Forums » Crafting

Crafting content, challenge, and narrative design

    • 1532 posts
    December 15, 2019 12:38 PM PST

    Over at Pantheon Crafters, Barin has started a discussion about how to introduce challenging content for crafting.  There's a lot to his discussion and I can't do it all justice here.  However, one question that came up recently was how you actually make crafting content challenging.  I wanted to share the answer I wrote to that question this morning over here, because 1) I think it's an important topic in general, and 2) I'd love to see more people come participate in Barin's thread, even if you happen to disagree with me :)

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    My answer is that instead of trying to define a structural approach to how you create unique challenges in the game, simply allow the designers to use their imagination and create them.

    Think about the feedback the Pantheon team has seen about adventuring quests over the years. About how we don't like "small" quests that are very common or simple, or quests that don't feel like they fit in with the world. About how we want to see "epic quests", or multi-part quests that really tell a story and result in something amazing at the end. About how we want quests to challenge us to think, to learn, to reach out to others for help, and not simply be a golden path (visible or not) that we follow until it's done.

    Why should crafting content be any different?

    I'll give you three scenarios that illustrate what I think Pantheon should be aiming for in terms of crafting content. They don't share a common structure, and that's on purpose. Content doesn't need to follow a template to be good, and following a template can also limit designers from doing really cool things.

    Scenario 1:
    The Dwarves of Khadassa tell of a great forge located in the icy depths of Amberfaet. Once, many legendary items were created at this forge, but over the years and with the war against the Revenant, control of the forge has been lost, as well as many of the techniques used to create those items. Lost, but not forgotten. Were one so inclined, an enterprising smith could research these lost techniques through various means. Some may still exist in the form of ancient inscriptions in dangerous places overrun with foul beasts. Others may still be known, jealously guarded secrets whose owners share them only with proven and trusted allies. And perhaps it may even be possible to speak to one of the smiths of old, whose ghostly presence is said to haunt his old workshop near the forge itself. Through time, perseverance, and great peril one may learn these techniques, recover recipes, and even acquire the special tools needed to work at the great forge of Amberfaet. With all of that accomplished, all that would then be required is a treacherous climb through the icy abyss, following a path beset with danger, to reach the forge and create an item of power.

    Scenario 2:
    The lands of Terminus are vast and untamed, and often stymie travelers with rugged terrain and harsh weather conditions (not to mention the monsters) but the oceans of Terminus are worse. Unpredictable and unforgiving, prone to violent tempests, teeming with pirates and fell beasts that lair just beneath the waves, crossing the seas of Terminus requires great skill, great courage, no small amount of luck - and a craft capable of enduring the journey.

    The nine major races of Terminushave learned over the years since their arrival how to construct such a craft, but it is no small feat to accomplish, and help is always needed. While techniques vary from one continent to the next, one thing they share in common is that they all require craftsmen at the pinnacle of skill, and difficult-to-acquire materials in large quantities. As an example, when a Kingsreach Galleon is commissioned, groups of lumberers and their guardians may labor for weeks to find and retrieve the ironwood needed for the masts and the keel. The ribs and planks that form the hull of the ship are no less troublesome, requiring sturdy yet flexible silver ash that grows only in certain valleys high in the mountains. The fittings and farings must be very strong and durable, and the sails created only from the sturdiest valeweave silk, harvested at great peril in Wild's End. Then there must be the protection - plates of mythril and adamantine to deflect crushing blows, great ballista with diamond-tipped spears to drive back attackers, and various supplies and equipment to support the crew and passengers. Even with all of the materials at hand, a team of crafters will labor for days or weeks in a special drydock to build the vessel and complete the project, working towards the day when their creation can take to the open ocean. Painstaking care must be taken with every detail, and every component must be flawless - for one in eight ships that leave the sight of land never return again, broken, ground up, and swallowed by the raging seas.

    Scenario 3:
    While it is commonly known that there are nine major civilized races on Terminus (though no one is quite sure how anyone calls the Skar civilized), there exist many other sentient races in varying numbers. On Kingsreach, Ratkin and orcs seem to be everywhere, while on Reignfall the Khaga have been enslaved and hunted for decades. Scholars of the Deicide War may remember tales of the Ginto, now lost, many of whom became the Revenant. And throughout the lands, many other races can be found. Some may be simple tribes, others the remnants of once-great societies. And yet, one thing they all have in common is that all of them know secrets that are unknown to the major races.

