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Columns: The Lack of Crafting

By William Murphy on September 09, 2010

The Lack of Crafting

Last week we were lucky enough to have SOE’s Chris Cao sit down to answer a few of our more pressing questions. And while we’ve got to wait a little longer for the rest of that interview, there was one new nugget of info gleaned from the answers that poses a few questions in its own right. Last year the developers were still aiming to include crafting in their game, perhaps in combination with the mysterious Secret Identity system they’re working on behind closed doors. But as we get closer and closer to launch, it’s come out that crafting as it’s traditionally presented in MMOs won’t be a part of DC Universe Online. The question is… does it need to be?


As Chris pointed out in our interview, he knows crafting. He was the Lead Designer of EQ2, which many still point to as having one of today’s best and most engaging crafting systems. So for the team to decide against any sort of real crafting in DCUO means either they have a really good reason for doing so, or that they simply couldn’t fit it into the game logically. Or maybe it was equal parts A and B…

What Chris does reveal to us is that DCUO is planning on what seems to be a relatively extensive collection or exploration mechanic. In his words, it reminds me quite a bit of the EQ2 collections, and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. If Gotham and Metropolis are as big and varied as the team makes it sound the exploration part of these collections could be as addictive as hunting the orbs in Crackdown. But what’s more intriguing is that he makes it sound as though you won’t be just collecting drops off of mobs, but rather actually exploring the nooks and crannies of the environment.

Sure, that’s not the same as making your own items to sell, share, and use in the game but if designed well enough the “Detective Comics” aspect of DCUO he’s talking about could be an extremely fun diversion from questing and killing. And if we’re being honest, this is exactly what crafting serves as in most games.

The problem is that many people have come to love and expect crafting in their MMOs. CoH added it due to the pleas from their audience, and Champions Online launched with it available to everyone. Arguments could be made that neither of the systems made much sense in the “superhero” world, but really… we’re talking about comic book videogames people. Nothing really makes sense.

One has to wonder then, with DCUO’s more traditional approach to equipment and gear, why isn’t there more of a focus on some sort of crafting mechanic? If it was originally intended to be part of the game, perhaps the team will revisit the idea after launch much like CoH did and add it when they can truly devote enough resources to the system. Crafting, though not essential, does provide a very adequate diversion and copious amounts of down-time which will likely be needed in a highly action-oriented game like DCUO. It also helps give the game’s economy an actual presence in the mind of its players, which is again an integral part of the social dynamic of these games. The argument can be made that even the idea of a player-economy sounds silly when we’re dealing with superheroes and villains, but do I really need to remind everyone that we’re talking about people who can lift cars over their heads and fly through the air?

Time will tell whether the decision to leave crafting off the plate at launch was a good one or not. I’m hoping that the Detective Comics portion of the game really is as intriguing as it sounds, and that DCUO’s Secret Identity system really adds a new layer to the superhero motif. If CoH didn’t have crafting at launch, I suppose DCUO doesn’t need it either… especially if it winds up feeling tacked on. So in this case, I think all we can do is trust Mr. Cao and his team knows what they’re doing and look forward to scouring the streets of Gotham for clues left by the Riddler.

William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002. Be sure to follow him on Twitter for all of his pointless rambling.