System crafting in Cursed Lands

Original author: Stanislav Costiuc
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The article is a text transcript of a video supported through Patreon's author: www.patreon.com/farlands
Recently, much attention has been paid to system gameplay . Despite the fact that system games have existed for a long time, today there are many informed discussions about games that create emergent gameplay , allowing players to experiment with rules and mechanics. Many of these games have a crafting system, and although it seems that for crafting it would also be natural to develop in a systematic way, for some reason this did not happen.

Basically, crafting is a direct exchange of a specific set of resources for a specific object. The specific implementation of this exchange may be different: in some games for crafting you first need a recipe, in others the player can experiment and open recipes on his own. There are games in which recipes do not require specific resources, but resources of a certain type, or some kind of skill to perform an exchange. Some games have groove mechanics in which you can insert objects, further changing the properties of objects. In some, the player is allowed to create many objects, but at the core of most of the crafting systems is to spend certain resources to get a specific object.

But actually there is a game in which system crafting was implemented 18 years ago. “Cursed Lands” (Evil Islands) is a Russian tactical RPG released in 2000. I played it when I was nine years old, and it was thanks to the Cursed Lands that I wanted to become a game designer. I can talk about this game all day. In it you can find an interesting mix of mechanics, an exciting plot, great characters, amazing music and one of the best soundings I've met in my entire life. In any case, if you play the original Russian version, and not the English translation. Yes, and this is how the voice of the protagonist sounds in translation. My deepest regrets.

Many aspects of the game at that time were very innovative. Today they look pretty standard, but the Cursed Lands crafting system still has no analogues. At least, as far as I know - if you know a game that studied crafting in a way similar to Evil Islands, then let me know, I will be very glad to see this.


Let's get started with the subject interface. This is the inventory of the protagonist. We can take his armor and take it apart into pieces. As you can see, in fact, it is a combination of two types of components: drawing and materials.


Drawings are the basis of each item, they determine the basic characteristics and category of materials used. Each material has its own characteristics that multiply the basic characteristics of objects.

For example, there are six metal materials: bronze, iron, steel, mithril, adamantium and meteorite. Bronze is the cheapest, but also the heaviest. Mifril protects better and is easier. A meteorite provides the best protection, but it can not be found in stores and you have to get it from the most powerful enemies in the game.


So, for this armor, 8 pieces of material are required, and I can replace all the iron with the obtained steel, press the button and voila! I now have a fragment of steel armor. Since the materials are factors, their quantity required by the drawing is important - this means that this armor will provide greater protection, but at the same time it will be the heaviest.

Now let's imagine that an iron sword fell from the enemy. I will not grieve that it is made of iron, and I do not need to worry about finding a recipe for creating a steel version of this sword. If I have enough steel or enough money to buy it, I can simply disassemble this iron sword and create a steel sword out of it. Great, right? It also means that you actually never lose the collected resources, with the exception of money, of course - you can reapply them there, they will be needed.

It is worth noting that in “Cursed Lands” it is impossible to combine materials in the subject. That is, I can’t craft any of 4 pieces of iron and 4 pieces of steel. This can be considered a drawback, or it can be considered a good side, allowing to smooth the learning curve. In fact, everything can be quite confusing.

For example, each material has its own weakness. Metal is weak against lightning, so if you are in an area where many enemies cast lightning spells, it may be worth crafting fur armor from blue troll fur. In total, the game has 33 materials, 35 drawings of weapons and 124 drawings of armor. It seems that by RPG standards this is NOT VERY much until you realize that there are actually 686 possible items for crafting in the game, which, thanks to the modular nature of the system, are very easy for the player to master.


But while we talked only about objects. But the game also has spells. Like objects, spells consist of their own drawing base and runes. However, the difference is that you are not limited to one type of rune, as was the case with materials for items. The process of creating spells in Cursed Lands is more complicated than creating armor. In my opinion, this is justified as the next stage of the learning curve of the game crafting system.

As with items, each spell has basic characteristics that can be modified with runes. For example, take this lightning discharge spell. We can use runes that increase the distance of action, damage, or even allow you to attack several targets at once! But here you need to be careful so as not to damage your friends, you can insert a rune that only targets enemies. This type of rune is also useful for spells that have an area of ​​effect. However, when you insert runes, the spell becomes more complicated and requires more stamina (as well as skill points invested in magic), so you can try to insert a rune that reduces mana consumption. In the end, you can customize the spell exactly to your needs, and it's just great. There are only 30 spells in the game: attackers, защитные и изменяющие характеристики, и их можно использовать множеством различных способов.

We can already see that just by designing the entire crafting system as divided into basic and auxiliary components, you can create many gameplay options that are easy to understand if you are suitable in terms of modular fragments, rather than a wide range of possible results.

But there are some really cool stuff in The Cursed Lands. The character has stamina, which is used for spells. Items have energy, which depends on the base item and the material used. Why am I talking about this? Because items can also create spells - they can be combined.


Want to make a piece of armor that will heal you every time you strike? It can be arranged. How about a helmet that increases your viewing range? There is one. Should a weakening spell be combined with a sword so that it helps in battle with enemies? Why not, it's convenient. An automatic spell machine gun that damages all enemies when you pass by? This is also possible. There is also a special type of object - a wand, which can be used for activated or automated abilities, which in itself does not require mana costs. The player can come up with many interesting combinations and strategies.


These are the wonders of system crafting. Games with system gameplay give the player a set of tools that can interact with various rules and mechanics in an emergent way. So “Cursed Lands" provide you with a wide range of crafting opportunities, giving basic entities and components with which you can experiment.

To be honest to the end. then in “Damned Lands” not everything is implemented perfectly. Some materials have strange characteristics, some objects are useless because they are effective against a very small number of enemies. In addition, one could add other aspects to such a system, for example, crafting objects from different materials of the same category to provide even greater variability. However, the game has created a powerful foundation for such experiments. Judging by the fact that the modder community is still active, simply by making modifications to existing components, you can greatly change the space for research on crafting. In this type of system, adding even one component greatly expands the player’s choice.

Yes, there are many games in which the emphasis is on multi-layer crafting systems. However, thanks to this systematic modular approach, Cursed Lands manages crafting in a very elegant, easy to learn and understand way, while at the same time providing depth and ample scope. I hope that someday I will be able to create a game with such a crafting system. If you are already creating a game with crafting, then I highly recommend implementing it in a systematic way, as the Damned Lands did. In this area there is a huge, not yet explored potential. Especially if you combine it with the principles of system gameplay.

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