Foraging - What do YOU want?

We’re currently looking at outlining the foraging/gathering system for the game and understanding how foraging contributes to the overall gaming experience is crucial for us. Could you share your thoughts on the balance between difficulty and rewards in foraging mechanics? To spark off some discussion, I’ve dropped some points below of the specifics we’re currently chewing over.

  • What aspects of the foraging process do you think enhance or detract from the overall gaming experience?
  • How intuitive do you find foraging mechanics in other games?
  • Are there any frustrations you’ve encountered with foraging mechanics in other games?
  • Do you prefer a wide variety of items to forage for, or do you prefer a more focused selection?
  • How important is it for the items you forage to have diverse uses or effects in the game?
  • Would you like to see seasonal or location-based variations in foraging opportunities?
  • Considering skill improvement, do we want foraging to be a skill which you need to have to use, or, can anyone forage at a low level which increases with skill training/tool use?
  • How do you feel about the balance between foraging difficulty and the rewards it provides?
  • Are there any specific mechanics related to foraging progression that you find particularly engaging?
  • How do you feel foraging should interact with other game systems such as crafting, cooking?
  • Do you prefer foraging to be a standalone activity or integrated seamlessly into the gameplay loop?
  • Are there any games that you feel have successfully integrated foraging into their broader game mechanics?
  • Would you like to see any environmental conservation elements integrated into the foraging system?
  • How do you feel about how games simulate the replenishment of foraged resources over time?

Foraging is an integral part of why I loved the outdoors experience in games like Armageddon. One of the aspects I enjoyed the most is that by know where and what to forage, you could become self sufficient, though I think that’s also a detriment if you simply detach from the community entirely.

I believe the best way for items gathered through foraging means (mining, cutting down stuff, digging) is to serve as either high end components or catalysts. One example I can give is fertilizer for hydroponics.

Someone wanting to raise flowers can do so from the safety of their greenhouse. However, if they want to increase their efficiency, yield, quality, etc, they could either go outside to get some rare ash or pay off someone who is willing to go out there and gather that.

Foraging should be reliant on skills, like everything else.

As for seasonal / location based foraging, that’s a no and yes at the same time. Location based foraging is great and fosters a need to explore places, or go to more dangerous locations for better rewards or more specialized components.

The reason I don’t like seasonal is because it creates a weird hoarding mentality, which sounds fun but it isn’t. You would think some enterprising prospector would sell you those out-of-season berries, but he doesn’t have them. He sold them off to HoarderMcGee who will keep them for himself to have a constant, steady supply.

For a conservation and replenishment mechanic, I believe a ‘balance’ system could be implemented. Imagine every resource (we’re counting flora, fauna and rocks) is presented as a dichotomy (to a degree). When one is being affected too much, the other flourishes, and vice versa.

Rock Salt ← - - - Marsh Slug

Marsh Slugs are slimy creatures roughly the length of an average human adult’s arm. Their brown-green skin glistens at all times from the oil they excrete which coats the ground around them. They prey upon smaller insects but are very territorial, attacking when someone or something gets too close to their proximity. They are however deathly allergic to sodium chloride, the primary component of table salt. As salt is mined out from caves, these worms start emerge. Their oily excretions react with leftover salt deposits and turn it into a useless amalgam.

For renewal, that’s a tough one. How do you balance this out so one or two people don’t just hyper-farm the same place to keep anyone else from experiencing it? Imagine someone logs in at 3AM every day, gathering every Oxy Punga flower from the places that spawn them? Ultimately, this could just be an IC issue, so you could limit to an amount of resources that regenerate over time.

A way to avoid that would be for the regeneration to happen in quick bursts but with a large cap. For example, every 1 IRL hour, this place regenerates 2 X, up to 100 X. This way, someone might farm it out, but if I go there, I still get a few of them.

It’s kind of hard to get this so wrong it’s not worth doing. Foraging should provide things that can be sold for profit or used in crafting / cooking. It should be skill based, but hopefully not pedantic enough to where a freshly rolled character can’t go pull up some grass or something.

Seasonal might be OK or might not based on the 8:1 time ratio. I’d say some things could be scarce at certain times, and the rest are climate based. Don’t expect to gather something that likes cold, mountainous regions in a temperate climate near a lake, for instance.

