I played a good amount of Everquest 2 over the weekend, any crafting session in this MMORPG invariably involves some gathering as well since you burn through materials pretty quickly. As I flew around the Eidolon Jungle looking for wood, hide and root nodes, I started thinking about gathering gameplay in the various games that I’ve played. Although gathering materials is never my main focus in game, it’s often a background activity that interrupts or complements other activities.
Gathering can be very time-consuming: the session before last I first took a Wizard Spire to the Obol Plains to look for mats and found nothing there, eventually flying across the portal to Eidolon Jungle (the tourbillion). Thus I wound backwards, from a narrative perspective, to the earlier zone to hunt for nodes there. So finding the right area to gather is important, not all zones have an even variety or frequency of certain resource types.
This knowledge comes either from experience and exploration or from the appropriate wiki page. When I leveled my weaponsmith profession in LOTRO last spring, I did a lot of wiki reading to find the better places to find various tiers of ore – Rohan especially is so vast that I wasted a lot of time initially riding around aimlessly looking for ore nodes.
Another aspect of gathering for most MMORPGs is the competitive nature of resource gathering. In most games, even today, nodes are “first come, first serve” – so seeing other player characters near a node can lead to tension or conflict (at least in chat). Although I can understand some people enjoying this aspect, I’m very uncompetitive by nature – I’ll give up or offer a node to someone else if both are approaching it. In this way I welcome the changes made to nodes in World of Warcraft to make all nodes shared for a limited time window. In that game a node lingers for a few seconds after first being taped, so there is less competition for nodes, and less chance someone can grief you by gathering the node while you are fighting a monster stood nearby.
Gathering has a slightly awkward position in small-group play, however. WoW’s system is extra convenient here, if you happen to choose or need the same type of gathering nodes as the friend you’re playing with how do you normally handle that? With limited-time shared nodes in WoW you can both gather anything. In other MMORPGs some form of strategic allocation of gathering skills is required, or a “taking of turns” on nodes. Collaborative gathering is a really nice idea, where multiple characters can work together on the same node for added effect, but I’ve only ever seen it in one now-defunct game (Vanguard).
Gathering is rarely my main activity, but it’s often there in the background. It lives in the scribbled tallies of wood or ore that I need to gather for the next crafting session, and lurks in the temptation of a mini-map symbol or the node spotted while riding by that promises needed resources…