Saturday, September 19, 2009

Crafting Interfaces


Last article, I talked about basic trade skills, and the lack of skill involved in basically all of the trades offered. In order to craft the most legendary magical breastplates in WoW, the only 'skill' required is that you've spent 3 hours clicking the 'make crappy bracers' button over and over while standing at the anvil with a load of metal in your bags, and blacksmith hammer in your hand. There's no actual crafting involved, and none of it requires any effort. That's great, because it makes everyone feel special and wonderfully equal with one another. You are all wonderful individuals! How boring. The only barrier to crafting rarer or specialized recipes is spending hours grinding out the recipe itself via reputation points, or having the recipe randomly drop off some tiger in the jungle.

My MMO experience doesn't span every game ever made; in fact, some could argue it's pretty limited. I really enjoy trying new MMOs, and doing free trials at the very least, but I'm a latecomer to the genre. My first exposure to an MMO was about 2 weeks with Final Fantasy 11, where I had no idea what was even going on, and then being drafted into closed beta for World of Warcraft. I understand Star Wars Galaxies had one of the most loved crafting systems, but my limited time with SWG (free trial) only exposed me to being a level one nobody running around with Han Solo and Chewbacca on the way to board the Millennium Falcon. At that point, I pretty much considered that I had 'won the game', and didn't see much point in going any further. Another notable standout is the non-combat MMO A Tale in the Desert. They pretty much took crafting to ridiculous levels (in a good way), because that was what one of the game's main focuses was (well, that and social interaction). In order to make a sheet of paper -- which by itself is only another element in something bigger -- you had to pick papyrus, dry it by the river overnight, come back when it was dry (not 12 seconds later), press it into sheets... I don't remember the exact process, but it was like they basically sat down and were like 'how did Egyptians make papyrus scrolls?', and then modeled it in game. Guilds would band together, making adobe bricks one at a time, and could eventually build a pyramid when they had 800 billion of them. Nuts, but awesome.

The focus of WoW and Warhammer, though, is not on crafting. It's on combat, whether it be PvE, PvP, RvR, or whatever the flavor of the month is. Realizing this, the devs seem to have tacked on crafting, because 'it's suppsed to be there'. This isn't to say the systems themselves are horrible, but just that there's no sense of actually crafting anything. In WoW, to make armor, you need to be by an anvil. You don't even need to be facing the anvil though, just 'within the anvil's radial sphere of anvilosity'. The same goes for harvesting ore, you can walk up to the ore deposit, turn around 180, and bang your pickaxe on the ground behind you, and still manage to get some copper. I believe that harvesting professions should show you the item in question (shrub, vein, whatever), and allow you to actually fumble around in a bush, zooming in and out, spinning and rotating it to look for berries or leaves. Getting jumped while harvesting would hide the window, and would lend itself to the initial 'eh?!' confusion you would actually feel if you were involved in extracting ore from a vein when suddenly you were under attack. No more spinning the camera around while you mindlessly whack away at a tin vein.

I propose that the crafting side of trade skills actually resembles a craft, and that you have to actually hit the hot metal with a hammer in order to forge something. A common theme I'm suggesting throughout these skills is the use of a 'workbench' that would be accessible in the guild crafting hall, bank, or whatever. WoW has mana looms to create special spell cloths, and alchemy labs to create flasks, but you don't actually use them, just stand next to them. Lame. Each skill would have a slightly different layout, but with similar features. The workbench could also provide players with a designated storage area for their craft's raw mats.

Let's take a look at a few mock ups (please keep in mind they're rough, but you'll get the idea):

Blacksmithing:

Here's my glorious Blacksmith's Workbench. It's got a few things going, without being too overwhelming. There's a forge in the upper left (with variable temperature settings for smelting various metals), a mold to pour your smelted metal into, an anvil to whack on your creation, and a trough to cool your final creations in. Also in the upper right are two basic tools for use, clicking on which would change your cursor.

