Miner Rant

20 May

So there I was running around this weekend in LotRO and a little bit in WoW. Each of my characters in each game had their craft node radar on so they could see the nodes pop and run to mine them when convenient. Typical MMO fare at this point.

Wait a minute. Ore which can be refined into metal just randomly pops out of the earth (and then dissapears)? I mean, this isn’t Bog Iron or meteorites. You don’t just find them laying around FFS.

I appreciate the effort and the “concession” to game play, but lets face it. Someone phoned it in on the mining. Consider leather or hides. Better hides come from more extraordinary beasts that you encounter in your travels through the virtual world. Kill it. Skin it. ‘Nuff said.

Herbalism. The paradigm works for that. Specific plants found in different climes randomly occurring sure, I’ll buy that.

So why is it so hard to adapt mining or wood collection (“Forestry” in LotRO-speak) to something other than the random node model? If I’m a forester and I’ve got an axe, damn sure I’m headed to the woods, not running across the barren expanses of the North Downs or Lone Lands looking for branches that SOMEONE must have dropped (because I don’t see no damned trees). Nor do I see some geologic uplift that accompanies that Rich Iron node that popped in the middle of the farmer’s field…

Now I’m all for balance in gameplay, but part of fantasy (and sci fi too for that matter) is some relationship to the reality we are familiar with. A sword is a sword, a bear is a bear. It reinforces the immersion.

So why not start out as a novice minor and go work The Man(tm)’s mines to get crafting experience? Doesn’t Ironforge or Thorin’s Halls have some full fledged industrial mining operation going on nearby?   The area around Goldshire is chock full of mines (you no take candle, though).  Likewise how many times do you run through Silverdeep Mine outside Thorin’s Halls.   Why not adopt a sharecropper model for working these mines (i.e., the player would keep a percentage of what they produced with the rest going to the owner of the mine)?  Why not learn into the true prospecting skill where you learn to detect likely mineral concentrations and ultimately how to build your own hardrock mine–in a place that made sense.

Sure, it wouldn’t be instant, but if you had to build a mine and mine it for a while (as long as you could haul all the ore) it would sure make mining feel a lot more like mining rather than say, herbalism.  Or maybe the better paradigm is fishing in most MMOs or perhaps farming in LotRO, or asteroid mining in Eve– go to a specific location, perform a series of skill based acts and you are rewarded with a harvest of useable ore which you can then refine.

Panning for rare metals in streams, hardrock mining, gem finding and yes, even perhaps locating Bog Iron.

Likewise, why not grow into the fine art off silviculture.  Need lumber? go find a forest of the type you’re looking for, set up a lumber camp and mill.  Certainly not inexhaustible supplies, but all kinds of rate limiting devices can be used– tool repair, hired labor that must be paid, etc.

Quite frankly, I’m amazed that LotRO (home of the farming profession) didn’t implement something like this. Somebody do this… Please.


Posted by on May 20, 2008 in World of Warcraft


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4 responses to “Miner Rant

  1. Talyn

    May 20, 2008 at 6:08 am

    Agreed, but also looking at it from the other perspective of “game” being more fun than realism. Sure, I could get a ‘job’ in the Mines near Goldshire at low levels, eventually being promoted to mining in other bigger places. However, now I’m stuck in a mine doing nothing but mining in place. That smacks of grinding in those F2P games where you essentially just stand still while the mobs respawn every five seconds.

    Same for wood-gathering. It makes more sense to just go find a forest and cut it down, that’s how the Warcraft RTS games did it. By the way, if you notice the subtle parallel in LOTRO — the LOTR books were about Tolkien’s dismay with growing industry and its destruction — you don’t cut down/destroy trees in LOTRO, you gather branches that have already fallen from the trees, thereby cleaning the environment without causing more destruction of nature. Just something I noticed awhile back… Anyway, standing in a forest chopping down tree after tree would get boring fast.

    I wouldn’t mind a return to the SWG gathering system though, where I could hire NPC workers to do the mining for me, once I was of high enough skill. Or something along those lines that (re-)introduced a new dimension into the crafting and gathering game.

  2. p@tsh@t

    May 20, 2008 at 9:09 am

    I like the idea of advancing to the point where you could hire NPCs once you’ve gained enough skill.

    But still, staying in one place to gather resources already is part of the game for fishing, mining in Eve, and farming in LotRO… and running around in a zone on a set pattern just to hit the nodes as they pop is not much better IMHO…

    For that matter, contested mines could be a minigame on their own. Clear the mine and defend it while your NPCs work it and/or defend the caravan hauling the ore back to town every so often… If you don’t defend your mine, mobs kill your NPC or destroy your lumber camp or kill and steal your caravan…

    My main point is that some aspects of the crafting regime are more immersive if they are their own form of gameplay rather than simply complementary to the “main” track of murder for hire.

    Things like skinning and herbalism (despite the obvious volume problem) make sense as incidental to adventuring throughout the world. For others, finding and obtaining the resource IS the game… and not one that everyone would want to do, hence resource scarcity and economic value associated with it.

  3. laephis

    May 26, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    I think there should be an MMO motto that goes something like this: “Those that have not learned from Ultima Online are doomed to repeat it, poorly.”

    Seriously, 10 years ago UO had a better way of handling mining nodes. You had entire mountain ranges that could be mined (in a limited manner). Once the area was exhausted, you’d have to move on. The idea of a single chunk of ore sticking out of the ground randomly is pretty dumb and doesn’t compare to the other gathering professions. Someone needs to take a look at their MMO history books and stop this silly practice.

  4. Talyn

    May 28, 2008 at 5:30 am

    SWG was similar in that regard. Each planet had a limited number of resources. We’d place our harvesters and they’d do their thing, gathering resources according to where we’d placed it. Roughly a week later (been awhile, I forget the actual time-frame) that spot would run dry and we’d need to pack up our harvesters and find out where the next good spot for that specific resource had been found on that planet.

    It keeps you active in both maintaining the harvester (same as paying maintenance on your house) and in checking with the community to find where the best spots for harvesting were while the actual boring harvesting itself is automated. In a fantasy game, again, the auto-harvesters could be changed to NPC gatherers for hire, ala Warcraft’s Peons.

    This still creates a problem with respect to wood gathering though. What, do we send our band of Peons out to chop down the forest? Does this forest actually disappear from the game world? Realistic, yes, but that would never happen for exactly the same reason we’ll never see full destructible environments in an MMO: certain people will dedicate their lives to destroying the entire planet, or in the case of wood-gathering, chopping up all the forests in the game, leaving a barren landscape. So a more “Virtual Earth Day” approach would be having dedicated (ie. limited) gathering areas in a forest, and for every tree chopped, a tree must be planted. In other words, everything respawns so that it’s not world-changing. Perhaps the trees need “time to grow” however, which fakes the “we’re out of wood here, move along” feeling.


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