Games

Speed Bumps or Turtles?

posted: July 11th, 2006


Under a previous post Lost asked the question:

The real question/debate could be in evaluating each system on their own merits for the entertainment value of the player (which I attempted to touch on in my “RMT and game design”). While there certainly does need to be a “speed limit” to protect parts aspects of the game, such as the economy, are we trying to build a road with speed bumps or a 50 degree incline mountain road to climb? What value does long crafting/item creation times add to the entertainment value of the player? While it could be debated that it adds realism value, but that is hard position to support when the time it would take to make a sword in the real world would be much longer (even when converted into accelerated game world time).

This is a good question and I’ve had to spend some time thinking about it.

Now obviously it isn’t really a question of speed bumps or a 50 degree grade. In both instances the same goal is reached, so to me it seems to be an issue of speed bumps to slow down progress at specific points or a general lowering of the speed limit, hence the title, Speed Bumps or Turtles?.

To me long crafting seems to be the turtle. It moves along slowly and methodically, but it always moves. Instant, or quick, crafting on the other hand will zoom forward whenever the magic button is pushed, spitting out a new item or component, but what then? Since we’ve already determined that there needs to be an overall limit to how fast players can hurtle down this road players are now forced to sit and wait, doing nothing until the red light changes and they can leap forward again. Since they are bound by the same rules the ‘speed bump’ method will actually have to wait until the turtle catches up before zipping ahead again. It’s true that the speed bump method may be able to leap ahead through several tasks until it’s finally forced to stop, but the further ahead it jumps the longer it will have to wait, and waiting isn’t fun at all.

Of course it is possible to make it so that so much time piles up that players will be able to go off to do something else while they are waiting, but doing this runs into the problem of balance between adventuring and crafting. If it takes an average of 10 minutes of work for an adventurer to loot an item how will they react if it only takes 2 minutes of work for a crafter to make one, followed by 8 minutes of hanging around talking with people at the local tavern before the item is complete?



6 Comments »

This is a good question and I’ve had to spend some time thinking about it.

I’m flattered. 😉

I should have put in the part using a bicycle to climb that 50 degree incline to help/support my metaphor, but I didn’t want to push it to far. :)

Of course it is possible to make it so that so much time piles up that players will be able to go off to do something else while they are waiting, but doing this runs into the problem of balance between adventuring and crafting. If it takes an average of 10 minutes of work for an adventurer to loot an item how will they react if it only takes 2 minutes of work for a crafter to make one, followed by 8 minutes of hanging around talking with people at the local tavern before the item is complete?

This to a certain degree this falls into protection of the economy, but clearly it is also an issue of “fairness”. And I agree that this needs to balanced (probably the second dirtiest word in MMOs), but I would suggest that we also account for how actively engaged the fighter has to be in the battle vs level of engagement required/in crafting (I know guilty of effectively being afk during a melee fight in some games).

It’s true that the speed bump method may be able to leap ahead through several tasks until it’s finally forced to stop, but the further ahead it jumps the longer it will have to wait, and waiting isn’t fun at all.

I think that it is important to remember that this got started in the attempt to fold “social whittling” into a level based game (at least that is my assumption). And it wasn’t until I remembered that Scott is also Lum the Mad and that really helped me to understand his what his “social whittling” concept was born from. It was effectively the end game for crafters in UO (I use “was” because, while UO is still in operation, the days of smiths standing at the forge awaiting the passing customer are gone) which is a skill based game and at time a PvP (only) environment (it’s also worth noting that social whittling might have been the end game for the player as a whole).

While it’s not impossible to borrow ideas from one system to use in another, it certainly does present problems to be hammered out. While you make an excellent argument for speed bumps in terms of fairness. But could we also consider adjusting the amount of money that a monster gives along with the item drop. While this isn’t the best solution, it is a route to explore. Increasing the time to collect raw materials or the amount of raw materials. Again this isn’t the best solution and it could very well be argued where is the entertainment value in that dragging out the collection process.

As always, I don’t claim to know the right answer, or in this case if there even is an answer that everyone can agree on.

Comment by Lost — July 14, 2006

Why is fairness a dirty word in MMO’s? Because people want to be able to do something more easily than other players? Obviously you can’t have perfect equality because then you have priests tanking like fighters and doing damage like mages but you can still have parity in Risk verses Reward, can’t you?

Now, when you talk about making it so you are riding a bicycle up the incline instead of a car that says to me that you see it as taking more effort with one path than another. I don’t think the idea of crafting tasks taking certain amounts of time increases the effort at all so much as slows down the overall progress. Is there something else you were thinking of that made it so that time based crafting tasks became actually harder rather than simply longer?