Things that are either more profitable or more useful should probably be located in areas with some sort of risk involved in going there. Either because some tough aggressive creatures live there, or because there are spots that require you to have a decent amount of climbing skill or risk falling to your death.

A mechanic I’ve seen in one MUD separates things found in abundance into things you’d need to hunt for. For instance, if you’re in an area of flat plains, why need to forage for grass? It’s literally right there, just pull some up. You can do this and build a pile of increasing size, whereas, vegetation is something you actually have to look for. So you’re not going to be frustrated because you want to make a crude pair of woven-grass sandals because grass is so hard to find. You can take what you need. It also follows that you’re not going to have too much trouble finding twigs, sticks, and the like in forested areas, so you can simply take of those what you need and get a fire going, but, if you want wood that you can actually craft with, then you have to pull out the hatchet or logging axe and cut down a tree.

When I think of my favorite foraging systems, there are two that come to mind. I agree with a lot of what’s been said on how much foraging does a lot for crafting and the outdoor experience, so I’ll try to highlighting what lend the most to my experiences with it.

In Accursed Lands, you have some seasonal forageables, and some constant forageables. With proper skill in botany, you’re able to decipher that the “man-shaped root” is in fact a mandrake, but are still able to test its properties to try and guess its use, even without its name. Touching poison ivy would lead to itchiness and a brief rash, and eating marrow would help to get your wounds to heal faster. My sister and I both played botanists at the time, and we really enjoyed experimenting by tasting, smelling, and eating different plants to see how they might interact with our characters.

That plants were seasonal did lead to some hoarding, but I don’t necessarily see the problem with it. Approach a gatherer ahead of season, let them know what you’re looking for, and hopefully you can expect your quota met when the season rolls around. If a player tries to hoard things, why not steal from them? Try buying it at a higher price? These kinds of issues can drive in character interactions, so working too hard to render them impossible seems like it takes away from the game to a degree.

Another thing I enjoyed about foraging in AL was that, once you learned enough about a plant, you could generally guess where to find them. Some plants can only be found near water. Some can only be found in the desert. It made each biome an adventure of its own, and lead to us traveling great distances in hopes of discovering new things to experiment with. The risk came from travel. Bears, wolves, and more fantastical creatures always posed a risk if you were wandering around without paying attention.

Likely, what made foraging so enjoyable was that it was separate from scavenging. While you might only be able to find four mushrooms in a forest room (more or less depending on your foraging skill), you could find limitless branches, stones, grass, and other basic materials that you simply wouldn’t run out of no matter how much you gather, and anyone could find them.

The second game I enjoyed foraging in is a graphical MUD called Farwoods. In this game they implemented gathering nodes that the system would populate the world with according to different rules. Much like AL, nodes would only spawn in places you’d expect to find them. Timber was found near trees, glass shards were found near ruins, etc. You would only be able to see the nodes with a high enough foraging skill, and you were limited to how much you could gather from said node. Once you had gathered your amount, it left a limited supply behind for other players who happen upon the node, which lead to forage parties becoming an effective method to gather materials.

Scouts would go out and locate nodes and their party would follow their directions to gather the rest of the materials the node offered.

To prevent a single player from gleaning everything a room has to offer, it seems like something like this might be helpful. If a player wants more than they can gather themselves, they can solicit others to gather for them, adding to the sense of community.

Worth noting that thieves would sometimes find and camp nodes to try and muscle items out of gatherers, so it paid to have back up along with you. Admittedly, in FW, being able to gather so few items from each node felt extremely crippling, so if something like this were implemented I’d hope you’d be able to gather a good amount before you’ve exhausted your share.

In summary - yes to seasonal forages. Yes to location based. Having different forageables appear during the night and day might also be interesting. Putting a comfortable limit on how much a player can gather from a node might prevent frustration and lead to teamwork.

Thank you all. Your insights are incredibly valuable, and we’re truly grateful for the depth of thought you’ve put into your responses —it’s shaping the direction of our development in exciting ways.

