The Crossing

Playing a big open-world RPG, the main task available to you, of course, is to go out and find things to fight. That is true of playing almost every game, perhaps. One of the things that still seems to define many RPGs (as that becomes increasingly difficult) is the extensive inventory of items that you can collect as you progress. Treasure hunting, in other words.

Items

I love collecting stuff in games. There’s seldom much purpose to it, but for me it is a purpose in itself. Playing Oblivion (The Elder Scrolls IV), I never, ever sold gems to NPCs. I’d keep them all, and drop them in bowls (organised by colour) in my various in-game houses. Yes, that’s right, just like in my real life. This is the kind of crazy-person behavior that I want to enable in The Crossing.

I do think that miscellaneous items need to have some practical use. You want an inventory of things that you’re excited to have found, that don’t feel like endless clutter. I know that many games already have elaborate crafting systems. Most of them I’ve never played, so for all I know the platonic ideal of crafting mechanic has already been implemented somewhere, but I haven’t seen it for myself.

My main complaint with crafting, as I encounter it in games, is that it never actually feels like you’re creating anything. In some cases you simply select an item from a list, and it gets made, just like that. In FFXIV there was a mini-game, which was an improvement over the previous system of random success or failure, but it got tedious quickly.

My second complaint is that crafting is often either too convoluted (with too many steps in the process), or too unrewardingly simple. I feel like there should be a sense of skill-testing challenge, but the actual repeated creation of items shouldn’t be an arduous affair.

Here is how I think it might work.

 Crafting

In order to learn how to craft with specific materials in The Crossing, you need to find an NPC who can train you in the use of those materials. So, once you’ve been trained by a leathercrafter, you have new options available to you when you are crafting. If you wanted to make some body armour, you could now choose from a variety of designs in leather. And if you’ve also been trained by, say, a weaver, then you might choose to make more complex armour – a leather body piece with cloth sleeves. Get training from a dyer, and dye it blue.

Learning the skills from the NPCs would involve some degree of challenge in the form of a mini-game, or quest. Crafting the item itself, however, would simply involve you designing it. Choosing shapes and components and colours based on the training you have available thus far, and the base materials that you have on hand. It should actually be fun. And its purpose should be to extend the character creation process past the beginning of the game, so that customisation becomes indefinite.

This apprenticeship system – which makes a distinction between skills (level-ups, essentially) gained from a specific encounter, and experience gained from using those skills out in the world – would be a major institution in The Crossing. I’ll talk about it more tomorrow.



Armour

Armour can make or break an RPG, for me. If I equip a new piece of armour in a game, only to discover that it has magically sprouted cleavage because my character is a woman, it makes me want to throw my computer across the room. And don’t get me wrong, cleavage is all well and good in all sorts of circumstances. It’s just the inconsistency that drives me rabid. And the fact that I don’t have a choice in the matter.

Armour in The Crossing would look exactly the same on both sexes. If you crafted a suit of armour or clothing that was rather feminine, it would look the same on a male character as it would on a female, and so on.

And if you found or bought a suit of armour that you didn’t like, then you could (with the corresponding skill set) tweak its shape yourself, to suit your own preferences.

I have quite a lot left to talk about tomorrow, including the combat system, how multiplayer is implemented, details of exploration, and so on. I’ve left all the most abstract, challenging stuff for one post, so I’ll try not to make a twenty-page essay out of it.

11 Comments

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11 responses to “The Crossing

  1. very interesting posts!
    i had some ideas for videogames too, think about it is pretty fun (sometimes more fun than actually playing some games), the possibilities are endless in DA MIND.

    • Marian

      Yeah, it totally can be more fun than playing the actual game.

      Plus, you know, games these days let you decide more and more stuff for yourself. It seems inevitable that you’d start thinking in terms of how you’d like everything to be.

  2. Krazmo

    Gotta be some seedcake craftin’ action too!

    I love the idea of the armor looking the same on both sexes. I appreciate a little fan service, I must admit, but the constant baseline level of sexism in video games is nuts. Only Valve seem to able to side-step that rut.

    Is there a Bechdel test for video games?

    I want a big burly dude all done up in lavender armor with fuchsia accents and lace. Yeah!

    • Marian

      Hell yes, seedcake crafting.

      Yeah, I have no problem whatsoever with fanservice being available. I just want options for everyone.

      Also, that big burly dude in lavender armour would have to be my NPC companion.

  3. Shannon

    I wouldn’t mind if you make a 20 page essay. I love these posts! I agree with you about crafting in games. I don’t want to just press a button. I want to feel more like I made it but without it becoming very repetitive and boring. I really like your solution. I hope someone sees your blog and hires you!

