MMO crafting hasn’t seen a lot of innovation for quite some time. In fact, I think crafting has slowly been sliding to a worse state or neglected entirely by the latest generation. The complexity, depth, scope, involvement, and opportunity (I think most of those mean the same thing) of the SWG and EVE era are all but gone. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but that depth has been replaced with tacked crafting that is repetitive and mostly meaningless.
Crafting in a contemporary MMO falls into two categories: (1) Throw in the mats and press combine, and/or (2) Passive, waiting game.
WoW’s throw in the mats and press combine has been shared across everything from LotRO to GW2 and SWTOR. The light mini-game style of Vanguard and EQ2 is only a variation on a theme. Then there’s this fixation on ‘professions’. If you want to be a Leatherworker you probably have to be a Skinner. It’s very prescribed, very scripted (everyone makes x widgets before getting to the next tier). Crafting is about leveling and ‘maxing out’ and obtaining recipes, and if you’re lucky they throw in some whack-a-mole gimmick to distract you for all of two seconds.
Crafting in almost every MMO for the last 8 years has been a selfish endeavor. People craft for themselves because there’s one or two good recipes they hope to get one day. Most of the time it isn’t about the items at all, but the bonuses associated with that profession. Few people craft for others, and few games restrict people so that you can’t craft everything — do everything — for yourself.
I’d like something new and more creative. I want to see crafting involve more customization, more free-form individuality. What if MMO crafting was more like Minecraft where we put things in and shaped the items ourselves? Why can’t we have a system where no two items are alike, and I can experiment and become well-known for the way I make the weapons? I want crafting to impact the ecosystem. I want the world to change because Legolasers crafted something magnificent and suddenly we find ourselves having to adapt.
Crafting can be about more than making items. Trade can shape the world. Someone should start innovating on what should be one of the most influential and powerful game mechanics rather than forgetting about it or tacking it on at the end.