Crafting with Variable Stat Materials, Part II – Community Roundup Edition

Crowfall Surrounded Adventurers

In my previous post, I revisited one of my favorite features of Star Wars Galaxies renowned crafting system, variable stat materials, giving a quick overview of what the system entails and why it would be a great system for ArtCraft Entertainment to adopt within Crowfall‘s still emerging crafting system.

Unbeknownst to me, yet decidedly beknownst to certain members of the Crowfall community, a discussion between prospective fans and the developers has already been going on this very subject. The conversation on the benefits of the system and how it could be implemented in Crowfall is actually very good, so I’m going to do a brief round-up on some of my favorite posts that have been shared so far.

The Inclusion of Variable Stat Materials Crafting and Its Challenges

Here’s are the highlights from the discussion so far. Note that many of these quotations are excerpts of larger posts, the full texts of which can be found at the source links.

IdeaMatrix starts us off by chiming in with commentary on how variable stat materials can be a valuable part of a crafting system’s depth without any susceptibility to being spoiled by a wiki:

It may cut down on an implemented system of hidden recipes but, you don’t need hidden recipes in order to make items different. Having randomized resource generation with different quality levels (such as in SWG) and then having an additional system of exploration/experimentation can make the differences in crafting almost infinite. – [Source]

Thomas Blair, SWG-veteran developer and the Design Lead for Crowfall, replies with a detailed response:

You are correct but in SWG this worked great because of houses and backpacks which would hold millions of resource. It wasn’t infinite, but any player could have 10 houses with nothing but bags filled with more resource than a player could use in several crafting lifetimes(I know I did).

In a game like Crowfall where inventory space is much more limited and stack size is smaller that kind of hoarding won’t be possible. Quality is a big concern for us because it would require the player to carry many different stacks of the same resource, since you would need one for each quality level. (ie copper 10%. copper 20%, Copper 30%, etc) A huge chunk of your backpack would be consumed by this. Same thing applies to different different types within a resource.(ie Diatium Copper, Codoan Copper). Combine types with quality and you have quite an inventory problem on your hands.

I suspect we will have to find a different route that doesn’t bypass inventory because inventory size and potential for loss is core to many systems in the game. We also don’t want a currency system for resources ala EQ Landmark.

SWG tech trivia: Every resource (including resources that players couldn’t access but were in the resource table) that ever spawned was stored in the DB and put into server memory because someone might have harvested it at one point. Not a big problem until 5 years into the project and millions of different resources had spawned. The servers were rapidly getting to the point where they wouldn’t have been able to start up because of this. – [Source]

Lethality asks for confirmation on the development status of variable stat materials, advocating for it as a way of adding depth to the system:

Are we saying that there won’t be the concept of material quality? If that’s the case, I hope the backers still have a chance to convince you to put it back on the table… including material types!

One of the attributes of a true crafter, I feel, is dedication. And that can mean a lot of things, but, taking the time to acquire, sort, store, prepare, transport, combine, sell, and trade very specific material types is a major factor. “Regular” players might call that “busywork” that gets in the way of their game, and shout for “quality of life changes.”  However, these players might be used to crafting in other games – something that they “also do” and as such, was nothing more than a progress bar in most cases.

But for a crafter, in a game that offers dedicated crafting, with a system built for players that love crafting (not for players that hate it!) each of those options gives them another reason to be dedicated!

In that way (and technical issues not withstanding it would be nice to let the crafter make the choice about storage… what to store, carry, sell, or scrap. I know we don’t know a ton about the EK yet, but, that would seem a great place to allow for specialized crafter storage. Not to allow hoarding, but, to allow variety and options for the dedicated crafter… to select the right materials for the right job at the right price, at the right time!  Sure, these materials won’t be accessible during a campaign. But knowing that I as a crafter have resources waiting for me to experiment when I get there, as I discover new recipes during a campaign, is an exciting prospect! – [Source]

Thomas Blair later responds with a detailed look at the team’s thought process so far:

It’s not off the table yet, it is just difficult to play through a scenario in your head where someone harvesting in the Campaigns has 10 different stacks of different copper with a few in each, and 8 different kinds of Tin, same thing with plants and hides.  While harvesting Disciplines do grant more space it is not that much more. So we need to figure out a way to make it work under the umbrella in which a limited inventory size is a cornerstone.

I’ll just braindump out some considerations and we can talk about them.

