Let's talk about: Fishing
Fishing is a staple in fantasy RPGs, from Runescape to World of Warcraft essentially every game has a fishing skill in some form but what do we want to see fishing look like in Ashes of Creation?
In many games is often not very rewarding, it’s mostly done AFK for a bit of extra money and for the most part it’s just not very fun at all but simply put, it doesn’t have to be this way.
There are many ways that fishing could be made more reactive, more complex and more fun whilst also being rewarding to those that are able to master the skill.
Steven was talking previously in the Community Podcast about how they’ve got a few designs that they are playing with and how they’d like to hear from the community about what they’d like best so I thought I’d start a discussion about what everyone is looking for with fishing based on their experience with other games before we even get a hold of things!
I’m going to cover a few of the aspects that I think are important and give some suggestions for mechanics and general design that I believe would make fishing in Ashes of Creation a more fun and rewarding experience compared to the poor effort we've seen repeatedly from other MMOs.
One basic aspect that every game has, almost without fail, is a number of different fish that players can catch.
Different fish can be found in different areas, sometimes they can be locked behind level gates or perhaps a certain level of fishing rod is required before you’re able to catch them.
This will pretty much be mandatory for Ashes of Creation, to have any longevity there’s going to have to be a wide variety of fish and other animals to catch whilst fishing but there’s no need to lock certain fish behind level gates like in other games.
If different fish are found more commonly in certain regions it can integrate well with the regional economic systems where merchants can travel far afield and trade their goods in regions where they are rarer and able to fetch a greater price.
Regional differences in fish, the time of day, seasonal changes and what bait we’re using could all play a large part in what sort of fish we’d see in the world and these would naturally be a barrier in some instances to players catching fish without having a hard level requirement to do so (certain bait might be rare or expensive or you might only get the fish during certain seasons), I’ll expand on this a bit in the Seasons section.
Certain fish could also be harder to catch and will naturally require a greater skill level to catch successfully, something that I’ll touch on in later when I discuss the potential mechanics behind fishing.
An aspect that ties in with the differences between fish species is the requirement for multiple types of bait to catch the different fishes that we’d find in the world.
Whereas some of the more common fish will eat practically anything some of the more exotic and rarer species that we find may have a bit more of a refined palate that requires a certain bait type that may or may not be easily found in the node where you’re based, this again will tie into the economic system where players will have to trade or harvest themselves certain bait types in different areas of the map and the fish being landed in a node will heavily depend on how readily available the required bait for that fish is.
Not all fish are born equal, whilst you do get small common fish you also get hulking behemoths that would turn your My First Fishing Rod into bits if you were unlucky enough to find it on the end of your line.
Certain types of rods will be suited to certain situations, if you’re fishing for smaller fish you’re going to want to go for a lighter rod that would react to the slightest nibble but if you want it to remain in one piece then you’re going want to switch to your heavier rod to catch those big sharks that you see swimming around out there!
In the same manner that using too light a fishing rod doesn’t work well whilst catching larger fish using too heavy a rod will mean that you’re not going to see much of a bite on your rod because the fish is too small to cause any movement or flex for you to react to.
As touched on earlier the seasonal mechanics being added to the game there is a perfect opportunity for this to tie into the fishing system in Ashes of Creation.
Just as in real life the game could benefit from the addition of 'migratory' fish that move to different areas or disappear all together depending on the weather and other season changes.
If the fish find the winter in the north of the map then they aren’t going to stick around and may head south to find more temperate waters, they same could happen for fish that don’t like the heat during the scorching summer and decide to swim north rather than cook in the hot water.
This would mean prospective anglers are forced to move around the map if they’re after a certain species and they won’t be able to camp at a single spot for weeks on end hoping to catch the same fish.
Getting fishermen to move around the map will also undoubtedly benefit the server as this will inevitably drive conflicts over fishing spots and player interaction will be unavoidable as players are forced to move to different nodes controlled by others.
Other than the passive AFK fishing that for obvious reasons I’ll avoid, most fishing mechanics seem to revolve around reacting to the fish interacting in some way, in World of Warcraft you get a little float bobbing when you’re meant to react and you click to catch the fish.
Although the reactionary mechanic is shared by many other games like Final Fantasy XIV I believe it can be massively improved on and turned into it’s own mini-game that’s actually fun to play rather than a chore for most players.
Rather than immediately catching the fish upon reacting to the initial bite it could involve repeatedly striking at the fish and pulling the rod up then reeling in the fish in between these pulls just like fishing in real life all whilst balancing the strain on your line.
A tension meter could be added that you’d have to keep an eye on and taking care not to increase the line tension too much and risk snapping the line would be an important aspect that would have to be managed as you reel in your fish.
Having the tension mechanic would mean that there would be a greater skill ceiling to fishing rather than just simple reactions as we see in other games.
What would an encounter look like?
You’re sitting at the shore, you've got your fishing hat on and you cast your line far into the water, after a few seconds you see the end of your rod bending a little at the end, you can tell that there is a fish at the end of the line.
You don’t want to strike the rod quite yet though, it doesn’t look like the fish has fully taken the bait yet so you wait a few seconds more as the end rod continues to bend up and down ever so slightly.
Suddenly you see the rod bend more significantly and you hit the hotkey to strike up your rod and make sure the fish is hooked on the line and then you start hammering the key to reel that bad boy in.
The fish understandably does not like the hook in its mouth and you can see the line darting in circles as the fish desperately tries to escape your grip, as the fish tries to get away the tension of the line is affected and if it gets too high you’ll want to stop reeling and let the fish tire a little before resuming the reeling process.
The line tension looks like it has let up a little so you hit the key to strike the rod upwards again and starting hammering that button to reel that fish in again.
This process happens another couple of times as you balance the line tension and reeling it in until finally up the fish comes up, you’ve got your first fish!
This active method of fishing would mean that a lot of variability into the fishing mini-game:
- Different fish could react differently to being caught
- Different fish behaviour could mean line tension is affected differently
- The better, larger fish could affect the line tension differently than the more forgiving smaller fish meaning that there is skill involved to catching better fish
- The better, larger fish could take a bit longer to reel in meaning that you have to manage the line tension for longer which would again involve skill in maintaining the tension for longer periods
- Taking too long (not reeling enough) could mean that the fish could escape meaning that more difficult fish you’ll have to be balancing the level of tension well with the rate that you’re reeling in the fish
That’s all I’ve got though I’d love to hear everyone else ideas for fishing in Ashes of Creation and if you guys have got anything better than what I’ve suggested or any changes that could be made to enhance it then please post away!