Camelot Unchained plans a robust, anti-mule crafting economy

Welcome back to our coverage of City State Entertainment's batshit-crazy days for Camelot Unchained! A few weeks ago, we spoke with CSE co-founder Mark Jacobs about each of the topics being revealed this week via livestream; this afternoon, we're digging into my personal favorite: crafting and economy.
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Camelot Unchained BSC Days: Crafting reveal


Massively: I just wrote about a game with excessive recovery time for crafters, likewise implemented for economic reasons, and wow, players hate those restrictions. Doesn't introducing (I'm going to say it) "designed downtime" for crafters encourage crafter mules and arbitrarily interfere with the natural economy? Aren't there more organic ways to slow down crafting? Why allow combatants to fight 24/7 but not allow crafters to craft equivalently?

CSE's Mark Jacobs: It's a really good question and a definite concern for us. My feeling was that I wanted to create a system where crafters don't have to sit around, crafting 24/7 in a manner that could lead to carpal tunnel. Other games, including Dark Age of Camelot, were more like that. Crafters shouldn't have to sit around and simply click-click-click, etc. The comparison isn't totally correct though, because combatants have downtime to recover their health or power, during travel, etc. (especially in an RvR MMORPG), while crafters can sit in a shop and use the Vox Magus to craft.

My guess is that if you measure the amount of time a combatant is actually fighting in this game, the things I mentioned above would add up to longer than you might expect. Now, if we were creating an instanced-based MMORPG where combatants could literally be fighting 24 hours a day, I think this would be a very valid comparison. However, with 'forced' downtime such as the types I mentioned, especially travel, I think this system actually balances the time nicely and will not force crafters to create 10K crappy and useless arrows just to level their skills.

In terms of crafter mules, I think that a system with no forced downtime actually encourages them since you simply have to give your mule resources and you can quickly level it up. I've done it that way in most of the MMORPGs I've played. Here, where leveling up your crafter will actually take time and effort (not just coin/resources), it should discourage people from mules because the time it takes to build up the crafters will have a definite impact on leveling up their main characters. Now, I also know some people will be annoyed with this, but I made a promise to our crafters that this system would be designed for players who want to craft full-time, not just as an adjunct to their main characters, so we are going to do just that.

The other thing to keep in mind is that I promised our crafters would feel special, and that if they spent the time and effort to level up their character(s), they wouldn't feel other players could easily catch up with them once they had plenty of resources to spend. This system prevents that from happening as, no matter how many resources you have (or other people to 'help' by playing your toons), your character will level no faster. This, among so many other reasons, is why Camelot Unchained is not geared for the masses or aimed at the same target demographic as games such as WoW.

If the economy and immersion are of such concern, why allow non-crafters to harvest, repair, and craft basic supplies, engaging in "popcorn crafting" and effectively bypassing the need to immersively prepare for their battles or interact with full crafters except when they need a major piece of gear?

Well, tell me how you can immersively prepare for battle without running into the same issue you raised earlier about the EverQuest spellbook, especially while doing so on a small budget, so that it wouldn't get boring in three months, let alone three years. :)

One of the thoughts behind popcorn crafting was to recognize that many/most players want to do some basic gathering, repairing, etc., but aren't keen to spend a lot of time looking for crafters just to replace a bowstring or push out a dent in their armor. In a game like Camelot Unchained that features meaningful item decay, if players have to run back to a town every 30 minutes or so, this will get old very fast. OTOH, if you can repair basic stuff, make some basic arrows, gather some basic materials and use them, you can be more self-sufficient. This also doesn't force crafters to spend lots of time leveling by doing repairs, or oblige them to go into the more dangerous parts of the world just to get small jobs to level up their crafting skills.

Do developers really believe players will stand around watching their realmmates cook and smith on a magical pipe organ? :D

Depends on how much fun it is to watch and whether they can gain favor with their Realm for doing so, doesn't it? Let's say that crafting a very powerful item really does take more than one person, but less than a village. If you can help your Realm by showing up and lending some of your power either to your fellow crafters or even as a combatant, yes, I do think some players will find that very immersive and fun, especially if there are rewards for doing so.

