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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I certainly think it’s a good thing. I know little about MMOs and less about crafting, but it seems like ArenaNet are tweaking and optimizing systems that are well-liked, rather than wildly implementing new things just for the sake of doing so.
This game intrigues me more and more. Any word on whether misanthropes will do well playing this, Lewis? The game looks great but I don’t like people and probably don’t want to play with them.
Something makes me uncomfortable about dedicating such deep discussion to such a crude, backwards system as node farming.
Just a manifestation of my idealism I suppose. Ignoring it won’t change anything but I somehow feel that giving such well-spoken thought and encouraging discussion of such a simplistic system is giving it too much credit. As though you as a writer and we as readers are paying respect to something which deserves none.
What I think people miss when discussing these crafting systems as a hypothesis is that crafting things is -meant- to be difficult. While the individual crafter will whine while he works, the ultimate reward will fulfil him. Now, not everyone will have the patience to struggle with a craft system – and this, too, is ideal. Without some degree of tedium and frustration in the process of crafting materials and equipment in a game everyone will do it, removing the ‘identity’ of a crafter from the game, and thus the dependency upon specific players.
The reason healing has become such a popular role is because it allows players in a futile, empty, ultimately pointless virtual scenario to feel like they’re doing something worthwhile. Support classes have become radically more popular during the age of WoW as people have tired of mindless combat and actually want to feel special, want to do something heroic. Want to have a tiny little touch of the drama and excitement we see in our game trailers and ingame cinematics.
While Guild Wars 2 has some decent ideas to spice up the -action- of MMOs, it’s completely missing the point that as a depiction of a miniature, virtual life, an MMO requires hardship, pain and frustration in order to convey any deep satisfaction, pleasure and achievement.
When everything is easy, streamlined and without requirement of effort and input, everyone becomes everything.
Identity is lost, individuality is gone. This was the case in Darkfall, the current wellspring of inspiration for MMOs (check how many have upped the action and added an anthropomorphic wolf player species who can run on all fours), and I think it will be the case in GW2.
What makes people love WoW, deep down, is the sense that they are significant to their guildmates in their quests for glory and their explorations of a dangerous world.
In a world where healing and crafting, as two key examples, are fairly universal skills with no challenge and no distinct characteristics or demands, no-one really needs anyone. Not in specific. Names cease to matter because everyone is equally useful, or useless.
@ Steerpike: You’ll be pleased to know that you can play the entire game by yourself, as the personal storyline is “instanced” so is specific only to you. You won’t have to socialise one bit (although you might miss some content in the process). Still, there is always me to keep you company! 🙂 Others can join your personal story but they can’t influence it- We’ll get a TAP group going 🙂
@ Jakkar: I really couldn’t disagree more. I am unsure as to why you believe crafting is meant to be difficult (even Neocrons was as simple as placing rare parts into a window and pressing the craft button). What purpose would making crafting tedious or difficult serve besides that of creating a niche within the genre that appeals only to those with countless hours available or gluttons for punishment. There is no justification in a modern MMOG for any element of the game to have anything remotely tedious; tedium leads to frustration and frustration leads to fewer and fewer undertaking crafting, creating an exclusivity on the items made (although this is relatively moot in Guild Wars 2)
While the prospect of streamlining crafting may remove the title of a “crafter” or an entirely dedicated one, there is still nothing preventing a player from exclusively crafting, especially when factoring in that recipes are discovered by players.
In relation to healing, again, I don’t think you could be more wrong. Healing and hybrid classes are popular as they are a by product of modern MMOGs, as a result of their archaic methods of game and class design. When a game fundamentally revolves around requiring a healer, there is little wonder that players choose them. It isn’t to feel special or heroic, its to guarantee a place in guilds and parties. Nothing more.