Just looking at this simple diagram, you can see a huge amount of options opening up. Various parts of your workbench could be upgraded (better hammer, hotter forge, larger trough for breastplates), and various molds would be unlocked or purchased at various ranks. You still start making 'scale bracers' or 'copper daggers', but now you're MAKING them. I think one of the coolest features would be having the anvil portion open up to something like the 3d model-viewer interface Wowhead has, where you can spin the axe around, looking for rough areas, then set it back down and take a few whacks on it. More experienced blacksmiths would be able to create items with higher durability, and occasionally during the crafting process, mishaps would happen (broken blade, armor with cracks). The ruined gear could be re-melted down and used again, all while trade skill experience points are earned.

Selecting the hammer tool would change your cursor to a circle (or square), and rolling the mousewheel could change the size of the impact zone (perhaps assuming you had hammers of various sizes). Holding down the mouse button would start a golf swing timer, where you let go at the top for a hard WHACK, or just did a few minor bonks to refine the edge.

Jewel Crafting:

Again, the basic workbench has a few tools at your disposal. In this case, you have various files (with awesome default Adobe Illustrator styles applied to them). The roughest would be to determine the basic shape, with different cuts having different effects (+int, +str, etc), as well as the type of gem itself (ruby, emerald) affecting the final result. Upgrades would include files capable of cutting diamonds, different settings for jewelry, or perhaps the ability to actually bore sockets into certain items (using a drill or what-have-you for initial hole, then the files to fine tune the cut). The magnifying glass tool will throw you into closeup mode, where you can spin the gem around, and look for flaws or miscuts. A tumbler would also make sense. Skilling up in jewel crafting would make flaws become highlighted (glowing red) while under the magnifying glass, or enable for complicated multifaceted cuts.

Apothecary:
The Apothecary's tools are a burner (with variable temperature) which rests below a large beaker (which also indicates its own temperature), loose test tubes, a scale (the gold boxes are weights), and mortar and pestle. Recipes would go something like this:
Mix 20g of Bark from a Fel Tree with 10g of Demon Chest Hair. Add to a liquid base of water from a sewage system, and shake the concoction slowly until the liquid becomes a reddish orange. In a separate vial, prepare 10g of Dried Virgin Camel Feces mixed with Boar's Blood (any type will do), and heat until boiling. Combine the two vials into a large beaker over medium heat, and watch carefully. The color will change from the initial red, to dark brown, and finally become a perfect sky blue. If heated too long, the mixture will break down to a vile green concoction that is worthless. Sequester your potion immediately into a non-metalic vial, it should last for up to 60 days.


This recipe alone would take a few steps to make (along with the gathering of various resources), and requires the user to actually not shake too hard, watch the temperature at two points, weigh out precise values, and actually (OMG) craft a potion! Simple beginner recipes call for a dry ingredient and wet to be combined in a simple tube and shaken thoroughly, while something like above would produce a 'flask effect'. Upgrades to the Apothecary Workbench include: spare vials (at first you can only mix two test tubes, eventually you need more), a hotter burner, larger beaker, finer weights (27g isn't possible if you only have a 10g and 5g weight), finer grinder, etc, etc, etc.

All of these were just me sitting down and beginning to type, then jumping into Illustrator or Photoshop to hammer out mock ups. There are so many directions you could go with this. Butchering has the actual animal sitting on a cutting board, and while you can just lop a leg off and roast it up, or cut four feet off of a rabbit for crafting talismans, more advanced butchers could extract poison glands (carefully!) from venomous animals to use for poisons or remedies.

I have a picture in my head of enchanting requiring you channel a spell being cast (limited to mages and the like), and holding it steady in an ever changing dead zone (like doing a wheelie in Tony Hawk?) for an amount of time. The longer you can hold it (to a degree), the more powerful your Fiery Enchant hits for. Get two master enchanters working TOGETHER (gasp!) and they can up the power as well. 6 expert enchanters in your guild? Draw a hexagon on the ground (or go to the designated capital city enchanter's guild where they have various arcane shapes scrawled into the floor), place a weapon on the altar in the center, and channel some nasty mojo into that axe! They all work together, and if the spell backfires, the axe is shattered, or they all have Bad Mojo Sickness for 30 minutes or whatever.

