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Balancing Consumables: A Neph Proposal

    • 1522 posts
    November 5, 2019 11:27 AM PST

    There's an entire side of crafting that doesn't really get discussed as much as it should:  Consumables.  Potions, Food and Drink, Bandages, Ammunition, Kits, and Tools - all of these are things that we have seen in many games.  Quite often, entire crafting professions are based solely around them.

    We don't talk about them often when we're describing crafting because they're not glamorous.  Baking some bread doesn't sound nearly as cool for most people as the idea of forging a sword is.  Yet we still want to see player chefs and alchemists and scribes, because it makes sense that in a virtual world, these items would exist.

    Lots of games have gone out of their way to make consumables useful to players, but that hasn't always been well received.  In many games, players feel like they are required to have the best consumables for the content they're working on - like it's a tax.  Further, because the durations of those consumables tend to be short, players feel like they have to carry around big stacks and devote a significant amount of their inventory space to these things that they click just for a short-term effect.  Even in games with a survival element, where consumables are required to keep your character functioning over time, many players tend to regard them as an un-fun aspect of gameplay.  This viewpoint was reiterated by Joppa in the recent developer roundtable.

    Likewise, many games have tried to provide crafting progression through consumables, with the idea that a low-level cook might bake simple bread with moderate effects, and a higher-level cook would create more advanced foods with better effects.  While this idea seems great on paper, eventually, the majority of adventurers are at the level cap and care only about having the best consumables available.  While this problem is by no means confined to consumables, it becomes obvious in that part of the economy much more quickly and can be a big deterrent to players choosing consumable-based crafting professions.  In turn, that causes prices on those high-end consumables to stay high, and be a thorn in the side of all the people who use them.

    So, how do we make consumables actually meaningful?  And how do we do it in a way that doesn't unbalance adventuring gameplay, or create a situation where only the highest-grade consumables are economically viable?

    I want to submit the following proposal for consideration by the community.  This is based on my own experience in many MMORPGs as well as countless discussions with various community members.  Let me know what you think of it.

     

    Neph's Proposal for Consumables and Consumable Crafting

    Tenets of this Proposal:

    • Consumables should all have potent effects.  Having a consumable should make a significant difference for the person using it.
    • Consumables should have lengthy durations.  Players should not feel required to carry around stacks of the things, and may only need one or two for a standard 3-hour play session.
    • Consumables should be generally rare and special so that they are used specifically and situationally by players, rather than simply being a "must have" for every encounter or area.
    • Consumables should be as complex to create, from a crafting perspective, as more durable goods.
    • Consumables should have unique effects.  Ideally, different "tiers" of the same type of consumable should not exist

    With those in mind, here's how I envision each aspect of consumable crafting working out:

     

    Food and Drink - the concept of Meals

    In most games, food and drink are items that everyone carries around in their own inventory and uses to gain some kind of short-term buff.  Whilie this is somewhat effective at making food and drink matter to players, in practice it tends to run into many of the problems I outlined above.  Worse, it does nothing to increase socialization among players, because everyone is just carrying around whatever they think is best for them personally.

    So, here is how I think food and drink should work in Pantheon.

    1) Food and Drink are delivered in the form of items called Meals.  Meals deliver a long-term (2+ hour), multi-part buff to the entire group.  Only one Meal buff can be active at a time.

    2) Meals can only be used and activated in NPC or Player taverns, or in campsites (around a campfire).  Obviously, any town or village likely has a place where meals can be consumed, but campsites can also be found in the world or rarely, in dungeons.

    3) The meal item itself is a "package" item that is custom-built by a player Provisioner.  The components the provisioner uses in building the meal will determine the overall effects.

     

    Example 1:  A picnic lunch

    Kumu, our favorite halfling bard, has decided to pack a picnic lunch for their party's hunting expedition.  Kumu is a provisioner of middling skill, and so he adds in some fresh bread (+stamina), sliced roasted venison (+maximum hp), spiced potatoes (+experience gain), and a cask of light ale (+mana).  Obviously, he had to create each of the components going into the meal beforehand, but as his group embarks on their adventure of the day, they stop by a campsite and enjoy the lunch together, gaining the buffs for the next several hours.

