Carbine’s Phillip “P-Chan” Chan sat down with us earlier this week to talk about crafting. If you want to know more about crafting in general, head on over to Chief Sarcan's Basic Guide to Crafting to learn all about tradeskills and what it’s like to create stuff in WildStar; it’s a great guide and it covers all facets of crafting and should get you up to speed.
What my article here today is all about is P-Chan’s insight into WildStar’s tradeskill mechanics and their philosophy on what makes tradeskills unique in WildStar. While tradeskills in WildStar fall into the same industry standard professions of gathering and crafting, P-Chan assures us that they really want to innovate them and actually make it more than an animation, more than just hitting a “create” button and walk away to make a sandwich; they want it to be interactive and a game in and of itself. P-Chan explained the gathering concept below:
We felt that node harvesting was the way to go in WildStar. Which is basically, you go out into the world and there are node spawns throughout all the different zones and you use a lazer to harvest them. So maybe that sounds a little boring, but we sat down and said ‘How do we make this WildStar, how do we put our twist into node harvesting?’. So when you hit a node it has phases, and during these phases you roll for a chance of an event. The events are what we are really excited about.
One event is the scrambling node, which is when you are lasering a mining node it has a chance to get up and scurry away. You get more materials for it if you can keep it in your laser and it’s just kind of a fun surprise for the player. The other event you can have is the giant worm event, it’s a giant worm that comes out of the ground and you fight it and kill it. And after it dies you can basically go into its body and into a cave, where you can have a limited amount of time to basically loot-train it up inside. There’s mining nodes all over the place.
And in the future we actually plan on doing a little bit more with that, right now it’s just an empty cave with lots of nodes you can harvest. But we talked about other things, maybe little communities of NPC’s living inside the worm, or creatures that we think would be cool stirring around. That kind of stuff will come post launch, but right now what we’re working on is polishing what we’ve got, bug fixing, and integrating forum feedback. So we’re much more concerned with having a polished shipping product than we are about adding features, although I think that what we have is pretty solid.
He then goes into the philosophy of circuit board crafting:
Circuit board crafting is designed specifically for equipment crafting. And our philosophy with that was customize, maximize, and specialize. We have customization in every item in the game, whether it’s craft or not, has a schematic and that schematic determines how the power in an item is distributed to different stats, and in our circuit board crafting systems you can actually change what stats goes into each of the nodes in a schematic. So that gives the player the ability to make items that are custom for either his or her spec or for the marketplace depending on what their aim is for crafting. But it allows for really neat combinations on items.
The second word was maximize, and this is where we integrated recently, within the last year, the concept of risk and reward. We have the overcharge system which basically allows you to push an item an extra couple of item level worth of budget, past a regular craft, at the risk of losing your materials. Right now there’s a hard cap on the amount of failed chances that you can have on an item, I believe it is up to 30% or something like that. But essentially it allows players that are not willing to risk their materials and their power core to create a better item than would normally be created.
This allows us to divide equipment crafters into two very distinct populations. One that crafts as a means to an end and doesn’t really care about making the best product, but rather about efficiency and quickness which means that they’ll just get to as close to zero as they can and then hit the craft button and then those that are actually interested in the system and try to maximize and eke out every single stat point below the 30% threshold. Those products, even though they are the same item will actually be different, like one will actually have more stats than the other.
So the third philosophy was specialization. We have talents which are actually pretty innovative, basically it allows us to specialize the crafters into different item types within their profession. So if you are a weaponsmith, you might decide you want to be a swordsmith. So at the end of the day, when you make a sword, you will be able to overcharge more and have more options for customizing that item than those that aren't specialized in the talent system that way. You might actually prefer a particular stat and the talents will allow people to choose those stats and make more powerful items with that stat on it.
And he also talks about the other type of crafting, coordinate crafting:
The coordinate crafting system which focuses on making consumables and gadgets. It is what we refer to as reaction gameplay, where the player is given choices at every stage in the crafting process, where there is a little bit of randomness and the player has to react to where this craft plays out.
One of the things that’s often not talked about in any coverage of coordinate crafting is the discovery subsystem. So one of the things that we didn’t want players to be able to do is to go out into the internet and find the location of hidden recipes on the grid.
The discovery will actually be different for every player, my discovery target might be at 3, -5 and yours might be at 2, -5. So we want players to have something they have to play attention to, something that they’re not just following somebody else’s guide. I think there will be some guides that will probably show you roughly what you are supposed to do, but we’re hoping that with the coordinate crafting system, that won’t be the case. A lot of the schematics have these alternate targets, and the alternate targets are usually some sort of variance of the main schematic. So there is really no fail result, there is always going to be the origin schematic.
