using an ability like Skinner's Deftness to skin an animal quicker at the risk of a potentially lower yield.”

“Certain climates may only grow certain types of plants for provisioning or alchemy for example. If plants only grow in specific places, visiting a farm in Thronefast could be very different than say going to a grove in Faerthale to look for ingredients - the types of flowers, the fungi, the roots - they’re all different from one another. We have to take some care that there's enough ingredients to start crafters on their journeys in each respective starting area. It's not realistic to ask players at level one to go visit two or more zones just to start crafting. Meaningful geographical seeding may also mean something like comparing two iron mines in different locations: one mine might have level 20 bandits holed up in it and another might have level 40ish orcs in the area. In the bandits’ mine, iron comes from ore veins and the iron goods in their possession and yields standard iron. In the orcs’ mine, iron still comes from the iron veins as expected, but maybe they've got a special way of tempering their iron goods - we’ll just call it blood iron as an example. Salvaging blood iron could yield blood iron scraps or components, along with regular iron scraps or components, or even potentially whatever agents they use in the tempering process. This also points to reuse of seemingly simple materials along the horizontal and vertical progression of crafting, which should help keep some of the more humble resources in demand. Encountering some of the more basic material types in areas where higher-level adventuring content takes place might also provide higher yields, so if I'm finding moon orchids in a level 40 area it might give two to three times the yield that I would get in a level-10 area. Since typically the higher level areas are going to have more difficulties around them whether it's asking people to traverse long distances or go to remote places, or before you know it climates or higher level hostile NPCs and stuff. It’s going to be a delicate balance and I just think that goes back to the player versus environment and using the world as part of the narrative experience and immersing people.”

Corey was asked about the potential for group harvesting bonuses, which was a much-loved feature of Vanguard.

“…where we run into some issues is if grouping up provides the most rewarding yields and it sort of becomes the best or in some people's perception the only way to harvest. It greatly widens the funnel for the amount of items that are hitting the economy. We saw this in Vanguard where it exponentially increased the amount of harvested materials everyone received. …. I'm not against adding social gameplay but I don't want to end up blowing the economy up before we can see things in action.”

Finally, when asked about “shinies” which everyone who played EverQuest 2 knew and loved, Corey left open the possibility of harvesting collectibles, although he didn’t commit to it at all.

From our perspective, the harvesting gameplay for Pantheon sounds like it might be very engaging, but things like node placement, yields, and quantities will likely be receiving tweaks right up until launch (and possibly afterwards).



Buying and Selling

You can’t really have a conversation about the crafting sphere of a game without also talking about the economy, and Corey shared as much as he was able about the game’s economic systems with us.

“We can touch on this a little bit, but probably not in full detail. I can’t say that we’re re-inventing the wheel. Right now as it stands for pre-alpha it's pretty basic in terms of how players can buy or sell items. It’s peer-to-peer trading and NPC merchants, and possibly soon a regional auction house. When we say regional, Brad's kind of envisioning continental markets, but one of my other duties when I'm not working on something crafting or harvesting related is to research and pitch economy-focused design elements. One of the things I'm trying to suss out right now is whether ditching an auction house in the traditional sense, even if it’s region-locked, might be a good move for us. Instead we might move towards something akin to singular brokers that guilds could use to rent merchant space, and have them consign goods to other players. I have to work out a scaling and tiered schema for recurring rents, and think about what it might cost to be in particular locations – for example, areas that we anticipate are having a lot of traffic versus places that aren't going to have as much traffic - but anyway if we did that, people would have to search out and interact with individual merchants for items. Also, we might potentially need to provide a way to make finding items faster to help people find the right one. Another thing that I would like to consider is softly encouraging players to sell their unwanted items to merchants that would be most interested in the particular category of the item being sold - so if a player has some jewelry that they want to sell they could take it to a jewelry merchant and they'd get the full price of the item sell value, but maybe that jewelry merchant is in the middle of a nearby capital and rather than travel there our sample adventurer would rather go to the city gates or nearby outpost and a sell to a general merchant instead. Time is money after all. So, any of the merchants other than jewelry in this case might only offer like eighty percent of the sale value of the items in question, to encourage players to sell their items to the most relevant vendors. In a way, players would be helping restock the merchants with the appropriate category of items some of the time.”