     

    Example 2:  The Heroes' Feast

    Vandraad's guild is getting ready for a big raid attempt, and he wants to make sure that they're well-fed going into it.  Vandraad works with his guild provisioners to create a special and expensive meal just for the raid - the Heroes' Feast.  For ingredients, he chooses flame-seared wild boar (+constitution), sliced roasted venison (+maximum hp), Dark Myr Red Wine (+intelligence), Caramel-glazed apples (+wisdom), and a grilled vegetable medley (+strength).  Since the raid will require 18 people, Vandraad has to make three sets of the Heroes' Feast (one for each group).  Since one of the groups has more melee types than casters, Vandraad makes some substitutions to provide more agility and dexterity to that group, instead of intelligence and wisdom.  As part of preparing for the raid, Vandraad's guild gathers at a nearby village and makes use of the tavern there to consume their meals and get set up.

     

    Potions and Scrolls

    While food and drink are built towards long-term attribute buffs, we also want things like potions (made by alchemists) and scrolls (made by scribes) to be unique and powerful in their own right.  Here is how I envision these working:

    Potions and scrolls provide either instant (one-time) or short-term (30 minute) effects.  However, these effects are not simple attribute buffs.  Instead, they are highly situational and sometimes come with drawbacks.  In general, potions take effect on the user, and scrolls can be used in a targeted fashion.

     

    Examples:

    A potion of fevered regeneration might immediately restore a player to full health, but inflict them with a 30 minute debuff to their constitution and stamina that cannot be removed.

    An Elixir of Warmth might boost a player's Frigid Acclimation for 30 minutes, but reduce a player's Scorching Acclimation for the same amount of time.

    A potion of cleansing might immediately remove poison or disease effects from the user, but also remove any beneficial consumable effects (such as food or drink) at the same time.

    A scroll of sunburst might damage all undead in the area with holy light, but inflict all players in the area of effect with a 2-minute blindness debuff as well.

    A scroll of swift passage might teleport the group in the direction that they're facing, but by a random distance - meaning they have no control over exactly where they end up.

     

    This isn't to say that there might not be potions or scrolls which have solely beneficial effects, but these should be rare.  Likewise, potions and scrolls themselves should be very difficult and complex to create.  The basic idea is that a group might have one or two of these things based on where they were going or what they were doing, but individual players would generally not be carrying them around all the time.

     

    There may be other types of consumables made by various professions, but the general goals should always be to make those items both potent and situational - rather than them being something that players carry around in large stacks, they should be the sort of thing that you bring along one or two of because you're expecting that you might need them.

    There's a lot of room in this proposal to come up with all sorts of unique and interesting consumable items, and have the crafting of those items be both fun and profitable, but in such a way that we avoid some of the problems we've seen in previous games.  At the very least, I think it's a starting point for really making consumables matter, without overdoing it and making them feel as much like a tax on high-end adventuring as they sometimes do.

    I hope everyone will discuss this further and add your thoughts and feedback to this thread.

    • 1816 posts
    November 5, 2019 11:43 AM PST

    This idea builds upon what I've said for a long time:  A recipe should give only the generic components needed (bread, meat, veg) and depending upon which actual items you use (wolf meat vs bear meat vs chicken vs whatever) will give you a finished item with different stats/buffs.

    This should apply across all tradeskills. This way players really can tailor the final outcome to whatever they way, within reason.  There should be limitations in that, as you pointed out, buffing Frigid gives an equal debuff to Scorching.  I would further limit the ability to double buff any single stat.  No use of ingredients that all buff Strength, for example. Further tradeoffs can be increased bonuses but drastically reduced duration.  If you want longer duration you accept a lower benefit.  It is all about compromises, making a specific choice to meet a particular need and not a blanket 'one size fits all' result.


    This post was edited by Vandraad at November 5, 2019 11:44 AM PST
    • 508 posts
    November 5, 2019 11:52 AM PST

    I like and agree with most of what you've said, but i'm not really into the idea of "team meals" - as an additional buff why not, but as something that overwrites what I've consumed and wanted my boost to be? Nah.

