比起仍卷軸，扔藥劑更能發揮功效。據我所瞭解唯一能夠呈現出扔掉卷軸併產生效果的遊戲只有《Shiren the Wanderer》。
提供給玩家大量的治療藥劑並不會對遊戲設計造成多大影響。在玩家要求使用藥劑後，遠比他們強大的敵人總是能夠憑藉進一步攻擊而再一次重創玩家。《Shiren the Wanderer》便擁有一種道具——“Chiropractic Jar”能夠馬上治癒玩家並恢復其各種病狀。儘管這些道具並不罕見，並且玩家也可以花錢去購得它們，但是玩家仍然會在遊戲中感受到壓力。因爲他們必須挪出時間並謹慎地使用這種道具；並且儘管這一道具並不罕見，但也屬於有限的資源，所以玩家必須保守地使用。並且只有具有這種約束才能保持遊戲的平衡。
爲了更好地進行說明，我將詳細分析遊戲中一款稀有道具“Sharpened Volcano Fragment”的鍛造過程。
2.然後我們需要“Reclaimed Metal”，由3個“Scrap Metals”構成，這就意味着我們需要收集6個武器。
3.再來我們需要“Refined Metal”，而它需要3個“Reclaimed Metal”，等於我們總共需要聚集18個武器。
4.“Sharpened Volcano Fragment”需要2件“Refined Metal”。所以到現在我們共需要36個武器。
分析了《軍團要塞2》中刷任務般的鍛造系統，接下來我將列舉一款合理使用了鍛造系統的遊戲。《崛起》是一款由《Gothic》系列的原班製作人馬Piranha Bytes開發的遊戲，延續了後者開放的世界和懲罰機制等優點，但是擁有了一個較爲複雜的故事軸。我認爲這是迄今爲止將鍛造系統發揮得最爲淋漓盡致的現代遊戲，與《The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim》等同類型遊戲相比較時更是如此。
篇目1，Emotions and Randomness – Loot Drops
by Chris Grey
Even though randomness can be used to greatly influence a player’s experience with a game, I haven’t seen many people put much thought into crafting it. We’ve all got war stories about a rare drop that took us hours to get, if not tens of hours. Gamefaqs is loaded with forum threads talking about the despair of the random drop. Even worse are the threads made by people who got the drop in one go, bragging and taunting the rest of the community, as if luck with the random number generator were something they actively controlled. For better or worse, randomness currently colors the play experience tremendously; why not talk about crafting it more actively from our side so that these experiences are less accidental?
Today, I’d like to focus on drops. I’m being a bit loose with the word because I’d like the ability to talk about both items dropped by defeated monsters and the monster taming process in Ni No Kuni, where enemies randomly become recruitable after you beat them up. I’m going to avoid giving hard numbers wherever possible; my aim here is to give a few heuristics about how randomness feels to the player.
First, let’s look at the way it’s done now. Typically, designers look at the in-game economic value of an item and decide how scarce it should be. More powerful items either appear later in the game or drop with a much lower constant percentage chance. The idea here is that players should feel some kind of sense of accomplishment when they obtain the item, or at least see how lucky they’ve been. Either way, it’ll bring the players to value the item, hopefully in accord with the designer. If players manage to get the drop in the average number of tries, if the designer has valued the item correctly, the player will typically have a similar valuation of and appropriate attachment to the item.
With a constant drop rate, here’s the graph that captures the farming experience. You might be expecting a bell curve here, but I want to illustrate something else born from this data. To do so, we’re going to change the vertical axis to reflect the following: assuming your players kill enemies until they get one of the items, here’s how long the player population will be farming.
Pay attention to the shape; the key point to notice here is that the graph never actually hits zero. That means some of your players are never going to successfully acquire the item, and they will have a terrible time trying to farm it because they will spend tremendous amounts of time doing a task the designer had only pictured them doing for a fifth of that time. Even the good feeling at getting the drop if they eventually manage to get it is generally overshadowed at this level. What’s worse, the time farming the item will skew a player’s value of it; most players will resent having to grind a massive amount of time if others did not have to, and they will focus their resentment on the item in question. Naturally, this resentment will also spill over to the game, and they will undoubtedly vent about how unfair the game is to anyone that will listen. These players will be overfarmed by the nature of the task, and this also ruins the otherwise carefully crafted difficulty curve. Their frustration can lead to quitting the game, and if this player was dedicated enough to stick it out that long, you probably alienated an incredibly passionate player. All this angst for a random drop that probably didn’t matter much in the bigger picture of the game.
…and the Queen save the poor souls who feel compelled to get the collect all random drops achievement. That synergy can quickly lead to tens of hours of despair and compulsion, if there are many items or especially rare items.
The problem with using averages to balance in this case is myriad. In the graph, notice that about sixty percent of players will receive the drop before the average number of attempts, and half of the population gets the item significantly before the average. This means most players won’t be seeing the event as many times as the designer probably designed for, and in reality, as any one player usually only goes through this process to get any one drop once, this will become the general consensus on how long the experience takes. Potentially a happy mistake, but it does diminish the feeling of effort the designer probably wanted the most players to feel. Of the rest, it can be expected that about twenty-five percent of players will take more than one and a half times the average to get the drop, and more than ten percent will take more than twice as long as average. If these players look to the rest of the player population, they will see their experience taking more than two to three times as long as the lucky half, respectively.
A designer with fixed resources would be drawn to craft the average experience when, in all honestly, it’s the fifty percent who finished significantly early and the twenty-five percent on the tail that need the attention more. Additionally, the latter will be the ones to really begin to see the activity for the warts it has. If the designer neglects the tail experience and has several different drops required or encouraged in game, the designer will eventually fail all of their players; the more drops the player needs, the more likely that the player will be in that tail at some point in the game. By focusing on the mathematical average experience, the designer is effectively neglecting seventy-five percent of their players on any single drop.
Other Kinds of Randomness – Escalating Drops
I want to present two simple alternatives. The first is an escalating drop rate. Each time a player fails to get the drop at the end of the event, the probability it drops next time increases. This probability caps at a guaranteed drop, and once the item drops, the probability resets to some level. It can reset at zero if you only ever want one in the game; it can reset at the initial probability if you want to make the experience to get another item take the same amount of time, more or less, as the first time; it can reset at a high probability if you want the item to be valuable now but easy to come by later.
Here is the new chart for this experience.
Notice how the line now hits zero on the right of the graph. It eliminates the abysmal experience we spoke of above. There will be unlucky players, but there’s a cap on the amount of time they’ll have to spend with their misfortune. There will still be war stories, but if designed well, the worst-case player experience can be designed for more easily, as it will more closely match the average. This can lead to those war stories that can enhance the player experience, as they feel like they struggled, but not much harder than the designer expected, which is nice way to give a bit of fiero. The angst of trying to get the item will always be fulfilled.