Assume limited inventory with multiple qualities and types:

  • Player has many small stacks for each quality in their inventory.
    • This necessitates destroying low quality materials while harvesting to maintain space for better materials. (bad!)
    • Might necessitate a pack animal to have more harvesting space. (good!)
      • This means more risk due to potential loss of animal. (good!)
    • Encourages friends to harvest with you to carry extra. (good!)
      • High social interaction, makes it undesirable to solo harvest. (good for some, bad for others)
    • Killing harvesting players is less rewarding as you must now sort through an inventory full of varying quality stuff. (bad!)
      • Death is less punishing for harvesters as not much of their stuff is taken. (bad!)
  • Player has “ball of copper” method with various qualities and types merged into one stack.
    • Do materials auto merge into this stack as I harvest or do I need to manually do it?
      • If auto I now need a method to tell ahead of time what quality a resource is before I harvest or I risk the current quality of my ball.
      • If manual I just created another inventory management task.
    • Do materials average their quality out when merged?
      • If so doesn’t this mean I’m throwing away all materials below a threshold value?
      • Do I put these lower qualities into their own ball so now I have several balls of merged copper?
    • Does the server track the qualities of each piece merged into the ball for later removal?
      • How the heck does the server store this?
        • Maybe behind the scenes the ball is a container with slots.
      • How do I break apart the stack and get to the resource I want from this ball?
        • When the stack breaks do it break into an item for each quality? (back to 10 individual stacks)

Walking through thought chains like this is a great exercise and I encourage everyone to join me. Play through the process in your head and see what pops out. – [Source]

What we can gather from this so far is that a variable stat material mechanic is being considered for Crowfall‘s crafting system, but that they’re wary of its inclusion due to concerns primarily stemming from inventory related-issues, while technical concerns create an additional barrier to the system’s adoption.

General Thoughts and Brainstorming of Solutions

Oridi brings up The Repopulation‘s inventory management solution as a potential option, though he doesn’t wholeheartedly endorse it:

Repopulation is handling the multi-quality resource stacks by putting them all into one stack that is organized by quality. You can pull one or multiples off the top of the stack.  One button combo lets you sort the stack with the highest level resources on top and another lets you sort the stack with the lowest level resources on top.  Not sure how much is done serverside but seems like a fairly simple mechanic. I’m finding the process a bit clunky as I’m actually using it. – [Source]

Doomgrin enters the conversation for the opposing side:

I am of the vein that crafting raw materials should not vary in quality.  It is the smelting process of removing the impurities that should be skill-based producing a random amount of good/pure crafting material.  This has the benefit of limited amount of seeding of resource types making tracking raw resources either (instead of grades of raw materials) as well has reducing huge variations and impacts to storage space. – [Source]

fenrisddevil retorts with a point of view that surprised me – that of the corpse looter:

Problem with this is you’re giving up most of the excitement part of gathering AND of killing gatherers.

What I mean is: if you gathered for half an hour and got 100 normal coppers… ok, I guess it’s fine. If you get instead 98 coppers and 2 “special coppers” you’re more happy and satisfied with how you spent your time. Then again, if I kill you and find 100 coppers inside your bag.. meh.

Instead, if I find 2 “special coppers” I am now enthusiast and will run back to base in order to bank them.

It’s a subtle difference, because you would get 2 special coppers by refining those one hundred anyway, but it’s more exciting I think.

It also gives me (the killer) the possibility of choosing a few rare items to loot instead of carrying a huge load. – [Source]

M0rdred suggests moving the variability from the point of gathering to when the material is refined, removing the issues of inventory management when out in the world:

One idea which just occurred to me; why not make Copper Ore all the same quality… and then expand on the “types” when it is refined? This moves the inventory management away from the point of harvesting and instead to the crafting point. This could also allow the refiners some say in what quality the ingots they create are. Low quality consumes very little ore, while higher quality consumes more. – [Source]

Oridi counters this by recounting his experiences with the community aspects of gathering in Star Wars Galaxies:

I can’t tell you how many times in SWG word flashed through the crafting community about a rare, high quality spawn and a mad dash ensued, with crafters racing against each other to get there and drop a harvestor if there was still room.  If there wasn’t any room left then folks would sample for the ore over and over until they had built up a stack big enough.   That crazy heart pumping feeling when your pressing the W down madly and leaning forward in your chair in some sort of vain effort to get your character to move faster?  That’s what different spawn quality gets you.  Competition for resources and a crazy fun time harvesting them. – [Source]

[continues in a later post]

I think one reason I’m so resistant to this smoothing out of ore sources is that it leaves behind a lot of the skill level needed for crafting when using various and unique ore stats.

Since the crafting system is resource driven, like SWG, we need resources to be diverse.  For example, if I wanted to make a starship in SWG I would usually use either  Crystalized Bicorbantium Steel or Hardened Arveshium Steel for the main body.  2 completely different resources that would create 2 completely different sets of hull stats.  The resources were harvested from different places and had different levels of quality within each type themselves.  To have that rolled into just “steel – high quality” takes away from the knowledge and skill needed to craft an item tailored to specific need. – [Source]

 

IdeaMatrix responds to the idea that variable stat material crafting is only adding complexity for its own sake:

I don’t think it really is complexity for its own sake. Crafters want to be able to have varying quality in items. If you’re a master blacksmith and you make the same breast plate as a novice blacksmith and you use the same types of ingots and you don’t have a quality system, you then end up with the same breastplate and defeat the purpose of being a master blacksmith in the first place. Differences in ore quality are a way for us to regulate quality vs quantity and also, difference at point of sale. If going deep in a crafting profession just nets me more recipes, than it’s no different than a WoW crafting system. Once people figure out which ores give the benefits that people want, everybody will be mass producing the same items for sale.

