I just finished playing Potion Craft, an early-access game in version 0.4.5 of development. It’s fun, and charming, but you can tell all that by watching the trailers or let’s-plays on YouTube, so that’s not what I’ll be talking about here. I’m going to be making suggestions. And not just any suggestions! Sure, there could be more components and effects, and more visitor requests, and the ingredient pricing needs some balancing, and it would be cool to be able to use your own potions, but those are all obvious next steps that are certainly in a dev roadmap document somewhere. So instead, let’s start with:
A Few UI Changes
I only found one place where there were any problems with the visuals, and even that case is questionable. In the Legendary Recipe view, the un-used furnaces are shown closed, but it really seems like they should be open, as that’s how they appear when not in use. Like I said, it’s a minor quibble, but one well worth fixing especially given the evident care taken to polish the visuals in every aspect of the game.
Beyond that, it would be really nice to have page numbers in the recipe book. Not only would this allow you to know how many pages you have, which can become difficult near the end of the game, but it would allow numeric shortcuts (by typing in the page number) to jump to a recipe. While we’re at it, having a shortcut key to press the “Brew this recipe” button would be nice.
A more significant update to the recipe book would be allowing the “Continue brewing from here” function to continue from any point in the recipe, instead of just from the end. All the steps in the recipe are already divided out and displayed, so the most straightforward way to implement this seems to be to add a (potion shaped?) indicator to the recipe list. By default it would start at the end, so the “continue” and “brew” buttons would function as normal. Adding this selection option would cut the number of recipes in half or less, and make branching off previously established potion paths much less painful.
The final UI feature suggestion I have is to put some basic “save game” information next to each of the slots. Gold, day, and level would be sufficient. Just something to differentiate them. This feature is likely already planned, but I figured I’d mention it just in case. And speaking of planned features, let’s talk about:
Vendors and Visitors
Now, I fully realize that there are many updates planned for the visitors. I expect I’m restating here what many people have said before. But humor me please. I have notes to expand on.
First off, I’ve never had a visitor come by who didn’t want to buy something, but I have had a vendor show up with nothing to sell. I feel like this shouldn’t happen. Like, in the fiction of the world, what was this vendor thinking? “I’m all out of stuff but I think I’ll visit the alchemist anyway!” Just, you know, add a check to the random vendor stocking code, and if it comes up empty, put a random potion in there or something!
Oh, yeah, and I feel like some of the visitors should be willing to trade you random ingredients. Like, they bring in a few herbs or whatever in order to get a discount. Could be a fun bit of flavor, and a way to increase the profit margin, especially at the beginning of the game. Maybe you could post a “wanted ingredient” and then all the visitors have a chance of bringing some with them to trade.
And the other way around, it seems like each of the vendors should have certain classes of potions they are willing to buy from you at elevated prices. Currently vendors pay 1/4 the going rate for all potions, but maybe they pay 1/2 rate for certain effects. The elf herbalist could prefer Fast Growth and Rich Harvest. The dwarf could pay extra for Explosion and Light. The mushroomer might want Magical Vision and Halucinations. Perhaps the other alchemist could use some potions of Mana, or even make strange procedurally generated potion requests for use in his research.
It might also be neat to have the frequency of the vendor’s appearance be based on how much money you spend with them. If you’re always buying their goods, they come back more often. And maybe even tend to stock more of the items that you tend to buy. I don’t mind the challenge imposed by the randomness of ingredient supply, but it would be more believable if the vendors took notice of what you are interested in.
Also, on the topic of npc interests, it would be neat to have some kind of dynamically generated text for the visitor potion requests. I appreciate the hand-crafted descriptions of woes and troubles that only a potion will be able to solve, but as the later portion of the game makes clear when the requests start to repeat, all that text takes time to write and dev time is limited. Even a simple templating system would be a good start, “I’ve got a problem with (my spouse|my boss|my neighbor) and I think the solution is a (their request) potion” The artifice is clear either way, but at least that way it wouldn’t seem like the world is full of peasants who need to ascend towers and recover from weevil infestations. It would be a great added challenge if occasional visitors wanted a specific secondary effect as well, just to shake the play out of the groove of selecting the most expensive of the 23 standard effects which meet the visitor’s needs.
