Difference between revisions of "My Thoughts on The Repopulation's Crafting System"

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=== The Repopulation Crafting: The Bad ===
 
=== The Repopulation Crafting: The Bad ===
  
I'm a firm believer in elegance in system design, and I feel the devs of the game have made crafting complicated solely for the purpose of claiming it's complicated. which is an in-elegant design choice. Complexity for complexity's sake is something I consider lazy work.  
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I'm a firm believer in elegance in system design, and I feel the devs of the game have made crafting complicated solely for the purpose of claiming it's complicated. which is an inelegant design choice. Complexity for complexity's sake is something I consider lazy work.  
  
 
That's right, I just called the overworked, underpaid devs in an indie game studio "lazy". It is _very_ "easy" to get a group of people together and design a system that slams you in the face with its complexity. It's much harder to design a system that looks simple on the surface and is complex once you dig into it. Another way to describe the situation is to say the system lacks depth. You don't feel like you have to fight with a deep crafting system to create items, instead the interface and recipes are designed to be comfortable and possibly even a feel a little rewarding. Repoulation's crafting system has none of these deep, elegant design choices.
 
That's right, I just called the overworked, underpaid devs in an indie game studio "lazy". It is _very_ "easy" to get a group of people together and design a system that slams you in the face with its complexity. It's much harder to design a system that looks simple on the surface and is complex once you dig into it. Another way to describe the situation is to say the system lacks depth. You don't feel like you have to fight with a deep crafting system to create items, instead the interface and recipes are designed to be comfortable and possibly even a feel a little rewarding. Repoulation's crafting system has none of these deep, elegant design choices.

Latest revision as of 19:42, 26 July 2020

My Thoughts on The Repopulation's Crafting System

In short, I don't really like it. It lacks depth. I stuck with it for about six months and then ended up dropping it in favor of writing missions for the Content team.

The Repopulation vs. Star Wars Galaxies vs. Eve Online

The development team is working hard to push positive comparisons between the crafting system from "pre-NGE" Star Wars Galaxies and the Repopulation.

Rather oddly, they're very carefully avoiding any hint of a comparison with Eve Online's crafting system.

MORE TO FOLLOW

The Repopulation Crafting: The Good

The crafting system is complex, but can be learned very quickly. It really REALLY helps to have outside references. I would be lost without the Crafting Map site. Once you have the references that work for you, learning recipes goes quickly.

If you don't care about the quality of the item you want to make, you can make all the parts yourself. You just have to invest in a lot of recipe books, and tramp all over the map looking for harvest points. Doing things this way will result in junk items, but at least they're "your" junk. This means it's technically possible to make all the components of most items, excepting those that require specific grades of materials you may not have the skills to create.

If you have friends, the system is designed so they can help you power level quickly. If you and a small group of people all decide you want to create gun fittings, you can break the components up amongst each other. You could divide the work a few different ways and everyone would be able to gather resources, and everyone would be able to make parts. If you bring in a new friend later on, you can give them grinding materials to skill up quickly and be able to fit into the manufacturing process.

If you want to harvest raw materials resources, you can easily specialize in that activity. If you want to make particular components, you can specialize there. The system is designed for specialization and so you don't have to worry about controlling your entire vertical supply chain.

The Repopulation Crafting: The Bad

I'm a firm believer in elegance in system design, and I feel the devs of the game have made crafting complicated solely for the purpose of claiming it's complicated. which is an inelegant design choice. Complexity for complexity's sake is something I consider lazy work.

That's right, I just called the overworked, underpaid devs in an indie game studio "lazy". It is _very_ "easy" to get a group of people together and design a system that slams you in the face with its complexity. It's much harder to design a system that looks simple on the surface and is complex once you dig into it. Another way to describe the situation is to say the system lacks depth. You don't feel like you have to fight with a deep crafting system to create items, instead the interface and recipes are designed to be comfortable and possibly even a feel a little rewarding. Repoulation's crafting system has none of these deep, elegant design choices.

There's a meme that goes "It's so dense, every single image has so many things going on." This is a quote from Rick McCallum, a producer for the Star Wars prequels and the new remastered Special Editions of the original trilogy. He was trying to make all the CGI Lucas inserted into these movies sound like a positive thing. I feel sorry for him, he had a tough job. I'm also pretty sure it sounded better in his head then how it came out. This crafting system reminds me of that meme.

Every single crafted item has "so many" things going on, it can be mistaken for depth. But depth in system design implies decision-making and choices. There's very little _choice_ in this game.

The Repopulation Crafting: The Ugly

The Repopulation crafting system is designed so there's almost nothing a new character can make that is "useful" to them. However they are taking steps to improve this by inserting a few simplified crafting recipes that will allow people to try out a particular tree, or make some basic items for themselves. It's not enough, but a token effort has been made into addressing this issue.

