Wednesday, March 30, 2005

SWG: Crafting -- A Blueprint for the Future +

progman63 wrote:
I still question the ability to completely remove the grind, while still allowing sufficient time for advancement - i.e. delay - to slow the rush from novice to master. I know that many people would disagree with purposeful delays in advancement, but there obviously needs to be some sort of achievment to render a satisfying reward in mastery.

My personal opinion is that complexity, and mastery of that complexity, if properly designed and implemented, could serve as both an appropriate delay and a satisfying achievment.


But the system is designed so that SP are really the only metric that determines advancement. Tools, techniques, interfaces, etc are the exact same whether novice or master. The only difference is the type of result (items produced) and the size of certain pools to use during the process (and risk of failure).

Being that explorers like to investigate, study, and discover new processes and patterns, wouldn't gradually changing these processes and patterns during advancement be more fulfilling?
This is actually a subject that applies to a lot more than just crafting.

What this system of "experience points" really is, is a holdover from Dungeons & Dragons. Thirty years ago it was a brilliant innovation. By assigning some number of points for successful actions, and requiring the accumulation of a certain number of points to gain access to more powerful abilities, you could regulate the progress of a character's access through the game's varied content. Not only was this system easy to implement, it proved to be highly effective at providing regular rewards to players to induce them to keep playing.

And those two advantages have insured that it's the advancement management system that has been implemented in virtually every role-playing game system ever since. When computers came along, it was a no-brainer to let the computer keep track of XP awarded for in-game actions and award new levels for accruing enough XP.

Because an XP system is easy to program and easy to tweak to provide regular rewards, that's what online game designers keep giving us. Only now the system has been so boiled down to a quick-and-easy mechanic that playing these games becomes a matter of chasing numbers, of only doing what gives known amounts of XP -- in short, of grinding.

There are successful tabletop RPGs that have used other means by which to persuade players to play. Maybe some day an online RPG developer will try one of these alternatives, and we can finally start to break free of the tyranny of XP.

A real crafting system would be difficult to master, encourage dedication to the craft, and fair pricing for fair products, and cater to the crafting geeks. The type of player that like to spend time tinkering and learning. NOT every Tom, Richard (dern filters!) and Harry that has a few extra SP.

The real masters would be the people who actually took the time to master the system and truely enjoyed that type of game play. Not wannabe's and leet dudes. Let them go kill things (and each other) in great numbers.

How's THAT for focusing on the process rather than the result???
Well, I don't know about everyone else, but I like it. :)

Actually, I'm reminded of the examinations that were required for promotion in the old Royal Navy, such as are described in C.S Forester's "Horatio Hornblower" novels. You'd sit before three crusty old captains, who'd grill you for hours on specific questions of ship handling and mastery of other men. Only if you could satisfy them that you'd be able to do your duty -- even while utterly alone for months on the other side of the world -- would you be promoted.

I'm not suggesting that achieving mastery in SWG should work like that! But there's still something fascinating about the idea of gaining access to increased power by proving your ability to real experts, as opposed to mashing the same mouse buttons over and over and over again for hours. (Or, even worse, letting a macro do it for you... or buying a master character from eBay.)

The thing to recognize here is that crafting in SWG is utterly simple compared to the number of things you have to know to successfully captain a ship of the line. SWG's crafting system is better than that in most other games, we all agree on that... but it's still extremely simple and limited. There just isn't much room for innovation or creativity or surprise -- you just don't have to know that much to master a crafting profession because crafting is mostly about mashing buttons.

Now, if crafting were enhanced to allow more options in experimentation, if actual player creativity could somehow be permitted in the creation of objects and processes so that player knowledge and skill actually mattered... now that would be a game worth mastering.

We hear from time to time that PvP play and Jump to Lightspeed are supposed to measure the player's skill, not just the character's acquired abilities. Shouldn't that hold true for crafting, too?