Additionally, if you set the initial drop rate low and let the growth rate accelerate, you’ll have fewer lucky people as well. This could help if you want to make the player master a challenging fight through repeated attempts to potentially get a powerful item. It’s worth noting that the player who gets the item on the first try will have their difficulty curve distorted, even though this case tends to be more subtle than the player who takes many tries. Empowerment is not a bad thing, but it can lead the lucky player to think the game is much easier than it is because of a fortuitous break. In general, the escalating drop approach will make the experience a little more uniform for any given player, and usually, it will be relatively invisible to them.
There’s a temptation here to wonder what would happen if you had to kill several of the same kind of monster before the item could even become available. If the player understands what’s happening, and they know that they will be fighting several times before they could even get a drop, that fighting suddenly becomes work. Gambling in this form works because the payoff is potentially always right around the corner. It cannot be understated how powerful this force is to motivate. Asking someone to do something fifty times makes it a chore, and times ten through forty will not be savored because after the initial novelty of doing it, you know it will not net reward any time soon. If a task could be rewarded randomly after any one attempt, more attention to detail and care will go into it from the player. The player will appreciate the experience more if they feel like what they are doing could pay off at any moment, not just some long time in the future.
Other Kinds of Randomness – Diminishing Returns
This is the invert of above. The idea is that the player has a limited number of chances to get an item in game before it goes away completely. Typically, the initial probability of the drop will start high, and either decrease with each failure, or the event will disappear after a set number of attempts. Either way makes the drop impossible to get after a certain number of chances.
This randomness is tricky to deal with as you are, in no uncertain terms, guaranteeing that a percentage of your player base will never get the item. It can be more humane than the traditional way as you are giving no option to exchange time (farm) for in-game value. If the item has significant value to the player, and the player knows the stakes, there will generally be a significant amount of urgency put on the outcomes, and a skilled designer could use this as a way to make a large emotional mark.
There is an unspoken rule with these kinds of drops. They can be gamed by reloading. As with permadeath mechanics, players can still get some tension from the outcome while using the load function to try as many times as they want to obtain the drop. If the ability to reload is removed, as it was in Demon’s Souls, then you may want to consider making the game short, but replayable, or having several different drops, only one achievable in the game. This can force players to actually have to adjust their playstyle based on what they got. Be careful with this kind of randomness, as it can easily inspire rage. You are very close to a core expectation of most players: “I am master of this game world, and given effort, I should not be deprived of anything I want.”
Some General Heuristics
Since most people aren’t taught well to think about probability, I wanted to give a few guidelines to work with.
When in doubt, make a simulation. When you use any type of probability distribution besides the constant percentage drop, you do not need to do a full mathematical workout of all cases. I highly recommend writing a program (or bribing your friend the coder to do so) to simulate the effects and generate graphs of how the system behaves when tested a huge number of times. That information, while not guaranteed to be exactly right, will be good enough, and the calculations required to get an exact answer are not worth the time required to compute them in most cases.
Generally speaking, the more random drops the player is compelled to farm, the closer their total experience will be to the average experience overall, and the more likely they are to face the worst case short term scenario sometime in their experience. Look at it this way: if everyone rolls fifty dice, it’s likely that the roll totals won’t differ much, and everyone will have probably rolled at least a couple of ones. The trap here is subtle: you cannot assume that poor luck will only affect some players in this case; it is almost guaranteed to strike everyone. Design accordingly.
The reverse of this is true, too. A small number of random drops in your game will mean that the player experience will be very uneven and different from person to person.
People tend to be terrible at estimating probabilities in their head, and dry spells leave bigger scars than lucky breaks feel good. The lower the probability, the worse the estimation ability. This can manifest especially with rare drops; people tend to start becoming frustrated long before the average if they know the drop is rare going into the session. Additionally, people will typically experience negative emotion for a significant portion of a farming session they consider to be long, while players who get lucky tend to move on quickly after experiencing the short-lived joy over a drop.
People conflate luck and skill quite often. It might be interesting to investigate mechanics that would reinforce this: increased drops for skilled play would allow those who have already mastered what the game is teaching to move on to something more interesting to them, while giving the less skilled players a way to both potentially improve and still get whatever item is at stake. This is something I’ve rarely seen, but I think would have huge potential.
Randomness is lovely, and if players buy into what is at stake, gambling can be used to craft incredible emotional experiences. It’s a shame that something so close to our hearts is so ill-understood because a little extra crafting of the probabilities behind the game mechanics could yield incredibly diverse experiences, both from game session to game session for any one player and between players. There is an amazing amount of potential, and I was only able to scratch the surface with a huge amount of text so all I can recommend for those who are willing to is: experiment.
As I didn’t get to show examples this time, I’m splitting them off into another entry. When it is done, I’ll link to it here.
篇目2，The Devil Is in the Details of Action RPGs – Part One: The Logistics of Loot
While the title may suggest otherwise, I am not in the Diablo 3 beta. As I’ve been counting the minutes for either Diablo 3 or Torchlight 2 to be released, I ran through Torchlight 1. Playing it, I noticed several things that didn’t seem right with the mechanics that I wanted to take a closer look at.
When it comes to the action RPG genre, any fan knows about the cycle: you fight enemies to get loot to help you level up and repeat. In other words, the magic phrase is: Fight, Loot, and Level. If any of those three are not represented correctly, it can bring the experience down. We’re going to ignore “Fight” for this post, as everyone should know what is good or bad about it.
Loot is the big one, and is one of the main draws of any action RPG. With loot, there are two schools of design: set or random. Set loot, means that the designers hard coded every item, piece of equipment and weapon in the entire game. Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls are currently the best examples of this practice.
The advantage of set design is that by knowing every piece of gear in the game, it gives the designers freedom to get creative. In Dark Souls, each weapon type is unique in its feel and utility. This also allowed the designers to easily set up a general pace of getting equipment and balancing it out with enemy encounters.
There are two disadvantages to set loot design. First is that it has a cap, there is such a thing as the “best sword in the game” or “best piece of armor”. Meaning, that eventually the drive for better loot disappears, which is one third of the pull of playing action RPGs. Playing Demon’s Souls; I lose a lot of the motivation to continue playing new game +s as there is no new equipment to find.
The other has to do with PvP; set loot largely turns PvP into a race to get the best loot before anyone else. When I played PvP in Dark Souls, no matter how great I was at avoiding damage, all it took was one hit from someone’s high level weapon to kill me instantly. This forced me out of PvP until I could grab better weapons which would take awhile.
Randomized loot design which is used in most action RPGs, is that instead of defining set pieces of gear in the game. The designers set up algorithms for loot generations. If you look at Diablo 2, every item that has unique stats or bonuses comes with a prefix/suffix or prefixes, such as “burning” or “spiked”. These adjectives defined what kinds of bonuses are attached to the gear and from there the weapon is given the amount of that type. That means that my “freezing, burning axe” could be different from your “freezing burning axe”. Items are also graded in terms of rarity. This allowed the player to quickly see what equipment is more powerful and affects the bonuses from the adjectives. Diablo 2′s loot table is still one of the best of the genre with all the variables that go into generating loot.