From the sound of things, this aspect of Pantheon’s economic design isn’t quite set in stone yet, so now is a very good time for all of us to talk about what we think will work or won’t, both on the forums and elsewhere.



What to expect as the game progresses towards Alpha and Beta


At one point during the roundtable, Corey was explicitly asked what expectations he would want to set for alpha testers. He shared that during pre-alpha, most of the testing being done is functionality testing, and that pre-alpha testers will probably be seeing stripped-down versions of the final system, simply to help prove out whether things work or not. For alpha, he’s going to be very interested in feedback on how things “feel”, as well as the data that comes from having a larger number of testers in game for longer periods of time. The key takeaway that we heard was that even after Project Faerthale is complete, there will still be room for many things related to crafting and harvesting to change based on tester feedback. That’s encouraging, because it means that the team won’t necessarily be locked into a design if that design proves not to work out as well as they originally thought.



Overall Impressions

It probably goes without saying that we’re excited to see this roundtable happen. We’re hyped and optimistic for what Pantheon can accomplish if everything works out according to those design goals. They’re ambitious, but they’re the sort of thing that could really help the game stand out and influence the rest of the industry to pay more attention to crafting as well.

The devil is in the details, however. There is going to be a lot of tricky balancing involved in making everything work, whether we’re talking about loot and crafting standing side by side, or about the economy, or even about how crafter progression works. It’s clear that there are still plenty of design decisions to be made, and even once those are made, they will still need to be tested, tweaked, and tuned before the game is ready to launch.

What is inspiring though is the level of transparency that VR is now showing, and how they seem to realize many of the concerns that the community has been bringing up over the last two years. They may not have perfect solutions or all the answers yet, but they’re not simply assuming that things are going to work, and they truly are listening to player and tester feedback.

There’s a lot to digest in this developer roundtable and our summary only called out some of the larger points that were made. Whether it leaves you hopeful or worried (or both!), it’s nice to finally be getting more information about a major aspect of Pantheon. Hopefully, we can expect to hear even more from Corey and the team very soon.
 

Trasak

Apprentice
Staff member
Staff Writer
Excellent write up Neph.

I did initially have a much stronger negative response to the over all design intent of crafting in game world and the apparent limitation of Icon itemization but it has toned down a bit after seeing more of Ceythos's responses on the champion forums.

I still had hopes for a complex and deep crafting system where the crafter could design an item to have the desired stat and then create a list of materials to go and acquire to have the magnitude of the stats at the desired level. To some degree this will still be possible if crafters make base items of an "iconic item" that can then be modified through various means. It all depends on what those various means are and how involved crafting is in those means. If crafters only make the base item and then NPCs do everything else then in my opinion that's a very shallow crafting system, especially if there is no variation in the crafting results on a recipe either through RNG or providing optional ingredients.

While I appreciate that crafting should be approachable to start I do not believe it should be simple or quick to level or master. If you take the difficulty out of crafting you must also lessen the return and I want crafting to be highly rewarding. One of the aspects of mastering a craft could/should be experimentation and discovery. It would actually be interesting if there was some way to make the exact process to make an item be different for every crafter, or at least one of 10-100 possible combinations. That way there would be no following a website to get the exact same result as anyone else.

We will see how things continue to develop and it is possible that Pantheon will just not have a high level of item variation and therefor crafting does not need to have infinite variation either.
 

vjek

Novice
Here's my terribly long and biased opinions based on the information in the Aug 30, 2019 roundtable:

Design Goals for the Crafting Sphere
- iconic items sounds like gated recipes. Either they're common, rare, or something else? All recipes must be trade-able, or if they're not, then adventure level = crafter level. (as in, you must be on the raid kill to loot the rare recipes)
They just need to say directly if all recipes will be trade-able or not.
Keeping the economy functioning means not being able to sell loot or items (without an interim step) directly to NPCs for currency. It also means enemies won't drop currency, equippable items or anything that sells for coin directly. If you have that (and there's every indication they will) then the economy is snafubar, day 1 or day 1000. This is a logically provable and historically proven concept. That they're going to try it again, expecting a different result, is disappointing.
His philosophy of all raw materials or raided crafting materials being trade-able sounds nice, but I don't believe it. It's always no-drop, unique, account-bound, soulbound, no-rent, or similar. If they are sticking with it? Great. It's just never been done before, and would permit crafting alts with zero adventuring experience, which contradicts their other public design goals for harvesting and crafting. (in particular, guarded nodes)
If they're going to allow a crafter to use items from the inventory of another player in a combine? They need to say that explicitly. It doesn't solve inter-dependency issues, but it does require separation of crafter and adventuring mains/alts by account, rather than on the same account. (so the crafting alt can open & use the nearby adventuring alt inventory in real-time)

The Relationship between Loot and Crafted Items
Regarding "having crafted items that can be traded to NPCs along with looted materials for alternate versions. " that can be done 2 ways. random or deterministic. Deterministic is fine, random is not. Random via NPC's and deterministic via player crafters? Better. Not specified, so, I have zero confidence it will be done right or with fun and challenge in mind. One is a skinner box, the other is a social interaction. Which do you want? Choose carefully.
Overall, as a company entity, Visionary Realms has been working on the design of their crafting & harvesting since march 2014. That's over 5 years, and things are still "not set in stone" or "in flux" or "to be determined". How much more time do they need to work out such incredibly simple logically provable systems? Tester feedback? They've been in Pre-Alpha testing, with players, since Wednesday, December 6th, 2017. In over 1.5 years, they haven't been able to put a UI in front of a tester to get feedback on? They haven't shown the process or flow diagrams outlining exactly how it proceed or be implemented?
It doesn't have to be a complete system to get tester feedback. They could post all the internal screenshots of the UI, with a flow diagram, here on pantheoncrafters, and ask for feedback. If they don't have that internally? Be very very afraid, because that means.. wait for it.. they have nothing to test. In five+ years of effort.
Again, "it sounds like many of the most potent items in the game will generally have a crafting component as well as an adventuring component to them." translates to either: you can have a level 1 adventurer, and them be a level 50 crafter, or you can't. Which is it? They need to be explicit. Ultimately guilds will adapt either way, but this is one of those things that needs to be laser etched into diamond and thrown into orbit so you can't ever change it, and then proceed with the rest of the design. Pure crafters, or not? Every recipe trade-able, or not? Every raw, component and sub-component, trade-able, or not?

Content for Crafters and Gatherers
Their idea of writs leading to buffing NPCs is backwards. Every NPC in the world should want something, and provide buffs or events when those needs are satisfied. Other players will simply leech off of any NPC buffs that are created, instead of personally benefiting, and it drives all the wrong emergent behavior if there is intended to be competition of any kind. Influencing vendor supplies -must- be the equivalent of personal loot. If it's not? That will be exploited instantly when triggered, and the person/group doing the trigger will not benefit, the leeches will. Again, the details of these systems need to be excruciatingly enumerated.
You can't just say " I'd also like to see crafters able to influence vendor supplies through writs, for example if you do enough of the appropriate stonemason writ it might spawn a limited supply of gems or some related crafting materials on nearby vendors that sell those kinds of things.”" without knowing, from history, in every other game that has ever even -thought- about trying this? That would be exploited by all other players, and even possibly turned into a rare/loot amplifier, if implemented as described. If it's not going to be that way? why describe it that way? If, after 5 years, you can't see the immediate logical and exploitable flaws in such a statement? I weep for the future.
And if those "influenced" inventories are going to be personal loot or display a personalized inventory? That would be a precedent with the design of this entire game. They have been shared/competitive loot since day one. If they're going to change that, and this is even a hint they're considering such a thing.. that will have demographic consequences. Mixing personal loot for supply/generic/crafting/non-enemy NPCs while never having it as a mechanic for enemy NPCs? That will be a pretty jarring dichotomy.
The positive mention of group activities, and then the absolutely negative blasting of group harvesting are polar opposite philosophical tenets or perspectives. It can't be good in this one case, but not good in that other case. It's either good or it isn't, for all the same reasons (social, cited).
This? "A nearby cauldron or flask rack might have a random or fixed potion or poison effect that passers-by could consume.”" sounds.. insane. a random potion effect? A random poison? What, are we back to the failures of UO now? Under what possible conditions would something like this ever be positive? Who would ever participate in such a design or implementation, other than wasted time for testing? I'm baffled.