The system is ugly because it forces new players to be useless. New crafters are stuck making a lot of cruft materials. They can't process anything worth selling while their skills are low. They can't even be sharecroppers for someone else. Raw materials should be top quality in order for the end products to also be top quality. New players are too weak to get to top quality raw materials in the wild. If they do manage to stumble across any high quality raw materials, they immediately becomes useless grinding material upon any sort of processing, because weak noob skills transform it into trash. Skilled older players are given multiple stages where they can make trash materials into high quality materials. This is good to keep high quality materials in the supply chain. It's bad for people who lack the skill to harvest or create high quality goods.

This floods the market with high quality goods from established players, which then crushes the low quality goods new players are locked into producing. New players become mendicants. They either "beg" established players and nations to adopt them, or they have to do everything for themselves and wander around missioning to come up with enough cash to support themselves through the long crafting grind. It makes for a harsh, ugly world when new players being power-levelled by older player people is the right way to play.

I'm sticking with the game so far but I admit to being highly disappointed by the crafting.

The Repopulation Crafting: Forced Interdependence

The devs want the crafting community to be interdependent on each other. They want all the stages of item construction to be shared out between multiple players. They want players buying and selling and bartering and wheeling/dealing in back rooms to set up the larger world manufacturing chain.

Instead of designing a system that's clean and simple at the lowest tiers and gradually growing into more complex items as you increase in skills, the system was designed from the very start to require a lot of very specific and unconnected parts to create objects.

No tree is self-contained. By that I mean you can't make any items by only using skills in that tree. Nearly all ingredients need very specific items.

Most recipes don't just require a generic chemical "base". Instead, a recipe will usually want the Sodium Bicarbonate base, and Sodium Bicarbonate only comes from one source, a specific fish. Another part of the recipe might require Potassium Bioxolate, which only ones from one plant. Yet another ingredient in the recipe may require glue, which can only be made from the sap of one tree.

Things like glue and Potassium Bioxolate are themselves used as specific ingredients in many recipes, which makes it hard to source a steady supply. Products are either generic enough that they're oversupplied and considered trash, or so valuable that people fight tooth and nail for every scrap of the material that comes into the market.

A clever society that needed as much glue as cycles through the Repop crafting system would figure out how to make glue from multiple sources. Sadly, the NPCs in game aren't smart enough to figure this out. I suppose it comes from refusing to support inventors or experimental scientists.

The planet is rich in ores, plants and trees, and it has a varied animal ecosystem (if you overlook the extreme dominance of predators over prey animals). Sadly, the early scientists who settled and developed the manufacturing systems now used in-game were so short-sighted they only found one or two uses for each material in the world.

Crafting Update (1 Month)

After my first steady month of play, the crafting has become slightly less miserable. This is because I've started to pick up a few small recipes that are easy to complete.

  • Hudson Cloth isn't horrible once you find a source of Hudson Fir and/or Hok Weed. This means making bandages from looted Spherefish and Hudson Cloth becomes do-able by one person (and much MUCH easier than polyester filaments).
  • Genetic Engineering and Cloning is pretty easy and very useful as a lower-level character.
  • I found a lake with a lot of Freshwater Fish spawns, as well as some sea plants. It's near the location "Fishing Shed" in FPR territory. This means as long as I occasionally trek out there I have all the fish I could want. Since they're harvest points you get a good number of fish from one to two passes through the lake. Also, fish harvest points give you a selection of different kinds of fish, which was a pleasant surprise. I expected each lake to only have one or two kinds of fish.
  • My cooking progress is being stymied by being unable to create Specialty Cuts of meat. Some of the recipes that are least demanding as far as interconnected ingredients need the high-end meat cuts. I've been told there's a book I can get if I do enough cooking missions. However, the game refuses to offer me cooking missions. I have successfully made Broth and some of the staple products.

I would like to see something in-game that provides a clear route towards crafting specific end-products. The Craft Map web site is nice, but it's not always up-to-date and the connections between ingredients aren't always clear. I'm sure the maintainer tries, but the game is rapidly shifting and devs are constantly adding new recipes. Counting on a third-party web site to provide information that's only available in a collection of badly-formatted hyperlinks is more lazy development.

Also, I want to emphasize that although I've found some recipes that resulted in a small sense of accomplishment, other than bandages and genetic engineering, I'm still struggling to be able to make anything that has a tangible use in game.