With a material quality system, it prevents the “Best in Slot” mentality where having the best recipe automatically nets you the best items.

It also prevents every person in your particular archetype from being a gear clone of the next person. With set ore and item qualities, everybody will be trying to get the exact same gear. – [Source]

Lethality addresses the gear economy in a game like Crowfall and why complexity in crafting is a good thing as a result:

In Crowfall, there will be no other way to get items… Crafting is it. Therefore, the rarest and best items will, of course, come from crafters.

Consider then how long you chase down those “best in slot” items in other games. The entire time you’re doing that, you’re using something that isn’t the best.

If you layer on a crafting and resource system with complexity, not only will it take an experienced crafter to create the item, but possibly also to acquire resources good enough to even try! This the game mechanic that crafters and merchants are looking for… something they can do which will literally set them apart from others.

The best in slot won’t be readily available, so the “best available” becomes the chase… and where the crafters will show their worth. With material quality, this gets even more true.

But it’s definitely not a system designed for the non-crafter, and I think that’s just fine. – [Source]

Leadpipe suggests using a simplified version of the SWG system with the same basic principles, but with less opportunity for variation:

My suggestion is basically to implement a version of SWG resources with a limited number of types to remove data issues.

For each resource there would be a *fixed* number of varieties, maybe 20 or 30, with different attributes and rarities. Each of these types should be useful in some way. Database requirement are minimal as there is only a need for one record per type and new types are not typically created (but easily could be based on need).

When resources are spawned into the world, a type and quality percentage are generated. Players can collect the materials and store them in their inventory in stacks. If they combine two stacks of a type, the two stacks combine at the average quality level (i.e. 20 Applered Copper at 60% and 20 Applered Copper at 40% makes a stack of 40 Applered Copper at 50%). Different types of the same resource can never be combined in one stack (Rosered Copper does not combine with Applered). Once combined, a stack cannot be split out into the two separate qualities again (breaking 40 50% Applered copper equally just makes two stack of 20 50% Applered Copper). Players will have inventory management tasks based on this. To minimize this, resources of the same type within the same area (and at a POI) are generally at the same quality %, with only rare spawns being at a higher quality. Obviously, this does not require the game to track the subcomponents within a stack.

When using the materials for crafting, the effective value of an attribute would be the % attribute of that type multiplied by the quality of the sample. For example, if Applered copper has a durability of 90 and the specific stack we are using has 50% quality, then the effective durability is 45. Crafters may have specific skill that allow them to trade one attribute for another when creating a specific recipe (i.e. +5% damage, but -5% durability). This tradeoff might make more or less sense when using certain types in certain recipes.

This method does not give the infinite variety of SWG, but it gives a high level of variety without the related data requirements. Grouping types in bands of identical quality still lets you reward risky ventures into distant territory with higher quality goods, while minimizing the inventory management issue. – [Source]

The Takeaway

It needs to be said that the openness of the development team to discussion on their decision making process at this stage of development is pretty extraordinary, and I really want to commend them on the how they’ve gone out of their way to keep the community appraised of the direction they’re thinking of heading with this, as well as their reasons for doing so. Whatever system they end up implementing, let’s not make them regret the insight they’ve given us now.

The good news is that variable stat material crafting is definitely on ArtCraft Entertainment’s radar, but the bad news is that they aren’t quite sure if they want to do it yet. Fortunately, it appears that a lot more than my initial estimation of “only like, three people” feel strongly enough about the issue to weigh in.

Have your own thoughts on variable stat material crafting? Leave a comment below, or chime in at the official forums to join the conversation.

#Crowfall #Crafting #MMO

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8 thoughts on “Crafting with Variable Stat Materials, Part II – Community Roundup Edition

  1. Pingback: Crafting with Variable Stat Materials | The Errant Penman

  2. I never played SWG, but I wish I had! The crafting in SWG is something that I hear about a lot! People I talk to loved it, and I hope to see something similar implemented in Crowfall.

    Thanks for putting this together. Very good read!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I actually really enjoyed your entire post, but I decided to pass on including the tech portion specifically because, frankly, I’m not anywhere even remotely near being qualified to participate in a discussion on the tech side. EVE’s implementation does seem like shoe-in as a great solution, or part of a one, for the difficulties this would cause on the tech side, but I really have no idea what I’m talking about when I say that..

      Like

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