Make Crafting Better

I just finished scratching off another mmorpg from the list of current games released that promised to make crafting better, revolutionize it, make it more innovative, yada yada yada.  You would think by now that I would have stopped hoping, but alas, if it is my one weakness, I always have hope.  Seriously though, what is it with crafting that these game developers just can’t get right?  It’s either too big a grind, worthless, boring, too complicated, or not complicated enough.

I’m looking back at all the mmorpgs I’ve played over the past decade+ and thinking about each one of their crafting systems and what went wrong.  I’m not going to make a complete list, but the ones I list and rmble on about incoherently will suffice.

The Realm – Some useful crafting elements like enchanting, but overall worthless.  Why make stuff that is worse than the stuff that drops off mobs?

WoW – Making ueless 700 gizzerboofles to achieve a skill high enough to use a super rare recipe that is useful in one particular situation… no.

EQ2 – The system was involved and creative but it was a grind and at times just a tad overly complicated.  I never felt like I could play the leveling game and still have time to craft.

Vanguard – Similar to EQ2, it was creative but overly complicated and a grind.  At times it felt like it was worthless.  Non-dedicated crafters need not apply.

LOTRO – Woah, a system where you can craft gear that’s on par or often better than raid drops… but still a stupid grind and at the end of the day the process to get to the point of making good stuff was tedious and boring.  90% of the people won’t see a payout in the end.

WAR – It’s still a grind.  There are no recipes, crafting crap grows on tree’s, and it’s way, way, way overly simplified. The stuff crafters can make is mostly (I use this term GENEROUSLY) useful, but the market is overly saturation because there are only TWO crafts.  Honestly, most people go for gathering skills not to craft but to sell the stuff to a vender to farm cash.  I’m really having a hard time believing that this many people carry around seeds in their pockets…

SWG – By far the best crafting system of any mmorpg out there but not perfect. It had useful items (at the time I played, not sure if they changed it) or the only items, it was central to the entire game in many ways, it was creative in its approach, and it allowed the every-day player to jump right in and participate. It was dynamic and interesting. However, at the end of the day it was a grind to the top.

I want a game with crafting that:

  • Makes GREAT (not good, grrrrreat!) items worth using.
  • Doesn’t require grinding to get to the point of making good items.  Making 700 things to be able to make 1 item is no different from having to find 690 things to make 70 to make 1.  Grinding is grinding.  Find a better way!
  • Gets the character involved with the world and out of the workshop, town, hub, etc, feeling like they can play the “normal” game and be a crafter too.
  • Is profitable to the majority, and not to the few, and supports a very healthy game economy.
  • Is dynamic! It needs to change and not always be the same.
  • Is actually creative and doesn’t find new ways to dress up old tricks that didn’t work in the first place.
  • Isn’t trying to be innovative for the sake of being innovative… really, if you can accomplish the majority of the above using an older system then DO it!

The Bind on equip vs. Bind on pickup vs. No binding at all debate is much too involved for this topic, but it’s worth mentioning that crafting needs a form of binding to ensure the items do not get oversaturated and that crafters remain in business.

Right now I don’t really have much of a solution.  I think if it were obvious enough to point it out then games would have already incorporated the solution.  I just know that we have yet to experience the ‘ideal’ crafting system once again.

  • Engineering in WoW was probably the only crafting profession that was enjoyable and worthwhile from Level 1 to 70 (unless you just picked it up at 70 and grinded 700 gizzerfobbles to hit 375 Engineering). It made items that never became obsolete, it made items that gave you abilities you otherwise didn’t have before… it was FUN. I miss that.

  • Star Wars Galaxies had the best crafting system. I don’t know if they’ve ruined it yet, and it did had a few issues, but it was still the best by far.

  • Agreed. Definitely the best, but not without it’s faults. I should have included it in the initial blog entry – editing it in.

  • Grinding is something that fuels MMOs I think eh? They want to have a great game, sure, but there is no way that they DON’T want you to stay. How do you create a game that require no grinding, in any way, shape, or form, while having it keep someones interest for a prolonged period of time? There has to be a carrot on a stick, not saying crafting is it, but there has to be for people to want to come home everyday after work/school or whatever, and punch people in the throat for rewards. As bad as it is, WoW had gear as the carrot, it worked, obviously. People always want to be better than others. As I look back at WoW now, I can see that yeah, it was fun, so I think we can spare Mythic in this case, also not saying that the crafting system is perfect.