  4. That actually sounds pretty cool. I would especuially like it if the NPC’s with skillsets would get increasingly more difficult to discover over time as the skill-sets improved. Eventually it could culminate in having to find a series of master guru’s who roam the map to make the final skill-set. but if you don’t have the proper stats when you do discover them then good luck achieving it.

    Btw, just a thought, bu in lieu of actually creating the videogame you can always design it as a die-based game and all us commentors can participate in the play via a chat prgm.

  5. Kathy Moon

    Realistically, I think you’d have to, after the “design” step, log out for a couple hours to give yourself time to actually make the thing. :)

  6. Paul

    Every idea I’ve read on this blog I love.

    An idea for the crafting system though,
    If you don’t have all the materials, you could assemble what you have available.
    If it doesn’t make sense though, (I.E. Chest plate without straps of any kind to keep it on you.) Then it should be marked ‘Incomplete’.

    Just an idea.
    I love the dark feel to this game. :D

    • Marian

      I do kind of hate it, when you have nearly everything available to craft an item, and it’s all clogging your inventory while you wait to find the last components. So yeah. Storage for half-completed items on your workbench, at least? Or something like that?

  7. Kirk

    The apprenticeship function you’re describing has actually been utilized in at least one RPG I know of–Breath of Fire 3. Throughout the gameworld, there are a variety of different “masters” with a variety of different unique skills they can teach your characters, and each “master” can only take one apprentice at a time. The skills can be battle techniques, magic spells, item usage (e.g.: using herbs to make potions/medicine), etc., and the skills you learn are permanent whether you learn everything your “master” has to teach or not.

    And you don’t just automatically learn these skills based on levels or experience. Some are learned by completing tasks or quests, others are learned by using your other skills…you get the idea. It was actuallyone of my most favorite parts of that game.

  8. kelpso

    what about a system by which there are several tech trees, but you gain experience in them differently?

    like one you get experience for just walking around, way more lump sum experience for discovering new areas, stuff like that. maybe more from observing things happening, finding new items, etc. ie an “experience” experience point tree. as you get points you can use them to unlock skills, many of them in this tree probably passive, but not all.

    maybe that tree could even have a bank of skills you have seen be used, ie if someone used a super rare skill on you (more on this in a minute), you could eventually spend experience points to learn the rudaments of it, and then eventually be able to practice it and then use it, and that way you could make everything go kind of crazy.

    then there would be a tree learned form studying, where a lot of crafting is done (but with cross over, you can learn about new crafting techniques through “experience” and finding new items and saying aha i’ll dedicate points to learning the rudaments of this, and then practice points on it later when i’m back at home…), and also where you can practice new combat techniques and what not. additionally, it would have its own moves, like dojo style learning secret techniques. you can study under masters to get more points for this, or do individual trial and error style study. earn some out in the field too, but mostly from studying.

    finally there would be a combat tree, which is basically purely combat i guess. you learn it from fighting. it could have all the brutal unpolished moves (which you could later polish via the studying tree, or i guess just from brute force using moves).

    idk its 3:30 am here and i just read all through this. haha i spend too much time designing systems for games and what not that will never get made. i guess this was my idea after gleaning inspiration from your posts. gleaning i just looked up, and it means to gather grain left behind by reapers. food for thought?

    anyway, as i was saying, that way you would be able to to learn a lot of things different ways, but also to have things unique to each of the ways. like if you want to practice stealth, you really need to just do it in the field, and dedicate life “experience” points to it. if you want to learn from a sacred master of the sword, you need to go study under him and learn his techniques. if you want to, you could just go out into battle and figure out how to use a sword too. develop your own things based on it.

    i think to create abilities, i like the idea presented of finding masters out there. i can’t remember who said it, again, its 3:30 am. it would be cool if there were really rare masters out there who live on mountaintops and can only be accessed through long dangerous roads, maybe only at certain times of day, or only on one day of the month (what can i say, i like my shit to have a learning curve). you go up and find them and train with them until you devote the most points, rank up under them and learn increasingly secret skills, and when you devote the most you get to be the sole keeper of their secret art, until someone else comes along, and if they pump more points in, then they get to learn it too. that way you can have unique abilities and such, but other people could get them too.

    that could apply to anything, crafting, magic, swords, riding, stealth, whatever. and you could earn points by studying, by doing quests, by whatever. telling them stories maybe even in some cases, ie spending “experience” points on them.

    idk, just ways to create unique combinations of things. i have way more ideas, always (always always), but anyway its 3:33 now, so time to post…

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