Items, their attributes, and how boots broke my quest
One of the main mechanics of The Last Craftsman is the attributes attached to each item.
For instance, this is Lumber
Lumber can be used directly as is, but it also has secondary characteristics displayed at the bottom of the tooltip. Lumber counts as 2 Wood and 4 Fuel. More often than not, the game will require one of these attributes instead of the specific item. Here's an example quest that requires 1 Fish item, any item that has the Fish attribute is acceptable.
When I started designing this mechanic I had 3 goals in mind.
The first goal was to give players a multitude of paths towards completing objectives. Players are free to prioritize the aspects of the game that are most important to them. They can choose to be efficient, cost effective, creative, or gravitate towards their own preference. For instance, if the player is tasked with delivering 5 Shiny items, they can go fishing because some fish are Shiny, or they can go mining because Gems are also Shiny, or they can melt sand into glass which is Shiny as well. As players unlock new abilities and discover more things, the number of paths will increase.
The second goal was to maintain a sense of discovery. The mechanic allows the game to task players with retrieving specific items without telling them that the specific item exists. If the player needs to find a Mushroom, it would ruin the surprise if the game just showed them all of the acceptable types of Mushrooms, especially since one of the Mushrooms is actually a fish.
The final goal, the most important one, is that I wanted this mechanic to spin completely out of my control. I wanted to lose track of which attributes were on items, and create ridiculous solutions that make the player feel like they're cheating the system.
This goal was the last one to fall into place during recent playtesting, and I could not be happier about it.
In the game, players can take contracts from a board in the center of town. The contracts reward players for delivering certain items and are the main form of progression in the game. One contract comes from an NPC called Dr. Moth.
The good doctor has run out of bandages and needs 6 Fabric to make more. The intended route to completing this contract is to craft a Loom. The Loom can turn items with the Plant attribute into Canvas Cloth, but it can also turn Tricotton into Cotton Cloth. So if the player has access to that Tricotton material, they can complete the contract more easily. It was meant as a way of teaching players about the value of planting their own materials, because you can only obtain Tricotton by purchasing seeds from the General Store.
But I forgot about boots...
You see fishing sometimes results in players just catching garbage, one such garbage item is an Old Boot, which is MADE of Fabric, so it also counts. I had originally added some arbitrary attributes to the fishing garbage just as a way to make them more interesting, with the intention of revisiting the idea later on.
Given that the Loom isn't available right away, some players decided to deliver a handful of dirty boots to a medical professional for him to use as bandages. In a real world scenario, this would be deeply irresponsible. Inside of the game however, it's a totally viable way to complete the quest.
I love it.
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