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Butchers, Bakers and Candlestick Makers

It's time for our 10th Development Blog—and boy was this one a wang-dang-doodle to get written.

For starters, the whole Goblinworks team descended on Seattle two weeks ago to shoot footage for the video project we've mentioned previously. This involved two days working with an awesome crew of local pros who helped us with lighting, sound and camera work. We conducted a series of on-camera interviews with most of the folks involved with Pathfinder Online, and we shot some fun footage of me sneaking around Paizo's warehouse (and managed to avoid having the neighbors call the cops to report suspicious activity to boot).

Mark has relocated his family (and two cats!) to the Seattle area and is setting up our studio and getting the equipment configured so we can start producing real code. It has been an incredible journey to get to this point, and Mark has been fantastic taking charge of this next big step. And while he was hitting the ground running, I went on vacation. :)

Good fortune saw me winging my way down to the Netherlands Antilles with my wife for a short break on St. Maarten. Luckily, I had a pretty good internet connection and was able to keep up with the workflow. In between working on drafts of the script for our video project, answering questions on the forums, and tangling with the lawyers regarding our ongoing licensing and contract work, I managed to get in four glorious SCUBA dives and I caught up on a bunch of Pathfinder products.

On Monday of this week, I was all set to dig back into the mountain of work when my trusty home computer died. So instead of doing the work I had planned to do, I spent Monday and most of Tuesday rebuilding my digital office. This blog was finalized Tuesday night and Vic only had a couple hours to edit and revise it prior to sending it to Chris Lambertz for HTML markup and publication. They're critical parts of the machine that keeps the Goblinworks engine humming, and without them, you wouldn't be reading these essays. My thanks to them for picking up the slack in the schedule.

As per normal, what you're about to read represents the current state of our design and plans, but they are subject to change with feedback from the community and future evolution of our design and playtesting. We're always listening to what the community has to say about these blogs, and we hope you'll join the conversation on the messageboards!

The Means of Production

Pathfinder Online is based around the idea that virtually every object in the game world that player characters interact with is created by other characters. While not everyone who plays the game will make things, everyone will be using things that other people have made. Since many players will spend substantial amounts of time interacting with the production system—and many players will build characters around it—it needs to be interesting, engaging, and robust.

There are three major components of the player character production system:

  1. Harvesting: getting stuff out of the environment and into the production system
  2. Processing: preparing resources for use in finished goods
  3. Crafting: making the items that everyone will be using

We treated each of these as something like a game within a game. Characters can be developed over time to become extremely diverse in their competencies in each area, or can narrowly specialize from the top to the bottom of a whole production chain. Some players will choose to have their characters gain a small degree of ability in one of these areas so that they have a way to make additional income when not adventuring or fulfilling contracts that take them into harm's way. And we want to find ways to make each of these systems the hub of a network of content that connects player characters together economically and politically. Our design goals here are maximizing human interaction and encouraging the players to create content for one another.

A Farmer's Life

It all starts with harvesters. The Pathfinder Online world is filled with valuable resources waiting to be discovered and extracted. Harvesting is the mechanism that converts this resource potential in the game into the feedstock of the production system.

(In this blog's diagrams, the biohazard symbol denotes things that typically come from PvE content; the hammer-and-sickle represents things that come from non-dangerous harvesting. Green is food, orange is coin, grey is natural resources, and purple is organic or manufactured components. Red indicates magical items. Blended colors represent multiple types of component.)

When engaged in harvesting, you don't just walk up to a rock and start whacking on it with a pickaxe, or kneel down and strip leaves off a likely shrub. Instead, you're going to be engaged in managing an operation that will require protection, logistics, and oversight.

When you find a resource that you want to harvest, the first thing you'll do is construct a camp. Camps are fairly simple to build and require very basic components; the most basic camps can be built with materials that can be purchased from NPCs, so there's always a way to get started, even for new characters. The more complex (and valuable) a resource is, though, the more complicated the camp must be to extract it. As complexity increases, so does the requirement for skills and merit badges to complete the construction, and the components that are needed to extract higher-valued resources will usually be produced primarily by other player characters.