Obviously the big advantage of randomized loot is replay ability. You never know if that chest or enemy will drop some super piece of gear. New gear provides both a visual boost (better gear = shiner avatar) and of course the stat boost. With Diablo 2, the harder the difficulty level, the chance of finding rarer gear is increased further encouraging play.
The problems with random loot and where Torchlight fits into this post, is that there is more to it than just creating random gear. In order for loot to motivate people, there must be an ascending trend of power over time. Meaning the further the player gets, the better the loot they find.
In Torchlight the loot table is not as refined as Diablo 2 was. For example while playing on hardcore mode; I used a chest armor I found within the first 5 floors of the game, as my only piece of chest armor for the entire game. While the idea of being able to find any equipment anywhere in the game sounds good on paper, it does cause two problems.
First is that it breaks the flow of the game. Enemies are designed around the generalized loot in the area. Meaning, if the best armor in the area can only block 3 points of damage, then enemies shouldn’t be set at dealing 30 damage per hit. If the loot table isn’t balanced with the enemies it can lead to the player either demolishing everything, or barely able to survive. Not properly balancing loot and enemies also makes it difficult to determine where to introduce new enemies or strengthen existing ones.
That leads to problem two, having the randomized element of the game work against the player. In Torchlight, my first character on very hard difficulty did not get lucky finding new pistols and armor to use. I went 5 floors using the same gun and armor. When I arrived in a new area, I could barely kill anything and enemies were nearly killing me with each hit.
The problem with Torchlight is that the loot table is not ascending as much as Diablo 2. If I find a rare item on floor 3 in Torchlight and another on floor 5, there is a good chance the former is as powerful or stronger then the later. However in Diablo 2, finding a rare sword at the beginning of an act and at the end, you are practically guaranteed that the latter is stronger than the former.
Looking deeper at Torchlight one of the problem areas I saw has to do with the types of rarity. Ignoring normal or white weapons Torchlight has the following categories: green for magical, blue for rare, gold for unique, and purple for set items (items that go together.) The problem with this is that with only a few categories, it makes it harder to find better gear.
If you get lucky and get gold equipment early on, chances are you won’t find anything to replace it for a long time (such as 4 or 5 floors or more). Likewise if you are stuck with a blue or green item, you’re going to find plenty of them which may or may not be better then what you have. Due to the rate of finding blue items which most unique monsters drop, it lowers the value of green items outside of the very beginning of the game.
Another issue with Torchlight is that there is more quantity then quality with loot, some unique enemies and chests drop multiple pieces of the same equipment type all within the same level range. This makes it a crap shoot when it comes to getting new gear. Sometimes you’ll find something that is miles above what you have, and other times you’ll find 2 or more pieces of equipment equal to or worse then what you have. As an example while fighting level 11 enemies, I saw loot as low as level 8 dropping. If the quality of loot increased at a faster rate, that would elevate some of the issues.
Going back to Diablo 2 it had the following categories (not counting normal or low quality): high quality, magical, rare, set and unique. That’s 5 to Torchlight’s 4, meaning there is a greater spread of items to find. In Torchlight my chance of getting a unique item to replace a rare is low. However in Diablo 2, I have a much greater chance of replacing my high quality item with something better. Combine that with the quality of loot rising at a fast pace, makes the hunt for loot an enjoyable one and not an act of necessity.
The challenge of using loot as a motivator is that the player shouldn’t be surviving from one piece to another, and at the same time, going hours using the same gear also doesn’t work. That does it for part one, in part two we’ll take a look at leveling and see if Diablo 2 still stands as the best in this area.
篇目3，The Devil Is in the Details of Action RPGs – Part Two: Leveling Up
by Josh Bycer on
In the last part, I talked about the importance of loot as a motivator and game mechanic in action rpgs. The other half of the equation when it comes to character progression is leveling up. Improving characters through leveling has not changed all that much over the years. Probably because many designers copied Diablo 2′s style, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the de facto best way.
The challenge with the leveling up mechanic is how much should it affect the gameplay? Most action rpgs on level up, allow the player to improve their character’s attributes and unlock/improve a skill. The attributes won’t affect the gameplay but have an effect on what equipment is available. Skills are a big deal, as they affect the utility the player has.
One of the issues with designing skills is with the issue of scaling: where players will run through the game multiple times with stronger enemies. If a character has skills that do flat damage such as: “20-30 fire damage,” those skills become noticeably weaker on repeat plays. In Diablo 2, each higher difficulty boosts the stats of all enemies which made set damage skills a waste.
To combat this, the most popular way is to implement skills that scale. Many action RPGs have skills that do: “X % of weapon DPS,” where DPS stands for damage per second. Scaling allows skills to keep their viability and feeds back into loot as a motivator as now better equipment also equals more powerful skills.
Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls also had scaling but it was done differently. In both titles, various weapons had an attribute that it would scale to. For example: magic wands with intelligence, or bows with dexterity. The respective attribute would also be graded on a scale of F to S if I remember right. The better the grade the more of a bonus that attribute would apply to damage. It’s important to note that in both titles, there is a dropping off point of around 50 where the scaling will stop being as useful. This was probably done to prevent players from just power leveling through the game.
With that said, we can turn our attention to a few of the leveling formats used in action RPGs. Starting off with the most well known which is Diablo 2. Here, each character class has 3 completely unique linear skill trees. Each tree has the skills in order from top to bottom, or from lowest level to highest. While the final skill unlocks at level 30, players can continue leveling much further than that. Leveling up gives players 5 attribute points to distribute and one skill point. Skills can be improved multiple times with different boosts based on the skill.
The problem with Diablo 2′s progression comes at how the skills are unlocked. Besides having a level requirement, each skill requires a point in a previous skill on the specific tree to use. Because of that, it led to a lot of skills that are more or less a stepping stone for a better skill. For example, the Necromancer class has two skills relating to confusing enemies. The first one will cause one enemy to attack other enemies. The second one makes one enemy the target of all nearby enemies. Now in terms of utility, the latter is miles above the former, but you still need to waste a point in the former to get it.
This issue is even worse for the damage causing skills. Why would anyone use the bone teeth skill (level one necro attack spell) once they get access to bone spirit (level 30)? Interesting enough, Blizzard tried to fix this issue with a later patch that added synergy bonuses. Basically, some skills would provide bonuses to more powerful skills giving the player a reason to pump them up. While it helps, this issue is still one of the few problems with Diablo 2.
Torchlight, which was talked about in part one, fared better in terms of progression. Like Diablo 2, each character had 3 skill trees and received attribute and skill points on level up. However unlike Diablo 2, there were no prerequisite skills, instead only the player’s level was the factor. This meant that as a player, you would not need to take any skills that you didn’t want to in order to progress through the game.
There were still some skills that were better than lower level skills, but there was more utility offered compared to Diablo 2. What also helped was that many skills were built around scaling with fewer exceptions. The only real knock I have with Torchlight’s progression is that several skills are shared between the three classes, which do cut into some of the diversity.
