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?

12 thoughts on “Elemental Absurdity

  1. Ahtchu

    Two thoughts:
    1. I wish [fantasy] games would adhere to strict scientific knowledge a bit less. I know that iron is ferrous and all that, do I need to recreate ver batim HS chemistry in a video game? Can’t we see some sort of imagination w/o the absurdity of unobtainium and its ilk while still being interesting?
    2. I hate- LOATHE- tiered concepts of any kind: PvE lockouts, PvP scaling, and crafting limitations. Your sentiment of I would like to have some sort of base metal… probably iron… remain useful throughout all tiers of crafting is echoed here. Introduce new compounds, new rare elements as progress is made, but don’t render obsolete the ‘old’ stuff. Last I checked, aircraft and being made with carbon fiber but my daily ride sure uses plenty of standard plastic.

    To answer the final question: can’t say I am. Will Torchlight 2 have crafting I wonder? Haven’t looked into it…


  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    And I did not even get to fishing, which I was also thinking about some this weekend. The “your skill level is so low you cannot even cast your rod into this body of water” seems pretty silly. That is one thing I am glad WoW changed. You can fish in any body of water, but you might not have the skill to hook the fish you want from it.


  3. mbp

    Embarrassing confession time: For many years I was sure that Adamantium was named after the pop group who sung “Kings of the Wild Frontier”.


  4. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @mbp – Hey, I still think of Han Solo in his frozen state every time I see “carbonite” in EQII. I wonder if that shows some influence from the SWG team?


  5. pkudude99

    FWIW, Orichalcum is actually pretty easy to find once you’ve stumbled across the areas where it spawns, then you can just go farm it fairly quickly.


  6. bhagpuss

    I’ll start worrying about which metal my armor is made from the day I step into an MMO lake in full plate, plummet straight to the bottom and embed myself in three feet of silt.

    @pkdude99 It was a sad day when they put that agro quest mob next to one of the safe nodes between Freemarch and the White Sands, that’s for sure!


  7. lc

    While its very early in development, I believe pathfinder online plans an Eve style crafting system. We shall see I guess.


  8. Mika Hirvonen (@Hirvox)

    One way of keeping base minerals usable throughout the game is to introduce some kind of refining/transmuting process. Many games do have the iron->steel refinement, but that’s about it. One neat idea is in the Equivalent Exchange mod for Minecraft, where you can transmute large quantities of any base materials to high-grade materials. Having trouble finding a diamond? Mine out a mountain and compress it into one!


  9. Mighty Viking Hamster

    Personally I am quite fond of the current norm. Some changes would be welcome though. I do not see a problem allowing a miner to mine a wider range of nodes from the get go. Also having the low tier ores spawn in high level areas and, more rarely, allow high level ores to spawn in the older zones would make the world feel less ‘constructed’. Of course in a sandbox game such blatant gating would defy the purpose, although some sort of gating always makes the game more interesting if implemented correctly.

    PS: Your frequent references to EVE are making it hard for me not to install that game and give it a go.


  10. Drew

    Fallen Earth is post-apocalyptic, but it’s the closest thing I can think of to what you’re seeking. There are still a few items that would be useful at end-game that probably involve the use of “scrap fasteners” – and bullets, in particular, should still use lead and/or copper. Been awhile since I’ve played, but unless major changes took place, should be the case.


  11. James Prestridge

    Darkfall’s armor and weaponsmithing trades are very similar to what you mentioned. Iron is the base of all types of metal based weapons and armor, and the only type of metal required for the first four tiers of armor/weapon creation. For each tier beyond the fourth, a new type of metal is required (along with Iron).

    Darkfall doesn’t quite reach Eve’s level of “If you have it equipped, another player created it.” Mobs drop equipment of varying levels of effectiveness. But, the mob dropped equivalent of a player created piece of equipment will never be as effective, and so player created equipment is used in the majority of cases.


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