posted: June 27th, 2006
(Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series. Before reading it you should at least read the Role of Crafting in Massive Multiplayer Games, Synchronicity, and Crafting: My Argument Against Synchronicity. Optionally you might want to read Something for Everyone, Crafting in MMO’s (or Can’t We All Just Get Along?), and Craft This.
There will be a quiz.)
So I’m reminded of the old Saturday Night Live sketch with Dan Akroyd and Jane Curtain where they would do their ‘Point-Counter Point’ during the Weekend News update. It’s got nothing to do with Ryan or what I think of his ideas. Just one of those random connections that my brain tends to make.
I’m a big fan of crafting. In enjoy it a lot. In fact I do a fair amount of crafting-like activities in the Reality MMO (are they ever going to come out with Reality II? It feels like I’ve been waiting for it forever) including the painting of miniature figures, the brewing of beer, and the fletching arrows, among other things. So I suppose it isn’t at all unexpected that I have different views of crafting than Ryan.
Crafting is, in most games, a secondary system. This isn’t really surprising since people aren’t too likely to lay down big bucks at the box office to see Conan the Agrarian. The majority of people are interested in being the hero of their particular story and the hero typically jumps ship and gets the heck out of Dodge the first chance he gets rather than spending his life tending to moisture evaporators for his Uncle.
As a result crafting has a tendency to be more of a ‘filler’ activity in MMO’s, something to do while you aren’t adventuring. The thing is that it doesn’t have to be that way. While most people out there prefer to adventure there are plenty of people who enjoy crafting a lot. Enough to make it a completely viable activity in and of itself, assuming that the system is fleshed out.
One of the biggest problems, in my opinion, is that there is no real equivalency between crafting and adventuring. Crafters can usually grind out items much faster than adventurers can loot them while adventurers can loot items far more powerful than what crafters can make. Adventurers often complain that crafters charge too much since crafting is safe but tedious while crafters complain that adventurers don’t appreciate the effort that is spent in making the items.
So why not make the two more equivalent? Make it so that crafters and adventurers spend about the same amount of time and energy to make or loot items of compatible value and so that they share the same risk.
Risk? But crafters can’t die from crafting. This is true, but when a player tackles a mob they aren’t really risking dying, unless the game has permadeath. Instead what they are risking is the loss of time (xp debt), money (equipment damage), and possibly some self esteem. There’s no reason at all why crafters can’t risk similar losses.
In a similar vein it has been accepted for a fairly long time that some mobs are simply too tough for individuals and have to be taken on as a group. These mobs typically drop better loot because of the extra energy involved in putting a group together to take them on. Similarly certain crafting tasks could be defined as group tasks.
While it is certainly true that some individuals prefer to do all their crafting by themselves the same thing can be said in regards to adventuring. There are plenty of people who prefer to adventure solo which is why we keep that option available. However because they are not willing to group up with others their rewards are decreased slightly. So it would be (and I think should be) with solo and group crafting.
But who gets the final product? If you have a group of people making something how is it fair that only one of them gets the item? Well, how is it fair that when a group kills a mob and a rare item drops only one of them gets it? That’s simply the way it is. In fact with group crafting the results would be more equitable since at the beginning of a project the group knows exactly what the ‘drop’ will be and who will get it, as opposed to random chance. Certainly in the short run such a system may seem unfair but just as most adventuring groups will not form just to kill a single target most crafting groups will probably undertake a series of projects so that there’s rewards for everyone.
Likewise it is even possible to envision ‘raid’ level crafting that takes multiple groups to complete. Following the same model as adventuring raids such projects might have multiple products which could be spread among the players, though unfortunately there would still not be item rewards for everyone. What is the incentive for crafters to try and undertake such tasks? The same incentive that adventurers have, knowing that they will possibly (even probably) not receive a raid level item as loot. They may do it for the camaraderie. They may do it because although they don’t gain anything this time perhaps they will the next time the same group ‘raids’.
Of course many players may find such a concept not to their liking. The idea of gathering together and sitting around while groups are formed and reformed and roles are assigned is not something lots of players will want to do, but then the same thing holds true for raiding. Lots of players do not engage in raiding, yet raid content is still created for the upper end players.
Which brings us finally to ‘gating’. I have to say that like Ryan I’m not a big fan of artificial restraints. However, to preserve balance between adventurers and crafters it may prove necessary. If adventuring raid content is gated (and it usually is) then the comparable crafting raid content should be gated as well, and for the exact same reason. Without such things you would have crafting raids form that would produce multiple products again and again, flooding the market. While I can certainly appreciate the desire not to gate content, if adventurers are willing to accept it happening in limited cases I would suspect crafters would accept it as well. So what’s a crafter to do when they’ve been ‘locked out’ of content for a period of time? The same thing an adventurer does; move on to other content.
As a final note on gating content, I’m not really proposing whether it should or shouldn’t be done. All I am saying is that it is possible to do it for crafters as well as adventurers and if it is being done for one then it should be done for the other.
In the end adventuring and crafting are very similar for balance. If they undertake the same risks they should be able to earn the same rewards, and conversely they should not be able to achieve the same rewards without undertaking the same risks. Balancing the randomness of loot drops against the greater predictability of crafting may be tricky but it is far from impossible. Statistics will give designers a good idea how long it takes a player or group of players to loot a given quality of item, on average, and adjust the crafting times appropriately, perhaps with some variance to accommodate the fact that the crafters have more control over what is produced, not just how often.
Of course it is theoretically possible to balance the two without group crafting, raid crafting, or lockouts. Increasing the length and difficulty of the crafting tasks and the possible loss of coin could be used to make up for the missing expenditure of having to put together a group or raid, but such a thing would, in my opinion, be much harder to balance.
Finally, as for the personality of people who craft it is true that many of them enjoy completing projects on their own. Of course given that nearly all crafting systems are designed around that model that is probably to be expected. To be a good crafter in most MMO’s requires a sort of mindset that lets you sit for large amounts of time focused on specific tasks without interacting with others (though to be truthful a lot of time crafting channels have far more chat than adventuring channels). With a system that supports group tasks perhaps we would see a new category of crafter emerge. Certainly not every crafter will take to it, but for those who don’t there should still be plenty of solo content.