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Crafting Games: How to make them feel good.

Published on 2019-02-04, by in Game Design.

Games that got it right:

  • Minecraft
  • Don’t Starve
  • Subnautica

Games that missed the mark

  • Crosscode
  • ???

Crosscode is a fun top down Sci-Fi ARPG with great storytelling. But I wasn’t getting into the crafting n collecting experience and I think I figured out why. In Subnautica , Minecraft and Don’t Starve you have a very core crafting experience let’s compare the experiences between them vs Crosscode.

Predictable drop rates: If you kill an eye fish you get an eye fish, hit a tree, you get wood. You see a gold vein, mine gold you get gold. Everything is as it seems and you always get what you expect.

It’s super easy to see the resource that you are going to get because it looks like that particular resource.

Cross code on the other hand has random drop rates on everything, bushes, loot boxes and enemies. Hit a bush, maybe you get bush metal or something else, many times you get nothing. So it’s harder to predict when you will get something, what you will get; thus it’s harder to remember where to get what you need.

Then once you have enough, you have to find a specific vendor who will combine those specific ingredients into something else, plus you have to pay them to do so.

In Core-crafting games you go to your crafting table and it opens up a whole bunch of possibilities for your to craft. Not just 1 or 2. Later you also craft new crafting tables which let you craft more specific or advanced items. Note however were still crafting many items from a few tables, not a few items from many tables.

In Crosscode its a text only menu item as well, it feels less-tangible to the player. In Subnautica when you craft something it creates the 3d model in front of you, then it goes to your visual inventory or you can drop it on the ground. It always looks the same no matter where it is and it feels tangible.

Subnautica Inventory

As opposed to core-crafting games which let you do it anywhere or anywhere you built your “crafting station”.

Whereas Crosscode doesn’t really have a model for each thing you craft. This spreadsheet-y less tangible method makes it hard to remember what you want to craft next, what you just crafted.

Unlike Don’t Starve and Subnautica I’m not crafting things I consume regularly (food, water, fire, etc). So right now I want to upgrade my weapons so I need those materials, but then once I have that I want the next weapon up which is completely different materials won by fighting progressively harder monsters.

I no longer care about what I just learned to craft or those base materials.

So in summary for a great core crafting experience:

  • Drop rates should be very predictable (near 100%)
  • Raw goods should match their models in the world (trees = wood, gold = gold).
  • Avoid having 3 different possible outcomes for 1 model, unless it drops all those things everytime.
  • Materials should have a longer shelf life or baseline, and still be useable as the game progresses.
  • If possible, what you craft should feel tangible such as by having its own model in play and in inventory.
  • One table/vendor/menu item should craft many things. Avoid having only 2-3 items craftable per location/npc.

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