Progressing as a Crafter or Gatherer
-They don't appear to have made the most important decision of the entire crafting decision, yet. In five+ years; " In this system you could purchase your way through what skills you want to work on. In that reality being able to maximize one full line of recipes for example would come at a particular rate, and then moving beyond that would have ever-increasing difficulty and time sinks associated with it." instead of " one crafting profession per character ". You know when that little nugget was released? on April 12, 2017 ( http://pantheonmmo.com/newsletter/crafting_and_harvesting/ ) . So.. either they tested it during Pre-Alpha, or they didn't. So far, there's been no public claim this has been tested up to Sep 10, 2019, with the pre-alpha testers. Yet, in 2.5 years, they have flip flopped on this decision.
So, which is it? Multiple professions for one character, or, eventually, all? Because from April 12, 2017 until August 29th, 2019.. the public design was one crafter profession per character, and all crafting professions per player, up to the alt limit. (no account restrictions) I mean, I'm personally happy to see them finally taking the step of simply acknowledging the logically evident issue with what they had from April 12, 2017 until August 29th, 2019, yet, they seem unwilling to simply come out and say: You can do it all, with one character, with enough time and effort. If that's true, great, awesome, whatever, just be explicit and state it.
Regarding " he’s interested in trying to find a system that allows people to enjoy crafting but still insures that there can be some level of inter-dependency and a social element to it. " then ASK. Ask the community, and then tell us what you're going to use, from the community ideas. This whole "we're trying to find a system" yet "we can't say how we're fixing ... because of competition risk?" is getting really old, really fast. There is no competition. No-one is making such a tiny niche game. State the solutions, iterate with the community, implement. This five+ year dance of spin, half-truths, maybe-sorta-lies, and outright illogic is frustrating beyond words.
No crafting gear. Well, that's.. surprising. On one hand, I'm glad to see something Silius came up with die, because he was a Class 4 Shadow Masochist and should never touch MMO crafting again. Yet, on the other hand, the adjusted crafting system, post-Silius, when you could actually complete blue combines with blue gear? That was pretty awesome, because you could get the blue gear before you needed it, instead of needing the yellow gear to complete blue combines, and couldn't get it before you needed it. It's just a bit of tuning, and it can be a challenging, fun, and rewarding game loop. Especially when you can make some of your own gear and tools, and get some/trade some with other players or via other methods.
The idea of "so if we wanted to have a specific tool as part of a recipe that could be consumed (or not) during the process, we have the design and implementation space for that right now," is interesting, because it leads to the following; pieces being part of a recipe but not being consumed is.. extremely difficult to balance. It's yet another of their infamous knife-edge mechanics. If you don't take the extremely rare might-be-consumed consumable during the combine, randomly? That's a skinner box/loot box. If you take it every time, then there's nothing special about it. If it's deterministic, that is, you can influence whether or not the super rare component may or may not be consumed? Then it will ultimately never be consumed.
In the end? I'm concerned that his statement belies a philosophy of "it's ok that random can drive the bus" rather than the player.
In a larger context, players should be able to customize crafting skills and spells, just like adventurers should be able to customize crafting skills and spells, at the very least, with their gear. That's how you offer distinctiveness to both spheres of players. For example, if I wanted to place an effect on every piece of crafting gear I had that amplified bane weapon damage or proc chance when I made weapons? I should be able to do that. If I wanted to, instead, place an effect on every piece of crafting gear I had that amplified the stat buff of food I prepared? I should be able to do that. Chasing that type of open-ended player-choice crafting gear specialization keeps players subscribed forever and is fun and challenging. Throwing that all away with throwing crafting gear away? Seems short-sighted, to me.