    The Ginto were once renowned for creating blades of surpassing strength and sharpness. The Khaga speak legends of how their finest bakers once created special waybread for travelers, easing their journey across the desert sands. The Ratkin, despised as they may be, are rumored to have created clockwork marvels, hidden away from the prying eyes and snatching hands of others. And the Orcs, much to the chagrin of all who face them, have found ways to create uncommonly sturdy armor from seemingly simple materials.

    Through guile, through study, or through might, the possibility exists that a craftsman or craftswoman might somehow learn this knowledge, and incorporate it into their own work. Exactly how that happens is a closely guarded secret, and no two tales told in the taverns of the realms appear to be the same - but the fact remains that it is possible. For some, it started with an ancient scroll or crude stone tablet. For others, they were able to somehow study the creations directly and glean some insight. At least one Myr is known to have gained knowledge by somehow living among the other races for several years without being killed or eaten, although the resulting dishonor saw him banished by his family in spite of what he learned to create.

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    My point with posting these example scenarios is simply this: Don't try to create a structure or a template, because it will limit you. Content design (at least for good, memorable content) in MMOs is not about following a formula - it's about building a narrative, and that narrative can and should be different from one piece of content to the next. Challenge does not have to take the same form or work the same way from one piece of content to the next. If you want to think of suitable challenges for crafters OR for adventurers, first be a storyteller, and think of meaningful stories that will interest them. Once you do that, coming up with ways to make the experience challenging will be easy, and the result will be a far more compelling experience for everyone involved because each one will be unique in some way.

    The three scenarios I posted were fairly tame mechanically, all relying on concepts that are generally familiar to most crafters. So, here's a bonus scenario just to illustrate that there's a lot more that could be done that might not be so familiar to people.

    Bonus Scenario:

    Deep in the Icy Peaks of Whitethaw there lies an ancient fortress known as Winterclaw. No one is quite sure who built it or why, though whoever they were, they were large in stature. Walls of stone inscribed with strange runes tower above the mountain, while reinforced metal doors easily twice the height of the largest ogre guard the path. Atop the towers and parapets stand siege engines, ready to repel invaders - though who or what they were guarding against is unknown.

    Despite its formidable appearance, Winterclaw has lain abandoned for decades, perhaps longer. A few expeditions have sought to reclaim and repurposes it, but none has ever returned, and subsequent groups have reported finding supplies left behind, and signs of struggle, but no bodies.  The people simply disappeared. Over the years, Winterclaw has acquired a reputation as a cursed place, to be avoided at all costs. Travelers are advised to steer clear, and most do, for the ruins were thoroughly plundered long ago.

    Though the citadel may be cursed, the valley it watches over is teeming with resources, and a small settlement has sprung up to take advantage of that. It is for this reason that adventurers and craftspeople may find themselves drawn to the area. And it is for this reason that they may be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    The real secret of Winterclaw is not that the fortress is cursed - it's that the valley is. When the right conditions are met, ghostly armies rise up from the valley floor, with the sole intent of purging the living from their domain, taking their corpses and adding to their own ranks deep beneath the valley. When this happens, the only place of refuge available is the fortress itself, with its ancient wards able to hold back the armies of the dead, and its ancient weapons able to hurt them.

    Of course, the fortress is in terrible disrepair. To protect any refugees, gates must be reinforced, weaponry must be mended, runes must be restored. To push the ghostly foes back, the ancient magical power source of the fortress, a machine of crystal and steel, must be repaired, along with the relays that channel power into the siege weaponry atop the walls. And all of this must be done quickly before the fortress is overrun.

    If the right people are in the right place when this occurs, and are able to repair the fortress and turn the tide of battle, perhaps they may unlock a secret long forgotten. Or perhaps they may merely survive to see the next dawn.
     
    • 773 posts
    December 16, 2019 10:09 AM PST

    Neph said: If you want to think of suitable challenges for crafters OR for adventurers, first be a storyteller, and think of meaningful stories that will interest them

    As usual, well done. Your scenarios stir the imagination, and make me want to craft (something I usually only do out of necessity). If the barrels of hardtack, salted pork, and dark rhum are not merely click-fests for the next level, but rather the "various supplies...to support the crew" of Scenario 2 above I wholeheartedly want in on the epic fun. Added bonus: community built projects build community *grins*.

    Bravo!

    P.S. I suggest the galleon be christened with an appropriate kenning like Foam Farer, Sea Scout, or something similar in Elvish or Halfling. Then have a launch party and it opens up ocean travel between continents (or a new, perhaps faster or more direct way than was available at server start).