And speaking of meeting needs, these visitors should have a budget in mind! Or at least give you a popularity bonus for offering a cheaper solution to their problem. The guy who wants to cross a river, for example, will accept anything from Ice to Levitation, even though the latter costs over five times as much! Rather than paying for the effect, they should be paying for the solution to their problem.
And speaking of problems, it’s unclear how “far” a potion will go. There’s a visitor who just planted a tree, and will pay for a Fast Growth potion to get it to mature. Then there’s another visitor who wants the same Fast Growth potion to regrow an ENTIRE FOREST! I really think the latter should be in the market for a whole crate of Fast Growth potions. And maybe a payment plan with a maintenance contract! Even with the aid of an alchemist, regrowing hundreds of trees seems like a medium-to-long term goal.
Oh, and speaking of medium-term goals, how about adding a few dynamic:
Player Character Quests
Right now the long-term goals in the game revolve around the Alchemy Machine (which I’ll talk about later). The short-term goals are about filling visitor’s potion requests. But there’s no real medium-term quests that span the gap between the daily needs of visitors and the whole-game spanning Alchemy progression.
It’s clear there are countless ways to address this, so here are a few I thought of. I’m sure the devs can come up with more, and probably better ones too.
- Your player character (or one of their relatives?) contracts an alchemical malady, and needs to try out various potions once a day to uncover a cure.
- You want to put together a care package for a friend or loved one composed of a significant number of potions, ingredients, and gold pieces.
- You get a contract to supply potions to the local castle or tavern over the period of several days. This could go several ways!
- Maybe the contract keeps changing, where some of the potions are returned, and they need more than they thought of others.
- Perhaps they say that quality doesn’t matter, but there’s a secret quality level they want and you get popularity penalties if you don’t guess it correctly.
- The contract could even be tied to an audit, where you’re not allowed to have certain ingredients and potions on hand, but you don’t know when the auditor is going to stop by, or who they are when they show up.
- There is a local festival that is going to prevent vendors from reaching your shop for several days, and also drastically increases the demand for a specific potion type, but at a reduced price. Do you improvise with what you have on hand? Or close shop to avoid the popularity penalty of turning away all the festival-goers? Or perhaps hand out some disruptive potions to break up the festivities so that things return to normal?
- General multi-day request chains, especially where you can provide potions to both sides of the conflict.
And then there’s the obvious “let the player use their own potions” thing where you can draw on your own supply to, for example, use a Magical Vision potion to reveal a part of the map, or use a Bountiful Harvest potion on plants in your garden to get more of them. That’s enough on suggested improvements to systems that are, on the whole, already in the game. Now let’s touch on something that isn’t really there at all, being able to:
Take On an Apprentice
Specifically, an apprentice who will run the “everyday” ingredient stocking, potion making, and sales to let you focus on specialty requests and research. It seems unbelievable that a “Legendary Alchemist” is still expected to personally make and sell health potions to cure toothaches, and make sure there is enough Windbloom in the pantry. On the other hand, I think it would be a loss of engagement to have the shop just run itself on autopilot once you get an apprentice. Here’s my suggestion on how to balance those factors.
First off, you should get a reduced price for potions that are for sale in your “store” by your apprentice. Or, put another way, your “Trading” skill shouldn’t apply. These potions would probably end up being your “standard” potions, like Healing, Poison, Light, Frost, and Fire, and while the margins are decent, the absolute amount of profit isn’t enough to worry about in the middle-to-end game. I think it would be worth it to forgo some of the profit to not have these visitors clogging up the line of patrons.
Then, the apprentice could automatically stock the store by making potions. You wouldn’t get the XP for crafting these potions, but I certainly think the loss would be worth not having to keep making these easy potions over and over after you’ve mastered the more challenging effects. While they are at it, the apprentice could deal with merchants and maintain set levels of ingredient inventory. Again, you wouldn’t get the haggle discount, but I think it’s worth it to not need to keep the Firebell barrel full.
