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.