Our last example for this post and my personal favorite progression system comes from Din’s Curse. The game begins differently in terms of character development compared to other ARPGs. At the start you can choose from either a predefined class or create a hybrid one. The difference is that a pre-made class comes with 3 skill trees, while the hybrid lets you choose any two that you want. So if you ever wanted to be an archer necromancer, this was your chance.
Each skill tree had two different types of skills. The first are proficiencies, which determine what equipment your character can wear, along with any special bonuses. Second are the actual skills you can learn over the course of your game. Like previous ARPGs the skills are arranged in order from top to bottom going from least expensive to most. The big difference is that there are no level requirements for skills, only money and skill points which are earned at level up.
Without any level requirements, it gave the player complete freedom in defining their character. Allowing them to either get several cheap skills starting out, or save up for an expensive skill. By not having to set strict limits on acquiring skills, gave the designers the option of creating more utility skills to make characters personalized. Some players may not even get the most expensive skill on their tree and instead favor improving skills from each skill tree.
Providing meaningful choices in leveling up is an important part of any good ARPG. For the next part I’ll be examining downtime in ARPGs and money sinks.
篇目4，COLUMN: @Play: Item Design, Part 1: Potions and Scrolls
October 25, 2009
By John Harris
It has been a little while…. This column is an in-depth examination of some of the most popular items within the two most-common categories: potions and scrolls, both of which we might term “one use” items for the fact that utilizing them consumes them.
Exploring a monster-filled dungeon is not what we might consider a healthy activity. If the game were just about looking around, mapping territory, and killing monsters until the player’s inevitable demise, the game might be interesting in an simplistic kind of way, but it wouldn’t have that roguelike spark. No, the player must get something out of the exploration. That something is treasure.
Treasure is the carrot held in front of the player’s face, leading him on into ever-more dangerous situations. The majority of treasure in most roguelikes is found laying around the dungeon. Some of the treasure is food, and the need to find more is what prevents the player from building levels indefinitely on the easier levels, but the good stuff is what pushes him downward. Unlike the trend in most RPGs these days, equipment is often a larger component of player power than experience level in roguelikes, and it is randomly generated.
The justification for treasure
Why is it so satisfying to find treasure? It cannot be denied that, without it, many roguelikes would be a lot less interesting. I suggest the reason that the expectation that players will find treasure, or other things and opportunities of value, in those dangerous places they explore is related to the exploration urge evolved out of humankind’s tribal pre-history. But I digress.
The randon treasure generation is the biggest scrambling factor in a roguelike. Monsters are random, but still appear in the same proportions on each level. Dungeons are random, but even with traps most of the time the maps are not themselves very interesting. But a single item of treasure, in a good roguelike, can have the power to change the game significantly, and the variety of powers they grant, intersecting with each other and the monsters and dungeons, is what allows different plays of a single roguelike to seem different from each other.
The biggest problem with giving players lots of treasure to find is in determining how powerful it should be. If it’s not powerful enough players may consider, why bother? If it’s too powerful then it’s unbalancing, and it is more the treasure that is the reason for success than the the player’s skill. It might be useful to examine the basis for treasure in the source from which RPGs arose: fantasy literature. Bilbo’s ring, for instance, enables him to overcome many of the dangers in the latter half of The Hobbit. Setting aside the ultimate identity of that ring revealed in The Lord of the Rings, a lot of the characters in that book kind of equate the ring’s powers with Bilbo himself. They say that there is something more to him than meets the eye. That thing is, literally, the ring. But he found the ring through his own wit and guile, so it does make a kind of sense to say that. And even with the ring, Bilbo is in danger and must use it wisely to escape from dungeons, dragons and wars. In other words, Bilbo’s possession of the ring is a manifestation of his ingenuity. So the treasure found in a roguelike, since it is gained by the player’s own wit and guile, is a manifestation of it, and it is the job of the designer, as creator and custodian of that world, to have it be fitting.
We’ve already given an overview of the primary types of roguelike treasure in a general article some time back. It is interesting that, although Rogue is over twenty years old now, the major item types provided by that game remain the major types used in nearly all roguelikes. This is the first of a number of columns that examines the primary types in detail. In this first column, we look at one-use items, which are used a single time and are then gone.
Disposable Magic: One-Use Items
The primary one-use item types, other than food (usually a simple case) are potions and scrolls. Some games also provide for random food items like berries and mushrooms. Shiren provides herbs, which are good for a small amount of food value when eaten, but generally function more like potions. This can be seen in the way that a good number of herbs provide special effects when thrown. ADOM has herbs which are unique in that their functions are not randomly scrambled, but are the same from game to game. (ADOM’s herbs have other unique and interesting properties however. They are one of my favorite things about that game, but they are a special case that doesn’t fit in with the general roguelike categories.)
Scrambled one-use items are among the more difficult to identify items in a standard roguelike. The biggest problem with identifying one-use items is that, once the item is gone, it isn’t there anymore. You only get once use with which to discover its purpose. And a few of these items are situationally useful, to the degree that the player may be helped considerably by using the item effectively, at the proper time or with specific preparation. And a few one-use items can cause a great deal of trouble; Rogue’s potion of blindness can be a game-ender if used at an inopportune moment.
Many games auto-ID potions and scrolls upon use, but Rogue and the Hacks do not. These games require that the item’s visible effect be detectable by the player, and are obviously the purpose of the item, before they’ll auto-identify. Some items have effects that are so obscure that they never auto-ID this way, forcing the player to either name it themselves from experience or expend an Identify scroll on it. Others only identify sometimes (like detection scrolls when there is something to detect), and some will prompt the player for a temporary name in some situations.
The one-use-only property of potions is one area where roguelikes differ from classic Dungeons & Dragons. By-the-book OD&D and 1st edition AD&D state that found magic items are unknown, but potions may be tasted and thus given a chance of identification without consuming the thing. In those games some potions have multiple uses, and others have functions that require the liquid not be drunk at all, but instead applied to an object or the skin, or in some cases the bottle merely unstoppered. The classic roguelike play style is directly inspired by these versions of D&D, and both Rogue and the Hack-like games provide for item uses beyond the basic “quaff.” In Rogue and Nethack throwing potions at monsters is an option for getting effective use even out of “bad” items. In Rogue, this may cause the item to affect the monster; in Nethack, a thrown potion breaks and may subject nearly creatures to a reduced “vapor effect.” Nethack also allows for dipping items into potions, and even mixing them together, each option of some strategic worth. Both games, also, contain Scrolls of Scare Monster, which are wasted when read. Their true value appears only while they’re resting on the floor. But even so, most potions are still meant to be drank.
There are usually many one-use items to discover in the game, and unlike random wearables (such as rings and amulets) the player usually will get a fairly substantial hint for what it does upon use, so, scrolls of identify are generally best used for other things. Significantly, identify scrolls themselves are random one-use items in most games. In many games, before any items can be identified by using them, the player must trial-and-error to discover them. Games that support selling items to shops often provide identification hints by offering items to shopkeepers, a tactic I refer to as “price ID.” The usefulness of this strategy ranges from slightly unbalanced in Nethack to nearly essential in Shiren’s Final Puzzle dungeon. Because this trick provides one of the few ways to narrow down object functions that doesn’t use the thing up or require knowledge of Identify scrolls, it is particularly useful when applied to one-use items.