Without limitations, though, you could automate the entire shop, and where’s the fun in that? I think the apprentice should have limitations to discourage this, or at least make it a challenge. Perhaps the apprentice has a limited set of ingredients they can work with, so any potions you want them to make need to use only those ingredients. Another challenge would be to limit the number of steps in the potion recipe they can follow. Maybe they even refuse to work with or sell certain potion effects.
Some apprentices could have special qualities and abilities. Maybe some gather materials (like taking on the mushroomer or the herbalist as your apprentice). Some could make notes and do research, exploring the alchemy map and picking up XP books, uncovering legendary recipe components, or making potion recipe recommendations. Perhaps some have excellent trading and bartering skills, or bring in special clients and contracts.
The apprentice could have downsides as well, perhaps costing gold, or XP to keep them around. Or maybe they have a chronic condition that requires they consume some complex potion or expensive ingredient every day. Some could even have an ongoing popularity or reputation drain.
It’s becoming clear that, with all of these tradeoffs, there could be a whole apprentice vetting minigame where apprentices could (mis)represent their abilities and (un)cover their maintenance requirements. Then you can add fun tradeoffs and management challenges on top of all that. The apprentice could have their own money total that they use to buy ingredients. If it gets too low they will need you to step in and pay for things. But if they end up with too much money, they just pack up and leave town! Perhaps they binge on hallucination potions, so you can’t let them get access to them, or the ingredients to make them. There could even be a “teaching the apprentice how to follow a specific potion recipe” minigame!
Of course, when all is going well, your apprentice will be chatting up the merchants and peddling potions to the plebs, freeing up your attention to focus on tinkering with:
The Alchemy Machine
So, right out in front, I’m fully aware that the Alchemy Machine is a major Work In Progress in v 0.4.5 of Potion Craft. There are clearly at least five craftable consumable alchemical “Salts” planned, but only two have been implemented. That said, I think there’s a lot of room for employing the Legendary Alchemical Substances directly as non-consumed catalysts. Maybe this is already the plan, but there’s no sign of it in the game yet. So without further ado, here’s what I’d like to see done with the five Substances.
Removes specific effects from a potion. Place Nigredo in the right-hand furnace, and then put a potion in one of the five right-hand flasks. When you pull the lever, Nigredo is not consumed, and removes the potion effect corresponding to the flask that the potion is placed in, with the new potion appearing in the central chamber. This would allow you to fine-tune potions, especially for reducing the potency.
Somewhere there’s a system for incentivizing the creation of side-effects and then removing them later with Nigredo, but I’m not clear on exactly what that is (perhaps see Rubedo below). In any case, I think this would open up interesting possibilities.
Combines Potions. Place Albedo in the left-hand furnace, and any potions to be combined in the four left-hand flasks. Their effects are combined, though if there are any more than five potion effect slots, the process fails and all the potions are lost. Either way, Albedo is not used up.
Increases the tier of a potions. Place Citrinitas in the left-hand furnace, and four identical copies of a mono-effect potion to be amplified in the four left-hand flasks. Creates two potions with the next higher tier rating. Can be used to create tier four and tier five potions.
Allows you to use any potion as a potion base. Place Rubedo and a potion in the ladle. This potion is now the potion base, and any potion you make starts out with the base potion’s effects. However, as per usual, you can not “Finish” the potion until you have added a new effect. The map for each base potion would probably need to be procedurally generated based on the ingredients and effects present in the base potion. This could make duplicating potions relatively inexpensive, as long as you’re willing to deal with the side-effects (using Nigredo?). The procedurally generated potion maps could be tuned to balance the difficulty of this process. Tons of room for end-game exploration of these procedurally generated potion maps and possibilities for creating unusual or esoteric potions.
Clearly it should turn Earth Pyrite to gold, and somehow catalyze the creation of the Elixir of Life. The specific possibilities are overwhelming in their plenitude, so I’ll just leave it at that.
Thanks for Reading
And thanks to the team at niceplay games for brewing up this lovely blown glass flask of an experience. If none of these suggestions are taken, I feel safe assuming it’s because they will implement something even better. Either way, I’m looking forward to it!