Crafting Update (2 Months)

  • After starting to map resource locations here on the wiki, I can branch out into different recipes much more easily. According to the devs, they've designed the crafting to be limited by your inventory space. But once you know where to go to get materials, you can craft a few things, toss them into the bank, sell or trash your leftover scrap items, and then harvest fresh materials for the next stage.
  • Fish completely break the system. Every kind of fish, shellfish, and sea plant are found in any fish location, which happens to be pretty much every large lake. By simply swimming back and forth for an hour, you can collect hundreds of each fish. With those fish you can then make a wide range of core components needed in all the trees, like fluxes, bases, acids, and coolants. Fish are also edible, and used in Genetic Engineering and Pharmaceuticals. Fish also only need a few recipes, which means less time to master their products than other raw materials.
  • Having a wide selection of raw materials available with one day of harvesting allows me to dabble in different trees. This gives me a better sense of how things connect together. I still feel the system is needlessly complex and I'm still frustrated by the lack of low-level tangible components. But with my own Noob page and the CraftMap site I can jump into crafting pretty much anything. Whatever I make won't be "good", but it will be all my own work.
  • I still can't find the book with Specialty Cuts of meat. I've made several different food buffs (as well as all the staples and complex ingredients to make the buffs) and the game still refuses to offer me cooking missions :(.
  • My Genetic Engineering and Bandage making skills are progressing nicely. I can now do Simple Genetic Recombination, which means I can (for example) make a Poisonous Setlang.
  • As long as you don't need specialty books, you can get by without anyone else "helping" you. If you do need a specialty book, you can mission for enough cash to buy them in the AH (unless no one sells them, like the meat cuts book).

By not specializing in anything, my skills tend to be quite weak. Even my good skills are "Average". However, I've thoroughly learned the cooking tree, and I hope to just as thoroughly learn other trees. Once I'm out of alpha testing, I can then focus on just the skills I'm interested in, and I'll still be able to make things from raw materials to end product.

Crafting Update (3 Months)

At the start of my third month, I made chocolate. I finally found a patch of placebo plants and was able to make F grade chocolate. To celebrate, I'm shelving the game. As I said elsewhere, I came to the game for the crafting, and if I leave, it will be for the crafting.

That's only partially true. It's a combination of crafting and community. I've burned out from trying to figure out how to play the game and being told repeatedly by the developers that play styles that involve anything other than crafting one tiny widget in a large and active nation are "wrong". I would have loved to join a large and active nation in the alpha testing period. After months of asking around within the game, no nations would recruit me (nor was I able to find people to run with in more casual groups). The developers use "you're just playing it wrong" as an excuse to avoid creating necessary systems, or to avoid overhauling deeply flawed mechanics.

In a strange bit of irony, they refuse to implement any sort of Looking For Group system, or any other system that would make it easier to find like-minded people to join together in casual play or nations.

I'll let the game sit and go back to it once it launches. Once there's an active player base the situation should improve dramatically.

Crafting Update (4 Months)

I took a break from playing to put a lot of time into providing feedback on the forums.

The Craftmap site got a huge update, which motivated me to try a little more crafting. I finally got the Butchering book, which motivated me to try even more.

Some exciting news is that the devs have finally broken down and started adding simplified crafting recipes into the system. This isn't because of *me* but it is because of consistent feedback from people *like me* pointing out the frustratingly disorganized and unwelcoming crafting system. They're going to pinpoint additions that will allow players to make things simple starter things for themselves and bootstrap themselves up to making more challenging items later.

Spawn points for pretty much everything have been reduced across the FPR side of the map (which means it probably happened in OWON territory as well). This is a good thing and it happens to mean that fish are a little less useful as a source of different chemicals. It's a weird state of affairs. If you want to dabble in crafting a couple things they're still overpoweringly awesome. If you want to make something that requires a specific fish, you're only getting 1/7 of the raw materials you need on any pass through a lake. A dedicated fish harvester either has to sell their haul to a seven different buyers, or a smaller pool of buyers who each need the exact spread of multiple fish. The reality is that some fish are overly useful and some are close to useless, just like every other crafting material in the game.

Crafting Update - Final

After six months of crafting I've given up. It's not fun for me, it's shallow, and it's frankly boring. As I've said at other sites, given the same pile of ingredients a smart person and a stupid person will likely end up making the same thing.

As part of volunteering with the Content team I was able to see the "behind the scenes" restricted discussions from the various developers. The decision-makers responsible for the Crafting system are not passionate about the system, itself, although they seem strongly invested in the game as a whole.

When you have a game that runs on 95% passion (because you only have about 5% of the budget and development team size of a mainstream MMO), those developers you *do* have need to be very passionate about the parts of the project for which they they're responsible. The only people I found who show any emotional investment in making sure Crafting is a system that is both functional and fun are volunteers, and the Crafting team ignores most of them.

I think this disconnect between the Crafting devs and their other areas of interest helps explain why Crafting has ended up in the state that it's in.

I joined the Content team as a way to constructively contribute to the game but I resigned in October, a few months after I started there. The team, while a group of great and creative people, were just too disorganized for me to constructively contribute. I've since stopped playing the game. I'm back to waiting for the launch.