What is the functional difference between the two classes?
Potions are much more likely to have an effect when thrown. The only roguelike (or roguelike series) I know that provides thrown item effects for scrolls is Shiren the Wanderer.
Potions are, basically, chemicals, and this avenues for useful non-magical potions are much greater than scrolls. For some games this is a significant difference: should a potion of magic detection locate a flask of oil? In Nethack, the most useful and potion is water. It is similarly useful in ADOM.
Potions may also be more versatile in their uses than scrolls. In addition to being thrown, it may be possible to dip items into them, or to mix then together. Nethack uses hard-coded potion mix results according to type. The Color Alchemy patch randomizes potion results, making them mix according to potion color and subtractive color mixing. ADOM puts a lot of work into its alchemy system, defining a number of mixture “recipes” randomly at the start of the game, and granting the player knowledge of them as he advances in the Alchemy skill.
While scrolls may have many varied effects, potions usually work on the subject’s physical form. Note, however, that this is not always the case; some detection effects may be implemented as scrolls, and others potions, in the same game. (D&D did this too sometimes; there is a line of potions for controlling various types of creatures. These potions work by the user drinking them; their influence then extends outward from the drinker, apparently.)
If the effect requires any further input from the player, particularly selecting an item to work on, the item will almost certainly be a scroll.
Here’s a list of some of the most notable items in the class, from various games, and their interesting properties.
… of Healing (and Extra/Full Healing, Cure Light/Moderate/Serious Wounds, and so on)
Other than weapons, potions of healing may be the most common item among all roguelike games. While most roguelike characters heal quickly (usually returning to maximum hit points after at most a hundred turns of rest), the danger presented from facing multiple opponents at once, or surviving an encounter with a single powerful monster, sometimes necessitates a way to restore hits rapidly.
One of the most interesting gameplay choices in these games is the traditional max-HP-boosting trick of healing potions. If you drink one when you’re at full health, many games will let the player push against the ceiling, giving him a tiny, permanent maximum HP increase. This seems like the better use of these potions at first, since the main method of gaining maximum hits in most games is gaining an experience level and those are rather harder to achieve, but the best move depends on your situation. Weaker healing potions are probably best quaffed for max health, especially later in the game, but the stronger ones can be so effective that they may come in handy when escaping from a superior foe, which the restrictive vision rules of Rogue make essential. Another obscure use of these potions is to instantly alleviate status effects like confusion and poisoning. Stronger types generally cure more types of these ailments. This use is of great importance in Nethack when facing certain rare, but very dangerous, Demogorgons situations.
One thing about healing potions is that giving the player an abundance of them can be less damaging to the design than you’d think. They require a turn to use, and a foe that really outclasses the player will probably put him right into trouble again with the next hit. Shiren the Wanderer has an item, the Chiropractic Jar, that instantly heals the player completely and restores most status ailments. These items have multiple charges and are not usually rare, and yet the game still has a reputation for lethality. This happens because the player must have both time to use the item, and the presence of mind to use it, and also because for their commonness they are still a limited resource, so the player tries to conserve uses. This often proves to be deadly.
… of Restore Ability
The only one of D&D’s six attributes to make it into Rogue is strength, which influences bonus damage done to monsters. The game begins players with a score of 16, and it also tracks “maximum strength,” which also starts at 16. There are monsters, traps and items in the game that can lower strength. All of these effects leave maximum strength alone. But unlike hit points, strength does not regenerate naturally over time. In Rogue, only the potion of restore ability, which resets strength to its maximum score, can undo damage done to it.
Like the danger of losing armor value, the danger of strength loss is mostly specific to a limited region of the dungeon, that which plays host to rattlesnakes, which by far cause most of its attribute damage. One consequence of Rogue’s sight rules (only one space around the player is visible in corridors and dark rooms) is that there are certain times when it is impossible to avoid taking a hit from a monster, which means sometimes strength loss is unavoidable. This makes restore ability potions fairly important.
When I say “maximum” strength, what I mean is the player’s current maximum capacity for it, which is considered to be its value when all attribute damage has been restored. Most other roguelikes provide more stats, with different functions, but they usually expand Rogue’s ability restoration potions to work on all of them.
… of Gain Strength (and other stats, and Ability)
In Rogue, a potion of gain strength increases the player’s strength score by one. If it was already equal to maximum, then both strength and maximum strength increase by a point. If the player has taken some strength damage though, then the result is that only one point is restored.
This means, if strength is later lowered, that drinking a restore ability potion will return strength to the new maximum. Having high strength is a subtle, yet significant, advantage, so it’s fairly important to save these for when the player is at max strength.
The trick to these two items lies in the inescapably of strength loss. Most characters will take at least a point of strength damage during the game, and often more. Both types of potions are generated randomly; it is possible that none of one type will appear in the game. If your strength starts getting dangerously low and you haven’t found a restore ability potion yet, is it a good idea to increase your damage done by one point by drinking a gain strength potion, or is it better to continue waiting, hoping to find a restorer to drink first? Keep in mind that the player doesn’t even know which potion is which at first, and often one potion type, poison, will drain strength. At their best, roguelike games are full of these kinds of choices.
ADOM has probably the best-developed statistic system of the major roguelikes. Whereas most games satisfy themselves with, or something like, D&D’s six stat system, ADOM has nine, and provides individual potions for improving all of them… and potions for temporarily boosting them, and potions solely for raising their maximum. (It also has the diabolical Potion of Exchange, that swaps them around. This can easily ruin your game if drank carelessly.) Additionally it has potions of Gain Attributes, which are more general but do not raise maximums. Of particularly awesome note: ADOM’s system has no hard limit on how high stats can rise, although it becomes much tougher to increase them as they go up. Interested readers are directed to the Stats chapter of the ADOM Guidebook.
… of Gain Level
Another example of a difficult choice is deciding just when to drink a potion of gain level.
As is normal for role-playing games, each experience level requires a rapidly-increasing number of experience points to earn in order to achieve it. Some games, following from old-school D&D, even use a doubling progression. Harder monsters are worth more experience points, it is true, but in many roguelikes they don’t quite keep pace with the higher point totals needed, meaning levels games come more and more slowly. Rogue, particularly, is infamous for monsters that generally get harder faster than the player gains ability. Rogue characters thus get put into ever increasing amounts of danger as they delve down, and every experience level counts.
As a consequence, the longer the player waits before drinking a potion of gain level, the more value he’ll get from it. If it’s used early, the experience points gained will be dwarfed by the amount received for killing even one monster. On the other hand, the longer you wait the less the portion of the game you’ll have made use of it, and if you get killed the advantage is lost.
… of Poison (and Sickness)
This is an example of a bad item, one that has no good primary purpose. Nearly all roguelike items have a good secondary purpose; bad potions can be thrown at enemies for example. Even the worst item can be useful if a nymph happens to steal it instead of something better. But the “usual” method of using potions, drinking them, will cause you grief if you try it with poison.
