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Contributors: BillMurphy,MikeB,garrett,SBFord,Grakulen,

Community Spotlight: Thoughts on Crafting in MMOs

Posted by MikeB Thursday July 1 2010 at 3:23PM
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This week’s Community Spotlight focuses on the thread “Crafting: What do you like?” by Fishbaitz.  In the thread, Fishbaitz polls the community on their thoughts and preferences for crafting in MMOs:

“I was responding to a post on another forum on crafting, telling him my thoughts on the matter. He was for having a myriad of crafting profession and gathering professions, like mining, gathering, smithing, fletching, cooking, ect; with many levels or tiers in each category. He supported this with it meant a good economy and lots of content. I was inclined to disagree.

My thoughts on the matter is that crafting should be limited to the actual crafting professions with less or smaller levels in them. And gathering would be largely simplified as well by giving more from each resource node. I supported this with the claim that his style of crafting isn't fun and is overly grindy, and that you don't need gathering professions to support crafting professions in order to have a good economy. I also stated that crafting like that is not a lot of content.

We both claimed that the majority of the MMO community was behind us, but I got curiose and wanted to find out what other people thought about it all.

So, do you like blueprint or exploratory crafting? Gathering and Crafting or Crafting alone? Multi-combination materials or straight materials? Many tiered materials or few generic ones? I want to know your thoughts and any examples of crafting systems found in games that you like or dislike. I want to know what the MMO community wants.”

Loke666 is quick to offer Fishbaitz his thoughts:

“Well, I am all for a few professions (like smith, alchemists, tailor and such). 6-8 is good, maybe one that trains animals and a herbalist that can collect rare herbs and make salves) .

But I also would like one class that basically is a crafter/merchant who can take all of those and are leveled up in a different way, like getting xp for crafting and earning money instead of killing things. that class should also get a store instead of a house.

As for the crafting in itself I want the player to be able to design their own item with effects and looks, the better crafter the more choices. 

And no system that forces you to make a 100 tin daggers or something else useless that no one wants to buy.

And i don't want an auction house, it is better to shop at player stores and market stands. Someone that can point you in the direction of a crafter that has the item in stock is fine however.”

Neosapience takes a pretty extreme view on crafting:

“Crafting directly contradicts one of the main reasons for playing your character, which is gear acquisition. I've never played an MMO where crafting was anything more than a boring time sink. If the economy needs more (or less) gear, then the simplest solution is to make mobs drop more (or less) gear.

I know some people are hardcore role players and enjoy being seen as an 'important crafter', but filling a role that takes no skill is tedious at best. In other words: crafting should be a game in itself, otherwise it serves no real purpose.”

How could we talk about crafting without talking about SWG? Deepfry obliges us in this regard:

“I too enjoy "complex" crafting and for me the absolute reference for crafting in an mmorpg was Star Wars Galaxies (the original, before Sony ruined it).

First of all SWG was a totally player-run economy.  With the exception of starting gear, everything was player-made and everything decayed, thus ensuring that crafters would always be needed.  When i say "everything" was made by players, i mean everything - armour, weapons, medicines, clothes, food, drink, land transport, space vessels, houses, furniture, musical instruments, entertainment props, mining equipment, crafting equipment, factories, surveying equipment ... the list is endless. 

I cannot even remember all the crafting professions, but those i can remember are:  Armoursmith, Weaponsmith, Doctor, Chef, Architect, Shipwright, Artisan, Tailor ...

There were maybe 15 resource categories (metals, ores, hard plastics, liquid plastics, woods, plants, gases, liquids, etc).  Each category contained literally dozens of sub-categories ... so under metals for example you would find all the metal types that you can think of (iron, steel, copper, zinc, tin, silver, gold,  ... etc etc).

There would then be spawns of these sub-categories, each with a different spawn name ... so, for example, there would be up to 100 different types of copper.  Every resource had 6-8 aspects (hardness, flexibility, durability, conductivity, etc) and each aspect was graded from 0-100.   (So for example, one copper spawn might be graded as follows:  Hyanarium Copper: Hardness 30, Durabilty 40, Conductivity 96, Flexibility 68, etc).

Spawns would last from between 1 day and 2 weeks.  The chances were that the exact same resource would never spawn again.  You had to use your scouting and surveying skills to locate the spawns (which could be on any of 9 different planets), then find the best concentrations and then set up mining machinery to mine/harvest them.

Once you had collected the best possible resources, you could then work on trying to improve certain aspects, depending on your skills (increasing a wood's hardness for example, or a plastic's flexibility).  You would then create your first sub-components, on which you could again conduct experiments to improve certain aspects.  These sub-components would then be put together to form main components (more experimentation) which in turn would form the finished product (more experimentation). 

All of this experimenting allowed crafters to concentrate ondifferent aspects of an object.  You might choose to make armour which offered less protection, but which lasted longer before needing to be replaced, or which was lighter and therefore allowed faster movement.  Or a house which was more energy efficient and thus had lower running costs.  Or a medicine which was very powerful but whose effect lasted only 10 minutes ... as opposed to a 30-minute but less effective one.

The quality of the final product thus depended on the character's skill in finding and mining the best resources, the quality of the tools he used (player-made, varying qualities), his experimentation skills, the quality of his mining and construction equipment (player-made, varying qualities), etc.  It is no exaggeration to say that every item created in SWG was unique.”

Me? I’ve never been much of a crafter, however, I think it can be fun when it’s a bit more simplistic, but that is just my personal preference. I had my most fun crafting experience in Champions Online, oddly enough, and it was an extremely simple venture there. I just found the gathering to be a bit addicting. Keeping an eye out for resources as I leapt, sped, or flew through the city. Creating bags and upgrades was also a fun distraction.

While I’m not personally into deeply complex crafting, I have to touch on Deepfry’s post about Star Wars Galaxies. I hung out with a lot of crafters in that game, in fact, early on I used to protect one of my closer crafting friends (for a small price!) when he had to make his way to dangerous areas in order to mine for the game’s better resources. I can recall one time where I was escorting the guy through the scary forests of Dathomir so he could place his mineral extractor. I think an interdependence between combat and crafting characters is neat, and I’m not a huge fan of the trend towards crafting being relatively self sufficient and typically selfish. Players in WoW, for example, typically choose a crafting profession that benefits their class.

In any case, SWG’s crafting was deeply complex and I’d argue was probably the best implementation of crafting ever seen in an MMO. Most crafters I knew were thoroughly satisfied with their options. Even some combat professions had crafting options. Rangers crafting traps and camps being one example.

What are your thoughts and preferences on crafting in MMOs? Let us know in the comments below!