TERA: Buff-up via gathering

There’s never anything new under the sun, but one of TERA’s (why is it in all caps!!?) systems that is new to me at least is this idea that gathering materials for crafting gets you buffs. I haven’t made a scientific study of this so I don’t know all the details. I assume getting a buff is a random crafting event, but they happen pretty often. And I don’t know if they scale.

To be honest I’d seen the buffs pop up from early on but just assumed they were buffs to help with gathering/crafting, but I finally looked at what they did and turns out they’re buffs that will help in combat. Here’s a few…this might be all of them or just the ones I happened to have at the time I was taking screenshots. Like I said, not a scientific investigation.

These may not seem like much, but gradual magic and healing regeneration helps a lot in keeping you in the battle. (Of course that’s balanced by the time you spend gathering.) And of course the materials you gather can be used in crafting or, if you don’t craft, sold to another player (NPC vendors don’t offer much for crafting materials).

Construction vs Destruction

Warning: Much pondering and thinking out loud ahead.

So for the past week or so I’ve been playing Frontierville on Facebook, and for part of that time Tipa of West Karana has been my neighbor. She reviewed the game today and I urge you to read what she had to say.

I don’t disagree with her at all, and yet I think I like the game more than she does, and I was going to post a comment explaining why when I realized I couldn’t exactly say why. So I’ve been pondering that, and then Scopique talked about crafting and process and minigames and that kind of got stirred into my thought process.

I’ve always loved crafting in MMOs. I remember when Ultima Online was the reigning king, some upstart (I think it was EQ but don’t quote me that) ran an ad campaign where they kind of jeered at UO saying, “Would you rather craft a chair or kill an orc.” And I was all like “RAWR! KILL THE ORC! KILL THE ORC!”

At least, that’s what I thought I wanted. But crafting in EQ was really frustrating and not a huge part of the game (at least back then) and I missed UO’s crafting system. I still miss it to an extent. There’re only a handful of MMOs with really rich crafting systems. UO, SWG, Vanguard… maybe I’ve missed some.

But the idea of harvesting materials and using them to make something is really appealing to me. Back when I lived in a rural area I had an interest in woodworking and gardening and constructing things, but that all sort of dropped away when I became an urban/suburban apartment dweller. Crafting scratches that construction itch, in some small way.

There are many, many games about Destruction (at the very simplest level…killing opponents) but not as many about Construction. Or at least I’m not familiar with as many. City-building games (and 4X games scratch both itches… you build up your empire and tear down the enemy’s). Most Construction in games is either in a kind of software toy (ie The Sims) or it means actually building assets for the game (Little Big Planet, or any game with a level editor).

Tipa says of Frontierville: “As a GAME game, well, there�s really no point to the game.” and she’s right. Zynga’s #1 goal is that you never “finish” the game and stop paying for items, right?

But what I get from Frontierville is that same UO construction itch scratched. I take some odd satisfaction out of clearing the land (and in so doing harvesting wood for buildings) and then bringing order to my little plot. Technically I guess this is Destruction: I’m destroying trees and such. Maybe I should be using “increasing/decreasing entropy” rather than construction/destruction.

It’s true my options are limited, but they’re not fixed. I can start to build whatever building I feel the urge to build (though as you gain levels you gain more options) but then I have to rely on “Neighbors” for supplies.

Neighbors, though… they’re kind of important to me. Remember back when I talked about We Rule on the iPad? I didn’t have much good to say about it, but guess what? I still play it.

But Construction gaming is always more fun when you can show it off. No one really sees my We Rule kingdom anymore, but in Frontierville I have evidence of who has come to visit. Granted they don’t come to see what I’ve done…they come to get bonuses and materials…for gameplay reasons. But I know when I go visiting I make note of what my friends are up to. This one is all about function, that one is chaotic, and this third one has spent a lot of real $$ on special items…what a surprise. I feel like I get tiny glimpses into the personalities and minds of the players.

Going back to UO, once you built your house and furnished it, what was the next logical step? Throwing a party, of course. Have people come over to see what you’ve made.

Someone on my forums referred to a type of gamer they called a Decorator and I thought that was a very good term. It was in a discussion about “What is a real game” and he (I know him only as Bognor) said:

There is a class of gamer called a “collector” and another called a “decorator”. Farmville and its ilk appeals to these classes because they have opportunities to acquire “rares” and to build esthetically pleasing farm layouts. There exist choices in this context, and competition within these classes. To those of use who are not collectors or decorators, there is not much appeal in Farmville.

That made a ton of sense to me. That collector part of me, I’ve always known about, but the decorator is a new self-discovery. My We Rule kingdom is now laid out like a “real” kingdom would be, with the road to the castle literally paved in gold and surrounded by statuary and sparkly trees. Why? There’s no gameplay reason for it, but it was pleasing to me to do… although it took me weeks and weeks of playing before I started doing it.

