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Exclusive Developer Blog: Harvesting!

Thomas Blair Posted:
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Node Fundamentals

Resource Nodes (such as a Copper Node) range from rank 1 to rank 10. The rank of a node is determined by the Land Parcel it is placed on, which is further modified by the difficulty band of the Campaign. So we could use the same Land Parcel with the same resource nodes on it in multiple Campaigns and the resource nodes will scale to the correct rank settings. We have always said that the riskier the Campaign type the better the rewards, how we provide that is by increasing the rank value of Campaigns the closer to the center of the universe a Campaign is. Which means all resources and NPCs will auto scale to that rank. (Yes we are using the same ranking system with our monsters, as well! This means that the difficulty to acquire a resource scales automatically with the Rank of that resource!)

The rank of the resource node will determine the quality of resources that can be harvested. Rank 1 copper nodes will never produce any quality of resource except Poor. Rank 10 copper nodes however can produce Rare, Epic and very rarely Legendary quality copper.

This is going to lead to some interesting equipment and item differences between the Campaigns, and make resource harvesting a Risk/Reward decision for all players.  It also helps to drive the loop where crafters need better combatants (to help them acquire the best resources) and combatants need better crafters (to create better weapons and armor).

Node Interaction

In some ways, our crafting loop is traditional: there is a natural progression in the tools required to harvest higher-tier resources.  We like that mechanic, we felt that it didn’t fit well from a narrative perspective (in Crowfall, you are playing an immortal champion of the Gods. It seemed a bit silly to force you to punch a tree to fashion a wooden axe or shovel.)  Instead, we decided to use our Runestone concept – where the true name of an item or creatures can be inscribed on something to allow a Crow to conjure and control it – to provide a better narrative wrapper to this in-game activity.

We still have the concept of resource-specific harvesting tools.  We included item decay on the harvesting rune as core component of this system (we need it as a sink for our economy) but this wrapper makes it look better (it makes the harvesting task feels less mundane) and, as a nice upshot of this idea, it also allows us to compress the harvesting items more efficiently in the player’s inventory (with limited inventory space, no one is excited about carrying around five mining picks.)

And, of course, we could always add more tools over time, if and when we need to support additional resource types. 

Once summoned, these tools take on a ghostly appearance, and have a quality level that corresponds to the rarity/quality levels of the resource nodes listed above. 

Here is what it looks like to summon a tool.

Note that the time-to-ready a particular tool was a key consideration for us; we wanted the animation to look cool and sell the idea, but we didn’t want players to feel like targeting (and re-targeting) the resource nodes was a point of friction.  As long as the player keeps harvesting nodes of the same type, they will not need to spend any time to re-summon the necessary tool. From an input and UI standpoint, all the player has to do is run up to the node type they wish to harvest and press F to interact. The system is smart enough to figure out what kind of tool should be used (and if the player already has it summoned, or not.)

Each resource node has a health pool and mitigation type, similar to player combat. Each tool deals a specific kind of damage and has a specific mitigation penetration value. (Interesting bit of trivia: remember how we added armor penetration to the Ranger a few weeks back? Harvesting was what gave us that stat, which we were able to then go back and use for combat system in general!)

The end result is a scalable progression for Runestones, skills and resource rarity/quality.  The basic tools are good against the first tier of resources, and the more advanced tools are needed for the higher tiers. Using a basic tool against a higher tier of resource will just cause that tool to deal very low damage (if any) to the node, and suffer a large amount of decay. 

Each node has various states of destruction and at 75%, 50%, 25% and 0 the node will produce resources and potentially other loot items into the world, such as Gold Dust. (Gold Dust can be pressed into gold coins via crafting.) The resources are transferred to a player’s inventory when they walk over them, in the same way that health orbs can be collected in the game currently.

Mechanically, this might sound very similar to our combat system. That is because we used the combat system (weapons, powers, health, and mitigation types) to create the basis of the harvesting system. Not only did we save a considerable amount of time (thanks to system and tool reuse) but it always opened up a new design vector for us to explore… Multiplayer Harvesting! (I love it when a plan comes together!!) That’s right! You and your friends can team up on the more difficult resource nodes together to destroy them faster. In fact, since I mentioned at the beginning that we want to facilitate the idea of mining-and-caravan expeditions as an emergent behavior that we want to foster, we are even experimenting with having more powerful nodes that require multiple players to destroy.

I should say that while our harvesting system makes heavily use the combat system under the covers, that fact will be largely hidden from the players.  Archetype combat powers will not damage harvesting nodes. (Though this caused amusing side-effects in early testing, as you could destroy a field of ore nodes with the Myrmidon whirlwind power, it certainly wasn’t intended behavior.) We are also zeroing out any combat stats while you are engaged in harvesting that could affect the harvesting outcome, since one goal of the harvesting system is to create a separate track of specialized gameplay with its own set of skills, statistics and dedicated player activities. 

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Thomas Blair

Thomas is the Design Lead on ArtCraft's upcoming MMORPG Crowfall. He's been in the industry for over 14 years. From EverQuest to SWG and DCUO, he's also patented the SWG Beastmaster and the Entertainer's "Build-a-Buff" systems.