Sunday, September 15, 2013

Scanbot Sunday: Choices Part 2

Part one of this subject was originally posted on May 19th with a promise to return to the topic a week later. So I'm a little late, but let's talk about choice in Crafting and Housing and how it can drive the Wildstar Economy.

We've seen the housing plot. Your house is in the center and it is surrounded by a bunch of plugs in which you can socket structures. We've seen all sorts of buildings:  Tower Defense Games, Telegraph Training Grounds, Ferris Wheels, Banks, Crafting Stations, Gardens, Mines, Giant Statues, Dungeons on your housing plot! The point is that there are way more things to build then there is space to build things. I think this is a fantastic example of meaningful choice. As a player you have to choose which structures you want on your housing plot. For someone more interested in ascetics, the options are clearly there and the reason to rotate designs is obvious, new fun toys will show up and they'll want to give them a whirl, but what about for the serious min-max end game player? What options are there for them?

The serious business player is going to be looking to plugs that give them things. For a crafter they will want the resource nodes. Is it possible to build all mines on your plot? Is there more generation plots then there is space? Is there a limit to the number of harvesting nodes you can have on your plot? Once the optimal build is created is there any incentive for these players to rotate sockets? Answering these questions is key to the momentum of the economy of the game.

The best solution I can think of to keep sockets relevant would be to have some limitation on the permanence of the structures. They could have a real time duration or a durability that is exhausted every time they are harvested. Either options would require building a replacement. This would keep the structures and the materials needed to craft them moving on the marketplace.

The puzzle aspect is a little more tricky, especially with the announcement that you will be able to visit your alternate character's homes. Can a min-max style player build a network of houses across their alternate characters to fill all their housing needs? If I make a list of all the functional structures for my housing plot and find that there are half a dozen things that I want that won't be able to fit on my housing plot I could perhaps separate them into functional groups. A crafting station, a Bank, a Auction House and a Vendor. These things all work well together, so I'll build them on one of my alternate character's houses and when I want to do some crafting I'll jump over to his house and come back to my home when I want to focus on the mini dungeons or take this raid portal. Maybe this isn't so much of a problem if there is some sort of upkeep required, maybe it'll work itself out.

I have similar interests when it comes to crafting and making choices to develop your crafting along a specific path that may lead to unique crafting potential. World of Warcraft had this back in the level 60 days. Leatherworkers could make Tribal Leather for Druid gear, Dragon Scale for Hunter gear, and some sort of shadow thing for Rogues...there may have been a Shaman specialty as well. All of this was abandoned as the game progressed because they realized that their design was not interesting and just pointlessly limited players. I think there is a way to allow these kinds of branching and specialization in a way that feels meaningful and also doesn't end up to be a limitation 5 years down the line. What if that first choice has limited cost, and limited time investment. You get to pick a branch, and move forward, but if you'd like you can come back and hone your skill to unlock that second branch at a higher cost, or a greater time investment. What if there were lots of branches available all the way along the leveling process. A specialized crafter at maximum crafting level would be able to make one type of product well, and in the early days of the game you'd have to seek out a crafter that had chosen to specialize in the type of craft you are seeking. But a year later, players who were dedicated to crafting would distinguish themselves by unlocking all of the branches and have the ability to make everything in their field. The casual crafter would still be able to make the best things in their specific branch.

I think choice is important. As I explained in part one, I don't think permanent choice is always a good answer.

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