Flesh - Marsh slugs? Amazing. They’re going IN. Fantastic suggestion on the ecosystem balance. It makes me picture a scenario where over hunting of all the deer has led to uncontrolled vegetation growth, footpaths becoming unpassable, out of control grasses—well, mutant-space deer, but you get it.

Brandon - another thing we were mulling over rather than just seasonal was perhaps weather based, or light based… Imagine ‘voidflowers’ that only bloom in near-total darkness, retracting when exposed to light. While creating a time-sensitive hunt period (and it would be pretty time sensitive on an 8x world speed) it could add a certain level of depth to harvesting/exploration.

Navigator - I’m unfamiliar with ‘Accursed Lands’ but we love the idea of a botany system and will be exploring ways to incorporate one here.

We’ve been focusing on researching ways in which foraging/harvesting works in various games, and one of the most successful which we’re looking to embrace, seems to be a more predictable harvesting approach that MMO’s use, rather than the unpredictable lootbox forage MUDs often employ. Not only is it more realistic (like Navigator said, if I see grass, I should be able to pluck it up, not randomly pick up a handful of worms instead) but it encourages exploration.

As Brandon mentioned, variable risk of exploration should relate to reward; Things that are more profitable or useful should be placed in areas with some sort of risk involved in going there. Once you get there, the dopamine rush of the ‘find’ should be accompanied with some kind of achieved safety. Hard to get there, but once you’re there, you’re safe and making profit. It’s a risks game, and in a way a loot box mechanic.

we’re on the fence on seasonals. I see both sides of the hoarding argument. Perhaps we could implement some systems to ward this off, short shelf life on certain seasonals or something. Thinking caps on for that.

Other points we’re working with are that every foraging type will have it’s own skill attached (mining, harvesting, fishing etc) and each foragable item will only enter the world once it has attached purposes is the plan.

How do we feel about all this?

Sorry been busy, but as an outside pretty much only player in almost every game I’ve ever played that had the option. Foraging has always been fun, but disappointing to me.

So if you take Armageddon as an example, foraging is random and keyword based if you so choose, I don’t really like it. The thing I don’t like about their foraging system is it feels totally random. One room described as rocky has rocks 1-5, another room described as scoria has rock 1-4 but also 7 10 and 12.

Whatever system you put in place, my recommendation is to have a way to survey the area and maybe skill based wise see stuff like:

Survey Rocks
You look around the area and can make out Granite, Sandstone, Onyx and Marble.

That way you’re not just randomly doing Forage rock 100 times and going “Oh shit, you can find marble here?” after the 100th time.

Plus we need a way to specify things, not just by their color or sdesc, but by name. So if a dark blocky rock is basalt, it should be foragable by forage rocks for basalt or whatever command you institute.

Since we are waving our magick wands of, “I would like…” I also would like it to be smart enough to know the skill versus target as being out of bounds. So say jewels take high foraging, let’s say 75 out of 100 to even start to find jewels reliably without a critical success roll, and I type forage rocks for sapphire or whatever, it would be nice if the game was like, “You look around and it quickly becomes evident you have no idea what you’re looking for.” basically, Get better before you try this chump.

Plus since we are spitballing here, say I need to forage five branches to make a campfire, after I get better at foraging and break certain milestones, it would be a nice QoL addition to be able to type make campfire and have the game check if I’m in a room that has wood, and if my skill is greater than X, and let me just craft it assuming I just grabbed it from the environment.

That’s my take.

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I like the idea of having a limited shelf life on gathered materials. In Accursed Lands, gathered items would eventually wither away, but it only worked if you were present in the room. Meaning, storing everything in a building and only ever opening the door to drop things off or take things out gave them a near infinite timer.

Some nice things about the gathering system in that game were that you could “forage” and have a chance to pull up any random forageable the tile had to offer. But, if you knew the name of a plant, you could “gather acma root”, and look specifically for that item.

I definitely prefer to have mining, fishing, and harvesting over a simple “gathering” skill - so I’m glad to see that. It’s nice to be able to give a character a specific niche to shine in.

The idea behind the “voidflower” is really exciting to me. It encourages you to visit the same place under different conditions to see if you can find rarer goods. It encourages consistent study, and it rewards players for taking active interest in fully investigating a zone.

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