Saturday, 22 October 2016

Beyond Heavensward part 4: Further Skills to pay Further Bills

I dont make it a secret that i love crafting in MMORPG's even if most of them tend to have garbage crafting systems. Luckily FFXIV is one of the good standouts. I love the way crafters are their own valid jobs. Have their own gear and can purchase housing to make a quasi store and so on. I know a few people in game that only play as crafters and love it because it doesn't make them feel like they are a combat class not 'really playing' like so many other games in the genre. That said however i still think there is more that could be done with the systems in Stormblood and i'm here to ramble a while about what i would like to see based on my own likes and dislikes with MMORPG crafting systems.

To begin with lets talk about what got my interest to begin with. For the most part it would probably be early anime based on MMORPG's like .HACK//Sign, though Log Horizon is a more recent well known example of my point. It showed crafters in an online game to be valid players who had different goals more focused on creation than destruction and who's items where lovingly crafted for other players who would need a reliable weapon or tool when out and about exploring the world. I wasn't into games like D&D as a teen so wasn't really experienced with role playing of any kind but the idea of a none combat shop owner in a virtual world seemed like fun to me and still does. Its why i enjoy the Atelier games on the PS3/PS4 so much. 
Sadly however my early experiences in Online games basically summed up crafting as: farm stuff just to make the same stuff for a few ranks till you reach a new material to do the same with till max rank when you make one thing for raiding and thats it. Which to be blunt sucks. Then FFXIV comes along and after the 1.0 debacle it really was not on my radar as WoW kept me happy as it had yet to hit its massive late Mists of Pandaria quality decline and 'The Decade of Lightning' really put me off Final Fantasy as a whole at the time and so i had no interest in FFXIV. That is until i saw a new none combat preview. It showed a lvl.1 Botanist in the central Shroud. They used skills to search for trees, 'mined' some logs and returned to Gridania. Then they switched to a lvl.10 Carpenter and suddenly their gear and 'weapon' changed and they knelt at a log to actually work on it in real time. They were using moves to shape and craft the item towards a final product, tweaking it as they went in hopes of producing a higher quality item as the final result. This reminded me of an itch no game was scratching so i ended up looking into FFXIV 2.0 and the rest is history.

Since then i have seen an alliance of German Free Companies create a grey Market of player goods after a huge French free company decided to undercut everything to 1 gil to crash the market back in 2.0. Seen people actually become the go to guys and gals for certain goods who are known by name as "The really good Blacksmith who gets the HQ stuff every time" and eventually the ability to turn home plots into shops -even if they sadly remain unused 99% of the time since its basically just a retainer interface as of right now. Its a great start but i think in 4.0 we can take the ideas we have further.

 So what do i mean? well by this point as Master Craftsmen on their way to lvl.70 i think more focus should be made on players creating their own stores or workshops. We have already seen items added like the player forges that increase your ability while working at them. With a new housing location and hundreds more wards coming in Stormblood perhaps its time for the long forgotten turn of the century idea of player ran Shopping districts to make a return to form?
 Imagine a place like Uldah only instead of the majority of buildings being walls with doors that never open they can open to little arcades where players skilled in crafting can rent a space or store and peddle their wares and to keep it fresh you must pay a rent/upkeep fee to hold your spot thus ensuring you are putting out product to make money. Think of heading into town looking for a particular item and instead of hoping the market board has it you ask around for a good Alchemist store or something and other players direct you to a small free company ran building where retainers stand at the counter as FC members bring in materials for their friends in the back to process. Really bring the industry side of crafting to Eorzea y'know? Make crafters desired but also make crafting a desirable goal to play as.

The trouble with this however is twofold. On one hand players in the west hate interacting in MMORPG's, its crazy i know but thats the post WoW world we live in. You dont go out and look for other players, you que for something and then back to solo play. They already added Materia Melders in cities even though i had no trouble back in 2.0 finding a crafter to meld the Materia for my Stardust rod questline. People just don't want to interact that often unless they get a good kick in the pants or carrot on a stick. Which sadly means these player houses you see turned into Cafe's or a Blacksmiths Workshop remain empty for the most part. Retainers standing about in silence waiting for customers that never arrive. Perhaps its different on JP servers but for the EU ones housing seems largely for FC's to laze about and shoot the shit between structured content and little else. Which i think is a tremendous shame.
Then on the other the developers themselves basically treat crafters as the gil vaccums that put out some new green quality gear and vanity clothes each patch to get gil out of Combat jobs hands and spent again on materials. Which is really kind of boring when you think about it.
This i think is where Yoshi P's team should look for the future of crafting. Player shops in cities could be a huge recourse hog or simply a lag issue. But allowing people who purchase a housing lot to decide "Do you want to make a Free Company House or a Player Shop?" would be a wonderful step in the right direction. Let players decorate and design clerks to serve customers. Let them advertise them on a new board by the market boards. Maybe remove the selling fee percentage to incentivise private player shop selling over the market board. In a virtual world all these high level crafters should have something to shoot for beyond the next end game Tool and gear set. which in turn gives beginners the inspiration to being crafting themselves with their own dream to shoot for in game. Its probably never going to happen however since the audience of most mmos nowadays are so anti social in an ironic way but player ran shops is my most wanted Crafting change for Stormblood.

