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First thing, does the tree above look like it’s rank 10? …. it feels like it could be that mystical as of yet unseen rank-10 tree.

With the most recent news drop by ArtCraft Studios, the entire Crowfall community has been feasting on the theory crafting of Races, Classes, and Disciplines. You cannot step into the Crowfall Discord without hearing players comparing and contrasting their assumptions of which combinations are going to be the best, and what they think might already need some nerfing. I chime in from time to time, but as of right now I am not worried about what class I will be playing. I am not worried about what race I will be playing. The Disciplines have created a little worry for me and I will touch on those a bit below, but as of right now I am only worrying about gathering.

When Crowfall‘s Kickstarter came out I saw an MMORPG that would embrace a player’s play style, where combat players can find their path the “Play to Crush” where players who love the complexity of crafting can “Play to Crush” and those players that love to be within the world gathering can also “Play to Crush”. So far the development team has shown me how both combat players and crafters have the mechanics to make their mark in the world; I have yet to see that for gatherers.  I am going to discuss a few places where playing a full-time Gatherer (it’s on the general tab so it’s the main option) does not yet feel like it’s “main worthy.”

The community has high hopes for the gathering experience. ArtCraft’s team has experience on MMOs famous for engaging gathering mechanics, so it’s far from misplaced. But right now I see a few roadblocks in the way.

Tools

The mechanic of utilizing rune tools adds a lot to the game, in my opinion. They create a useful material sink and create a healthy dependency to crafters, but right now I am not seeing the full value of the tool stats within the gathering mechanic. If a player has a +35 mining pickaxe and a +5 mining and they attack a rank 4 node, the outcome does not ‘feel’ right to me. More +mining feels like I should finish the rank 4 node faster, and with more +mining my pick should receive significantly less durability damage. What has happened is there an artificial minimum put in place right now, that basically dictates the lowest number of strikes you can have on a node. This number is currently set at 10. Try it out, use an incredibly powerful mining pick or a basic slag made mining pick and then go compare them against the tier 1 mining node. The end result will be ten hits against the node. This is a counter-intuitive design. If someone wants to slaughter a tier 1 node with a god-like mining pick, they should be able to benefit from this.

Holding F

Gathering is one of the most social of all MMO game activities, second only to dancing on top of a mailbox somewhere. In some of the early ‘fly on the wall’ videos Blixtev and Ralph Koster discussed their concept of making sure gathering felt social. In fact, the need to hold down a key to gather was specifically called out by Koster as being an anti-social design. Unfortunately, this has remained in place, despite this previous conversation. The concept was expanded upon by adding in group nodes.  The current gathering mechanic is at odds with those past videos. If I am holding the F key I cannot talk in chat with my friends and I cannot interact with anyone nearby as I toil away. Even voice chat is a burden, as many players will use push-to-talk and the need to hold down two keys to chat is a burdensome design mechanic that directly impacts what fun could be had from “mining”.  This absolutely needs to go away, and soon.

Dizzy Down

I do realize Harvesting is meant to put me at risk, but it seems a little too much at the moment. The forced zoom of the camera limits my field of vision, any attempt to move my characters view too much while targeting the node causes a miss and the dizzy down mechanic if you are attacked is doom.  Jumping off a castle wall has the same effect as being shot while chopping down a tree? Sure I take more damage from the fall, but the resulting dizzy seems a bit heavy handed. We are already more vulnerable as gathering spec’d. We have forsaken many many combat options, more hit points, resistance to crowd control, etc. Why make us even more of an easy kill?

This would be an excellent place to start for the Gathering Disciplines.  A way to either minimize or “retaliate” when ambushed while gathering. Something that gives the gatherer a fighting chance when out in the world.

Training

With the unveiling of the disciplines and the addition of more Alchemy potions we can now see what options there are out there to lift non-gatherers’ skills. While the release of information was outstanding, many of the gatherers I am speaking to feel like the amount of training seems to be too much for too little of a lift. The ability to specialize in one type of ore makes sense for the longevity of the game, but when compared to the combat tree or even the crafting tree the amount of time for someone to become ‘highly trained’ in gathering far exceeds the other general tab options.

We’d like to see the benefits of focused training in gathering be more about the quantity of resources than the efficiency. As a general rule of thumb, efficiency should be easily accessible via gear, potions or passives. Yet training specifically would be all about increasing the quantity of materials. Further, gatherers are social creatures and passing this training on to your group (at least partially) should be possible. Stacking more than one gatherer in a group and receiving additional bonuses is another great idea. We want gatherers to feel needed, and needing more than one of them is also essential to ensuring this profession isn’t replaced by alts.

