Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Warhammer's crafting system

Many of the systems developed for Warhammer Online focus around the art of war itself. Realm vs. Realm combat, Keeps, sieges ... the bread and butter of the game is combat, adventuring, and excitement. Which is not to say that a few moments of quiet time aren't appropriate even in the harsh world of WAR. The most recent newsletter unveiled a new production video from none other than Mark Jacobs himself, talking all about crafting.

Mark Jacobs did a very nice little video that came out in the newsletter yesterday that covers pretty much all of the stuff I would be talking to you about, so I'm going to try and see whether we can find some other little things to talk about that he just mentioned in broader terms. I think the best way to talk about crafting is first of all to admit that there's gathering, and then there's crafting. There is how you get your stuff, and that's how you turn your stuff into other things. The skills that we're talking about at the moment, we have four gathering and two crafting. The two crafting are Apothecary and Talisman-making, and the four gathering are Butchering, Scavenging, Cultivating and Salvaging. Some of them function like skills you might have seen in other games, like Butchering, and Scavenging is extracting stuff from corpses.

Cultivating is a pretty new idea for an MMO. Essentially you start off with something useless and spend some time and attention, nurture with love, and water. Eventually your seeds can grow into something that is much more useful and someone else will want to buy off you and use to make potions. You can, of course, use your own materials. Salvaging is taking something that you have, that maybe you don't want, hitting it with a hammer lots of times so it breaks apart. Then you have some stuff left over. Apothecary is potions lotions and powders, it's essentially our combat consumable creation system. Talisman-making is making stuff that goes into slots, where those slots are on weapons and amour. I don't think Mark touched too much on how those skills basically interact with one another, I've seen a few people asking questions about that.

Just as an example of how resource gathering works. Butchering is where I go out into the wilderness and see a wolf or a boar, and I kill it and some flies start buzzing around it, and I interact with it. Then I get some loot! And the kind of loot you get from Butchering is - mostly - going to help you out with the apothecary system. So ingredients you might get to make potions are like guts and blood, and goo and all kinds of disgusting things. Scavenging on the other hand feels basically like the same kind of skill except that you're doing it on predominantly player races. Anything sentient, like Mark said "anything with pockets". When you Scavenge from them you get things that are slightly less disgusting, things like gold teeth, you might get fleas and ticks, that sort of stuff that's stuck to their body. Generally, the stuff you get from Scavenging will help you out in Talisman-making.

There is a bit of crossover, if you do Scavenging there are some things you use in apothecary that aren't available elsewhere, aren't as easily available elsewhere. The same thing with the other two resource skills. Cultivating is growing stuff, and stuff you grow in Cultivating generally ties in to apothecary too. Salvaging - that stuff generally ties in to Talisman-making. So we give players a choice, they can have one gathering, one crafting. At very low levels there's enough to just get started at your local crafting vendor. Once you get above that, you need to go and do stuff on your own. With your one gathering skill you can pretty much get just about everything you need, but there are going to be some times where you need to trade with other players.

You only have the option of choosing one gathering and one crafting? You can't do two gatherings?

No. Definitely one and one, Mark replied to someone asking that question on one of the boards today. The primary reason is just that we don't have that many skills at the moment. The other thing we've tried to do with all of these skills is - I'm not a big fan of chasing yellow dots on a radar screen. When I play our game I want to get into a scenario, I want to get into a keep siege and I want to kill people! I don't want to be doing rings around the edge of the zone or looking for yellow dots on my radar to go and interact with not-people. I want to get in to RvR and kill people. So - developing the entire crafting system, which is based on Mark's design, we tried very hard to make sure that if you want to do crafting, it's not going to impact your ability to do RvR. It's not going to soak up time, you're not going to have to go to specific places and do it. If you want to do it, you can just do it. If you've got 10 seconds downtime? Make a potion, or start something growing, while you're waiting for the scenario timer to kick off so you can get in and start killing people. That's been a very important, conscious choice for us. I think we've pretty much hit it on just about everything you do in the game to do with crafting.

So if we're talking about how they feel to use ... Butchering and Scavenging, the way they play out is very reminiscent of World of Warcraft's skinning. Salvaging shares some similarities to WoW's disenchanting, some of the things you can do in Salvaging. Let's say I have my staff, I don't want it any more, or it dropped and I don't use it, and so it's got Wisdom and Intelligence on it. When you go to salvage it, it'll give you the option to choose which one of the bonuses you'd like to extract. Once you've made that choice, the end result, the stuff you get will actually be different depending on your choice. Then, you take one of those things and plug it into your Talisman-making. Let's say you chose intelligence, if you use that as your core ingredient for Talisman-making, you'll make a talisman that boosts intelligence.

