DevDiary 8 - Crafting
Ave! You have discovered our eighth DevDiary. Last time, we went over all the character progression systems in the game, including how the loot system works – but there was one part of that we didn’t have time to touch on: Crafting.
In roleplaying games, there are typically three ways to acquire new equipment: you can loot it off dead enemies, from treasure chests etc., or you can purchase it from a shop with your hard-earned gold, or you can roll up your sleeves and craft it yourself. Each method serves a slightly different purpose: loot drops are rewards for combat or exploration but are typically completely random. Item shops offer you some choice from a randomised menu. Crafting gives you full control over what item you’ll get, but you’ll have to invest resources, time, and effort.
We always thought there was too much overlap between these three methods – that the differences between them weren’t quite significant enough to justify their existence. When we were fleshing out the item system in Viking, we wanted to eliminate one of these ways to get items, so your items would only come from two systems. We had to keep loot of course – exploration is a core pillar of our series, and as a viking, why shouldn’t you be able to kill people and take their stuff? This left us with the choice between crafting and item shops, and crafting was clearly the more interesting system: it’s more different from loot drops than item shops are in that it gives the player much more agency with less randomness, and in terms of the fantasy, it felt more right for a viking to forge their own weaponry rather than purchase it from a travelling sword salesman.
In Expeditions: Rome, we knew from the start that we wanted to keep crafting, mostly because it gives you – the player – more control over what equipment you’ll have access to. The next question was: how does crafting fit our new player fantasy? This was a question we had to ask with regards to every system in the game, since there is a big difference between being a viking chieftain leading a group of raiders, or a Roman legatus in command of a legion.
When it came to crafting, we knew we didn’t want your character to make their own equipment. You’re not a smith, after all, but a patrician – a Roman noble, with access to the resources of the legion. Thus, when you wish to craft an item in Rome, you will visit the legion’s armoury, queue up the items you want, and assign one of your most trusted people to oversee the project. Each item takes a certain amount of in-game time to make, and once the smiths have had time to work their way through your order, you can just come back and collect the whole lot.
You can’t just craft whatever you want to craft right from the start of the game, however. First you must learn the techniques involved, in the form of acquiring crafting schematics. Common schematics are found on slain enemies or in chests or crates throughout the game, while more rare schematics can only be acquired if you encounter particular worldmap events or search specific locations.
Second, you must of course have the necessary resources. Salvage is dropped as loot or taken as tribute when you are victorious in battle, but you will get most of your salvage by dismantling equipment you don’t need. Since we have no item shops, dismantling is your only way to get rid of unwanted items. Each item type also requires a special material – for example you must have a sword blade to forge a sword, or an armour plate to forge a chest plate. These materials are also acquired by dismantling unwanted items of the corresponding type.
One of our main goals has been that crafted items should be the best items in the game. Collecting loot from chests or fallen enemies is something that just sort of happens as you play the game, but crafting takes some time and thought, and so it needs to be worthwhile. As you learn the intricacies of how the item system works, you’ll be able to make full use of the crafting system – and that involves modifying your crafted items to better suit your purposes.
Any item can be altered in one of two ways: you can upgrade it to a higher tier, increasing its stats as explained in our previous DevDiary, or you can customise its affixes. When you craft an item, you don’t control which affixes it rolls with. You might be hoping to make a bow that has a bonus to piercing damage, but instead you get increased critical hit chance. In such cases, you can pay some extra resources to swap that crit chance affix for a piercing damage bonus – assuming you have learned how to craft that affix onto your items, that is.
But what about those unique items that you receive as quest rewards or find during your travels? Will you have to throw them away when the game’s power curve outgrows them? Not in Expeditions: Rome! Unique items can be dismantled to extract unique crafting materials, which can then be used to reforge the items at a higher tier so you can keep using it if you like how it looks. Dismantling a unique item also automatically teaches you the schematic for how to reforge it. Furthermore, if you don’t care so much for its appearance but you like its unique abilities, you can use its unique material to imbue another item that you craft with its special properties.
Sometimes you might even find a unique item as a material that can be used to reforge the item in question. We hinted at this in our DevDiary about side quests – acquiring the schematics that teach you how to reforge such an item can be a small quest unto itself, and those quests are rarely listed in the quest journal.
We’re not just throwing all of this at you right from the start of the game. To unlock crafting in the first place, you have to build an armoury in your outpost, and the level of your outpost determines the tier of items you can craft as well. The crafting doesn’t really unlock its full potential until almost half-way through the game, once you’re really familiar with the way combat works and you can be expected to understand what the different affixes might do. Once you unlock the ability to upgrade your favourite items to a higher tier, you really feel that you’ve reached an important threshold in your power progression curve.
If you want to learn more about crafting or item progression, or about how our skill system was designed, please post your questions as comments on this post, and join us on this week’s DevStream on Wednesday October 20th, at 1:00 PM Eastern / 5:00 PM GMT on the THQ Nordic Twitch Channel: http://twitch.tv/thqnordic. On this week’s stream, Senior Producer Brad Logston will once again host Combat Designer Hans Emil Hoppe Rauer to discuss how crafting fits into the intricate meta systems of Expeditions: Rome.
Until then, Valete!