Take note, poison is not, in itself, fatal. That is a no-no in games where the player is expected to identify things through use. If the player must rely on using unknown things, then none of those things can be immediately deadly! This doesn’t mean using the item cannot be deadly if the player’s state is bad (low on strength when drinking a potion of poison), or if used in a non-standard way (zapping one’s self with a wand of death), or if a member of a very limited class of items (wearing Nethack’s amulet of strangulation, and even that can often be survived if the player prays.) Items also cannot make the game as good as lost. Rogue’s worst one-use item is the Potion of Blindness, a long-lasting potion that removes even the game’s slight one-space vision range, but it does wear off after a few hundred turns at most.
… of (something) Detection
While not obviously useful to new players, detection means are potentially one of the most useful objects in roguelikes. Monster detection allows you to choose your fights, item detection enables you to direct your exploration, and map detection points out useful escape routes. Note that detection items are in a gray area between potions and scrolls; different games allocate this power to these classes differently. Rogue has types of both! Food detection is a scroll, while magic and monster detection are potions.
… of Confusion, Blindness, Paralysis
These items are bad when drank, but sometimes good if thrown at monsters. Saying “bad” is relative to the situation; in Rogue, a potion of blindness can be useful when entering the Medusa floors.
They primarily exist as an identification foil, to add danger to identifying things by use and to make random potion drinking in moments of danger an inviable strategy. One-use items are fairly easy to identify
… of Thirst Quenching (and Water, Holy Water and Unholy Water)
Each of Rogue’s item classes has a do-nothing item, to throw off people who think all items must have some function. For scrolls it’s blank paper, and for potions it’s thirst quenching. The others are the wand of nothing and the ring of adornment. It is notable that Nethack still has all of these items, but with special uses for three of them.
… of Identify
The scroll of identify is, after healing, the most common of roguelike items. In many games they are also the most-often generated item.
Here is something I find very interesting. Scrolls of Identify are very common, but I am aware of no roguelike game that will purposely misidentify something. Nethack’s cursed scrolls of Identify identify fewer items, not lie to the player about what things are. D&D has dangerous objects that purposely resemble useful things, and the diabolical potion of delusion that, depending on a group’s play style, could cause the DM to lie to the player about what is happening to his character. Roguelike games, while tricky in the knowledge games they play, do not tend to go that far.
… of Enchant Weapon/Armor
These items are the scroll versions of the potion of Gain Strength. That potion increases the player’s damage-dealing abillity by increasing his physical attack bonus. The scrolls increase weapon attack bonus and decrease enemy hitting chances, while the player is using a specific piece of equipment.
All of these items improve the player’s state indefinitely. They do not expire naturally, but must be undone by enemy attack, unfortunate item use, or trap. That makes these items extremely useful. Although a single point of bonus is a rather subtle effect in a single encounter, over time the benefits are profound. If the player is lucky enough to find several of these the game will become much easier, maybe even too easy. Most games guard against this possibility by limiting how high strength can be raised, or how far an item can be enchanted. It is kind of a cheap way around the problem, since it means a whole class of item suddenly becomes useless just because the game designer thinks the player is getting too powerful, but it is frequently used.
A particular note… in Rogue, scrolls of Enchant Weapon are unusual in that they increase one of a weapons two pluses. That game distinguishes between pluses to-hit and to-damage, and the scroll decides randomly which of the two values is increased. Some Rogue variants split Enchant Weapon into two separate items. And some go the other way, and combine the Weapon and Armor scrolls into a single “Enchantment” scroll, which asks the player which item will be subject to the item’s power upon reading.
In most roguelikes, these scrolls function immediately on a relevant item in use at the time. If no weapon or armor is in use, the scroll’s effect is wasted. Nethack uses this as the basis of a subtle trap; one of its bad scrolls is that of Destroy Armor. If you’re reading unknown scrolls, you might want to wear armor in order to take advantage of an unknown Enchant Armor scroll. But what if that scroll should be Destroy Armor instead? Another possible trap, used by other games, is the scroll that asks you for an item to operate on, but that doesn’t tell you what for.
As an extra ability, these scrolls also lift curses from the item they operate on.
… of Vorpalize Weapon
What does it mean, to “vorpalize” something? No matter what one might have gleaned from its use in video gaming, vorpal is actually a nonsense word. It can be traced back to Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky, where it is applied to a sword and can be assumed by context to mean powerful. Role-playing games have adopted it. although there is no consensus about what it should mean.
Rogue contains a scroll called Vorpalize Weapon. When read, it makes the player’s weapon flash violently for a moment. It applies a pretty good enchantment to the weapon, and additionally chooses one of the monsters in the game to be the weapon’s target foe. The next monster the player attacks of that type will die instantly. There is a drawback however. If the player tries to use a second Vorpalize Weapon scroll on the same weapon, it is destroyed!
The ideas here is to punish the player for being too greedy. Of course, the player doesn’t know how greedy is too greedy until he loses his weapon. In practice, this becomes another of those little things players must learn as they play, another fact that must be acquired in order to eventually win. If this seems rather a harsh way of teaching the lesson… well, Rogue really isn’t that long a game.
Nethack will destroy a weapon or a piece of armor if it is over-enchanted. When a weapon is enchanted beyond its safe limit, it vibrates warningly. A further enchantment has a very high (but not for certain) chance of destroying the weapon.
… of Confuse Monster
To a new player, this is one of the more enigmatic items in Rogue. Upon reading the only immediate effect is that the player’s hands begin to glow red. This causes the next monster the player strikes to become confused for a short while. That is all. In principle this is a powerful item, although reading it in advance of combat usually creates a risk of it being wasted on a weak monster.
… of Scare Monster
One of the most mysterious items in the game if the player doesn’t know its secret. It is also the only one that can be identified without picking it up. In fact, especially in Rogue, it is best not to pick it up until you’ve gotten at least some use out of it.
… of Genocide
The scroll of Genocide, often thought of as a Hack item, got its start in one of the later versions of Rogue. When read, it wipes out one entire type of monster from the game.
Items that powerful, in a good roguelike, will have a tradeoff, and in Rogue it is that other types of monsters become more common, to fill the generation hole left by the eliminated species. Plus, according to the Rogue Vede-Mecum at least, there is only one of these generated in a game, preventing the player from wiping out too many monsters.
… of Maintain Armor
This scroll, which prevents armor pluses from being reduced, is one of the most useful items in the game. Seriously, it is almost overpowered! It is a late addition to Rogue’s item list, appearing in V5, and it is one of the rarest items. There is a good reason that many later roguelikes do not include it.
Armor can be harmed both from enemy attack (by Rust Monsters or Aquators, depending on the version of Rogue) and from traps. One of the many little devious facts about Rogue is that even permanent advantages can usually be undone due to unwise play, or even bad luck. Getting your strength up can be undone from a single unlucky encounter with a Rattlesnake, for example. The balance between the possibility of the player getting super strong armor, from finding a suit of plate mail and a number of Enchant Armor scrolls, is that Aquators will easily weaken armor, and rust traps become progressively more common in the deeper dungeon.
