There were raised eyebrows when ArenaNet first cited Team Fortress 2 as a point of reference for elements of Guild Wars 2’s Player versus Player combat. Most individuals naturally felt the influences between the games would be drawn from the core principals of class team work and players knowing their specific duties within their class framework. What has become apparent however over recent days, is that at the heart of Guild Wars 2’s crafting system there lies a surprising element of game design drawn from Team Fortress 2…
If you have been following ArenaNet’s progress at PAX East, coupled with their remarkably open blog, you will be aware of some details in relation to the finally revealed crafting system. Not dissimilar to many MMOGs, there has been a mixed reception to the announcement. Many do not believe it innovates enough, while others consider it straddles a fine line between accessibility and complexity.
In almost all MMOGs the landscape is often littered with mineable ore or herbs for harvesting, which once consumed disappear to respawn at a later time, leading to two key problems. The first is the “rush” for a node (ore or herb) which inevitably always leaves one of two players dissatisfied as it disappears before your eyes. The second is the pressure to not only beat others to a node but to do it while grouped, often triggering a groan or two as you gallivant meters away from your party in search of a nearby node.
What ArenaNet are proposing and one of the various key changes to the principals of the crafting system, is to remove the exclusivity of a node, allowing multiple players the ability to farm from it. This is a change that has been entirely overlooked by the community as something minor, when in actual fact it bodes great rewards, not only for a budding economy but for those who choose multiple crafting professions.
RIFT and World of Warcraft are two examples of MMOGs where nodes are used as a valuable commodity, often more so than the product they produce. This, as a result of such a minor change, will now become obsolete. A greater abundance of raw materials immediately reduces their value, creating a new market for the products produced and thereby placing greater emphasis on creation as opposed to wholesale of raw goods. Not only will this encourage the distribution of weapons and armour to all players but also a greater motivation to share what we gather, in order to help others. The final benefit that this creates is the natural encouragement to craft. By creating nodes that are abundant for all, players will realise they don’t have to spend countless hours scouring zones for resources, but will instead be willing to craft freely and in abundance without fear of a time-sink.
The second minor change to the crafting system, but one with great consequence is the ability to change crafting disciplines at any time. Although this will come at a price to the player, it was often frustrating in other MMOGs to be warned that should you wish to change, your experience earned would be lost. Fundamentally, this locked a player into a tradeskill they may no longer enjoy or that their guild has no requirement for. By giving players the ability to freely choose when they change tradeskills (even if this is seldom used) allows for individuals to adapt to current markets as well as offering a greater variety to crafting.
Finally, the third and key element to all the changes is for crafting recipes to be entirely discoverable by players and not purchased from vendors (or very few, with some dropped or from quests). For anyone who has ever played Team Fortress 2, you will be entirely familiar with a system of this nature. Almost all of the newly released class weapons within Team Fortress 2 are craftable by the player, by melting down and combining other elements (and other weapons) to create something entirely new. While the system has various limitations as a result of players not physically having trade skills (although I wouldn’t put it past Valve to implement this) and with many of the combinations following no logic, the potential and scope for a player driven discovery system of this type within an MMOG is huge.
The naysayers were immediately undermining the announcement by suggesting that all recipes would instantly be available on Guild Wars Wikipedia (GWW), so why not have recipes in game? But what these individuals are failing to understand is the prospect of discovery. Although for many the temptation to utilise GWW will be too great, there will be countless who enjoy the prospect of finding recipes for themselves. Not only does this add an element of the unknown, at the thought of ArenaNet sneaking in countless new discoverable recipes under the radar (and the ability for players to keep them secret, even for a short while) but also encourages sharing within an element of the genre that is often seen as a solitary endeavour. Imagine the excitement at discovering a recipe for a stunning bow and the realisation that having visited GWW, it isn’t there. Think of the adoration, the begging from others and riches you could earn. It’s an exciting prospect, I think we’ll all agree.
What I found most tiresome after the reveal of the crafting system wasn’t the opposition to the discovery system however, but the opposition to the physical method of crafting. Like other MMOGs once a player within Guild Wars 2 has obtained all necessary components, they will simply select “Craft” or “Craft All” and after what I would assume will be an animation and a short wait, the item will appear in your inventory. While the physical creation may be uninvolving, arriving at this stage would not have only took time (through creating the components and discovering the recipe) but fundamentally the method remains quick and entirely functional.
Many were suggesting the lack of a mini-game or intricate design process in the crafting of items was entirely unoriginal and at odds with the fresh approach ArenaNet were taking. What these people are failing to understand however is that crafting of this type is not only tiresome after a short period, but players often create work-arounds through external modifications that strip back the process and make it simpler.
While not strictly MMOG related, Bioshock and its hacking system is a great example of an idea which only works several times before becoming a hindrance. You begin to ask yourself: “why must I play this hacking mini-game every time, when my skill is obviously high enough?” and instead, you wish you could simply select the security camera and allow the game to do the rest in an instant. Warhammer Online follows this trend through Cultivating and Apothecary. The implementation of these two tradeskills, although complimentary to one another, are so laborious without the use of external modifications that it becomes tiresome in minutes. Partly Mythic’s fault as a result of an unhelpful and unintuitive user window, the entire process would be thoroughly enjoyable if the game simply calculated your ingredients and for the most part, undertook it for you. While this approach reeks of idleness on behalf of the player, if we are truly analysing processes within the genre and stripping them back to their most basic form, the system designed by ArenaNet is surely the most accessible and repeatable approach.
Although players who craft almost exclusively within MMOGs may object entirely, we cannot expect a developer to create a crafting system that is laborious or overly time consuming, when the vast majority of players only use crafting to compliment their play. By altering the way resource nodes are gathered, creating discoverable recipes with potentially limitless combinations of items, coupled with a streamlined yet simple method of crafting, we will see more players than ever encouraged to craft.
This is surely a good thing, isn’t it?
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