    Perhaps we overlook what keep us playing?

  • I think, out of all the potential things to keep people playing, grinding is near the bottom of my list. I get what you’re trying to say, but there’s a lot to be said about something being “fun” instead of it just requiring mindless repetition for the sake of prolonging the game. If you find grinding fun though, then power to you.

  • I’ve played quite a few of these games, and I’ve never found crafting to be rewarding in any way. Crafting is almost never anything more than a frustrating and pointless timesink, and WAR’s implementation doesn’t seem to be any different.

    I’m actually a little perplexed that WAR has crafting in it at all – the game’s supposed to be about PvP, and crafting seems to be way outside of that core competency.

    Mercifully, crafting is completely optional. Letting some other chump suffer through that grind while I’m out killing people is fine by me.

  • Grinds aren’t really the reason people play any game. Remember Call of Duty 4? It had a grind, but it certainly wasn’t the reason you were playing it. The actual game was fun, intense, and balanced. You weren’t gimped at Rank 1 either, you could still take out Rank 55s with your M16A4, MP5, SAW and M40 (all of which you get at Level 1, and all of which are contenders for the best weapon in the game).

    Some people enjoy the carrot on the stick, but that’s not the reason why everyone plays an MMO. It has to be fun or they won’t get hooked into the treadmill. They’ll just press Stop and walk off.

  • haha I posted about that before…I think getting crafting right is extremely difficult.

    What I would want as a crafter is to take pride in my work. Maybe be one of the few that has a certain recipe that only few know. I like the discovery element. I want to make something worthwhile. I dont want to grind junk over and over. I dont want to go to some dungeon to get some recipe. I want to make money with it…etc.

    How do you combine this all into one…maybe something along the lines that whatever I create is unique to my character…meaning whatever recipe I found only works for me…but then if someone wants to pick up the profession and he knows about the existence of some recipe/item but has to fiddle around for hours to find his combination…well..the discovery element is shot…it becomes tedious (AC Taper system)

    I think to make crafting worthwhile you could have the following:
    – a game that really puts a large focus on crafting and where crafting is a profession…fully fleshed out…maybe with local guilds and where crafting is really what the character does and it is fun
    – A unique discovery system where items are truly unique in the world and work with whatever recipe I found on my character. Imagine having a gazillion possibilities and spreading these put over the entire crafting population and each one may be unique in one way…well, sounds lieka pipedream..maybe even dumb lol

  • WAR’s crafting for what it is, isn’t really too bad. Just a sidelong thing to do to get a couple of bonuses for RvR or PvE.

    I might be a little biased because I picked butchery/apothecary.

    Offhand, apothecary is the more interesting crafting profession. Different potion variants can be made, depending on the type and number and level of ingredients put into the mixture. It doesn’t necessarily tie you down to a certain place (though one often stops by a merchant to pick up stuff, brew, and get rid of excess bagspace fillers). It’s not a ‘get these specific ingredients to get this specific item, maybe you’ll crit and get a super-success’ type of craft recipe, though you can have a crit for better and awesome potions afterwards.

    Talisman making appears to be more straightforward. Put as high level stuff as you can find in the slots, and voila, a good talisman. Not sure if complexity deepens at the higher end.

    Butchering offers some control, in that you can choose what type of animal to kill for specific drops, for desired potions at the end. Cultivation offers control too, but you’ve got to obtain/maintain the seeds somehow.

    Scavenging is the one that puzzles me. Seems very random. Anything sentient seems to share the same curio, essence and whatnot loot table. Maybe the lack of control is to offset the plentiful scavenging opportunities, even in RvR. But I haven’t scavenged for a long while, so I might be mistaken.

    Economy-wise, I doubt we’ll see a standard MMO crafting economy for WAR though. I think people are finding it easy enough to get into and will horde most of the stuff for themselves, their alts or their guildmates. Mailboxes are everywhere, while the auction house is a pain to get to, most of the time. And why would you want extra gold if there’s nothing really much expensive and desirable that can be bought?

    Not yet anyway. Perhaps it changes in the higher tiers.

  • PotBS had a potentially awesome crafting/economy system (it never really worked out like the dev’s envisioned though). Eve’s is pretty top notch as well.

