Modular Asset Design
In many games, when crafting an item, it plays out something like this: you get a specific list of materials, collect (or buy) said materials, drag them from your inventory to some kind of crafting interface, click a button, and BOOM you have the exact item you set out to craft... no room for variation, experimentation, or creativity. With TUG, we’ve decided to go with a more modular approach. What that means is that each weapon and tool will be made up of multiple components which can be created separately and then mixed and matched by the player. A modular crafting system like this allows players a greater variety of weapon and ability combinations, while at the same time reducing key areas of work for the development team.
Let's say we have an axe weapon that improves from tier 1, to tier 2, to tier 3. That's three handles, three heads, and three forms of binding to secure them all together. In a traditional form of asset creation, the artist would complete a full version of the axe (blade, handle, and any extra components) for every single variation. This would result in 27 different axe models, all of which would need to be unwrapped, textured, and saved out as their own files. Although possible, this is inefficient and too time consuming when there are hundreds of assets that need to be created.
So how do we work around this? By creating our assets in a way that allows you, the player, to pick which component to build, by tier, and to craft that item as you see fit - interchangeable parts, if you will. Now, the 3 handles, 3 heads, and 3 forms of binding can be individually constructed and mixed and matched without having to generate 27 unique art assets, but rather just 9 of them. This dramatically reduces the stress on our development side. Moreover, when enchantments come into the picture later on down the line, this will add yet another dimension of "mixing and matching" to extend the possibilities even further. Suppose you can now enchant the axe by infusing with one of two types of magic, then we've effectively extended the feasible combinations of the axe construction to 3x3x3x2=54 possible outcomes. As content is added in an interchangeable fashion, we extend the possibilities of "craftable" objects in an exponential fashion. Did you run out of steel bars before you could finish crafting your steel sword? If you chop down a nearby tree and gather some chopped wood to make a stick, you can still craft a wooden handle and complete the sword to defend yourself. It also has the potential to make trade all the more interesting. Have an abundance of leather straps, but no steel? Perhaps your neighbor does. Have too much wood, but not enough bronze? I think I saw someone smelting that not long ago...
Some crafting components contain special properties beyond durability or damage, and so mixing and matching different tier components can actually give you an advantage that you would have skipped over if you created a solid steel sword. Experimentation with different crafting components can lead to surprising results, and may help your Seed grow in unexpected ways. Of course, not every component can be crafted with every other component. A drum head will not attach to an axe handle, nor will the head of a hammer attach to the wood of a spear. Practicality does come into play as we develop and test crafting recipes.
As previously mentioned, this method allows us to be more efficient internally; it allows for a smaller number of overall assets to turn into an enormous variation of tools and weapons. And with each new addition of items or materials into the world, it means that there come hundreds, if not thousands, of variations of weapons and tools to use, each with their own stats, power, and impact on how you play or explore. Although it does take more preparation and planning on the developer side, once this modular system is in place, it allows players a much greater level of customization.