Thats not to say its the only thing to think about of course. We dont know if the cross class system changes will effect Crafters as well, which would mean almost all the crafting Macros might simply no longer be viable and for a brief time the number of HQ products will shrink as people rush to figure out the new winning formula to make the best items. Though maybe that might be something of a refreshing new expansion clean slate feeling for crafters who knows?

Personally i feel we may see more new Collectible style sub skills but i imagine the 1-50 baseline will remain the same as it ever has. Though i dont think we will see the return of crafter job gear sets ever again. They were nice flavour wise but took up so much space by the time you got all the jobs to lvl.50 and having one Ironworks set wasn't just space effective that saved a lot of Gil on Materia infusing to boot.

Beyond that i think its time to really look at what some jobs offer. Take Alchemist for example. When Deep Dungeons were announced players expected a huge boom in the production and sales of all kinds of potions and in the end the dungeons showered you with them for free. I havent crafted a potion since as i have 99 X or Mega Potions at all times thanks to running DD just to get the potshards and level alt Combat jobs to 50. That sucks. Its a cool job that supports a lot of other crafting jobs but seems to really exists at endgame just for 3 or 4 types of stat boosting potions for Savage raiding and little else. Why not give the jobs things to do differently? Perhaps Alchemists can make explosive potions you throw in combat for added damage? Or perhaps an 'oh shit' potion that makes you and your party invisible and drop out of combat in the world for a few seconds if you are fate farming in the max level zone and an agg train rolls in?
These are just ideas off the top of my head but you get the idea. Give crafters reasons to make items to keep in the inventory 'just in case' they could use them. It may be a balancing issue to ensure they arent OP enough to become mandatory or weak enough to be never used but making crafters feel like they have an impact beyond farming Gil at the Marketboard is something they could really use looking forwards.

 In terms of player identity and the notion of recognisable crafters i think an element FFXIV sorely lacks is some form of customisability on the crafters side. Why not tweak the system so a player made version of an item has "Made by Edgelord Adjectivenoun" in its description? or naming items? So two Blacksmiths could make a sword for a paladin but based on their skill the stats are different but so are the names? perhaps even letting you alter the colour using a dye? so while it is both technically the same sword made with roughly the same items the player adds their own twist to it. So if you get a purple NIN dagger set with a song lyric for a name and high crit you know it was made by a person and they gain a reputation for their wares?
Really give the player some pride to see players using their creations in town and out in the field. Right now its so ephemeral for everyone to make identical gear, throw it on the marketboard and see it turn into gil and thats that and back to the crafting menu again. Creations we care about, player reputations based on product quality and server communities are a way to make an already great crafting system even better!

Lastly, and i imagine this would not be that popular an idea, i would like to see more ideas worked into the 'well fed' system. I'll always look back in a "what might have been way" at an idea from the earliest days of WoW that was cut. Players would rest at campfires for buffs, make torches to light dark areas and eat to stay strong. Basic survival and nourishment systems that were really stripped back and largely forgotten. 
 But what if they weren't? Culinarians can make lots of different foodstuffs, Blacksmiths can make stoves, Carpenters and Botanists can get a campfire going. One of the comfiest feelings in FFXIV is settling down with a bag full of freshly farmed ingredients and cooking up lots of food as CUL or mixing up some items as ALC or working on desynthing some treasures as BSM. Imagine if they expanded on the idea of your characters resting and maintaining their health? Perhaps a food system where you starve and lose a percentage of stats and well fed that boosts your stats for a few hours? People could survive on buying lemons and bananas from the city vendors but those folks with high CUL or a FC friend who does could stay stronger for longer by eating more extravagant HQ meals. The demand for crafted items would increase e.g Sugar made by Alchemists or new pots and pans made by Smiths and the like. Systems like these would add more flavour to the world and really are no more intrusive than needing to spend gil to repair every few hours of combat or crafting.

I guess my big hope for Stormblood is just to use the Crafting jobs to add more flavour to the world and make it more like a real MMORPG like those shows i watched as a kid promised and less of a single player world where players are just passing each other by and never stopping to say helo and ask directions.

Maybe a hopeless thing to wish for, but a crafter can dream can't he?

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