The Commoners

Pathfinder Online is filled with characters that have a big impact on the world but are rarely (if ever) seen. These are the common folk. Think of them like the Sims in Sim City: you'll see the results of their actions, but you won't usually interact with them directly. Common folk live in and around a given hex, and are the source of labor used by player character activities in that area.

When you construct a camp, it will begin to attract common folk who will perform the work of harvesting the resource you've located. Keeping the common folk happy and productive is a big part of your job as a harvester. They need to be kept safe—if the camp comes under attack by monsters or by other player characters, the common folk will flee and no work will be undertaken until the area is again secure. Common folk extracting medium and higher level resources may also require you to keep them stocked with consumable tools and supplies.

Camp Facilities

The camp itself is a persistent structure. It can be found by anyone exploring in the hex. Therefore, you need to defend it against aggression. Camps can resist a certain amount of physical damage, but if the attacking forces are not driven off and the camp repaired, it can be destroyed, and that will end your harvesting operation.

Camps also house storage for the extracted resource. The complexity of your camp will dictate the amount of storage available, and when it's full, no further materials will be harvested. You'll need to convey your harvest from your camp to another location using a wide variety of transport options. Beware: hijacking a wagonload of material may be just as efficient as harvesting it in the first place, so you'll want to guard your logistics chain!

Camp Operations

When the common folk are happy and productive, the resource the camp is extracting will slowly deplete. More than one camp can be erected to target the same resource, so you may find yourself in competition with others to get as much harvested as fast as you can.

The act of harvesting creates all sorts of commotion and that attracts danger. Monstrous creatures will regularly appear to threaten the camp, and it will be up to you and your camp guards to kill them or drive them away. Effective harvesters will usually have good connections with characters who know how to fight orcs, dragons, and all sorts of magical beasts!

Your camp will function even when you are not present, although it may be less efficient without your direct supervision. The number of camps you can manage simultaneously will be affected by your skills and merit badges.

Scarcity

Generally speaking, the more common—and less valuable—a resource is, the more likely it is to be found near secure NPC Settlements. Different kinds of resources are found in different types of terrain, and you won't find every resource in any given hex. Instead, resources are scattered all over the map, and you'll need to make choices about the risk, distance, and complexity of the work you want your character to be doing, and weigh that against how your work will generate income when you sell your harvest on the market.

The Middlemen

Once a resource has been harvested and moved to a market, it will be purchased by a character that is able to process the resource into an intermediate commodity. These bulk supplies will be used by crafters to make finished goods.

Resources are often refined and combined in various ways during processing. Simple resources may be processed directly into a crafting component, but more complex resources may go through multiple stages of processing before being used in a crafting job.

Infrastructure

The most important thing processors need is a suitable place to work. Settlements have a variety of buildings that handle processing jobs. Processing facilities have a maximum amount of workspace for processing jobs and a certain rate of workflow that dictates how quickly a job can be completed. These buildings can be advanced by their owners to unlock more complex processing options.

The efficiency of a processing job is a function of the quality of the building, the attitudes of the common folk who work in that settlement, and the skills and merit badges of the character overseeing the work.

Supply Chain Management

As a processor, your character will be focused on many different roles. You'll need to watch the market to determine the right time—and price—to buy resources from the harvesters. And you'll need to watch the flow of finished goods to estimate the demand for intermediate components. The larger and more complex your operation, the wider a net you'll need to cast to capture the best value for your efforts. That means you'll be moving a lot of material from place to place, and that means you'll need to be ready to manage networks of caravans, guards, and potentially, agents to buy and sell on your behalf.