These armor ruiners can be overcome by working on building an emergency set of armor (which is balanced due to the fact that it costs two turns to switch to it, and the possibility of putting in cursed armor which cannot be removed easily), by using unrustable leather armor (balanced by its being the weakest in the game), putting on a ring of Maintain Armor (balanced by increased food consumption), and reading a scroll of Maintain Armor, which… has no drawbacks.
It has no drawbacks! Except perhaps due to it only affecting a single suit, which is nowhere near as bad a drawback as the other things. If you put this on plate mail, you have just made one of the few unequivicably good decisions you can make in Rogue.
Nethack’s analogue for this is reading a scroll of Enchant Armor while confused, which provides rustproofing, and is similarly powerful (although possible to remove in rare cases). Shiren has Plating scrolls, the effect of which can be removed by a certain monster (which nearly never happens). Both are, in my opinion, subtle failures of design.
篇目5，Can I Craft That For You?
by Eric Schwarz
Though traditionally confined to RPGs and roguelikes, crafting has become a staple of modern gaming almost regardless of what genre you enjoy. Whether it’s first-person shooters like RAGE, action-adventure titles like Dead Rising or Assassin’s Creed, MMOs like World of Warcraft, or even rhythm games like Sequence, crafting is here to stay, for better or for worse. After all, games are all about choice, and just like RPG elements like experience points creeping into just about every facet of gaming, crafting is another solid way to provide that choice to players.
Even so, not all crafting systems are created equal – so much so that often reading “crafting system” amongst a list of a game’s features is enough to set off alarm bells in my head, as it’s as much a source of tedium and frustration as it is a genuine improvement. While there’s always going to be some subjectivity involved as far as the value of crafting goes, there are still very clear wrong and right ways to go about implementing such mechanics. When done right, crafting can be a positive addition to a game… and when done wrong, sometimes it’s enough to make players want to stop playing altogether.
The first question to ask before even going into the details of a crafting system at all is actually much more basic – namely, why crafting? What does crafting, mechanically, accomplish for a game? What sorts of problems does it solve, and introduce? Perhaps more to the point, does crafting fit into the overall vision of what a given game is about? Often when it comes to game mechanics, it’s not so much a question of the how as it is the why that needs to be addressed before any design work or code is written down.
Namely, what exactly does crafting do for a game?
1.Provides a sense of player agency. Just like making a hot meal for yourself instead of getting take-out, crafting in games helps players feel that they own the things they create. Even if it’s just following a recipe and there isn’t anything creative involved, the simple process of choosing to make something can often be more satisfying than simply being given the same object or item.
2.Gives a secondary use for items. A common problem with loot-driven games, especially RPGs, is that the player will end up nearly drowning in excess amounts of equipment. Usually the solution is to either sell this equipment or simply throw it away, neither of which rarely have much use in the game. Crafting helps mitigate this problem.
3.Balances in-game economies. Another side-effect of giving the player lots of junk or “vendor trash” is that often a game’s economy becomes woefully unbalanced or unstable, often to the point of completely undermining the value of money in the first place. I can’t count the number of RPGs I’ve played where I simply stopped picking up items because I already had so much money to spend and nothing to spend it on. Implementing crafting doesn’t just cut down on junk, it also helps reinforce the value of in-game money and keeps its role distinct.
4.Encourages exploration. Especially in open-world games, crafting is one of the ways in which designers can subtly get players to do and see more of the game worlds they spend so much time creating. Even if it’s just picking flowers to use in a few potions, players will want to spend time doing things and going places if they can acquire items doing so – especially if they’re useful or can’t be found elsewhere.
5.Provides better rewards. How many times have you completed a game objective and received a reward that was completely and utterly useless to you, either because mages don’t use longswords, or because the item was well below your character level? By rewarding the player with generic crafting ingredients and recipes (or unique, limited ones), players can actually receive something that’s useful, without designers needing to come up with specific rewards for every possible play-style.
6.Adds to play-time. This, unfortunately, is one of the most malicious ways in which crafting is used. Though sometimes there can be benefits in requiring players spend more time to complete a task (if something is too easy, it isn’t rewarding), the majority of games I see featuring crafting use it as a way to simply pad out the experience. More on this later.
With all that in mind, it’s worth turning attention to exactly how all of those fit into the experience intended by a specific game. All of this sounds good on paper, granted, but when put in context, sometimes it’s clear that crafting isn’t always beneficial to a game’s design. Would Super Mario 3D Land really be enhanced by the ability to craft power-ups? Does the cinematic, structured and highly scripted gameplay of Uncharted really need a system that encourages exploration? Grand Theft Auto IV is an open-world game, but does hunting down powder to make different types of bullets really fit with the vision of the designers or the immediacy of the experience?
This is all easier thought about than done, it goes without saying, and sometimes the only true test is experimentation. Even so, there are some games I’ve played where crafting feels bizarre, bolted-on and arbitrary to the experience, as if it was just thrown in there for the sake of it being included, and I think that’s largely due to a lack of scrutiny paid not just to the individual game mechanics, but to their place in the larger picture as well. There’s no “right” answers in this sort of exercise, but what it does do is highlight whether or not crafting is a good fit for a game, or if those resources would be better spent elsewhere – and in more cases than not, the answer is “yes.”
More specific to RPGs is the inclusion of crafting skills in gameplay, which exist to limit the player’s ability to craft in a way other than denial of resources. Much like the basic “why crafting?” question, the “why skills?” question is also of the utmost importance for ensuring whether or not a crafting system works in a given game. Even in cases where crafting fits in, the specifics, usually relating to skills, can often be over- or under-developed.
As above, when considering crafting skills it’s important to ask these questions:
How does skill progression work? Does the player level up crafting separate from other skills in the game, or is the development of those skills integrated deeply into the standard gameplay?
How long does it take to level crafting? Is it something that requires a big time investment, such as gaining enough XP, or does the investment come from other parts of the game, like collecting money or crafting resources?
How are skill levels structured? Are there only a few skill levels with big benefits, or are the levels incremental with relatively small improvements each step?
Is crafting static or customizable? That is, is crafting a system that adheres to the same rules for all players, or do players customize their available options by, for instance, specializing in crafting certain types of items?
What sort of information about crafting skills is exposed to the player? Do they get to see all the minute details of the mechanics, or are they hidden in order to encourage experimentation and to create a more organic notion of improvement?
How many crafting skills does the player have? Are they mutually exclusive, i.e. only one crafting skill per player, or can the player become an expert at crafting anything in the game?
Do crafting skills compete for attention with other skills? Does the player have to, for instance, sacrifice combat ability to become a better blacksmith, or is every player guaranteed competence with at least one profession?