Mark in the podcast was emphasizing the exploratory nature of the system, and that's the sort of thing we've been trying to ensure all the way through. We don't want the system to be as simple as in some games, where if you find a recipe or unlock a recipe then it's the same set of four items you need to make it. In our system, there are many different ways to arrive at an end product. The interesting choice we give to the players is to kind of figure out the best way to get the ingredients they need to make that, based on their own play-style.

I've artificially given myself 100 skill at Cultivating, which has opened up three of my four plots already. The first thing you do when you get the cultivate window to open is you stick a seed in a plot. The low-level stuff grows pretty quickly, and you can have multiple things growing at the same time. When you back out, it shows you which state which ones are - all of these are at the beginning stage at the moment. There's an overall time, there's a time per stage. What we can also do is input additives that will reduce the time taken as well.

You can use one additive per stage?
Yes, at specific times. Basically what happens in Cultivating is, you're growing stuff. We'll also fill in some little surprise things in, like you can have criticals and supercriticals, and the chance of those happening can be modified by the additives that you use. If you find a special sort of soil, maybe that makes criticals happen more often, or maybe it makes supercriticals happen more often. We're also trying to do things like hybridization. Essentially most of the seeds you grow give you ingredients that you're going to use to make something. We are reducing the amount of types that you can immediately get, and make them happen as a result of say a supercritical in cultivation. So you might say "oh, let's grow a respiration plant" and then grow ten of them, and one's a supercritical and suddenly it gives you a healing seed. You haven't been able to make healing potions before, and you can't find them anywhere.

You've created the healing seed as a hybridization byproduct of the respiration seeds. Cultivation's also going to be a way that we can put in more weird stuff. You might be growing some particular plants and you might get an insect at the end of one of the products, which you can grind down and use as a pigment, Or, you get a sap or some goo that you can use as an ingredient for something else. Once it's fully grown, at the end you can harvest it. Oh, I got one of those back. I'll try to see if it's in a stack ... I got a failure! There's a common mushroom there, which ultimately will get sold to a vendor.

Some of the seeds can also come from Scavenging, some of them come from just killing particular types of animals. Usually ones that have hair, because thematically, it's stuck in their hair. We have the starter stores mostly as a customer service for our players. Once they get into they game, they can start out and get their first few skill levels in a particular skill, at no risks, the guy in the store will just sell you as many of the skill level 1 stuff as you want. Then when you outlevel that, you're on your own, and you have to go find stuff. So particularly potent or rare seeds, find more PQ bosses, any particularly hard piece of content, as well as regular drops and Scavenging.

So not only do the gathering skills work with the crafting skills, but they also overlap with each other?
Yeah - there's a little bit of overlap all over the place. Like earlier on, when I was saying Scavenging mostly helps you out with Talisman-making; there are edge conditions and all sorts of weirdness that we put in. Hopefully players will find it interesting, particularly like killing someone and finding they had a leech on them. Then you loot the leech and you say "Oh, this can be used to make healing potions, because it's a leech!" Stuff like that. So apothecary is a potion-making system. As a skill level one player I learn this skill from a trainer, and then I go to this guy here and he can give me some stuff. First thing I need to do is put it in a container, and then put in my main ingredient, and then there's a little thing that tells me whether the mixture is stable or not.

So it's completely stable with these new additives. I press 'Brew', and we get a potion out at the end. It's real quick to make something as an Apothecary. Now the really cool thing about the system is we have a main ingredient which goes in that slot, which basically can determine what kind of potion we're making. In this case, you can check on the tooltip and know that this guy always makes intelligence potions. However the problem with the main ingredients is that they're very, very unstable. So as soon as you put them into a container, you are going to have a battle to make sure the overall stability of the concoction is positive. So, to do that, I've just used the three basic ingredients that I know have good stability. Other ingredients can also do other things, like the two basic other types which I'm going to show you today can increase the length of an effect on a potion, and increase the number made. It's a little bit difficult to be designing potions early on. Once you get into the swing of it, and you are starting to find more gatherables and you also have more money, you can buy stuff and you can can trade from players. It enables you to start designing the sort of potions that you want. Mark used a really good example in his podcast where he said "I'm going to make some potions for my guildmates ...

What are we doing tonight?" "Well, we're just going to run a bunch of scenarios. We're going to be doing RvR." In RvR, you don't survive very long, it's just a fact of life. You die every five minutes. It's fun, but you die every five minutes! So, it would be pointless for me to use my ingredients that lengthen the effect. Every time I revive, I take another potion. So, instead I'm going to concentrate on adding extra potency in, or maybe, concentrate on adding ingredients that will make more potions. Conversely if I'm going to solo, if I'm going to try and get a couple of levels tonight, do a couple of quests, maybe join some other people in PQ. I'm not really expecting to die all that often - it's PvE! So, I might concentrate on my ingredients that super-lengthen the length of the effect. Instead of making intelligence by ten, for ten minutes, I might make intelligence for ten, for two hours. In which case, I only need to drink one, and I can save all my ingredients for when we go RvRing and make the short powerful ones.