As for people fighting AFK, yes, I’ve seen that as well, but then again the idea behind ‘social whittling’ is to create a scenario where it is possible for the crafters to craft AFK to a similar degree. This does lead to some dangers with macro crafting, something which is a lot easier than macro fighting since fighting requires players to search out new targets, but assuming you can somehow balance against that then I don’t see why AFK fighting should be viewed any different than ‘social whittling’.

I don’t think that Scott’s idea of social whittling has as much to do with it being the end game of UO crafting as it has to do with a relaxed, low pressure activity. It’s something that players can do while just hanging out and chatting. Occasionally they will have to make a few clicks but then they can just talk to their friends while they wait. It really is totally irrelevant whether the activity occurs in a skill based system or a level based system.

I did consider how harvesting accounts for at least part of the time involved in crafting but I don’t think that simply increasing harvesting requirements is a good solution. If you simply increase the requirements then all you are really doing is adding tedium. If you decrease the amount of resources available to make players work harder then you reduce the ability to ‘socially whittle’ since now players will have to be much more active to produce items.

I agree that I don’t think there is a single right answer. Some people (such as yourself, I suspect) find waiting around for a crafting task to complete to be dull and tedious, since there is no interaction. That’s why I’m trying to work out a system in which players have multiple choices. If they wish they can craft through a sort of mini-game, requiring interactivity and helping to prevent boredom and tedium. If they don’t they can go down a ‘social whittling’ path. Since players tend to alternate play styles depending upon mood and other considerations they wouldn’t be locked into one or the other but would be able to choose the method that best suited them at that time.

One other point I would like to make about longer crafting tasks, short crafting tasks have two large and related weaknesses, in my opinion. These are based around the ‘cloth cap’ argument that Scott Jennings makes. Because the crafting task is short it takes many, many tasks to increase skill levels. This is tedious because the crafters end up repeating the same tasks over and over and over in a very much mindless fashion. It also results in so many items being produced that there can’t possibly be a market to support them, requiring that the items be destroyed or else dumped to an NPC merchant (who can only pay a small pittance for each item since there are so many produced). Longer tasks will eliminate the tedium of doing the same task over and over again in a mindless fashion and will hopefully allow each completed project to have a greater value, resulting in more positive feedback for the crafting player.

Comment by Evan — July 17, 2006

Neo: Choice, the problem is choice.

When my any of my crafters runs out of materials to craft with, I am given a choice. The question is how do I go about aquiring more harvestables so I can continue crafting. I can decided that money is more valueable than time and go out myself and harvest those materials, or I can decided that time is more valueable than money and buy it in bulk of the broker.

What you seem to be trying to do is provide tradeskillers with more than one choice when it comes to crafting. For these to be legitimate choices, they have to have pros and cons and like the recently implemented achievement system be relatively balanced.

But soloers do not get a choice when soloing. There aren’t really alternate ways to solo is there? Well actually there is, though I am not sure I’d call that soloing. You can buy collection items to finish collection quest and in that way you can effectively buy levels but I don’t think that is a very good model to follow.

Perhaps a better example would be that there is only one way for adventurers to aquire the best fabled gear money can’t buy. They must raid. So why give individual solo crafters alternatives when other players clearly don’t have such alternatives?

I can understand giving crafters alternatives that involve group projects much like a solo adventure has the option of forming a group and raids. I can also see solo crafting quest like make ten dead rat plushies. I’m not sure that I can justify giving crafters alternate ways of crafting items solo when solo adventures are not offered similar choices though.

Comment by Zygwen — July 19, 2006

Not sure what you mean by giving them alternate ways to craft items. This was really more about whether crafting attempts should be instant, followed up by some mechanism that prevents crafters from flooding the market such as a wait before the next attempt or a daily limit (speed bumps), or if each attempt should take time providing a limit that way (turtles).

While I keep repeating ‘something for everyone’ as a sort of mantra I’m not proposing in this case that the choice between speed bumps or turtles be given to the individual players, at least not unless there was some way that adventurers could have a similar choice.

Comment by Evan — July 20, 2006

It takes an average of 10-12 minutes of work for an adventurer to loot an item .

Comment by Mike — December 11, 2006

The amount of time varies between different games with some dropping items much faster than others. My real thought is to have a consistency between the drop rate and the crafting rate. They don’t need to be identical since you don’t have the same degree of control between the two actions but there shouldn’t be a huge disparity between the two.

Comment by Evan — December 15, 2006

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