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Crafted Loot and Dropped Loot Co-Existing

Finding a place for crafted gear in a mmorpg where loot can drop from monsters has always been a really rough spot in mmo design. Over on the Pantheon Crafters community they asked a question about whether or not they can co-exist without one eclipsing the other. Let’s check it out.

For this week’s Crafter’s Roundtable, we want to hear from everyone about how you think loot and crafted items can coexist in the game and both be viable without one eclipsing the other. Let us know what you think works to achieve a good balance, and what doesn’t, and why!

I’ve always preferred a system where players taking on the role of full-time crafters create the gear for the adventurers. The most successful design I’ve seen on this is where the adventurers bring back specific items to augment and enhance what the crafters make.

Since we’re talking about the two systems co-existing without one eclipsing the other, obviously both must come together make the best items. Perhaps a crafter can make an item and an adventurer can find an item, but when the two combine together they make something better. This relied on both sides. Still not a perfect scenario.

My favorite is expendable loot. Nothing that drops or is made should last forever. Master crafters could prolong the life of an item, but ultimately that item will break. I also like the idea of augmenting gear with either dropped augments or crafted augments, but those augments would cause the item to degrade even faster. I think I like this system so much because it affords players multiple opportunities and avenues for finding, improving, and retaining gear.

  • bhagpuss says:

    Your preferred system would put any MMMORPG on my “will never play beyond starting zones” list. If there’s a mechanic that disincentives long-term play more effectively than degradeable gear I can’t think of it offhand.

    The best solution for a genuine, vibrant and happy crafting and adventuring community is to keep their roles very separate. Vanguard had the perfect solution. Everyone, adventurers and crafters and diplomats alike, wanted homes and ships. They were both status symbols and recreational pleasures. Crafters made all the component parts for both but anyone could fit them together to make the final object.

    Similarly, crafters could make very good gear – not the best but excellent – but they needed some items that were hard to get without adventuring skills. It was an ecosystem that felt organic and natural, with both sides (all three, really, although Diplomacy wasn’t quite as finished as the other two spheres) having something the other wanted, while also being able to produce/obtain the very best of certain types of desirable stuff.

    Since Vanguard had hands-down the best crafting I’ve ever seen, I have high hopes for Pantheon. I think making gear degradeable would pretty much put the game out of business before it even arrives.

    • Keen says:

      Degradable loot worked for UO, DAoC, and SWG. I’m not so sure that it’s a guaranteed nail in the coffin. Pantheon already attracts a niche market ready for niche thinking. A niche crafting system with a niche symbiotic loot emphasis would probably be received better with this audience than any other.

  • Lethality says:

    Boy, I may have spent more time thinking about this particular can of worms than anything else in my years 🙂

    My take on it is they can coexist, but bold decisions have to be made on the design…

    – Items must decay and break – they might be able to be repaired for a time, but overall durability will decrease over time, and eventually break completely
    – Crafters make the best items*, and are generally what’s available for everyone to use day to day
    – *Looted items from boss monsters can be better, but incredibly more rare.
    – Looted items are more susceptible to breakage (due to age, blah blah) and maybe even a critical break (sudden totality)

    So in effect, the item hunt and surprise of a rare drop would still exist! But with that special item, if a player was lucky enough to get one, they may decide not to use it for everyday adventuring. But only pull out special item when they have an important task at hand… due to risk of loss

    I don’t know if this system would “feel” great yet… having a powerful item you have to decide not to use may not be the best design. But I’m still stewing on it 🙂

    This also gets away from the whole need for “rare’ crafting mats to be gated behind combat goals… that’s one symbiotic relationship I don’t think works – crafters need adventurers, but adventurers need crafters.

    That never seems to work out in practice, maybe because the hardest-core adventurers can just pick up crafting and do it themselves. We need a game where if you choose to be an adventurer, you’re giving up the ability to be the best crafter. And vice versa.

    • Keen says:

      I agree that rare crafting mats gated behind combat goals doesn’t work. I think WoW is a great example of this right now. The best rafting mats come from the raids…. along with the best gear, so by the time you get those best mats you’re already obsolete. Heck, even the recipes come from the raids.

  • Jay P says:

    Keen, any idea when Pantheon releases or goes to open beta?

  • Gringar says:

    I would love a system where all items eventually decay or are destroyed. EVE has something like that. Statistically speaking… Ships and modules will all eventually be destroyed and need to be replaced.

    The nature of the game needs to support such a system. This would have a 0.0% chance of working in WoW where your power is in your gear. In EVE, ships and mods are just tools to get the job done. Your power actually comes from your skills and available funds.

    I would definitely play a game where the world could successfully support a system where all items eventually break down.

    • Keen says:

      Worked really well in UO, SWG, and DAoC — particularly SWG. It makes the world so much more cohesive when crafters open up shops that are filled with repeat customers because those customers went out and ‘used’ the items they previously bought and had such success that they came back for more.

  • Caldazar says:

    I agree with Gingar, the less important gear is, the more relevant this becomes. If gear is a throwaway tool that does not add hugely to your power/is cheap (eve online, ultima online) it is very viable.

    But if you have a more classic power curve like most current mmos it does not really work. A lot of progression is baked in gear in those games, and making gear decay would make people grind to stay at the same level or even disincentivise logging in since it would be a net loss.

    Regarding loot and crafted items interaction I don’t think there is much option. Either loot drops, or crafted item materials drop in places you want people to consume content. Since they want people to repeat content it means either lots of materials are needed or not 100% drop rates. Everything else just depends on what you want to make important. If you want crafting to be more important make boss drops rarer or weaker, or vice versa if you want crafting to be less important.

    As a sidenote: What people are saying about items that are rare but very strong and that you only take out for special enemies. Sorry, that never happens, they’ll sit happily unused in the bank.

    • Keen says:

      You’ve made a very important point about the ‘power curve’ here. I think it can be called many things. In general, it’s the curve where players level or ‘play’ the game and then ‘consume’ or ‘utilize’ gear. In a game like SWG there were no levels, just skilling up. In DAoC there were levels, but the game was a marathon.

      The game would have to be about the character and the world over the loot, which clearly isn’t how most games are made these days.

  • Diltz says:

    What about a system with gems, enchants, augmentantions, etc:… that degrade over time and need to be re-applied to permanent gear? Make the actual armor/weapons never break, but all the added bonuses you put into it have a decay rate and must be redone. I think for the vast majority, gear that breaks causes too much pain to them psychologically. but if the gear never breaks, and just the gems/enchants/etc;… decay, then i think that’s a happy middle ground.

    The other option i would recommend is to do the exact opposite of what lethality said. make looted items never break, but crafted items can. make them the exact same power/stats, but make crafted items cheaper and easier to obtain. so you’ll have people running around in crafted gear that will eventually break, until they get lucky enough to get one of those rare loot drops that never breaks. This also helps because the longer you play, the more likely you’ll be to get those rare drops, and by that point you’re probably tired of crafting gear over and over… at least until the next patch releases new content, then you have to decide whether to keep your unbreakable stuff and be a little less powerful, or craft new more powerful stuff that will likely break. This also allows you to have a backup gear set, in case you’re out in the field and break something, you can switch to your less powerful, but unbreakable gear set.

    • Keen says:

      What if the gear were just a vessel for the augment?

      Like a Augment+5 could only go into a particularly powerful sword. This means that people would need to go out and adventure to find the sword capable of withstanding the power of the augment. The sword itself might only have the raw damage output, and the augments would add stats to them and procs and other abilities.

      I also like the idea that crafted gear is the exact same as dropped gear, but it degrades. Thus making it easier to obtain, at a price.

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