    I don’t think you can design a really good crafting system unless there is loss. Warhammer has a consumables crafting market, and it’ll work. It’s not going to be super awesome or anything… but at least it’s not like weapons or armor that are never necessary due to item loss being nonexistant. Talismans and potions are lost when used.

    i’ll admit that I was disappointed to find the apothecary isn’t quite so customizable as something like Elder Scrolls alchemy. i was hoping to create truly unique potions with combinations of effects. What warhammer has is something considerably lesser. I’ll still do it, but it’s not going to be as big of a side hobby for me as it could’ve been.

  • PotBS’s crafting system was…. waiting. That’s sadly all there was to it. You wait til you get hours, then you make stuff with your hours. The only thing it had going for it was that the crafting was integral to the economy. Other than that…. more waiting.

  • The way I see it, crafting should be a creative process. People who “would” like crafting (if it wasn’t always a stupid non’creative grind) are probably, judging by myself, people who like lego and puzzles and putting models together. Crafting should be something lego-like. Game maker should provide the basic building blocks, and let the player be creative. Untill that happens, crafting will always be a boring crappy grind.

  • The crafting system in WAR is definitely it’s weakest link. It’s not very good at all, seems very unorganized, and frankly, two crafts doesn’t really equal a crafting system. It’s more like a sneak peak at possibly methods for crafting they may have in the future.

    Hopefully, it gets a lot of work done to it in the future, because it needs it. Right now though, it’s pathetic. It’s the part of the game I’d rather the lowest.

  • It’s a 2 edges knife and to support that ill ask you to give me the best example you know of a good working economy. I guess you ask for the best it can be done but they had to put priorities in the evolution of the game.

    The best economy i have seen tbh is from wow, which had the things you refered, but you could get some money and the gold was changing hands in a way.
    For example i need some money and i have 1 of the proffs, they had 1-2 recipes or mats that would be needed by the rest of the people so you could sell them.

    War is new and i got no idea how it works at later lvls but if it has at least that, then i would say it’s on a good way to use the proffesions.

  • I absolutely loved Final Fantasies XI crafting system, you had various professions, the basic ingredient always is a crystal + up to 8 other materiels, result could be normal quality, full break (+with materials lost), high quality result, high quality 2, high quality 3. It was dependent on the in game moon time and element of the weekday.

    For example to get the best result for high quality you would craft an earth crystal recipe on a new moon (every 3 in game days) on a windsday.

    Yep it might sound fairly complicated, and really hard to actually cap a Crafting skill, for example it took me 2.5 years to reach level 100 Woodworking.

    The chance for high quality items (some have never been made on some servers) dependend on the items skill level, the chance to actually BREAK AND LOSE THE MATERIALS (adrenalin rush when you see the high quality animation on a multi million gil recipe 😉 made it really satisfying.

    There were also cheaper trade skills to level like cooking and alchemy, and the true crafting kings that took excessive amount of cash and time to master like goldsmithing and blacksmithing.

    I don’t like the watered down, crafting-for-everyone systems, crafting should be a seperate path, an alternative for another career, but of course also needs to be fun.

  • Id guess thats hard.

    Make ist easy so everyone can jump in.. an everyone does = Market Saturation = no Profit.

    Make ist too hard, and people tend to stick to gathering Professions, maybe even on Ore-Collecting Alts, like most did in WoW.

    The one i loved too was SWG(pre-NGE), cause there were no real Loot-Drops, that could be used instead of crafting.

    It was a grind to get to the top, but then, it took Skill and Dedication to find the best Resouces, to become a Servers best Weaponsmith, for example.

  • What developers just haven’t clued into is how freaking popular crafting is, it’s like the SimsX20. Seriously. I have people in my guild who would happily craft all day long if it didn’t suck so harshly in most of these games.

    Everytime I read interviews with Marc Jacobs, Paul Barnett, et al and this subject comes up, I cannot help but /facepalm at how these guys completely miss the point of crafting. “we want to make crafting less boring by removing any actual tasks from it” WTF? They need to forget about the guys who’re just trying to get an extra advantage, forget the guys that’re trying to get rich on the AH and recognize the huge numbers of players that will craft just for the sake of crafting & collecting.

    There’s a reason why gathering is always profitable. Players are hungry for more materials for their crafting.

    Stop making crafting for the people who don’t enjoy it and make it for the people who do.