Some of these questions might seem a bit obvious, and admittedly they’re the sort of thing that gets hammered out during development, but it is absolutely integral to answer them as early on as possible. These sorts of choices dictate the nature of a crafting system; leaving them to be figured out over time or through experimentation is setting up that system for imbalance, poor cohesion with the rest of the game, and eventually, outright failure. These questions are second only to the fundamental one of whether to have any crafting to begin with.
Crafting and Grinding
As I mentioned above, crafting is, much more often than I’d like, used in order to pad out a game and extend it beyond its worth. Much like in Japanese RPGs like Final Fantasy, where often the player has to take time out to perform repetitive battles in order to defeat a boss monster, crafting, in its lowest and most malicious implementation, can be used to restrict the player’s way through the game by forcing the replay of the same game content over and over, and is even sometimes responsible for outright ruining a game’s pacing and flow.
Talking about grinding is a hard thing, however. As I said above, sometimes a little bit of grinding can be to a game’s benefit. Too much of it grows frustrating, but especially if it’s optional content that isn’t necessary to complete the game, grinding can give extra-dedicated players the sense of mastery over the game that they live for. Moreover, some players even enjoy the act of grinding itself – perhaps because it represents a sort of “safe zone” where the player doesn’t have to contend with any new game mechanics or story elements, or even because it leads to a sort of “grinding zen.” Quantifying exactly what the right amount is, both necessary and optional, is a very subjective thing.
Team Fortress 2′s crafting system is extensive, but has begun to receive more emphasis than the core game itself.
Even so, it’s fair to say that there is such a thing as too much grinding, and that extends to crafting as well as anywhere else. One game, I think, that perhaps takes the crafting grind to absolute extremes is Team Fortress 2, so much so that it has turned both myself and several friends of mine off from playing the game altogether. Even though it’s a multiplayer-focused game intended to be played for years, with the crafting itself almost a metagame on top of it, the amount of emphasis given to crafting both by the developers and the community borders on absurd.
For the purposes of illustration, let me break down the process behind crafting a rare item, the Sharpened Volcano Fragment. This assumes that the player already knows how, of course.
1.To start, we need Scrap Metal. Scrap Metal is created by combining 2 weapons from the same character class.
2.Next, we need Reclaimed Metal. Reclaimed Metal is made up of 3 Scrap Metals, which means that we need to collect 6 weapons.
3.Now comes Refined Metal. Refined Metal requires, you guessed it, 3 Reclaimed Metals. We’re up to a total of 18 weapons to hoard up.
4.The Sharpened Volcano Fragment needs 2 pieces of Refined Metal. That’s 36 weapons in total so far.
5.Last, the Refined Metal needs to be combined with an Axtinguisher, another Pyro weapon… relatively rare, but considering we’ve burned through 36 items already, perhaps not too big a deal.
Of course, this is being optimistic and assuming that the player is a) going to keep all the weapons he/she finds for crafting purposes and b) going to find exactly the needed items. More realistically, the player is going to need two or three times the 36 weapons needed. Now, owing to some intrepid fans of the game, it’s been estimated that most players will find a new item every two or three hours of gameplay, and that on average, players can only obtain about eight to ten new items per week. This means that, at minimum, you’re looking at about 80 to 100 hours of gameplay just to craft this one weapon. Speaking realistically, however, it could easily take 250+ hours just to assemble the raw materials needed.
Granted, this particular item is an extreme example, and most in the game don’t require players to become zealots of the Church of Hats – though 15 hours is fairly standard if you’re content to craft random items and fill your inventory with more junk. Still, it serves to highlight just how absurd a time investment is required – and expected of players, both by the developers and community, to sample all that Team Fortress 2 has to offer. Given that you’ll need to give up your day job for the sake of crafting, it’s no wonder that players are willing to simply shell out real money to get their hands on the items. Somewhere, Gabe Newell is rubbing his palms together and laughing maniacally.
Good Crafting: Case Study
After that rather depressing overview of Team Fortress 2, I’d like to take some time to gush over a game that actually gets crafting right. Risen, developed by Piranha Bytes, is effectively a reboot of the Gothic series, and shares many of the franchise’s strengths, from an open world and punishing but fair difficulty curve. It also has one of the best crafting systems I’ve seen in a modern game, especially when compared to similar games in the genre, like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
The first thing Risen does right is that it shows incredible restraint in its crafting system: there are just four crafting skills – Alchemy, Smithing, Prospecting, and Gut Animals – and only two of those can be leveled up more than once. Leveling up crafting draws from the same pool of learning points all other skills require, and it must be done at the hands of a skill trainer. Skill trainers cost money to employ, and gold is rather rare in Risen, especially earlier on. Despite the limited number of skill levels, those skills provide large benefits for every new level gained, including new potions to brew and weapons to forge.
What?! I can’t level my skills to 100? What kind of crafting system is this?
Due to the scarcity of items in the game, crafting takes on a different role than most others. Whereas in some it’s just a cheaper way to get health packs, in Risen it’s outright required for many of the best items in the game, from potions that permanently boost stats, to powerful swords. In order to craft, raw materials must be hunted down, and their numbers are finite. Many of the best ingredients can only be gained by defeating powerful enemies, or by exploring the darkest and most distant dungeons. Thus, crafting isn’t just a matter of putting puts into a skill and hitting a button, it’s about venturing into the game world and putting your in-game life in danger.
The risk-versus-reward element doesn’t end there. Risen is a deviously difficult game, and early on, death is often swift and almost impossible to avoid when going against certain enemies. It’s only through training, mastery of combat and acquisition of better gear that the player even stands a chance against the more challenging enemies. Because of the challenge, the player is presented with a very real dilemma: go for the combat skills and ensure survivability out in the wilds, or put points and money into crafting to gain access to powerful healing potions otherwise unavailable, or new equipment? Both health items and gear are hard to come by in Risen, and the trade-off between those two and the combat skills is a compelling one.
Last, what Risen’s crafting system highlights most of all, both about crafting and more generally about mechanics, is that context is everything. All the levels, recipes, ingredients, perks and so on in the world mean absolutely nothing if the decision to pursue crafting isn’t relevant, interesting, valid or rewarding to the player. Even though the system is just about as bare-bones as it gets, the crafting is compelling because of all the other elements of gameplay around it. It’s often true in game design that less is more, and Risen’s crafting is proof of that.
When implemented effectively, crafting can enhance a game in subtle ways, both deepening the gameplay experience and providing the player with options in overcoming challenges, customizing his or her character, and exploring the game world. However, it is worth reiterating that crafting, as trendy as it is these days, is not a guaranteed way to improve a game. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and that assumes that crafting is a fit for a particular game in the first place. Game design is often a process of throwing things at a wall and seeing what sticks, but I think crafting might be one of those cases where that mentality doesn’t work.
I, for one, am hoping to see crafting fade from popularity, due to my own fatigue with the mechanics and because it’s something that simply doesn’t belong everywhere. I enjoy it when put in the right context, but the fact is that seeing it thrown into just about every genre of game imaginable really cheapens the mechanic, and ultimately ends up damaging many of the games it’s shoehorned into. To be blunt, if it can’t be done right, then don’t do it at all – there are better things to spend time, money and labor on.