Trade, materials, crafting, and story

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Greyhawk
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Trade, materials, crafting, and story

Postby Greyhawk » Fri May 12, 2017 12:33 pm

I've looked everywhere I can and I cannot find more than a few vague hints here and there, so I decided to take a minute to talk about how badly MMORPGs normally implement trade.

Trade began the first time one hunter-gather found more of a particular food item than they could consume so they traded it to someone in their camp for a non-food item, probably a weapon. Trade is the cornerstone of every civilization. Gift-giving and altruism are wonderful concepts, but they fail completely as effective means to enrich society as a whole. Trade is the vehicle which inflames progress and innovation. Many scholars declare in very loud voices that war is what drives innovation. They are wrong. Wartime innovation seldom has any usefulness during times of peace. The need to find valuable items to sell, on the other hand, is the one driving force for innovation that never falters nor flags.

The problem is, most MMORPGs don't implement functional economies of any sort, let alone trading economies. Instead, they add auction houses and a means for two players to individually exchange items or ingame currency and call it "trading". Then they come up with a whole catalog of items for the players to "trade" and a crafting system that uses those items. Then, of course, they have to put the items into the player's inventory.

And suddenly killing a mouse gives a player a set of titanium gears for a brass golem.

I recently posted a description of an alien society as a suggestion for their inclusion in the game. Turns out, it won't work. No problem. I can certainly use them in a different context. When I sat down to create this society, one of my first considerations was to give them something that would serve to both tie their culture together and provide them with products for external trade. This "something" had to be unique to them, because it has already been mentioned that interplanetary trade is one of the game mechanisms the SoH design team is planning to develop.

Thus was born the Cora Tree. This gave the Sonavyakti a renewable source of food and crafting material. It would not be shocking to defeat an outlaw Sonavyakti and find some product of the Cora tree on their person. Cora tree products could then be added to the catalog of items that players could use for crafting or trading. One of the aspects of City of Heroes that always baffled me was why, after all the attention to detail they poured into recipes and enhancement sets, components for the recipes were completely random! How in the heck does a thorn from a tree get crafted into a body implant that improves the defense of a wizard? Some items, like cybernetic limbs crafted into enchancements for super jump or super speed, made perfect sense. But how does quicksilver improve vision in both magic users and technology users?

Designing a trade system should not begin with trying to think up really cool "drops" for players. Designing a trade system should begin with an understanding of scarcity and necessity. Scarcity and necessity are always in conflict. Scarcity (or abundance) in the real world is the result of agriculture and natural resources. In a game, as well, I would much prefer to see "drops" that have some realistic connection to the enemy that is dropping them. If I arrest an alien I'm not likely to find cotton. Unless, of course, that alien's planet has a huge surplus of cotton and thus, the uniforms are made of cotton cloth. Still, it shouldn't be in the form of raw cotton. It should be in the form of a cotton jacket, a cotton shirt, or something similar. Then, the crafting system should have a means of recycling the cotton jacket into something like "recycled cotton thread". Recycled cotton thread would then been more rare (or perhaps less rare) than natural cotton thread. Either recycled cotton thread or natural cotton thread would then be the raw material made into cotton cloth. So forth and so on.

An enemy should drop something that enemy is realistically expected to have on their person (or body, if it is an animal). Then the crafting system should have some facility for transforming that item into an appropriate raw material, which in turn can be made into a more useful item. (Perhaps cotton thread could be made into a pair of cotton socks, for example, which would become a new item in the costume creator/wardrobe of the player.)

Rarity should be determined not by the need to have scaling rewards for players, but by the likelihood of the FHS Justice being able to actually produce something in bulk. Rare items would be items that cannot be produced on board ship. Therefore, these items must be bought planetside, or taken from defeated enemies (making our heroes fancy space pirates!). Common items would then be items that can be produced on board ship in bulk (like fruit and vegetables grown in biospheres!).

I would very much like to see a materials, crafting, and trading system that is reasonable with the story context of the game world rather than just tagged on to give players one more ingame activity. Crafting needs to both disassemble down into raw materials and assemble upward from raw materials. These three systems must interlock in ways that are both reasonable and logical within the larger context of the game lore.

Now that would be true innovation.
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Coyote
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Re: Trade, materials, crafting, and story

Postby Coyote » Fri May 12, 2017 3:07 pm

Oh, gosh, I hate to speak against other players' ideas, but I can't avoid it this time.

I've been where you want to take the game. I wrote an entire crafting system for a UO shard, from materials to finished goods. And other GMs put in the loot on the monsters, and the resources in the game areas, and such, to make it work from picking cotton all the way to wearing a dyed wizard's hat. And it only worked, in the end, because we ran a role-playing shard, and there were a lot of players who liked running characters as a smith, or tailor, hanging out at the forge and role-playing while crafting. Other players went out and adventured, but there was enough balance for the system to work.

In real life, this "system" exists because it has to exist. Necessity is a thing, after all. But in a game, for something that requires player involvement and activity to work, it has to be either:
a) desirable and pleasant. For example, as in the idea of playing a "miner/smith" character, and roleplaying in the town center with the adventurers who are buying your goods.
b) required.

Now, I think that (a) may apply a bit in SoH, but not that much. UO had a long and rich history as a crafter's game (and resource gatherer's game), and we were running a role-playing server, which put it in the best possible environment for this to work. And we still had a lot more adventurers than crafters. Now, consider the genre of superheroes, and how few people consider gathering resources, crafting goods (whether bat-mobiles, power suits, web shooters, or magic wands) as a major part of that genre. Sure, some heroes do it... a bit, here and there. And it's a very small part of their story, and they are greatly in the minority. Do you think many people will play such crafters / gatherers? If not, if you expect players to just play normal heroes who just go out and fight, and depend on these players to do the sourcing for resources, and to craft goods in their spare time, then you have to make it very easy and simple. Exactly not what you are proposing.

