Consumption of Crafted Items
I absolutely LOVE all the talk of crafting and how important it will be in Ashes… And I'm sure there will be plenty of threads filled with awesome ideas, hopes and dreams about how it will all work. BUT!
There’s one aspect of crafting that isn’t getting a ton of attention, though I think it’s maybe even more important: consumption of the goods we as players produce!
The Story So Far...
First, we know that Steven and Jeff talked about item decay and breakage, so it would seem there is a continual need for crafted items. Or at least, crafters. Depending on how this is implemented, I’d be interested to know if this means an item “can” break, or an item “will” break. I think the answer to that has big implications for crafting. Even if players can repair these items to a certain extent, and to a depreciating degree, it prolongs the existence of the item in the economy (meaning it doesn’t have to be replaced very often, which is typically the crafter’s purpose in life :) In either case, I think we can assume all items will at some point exit the economy.
Not Everyone Needs the Sword of Doom!
Maybe even more than that, though, is the potential breadth of consumption. This has always been the problem with MMO crafting - you make 100 swords no one wants, because there simply aren’t that many players that need them! Even on a server with 10,000 players where 10% of them make swords, there’s a whole lot of swords that sill go to waste.
There is never going to be actual player demand that the players themselves cannot easily keep up with (unless breakage occurs so frequently that it becomes a different kind of gameplay all together, and potentially putting some fun at risk.)
But I Still Want to Make a Sword of Doom!
To mitigate this, I feel like there almost has to be some sort of simulation behind the scenes… in simplest terms, players can’t be the only consumers of crafted items. We need NPCs buying goods, too. Even if they’re not physically present in the game world, there should be NPCs that exist at the simulation level to make sure there's a demand for our items.
Let’s do a quick example - In the case of a Metropolis, there might be several hundred NPCs (or more) present. But even at that number, it would only be a representative slice of the actual population of consumers that live and work in the metropolis. It feels like a metropolis might hold a "real" population of at least several hundred thousand. So that many NPCs — even it they don’t physically exist — would have to be served by crafters of all manner.
In another example, let’s say an inn in the city (maybe there are 5 or 6 inns for the whole metropolis) would have daily needs for supplies based on the population of the metropolis. Perhaps an inn needs a standing order of 50 cases of corn each day. They also need 10 kegs of beer a day, each… and so on. Player crafters and merchants can fill these work orders, so beyond just crafting and trying to sell to players, there’s a real need to supply the world on every front. And not rely solely on supplying players.
It would really seem the Ashes node development system would be the perfect place for such an underlying set of mechanics. The better arms we provide for our soldiers, the better they can protect the node! The tastier the soup, the happier the citizens :)
Looking For Inspiration
There are a few other games in development doing I'd like to mention. There are no doubt many more, and I believe many more to come, how that we're entering the golden age of massive persistent virtual worlds. (We are, honest!)
Star Citizen - This is the mother of all economic simulations, at least on paper. For every player, there will be 9 NPCs in the world, to say nothing of the "invisible" populous of the simulation. These NPCs will behave just like players - they can even take missions from the same mission boards players do. If a work order for Ore comes in from a shipmaker, then that NPC just might be the one to fulfill it. This assures the economy runs even if there are no players present. Revival (though now being developed first as a PnP world under the name of Theleston) had very similar plans.
Albion Online - In the consumable item department, they've implemented something cool called the Black Market.
"How do you have cool item drops in a game where the items are supposed to all be player crafted? Have players craft the drops themselves!"
I added a link to the video, but in a nutshell, players will be crafting items to sell on the Black Market which will turn up back in the economy as drops form mobs - how cool is that?
I'm just spit-balling here, and this may be more than Intrepid can bite off. But I hope they are considering ways that the economic system is driven by players, and there's enough of a market there to consume what we want to gather, make and sell!