Now, do I think this will be true for all players? Not a chance. Do I feel that the lightshow alone will be enough? No, especially not after a few weeks or months. But do I believe this can be fun for some people, some times? Darn right.

Again, keep in mind that the Vox Magus won't be exciting to watch all the time. But it doesn't need to be. Tell me that if in real life, you drove into town and saw the beginning of an interesting light show, you wouldn't be curious to check it out. I know I would be, and I expect a number (I hope a lot) will be, especially if they are in town already, whether just hanging out, meeting with crafters, waiting for friends, RPing, etc. Imagine going to a 4th of July fireworks show and not only being able to help out, but at the end, being rewarded for doing so. Attendance at these shows would go up significantly, don't you think?

What our Backers (actual or potential) need to know is that we are trying to build an interdependency among our classes so one character or even account cannot easily do everything, especially at the beginning. Our combatants will need the help of crafters to succeed, and vice versa. We won't be able to attract and hold the interest of our crafters if they know that the effort they put into being one can be mirrored faster and more easily by other players who have leveled up their mains. Everything we put into the crafting system is meant to reinforce this concept as well as, again, the fact that crafters and combatants have to work together to succeed.

How does setting a price floor for an item guarantee that low-level crafters can make money? If the demand isn't there, the price floor does nothing but prevent low-level crafters from making anything back at all on their crafts when a profit is unreachable.

Not at all. If the price at which you can sell an item to your Realm is enough that you can gain on the transaction, then you make a profit by definition correct? Will you get rich by donating/selling to the King? Nope, but if you make a small amount per transaction, it will work out just fine in the beginning. Unlike in the vast majority of MMORPGs, our crafters are a class, and we have to give them the ability to level their characters by simply playing as a crafter and not as someone else who has crafting skills. We can't rely, as certain other games do, on them being fed materials by your other toons or players.

This is especially true in the early days of your crafter as gathering the low-level materials is easy and/or easy to get from your Realm. For example, if we say that it will take two bars of copper and one of silver to make an item, you can buy those metals from your Realm for five coins, and you can sell/donate the item to the realm for seven, you make a profit. Also, keep in mind that you might also be able to get materials free from your King in exchange for supplying him with the items you make.

As a hardcore crafter and trader, I consider a well-designed auction house (or a vendor search tool) to be just as important as vendors and merchant stalls themselves. Vendors are great, but people need to be able to find what they want to buy. So how will the team ensure those "robust" systems in the planned absence of an AH?

Well, to be perfectly blunt, if you need an AH to succeed, you won't be happy with this aspect of the game. We have been very clear about this from the very beginning of our Kickstarter, I think that player-run shops, stalls, etc. can work out very well (as they have in other games) provided we provide proper communication tools. An AH, while convenient, is only one such possibility.

OTOH, I think we have lost some of the inter-personal, immersive and interactive nature of certain earlier MMORPGs, and that's what we are trying to recapture with this game. Again, I know it won't be for everybody. Speaking as someone who has used AHs in other games to make a lot of profit, I will miss it too, but as I tell the team, we are not making a game for me or anybody else in the studio. We are making the game that our Backers are excited enough about to back us to make.

Join us again tomorrow for the final day of CU's BSC days! Here's our coverage of the reveals up to now:
Camelot Unchained's use-based stat system will trade grind for immersion
Camelot Unchained isn't 'recreating WoW' with its magic system
Camelot Unchained will feature a customizable 'component combat' system

When readers want the scoop on a launch or a patch (or even a brewing fiasco), Massively goes right to the source to interview the developers themselves. Be they John Smedley or Chris Roberts or anyone in between, we ask the devs the hard questions. Of course, whether they tell us the truth or not is up to them!
This article was originally published on Massively.