Revenge of the Fallen… Earth

I’ve been quite enjoying Fallen Earth for the last couple of weeks, as time has permitted in between business trips.  It’s a DikuMMO set in a post-apocalyptic Grand Canyon, featuring a fairly robust crafting system.  That crafting system does some things very well, and has the potential to do more.

Nearly everything that characters use in game can be crafted.  That’s a core idea and it’s central to the economy, for good and for ill.  More on that later.

While Fallen Earth is skill-based, requiring the expenditure of Advancement Points (“AP”) to raise stats and skills, crafting skills are a different matter.  Crafting skills are simply raised by using them, meaning any character can practice any or all crafts.  The only limitation is that skills, including crafting skills, have minima and maxima which are set by the associated stats; in the case of crafting skills, it’s 75% Intelligence and 25% Perception.  Practically speaking, this means any character can be a novice crafter, but someone who wants to be better at crafting (i.e. be able to craft more complicated items) needs to spend some points on raising Int and Perception.  There are diminishing returns there insofar as it’s possible to increase Int and Perception so far that you can craft items you can’t yourself use yet, so many players who care about crafting seek to find a happy medium where they have high enough crafting skill caps, while not “wasting” their AP by raising Int and Perception farther than is needed.

In Fallen Earth, crafters have recipe books, where each recipe represents a specific type of item that can be crafted.  Each recipe has a list of ingredients and a time to craft; the time can be reduced though by being in the right type of crafting area.  So e.g. someone wanting to craft parts for an Electric Motorcycle could visit a Science facility, since that’s a Science recipe, and the time needed to craft the parts would be reduced while the character stays there.  Interestingly, the time to craft ticks away regardless of what the player is doing, offering some real choices.  Players can e.g. queue up some crafting recipes, go visit the appropriate crafting facility, and then log out… and the character will continue crafting.  Or players can queue up a recipe and then carry on questing and exploring and killing things and anything else that seems like fun… and the character will continue crafting.

Because the crafting continues regardless of what the character is doing, I find myself setting up large queues of crafting recipes, and every time I log off I make sure I’m in the appropriate facility, so while I’m offline my character is busy crafting as efficiently as possible.  This means when I log in, my character has a lot of finished crafting products that I can put in the bank, or sell on the auction house, or for that matter use.

One of the niftiest things I’ve found with crafting in Fallen Earth is that the recipe books themselves can be crafted.  So e.g. my character might buy a book on how to craft basic Knives, and in that book can be found a recipe to make a book of more complicated Knife recipes, which in turn has a recipe to make yet more complicated Knife recipes.  This creates a cascade effect whereby crafters can invest time and money into learning new recipes, which lead to yet more recipes, which lead to yet more recipes.  The limiting factor is the skill needed to learn new recipes; this prevents crafters from mastering every craft on the first day.

The biggest weakness I’ve seen in the Fallen Earth crafting system is simply that there is no specialization whatsoever, meaning a) there’s no difference between products made by two different people, regardless of their relative skills at crafting said products, and b) by extension, there is little to no reason to buy anything that you can craft yourself.  Since everyone can become at the least a novice crafter without spending any AP, this means there isn’t and likely never will be much of a market for low-level items.  Essentially, the items that sell well on the auction house are ones that people want but can’t yet craft for themselves, or rare components (such as books) used in crafting.

To remedy this issue, I’d recommend adding some basic specialization.  One of the simpler ways to do this would be to have crafting skill points (aka craft APs), gained along with the crafting ranks.  So e.g. every 10 ranks gained in a crafting skill might yield 1 crafting skill point.  Crafting skill points might then be spent to specialize in crafts; specialization could be used to add benefits to crafted items.

For example, spending crafting skill points on Armorcrafting might allow a crafter to craft armor with higher damage reduction, or armor with higher durability, or even armor that sells for a higher price to NPC vendors.  Spending crafting skill points on Science might allow a crafter to make vehicles with a higher top speed, or higher durability, or more cargo space, or whatever.  Specialization most importantly creates a difference between products created by different crafters – which means, especially at higher levels, there will be an interdependency between crafters, which simply does not exist now.

As it stands, a single character can master every single craft, and can make every item that can be crafted, with the same skill and same outcome that anyone else can.  This “master crafter” has no reason to rely on other crafters for finished goods, since he can make everything himself.  If specialization existed though, this master crafter would have to choose which craft or crafts to specialize in, and would have to accept that mastery of every craft is impossible.  Thus e.g. a master Science crafter could make great vehicles, but would want to buy armor from a master Armorcraft crafter, and would want to buy guns from a master Ballistics crafter, etc.  The end result of this specialization and interdependence would be a thriving player-run economy, which doesn’t really exist now.

5 comments so far

  1. Tesh on

    Actually, I prefer that to the WoW “only two trades” method. If the only limit is the time I want to spend on the crafting suite, I’m happy. It’s much preferable to grinding up alts (especially when crafting depends on combat and levels, and I just want another crafter) or trying to count on other players.

    Puzzle Pirates comes at it from a slightly different angle. There, any player can do any crafting puzzle, but they have to go *somewhere* to a certain location to do so. Those crafting buildings are run by other players, effectively shopkeepers. That makes place relevant and helps with the player interdependency (especially since shopkeepers have to pay crafters as employees), but still lets players specialize in whatever they feel like. It seems to me to be a good middle ground between the unfettered FE and restricted WoW.

    • foolsage on

      I agree that WoW’s two trade model is unnecessarily limiting. I do like the idea of a crafter being able to craft a wide variety of things, even in theory everything craftable. But I also think that, without some degree of specialization, a strong crafting economy won’t ever be very player-interdependent. If my char can literally craft everything in game as well as anyone else can (and granted that most crafting resources can be bought from NPC vendors in unlimited amounts), why would I buy anything someone else crafted?

      I do like the shopkeeper idea being redefined as owning/renting out the space for crafting to take place. Clever, that.

      • Tesh on

        A further thought on the PP method, which really does work well to foster interdependency: Crafting is done via puzzle games, not just material gathering and progress bar synthesis. There is skill and time involved in item production. Skilled laborers are paid more, and there are three tiers of production units. (Each widget or item requires a set amount of “labor” to produce on top of ingredients.) Production requires work of a sort, then, and high level crafters are the result of player skill, not avatar grinding. Skilled players are in demand, then, and it becomes possible to make good coin purely by crafting.

        …and yet, resources must be gathered by yet another puzzle game (or must be stolen from NPC pirates) and shipped to the shops, with risk of piracy on the way.

        There are a lot of links in the player-driven economy, then… but any one player can do any or all of them as they so desire. It’s just that there are so many moving pieces to the economy that it’s impractical for any one player to do it all. It would take too much time.

        It’s still key that players are free to try, and free to do the parts they like, and their activities scale organically to their available time and skill. Even though there is extraordinary freedom in that way, success really does come from everyone playing to their individual strengths in the interest of cooperation. Playing to your strengths is most profitable for you as an individual, and focused effort is most useful for the team/economy. It’s almost pure capitalism, and it works very well.

  2. […] and get on with the story.” Werit gets in touch with his skilled side. On a related sidenote, Fool’s Age also seems to be getting into Fallen Earth lately, and with Syp already gushing praise for several months, perhaps I should get the post-apocalyptic […]

  3. […] out another trial and see if I can make some headway this time. Perhaps I will ask Werit or Syp or Fool’s Age for their help with it this time around. Categories: Fallen Earth, Icarus Studios […]

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