Crafting Items
-quality of components. Oh boy. I was afraid of this. So now we're back to common, rare, ultra-rare for harvestables? Critical success, and normal success? Same issue.
As has been true in every game that has had this, it's a "black is the new black" problem. In MMO parlance, it means rare is the new common, and ultra-rare is the new rare. When you have harvestable tiers or quality, it orphans, ostracizes, or makes irrelevant everything in the common category, without one thing that is almost never implemented: A way to convert 10, 100, 1000 or whatever number of 'common' things into a rare, and subsequently, convert x rare into an ultra-rare. And not a chance to do it, a deterministic predictable method. And you don't have to go to an Enchanter to do it. You do it yourself, as the harvester or crafter. This rewards persistence as well as utilizing random chance. Same goes for critical success. If you can't determine it, everyone wants critical success. If you can, everyone wants critical success. See the issue? Critical success is the new normal success. Normal items become pointless.
Complications vs. opportunities. Sounds great, Silius tried it, it was absolutely horrendous in the first year+. In EQ2 it was better, but there were almost no opportunities, and only complications. Designers push so hard for this type of thing, and invariably make it a "stick" to beat the crafters with instead of a "carrot" to entice them with. I'm all for an opportunities/complications sytem, with the following caveat: That they are always, and forever, balanced equally in rate of occurring during any check, interval or frequency that they can occur. In other words, if Corey is going to actually make it "not solving a math problem" then make it fun, not 100% punitive, like Vanguard was under Silius.
And let me be crystal clear here, I understand the purpose of these systems it to prevent automation. They're essentially AFK-detectors. Yet, based on what they've outlined so far? There will not be a player driven economy. A player driven economy REQUIRES that players make everything. As in, everything. Every food, every drink, every consumable, every spell component, every single thing that all the loops in the game need? Players make it. And that means bulk everything. "He's open to this sort of thing where it makes sense!?" Uh... it should make sense everywhere, if players are making everything. So, they're clearly not. Which..I gotta say, does not instill me with confidence. His answer should have been: Yes, you will be able to make 5, 10 or even more, quantity wise of every food, drink, consumable, potion, poison, scroll, caltrops, trap components, holy water, sharpening stones, flaming oil, summoning stones, portal stones, or any other thing players consume in their adventuring or travel. Clearly, that's not their thinking, and it's another lost opportunity.
There is nothing wrong with complications, but in Vanguard, it went like this: Here's a complication, you must do this and only this action, and if you don't, the combine will fail. Oh, and here's another one, immediately after, and if you don't do this action, you'll not only lose all the components, but all the fuel as well. And for good measure, he's a final one, even though you just did those other two, that guarantees you cannot complete the combine, because it will 100% for certain reduce some value to make the product non-viable, and you lose everything. With full at-level gear, on an at-level combine. So when I say a 50% chance of opportunity or complication? What I really mean is, a deterministic formula that is weighted so that in a combine, you will ALWAYS see both. You won't just see complications due to a random roll of the dice 5 times on the complication side. If there are 4 to 8 events per combine, then there MUST be 2 - 4 complications and guaranteed, 100%, always, for certain, 2-4 opportunities as well. (tuned by tier/rank/quality/level)
If a design goal of a complications/opportunity system is to guarantee failure from time to time? At least let that failure only be a time sink, not a fuel and/or item sink, plus time. In other words, let player choice allow them to bail out and save the things that are extremely hard to obtain or find, rather that roll the dice and make them lose a raid drop guaranteed, despite pressing all the right buttons at the right time and having all the right gear. If it's meant to be an item sink, well, I'm pretty sure paying customers aren't going to pay forever to be punished for doing everything right.
They "might consider" enchantment? Well, if you're not going to allow customization during item creation, you damned well better allow it after, or you have no enchantment system. "might consider".. give me a break. Tying in things like rares, critical success, and a lack of customization at creation time is.. not a good recipe for success. They're intentionally choosing all the historical failed systems, and with eyes wide open, not choosing the superior solutions.

