Game Development

Blog 851: Crafting the Waystation

I have a complicated relationship with crafting mechanics. In terms of narrative, I actually tend to hate crafting — it’s very likely to devalue any item you find in the world, because you can always make something better than any pre-existing “legendary artefact”. Skyrim is particularly egregious, as enchanted weapons are no longer exciting to find, instead becoming mere feedstock for your own creations.

But I fucking love forging arms and armour in Skyrim. Even though it ruins half the game for me, and it’s a huge missed opportunity, I looooove hoovering up exotic metal ingots and carting them back to Whiterun to make stuff. I wish there were more different styles of equipment to craft from the same materials. I wish the game was entirely about being a warrior who forged stuff.

What I love more unquivocably, however, is when in Baldur’s Gate you take some ankheg shell to Taerom Fuirim, and he makes ankheg armour for you. That’s our way in.

Crafting the Waystation

I’ve been working on the Friendly Arm Waystation, which is your Prologue and Chapter One hub zone. You’ll pass through here to pick up your first job, along with regularly revisiting its extensive shops and services as you do other things (or not I guess, it’s an open game and I promise not to judge). Which, naturally, must include a blacksmith who will make and maintain all those big mech-scale swords and shields upon which the game is based.

Which means crafting is not entirely off the golden path, so it’s technically a feature I need to build in order to finish off the rest of the prologue. Yes.

Big mechs, big swords, big forge.

This blacksmith will take commissions, so it’s not exactly crafting. So you’ve picked up some interesting material, great. What are you going to do about it? Crafting is not something any old adventurer can “just do” — you need the help of a specialist… or you can just give up and sell that component for cold, hard cash. It’s up to you.

I kinda like this style of crafting, because it’s more a way to obtain unique items made from unique materials than a straight-up replacement of the traditional search for equipment. You’re still finding a fancy sword, it just takes a few extra steps and that makes it all the sweeter.

Thus, when I added some alloy ingots for you to find in the Targe Mine level, I knew it wouldn’t be long before I classified them as Materials rather than Junk and started working on a system that could procedurally turn them into items. (Yes, I am well aware of how I have just contradicted myself, because alloy is the most common, basic material in the world and definitely not something you’d be excited about forging into equipment. It’s a proof of concept, all right?!)

The Waystation also includes a delightful brutalist residential block. “Don’t jump on the houses,” they said.

The thing is, swords and shields are already constructed systemically, from a Material, a Quality and a Type (a Flimsy Alloy Longsword, for example). It’s not much of a leap to let you take a material you’ve found in the world, pick a quality and an item type and tell the blacksmith to have at it. The range of qualities adds a degree of cost/benefit to the equation, and the choice of equipment type personalises it yet further (though I get the feeling that certain materials like crystals may need to be locked to a particular subset of item types for artistic reasons).

Further on, there will also be “enchantments”, so you might even be able to build an Electrified Flimsy Alloy Longsword that has a chance to stun. Or should it be Flimsy Electrified Alloy Longsword? Flimsy Alloy Electrified Longsword? Eep.

This will be the true test of my automatic pricing system.

Once you’ve picked your options, it will take some number of hours before the item is ready — obviously, the more powerful items will take longer to produce, adding more spice to that cost/benefit trade-off between quality levels and item types. The Iron Triangle of time, quality and cost is alive and well in Exon.

And you tell me...

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