    • 2626 posts
    November 5, 2019 12:01 PM PST

    A few general comments. After first noting that I agree entirely with what you said before getting into the details.

    1. From the crafting perspective we want the things we produce to sell well. Some of us craft for ourselves and friends and guildmates but the system should be designed so a good crafter can make decent money from crafting even without overcharging. Since supply and demand will result in commodity pricing for all but the rarest items. I suspect that this isn't exactly a controversial opinion but it does have ramifications for how a food and drink system might work.

    2. Long duration items are convenient for the adventurer but drastically reduce sales opportunities. If an item takes two gold worth of materials to make, commodity pricing will result in it selling for not much over two gold. Maybe even less if crafters make a lot of it for purposes of skilling up and would rather sell at a loss than not sell at all. If the duration is two hours that means not many sales. If the duration is 15 minutes that means eight times the sales. 

    3. I agree that an item should be powerful enough to be worth using, at least for difficult fights. Powerful not just for combat but for restoring anything needed to allow faster pulling - as in hit points or mana. But items should not be overpowered so that fights are tailored to be challenging for people with good consumables but impossible for others. In this I think of how I want to play the game - making consumables mandatory for almost any fight is fine for the crafters of such. Specifically the power of an item should not be absolute it should be tied to the level and perhaps class of the user. A top skill crafter should not be able to double or triple a level five character's ability to speed through content.

    4. I am not sure I like the idea of "meals". Sorry. A buff for a whole group or a raid is far more powerful than the same buff for one character, and reduces sales opportunities enormously.

    5. Scrolls are a great way to give other classes a way to do things that magic using classes can. But they should be severely limited if used this way so as not to make the magic using classes less valuable. Limited teleportation may take away the sting of only druids and mages having teleports - but we don't want druids or mages to be fairly useless.

    Caveat - I craft in all MMOs that allow it but I am never primarily a crafter. Nephele is considerably more expert in the area though I don't let that stop me from giving opinions. 


    This post was edited by dorotea at November 5, 2019 12:14 PM PST
    • 1522 posts
    November 5, 2019 12:39 PM PST

    @dorotea

    All opinions are valid and thank you for posting yours!  I was just chatting with 1AD7 in discord and we were looking at some parts of this through two different perspectives that were causing us to disagree.  Yeah, there was disagreement there, but it was also helpful for both of us because it made us think about where the other person was coming from :)

    I only ever post stuff like this when I'm trying to start a community discussion, and I'm not so egotistical as to believe that I've always got the best answer.  So what I'm hoping is that in this discussion, people will come forward and post their own thoughts and ideas, just as you have, and maybe over time we'll see some even better approaches emerge.  In my mind, that's far preferable to falling back on what most other games have done, and subsequently importing all the bad things about their implementations as well.


    This post was edited by Nephele at November 5, 2019 12:39 PM PST
    • 3341 posts
    November 5, 2019 1:05 PM PST

    Just wanted to chime in really quick and say that while I did disagree with certain aspects of the proposal, I really do like the general idea behind it.  I will try to stop by later and provide some additional feedback but either way I want to thank Nephele for taking the time to stir up a good conversation.  Your efforts are very much appreciated and I look forward to seeing where this discussion goes.  Cheers!

    • 1232 posts
    November 5, 2019 1:08 PM PST

    IMO:
    Ultimately, in the most punitive implementation, anything can be a consumable provided the cost to produce it is high enough (coin, time, resources), and if necessary, net negative on the return/reward.  Balance is found when the use is offset by the cost.  Fun is found when the desire and reward are so great, players don't care and produce and use it anyway, even if the cost is punitive.

    Consumables should be desired by each NPC, both friends and enemies.  Some NPC's should want or desire consumables, ~continuously, and reward the player(s) for providing them with faction, gifts, buffs, and more.  Additionally, some NPC's should always desire certain consumables to their peril.
    Consumables should also permit spawning of NPC's (with or without loot), outpost guards, and persistent yet tempoarary harvestables. (remember: balance in the cost)
    Consumables should be useable in adventuring & combat. Insects, distractions, noisemakers, attractants, lures, temptations. Dumbfire pets, scrolls, potions, temporary enchantments, and more.

