# Why We Analyze

One of the biggest hurdles you will face as a system designer is learning that analysis, even the best kind, is not the guide to good things. It can serve you in many ways, of course, all of them necessary, but it is only a tool. It can tell you where you are stepping off the rails. It can tell you that something needs to be cut, and where best to cut it. It can tell you a fight is too long, or an arena too small; a boss is too hard, or monster too easy. It can tell you all those things, but it can’t necessarily tell you where to build that arena, or how to design that boss.

Analysis is not constructive, it is reductive.

All of my analytical tools (The Rule of Three, Pacing Charts, Principles of Boss Design, Cast Archetypes, and this Crafting Model) create a bulwark against which I crash my current implementations, or my budding ideas; but they are not a roadmap for starting the journey to good things. This is important to understand, for they can’t do your job. What they can do, however, is create pointed questions.

“What is the intent of this crafting system?”

The first and most important question you must ask, and the first to showcase the purpose of analysis. The answer to this question need not fall within the five (SCATE) I have defined, but once you have decided on the focus for your crafting system you look back and see how it fits. Let’s say you’re making a game about Sky Pirates. You might define your system’s intent like so:

Players should be able to build and customize their own flying pirates ships. The system should be a driving force in enticing the player to explore the fantastical world.

A nice goal. The intent of Exploration is clear, but this is where the analysis comes in handy, for there could be secondary intents that are not nearly as opaque. Let’s run through our 5 intents and see if anything jumps out.

# Social

  • This is going to be a single player game, so this is unlikely.

# Combat

  • Are players going to be able to fight other pirate ships? Likely. We want the system to be integral in players building their own ships, so we have stumbled upon a new focus for the system.

# Access

  • Is the system going to control the access to different areas of the world? We lack the information to answer this one at this time, but it has created a question that we must answer at some point.

# Trade

  • Again, this is a single player game, so trade doesn’t necessarily seem like a focus for this system. The player could certainly trade with the ingame merchants, games like Port Royale do this, but that’s rarely as exciting as trading with real people. This is another one that we could revisit.

Already our analysis is generating new questions about the game.

  • Certainly players will be selling and buying items from merchants in the game, but are we going to make trade with in game merchants a focus of the game?
  • Should the crafting system be used to control access to areas of the game? And if not, how are we going to handle that?
  • What combat options are we going to incorporate into the ship crafting?

The answer to some of these questions might be unclear, but their formulation is the important first step. This is your tools doing their job: First you build, then you test. This testing leads to more pointed questions.

“What kind of resources are in this crafting system?”

An important question, obviously, and it can be intimidating. But we learned previously that we have two major focuses in the system, Exploration and Combat, and that helps to narrow the field. Further help can be made by studying games with similar intentions.

Game In Out Prod Unique Type S C A T E Fun
Dead Rising 2 70 1 51 50 HCL 0 2 0 0 2 3
Far Cry 3 28 2 53 53 HSL 0 2 2 0 2 4
Fallout 3 28 1 7 7 HSL 0 2 0 0 2 2
Fallout New Vegas 180 3 209 160 HSL 0 2 0 0 2 4
Minecraft 79 3 162 160 HCL 2 2 2 1 2 5
TES: Morrowind (Alchemy) 105 179 78 78 HCH 0 2 1 0 2 4

It seems we have a fairly common trend in our input streams. But it’s not just the high number of resources that can be important to exploration, if you remember. When we took a closer look into Minecraft we discovered that there was a system within the system that was based around 5 base items. These 5 base items were integral to the exploration as it gave you a clear drive to go out and find new things that you intuitively knew would fit within the items you were building. We also learned, though, that this was only possible with the complex manufacturing process that exists in Minecraft. However, as we can also see, Minecraft has many more intentions than the system we wish to build. Perhaps there are better games to look at.

Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas present an interesting study, as they are not only very similar games but also closely match the intent behind our crafting system. More interesting, despite their similarities in crafting functionality, I far preferred the experience in New Vegas over the experience in Fallout 3. In both games you have the ability to construct weapons, which act as centerpieces of the system. In New Vegas, though, you have a lot of little secondary bits and bobs that you can make, like food at a camp fire. This creates new questions.

We originally stated that we want players to build and craft their own pirate ships. These are definitely the set pieces of the system. But do we want to extend the system even further with smaller stuff to build?

Do we want to keep our original intentions and focus on simple recipes, or do we increase the focus on the crafting system and have a more complex crafting system?

Hopefully you are seeing the pattern to this process. Questions lead to analysis, which leads to more questions. The analysis can, at times, be the answer to your questions, but it is up to you, the designer, to propose those questions and find their solutions.

# Conclusion

This model is not a set of rules about crafting systems. Indeed there are many games that will refuse to fit any mold, and their success is built upon their ability to break that mold. I would never advocate the rigid application of this model, for it can be very easy to lose sight of what you are trying to accomplish. Tools are there to help you; they will work, and, in all likelihood, they will make your job easier. But tools can also be set aside.

Set aside like the assumptions I brought with me to this article. I like crafting systems. I like the idea of them. Two months ago if you had asked me the qualities of a good crafting system, or if you had asked me to design one in earnest, I would have focused on the manufacturing process and the number of items that you can make with it — more is better, right?

What we’ve learned, however, is that the success of a crafting system comes in its ability to fit within the larger context of the entire game. It must match with the goals of the game you are trying to make. The Dead Rising 2 system would make no sense in a game like Far Cry, just as the Elder Scrolls alchemy system would make no sense in a game like Minecraft. Different games need different crafting systems. More interesting, the good ones manage to hide systems within systems.

Crafting is about turning resources into goods through some form of manufacturing. It’s that simple. The analysis allowed us to go deeper and understand things a little better, which revealed that we can look at them in a archetypal way. The analysis also gave us pointed questions we can ask when trying to design a crafting system. Analyzing systems is an integral part in being a systems designer. Numbers are cool! They can talk to you. But they can only say something meaningful if you choose to listen to them. Analysis can’t replace a good designer, but a good designer can’t exists without analysis.