Is there a similar mechanic on the Talisman-making side? You mentioned breaking down materials based on their item bonuses, but is there any sort of balancing that goes on there?

It's similar, but it's... it's the same system, but there are some differences. For example, for apothecary - apothecary is all about managing your stability, making sure your overall stuff is stable, and we give the players a little bar on the side. For Talisman-making, it's all about making this minor object of power as potent and powerful as they can possibly make it. So there's no real stability involved in that, it's just brute force power. Conceptually it's very similar, you're sticking four things into a container, pressing a button and hopefully awesome pops out the end. The types of things you need to make a talisman is a fragment, which is the thing you get from Magical Salvaging. Presumably as a player you've already made the choice about which bonus you're trying to make. Then you need some gold essence, gold in Warhammer is traditionally the color of hedge-wizardry, talisman, magic, that kind of stuff.

We're going to require you need some gold essence. Gold essence is the thing that is created by apothecary people. We'll allow you to have some really crappy gold essence probably from the store or from some early on PQs. That said, to get the superpowerful talismans, you're going to want to have a friend that's into apothecary. Talismans thematically are kinda like good luck charms. It's funny ... in the Warhammer world, they're not necessarily inherently magical themselves. They're magical because you believe they're magical - which is kind of a weird concept to get your head around initially. The Empire soldiers will nail two brass pennies to the front of their shield as a good luck charm. Are the pennies actually magical? No, they're not, but because they think they are, they become magical. It's like a lot of trust and belief and all kinds of nonsense.

So talismans work a bit like - thematically they're a bit like that. If you believe all this stuff's going to be magical, you can make something cool. So the third things you need, we call them curios, they're things you get from Scavenging. Like you Scavenge some player races, they might have in their pocket a lucky charm - a rabbit's foot pendant or a four-leaf clover. The third ingredient for making a talisman is something that someone considered to inherently have some power to it. Then the fourth thing is another magical type of essence that predominantly occurs as a byproduct of Salvaging. Take all this stuff, squish it together, and if you have the best versions of each one of those four things, you get a really good talisman at the end of it. If not, you get a crappy one.

What kind of support does the Auction House offer for people who want to offer their goods and services from these kind of products? Is there an easy way to run down a potion based on the length of time?

Yes. Our Auction House functions like you think it would. However, we have extra levels of filtering available that you can use to search for. There's not just a pulldown that says "Potions" and it will show you all the potions in the Auction House. You can actually get down to the level of clarity that you would need, given that the crafting systems themselves can create stuff of that level of granularity.

This is obviously a question looking out a bit ... do you guys see adding in more crafting elements as the years go by?

I think we would be foolish not to!

It seems like you're aiming to launch with a very tight, very core element...

We wanted to concentrate on - I don't want to use the word 'consumable', it's not an all-encompassing term - wanted to focus on the things that are the most going to help players out in RvR. Viscerally. Like - drink a potion, and suddenly you become stronger on the battlefield. That's the kind of effect you want to have. One thing about talismans is I'm not sure if it's been mentioned - is while some of them last forever, some of them don't - and that enables us to put better abilities in them because we know they're not going to last. They're not going to stick around for that long. So, with that respect, they're also consumables. We want to give players as much ammunition for augmenting and specializing their characters for RvR.

The choice to not include a weaponsmith or armorsmith is interesting. Was that based on just how the designers wanted to itemize the game, or was it so you didn't have people doing really passive activities in the game?

I think every game I've ever played, I've always been a little bit upset with how blacksmithing / weaponsmithing works, in that they never give me the end results that I really want. A lot of games there'll be the discussion whether crafted stuff should be better than the stuff I get elsewhere. Not necessarily even high-end content, but just my normal, going about my business doing quests kind of thing. I don't remember ever playing a game where I thought that mix was "right". Personally, I'd love to put in a system where you could do crafting and that was the pinnacle of stuff in the game - but there are other aspects to take into account. I'm not sure the main reason why we didn't do it. From my point of view, being in charge of the team that had to do it, we know we have this awesome exploratory system of apothecary and Talisman-making. We have the associated gathering skills, and we just want to knock those out the park first. We'll give you the tools that impact your initial RvR experience the most, early on in your lifetime in the game. After that, we'll see what happens. We're probably going to be around for ten years, it's going to be five or six expansions ... we've got to hold something back!

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

0 kommentarer:

Post a Comment

Warhammer Online © 2009