    P.P.S. Off topic - do the oceans have names yet? (dashes off to check the lore...)


    This post was edited by Kumu at December 16, 2019 11:14 AM PST
    • 1827 posts
    December 16, 2019 1:50 PM PST

    The challenge from crafting is not the built-in possibility of failing a combine and losing your materials.  Challenging crafting is when you have to leave the safety of a town and go out into the wilds to actually craft something or to obtain the NoDrop 'recipe' that would allow you to make it back in town.  That forge you hear about from legends and myths, far down in the bowels of the earth that noone alive really knows exactly where, surrounded by beasts and creatures of immense power, adds more danger and challenge than buying the materials off an NPC, walking 5 feet to a forge and hitting combine.

    Having to need a group (or more) to keep the area clear (or to better yet actively keep the creatures busy while the forge is used as it is their lifeforce that feeds the forge so killing them makes the forge go cold) and having the possibilty for a combine failure is where challenge actually comes into play.

    Sadly, though, it really is only blacksmithing that I can think of where this type of scenario actually works.  I just can't see such a scenario for, cooking, for example.  The legendary bread oven?  Just doesn't have the same sense of foreboding.

    • 1532 posts
    December 16, 2019 3:28 PM PST

    For cooking, you can make it about the ingredients.

    "The prince needs a legendary meal for his banquet?  Well uh... sure, I can do that.  Let's see, I have most of the stuff, but I'm out of a few things.  What things?  Well, for starters, I need Crimsonleaf Herbs - the ones that only grow in the Swamp of Peril.  Yup, those ones.  Then, I'm going to need some Frost Wheat.  I know the dwarves used to grow the stuff but I think you can only find it wild these days in the Tenebrous Tundra.  Oh and finally, I need 3 dragon haunches.  Mature dragons, not the younglings.  The banquest is next Tuesday?  I guess we better get busy then."

     

    Edit:  The problem you point out is why I would like Pantheon to have crafting equipment, similar to Vanguard.  Because then you can have an equipment progression that constitutes part of the challenge as well.

     


    This post was edited by Nephele at December 16, 2019 3:29 PM PST
    • 1827 posts
    December 17, 2019 7:29 AM PST

    Nephele said:

    For cooking, you can make it about the ingredients.

    The same would be true for all crafting though.  You won't find piles of Mithril just laying around in the local shops.  We already know we'll need to go out into the world to obtain higher end materials for crafting, but that is just not enough for a true challenging crafting system.  Actually having to use some crafting station out in there, defended by your friends/guildmates as you make as many combines as you possibly can is more of a challenge.  It blends the adventuring and crafting spheres.

    Blacksmithing (Armorcraft and Weaponcraft) - Find and use the forges in some infernal cavern where you have to drive off the fire giants before you can use the forge. You'll need people to defend you as well as another 2 people to operate the bellows.

    Alchemy (Poisoncraft and Poisoncraft) - Breach an old fortress far out in the dark jungle where you need to find a mythic alchemical construct.  The alchemist, long dead, bound thralls to his will through mind altering alchemy.  You need to continually drive off these thralls as you do your work.

     

     

     

    • 773 posts
    December 17, 2019 7:47 AM PST

    How do you deal with the (assumed) limited number of "out there" stations? Not a problem in early game, but as more and more folk reach end game do they have to reserve time at the Amberfaet Forge? Wait in line? Treat it as another open world contested spawn and "fight" over access? Have a dozen different guild groups all crowded around using it simultaneously (allowing some soloists to sneak in without support as others are already providing it)?

    Don't get me wrong, I have loved the idea ever since VR first streamed Amberfaet, just wondering how the mechanics will play out.


    This post was edited by Kumu at December 17, 2019 8:04 AM PST
    • 1532 posts
    December 17, 2019 8:41 AM PST

    I think for external crafting stations you can only really use them in moderation - for certain very specific/special things.  Otherwise, you start to create silly/unimmersive situations where you have 20 smiths all crowded around the Amberfaet forge, or you have some kind of legendary crafting area in every single zone, and they don't feel all that legendary or special anymore.

    We don't know exactly how the crafting system will work when creating items yet but assuming that it's something like Vanguard, where there are complications that can occur and must be responded to during the crafting process, then it should theoretically be possible for more difficult recipes to have more (or greater) complications.

     

    That provides several options for delivering challenge.

    1) Ingredients needed for the recipe.  More challenging recipes may require ingredients that are harder to come by.

    2) Location restrictions on where the item can be created.  Some things may only be forged in Amberfaet, for example.

