Stick + Magic = Machine Gun (….really?!)

We’ve all had those moments in our respective RPG games. You stand on a decision to use what’s already available to you or begin your deep long dive into becoming a virtual craftsman. You begin with the simplest or the most wanted item you want; find the components or ingredients to cook up some product. Of course if you’ve been playing MMOG’s as long as I have, you begin to have a long retrospective and sometimes and hysterical one. Thinking back to what use to make sense and how you perceive the system before while you were in your little world. If you were into fantasy, no doubt you have stumbled upon a moment where you don’t understand how such a weapon or item can be made with the given ingredients.

In the tech they are given in, they can only do so much to give you an experience. Limited by it usually sends us back into the days before 2000 when item craft was one item to another to create a product. Usually the ones we could remember are the most epic things we’ve done, while some were the tedious mundane things we got out of that experience. More of an ignorance of understanding and logic, some developers seem to lose touch on how crafting really works. Though the end justifies the mean, in hindsight it more of a confused puzzle of (what I dub) the “Macgyver system”. It just an oddity that we all accept since it’s all magic and fantasy, but when it comes down to something based on real life; it usually turns out much more unrealistic than you hoped. Not nagging on everyone to get their act together and make a sensible item crafting system, but just pointing out simple flaws to playing with some of the item crafting systems we have to date. More of that later in this entry.

Starting with the simplest is the usual A+B=C. Every crafting system is literally based of this principle. Some take it even further and allow you to do more with it by adding in production items that are intermediate to the end result. One example I can pull straight from experience is Face Of Mankind. As a sci-fi, you are allowed to build electronic components which is the Swiss army knife of all the electronic things you can craft in the game. From rifles to implants, it does it all. To have some added difficulty, they’ve included quality levels and other production items to the mix which may resort in an inventory of bad bookkeeping. Though those who manages to pull of mass production (without getting ganked), could receive a nice profit from all the items made. In essence straightforward stuff.

Moving on to time-based crafting where as the player, you would have to do something for a predetermined amount of time to either receive resources or produce items. In short, the time you spend is the time you can make stuff. Once again, many games incorporate you to stand in front of something or proxy to  an NPC while it’s producing you something. KalOnline awhile back forced players to fish and then cook the fish even though you can have it raw. This required you to stand by a designated fishing area and just stand there until your connection cuts out on you. Great way to take a nap, bad way if the economy relies on you to sell this stuff for better weapons. I had my ups and downs with it, in the end I gave up since the buffs weren’t as great as they use to be.

Okay, so you have all your ingredients to make Duchbag’s Sword of Might; all you grass and magic you have collected from killing or gathering. Now you have to find a craftsman to make it for you. Not a problem, NPC is in the next town. So you walk on over there and talk to the poor guy surrounded by dozen other people likely asking the same thing. Then he has the audacity to state, “If you give me x amount of gold, I can make it for you.” Then you notice you little money pouch is empty. Great, spent all that time and now no money to spend. What I’ve illustrated is the cash-based crafting some games coded in. Usually this is to keep down inflation in game and sometimes it’s just another reason what you left the game. Pretty great if it’s as small money sink, but if it’s the only money sink; it all likelihood, you should just buy it than craft it.

Realistically they’re all not like one or the other, usually a mix of both in some function suitable for the game (I hope.) Though this is a minor inconvenience in a myriad of “what exactly I’m I doing?” moments where you blank out of creating something you spent a good chunk of time on. One thing some games really got it wrong is the extreme simplicity of crafting product. For the rest of this blog, let’s just assume we are making “Bloggin’s Rifle of Sharpness”; requires bones, metal, sticks and magic. So our crafting product is BRS for short and we need all those ingredients. In this little fantasy world, we can kill and gather all of that stuff. Easy as “apple pie”, which is apple and stones. Now lets come back to the plain called meatspace, lets look up the components of a rifle. In a modern rifle like an M16, it’s basically metal and metal. For even more complicated specs, it would be a lot of metal crafted into production items crafted into (maybe) secondary items then to the final product being the M16 itself (maybe some chemicals if your crafting bullets too). That’s a lot of work. Question is how does the magic and bones fit in all this? That, I have no idea. The guy who thought making the specs for the BRS though it was “cooler” this way.

Not much of a bother but more of unrealistic approach if there were to have any game to be somewhat more modern than middle earth. Of course to keep player attention, super-simplification seems the way to go. Though dumbing it down would be much of a non-educational way to target a general audience. I have ideas how to approach item crafting in general. The most part, players don’t want to stand there and craft; they want to be where the real action is, so a time-based system around the player wouldn’t be the most genius idea. However a time-based NPC system would alleviate that problem. Turn in the items to an NPC and they’ll just respond “Come back in a few minutes, I should be done by then.” Or whatever time is set for the item, then just go off and kill stuff while you wait or just log off while the server keeps processing. A cash based system could also be added to it so if you’re lazy, have an NPC to do it or if you want to save money, you can do it yourself. It’s a neutral way to let the player choose to craft or not. And as a reward, more crafting items for all the equipment and have the equipment well beyond the other items you as the player would receive in killing or getting rewards. The benefit of time-in should be a reward one and not of a grind.

Maybe it’s time the rubber band and paper clip should be made from scratch too? Depends on how the next generation of programmers have it.


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