Tuesday, March 8, 2005

SWG: Crafting -- A Blueprint for the Future +

After an absence, I'm ready to jump back into this debate over the future of crafting in SWG.

The first thing that needs to be said is that I think we're confusing two different questions here.

Question #1 (which is what I started this thread to address) is "how do we make crafting more fun for crafters?" Question #2 (which was brought up later) is "how do we insure useful participation in the game economy for both novice and master crafters?" Both of these are good questions, but we need to bear in mind that they are two different questions.

In particular, the difference between these questions is that each one is based on a different assumption about what crafting is for. If you hold the assumption that crafting is about supplying players with necessary and desirable goods --in other words, if crafting is valuable mostly for its results -- then the way to judge the crafting system is to see how well it allows both novices and masters to participate usefully in the game economy.

If on the other hand your natural assumption is that crafting is about the creative experience, that it's mostly valuable to the degree to which crafters themselves enjoy crafting, then you're asking question #1, not question #2.

progman63's suggestion for graduated abilities to crafting and using items addresses question #1 more than it addresses question #2. But that's not a flaw in his suggestion as I don't believe it was intended to go into the economic aspects of crafting. The economic repercussions of restructuring crafting for crafters is a good question to ask as a follow-up, but it's not entirely fair to criticize his suggestion for not addressing something it wasn't intended to directly address.

CPark wrote:
As I reread the thread I'm struck that these changes might create a nightmare for beginning crafters. If a new player stumbles onto a crafting profession how can they get started? How can we meld all this freedom into an approachable profession? And in terms of the relationship between crafting and the rest of the game, how does so fluid a crafting system create simple products reliably for beginners in other professions? Before an new player knows what to look for in a pistol how can he choose (or perhaps even find) one if there are no "standard" models?
progman63 wrote:
The trick is to provide lower level players in any profession with products that are desirable to the market - preferably consumables so there's a steady supply of customers (and creds) - so that they can bankroll their grind while providing something useful.

With respect to progman63, I read CPark's question not as an economic one, but as a "new user experience" question. With freedom comes complexity -- when you can do almost anything, how do you decide what to do? Too much opportunity can be confusing for a new user.

I think there's a simple solution to this. In fact, SWG already uses it: the less advanced a crafter's skills, the simpler the products that can be crafted.

If you're a Novice Artisan, the items you can make should be quite simple. Their schematics should call for only a few easy-to-obtain resources and no subcomponents. As you gain skill levels, the schematics for craftable objects should become increasingly complex. At the Master level, schematics should require several rare resources and subcomponents that are themselves constructed from subcomponents.

Furthermore (to follow my original suggestions), experimentation should progress from the simple to the complex as a crafter earns new skill levels. Instead of experimentation points that (along with each experiment result) directly affect the quality of the final product's attributes, what if experimentation points determined how many connections the crafter could make between resources and subcomponents? Novice crafters would find crafting to be simple because they'd have few options for experimentation -- you pretty much just take whatever you were able to assemble. Expert and Master crafters, on the other hand, would have earned the experimentation points (and access to suitably complicated schematics) to have the many options for experimenting among the resources/subcomponents that would make crafting the surprising and creative experience it ought to be.

progman63 wrote:
what if the 'results' weren't so much item oriented as skill oriented??? If you can use a pistol, or carbine, or rifle, couldn't you use any pistol or carbine or rifle only not as well? Handling the more advanced weapons would require more training, but you could still use them at a reduced capacity. And crafting the more advanced weapons would require more training, but you could still craft them at a reduced capacity. If you are certed to use pistols, you can use all pistols with the more complex pistols having a reduced effectiveness (yes that's the way it's supposed to work now). If you are certed to craft pistols, you can craft all pistols with the more complex pistols having reduced stats.
This is also an interesting idea. It's a novel approach to differentiating between what a novice crafter can create and what a Master can create, as well as how effectively crafted products can be used. (Note that this concept could be applied to more than just weapons -- what about medicines, survey devices, and musical instruments?)

Tinkergirl wrote:
In your system proposed, Progman63, would you end up with possibly Novice Crafters making Advanced Weapons (badly) and Novice Fighters using those (poor) Advanced Weapons, badly? This sounds like the worst possible scenario and I'm wondering where the advantage to this system would be? Surely Fighters would advance as fast as ever (thusly able to use all weapons at perfect effectiveness) and they would not stand for a shoddily made Advanced Weapon from a Novice Crafter. They would still search out the Master Crafter for the Advanced Weapon.
TInkergirl, I'm not sure this would necessarily be the case. There's a certain "coolness" factor in having the biggest, baddest-looking weapon that for some people might override the technical specs. There's also a question of price -- novice and low-level crafters know they can't charge the same price for their products as a Master can charge for the uberdevices she can craft. So an "advanced" weapon with less-than-perfect killing stats might still be desirable to the cost-conscious combatant.

(My gripe: Most combatants ought to be too poor to afford the high-level gear. That would do more than anything else to insure that low-level crafters have people to sell their inexpensive products to. See my essay on why Fighters Should Be Poor for more on this theory.)

Tinkergirl wrote:
As unpopular as it may be (and it was discussed back in the mists of time) I believe that for certain aspects of crafting, creating and maintaining a market for less-than-Master items would either involve non-experimental consumables, or the 'forgetting' of older schematics as you learn new ones in a crafting tree.
The longer SWG survives, the more I like both of these old ideas. I also still wish that schematics were defined so that more items needed subcomponents (especially subcomponents that don't have quality ratings), and that these subcomponents could not be made in factories. This would give budding crafters a definite market niche!

Again, both of these questions -- how to make the process of crafting fun, and how to define the products of crafting so that novice crafters can survive economically -- are good, worthwhile questions. Maybe that second question deserves its own thread...?