I’m not an artist, although I’ve always wished I had some artistic talent. In some way these not-games like We Rule, Frontierville, or MMOs with rich crafting systems let me pretend to be an artist for a little while.

Does my Frontierville plot look unique? Honestly no…there isn’t that much variability between plots. But it is still mine, laid out as I wanted to lay it out. I’m pretty anal about pulling weeds that sprout up in cleared areas…I guess in some tiny sense I take some pride in my space. And I suspect when I get to the point where all the forest has been cleared and all the land tamed, I’ll probably lose interest (if not before).

My next project might be actually working on my character’s inn room in EQ2. I see the crazy things people build and while I’m impressed by them, I also find the range of options a bit daunting. Again, with these simple not-games, the limited choices are almost a blessing. There’s nothing intimidating about arranging your barn and cabin and apple trees in Frontierville, y’know?

I don’t know if I have a point here. Like I said at the top of the post, this is more stream-of-consciousness thinking about *why* I’m enjoying a game that is hardly a game (and which draws such ire from a large population of ‘core gamers’).

Crafting and Creativity

There’s been a lot of crafting talk lately. And a little bit of discussion around how rigid (my term) MMOs tend to be.

Angela was checking out this thread on the EQ2 boards and I asked her to send it to me. It’s a guild hall turned into a circus, built of crafted and collected items. The ‘figures’ are all quest rewards, I’m sure. But the structures are all creations made of crafted items.

I realize to a lot of people stuff like this is “pointless” but to another lot of people, stuff like this is what makes MMOs magical. Preemptively cutting off the nay-sayers, the point isn’t about quality of graphics or that the elephant’s foot doesn’t intersect perfectly with the ball he’s standing on. The point is the ‘sandbox’ aspect that allows people to come up with original crazy ideas, and execute on them.

Anyway, here’s the link:


Vanguard crafting

Tonight I popped back into Vanguard to do the crafting intro quests. I’d forgotten how complex the crafting system is. Basically its a turn-based mini-strategy game where you have a finite number of Action Points to create an item. You can spend these points to progress the item towards completion, or to try to improve the quality of the item. Sometimes bad things happen, and then you need to spend Action Points to counter the bad things. That’s a very, very brief overview.

I’ve been doing a lot of crafting in EQ2 recently and the differences & similarities of the two systems are interesting. EQ2’s system is a lot simpler (the current system…at launch it was quite complex) but happens in real time. You fire off skills to improve progress and durability. Durability goes down as progress goes up and the goal is to keep durability high while progress climbs from zero. Sometimes bad things happen, and then you need to cast a skill to counter it.

So in both systems you need to get Progress to 100%. Both systems use raw materials to start the creation process. In Vanguard, you do what you can to improve Quality from Grade D to C to B to A. If you run out of Action Points, you fail to make anything. But there’s no timer… you can stop and ponder your next action for as long as you like. Some actions use various additives which are consumed in the process of crafting, and you can only bring a finite number of these additives into the crafting mini-game.

In EQ2, you strive to keep the Durability meter high. There are 4 ‘tiers’ of Durability and the quality of the finished product depends on what tier the Durability meter is in. At lower Tiers you’ll create nothing but might get some components back. At Tier 3 you’ll get a basic item, and at Tier 4 you’ll get a Pristine item (this varies with what you’re making..sometimes you’ll get a higher quantity rather than better quality). The limiting factor here is your mana, since casting skills use that up. And the clock is always ticking. You aren’t limited in the amount of time you take, but you are limited in the amount of time you have to react to bad things happening.

The EQ2 process quickly becomes fairly routine and doesn’t take much thought. It’s a good unwinding exercise; something you can do while chatting or just kind of zoning out and letting the cares of the day drain away. It’s very rare that you fail to make a Pristine item once you have the system down. And you can churn out item after item pretty quickly.

It’ll be interesting to see how Vanguard compares to this experience. Running through the newbie quests, I was fairly bewildered, and things are very simple at the start. Apparently the number of Actions available rises as you get to higher levels of crafting. At this stage, it’s more fun and interesting than crafting in EQ2, but I’m not sure if that’ll hold up when it comes time to grind for levels. One nice thing is that you can get Work Orders that don’t seem to require raw materials (and don’t produce anything usable) just to skill-up on. Of course, EQ2 has Work Orders as well, but they require raws. On the other hand they generate status for you and your guild, so there’s an added benefit to them.

Anyway, I just find the two systems from two SOE games to be similar in some ways and yet very different. I’m not sure how far I’ll get crafting in Vanguard for now, but I hope some time to be able to return and take it to higher levels.

Honestly, the lure of adventure is pretty strong right now. So many bizarre creatures out there to hunt!
Vanguard Moon

EDIT: Or not… logged back in to Train (because I know me, otherwise I’d forget) and got caught up in a bunch of crafting quests and did almost no more fighting!! Fun crafting quests, too. Helping build defenses for a village under attack by Hobgoblins. 🙂