The point is that the options are endless, and go way beyond the typical 'i r have 6 ore in my bag, brb to maek ur ax, gimme a sec'. I also envision a system where you actually drop gear off with someone to be upgraded, and come back to pick it up the next day. I hope you trust that guy, because the spell may backfire ruining your armor, or he may destroy the rare uncut gem you found questing. He may even just sell your armor and never log in again. But those that excel at what they do would earn a reputation as a skilled craftsman, and be valuable assets to their guilds and servers.


originally posted 10/21/08

14 comments:

Krimspins said...

I like the write-up Ixo. One brutally unfortunate side of this is allowing for scammers. Not that I have issue with it, I used to play The Realm! the most scam happy MMO in history. But most of these care-bear kids would weep if they had their precious +4 elf shoes swiped!!

Krimsin: plz to indestruct my sword
FunnyMcDickbag: OK
((Krimsin drops The Wrath.
((FunnyMcDickbag picks up The Wrath
((FunnyMcDickbag walks away.
Krimsin: ...

Ixobelle said...

The avenue exists to 'walk away' in almost any MMO. WoW had me regularly taking 40x arcane dust and 4x large brilliant shards from random people in the good faith that I would then reopen trade with the person and actually perform a Savagery Enchant on their weapon.

Funny story: back when WoW was newish, I was trying to move some gold from server to server, with one of those 'I'll give you 50g on Wildhammer for 50g on Daggerspine' deals (back then, 50g was still a big deal to a noob). The guy took my gold on Wildhammer, then never showed up on Daggerspine.

I started a thread about it on the Daggerspine forums, not in an effort to be like "QQ Wah Wah Wah", but just saying 'bleh it sucks, but meh what can you do? I guess I was asking for it...', then went ahead and just started leveling my alt anyway, minus the gold I was expecting. Checked my mail before logging out, and found 5 people that had sent me 50g out of blue. I ended up taking 10g from each, and mailing back the 40, along with flustered thank you notes.

Whether it was the tone of my forum post, or just a general sense of well being in the community back then remains a mystery. People like those 5 still exist in any game you play, it's just becoming harder to find the needles in the haystack.

Krimspins said...

Wow, that's amazing that people would be that kind. WoW has a bit of an insurance system though. Once petitioned GMs will actually come to the aid of the scammed.

And of course let us not overlook the joy of the "trade window". It didn't always exist. That's right, you had to drop items on the ground (like my above mentioned Wrath) for someone to pick them up. And yes that means anyone. WoW is virtually scam proof except in rare instances where deals are made for items that are to be exchanged outside of the game. Like costume codes or spectral tiger mounts.

On that topic Blizz needs to wisen up. Say screw this card game BS and do what they really want: Sell in game items for real $$. Who even plays those cards? I understand there are those who are spec'd into packrat IRL but cmon it has to be like 1% of WoW's gaming share.

Cronoo said...

I really don't agree with the selling of in-game items for irl money krimspins. That would mean that the person who has the best or the coolest stuff would be the one willing to spend the most money in real life, and not people that actually work in game for the desired item. Honestly I'd rather pay 10k gold for a rocket mount than 50$ for one... because it has a sense of achievement.

Ixobelle said...

Honestly I'd rather pay 10k gold for a rocket mount than 50$ for one... because it has a sense of achievement.

but if you can buy 10,000 gold for 50$, then it just supports RMT and gold selling... as much as i hate to say it, in the above situation, the best avenue for everyone would be to have both options... 10,000 gold, OR by doing a real money transaction on worldofwarcraft.com. The people who want to pay real money could just give it directly to blizzard, and those willing to kill 8 billion rats could do it that way, too.

smithwicks said...

Hey Ixo, long time NA reader, 1st time poster.

Seems like a good idea for crafting for the truly hardcore players. But it sounds like it would be too time consuming for the average "joe plumber" player. (lol politics)

After farming all the mats for my stuff for hours on end dealing with chinese and alliance and whatnot, I think I would rather hang myself than have to spend time and effort on crafting the damn thing.

