Elemental Absurdity

Rhenium is a chemical element with the symbol Re and atomic number 75. It is a silvery-white, heavy, third-row transition metal in group 7 of the periodic table. With an estimated average concentration of 1 part per billion (ppb), rhenium is one of the rarest elements in the Earth’s crust.

-Opening of Wikipedia article on Rhenium

Over the weekend I was thinking about the strangeness of some MMORPG crafting systems as I was out looking for some Orichalcum ore with my fresh level 50 rogue in Rift.

One of the aspects of the tiered harvesting and crafting systems favored by games like World or Warcraft, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, and Rift is that it really puts a burden on the person in charge of making up names for each new level of raw materials.

For example, in EverQuest II, which adheres to a hard and fast “new stuff every 10 levels” model, here is the list of metals from which you craft armor and weapons:

  • Level 1-9 tin (bronze)
  • Level 10-19 iron (blackened iron)
  • Level 20-29 carbonite (steel)
  • Level 30-39  feyiron (feysteel)
  • Level 40-49 fulginate(ebon)
  • Level 50-59 indium (cobalt)
  • Level 60-69 adamantine (xegonite)
  • Level 70-79 ferrite (incarnadine)
  • Level 80-89 titanium (brellium)
  • Level 90     rhenium (tungsten)

Those are the primary metals, with the rare versions (which make better items) in parens.  The level indicates what level of crafter you need to be in order to use the material and well as the level range of the gear that can be made from it. (Data taken from a great chart at EQ2 Traders Corner.)

This is not an unusual stack of metals.  WoW and Rift do the same.  We seem to get tin, copper, and iron into the mix pretty quickly and then quickly launch into the realm of the very rare or mythical.  LOTRO tries to walk a line between rare and common by coming up with variations on iron ore, as well as some tin and a something called skram.

LOTRO Ore – Most Wanted

So while the thought of armor crafted from adamant of some sort is cool, the whole thing does seem to be get to the point of silliness pretty quickly.

Take, for example, rhenium, whose rarity is attested to at the top of this post.  I haven’t been on EQII for a while, but I would bet that on the market right now, rhenium is cheaper in price and more plentiful in supply than any number of the more common items down the stack.  This used to be a way I made some quick money in EQII, checking to see which mid-tier harvestables were scarce on the market and then run out and collect some.

And, leaving aside the rarity factor and the technology required to fashion rhenium (a furnace, hammer, and anvil aren’t going to cut it), when it comes down to it, some sort of steel alloy is going to make for a better weapon or base for a suit of armor nine times out of ten.

With all that in mind, I would kind of like to see a fantasy MMORPG go down the EVE Online route for crafting materials.  I would like to have some sort of base metal… probably iron… remain useful throughout all tiers of crafting, ala tritanium, which is the common basic building material for most things in EVE online.  And then you could introduce different alloys as the crafter’s skill progressed.

This would also make sense in the economic aspect of the game as even new players could harvest iron… which I would imagine would be seeded as a harvestable throughout the game… and then turn around and sell it on the market because the demand for it would be there.

You would have to increase the amount of iron required as the crafter advanced to keep demand up.  Perhaps ones advanced harvesting skill would be required to extract less common materials needed for alloys, something that would be more likely to appear in higher level zones.

It might even be interesting see a full-out EVE style crafting system in a fantasy environment, where all the base equipment is player created.

Unfortunately, for most games, crafting is a second tier activity, there to serve the “quest/kill/level” aspect that is central to the game.  And that does not promote a sandbox-like crafting environment.

I know that, despite the fact that I pick up some form of crafting/harvesting in every game that allows it, crafting has never been the prime motivator for me.  I probably would not go play an MMO solely for the crafting aspect, so something like A Tale in the Desert is out.  Combat is a requirement for me.

Is anybody doing a hack and slash fantasy MMORPG with crafting like I brought up?