    I am not a fan of balancing the effects of a consumable when the cost of it is already paid.  What I mean by that, is that is.. if it's punitive to make?  Then there doesn't need to be a downside when using it.  If it's not punitive (or break-even) to create, there's a larger economic or balance issue to address.
    If the public design goal is an actual player driven economy, players need to be able to make all the consumables in the world, for everyone.  This means producing everything in bulk.  Not one or two.  Not hours required per consumable item creation.  Seconds per combine, and outputs of tens, hundreds, or thousands. (server wide)
    If consumables have no value, that is, no sellback or derived coin value to/from NPC's, then a surplus has no impact to the coin economy.  
    -
    As far as food and drink goes, the longer the better, the more varied the better, and each race and/or class should produce useful unique recipes of both food, drink, and all other consumables that cross all the game loops/systems.  Including combat, non-combat, diplomacy, sacrifice, travel and more.  It's just recipes and effects.  Implementations like these are one of the primary reasons designers exist.  Let them do their job. :)

    • 2533 posts
    November 5, 2019 1:16 PM PST

    I really don't think consumables should be powerful or offer things that the classes don't already do. In EQ they were fine/meaningful enough as most potions and the like only offered things other classes could grant a player, things like run speed, invis, levitate, etc. You would still much rather find a player to get those effects than chug a consumable, consumables were saved for soloing/travel/areas absent many others/"oh ****" moments/etc. 

     

    Powerful and unique consumables pretty much locks them in as hard requirements, an endless tax paid not to the game but to players inflating the server economy. Also not present in the OP is how this affects/damages professions as a whole; in just about every single MMO that features powerful consumables the professions that provide them are FAR more profitable than those that don't...and personally I really don't think a good solutions would be giving every profession some sort of meaningful consumable. 

    • 422 posts
    November 6, 2019 2:32 AM PST

    Long version on https://www.pantheoncrafters.com/threads/balancing-consumables-a-neph-proposal.309/

    I’m not going to stumble over words here so I’ll try to reply in spirit of the OP.

    Anything that is beneficial to a player can become a requirement. A lot will rely on what those benefits might be. The duration of these products may vary. The severity of beneficial effects should be reversely linked to the duration. The longer the more plain/unspecific it will become. There is a lot of fun and tactics involved when using 1-5 minute products. Bringing this to Pantheon specifically…distance and travel should matter. And therefore you already have some frame to position your consumables in. Several aspects can be considered; terrain, region, time of day, season, actual basic travel duration,… All these factors could be imbedded into the variety of consumable products, aside of the actual character, raid/group or combat boost. Staying focussed on only one type of consumables to me is not fully acting on the full potential of these consumables.

    I could go on about other ways consumables can affect the world as a reaction to the player consuming a product. But I don’t think that’s the true scope of the OP. It might become too detailed and as mentioned earlier, it’s not about choice of words.

    Terminus is designed to be a mixture of incredible amounts of varieties and challenges. Many aspects of the game could be altered by using consumables. Player stats, group, guild, raid, faction, player output, return. As long as additional content keeps mixing up with what is already out there in Terminus, your consumables can matter. It now becomes a question of How many different shades of X can I produce, before I completely have to move on to effect Y?

    Neph’s proposal

    The potency of the Temporary Effect (TE) should indeed be felt. You cannot prevent players from stacking up on TE’s before departing. Some might just carry to hand out to others. The actual effect combined with the challenge rate of producing the item should determine its duration. As I’ve mentioned before, you can have TE’s that influence other factors that can be beneficial outside of combat. So I’d suggest keeping a good mixture of “required TE’s” and “commonly used TE’s”. This inevitably leads to some products having more value at some point of the items’ existence. Risking deflation if it’s usage is not guaranteed in a long term design.