P-Chan also elaborates that they've been receiving a ton of feedback from beta testers on coordinate crafting, and they are processing that feedback daily and they’ll be changing the UI and making it a better, more robust system before launch.
P-Chan then goes into elder game crafting and how he wants it to play out:
We do know that crafting will play a part in the elder game. As long as players have to participate in the top tiers of activity in the game, they can be rewarded with crafting materials that will allow them to make things that are competitive. But for those of you who are interested, I’m fighting very hard for crafting to mean something [at end-game].
He also talked about how crafting should play into the economy of WildStar:
At the moment we are working under the 'everything is tradeable, until somebody tells us not to do that anymore'. We want to focus on a working economy and a working economy is stymied by soulbound. We want our economy to be fluid, we want it to move, we want it to be diverse, and in order to do that we have to allow player to player trading. We would like to make that as broad as possible. We want our economy to work which requires us to be able to allow player to player trading, especially crafted things.
And for the completionists out there, there's something called the tech tree which rewards you for doing certain crafting tasks and rewards you with recipes. P-Chan explains it like this:
So we've talked a lot about the actual systems of crafting, but one of the things we're really proud of is the overall narrative of crafting. The highlight of what really makes our crafting different is the tech tree. So every profession has a series of tasks that are organized into basically boxes in a tree form. So we have a very basic reward structure, each tech box is craft this, and salvage this many this, and when you've done it you are rewarded with a new recipe. You don't have to do the tech tree, it's just there to make your experience more fun, to diversify your recipe portfolio. You can actually brute force your way from novice to expert by just making the base schematic over and over again, but we wanted to avoid the 'I collect the materials to make 20 whatever and then I go make a sandwich while I hit the craft now button'. We wanted to have a little bit more fun with it, our tech tree is just a series of small tasks that as you complete them we'll give you more powerful recipes or more optimized recipes. And each tier in each profession has it's own tech tree.
And you might be wondering how you get specific schematics, like say, schematics for PvP gear, and P-Chan summed that up pretty well, Basically, you get schematics for a specific type of gear from doing that type of content:
A while back Jeremy Gaffney talked about making this game for people who really like MMO's, that want to dive deep into systems. One of the ideas that we tossed around very early on, was embedding world recipes into the game. What we did was that every level, we placed schematics that are specific to each profession in all of these. So in adventures, PvP, random world drops, dungeons, all of these activities will actually have schematics that are themed in a way that supports players that are choosing to do that content. So in the example of PvP schematics, all of those have a PvP stat in them. So if you do PvP, you get PvP currency, you buy PvP crafting recipes and you make PvP items.
P-Chan also elaborated on the rune forging system that will be another way to specialize your gear and allow you to add set bonuses to gear that is not actually part of a set:
Runecrafting, essentially every item has a chance to roll on a number of rune slots. And the rune slots are color coded and there's kind of a system involving that, but they'll add additional customization options to items, whether they are crafted or not. The neatest thing about runes is actually not about actual customization, is because our sets in-game are actually tied to runes, instead of to items. So we have an additional layer when it comes to collecting armor. So you wanna collect armor that is good on it's own for that slot but you also wanna collect runes that will work well together and would count to the same set bonus. So I'll give you an example, if you have a chest piece, a head piece and a leg piece, they may come from different parts of the game, but as long as you put a set of runes that are the same in each slot, you'll get a set bonus based on those runes.
Also for those interested, your crafting professions have tiers, not unlike some other MMO's out there, that you level through as you progress your profession. You start as novice and work your way through 5 tiers, novice, apprentice, journeyman, artisan, and expert; you also have a research tier that is beyond expert that is like tier 5.5, but it's available before expert and it's about researching new schematics and is time gated. But the biggest question people ask is that 'Can you level your crafting profession from novice to expert from low level?' and P-Chan says that, yes, you can, as crafting tiers aren't gated by your level, so if you have all the materials you can get your profession level up to 49 while still your character is still low level, but your character needs to be level 50 to get tier 5, level 50 schematics and to do research, so you still can't make the best items without reaching the level cap.
And I'm going to end this article with a quote from P-Chan about the fishing hobby and it's current state:
...they cut me deep when they cut it! So what happened to fishing was that we had an idea of what fishing was going to be, at least the gameplay part of it, and we were working on prototyping it. And we just couldn't get enough depth with the fishing stuff, and it is one of the things that is on the 'must look at list' for post launch. Because we have a lot of the assets in place already and really it's a matter of figuring out how to make it deep and integrated with other systems. In truth, fishing really wasn't ready for the launch product and I would rather cut it now than to release something that does not meet the standard we have.