Questions by: Tony "RadarX" Jones
Answers by: Mark Jacobs, General Manager EA Mythic
There are plenty of standard mechanics one sees in every MMO game. While some, like combat and skill progression, are very obvious others are subtle such as crafting. EA Mythic's General Manager, Mark Jacobs, displays a deep passion for crafting in Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. Boasting the system is deep and unique, he promises it will be unlike anything we've ever seen before. Mark was kind enough to answer all our questions about the crafting system from his keep in Virginia.
Tony Jones: Mark, you mentioned in your video blog that you aren't involved much with talking publicly about game mechanics. What inspired you to get involved with crafting?
Mark Jacobs: You mean from a standpoint of putting my face or my voice out there for people to sadly have to listen too
Tony Jones: Hahaha, well you seem to be the spokesperson for crafting.
Cultivation Up Close
Mark Jacobs: Yes it's a particular favorite area of mine. If you look at the history of Mythic, particularly on every game but this one, I was the face out there doing all the interviews. This time I thought I had enough to do. I have some people who are really good at it. Guys like Josh and Jeff and Paul, you guys can go out and do a lot of the talking and leg work. I get to do all the other things I need to do here at EA so that worked out really well.
In the case of crafting that is something very near and dear to my heart. Along with the Tome and Public Quests, crafting is something I have put a lot of effort into and thought about and wanted to talk about.
Tony Jones: When we look at crafting, is this a scalable type system? Is it something you can build upon?
Mark Jacobs: Absolutely, that is something I wanted with this system. I know that we don't have six years to work on a game and because of that there are things that we could not get in for launch. There just was not the time. So I wanted to have a system that was different and very easily scalable. Not only scalable vertically but horizontally as well. Whether it's adding things like weapon smithing or armor crafting, that make everyone happy. This is a system that we can add those things too. We can refine and improve quite easily.
If you look at the standard recipe system, there isn't much you can do with it. You get a book, you get a recipe, that tells you this is something that you can do and you put it together with ingredients and you get an item. There is no experimentation; there is no room there for adding things other than new recipes or even changing recipes around. It is still the same thing.
This system allows us a lot more flexibility. I look forward to what we can do with the system and go beyond the norms.
Tony Jones: Can we expect to see more?
Mark Jacobs: Absolutely, and that goes back to the question on expansion flexibility and will this grow. We want to do a lot more with this system.
Tony Jones: How is the leveling curve going to work with crafting? Will it start off easy and grow in difficulty from there? What are the challenges with crafting?
Mark Jacobs: It's not that I don't like recipe systems, we had one in Camelot. I've played recipe systems; it's just that it's been done before. Doing a recipe system for Warhammer Online. in the sense of a WoW system or EverQuest system, sure we can throw a twist or two on it, but it would still be the same basic system. I don't think there is anything wrong with those systems; I just wanted to do something different.
Second, in terms of grinding, I think there are two terms that go with grinding. The first is something that is not considered fun. If you look at, and it doesn't matter if you are talking about WoW or Camelot, there is an element of grind to all those games. If the grind is fun then you really don't consider it a grind. It is when the grind does not become fun then it becomes the grind in every sense of the word.
The other part is that when you have to make one thousand of one thing or five hundred of one thing before it felt like they were advancing. That is an old mechanic.
The third part, and I know I said there was two, I lied. There are three parts, which is how you get to do what you want to do. So let's take a classic recipe based system. You get the recipe to make the Unholy Sword of Monster Slaying; well you might have to make one thousand Unholy Swords of Monster Slaying before you get the next great Unholy Sword of Monster Slaying + 1. You kind of feel grinding when you have to do that, right? You say "Oh my God! I have to make all these things." If you were the only one on the planet making those things and you can actually sell them then maybe that is okay. But generally in these games, there are actually other people playing. They're making the same Unholy Sword of Monster Slaying and they are making the same one thousand that you have to make. This means you can't even make any money off it, which just reinforces the fact that it is grinding.
This Guy Needs Potions
So when you look at this system, it is supposed to be the exact opposite. One, you don't have to go out and look for these recipes or do a thousand things to get one. We don't want you running an instance fifty times hoping that one recipe will drop. Nor do we want to make you create a thousand items so you can go back to your trainer, and he can pat you on the head and give you the next recipe. Either way that can feel grinding and our system does not work that way. You don't need a cook book. You don't need to know exactly what these things do when you put them together. So when you get the ingredients, which you earn just by doing questing, you will have a lot to work with. You could make that system grinding; we are not going to do that.
Once you get these items you can immediately begin experimenting with them. And that is a fun thing. I got this for the first time; let me see what I can do with it? What happens if I plug it into my formula? If I get another item, what can I do with it? This allows players to experiment. There is no requirement that you must make a certain number of items before you can progress. That is not how it is going to work.
That is not to say that if you make one potion you'll become the master Alchemist. It is an RPG after all. There has to be some amount of things you have to accomplish. There has to be some kind of progression system. We do not want the progression system to be a big time sink. With the Cultivating system, you can put your stuff in the back pack to grow and go out to do other things. That shows how dedicated we are to not forcing the player to sit down and grind out one thousand plants. They can go do other things.
So when you look at all that and go, "This is a different mechanic," and then I think you can avoid a lot of the grinding feel to crafting. If you get a little down time to play with crafting you can certainly do that. Or, you can start things growing and go off to do what you have to do. That will certainly feel like less of a grind. Also the fact that you don't have to spend days searching for a recipe and then try to find items. So I think everything we're doing will make it feel less grinding, and is a different system than you see in say Dark Age of Camelot. This is only the first stage.
Keep checking back for Part 2 of our interview with Mark Jacobs!
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