But again, that's just me. I think this would be a perfect system for someone who enjoys putting that time and effort in.

Keep up the good posts!

Bonedead said...

I miss the old days when only a few people actually wanted to craft. Back when it was boring and tedious to most. Nowadays (in WoW at least) you're almost expected to have a tradeskill maxed.

Good call on mentioning ATiTD. That game was so cool in the crafting processes. You start out with absolutely nothing and have to like break some branches to make a brick rack, then you gotta get some mud and mix it with some other mud or clay or something. Make the bricks, place the bricks on the brick rack and then go do something else just as intricate while your bricks dry.

When you get your bricks you can make a kiln which speeds up the brick making process, also allowing you to create like stronger bricks from different materials I believe. I was set up on the side of a river with my brick racks, my kilns, and a few other assorted things. It made me feel like a real wild man and that is just amazing to me.

Hatch said...

As a fellow grown-up with an actual real life job, I think you can understand ixo:

This idea just makes me feel...tired.

I personally don't want more work in my tradeskills. The game I want to play is "smashing someone's face in" not "pretend I have a job, and in fact a job that is worse than my real-life job, which doesn't involve manual labor". There's a reason I didn't buy Cooking Mama for my Wii but got Force Unleashed instead. You are describing Cooking Mama.

When I have 5 minutes before raid and realize I forgot my flask, I don't want to spend 10 minutes pinching herbs into a beaker as part of a complicated recipe I actually have to read. Reading? Blech!

In fact, I think tradeskills could be improved by removing the castbar and just making the crafting instant. I just wish it wasn't such a bitch to level a profession while making completely useless crap that I'm surprised the vendors will even buy.

I guess we just have a difference of personal preference here. I like that my game is focused on repetitively slicing monsters and other people into bits, and you would rather build pyramids one stone at a time while waiting for your papyrus to dry down by the river.

Tesh said...

Funny that RMT comes up here. I was going to point out that Puzzle Pirates has a good crafting system, and now I get to point out that their dual currency microtransaction economy completely wipes out RMT by monetizing the demand.

That said, I'd like if this sort of thing was an option, but not if it's mandatory. Perhaps make it mandatory for extremely high end crafting recipes to make them rarer and make skill more important... but in a game like WoW, crafting just isn't the heart of the game. Puzzle Pirates is built around minigame puzzles, so it works well there. In WoW? Not so much.

I'd like the option to make better quality stuff (perhaps at any level, not just high levels?) if I use the tool interface, but I'd also like the option of using the old mindless interface to make standard items.

Giving players choices is a good thing.

Nick said...

I would recommend you to try Vanguard's crafting system. There's a 14-day trial around these days, and you don't have to reach any level to start crafting, you can do it right away, and if you take work orders from NPCs you won't even need to gather anything too, they're provided to you. It's reminiscent of the old system of EQ 2, but I think it's better.

Khatib said...

"I personally don't want more work in my tradeskills. The game I want to play is "smashing someone's face in" not "pretend I have a job, and in fact a job that is worse than my real-life job, which doesn't involve manual labor". There's a reason I didn't buy Cooking Mama for my Wii but got Force Unleashed instead. You are describing Cooking Mama."

Thing is, there are people who are really into that shit, and those people typically then aren't as interested in smashing faces. So rather than make a system that's in the middle for everything, face smashing should require more thought and tact, crafting should require more knowledge and effort, and crafters and fighters should separate themselves and then create an actual give and take economy. This is the kind of thing that then gives rise to wonderous communities in an MMO. Which WoW is seriously lacking, because they just dumb everything down to the level that everyone just does everything because if they don't, they're falling behind.

Tobold said...

Ixobelle, you really should try out A Tale in the Desert one day. It has a different interface for every craft, and some are quite complicated.

Anonymous said...

So basically, Free Realms? That would be pretty sweet.

Ixobelle said...

yeah, this post was written before FR launched, but i found thier 'crafting minigames' do be pretty awesome.

the cooking & crafting ones ruled..., the gathering ones were fun, but all too much of the same.