    3) Specific tools required to create item.  Some things may only be created when using a specific (equippable) crafting tool - for example a Legendary cooking set.

    4) Time or weather restrictions on when the item can be created.  Some things may only be created at night under a full moon, or during a storm, or perhaps both.

    5) Minimum crafting stats required to create item.  Stats may be influenced by equipment, tools, skills/progression, and location.

    6) More or more potent complications during crafting of the item.  Presumably, the effects of these may be countered/mitigated by a combination of skills/techniques, crafting-related stats, and/or the use of specific crafting tools or specific locations.

    7) Obtaining the recipe for the item itself.  No one said that was going to be easy.

    I think something that will be important will be treating each area of crafting somewhat independently so that everything makes sense contextually.  Just because smiths have a legendary forge in Amberfaet, that doesn't necessarily need that bakers need a legendary oven somewhere in the world.  Yes, both areas of crafting should have challenges associated with them but there should not be a requirement that they follow the same formulas or templates in providing that challenge.  Otherwise, it leads us into situations where those challenges start to feel contrived, instead of being thematically appropriate.

     

    Because of this I also think it's ok if each type of crafting uses similar underlying concepts but works a little differently in terms of how items are created.  Please note that I'm defining type by the tools and process used rather than the item created.  So, smelting metal should be relatively consistent regardless of what that metal will be used for in the end.  But that could be a completely different process from tanning a hide or weaving a piece of cloth, or cooking a piece of meat.  I think having those processes be different will also help encourage specialists in different crafting areas as well, regardless of whether the progression system locks us into a single area or not.


    This post was edited by Nephele at December 17, 2019 8:44 AM PST
    • 424 posts
    December 20, 2019 2:13 AM PST
    @Vandraad. The concept of grouptravel and groupadventure is a good one. And on its own should be well within range of this game.
    However, it still leans a lot on the inner adventurer of the player. But so far he has not been challenged as a crafter. The group around them is doing the challenge, but in essence the crafter is doing the same thing. Just in another environment.
    Also, this is being carried by the storyline of wanting to find a workstation or recipe. What reasons are there and how does the crafter roll into such a storyline..to such a degree that the player is thinking: hmm that looks intens, i dont know if i can handle it, but boy am i eager to try. It will require everything that i have to offer AS A CRAFTER, to be succesful.
    • 424 posts
    December 20, 2019 2:25 AM PST
    @kumu to have camped crafting content in the game, sounds to me like the devs are doing it right. Camping can be as much a factor for killing mobs as it is to accessing crafting content (I use the broad description as anything could be camped). To have players motivated enough that they would camp crafting content sounds like good concept. During a dungeonrun, not everynamed is up or defeated by your group, although you did run through it all... this also can play into making crafting feel "contested" and could allow players to consume the same content multiplr times in order to get what they want. Too many times so far, crafting has been a sure win and a one way road, why?
    Nephele already got into that reply with environmental crafting requirements. It could also relate to amount of harvested resources being delivered, npcs showing up etc.

    I agree with Nephele when saying, please keep an open mind when writing such storylines. Not everything has to be around workstations. Resources, scribes, recipes, equipment, factions, rewards, access to location (even none combat) can all be factors in a story that make feel (extraordinairy) challenging.
    • 424 posts
    December 20, 2019 2:29 AM PST
    The major point is, what can tease you as a crafting player to get into challenging more time requiring content. And/or repeat that content because you enjoyed it so much, that you want to go again with THE SAME character. Or just because you weren't able to get it all in one go but had fun anyway.
    • 773 posts
    December 21, 2019 5:37 AM PST

    Thanks Barin - you and Nephele always give me something to cogitate.  Again, I have not been a big crafter in past games (only combined things out of necessity - though I enjoyed Vanguard's group harvesting and harvesting outfits).

    I have enjoyed contributing (however small an amount) to large, world-effecting construction projects. In fact, an enormous goal that will benefit (or just amaze) the entire server always draws me in to craft more, and enjoy it from a roleplay view. I like crafting that involves others - while I detest just loading up on mats and standing solo around the {insert name of craft vessel here} while clicking over and over and over and....

    If, however, town criers spread the news that an ancient ruin deep in the Fire Swamp had been discovered that needed at least 200 craftsfolk all working together to restore its magical functions - I would pack up my tools and brave the fire spurts, lightning sand, and RoUSes, having a blast all the way.


    This post was edited by Kumu at December 21, 2019 6:21 AM PST