  • well crafting in a WAR like enviroment should be limited
    no weapons or battle gear so it is easier for the developpers to tweak the PvP and reduce certain loopholes like the Gem one in Aoc

    crafting should be a bit like SWG making houses, gardens, factories, towers, battle keeps, ships
    and products like: siege weapons, funfood, party gimmicks, dresses, furniture, saddles, banners, talismans for your armour and weapons, dye colour..
    all stuff you can do without in battle so everyone has a fair change in pvp and not only the uber guilds… so more the focus on fun stuff around your character and guild

  • Surprised no one has mentioned EVE yet. I know its a different type of game to most fantasy mmos but crafting works. In fact the whole player drive economy works better than any other mmo I have played.

    Better heads than I have analysed why EVE’s economy works so well but I guess some of these reasons apply:

    Lack of npc vendors for most things – Crafter’s play a vital role in supplying players with the stuff they need.

    Stuff gets blown up – there is a constant need for resupply

    Massive unsharded universe with beginners and veterans all playing on the one server. This means that there is a market for everything not just the high end stuff.

    I know that item loss is not a palatable option in most mmo’s so, as you point out, some form of binding is required to prevent the market getting flooded with cast off’s.

    I don’t understand why more mmo’s don’t open the market across servers (for example with a cross sever auction house). I think a bigger market is always going to be better for business.

  • EVE crafting and economy along with the blueprint research and copying system is the best. Hands down bar none EVE is a step above any other MMO for anyone that enjoys the economy side of the game.

    WoW on a high pop server comes close to satisfying the need of the amateur economist. WAR’s other problem when it comes to crafting and the economy in general is the extreme seperation of the auction house from the leveling players. The seperation of the cities from the racial pairings along with the inability to que for scenarios from a city is a giant anchor around the neck of the fledgling server economy.

    In short… put some freaking auction house NPCs in each of the warcamps. Crafting specifically and the economic aspects in general in Warhammer need a ton of work to make them viable.

    The crafting so far seems to have some merit behind it but the execution was done poorly. Also some parts of magical salvaging are rather buggy as I continue to encounter seemingly random items that I am unable to salvage even though I have the skill to take apart other items of that type and level.

  • I have done a fair bit thinking myself on all this.

    In short I don’t think you are ever going to see a good crafting-economic model in a standard Level-Loot game like WAR, WoW, EQ, Vanguard, etc. The actual act of crafting may be novel (ala EQ2 and Vanguard) and a fun mini game, but usefulness won’t happen till you really look at the item economy.

  • Bind system is not necessary. It can easily be replaced with degradation. Unrepairable durability. Or make it like DAOC where you had to repair but max durability got worth the more you used something.

    WAR system is really not too bad, making basic potions helps a lot with leveling and pvp and you can customize exactly what you want..

  • @smthin: That’s true, a degradation system would work in place of binding and would actually, in many cases, be preferred in my opinion. It’s just that… item degradation pisses a lot of people off. I’m sorta a hypocrite on that subject because while I think it would solve a lot of problems and often wish for it, I bitch about it too. 😉

  • Hmm….the item degredation suggestion got me thinking.

    Hows about loot doesn’t degrade but crafted stuff does? The guy who raids every night for five months to get the gilded pantaloons socks of uberness doesn’t get pissed off because his raid loot never degrades. The guy who doesn’t raid is pleased too because at least he can still gear up by buying high end crafted stuff that has limited life.

  • As chance would have it, I’ve just finished my initial post on ‘My Dream MMORPG’, one of the primary focuses is on removing grinding from the equation all together.

    To sum it up here, my idea was basically to create a mission or quest system to unlock the ability to create each item. Learn by questing instead of making some other item 100 times.

  • @Keen:

    My first mmorpg was M59 (if you can call it massive lol) anyway I always like attitude to gear in that game. Gear being just a tool, you would have your backup sets, backup spell regents etc. Character were what mattered, master Weapon (Scimitar for example)could pickup his weapon (there was only 1 scimitar) get few regents and be ready to kill. If you died an got looted, you just got another weapon/stick and couple regents and could fight again..

    Same thing in Shadowbane, in some sieges after dieing tons of times I would be down to using what amounted to the very basic weapon or even running in naked if I was a caster of some sort.

    This sort of environment is where I think crafting can work. There is a constant gear drain.. and crafting can take into account amount of resources needed for each weapon.

