Word of warning on this post, I am not all that enthusiastic about crafting in my MMOs so keep that in mind when you read my opinions about this topic. Maybe this is because I’ve never played a game where crafting was exceptional, or maybe I just don’t enjoy a certain play style, I just know that while I learn and do craft things in games, I don’t relish the activity.
I tend to cringe a lot when people talk about how unfair it is that crafting has become so quick and easy and how other games made you really work hard to become a special crafter. It is almost as if they are looking for the kind of tedium (my assumption here), and work in their game that they have to put up with in life. I understand that you value something more that you had to work hard to achieve, but I tend to think that work and game are not compatible words. When it comes to how much grind I’ll put up with in a game, crafting is one of the areas where I just don’t tolerate much of it.
I craft to support my altaholocism and sometimes my guild. I’d like to craft to make money, but it never works out that well for me. I’m not ruthless enough or willing to spend enough time undercutting the competition to make it worth my while. I know people who do make money crafting in the games I play, but they have to really work hard at it (there it is again, that “work” word). When I log in I want to play, not spend hours juggling an assembly line. I know that for some the assembly line is their play, but I also assume they could find that outlet in other games (Minecraft maybe?).
Player economies are one area where the few can skew things for the many. It is definitely an area where the casual vs hard core player comes into conflict. Is it fair that someone who is unemployed and spends all day crafting in a game to make money gets to benefit over someone with a job who comes to relax for a few hours? I’ve known people in RL who found ways to exploit the heck out of WoW and I’ve seen enough ‘bots in games farming materials to really dislike a system that spawns cheaters.
Despite all of this, I do think good crafting systems have value. Even bad ones have some value. Games are certainly designed to integrate crafting and players spend many hours involved in the activity. It keeps people playing and gives us something to do outside of just questing. So while some of my biggest frustration and dislike of games comes from the crafting grind, I still maintain hope that a game will develop a crafting system that would entertain me and make it worth my while.
I wonder if that will only work if a game supports both a general purpose crafting system for casual players, similar to the “easy mode” (not my description) many complain about in most current popular MMOs, and a complex and multi-faceted mode for the really hard-core crafters. For “easy mode” you make things, you sell things, you support your character and guild activities and that is all. For “hard core” mode you earn XP, you take on quests, you explore and at the end you can make things for yourself and your characters that let you use your imagination. The fact that you can earn XP and special achievements makes this path more worth the time and effort.
Maybe with unique craft items you can pick from a set of looks, a set of weapon types or combine stats in different ways not normally provided from regular quest gear. In my opinion, the special items shouldn’t be for sale, but they should be things you can make for alts or even for your entire account. They have to be worth your time while at the same time not causing balance issues within the game. There is nothing more annoying than jealous whiners in a game and there is nothing more frustrating than people who exploit crafting or cheat for resources. Removing the hard path crafted items from the player economy, while it will make many unhappy, preserves the “purity” of the path IMO.
Games still should at least try to make the time and energy that the easy mode crafters put into to learning and selling items worthwhile. There are several craft skills in SWTOR that I find completely useless as the “special” items I worked to learn and build became wasted due to gear introduced by the developers. Overnight, things I had been selling became bag fodder. Imagine if I’d gone through a massive time sink and grind to learn those things, rather than the relatively easy path of learning them. Ragequit!
Do I think this “ideal” dual craft world is realistic or likely to happen? In this competitive environment, I doubt it will. Companies have to focus too heavily on getting the most bang for their buck, which means they will roll the dice on the crafting style that will make the most people happy and stick with only that. And as we’ve seen from a sub game converted to F2P, they will also focus on what makes them money over what is most fair to their crafters.
The TLDR part of this is that I think crafters should be able to attain bragging rights and special items for their efforts; I just don’t think those same crafters should be allowed to dominate the in-game economy because they can put in the time to make things that everyone feels they need in order to compete. That starts games down a very slippery slope.