Crafting and the economy. Two very important aspects to a successful MMORPG. Mess up both of them and you can still have a playable and enjoyable game, but it certainly takes a lot away from the overall experience.
Many modern MMOs have put crafting into their games as an after though, generally speaking, just another means to acquire the next piece of "uber loot." Another grind with very little reward. Other games in the past such as SWG have made crafting an essential part of the game, and in my opinion it was too essential.
Player run economies have their ups and downs, as players tend to be greedy. We see massive inflation and business practices that would make Enron flinch. However too much focus on economic "systems" of control and we see economies overly dependent on currency, and the byproduct is grinding endlessly for money to keep playing and advancing your character, especially at "end game."
I am no economists, but I know there has to be a better way.
I've decided to combine these posts because they are essentially linked and co-dependent. You can't make one work without making the other work.
First off, I like one number to look at to see how much cash I have. No breaking into gold, platinum, bronze, silver etc... just one number please, one currency.
My biggest problem with crafting in many games is that as you level your crafting skills, the stuff you made before as well as the materials to make them becomes absolutely worthless. In a player run economy, this is a very bad things because it creates an artificial stratification of players, much like typical character leveling systems do. Once you get past the "copper ore" phase, you never need copper ore again. So all the copper ore floating around in the economy becomes either A) useless and of little value or B) over priced for twinks looking to power level crafting professions. Option A helps new players leveling their crafting professions naturally, and is not a bad thing, but option B kills crafting for those new players. The older a game gets, the more likely it is to see option B.
So the first thing I want to do is make it so all recipes and all resources are used throughout the life of the game and at all levels of game play. But how is this done? Easy.
Say a low skill level crafter wants to make a bronze shield. So they gather up some bronze ore, melt it into bars, then heat and shape those bars into the shape of a shield. Add a leather strap or something, and you're done.
Now say a higher level crafting wants to make a bronze shield. But he knows bronze is a little softer then iron, so he gets some iron ore and melts it with the bronze to fortify the metal, and then created an iron spike to attach to the face of the shield for some added "ouch" to his/her enemies. They also know that the leather handle tends to weaken and break, so they cure the leather to increase its strength and durability.
Then we have a very high level crafter who wants to make a really nice bronze shield. They do everything their less skilled crafting friends do, but adds some mithril to the metal to further strength in, and inscribes the face of the shield with Runes to grant magical bonuses to the wielder. Our high level crafter then takes the shield to their alchemist friend, who dips the shield into a magical brew that make the shield feel magically lighter and easier to carry/use in combat...
So you see, I want a crafting system where more advanced gear is made from a lot more base components. Not just higher end resources, but the SAME resources PLUS the higher end stuff. That way, the lower level crafter can sell their resources and crafts to higher level crafters to use as base components, and nothing goes to waste or becomes obsolete. The higher level crafters will still need the same resources as the lower level crafters, so the market for them will never die.
But how then do you prevent the prices from becoming inflated and skewed toward the more wealthy, higher level crafters? Thus "pushing out" the lower level crafters? The answer on that is hard caps on all crafting resources and finished products.
As I've said in previous posts, all craftable items will have quality ratings. These are effected by the skill of the crafter, as well as the Stats of the character as I've said before. I propose to put price maximums on all craftable items and resources so that inflation can never push items so far above their actual worth that lower level crafters and players are pushed out of the market. Natural forces of supply and demand, and smart business practices with further even out the price. The higher level crafter may want to charge the maximum price for his copper ore, but the lower level crafter will undercut his price. Things are generally cheaper in the early game so the lower level crafter can undercut the price without facing financial burden.
So how then does crafting work?
I want the crafting game to be more about crafting then about resource management and acquisition. That was my major beef with SWG was that to be a great crafter, you needed factories and harvesters and all of that. It wasn't about skill, it was about resource management. I'll save that for RTS games thank you very much.