    Meal concept

    1) Food and drinks are products consumed by players. What does it mean when the player is no longer required to actually consumed it in order to get the benefits of food and drink? Perhaps the concept of food and drink should be then moved aside to allow design space to invent another name for this TE feature. Group buffs can be granted using spells, songs or other actions, unless you’re saying you’re going to hand-feed every other group member, I don’t see how one can fill the bellies of all members with 1 hand. Or it has to be an in game interactive item. Where the “donator” lays it in front of all in group to interact and obtain the buff from. In this case, you’re talking about making in game items to be interacted with, made by players and one needs to consider if any investment of the other members is required in order to gain that buff from the donated meal? Investment could simply be, drop down some coin as payment or interact with the meal and a time bar is filling up, while the character is emoting consumption of a meal based on its race’s behaviour. That’s another bottle opened right there.

    2) I like the aspect of situational requirements in order to allow the creation of a TE. (doesn’t have to restrict itself to food and drinks only) As suggested above, I’d add in an investment requirement from the receiving player. This could be just being present, interacting with something, being in group with, duration of time present at the location. I’d aim towards interaction requirements to avoid brainless campers and dulling down the experience of an actual socially active community. Again lots of alternative scenario’s pop to mind when thinking about what these interactions or other investments could be.

    3) Is a more technical aspect of your approach. But it makes sense that the identity of components used during crafting can impact the end result in some fashion. I don’t see the novelty in that (if you can explain a bit more, Nephele?).

    What I do see here, is that the investment is mainly in the camp of the crafter. Not per se shifted towards the end user. I’m not against it, but that again is nothing new. It’s become meaningful in a way towards the crafter, as they have different recipes (components) to choose from. This was already present in older takes on food and drinks. How does it really differ? You’re unpacking TE’s in group instead of self-consume X and Y. The BiS approach still applies but the players choices are decreased as 1/6 or 1/24 is now deciding for you what to eat and drink.

    Potions and scrolls

    What I’ve said as responds to Meals, also applies (mostly) to potions and scrolls.

    I understand that you have 1-time use, short term (5-10 min) TE. A long term to me is 30 minutes. Time still needs to be scaled to the pace of Pantheon ones it’s being played ofc. So it might shift towards 15 min’s being short term and 30-60 minutes being long term. A magical TE longer than this, for me seems more like a spell-buff given by a class than a personalized consumable.

    A more magical style of TE can have many more effects, more radical then Meals. Degrees in quality of product could already be impactful. These styles of TE could cause stat overflow, debuffs reaction, increase over time, decrease over time, and many more. This is only limited by the scale of complexity that Terminus will be in game.

    For example: A long term dot can be mitigated or cured over time using this style of TE. So for me, I would not restrict this type of TE to 1-use or short term use only.

    That said, the long term use of a potion seems unrealistic. But a long term use of a scroll does not, but it would require a certain degree of time investment/concentration to be maintained in order to use this long TE. This could be weighing down on the caster or on the receiver(s). Losing a concentration slot (thinking in lines with Pantheon’s ability restriction choice) would already have a massive impact on the meaningfulness of that TE. Going along this path even more, the short term use and instant usage could have similar impacts on the character (stunned, slowed, dazed, drunk, otherwise being less effective, decreased regen) for several minutes of game time. Team that with a detrimental effect beyond the beneficial effect and you’ve got yourself another tactical choice. Mind you, I’m not saying you can’t continue playing after obtaining TE X. A detrimental effect that is too severe for the player, is just bad design to my view. As few will be motivated to use it and it’s pointless to continue with useless/badly designed content. Another example would be gaining undeadcrit but a decreased wis due to wisdom being required for the long term TE.

    There most definitely should be beneficial-only TE’s here. Any self-respecting alchemist or sage would want to at least create those. Just imagine another crafting class making primarily items that have detrimental effects on their end products.

     


    This post was edited by Barin999 at November 6, 2019 2:35 AM PST
    • 766 posts
    November 7, 2019 6:58 PM PST

    HALFLING Bard!? Not on your life buddy (well, maybe... ).

    As for the meal concept - one flaw I see is that while I love making my group look good, it's highly unlikely they will ever want +CHA in their trail snacks, so I would constantly lose out. All for altruism, but being able to cater to individual tastes/needs would make more folk happy I bet. I would definitely pack some venison sandwiches for the warriors; light ale for the finger wigglers - but dump the potato chips and instead grab some dill pickles (+CHA) for the CC crowd.

