The Gathering Gloom

Running around EQ2X this weekend and enjoying working on some tradeskills.  Crafting in EQ2 is one of the things EQ2 does a bit better (note I said a bit better because its far from ideal) than many MMOs.  There is a bit if a minigame to it, so perfect success is not guaranteed though there is little chance of real failure, the products are genuinely useful, there is quite a diversity of recipes across a broad range of professions, it doesn’t require the generation of many many useless/valueless items to make progress and its an entirely separate progression mechanism from the rest of the game.

Of course, all crafting requires inputs.  That means gathering.  Ugh.

No MMO seems to have done this part well.  So what has the last decade brought us on the gathering front?

Consider the Miner.

Random spawning, mailbox-sized chunks of “ore” that are curiously unevenly distributed in zones the difficulty of which correlates to their relative value.  How immersive.

I just looked over, and there it was...

How do we find this resource?  Mining radar of course.  Sort of Yukon Cornelius meets Aquaman.  And how is this oh so valuable ore actually gathered?  Take out your trusty pocket pick, give the ore pinata a few whacks and voila.  Paydirt.

Not exactly the picture of mining that I had in mind.  Why did they bother with Moria or Thorin’s Halls when the dwarves could have just skipped through the fields tapping rocks as they went?

Sure some games try to jazz up the immersion by actually having the nodes spawn in or near hills.  Others just don’t bother.  How the farmers in Kingsfell manage to plow their fields with all that rich iron popping up in their fields is beyond me.

I guess the Kings fell because they tripped over giant mining nodes...

Eve got it partially right.  Mining in Eve is a full-blown progression game in its own right and encourages group play.  Yes, its a bit boring with the waiting factor, but to me that is a question of how much, not whether it takes time.

Mining in Eve requires the development of various skills that increase proficiency (speed, mining yield, refining efficiency, etc.) as well as collaborative supporting activities (hauling, group management, even defense).

So why hasn’t any fantasy MMO bothered with truly fleshing out the gathering professions properly?  I for one would love to have to go prospecting for ore deposits and constructing a mining operation out in the wilds, alone or with others.  Then figure out how to haul it all back to town all the while defending your operation from marauding mobs.

A noob miner would have little but his pick, pan, a trusty pack mule and a bit of luck.  A journeyman could construct a proper mine that would yield more, a guild could construct and man a large mine, etc.  Like scouting asteroid belts in Eve, prospecting for a good site with lots of the desired ore (to justify construction of a mine, etc.) would be half the battle.  Imagine if prospecting was a bit like WoW’s archaeology?

Of course, one aspect that is key to the viability of Eve’s mining progression is the economy.  Even the lowliest of the low minerals (Tritanium) which comes from the most abundant asteroid in the game (Veldspar) is used in nearly everything constructed in the game.

Copper doesn’t cease being useful just because I can wear or wield iron or steel or mithril items.

The same paradigm can be applied to any of the other gathering professions as well:  hunting/trapping for hides and leather; farming for food and fiber (thank you LotRO, sort of); lumber mills (with depleting forests) for wood.

Did no one at Blizzard remember the resource gathering part of Warcraft when they designed WoW?

Was an entire civilization built solely on the basis of logs of weathered driftwood that washed up on a beach or random yew branches that the wind knocked down?  Did no one think to swing one of those enormous battle axes at an actual tree from time to time?

Even fishing never progresses beyond a string on a stick… No fish traps? No one invented the throw net let alone a fishing boat?

A beautiful thing, yes. But how about a net?

Of course, a key component to making a system like this work is dangerous transport.  Without some risk, there would be little excitement to the process and less value in the product.  Lets add some transportation for the poor gatherers.  Start with a big backpack, claw your way up to a donkey, add a cart, maybe an ox team and wagon…

And of course, a nice big slow transport full of valuable goods invites bandits…

Seriously, I’d do this all day.

9 thoughts on “The Gathering Gloom”

  1. While I’m with you on the desirability of developing a deeper, more complex gathering game, I’d have to take issue with the current iteration found in EQ2, LotRO, WoW, Rift and so on not being immersive.

    I spent much of yesterday searching for and mining iron in Scarlet Gorge in Rift. Time flew by and I was completely absorbed. I really did feel for a while that I was “there”. Gathering in MMOs gives me that feeling of being “in the world” more than just about anything else. I woke up this morning looking forward to getting out there and hunting for more iron, in fact.

    I liked Vanguard’s gathering best, I think, of the MMOs where I’ve gathered. I particularly liked the way you could kill a rock elemental and then quarry it for stone, for example. And the way you can group up and gather for increased quantities, or to gather something otherwise above your level. Do any other MMOs have “group gathering”?

    Oh, and is there “mining radar” in EQ2? I must have missed it if so. I know you can get a tinkered item that points you at resource nodes, although I’ve never used it, but I didn’t think EQ2 had the standard “points on a mini-map” system.

  2. As far as I can recall, gathering ore in FFXI involved crawling into caves to pick at the sides of walls, and gathering lumber involved actually hacking at a tree.

    That said, the immersion was usually pretty well killed by having to contend with 3 bots at every node, and you’d probably want to shoot yourself rather than actually use any of the resources for the crafting in that game.

  3. FYI – They recently added fishing boats to Darkfall, but crafting in general still leaves much to be desired.

  4. @bhagpuss. Oh, I’m with you on the immersion factor. Actually having to go out in the world and gather resources is one of my favorite explorer activities. Indeed many of my best “in the world” experiences have inevitably happened when out looking for resources.

    Of course, then the experience is a bit cheapened by harvesting the node and moving on. AFAIK, there is no mining radar in EQ2 yet (thankfully).

    Even though I love the exploration, reaching into a creature den near in the snowy wastes of New Halas in EQ2 and pulling out “an elephant meat” is a bit of a stretch… ;)

    The only MMO I’m aware of that had group gathering activities is Eve. Mining foremen in a command ship (like an Orca) enhance a groups speed, range and yield while providing a nearby place to deposit the goods until a hauler can take it back to base for refining.

    @Joe/BP I was not not in VG Beta. What was the system like then?

  5. For my money, the original SWG did harvesting and production/crafting the best of almost any game I’ve played. Surveying out areas for locations to mine, building up to harvesting units and processing sites, with the best materials being in vulnerable territory to ensure competition – it was beautiful.

    I’m sure EVE is on a level with it, but I have completely abstained from that aspect of the game thus far.

  6. I’ve only just started it, but what about Wurm? You start with nothing and build yourself, and your abilities as you go. You have to make your own fishing rods, and once you can mine/smelt you can make better ones.

    You can make boats of varying sizes and head out on the lakes/sea for fishing. I have a small cart I pull for gathering but later you can get larger ones pulled by animals.

    Ryzom also has a very involved gathering system but I’m not sure you can automate/mine on a large industrial scale. Great crafting element to that one though. Well worth a (free) look.

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