While sandbox MMOGs such as Mortal Online or Wurm Online may certainly replicate hardship, there is also an undeniable element of acute boredom when undertaking parts of such games (unless of course you consider hardship boredom). I once spent two hours in Mortal Online looking at the base of a tree trunk while I harvested wood. Is that fun? Is that deep satisfaction? Perhaps to some.
The prospect of everyone having an ability to hybridise creates a level playing field but it doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone becomes everything; it simply provides options. Something past MMOGs simply haven’t done.
People in World of Warcraft if anything feel insignificant; the carrot on stick approach creating an infinite tredmill where there are others who will always be bigger, better, stronger and richer than you. It’s a permanent slap in the face on your lack of place time or devotion. You are as forgettable in WoW to guild mates as to anyone else in the game world. Another cookie cutter Druid or Warrior attempting to reach the top in your own personal bubble of self-improvement.
While classes in Guild Wars 2 have the ability to resurrect one another and heal (to various degrees and uses) and all are able to craft and gather, this doesn’t mean individuals are defined as being useless or useful. It’s a too simple approach.
You strike me as a glass half empty kind of guy 😉 en garde!
Good, it will be the Lewis & Steerpike Guild! Walking the Whatever The Name Of Guild Wars 2’s World Is and having adventures!
I admit when I was reading your article, Lewis, I first thought, “why not a mini-game for crafting? Some sort of skill challenge?” I changed my mind when I read your argument about how tedious that becomes. Clicking a mouse to connect pipes or something is not at all like building a real object with your hands (or paws, or tentacles). While the idea of crafting having some form of challenge associated with it has an appeal, in the end including it risks creating huge swathes of boredom (or, worse, frustration) among players.
In general, it seems that ArenaNet are trying incremental changes, and as such there can be reasonable confidence it’ll work and be familiar. Thus it may not be the “great step forward” that will be the next generation, but to my untrained mind it sounds like an interesting improvement.
I’ve thought at great length about what a crafting system could be, but I honestly can’t think of one that would balance speed, accessibility and repetition. If there was a definative idea that managed to work all these three into a functional crafting system I would love to know it and I’m sure ArenaNet would have found it, considering they are almost attempting to re-write the rulebook on everything else.
Answers on a postcard please!
I actually like what they are doing here and I think LB is correct. Removing the tedium from crafting will a larger pool of crafters. Add in the discovery system (idea in sec!!!) means there will be a larger diversity in items. ok, here’s my idea… How about we keep the “put things in here and click craft” model, but we add the functionality of, say, MineCraft. Where, you have a grid and the items are arranged in a specific way to make a new item. For example (using Minecraft’s method): you have a 3×3 grid. Placing wood planks in an “H” pattern (3 vertically on the left, 3 vertically on the right, and one dead center) makes a wooden ladder. That same pattern with granite makes a stone ladder…etc. Would that come close to satisfying the people who want mor of a puzzle approach to crafting, without removing simplicity?
ugh… typos aside.
[…] [Tap-Repeatedly] Crafting A Future […]
*Disclaimer: I’ve never considered myself a “crafter” during the previous decade of MMO play I’ve participated in.*
I really enjoyed reading this article, as well as the discussion in comments that followed. Having played previous MMOs that seemed hell-bent on crushing my soul whenever I attempted their crafting systems, I couldn’t be happier about the approach ArenaNet is taking towards this facet of gameplay.
I realize there are limits to the ways you can realistically present a crafting system, but personally, I appreaciate that the ANet DEVs appear to be mindful of the fact that I will be joining the masses in their game for the express purpose of exploring, adventuring, fighting, and well… having FUN.
Regarding previous expressions of crafting systems; If it feels like work… it probably is. Play should not feel like work… just saying.
Thanx for the really well thought out perspective on the subject Lewis B.
To be honest since I don’t play them I didn’t know crafting was such a big part of MMOs. It’s interesting to hear the perspectives of crafters themselves, and their own views on how future games should implement it.
