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Iron and Coke, Chromium Steel

The player-driven economy is at the very heart of the game design for Pathfinder Online. The economy and the drive for territorial control are two sides of the same coin. Why do you need to control territory? To sustain and expand your economic resources. Why do you need to expand your economic resources? To improve and advance the infrastructure of your territory. Working in a feedback loop, these elements create the engine of drama that gives players something interesting to do within the virtual world of Pathfinder Online.

A key aspect of the player-driven economy is crafting. Our long-term goal is that virtually every meaningful object in the game will be crafted by player characters. The weapons you fight with, the armor you wear, the tools you use, and the buildings you construct will all be derived from the efforts of player characters.

When we think about crafting we break that process down into three parts: harvesting, processing, and crafting. Harvesting is the "faucet" that injects value into the game as players kill monsters and NPCs, and find/extract resources in the environment. Processing is the procedure whereby a raw harvested material is converted into an intermediate component. Finally, crafting is the procedure whereby components are converted into finished goods ready for use.

Harvesting

When you extract a resource, you get an object with a concentration of 50% to 100%—the more concentrated, the better. A variety of factors may influence the concentration of the resource you extract, but a major factor will be the quality of the source; some sources produce more concentrated resources than others.

You'll have to move the resource you harvest to a settlement where it can be processed. Raw resources with higher concentrations mean less bulk to move, so the efficiency of your combined harvesting and transport operation is going to be affected by the type of source you harvest as well as other factors (some character dependent).

In your inventory (and on the market), you'll see resources in any of four increments of concentration... so, when looting a body, take the 100% concentrate before the 50%.

Processing

The concentration of a resource does not limit its use in processing jobs. When you use a resource in a processing job you just have to provide enough of the required resource to meet the job's requirements. Copper ore at 50% concentration works just as good as copper ore at 100% concentration—you'll just need twice as much of the 50% copper for the same job.

Resources are assigned to tiers, and processed components have tiers as well. There's a rough correlation between the tier of a component and the tier of the resources needed to make that component. Some components of a higher tier are produced with two or more lower-tier resources, but those are exceptions to the general rule.

Processing, at least initially, will be job-based. You visit a facility in a settlement that can do the kind of processing job you want to do, you'll wait until that facility has time to accept your job, and you'll then provide the resources required for the job, plus whatever other preconditions are needed. The job will be accepted, queued for delivery, and you then pay whatever fees are required and receive an estimate of when the job will be completed. Your character will likely not be involved in actually doing any part of the work.

At this stage, we introduce the concept of "quality." Quality is driven by your character skill and modified by a wide variety of factors. Generally speaking, you won't need to know much about how quality is calculated (but we will make that information available for those who want to eke out the maximum possible advantage!). The "behind the scenes" quality system generates variants of the components that you produce when processing resources. These variants are identified with a "+X" value. You process iron ore and coal to make steel ingots, and depending on how much iron and coal you use, your skill, the facilities you are working with, and other factors, you'll produce steel ingots +0, steel ingots +1, steel ingots +2, steel ingots +3, and so on.

In your inventory (and on the market) you'll see these processed components grouped by "+" value. When looting a body, take the highest "+" components first.

Crafting

The mechanics of crafting will work like the mechanics of processing, at least at first. You'll take a recipe and all the necessary components to a facility in a settlement that can do the work you want to do, load it into a job, and after paying necessary fees you'll be given a delivery date. To initiate certain crafting jobs you'll need to have achieved prerequisite levels of skills and you'll need to have learned the prerequisite recipes.

The crafting system gives you some control over the finished good based on the "+" variables of the components you are using. When you gain access to a recipe to craft a good, you'll also be able to see what variations of that good you can make based on the "+" of your components. Generally speaking, "+" materials add keyword slots to the finished item. For example, a steel longsword could gain the sharp and balanced keywords if the components used in the crafting job have a total of "+2" in modifiers.

Remember that Pathfinder Online items use a system of character-dependent keywords instead of the properties you might be familiar with from the tabletop game. Wielding a sharp balanced steel longsword doesn't have any beneficial effect unless the character has an ability that can use sharp or balanced items. Since you won't benefit from objects with keywords you can't use, you won't want to pay extra for items that have them, which means there will be a market for items within a given type with no, some, or many keywords. Pathfinder Online is not a game where you always want to get "the best" item and "not the best" items are trash.

We are considering the ability for crafters to use "+" modifiers to enhance the durability of an item rather than adding keywords. This would allow crafters to make a variety of goods usable by the same character with a range of prices.

The Consumption Side of the Economy

In order to make this crafting system work, we need players to be "consuming" the output. Some demand will come as items are destroyed or lost. Some will be driven by consumables that characters utilize to get short-term mechanical advantages. And some will be a factor of upkeep costs for infrastructure—running a settlement will require constant inputs of a wide variety of materials.

Our goal, as the "central bankers" of Pathfinder Online, is to use our power to affect the faucets that inject resources into the game and our power to affect the drains that remove crafted materials from the game to create a dynamic economy. We want to strike a balance where neither inflation nor deflation create unnecessary distortion, and where resources are scarce enough to be worth fighting for but not so scarce that no one can afford to take any risk.

The Design Objectives

We want people to be able to harvest from the first day they create a character until the last day they play that character. Harvesting is something useful you can always do. You can become more efficient at harvesting, and you may be able to harvest more resources with more character skill, but there is always going to be a way to make some income by harvesting even the lowest-level resources. We want the lowest-level resources to be a major part of the economy so that they are always valuable.

We want players to have to make trades to create many of the processed components and finished crafted items. We want to avoid situations where settlements are self-sufficient, able to harvest all the resources they need in the local area. Instead, we want to create a situation where processing and crafting involve resources that come from many different regions, so that trade is required for the economy to function. You will need to consider how to obtain the supplies of resources you need, and factor that into your choices about war and peace.

We want players to have the ability to demonstrate mastery of the crafting system by creating items with a wide variety of power levels. We want to correlate time invested in advancing crafting skill with the ability to create the most powerful items. But we also want to enable crafters to make items all across the power spectrum so that they can match market needs at a variety of price points.

Sensitivities

We are concerned about the complexity implied by this system when it's reduced to inventory lists and markets. Obviously the potential exists to shock players with huge lists of similar goods with very minor variations, making buying and selling decisions difficult. Our plan currently is to tackle this problem with UI design so you can filter and sort these lists quickly and understandably.

We are concerned about the trap many MMOs fall into, where portions of the spectrum of the economy become worthless due to elements of the game design. We want to identify and avoid this trap wherever possible. If you can harvest a resource, process a component, or craft an item, there should be a corresponding market demand for that activity. And we are aware of the danger of a powerful settlement "cornering the market" on a part of the economy critical for the health of the other settlements. We will be watchful for such outcomes, and will be prepared to take action to resolve them for the good of the game if necessary.

Final Words

This is PaizoCon week! The Goblinworks team will be presenting a "State of the Game" message on Saturday at noon at the convention. We'll likely have some or all of that presentation formatted for replay soon after the event.

We look forward to seeing you at the show!

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