Gathering and Resources
Competitive node based systems, without actual random node placement, is guaranteed to repeat history, and fail for all the same reasons.
To date, no-one has written a harvesting node placement algorithm that features:
Out of the sight of all players
Personally visible. Not competitive. No racing to the node.
Of the right type to balance spawn/generation/theme of the region
Here's a pro tip: Use the navmesh. If an NPC can't path there? Don't spawn a node there. In fact, use the navmesh, but only spawn it where there are least 3 steps of the mesh to (in any direction) any edge of the mesh. In other words, only spawn a harvesting node in a location that an NPC can path three navmesh vertices away from. Start with that, just to be sure. And, as well, make nodes that haven't been harvested in 1 hour de-spawn and mark that spawn as undesirable in the log if that location goes repeatedly un-harvested 4-8 times during prime time. Then review that log and find out why it wasn't harvested.

Instead they are/have been/shouldn't be:
At a predictable/deterministic/player-driven location
At a predictable/deterministic/player-driven interval
Of a random type, the same type, or a type least desired
In a location that is not visible or reachable by any player
All spawned together of all the same type, regardless of all other considerations
Will only respawn if all the nodes that were spawned together are harvested (leads to cherry picking, ala EQ2)
Competitive. Race to the node.

Finally, you can't have salvage and node harvesting in the same game, without massive disparity, especially if salvage provides any, all, or even some of the materials required by any, all or some of the professions. Why? Because salvaging is infinite, over time, but made worse because obtaining salvageable objects is an asynchronous, player driven amplifier. What does that mean? It means, if I was a inclined, I could organize my guild to sit on all 200 spawn points in a zone, and take advantage of any "shorten the respawn timer to create difficulty" mechanism, to kill every single creature in an entire zone for say an hour. Let's say for argument that respawn time is 5 minutes, so I get 12 spawns x 200. 2400 spawns. Let's say 10% drop salvageable loot. (that's insanely low, but let's go with it for this hyperbolic example). That's 240 items. I hand them to my guild salvager, who is max skill, max tool, max everything (and was within the shortest possible time) and he salvages everything and gains 240 times some multiplier in raws. Probably somewhere in the order of 1.5 to 3 times, so let's say 360-720 raws.
Now.. you need to do that harvesting. Well, in order to prevent "it exponentially increased the amount of harvested materials everyone received", we can't do group harvesting, even though it's a social activity, and the amount of harvests can be balance in other ways, so the respawn is punitive. Nodes will randomly respawn every 10-15 minutes. So, there's 20 nodes in the same area, and we manage to harvest them 4-6 times in an hour. 80-120 raws. Versus 360-720.
And the best part? The salvage method is guaranteed. The node harvesting isn't. Also anything similar to loot that is consumed or generated from corpses, like Skinning? Ridiculously skewed in terms of production. Solved with animal husbandry.

These problems are why node based harvesting and salvaging are extremely problematic in modern game design. You're far better off having the players exploit the environment with temporary place-able consumables to generate resources over time, requiring harvest of those resources. It's a tap you control, it gives the player all the choice, and is a thematically consistent dependency. Again, if I want to be a miner? And I can enhance my gear, tools, and world-placeables, repeatedly, for varying goals, so that I produce exactly one thing extremely well? That's a game subscribers play forever.
Using the blood ore example, if I could build a sluicebox, and place it at a river or exposed face, or riverbank, or any other appropriate geological formation, and have to stock it with defenders (consumables from another profession, like outfitter, animal trainer) and it will produce over time, that is meaningful choice.

It's not even necessary that players specialize in production/growing of things that players want or need. It could entirely be that players are supplying NPC's. Kingdoms. Enemies. Factions. Races. If I want to supply blood iron to orcs.

The example of the Moon Orchid dances around two decisions that should have been made 5+ years ago: Will harvest nodes be guarded and will resource location be by tier only. They're talking like it could be, might be, may be.. Make the decision, implement, test, iterate. Talking about basic design decisions like they're not made 5+ years later is horrifying. Also, some of these statements fly in the face of a pure crafter; level 1 adventurer, and them be a level 50 crafter, concurrently. Everything in this section that Corey outlined indicates all nodes will be guarded. If they're not, then the unguarded nodes will be perma-camped 24x7 by currency farmers. Unless, again, you go with a vastly superior & simpler system, one that hasn't historically already failed.

