Posted Wed, Oct 09, 2013 by ricoxg
The team at Portalarium recently released some of the conceptual designs for their crafting stations. As you might expect, crafting was a major topic of conversation during my recent trip to Austin. So I decided to tell you a little about what I found out. And no, it had absolutely nothing to do with my editor’s pleading, demanding, and/or threatening me to find more exclusive content.
Some of what the team is doing in Shroud of the Avatar is based on standard models we’ve seen in games past, but what you may not expect is some of the twists they have in store on how those models fit into the game. Today we’re going to talk shortly about the crafting system being planned for the game and how it supports a potentially robust enchanting system. Then we’ll take a look at how some of the team’s plans for looting could impact crafters, and lastly how not all the crafting takes place in-game. And if some of that information happens to be exclusive to Ten Ton Hammer, well then in the interests of journalistic integrity I must insist that it was purely coincidental, and not at all related to my family’s continuing safety.
Yeah, you guessed it. As unoriginal as Slim Shady himself, the crafting system in Shroud of the Avatar is based on the tried and true standard of the generic tree-like recipe system with the typical raw resource refinement system. You may also find this shocking, but I actually like that they’re taking this route. You’ve seen the same basic design in EVE Online, arguably the best economic model to date in MMOs. The concept is a solid foundation to build on, and because it’s intuitive, most players will understand the basic ideas without much trouble.
Besides, I would submit that the model really is a lot like real-life in many ways. You learn a bit about basic computers, and then you have to decide whether to focus more on networks or servers, and from there into specific operating systems or hardware. If you break it down, that’s actually how we learn to do nearly any specialized task. In real-life, specialized tasks are formed of more general tasks at the root, so it makes sense that as a game model it’s ideal. Plus, it’s obvious it works and if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
Where SotA will diverge from the beaten path is in the actual crafting of finished items and in how players get access to recipes. We’ve seen systems in the past where you needed a specific number of components to make something else, but what makes this system unique is that you may never know everything you could make. Sure there’ll be recipes that you can buy from in-game vendors just like every-other game on the planet, but not all recipes are available via in-game looted written form or from vendors.
Now here’s where it gets interesting; it’s looking like there will be a few ways to figure out how to make new crafting items. You could spend some time experimenting with combinations of sub-components and materials to learn how to make things, or another player could give you the recipe. “Unlike most games where you maybe go find a spell seller who sells you each spell one at a time, knowledge can be transmitted from player to player. If I can create some level 2 blacksmithing recipe, you can create that recipe. I can just tell you, ‘here’s how you make it.’ You don’t have to buy it and once you’ve done it that first time, it’ll be copied into your recipe book so you can remember how to do it,” says Richard Garriott.
I expect there’ll be plenty of people crying about how they deserve instant access to everything without any effort, but this is a sandbox game created by the guy who quite literally defined the genre. This is a game for real gamers who want a challenge and don’t want their experiences limited to max-level a la World of Warcraft. I suspect there are plenty of gamers out there excited to finally see a more sophisticated crafting system and even more excited to see Lord British leading the charge.
One thing not defined yet is the impact of types of material on the crafted object, but it’s early in the process and that could certainly change. Even if the recipes are generic wood/metal/stone affairs, I still see a lot of potential to the system, and it strikes me as very easy to add complexity post-release, which is a big win.
Lest you begin to find yourself getting too excited, calm down before you flip any tables in geek-fueled glee. There’s more here that I think you’ll like, and even more that the child-like fans of certain other… lesser… MMOs will likely hate. I’m talking about system used to turn those generic muggle weapons into flaming blades of burning death.
Enchanting in Shroud of the Avatar will not be something that’s included in the recipe creating the base object. Enchanting will be an extra step that someone will have to take after the item has actually been crafted. Until it’s been enchanted, a magic wand is just a pretty stick, but once your resident spell-slinger has worked his magic, that little stick now spits fireballs like it means business. I think I’ll call mine Mark 19 after one of my favorite weapon systems from my Army days.
Typical for Lord British, there’s still a catch. Those of us, who played D&D before it was wussified, remember how unique magic equipment was, and SotA promises to uphold those grand old standards. Enchanting an item requires the desired spell be cast on it and each casting is a single charge. As with any other time you cast said spell, reagents will be required for each casting. Thus enchantments take time not only to complete, but to even prepare for. Lord Blackthorn’s Flaming Brand of Kobold Womping sounds great, but the effort required in building up charges means it’ll also be something only used for emergencies.
There was a question that came to my mind in thinking about this system, and I thought to ask Richard Garriott and Starr Long while we chatted. I was curious why would I ever bother with enchantments if I were already a spell-slinger, then? Starr answered, “Our combat system works in such a way that you may not always have the spell you want prepared at a given time. The benefit of casting a specific spell on an item and having that item equipped is that you have that spell there and constantly available as long as you have charges left.”