Passives

For testing the entire player base has been giving gathering passives that simulate a Plentiful 3 bonus, and if you read my first article on gathering you recognize how important this stat is to the gathering mechanic in Crowfall. As of right now, there is no ‘Discipline’ stone tied to this passive, so this passive simulates the best benefits of gathering skills training for non-gatherers while only costing them a passive slot (something Blair indicated he thought was an acceptable cost). At launch, its unlikely this is truly going to be considered a cost as discipline runes, in general, won’t exist right away and will be extremely rare.

Our concern is that something like this will make it into the launch of the game. Where a gatherer has to train on the skill tree to get this bonus, non-crafters can just swap a quick passive and gather with the same skills. Now I recognize that gatherers will have better outcomes as we also get Critical Amount, Critical stats trained, but if the reason for this is to increase the output for the basic player why don’t we lift the base drop rate of all the nodes? It feels like a cure for a problem that shouldn’t exist in the first place.

We’d recommend, like the training section, that non-gatherers be restricted to purely efficiency-type stats from passives and gear. When a skilled gatherer mines a node, it should be obvious because a larger amount of materials drop. When an untrained and unpassived gatherer mines, he’ll break tools so often it’s impossible to come out ahead. With the passive equipped, he no longer goes through tools at a breakneck pace. Instead, he gains the efficiency stats necessary to positively net-gather resources without gaining the best parts of the gatherer skill tree. We feel this is a solid compromise and should go a long way to reinforcing the benefit of the role.

Alts

I will not circle too deep into the VIP versus alternate account dialog, but I do have some concerns on how the current Crowfall game design impacts gatherers. If Anhrez has been training his Wood focused gatherer for 3 months, playing every day he is still not as successful as another player who has trained his alt account for 3.5 months in wood gathering but has not even logged his character in. I realize this is the risk with Passive training, but it still just feels wrong to me. A combat player gets better at their movement, their combat rotation, their options versus different classes as they play. In most cases, a heavily played combat character can outperform a more trained never played character, but with the current format of gathering this is not the case for them. Sure gatherer’s need other soft skills, like contacts, understanding maps, combat skills, etc., but these can be learned on another ‘main.’  The stats of a 3-month wood gatherer compared to the stats of the 3.5-month gatherer in terms of volume and quality of materials and amount of optional materials gathered per swing is a substantial difference.

One recommendation we thought of to solve this is to “hide” some (the best ones) or even all resource nodes from the general population. A gatherer or an explorer would need to “discover” or “prospect” these resources before they could be gathered. By placing the discovery on these characters, it would be virtually impossible for someone to simply switch to an alt account to mine up a particularly juicy node they came across. Instead, a gatherer would need to be a part of every group that goes out into the world. This relegates the role from something you do in your spare time, to something that feels necessary to include in every group.

Summary

The most skilled crafters not only get to mark their wares, but their output will be seen even by their enemies.

The best combat players can duel on EK’s or their names strike fear across the land as they change the course of the campaigns by their skills.

But what about gatherers? Where is our outlet for others to see us crushing?

Recognition within one’s guild is possible, but there is quite a difference between a few kind words for your hard work from a guild leader and recognition as one of the best on the server. At the moment, gathering in Crowfall makes me feel like a utility player in baseball. No team (guild) can be successful without skilled players dedicated to filling the tough roles, but I’ll never be invited to the All-Star game.

The above points all circle around a single central concept. Can a player be a gatherer as a main and not only be vital to a guild and relevant to the campaign (both of which I think Crowfall directly encourages in its systems), but also give the player a fun and engaging play experience? I have logged more than one hundred hours of just gathering, I have seen my full spirit banks be blown away, only to laugh to myself knowing I will fill it back up in no time as gathering is one of my passions.

It is very early in ArtCrafts’s implementation of Discipline stones, alongside their recent Race/Class change. I know a fresh development iteration is on the way for gatherers and my concerns are tied looking to what they did in the past. Still, the concerns are worth sharing with the community because we want this game to succeed and flourish and one of the keys to that is ensuring every role you can play feels meaningful and important.

In the end, I am hopeful for what gathering in Crowfall can become.

Anhrez

<p>Crazed fan of MMO’s crafting/econ mechanics, meta game and making plushies. Looking forward to restarting some streaming soon. real-life Office Space ‘Bob’</p>

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