On professions and minigames

The more posts I make, the less sure I am that I haven't covered a topic.

Regardless, if this is a re-peat, I'll de-lete.

I was thinking that a good system for professions would be a minigames style system. Each profession would have its own minigame. Some would be puzzle based. Others would be action based. Maybe a few others could be strategy or text based.

The idea here is to add in a skill based component to the crafting systems. Instead of simply training a skill, collecting materials, and then pushing a button leading to PRESTO! new item, players have to have some sort of skill in their crafts in order to advance to a high enough level. The system would have to be designed such that, until mid level where at least several "useful to most people" items can be crafted, the skill curve is fairly easy and anyone who plays can conceivably reach that skill level. After this point, the minigames become a bit more complex and difficult, meaning only people who are actually good at it can craft better and more powerful items. The higher a skill level someone can gain, the better items they can craft.

This idea mostly came about because of WoW's profession system. Anyone, provided they have the materials (which are easy to obtain more or less), can reach top skill level. This tends to lower the bar as far as marketing goods goes. If everyone can become a Jewelcrafter, then cut gems cost much less than they would otherwise. This is somewhat balanced out by the fact that you can only have two professions at once, but again if someone had enough materials they could reach the cap almost immediately. I went and bought up materials needed, dropped Herbalism and was a 450 Engineer within an hour. Granted Engineering makes very little money, however this can be done with any profession. After MMO champion posted their Inscription guide, there were reports of glyph markets crashing on many servers because of the huge influx of people flocking to the market to get rich.

With a skill based system though, higher end goods are limited by the number of people who can feasibly produce them. There is little risk of markets crashing because of massive influxes of new crafters as happened with the glyph market because only a portion of those people will have the patience or skill to get to the higher end of the skill spectrum where the more powerful items are produced.

At the highest skill levels, players may even be able to craft epic items (and by epic, I don't mean WoW epic. I mean "Able to destroy a small city in a single blow" epic) which can't be found elsewhere.

Because of the system's disadvantages, the minigames must be well designed, tested, and implemented in order to work.

First off, each of them has to be fun in their own right. If they weren't, no one would want to play them, and everyone would complain that the profession system is horrible. Players have to want to play the game so that it doesn't feel like a chore to get to higher levels of useful skill levels.

Secondly, each minigame has to be designed so that most players can be fairly decent in at least one of them. This one presents a much greater challenge than the first as it requires extensive testing by all different kinds of people who could possibly want to play the game.

Third, the minigames have to make sense as far as the profession itself and the game world. Having a minigame where one plays a Tetrisesque game for the painting profession is confusing, dumb, and anyone who would implement this is a game should be fired from the industry forever. It could, however work for a Needleworking minigame in which players have to weave together cloth. This isn't really a challenge as much as it is a limitation on how to solve the second problem. Each game has to make sense and each game has to require a different mental or physical skill set.

Something else I feel the system must do is to eliminate grinding. In other games, you have the mats, you can queue up 100 shirts, press the button, and poof. 100 shirts and a lot of skill points (probably not quite 100 though). Get the mats for the next items, queue them up and poof. 100 pairs of pants and more skill points. Now we have 100 shirts and 100 pairs of pants which have been created, but likely have absolutely no use in the game. What a waste of materials! A friend of mine tried Aion, and their crafting system seemed to be like this. Because each craft has a chance to produce a higher quality item, people would queue up hundreds of the same items, craft, and then try to sell it all. They would end up with maybe three or four of the high quality items, and tons of useless crap that was selling at the auction house for below vendor prices (or so I am told).

The minigame system would have a score to it. The higher your score, the more skill points you get (up to a certain maximum). In order to gain more points, you would have to beat a certain score, which would be your old score, minus some points because of the increased difficulty. If there were a chance to create higher quality items, it would only be possible once you gone far beyond the skill necessary to craft that item thus eliminating the practical use for crafting tons of the same item.

Something else is that, since there aren't a limit to how many profession skills a player can take, every player can take the salvaging profession which takes apart old items for a return in materials, meaning that if they craft useless stuff, they can take it apart to make other things. Because of my plans for merchants, they could even buy other people's useless crap on the cheap to disassemble, though none of this paragraph really has to do with the design of the minigame concept itself. I'll talk more about this later in my ideas for sustaining economic systems.

(I'm kind of getting lost in what I was talking about, so I'm going to sum it all up.)

Minigame professions:
Skill in professions tied to minigame skill.
Because not everyone can be good at everything, this allows the market to specialize.
Skill points earned are tied to score in the minigame, meaning grinding becomes less prevalent.
The Minigames provide atmosphere for the game world.
The Minigames are fun in and of themselves.

To close up, I feel I should add something about the skill points. With the exception of some of the highest level items, skill points don't actually limit what your character can or can't create. Players can attempt to make any item they want (so long as they are not the aforementioned exceptions) if they have the materials, and success of the item crafting depends on the score of the minigame. The skill points are there for the purpose of crafting the highest level items (you must prove that you have the skill necessary, as many of those high level items require very rare ingredients which are not easily replaced) and also for auto crafting.

Of course, you can still queue up items to be crafted while you are AFK as you can in other games. Sometimes, you just don't feel like bullshitting around with Tetris and want to make some plate armor to sell on the market. Your success in crafting these depends on your skill points. There are two things to this however: One is that if you have a skill of 400, there is a certain range (I'm thinking 10% or so?) which the game will randomly add or subtract from your skill points for each crafting. Your skill is 400, but for each item you craft it could change randomly to between 360 and 440.

Players cannot gain skill points from auto-crafting. Each time you use the auto-crafting function, there is a chance that you will lose skill points (the first two or three are exempt however). This chance increases each time you do it, and the amount of skill loss increases each time it happens. Playing the minigames will reverse the counter for the auto-craft though.

These penalties would be there to prevent players from posing significant threat to those who sell their goods by playing the minigame, and prevents players from using it too much should they decide to.

Posted by Glyph, the Architect | at 11/20/2009 01:35:00 AM


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