The statement of "so instead of just going up and right-clicking on them you might use something like Miners Precision or something to study and strike an ore vein, if you intend to try and target a higher rarity yield. Or using an ability like Skinner's Deftness to skin an animal quicker at the risk of a potentially lower yield.”" is diametrically opposed to reality in any competitive race-to-the-node system. And why would you ever skin something quicker? Harvesting actions of any kind ,longer that 3 seconds, will forever generate user complaints until adjusted.

There's nothing wrong with having infinite harvestables, provided they have zero value to anyone but players. Sounds like they're going down the historically failed route of trying to limit harvesting over time, when faced with the reality of 24x7 harvesting by both malicious and non-malicious players. You can't solve that problem and still make the bulk of casual 'keeping the lights on' subscribers happy. Another knife-edge problem they're creating themselves, when there are betters solutions.

Temporal node based harvesting and salvage guarantee an infinite supply of harvestables. The only way around this is to use a system whereby players or guilds specialize in the production of harvestables by consuming from the environment/enemies, or using a variety of production/growing/husbandry sinks to produce what they want. In other words, you use the adventuring loop to feed the growing/production (not harvesting) loop, and that's where players harvest their raw materials for crafting. Using anything they've outlined simply ensures Pantheon will be another RMT money-laundering/currency-disparity mechanism.

Buying and Selling
- There is no 'region-locked' anything in a game with instant communication, and instant travel. Both of which are in pantheon. Arbitrage (artificial or otherwise) is no longer a viable mechanic, and logic and history proves it. It's hard to believe they are actually going to try it again, in the face of reality.
Similarly, it doesn't matter if they choose to have a searchable, instant, global marketplace. The players will create it with a chat channel in or outside the game, and a single parsing script of a single log of that channel. It already is on P99 and every TLP. No-one is going back.
Setting that aside, the phrase "... it's pretty basic in terms of how players can buy or sell items. It’s peer-to-peer trading and NPC merchants, ... " implies selling things to NPCs for coin, directly. As mentioned previously, and historically proven in every game that has it, this single ability will screw your economy so hard, you'll see the resulting failure from space.
This is particularly hilarious: "people would have to search out and interact with individual merchants for items. Also, we might potentially need to provide a way to make finding items faster to help people find the right one." Ok, this has already been tried, in Project Gorgon. They did the whole "here's 500 merchants, you have to right click and scroll through each one to find your adventuring consumables" already. It failed, for all the flaws 30 seconds of critical thinking expose. So, they added searching golems. Which .. oh, wait for it.. now you can find your item as though the merchants are meaningless. Which they are. Why is why you shouldn't try this terrible idea again.
Shroud tried this as well, and.. well.. how many people are playing Shroud? Their great idea? Let's charge RL cash for lots where there will be a ton of foot traffic! Yeah, the whales love that.. the non-whales? Turns out they hate a playing field that isn't level. Allowing players who happen to be able to get the first/best location in a merchant stall system? It just ticks off 99% of your paying customers.
But the one thing in this section that is the most dread inducing? " I have to work out a scaling and tiered schema for recurring rents, and think about what it might cost to be in particular locations ", in particular the whole 'recurring rents' part. Was also tried in Shroud, and was a constant source of negative feedback there too.
This whole thing? It's a solved problem. Global. Searchable. One time non-refundable listing fee based on 3, 5 or 7 day listing time. If it's not that? Players will simply go make their own. ( With blackjack and hookers! - Bender ) Hell, as it is, VR is going to have a drolvarg of a time competing with the existing tlpauctions.com solutions that are already superior (and free/instant) compared with what they have outlined so far. It has to be -better- than what players can do on their own, or players won't use it. Pretending that arbitrage/regionalization is actually a think makes them look naive and inexperienced at best.
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In general? Selling to NPCs directly, node based harvesting, having equippable loot drop directly, or allowing harvestables to be sold for currency will guarantee the failure of the economy to actually be an economy in any sense of the word. This appears to be their design, as of Sep 10, 2019. Not ideal, so far. :|
 

Trasak

Apprentice
Staff member
Staff Writer
@vjek, nice to see you over here.