Choice (b) is flat out terrible for SoH. It throws away one of the main strengths of CoH, that you did not HAVE to spend much time gathering resources, crafting, etc, in order to be a strong character. Making this required is so far away from that strength, that I don't expect the dev team to give it any consideration.

So, we're left with choice (a)... a few players will enjoy crafting and such, and be the sources for the market. Frankly, I think that you overestimate how many people will do it, and how much time they will spend on it. Even in CoH, items were hard to purchase or expensive because they were rarely available, and this was the case even in a system where resources and crafting were relatively simple. If you make it more complex, fewer casual players will get involved in it, and you will have ONLY the dedicated who will feed the market. Even with the help of the casuals, the CoH markets were often thin... remove the casuals by making the system too complex, and you will end up with a threadbare market.

This is not a crafter's game. I know how one plays, I played in one for a long while, and ran one, and coded for it. It can work, if the audience is right for it. But I greatly doubt that the audience for a superhero game is really the right audience that will make enough use of a complex resource and crafting system, to fuel a balanced market.

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broxen
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Re: Trade, materials, crafting, and story

Postby broxen » Fri May 12, 2017 3:29 pm

This is not a crafter's game. I know how one plays, I played in one for a long while, and ran one, and coded for it. It can work, if the audience is right for it. But I greatly doubt that the audience for a superhero game is really the right audience that will make enough use of a complex resource and crafting system, to fuel a balanced market.
This is it really. When I think of superheroes, I don't think of crafting. Sure Rocket Raccoon will throw something together on the fly, but he's not supporting a marketplace.

If SoH would like to have some sort of crafting system to provide temp powers or an alternate path for acquiring enhancements, then I suppose that's great, but I wouldn't want it to be part of the core game mechanic.

I don't understand the drive for realistic economies in games. This is escapism.
-Broxen

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GladDog
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Re: Trade, materials, crafting, and story

Postby GladDog » Fri May 12, 2017 3:31 pm

Actually, they have a lot of plans for crafting in this game. The game may or may not start with the ability to craft temp powers, but I am sure they want it in at release or by the first major patch. Each one will add an aspect to the player for a fixed amount of time. We will also find these as drops and rewards, But for right now I want to focus on the crafted ones. According to what I have read, the crafted ones will be the best, other than AV and GM drops. So a lot of peeps will grab their hammers and sewing needles and get busy!

They want to have crafted enhancements, but they may not be in at release. That is probably good, though, because the level cap is going to raise probably from the first major patch, and all of those expensive, time consuming to make enhancements would be sold for a pittance of Dust a few days after the patch. I would rather wait for the level cap to go up to 30 before I started crafting enhancements.

I've only seen this mentioned once; they want to have craftable costume pieces, but I have not seen anything about this in a loooooong time. So that is probably 2-3 major patches out, or maybe more...
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Consultant
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Re: Trade, materials, crafting, and story

Postby Consultant » Fri May 12, 2017 4:55 pm

Wow, did I say craftable costume pieces? What was I thinking?

We think the costume options need to be open for just about everyone. It has been suggested to us that we could have a cash shop with special costume options. I always wonder how that will look to people in a game where costumes are so important.

Maybe a Santa suit as a cash shop item? Maybe...Or hats?

But an entire craftable costume? I must have been exhausted when I said that. I don't drink, so that's no excuse.

That's my bad, GladDog.

Two examples of craftable items that I do like. In SWTOR, the craftable grenades make the game much more fun to play. They are kind of long recharge items (3 minutes), but they can give you one of these: damage, stun, immobilize, sleep, etc. This allows a player to alter and personalize their playstyle. It's fun. In COH I had a "devices" character. He could create (out of thin air) various things including a sort of landmine that he could place in a future battle area to weaken an enemy. I like that idea. It's not superfast gameplay, but again it allows a player to plan around an upcoming, very difficult fight. For some people this would also be fun.

And craftable.

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broxen
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Re: Trade, materials, crafting, and story

Postby broxen » Fri May 12, 2017 6:25 pm

Wow, did I say craftable costume pieces? What was I thinking?

We think the costume options need to be open for just about everyone. It has been suggested to us that we could have a cash shop with special costume options. I always wonder how that will look to people in a game where costumes are so important.

Maybe a Santa suit as a cash shop item? Maybe...Or hats?

But an entire craftable costume? I must have been exhausted when I said that. I don't drink, so that's no excuse.
Glad to hear this. Thanks for clarifying!
-Broxen

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JestersGhost
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Re: Trade, materials, crafting, and story

Postby JestersGhost » Sat May 13, 2017 2:39 pm

Two examples of craftable items that I do like. In SWTOR, the craftable grenades make the game much more fun to play. They are kind of long recharge items (3 minutes), but they can give you one of these: damage, stun, immobilize, sleep, etc. This allows a player to alter and personalize their playstyle. It's fun. In COH I had a "devices" character. He could create (out of thin air) various things including a sort of landmine that he could place in a future battle area to weaken an enemy. I like that idea. It's not superfast gameplay, but again it allows a player to plan around an upcoming, very difficult fight. For some people this would also be fun.

And craftable.
How many people did the missions for nukes and Shivans to make end-game fights easier? Having similar abilities as craftable powers makes a lot of sense and I can see being really popular.

There's an interesting balance in designing any game system. It doesn't have to match reality, as was said games are escapism, but it does have to be internally consistent - and that was the problem with the CoH system as GreyHawk mentioned.

So I agree with other posters than I don't think we need a full economy backing SoH, but the crafting we do have should at least have some internal consistency and rationale backing it.
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