Processing jobs require some amount of real time to complete. When you set up a job, you'll be given an estimate of the time the job will be complete. This estimate may be more or less accurate depending on the situation in the settlement where the job is being fulfilled. Attacks on the settlement or other factors that impact the common folk in a negative way will slow down the rate of completion and make it likely that you'll overshoot your scheduled completion time. On the other hand, if conditions improve while the job is underway, the common folk may be able to deliver ahead of schedule.

Over time we expect that processors will become deeply involved in settlement management and in construction to ensure that the facilities they need are available and configured to meet their specifications.

Arbitrage

Because resources come in a variety of rarity levels and geographic locations, processors are going to be focusing on arbitrage—the method of making an income by finding places where a need exists and filling it efficiently. You'll soon see how the distances that separate the locations of resources factor in the way the price of those resources changes with the travel and transport required to get them to the places they're needed for processing. The canny processor is always thinking about how to forge alliances to get supplies in and out of areas where they personally may be persona non grata—or where an inconvenient war or monstrous humanoid incursion is escalating!

Some Assembly Required

At the top of the production system are the crafters. These are characters who have the ability to utilize a crafting facility to convert components into finished goods that can be used by other characters to accomplish useful work. Weapons, armor, meals, potions, wands, repair kits, construction components, kit and tack, tools, and many more products will come to market from the crafter's workshops.

As a crafter, you'll need to seek out knowledge to ply your trade. You'll be searching for the training needed to master skills and earn merit badges associated with each type of product you wish to produce. Over time, you'll learn more exotic variations and ways to fine-tune items to meet specific market needs. Good crafters are a combination of scholar and smith; you'll learn by doing, and will constantly seek more knowledge to expand your skill set.

Input and Output

The crafter needs to purchase a wide variety of intermediate components produced by processors. Each type of good you wish to make will require a variety of components. The more complex the final product, the more complex the ingredients of the job. Substituting lower-quality components may work, but the result will be less valuable than the average example of that type of good. Likewise, finding ways to use higher-quality components may lead a crafter to producing exceptional work that will carry a price premium.

Once the necessary materials are assembled, you'll engage the services of a workshop to complete the job. These workshops are buildings found in settlements, and they are staffed by common folk. Unlike processors, who may be able to operate many jobs in many locations, crafters will need to be present and engaged with the task of production to ensure that it is successful. From time to time during the crafting job, you'll be informed that your assistance is needed, usually in the form of acquiring and supplying unanticipated components—which may be available only in distant locations or may be derived from the bodies of various esoteric beasts or rarely visited locales! There may be more active engagement with the crafting job as well; we envision many sorts of "mini-games" that crafters will participate in to ensure their jobs are completed.

If you're not available when a crafting job requires your attention, work will be halted until you're able to unblock the logjam. Operating several crafting jobs simultaneously will require crafters who are able to juggle many overlapping demands on their time effectively!

Also, like the work of processors, things that affect the settlement and the common folk will impact the pace of crafting jobs.

The Price Is Right

Once your crafting job has been completed, you'll need to move the finished goods to market. This means that transport will be required, along with the necessary guards and scouts to keep the caravan safe. Wise crafters will also need to know where the best price can be had for their goods—something that will change fluidly based on conditions throughout the Crusader Road. Sites of battles will be great places to liquidate war material. Settlements near known adventuring sites will likely have a brisk market in the consumables adventurers crave. And whenever a hex is being developed, people will want to create new buildings and structures which in turn require many types of components and support that must be provided by crafters.

In Closing

We know that many players just want to strap on swords, fire off some spells, and get into as much trouble as they can. But the beauty of the MMO experience is that the range of options for characters—and the kinds of people who are attracted to the game—is wide and complex. People who are seeking an immersive economic experience will find it at the heart of Pathfinder Online. A wise man once said that warfare in the markets can be just as exciting and just as challenging as battles on the field. That's the spirit we're going to strive to capture.

Discuss this blog on paizo.com.