I feel like we are having a lot of the same general worries. My biggest worry is that a robust crafting system and "Iconic Itemization" do not really mesh well. Iconic Itemization in crafting is usually about acquiring gated recipes that have only one set of inputs and you only receive one possible outcome. To me that is not crafting its questing with a droid you feed stuff too to get items out of.

I personally am still a fan of localization with a few big ifs. First while teleportation exists it needs to be point to point teleportation and not something that can be initiated from anywhere any time. In this way teleportation is more about shortening a trip but not making it instant by any means. The world needs to be vast, to the point that walking from one teleportation node to another takes about an hour, much less and yes localization is just meaningless as everyone will take the 5 minutes to go to the main trading hub for everything. Third items need to have both weight and volume such that moving bulk materials from one localization to another just isn't practical. It could be that teleportation doesn't work if you are over a certain weight limit including whati s in weight reduction bags, call it magical inertia. Lastly certain groups of resources should only be from a single localization and there should at least be one localization area per starting race.

All of these together could make localization interesting and deliberately cumbersome with the intent of having each localization have its own character and feel to it. This also requires each localization to have an almost self contained vertical progression from 1-Max and each localization has its own horizontal progression largely focused on the locally unique materials. So we would need a minimum of 8 project Faerthals to even begin to have the game started with at most one teleportation node dead center in the greater local.

MMO economies are very tricky. This is largely due to the disparity of play time between a responsible adult/young adult and a poop socker/paid farmer. I believe the drops to salvage to node to vendor purchase-able can be made to work but I agree that an infinite amount of drops will flood the market whatever we can come up with. There might be a way to establish a personal diminishing return on item drops over time to help combat this.

The general formula i could see working might be as follows. A sword blade takes a total of 1 kilogram of iron to forge (fairly realistic historical amount). A single node of iron ore can be smelted into about 500 grams of quality iron and a players inventory can really only hold about 6 nodes worth of raw ore, a pack mule or a ore wagon might change this but movement will be slower especially if it is over land. A single used sword that a mob drops can only be salvaged for about 100 grams of quality iron. A vendor will give you roughly the value of 50 grams of iron for said used sword and will ignore if it is magical, only the base salvageable value will figure into NPC sale prices. Likewise ore is only valued at half the final iron quantity.

So now the crafter can make a sword with 1000 grams of iron. This would be the equivalent of either 2 nodes of iron ore fully smelted and refined or 10 swords that have been salvaged then purified. The vendor though will pay the crafter the full 1000g value of iron in the sword and the sword would also be one of the possible needed items for crafting writs. A crafter can also choose to salvage their own work and receive 75-95% of the metal back as it has not been dirtied through use. This will mostly be done for low quality results in crafting. There could even be an NPC smith that will give non crafter PCs 50g of iron for every sword they turn into the smith.

If VR were to set up a commodities market NPC where the raws were purchased from players and sold to players with a smart buy/sell algorithm after a short time the true market value of those raw materials would be reflected on the vendor. That value would then be reflected by all NPC who purchase items made from that raw material. If iron ore becomes worthless because there is no demand then iron swords are also worthless. If on the other hand iron ore is worth a ton then likewise iron swords will rise in value but anything NPCs do that interacts with iron will cost more. It can be done in such a way that the net cash flow remains fairly neutral on the macro scale and a slow enough response signal will prevent too much manipulation.

Monsters other than maybe player race bandits dropping currency is stupid and should be avoided. Instead everything is an unrefined crafting resource or used equipment. The used equipment can all be improved by taking it to a crafter for repair/improvement/imbuement or salvaged for raw materials.

As far as "Black is the New Black" that is really an issue of mudflation. If instead the rare materials were zero sum improvements over common materials we might have something more interesting. In other words common material would do neutral damage to all creature types, rare would do added damage to some creatures and less to others, and ultra rare materials would be really good against a few select targets but garbage for almost everything else. Mixing and matching neutral rare and ultra rare materials in different item templates could give you a final item that is a composite of all the modifiers which may yield a better than average or worse than average item based on what was combined.

The above though is sadly counter to Iconic Itemization which brings me right back to my original worry . . .

Trasak
 
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