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Monday, May 11, 2009

Death of Crafting

It seems these days that crafting as a main element of a game is falling to the wayside. Crafting is entering a niche market, and appearing only as a paltry, token system in most MMORPG's. The WoW model seems to be the most common one, where crafting provides occasional gear, but usually anything that can be made is less useful than things that can be looted fairly easily.

The real question is why. Obviously there is a some market for crafting, as many vocal MMOers clamor for crafting systems in every forum on the internet. These crafters want an in-depth and expansive system that will keep them entertained and model complex economic systems within the game. So why isn't this market being met?

The easy answer is that it takes a lot of resources to invent a powerful crafting system. Star Wars Galaxies had a massive crafting system where each item was tagged with a unique number and was unique. Obviously developing and maintaining the database for such a system would be difficult, but more difficult would be balancing these items. At one point, composite armor was sold that had a ridiculous defense rating, making pvp against people in that armor a real joke. The defenses were so good that players began using weapons that were basically trophy trinkets that did very little damage and no player had certification for (using a weapon without certification severely reduced it's damage potential) because they did a type of damage that wasn't mitigated by the high defense composite armor. These weapons (which literally did about 20 damage all told) did more damage than any other gun could (regardless of user skill or perfectness of the crafting of the gun).

Balancing, creating, and maintaining a crafting system becomes more difficult with the increasing complexity of the system. Resources are limited in MMORPG production, so this is pretty much the dump stat of any MMORPG. 90% of the fanbase won't care if the crafting system is mediocre, and that remaining 10% is still homeless and looking for a place to call their own. they will most likely buy the game, and quit later, so why bother creating a system to attract them?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

WoW, Achievements

It seems like every MMORPG and most games have some sort of unlockable achievements. It surprised me a little that World of Warcraft would impliment a system like this. It seems that all the things players have done for four years to get to the end-game now has a graphic associated with it and earns you points. These achievement points are fairly worthless, and serve as a reminder of which nerd has the most time on their hands.

Not all of WoW's achievements are pointless. Some are fun, such as the PVP battleground ones, requiring you to beat every battleground X number of times, or the ones that require you to collect a series of rare pets or gain a reputation with each faction. These are all things that someone may not do just to get to max level and begin raiding, and therefore are worth extra notice.

It is not, however, worth noting that a character managed to reach lvl 10...or lvl 20, 30, 40, etc. If they are lvl 80 I can pretty much assume that they've played through all the levels to get there (unless there's some magic auto-leveller machine that I don't know about, even then you'd probably still get the achievements).

My rant about this is primarily about both the arbitrary-ness of these achievements and also the fact that they have no purpose except as e-peen competitions. An achievement should mean something, and you should be awarded one for breathing (or reaching lvl 10, I mean, that's about a 2 hour commitment at best, and that's if you spend time dancing naked on mailboxes and go get lunch without logging out). Make the achievements something slightly difficult. The exploration ones are a good example, as are the pet collections. These are things that might actually take a player a little while to complete, which isn't the whole point of achievements to give players something to do until you push out the next patch/expansion pack?

The second purpose that achievements should have is to reward players. Remember the good old days when you could earn ranks by grinding out a pointless amount of hours in the battlegrounds? Or when you could earn a title by becoming exhaulted with the different battleground factions? Rewards don't have to be items, but they very well could be. It isn't hard to make something that looks awesome but has little or no combat effectiveness. An idea off the top of my head: Custom Weapon skin. It's a soulbound item, trinket, spell, whatever that can change the appearance of one of your weapons. Basically you can make your weapon look like any other weapon you want. It has no combat value, beyond the base weapon, but makes you look unique.

Achievements shouldn't just be circuses for the masses to keep them in the game until you get all their money. Achievements need to serve some purpose.

Up next, Star Wars Galaxies, New Game Enhancements has something that probably should have been in the original game: Collections. It's like an Achievement system's loot-whore twin.