    Ex. You could have 10 “levels” of a weapon. With beginner crafter being able to make 1 and master 10. However lvl 10 weapon would be exponentially more expensive to make and only linearly better. This way you would have market for junk weapons (used as backup and for meaningless skirmishes) and top end market to make weapons that people would use in important fights (in WAR it would be fights for the city etc)

    Normal (non-crafter) type person would either just buy weapons or could get skilled up to few of the first levels and be able to always make a weapon for himself in case he could not obtain one from crafter for some reason.

    This sort of system could also lend itself to reforging and artifact type weapons. If weapon degenerates with use it weapon that survived many important battles and been reforged/repaired many times could get some fluff bonuses like +1% damage and a unique name. Cost of maintaiing weapon like that would grow with time, so in the end they would end up on the walls of the guildhall as testament to its past users (being too expensive to keep repairing at some point)

  • What you dont mention about crafting in War especially talismans is they dont last forever. 2hours , 8hours, 5 days etc so that keeps the over abundance of them down. As well you cant pull one out and use it again you can only replace them.

    Potions well once used are gone. So I think they addressed that situation

  • You know im surprised you didnt mention DAoC’s crafting system in that list, although I can imagine grindtastic would be one of the words used for it.

  • As mentioned. SWG had some of the best crafting. scanning for resources and setting up your harvesters to do the dirty work while you got back to blasting womprats was excellent, not to mention they kept chugging away while you were offline, so you always had something to look forward to when logging in… maybe the only thing to look forward to.

    I recently tried EQ2 again. The crafting has been toned down alot, you make the finished product on your first session now, and the economy for it seems to be thriving. I was surprised to find myself enjoying making my spell upgrades levels ahead of my current level.

    While the whack a mole is not that exciting, making things that you and others would use from lvl 1 on up is actually very rewarding. Not to mention the rare harvests and recipes adds a great incentive to keep on chugging at it.

  • EQ2’s system was no less of a grind than WoW’s, it just required paying more attention to it. It was also needlessly complex. The one thing it brought to the table, though, was carpentry – building furniture and items with no inherent value, but things that players would pay for to liven up their houses with. I liked that a lot, and the fact there’s plenty of carpenters about shows that tradeskilling need not just be a way to mass-produce gear for financial gain.

    A future tradeskilling system would have to include a more complex economy simulation than most games currently offer, though. To aid realism, you should probably have mobs drop loot but nothing usable, and that could be taken to a crafter to have it melted down or modified into something useful to the adventurer. That would certainly make crafting a vital part of the game, and it’s the kind of paradigm shift you probably need. What’d be even better would be to make tradeskilling part of adventuring – I’m assembling a blog post on where I think tradeskilling should go at the moment, actually, and I really think the key to success is transforming them into full-blown support classes and giving them a role in PvP and dungeon crawls.

  • Make it so crafted items have limited durability and/or charges. When the charge/durability runs out, the item is greyed out and cannot be used…. that is unless you post up a work order for a jeweller, for example, to repair your ring (using their own materials that only they can farm and that are bind on acquire) at a price ~ Y. In this fashion, the crafter is necessary not for just making gear, but also for maintaining it. You could limit it to something like 10-15 repairs per day per crafter if u are afraid of one person hogging all of the repair market, or you could just make it so that gathering mats takes enough time adventuring through the world such that you can’t sit in town all day and fulfill work orders.

  • Unfortunately for SWG they made crafting useless when they removed decay from the items. You can make em…but better stuff comes from drops. You can make em…but everybody has already got one and it ain’t going away.

  • I know this is an old post but it got me thinking about two of the better games I’ve played for crafting enthusiasts.

    Wurm Online has intentionally tried to avoid the whole click-one-button to make 700 of X item type grind. Everything is player crafted except your starting equipment. Every item has a certain quality. Assuming you have the materials, you could make one of an item and then work on improving the quality, perhaps by polishing, sanding, sharpening, heating etc. The world is dynamic, cut down a tree and it is gone forever Need metal? prospect and dig up a mine on an ore line. Build hills, mountains, fortresses. Player housing, build it anywhere you like, any shape or size you want. I digress. Cook using any ingredients you want, there are no recipes.

    Dofus was a fantastic little game for crafters. Every item in the game could be crafted, each item was unique with varying stats, no bop items. Each tier required an additional item to make so it involved extensive gathering. The amount of components was huge. The actual crafting still involved making 700 of X item though.