    Overall I like your ideas Neph, but I don't have much to contribute this evening (swamped at work, will cycle back 'round this weekend).


    This post was edited by Kumu at November 7, 2019 7:00 PM PST
    • 1019 posts
    November 8, 2019 8:42 AM PST

    I do wish that all items were effectively consumable and their duration and magnitude was proportional to the time and challenge to both collect the raw materials and craft the item. A 15 minute minor buff can be made in batches of 10-100 with relatively common and abundant resources, an epic weapon that takes a combined 100 hours to farm and 20 hours to finish crafting (including the raid to the crafting station) would last for 12000 (100 to 1) hours.  Alas no item decay for me.

    I do think a formula for (time to craft)*(combined material value {rarity*tier})/duration=Buff Magnitude can be created such that consumables of varying degrees of power can be desirable, especially if there is a reuse timer for each type of consumable.  A “burn” consumable would have a high magnitude and a short duration.  A long term buff that lasted an entire reuse timer or more would be lower in magnitude.

    Deciding the balance of what you need and how you want to go about it will create an entire consumables meta game.  Rather than fear the “need” to use consumables embrace it.  Make consumables a hard factor in encounter design but make them so broad that there is no “best” option.  Its more a matter of I get x from the caster, y from my gear but I still need z or I will get killed.  The attack happens at 75%, 50% and 25% and we can do 25% damage in 3 minutes.  So what I need is the sandwich of Z with a 10 minute duration and 50% magnitude and I’ll consume it at 80% boss health.

    I also mostly agree with Iksar in that no consumable should be the sole source of a specific effect but I am ok with a mixture of sources between drops, player buffs, npc buffs and in game tactics (class and environmental synergies) and consumables.

    The different schools of crafting should have different themes and areas of expertise with some overlapping.  Otherwise I think the consumption rate vs difficulty to craft vs value needs to be carefully monitored.

    • 72 posts
    November 8, 2019 3:15 PM PST

    First of all I am basing my personal response to this post on my previous response to a post about food and will expand from there,  so here is my post first....

    KatoKhan said:

    My response to the other post about food....

    KatoKhan said:

    As with most of my suggestions,  I would suggest options.   Some suggestions....

    1.  A food and a Drink slot that passively eats/drinks whatever is in the slot after a period of time and prevents bad things like damage taken and possibly even death from starvation/thirst.

    2.  Foods give temporary buffs when eaten and drank.  Buffs could scale with quality/level of the consumable and duration could be based on ingredients or whatever.

    3.  Gourmet skill that could be levelled by eating a variety of foods and drinks.

    4.  Food and drink as trade craft to gain currency, faction, favor or whatever else

    5.  Food and drink could be used in spellcasting, rituals, runemaking or whatever

    6.  Food and drink that has to be used manually every so often as an anti macroing thing

    7. A food and drink mini game that could reward anything deemed appropriate

    and as always some combo or variance of any or all of the above

     

    And I love the idea of different results for different races of food and drink.  could incorporate well with most the above suggestions.  And could even be a hidden thing with some randomness too.  Like certain chars could have allergies to certain ingredients that could result in something so menial as a reduction in buffs or as major as death from touching it.  And on the opposite end certain things could be considered a characters "absolute favorite" and could be as menial as a small increase in buffs or as major as puts the character in a state of bliss with its own rewards.  Could be fun trying to figure yours out.

     

    Meals:  I like the idea of meals being a pack created from multiple individual items but as an addition to food and drink and not a replacement.

    Potions and scrolls:  I would suggest something very similar to my suggestions about food and drink.  As there are so many things that can be done with them,  why force it into a single mode?  Not all potions and scrolls should be created equally so should not all act the same way.  As with food they can be buffs,  replacements for spells cast,  so many things,  so I would suggest a multitude of different aspects to them, from the menial to the advanced.

    The one thing I do agree with from above though is that restrictions for any all variations should be in place to prevent abuse.  Dont want a stack of 100 health pots to be more effective at healing than a cleric because you can spam them with no cooldown or side effects a la diablo.