I still like the concept of a minigame or some sort of system to craft, but implementation would be very difficult. Avoiding tedium is a major issue in most games. Offhand I see no way it could be made consistently fun, and in the end it might drive players off. You don’t want that.
Problems thus far with all existing games which have a crafting system is the following:
1 Crafting is very timeconsuming, (finding nodes, harvesting them, processing them)> leading to a boring grind”fest”. As i understand it, GW2 has improved on this.
2 Other players are faster than u finding those nodes bc they use add-ons, “stealing” ur node bc u have to fight off monsters around the node first, etc.; Again, GW2 has a better system on this.
3 In a very short time, the Auction Hall will be full of the same selfmade stuff, so that ur item brings u almost no money, and u have to sell the item to a vendor, with minimal gain for ur efforts. Don’t know how GW2 handles this;
4 Whenever -or if- u finally, after much trouble and alot of time, reach the top in a certain branch (i.e. “master” Woodworking, Tailoring, Armor-or Weaponcrafting- whatever), -which is ofc. very satisfying as such), u discover to ur disappointment that it would have been much easier -and much faster- if u did PvP or Battlegrounds or Arenafights or Dungeoncrawling. This bc the rewards on those are so much better than the equipment u could make by endlessly gathering and processing stuff, even if u have reached the highest levels at crafting possible, and even if u upgraded ur selfmade stuff to the max.
So, after discovering this, many players just leave crafting to others, and go to PvP or join others to do dungeons/Bossfights to get the better gear. So far i do not know if GW2 has tackled this problem, which worries me. If, as i read somewhere, the craftingsystem in GW2 will give u exact the same gear/weapons and their stats (except maybe the appearance/skin) as u would get doing Dungeons or bossfights over and over again just to get this “Uber” gear, i would be satisfied.
5 Some games put the required nodes or parts u need in a Dungeon, which u have to go through to get them. Then u are forced to wait for a group and, once inside, ask them to wait for u bc. u have to gather them, or when the group, after alot and heavy monsterfights- reach the last boss –
who only drops a few parts at random. Please, GW2, don’t do this to me.. :).
I really hope GW2 will tackle those problems/questions (and i only named a few, not trying to be negative beforehand) in a creative, new way. So far i am amazed by the efforts A-Net has made to give us this beautiful new game. I hope they take their time to optimise every single part of it, so we will enjoy GW2 every time we start up out computer and have this wonderful ride in a new, exciting world 🙂
This just sounds like a last ditch effort to get more players into the game. It’s a system in every other game, using the same point and click system, only one or two mechanics have be tuned slightly differently. If i wanted to go collect some materials and make something that somebody else could have made, I’ll go play Runescape!
But, I distinctly remember the ArenaNet intro video at PAX mentioning “Oh wow, i swung a sword! I swung my sword again! and again! and again! and again!” how can they say they dont want a game like that, and yet add in a system which is essentially “I clicked a rock. I clicked another rock. And another rock. And another.” Sounds contradicting to me.
In the end, I hope the system becomes mutually exclusive to everything else in the game. So there’s no overall difference if a friend was to collect resources to make something that i just bought from a merchant. After all, not everybody enjoys the trade skill systems in other games, and GW1 never had any skill systems. so why should GW2 have a skill system, if it only creates a monotonous, mouse breaking activity, that nobody asked for?
Just my 2 cents.
Remember there’s a difference between crafting and resource gathering. Everybody can gather every resource. So your friends can harvest the same nodes, and if they don’t need that particular item, can give or sell it to you.
And AreaNet was stated that they want to keep the focus on combat. So resource will not only be harvested but will be dropped as loot.
Crafting in Guild Wars 2 is not meant to be repetitive in order for you to level up your crafting skill. They want everything you craft to be useful, and they don’t want you to have to craft 50 leather vests in order move on the create better items. I believe they’ve mentioned that by the time you level up, you should be able to or close to able to craft better weapons, armor, ect. that are appropriate for your level.