That being said, first I'll talk about resource gathering. You won't wander around looking for "nodes" or "spawns" of different resources like you do in many MMOs. If you want to mine you'll go to the mines. If you want wood you'll go to the lumber yard, etc. These will be pre-existing areas/structures in the PVE world that players can go and essentially "work." There will be different mines for different metals and ores, different lumber yards for different tree types etc. I know what you are thinking, "there will be hundreds of players at the same place and they'll dominate all the spawns!" Not true. These areas will run on "limited instances" in accordance to the demand for that resource.
Let's say that each "instance" of a mine will allow 20 players into that mine. Those players will then go through the mine with a NPC supplied cart/mule and find shiny mineral nodes, click on them and mine the node. Respawns will be fast and nodes will be plentiful. If 40 players want to mine that mineral, there will be two instances. The more players are at a particular resource location, it will have an impact on the maximum allowed price for that resource. If only 5 people are mining copper ore, the price they can sell that ore at will be higher. If 200 people are mining copper ore, the maximum price will go down. This way we see a system enforced "supply and demand" curve that is totally dependent on player participation. The best of both worlds if you ask me!
I want resource gathering to be an equal investment to the time spent doing it. Sit and mine for two hours, your going to get a lot of ore and gain a lot of mining skill.
The quantity and Quality of the resources you gather will be dependent upon your characters skill gathering that resource. The higher the skill, the more you can gather per (amount of time) and the higher quality it will be.
But then won't the best crafters just sell the best resources and the lower level crafters without as much skill only sell crappy stuff no one will buy!? No. Lower quality resources can be made into higher quality building materials based off of the skill of the crafter. That way, the crafter can decide to buy the cheap stuff and enhance it, or spend the money for the "good stuff." Both have their advantages and disadvantages.
So what about the crafting itself? What can we craft and how?
Well, you'll get new and more complex recipes that use more resources of greater variety as you level your crafting skills. You level your crafting skills by making stuff. *Important note* You will gain experience toward your base level from crafting and resource gathering. You will also gain stats (str/dex/int/wis) from different crafting skills.
Crafted gear will be on par with the best and most varied gear available from PVP Triumph Point purchases, as well as PVE quests and mob/npc loot. It's a question of if you want to take the effort to make it, take the effort to make the money to pay someone else to make it, earn it through PVE, or earn it through PVP. I want all options to have an equal outcome, that way personal play styles are not affected. Do what you want to do, do it well, and get rewarded.
Besides weapons, armor, cloths, etc. players will also craft things for their guilds, for their cities, and for their homes. More to come on some of that stuff with the PVE section(s) to come later, but yes you will be able to make your own cities and towns, you will have instanced housing available in cities (like in EQ2 and FFXI) that you can furnish, and you will be able to make cool Guild only stuff.
Also, you will be able to fish in game and cook your fish to make food. I don't want food to play as big of a role as it does in other games, but food will have its pros and cons. I want food and drink to give temporary buffs if you use them, but too much use will cause debuffs. You'll have to choose when you really want the bonus food and drink gives instead of having constant buffs like in other games if you have the time/resources to keep a steady supply.
Another of the resource gathering professions I want to have is Farming and raising Livestock. Same as before, you go to an instanced farm area with certain crops/animals and you "work" there, acquiring resources and skill the more you are there. As with all crafting and resources, the products of this work will be used in a wide range of other crafting professions, and used to make food and drink.
One thing I want to be made clear. Can you just collect resources all day? You said you can get XP right? Yes and no. The longer you spend resource gathering, NOT crafting, the slower and less frequent the gains to your skill and experience gain is. Also, you get diminishing returns on the amount of resources per (amount of time) after a while. I'd say something along the lines of an hour per day is fair. You can gather resources longer, but it'll be slower and slower and you'll gain less and less skill / XP after that first hour per day. Now, this cap is resource specific. So you can go mine copper for an ore, then silver for an hour, then mithril... etc. if you want to. This way, no single player can completely dominated the market all too much with an abundance of under-priced, over stocked goods.
This post is getting pretty long, so I'm going to cut it short. Part 2 will cover the actual crafting process and details, and more on the economy and what controls and freedoms will be in place. Enjoy!