Massively Overthinking: Mixing and matching the best crafting systems in the MMO ‘verse


Longtime MOP reader Ken from Chicago recently asked us to talk about crafting – but he didn’t want us to just list off the best crafting systems. Instead, he wanted us to talk about the best parts of different crafting systems across MMOs and how we might combine them together for the perfect cocktail.

“I think you’ve done a Perfect Ten on MMOs with the best crafting, but have you done one on the best elements from various crafting MMOs?”

Let’s tackle just that in this week’s Massively Overthinking. Imagine you have every crafting system from every MMO that’s ever existed at your disposal. Mix and match them: Which pieces would you use to cobble together the perfect MMO crafting blueprint? Bonus question: Which piece would you discard first and not even consider?

Ben Griggs (@braxwolf): I don’t know much about crafting. But one feature I really like in Elder Scrolls Online is the ability to learn different crafting styles. Being able to craft gear that is cosmetically racially appropriate is a feature I think other MMOs would do good to incorporate!

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): My answer is probably going to surprise folks, given what a Star Wars Galaxies economy fan I am. But note my word choice there: economy fan. It’s the economy I like, the interconnectedness of the crafts and the utility of the products made through the crafts. While I adore its elaborate resource system, that falls under gathering. The fundamental process of manually crafting is still quite tedious, and I’ll be the first person to admit the industrial and factory manufacturing component isn’t exactly rewarding (and it also contributes to hoarding and oversupply, thereby weighing more heavily on the economy that it should). So if I were starting from scratch, I would…

  • Focus on creation of single objects rather than mass-creation. Tangible, weighty objects are free immersion. Asheron’s Call and Ultima Online generate that feeling.
  • Ensure the actual act of crafting involves the crafter in some way. EverQuest II’s old crafting was probably the most enjoyable to actually do (although I love the zen of farming in LOTRO too).
  • Bake in the feeling of time passing, without actually wasting too much of the player’s. The problem with factories in SWG isn’t the fact that they take a long time; it’s that they make too much stuff.
  • Crafter marks! I love seeing who created the thing I’m using in games like Trove.
  • Prioritize resource inventory management so it finding what you need is and storing it is not a pain in the ass – better still if you can craft straight out of a vault and easily navigate through subcomponent recipes. Guild Wars 2 does this very, very well. So did Glitch.
  • Finally, make sure everything being crafted has a purpose, even if that purpose is to be melted down for grinding (although a higher purpose would be ideal). A lot of games have a practice mode, including SWG.

That’s just the crafting part, mind you, separate from gathering and merchanting and economy health and all that. But if I could whirl all those games’ crafting systems in a blender without anything new? That’s what I’d do.

Carlo Lacsina (@UltraMudkipEX), YouTube): The most crafting I’ve ever done has to be in Guild Wars 2 to make ascended gear, so my experience is pretty limited… I never really caught the crafting bug personally. But if there’s any sort of system that exists where the crafting system allows players to take bits and pieces from different armors in the game to make the design of the armor and weapons look unique, I’m all for that! I’m legit curious. Is that actually a thing in any MMO!? If not, why not?

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): I actually think AdventureQuest 3D has a genius system here; you can make level-relevant gear from some common and not-so-common items that drop from monsters in the area you’re at. Combine this system with the dedicated crafting classes and actions of Final Fantasy XIV and you have the start of a pretty awesome crafting metagame. And hey, you can even keep rare item drops from monsters to keep those who would rather farm for kit busy without totally locking out everyone from having meaningful crafting and progression.

This does have the byproduct of making crafting more personal than a moneymaking venture initially, but that could be solved at endgame, where leveling a crafting side job lets players create max level gear to trade among one another — gear that can’t be earned any other way and would be the entry kit to starting endgame content, and requires some materials that only certain crafter classes can make a la FFXIV yet again.

Mia DeSanzo (@neschria): I am not much of a crafter, but there are some things I have liked and disliked about the systems I have dabbled in. As such, I’ll give it a crack. Some of these things are straight out of old games that probably don’t work the way I am remembering anymore (e.g., EverQuest II). Some of them are just stuff off my personal wishlist.

My perfect crafting system would be portable. I don’t mean that there can be no crafting stations in the world, but I want to be able to carry at least the basic equipment, and I don’t want it to weigh a ton or take up much inventory space. Another, weightless inventory entirely for crafting would be ideal. The end products can go in regular inventory and have weight. I just want to be able to gather mass quantities of materials and then do mass crafting while I am waiting for people to log in or for a boss to spawn. On the other hand, I think that the crafting stations that go in the house are great from both functional and interior decorating points of view, too. (I don’t play the housing score game in Black Desert Online, but I do think my house in Velia is enhanced by the stove and the alchemy lab.)

In Black Desert, I like that I can hit F2 and search in a pop-up window for recipes or for the uses of ingredients I have. But having searchable recipes and ingredients precludes another thing that I have really enjoyed in games, discoverable recipes. I know that I can just go to the web and find a full listing of everything that can be made and how to make it, in nauseatingly minute detail, but I don’t. I can’t tell you how many times I have stopped at an alchemy station in dungeons or caves in Skyrim just to lighten my reagent load by testing ingredients together. It’s nice that it dims the names of ingredients that don’t work with the one you have selected so that you don’t have to remember it doesn’t work, but I could live if a system meant getting out the old-fashioned gaming notebook to scribble discoveries in.

I like crafting minigames, but I don’t want to have to do them all the time. Maybe manual crafting should have a higher chance of an improved item, but I want to be able to AFK craft items that I will need a large number of so that I am not tied to my PC, hitting the buttons to make 1500 beers. Oh, and if you are going to have a manual crafting minigame, make it challenging enough to be fun, but not so challenging that it’s hard for someone old and slow like me.

I didn’t think I’d have much to say about this, but I was wrong.

Tyler Edwards (blog): Possibly an unpopular opinion, but I really liked how The Secret World’s vanilla incarnation handled crafting, at least conceptually. No grind, no arbitrary skills to level up. Once you knew the patterns, you could craft anything you like, provided you had the materials. What you could actually make with it was pretty limited, so it wasn’t a great system in practice, but the idea was pretty cool. It would be interesting to see a game scale that up. Imagine a game where learning new crafting recipes involved actually learning recipes instead of meeting arbitrary grinding goals. The challenge of crafting could come instead from tracking down rare tools and materials instead of just mindless repetition.

Every week, join the Massively OP staff for Massively Overthinking column, a multi-writer roundtable in which we discuss the MMO industry topics du jour – and then invite you to join the fray in the comments. Overthinking it is literally the whole point. Your turn!

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Ken from Chicago

Thanks, Bree, for raising my question, and everyone else for answering it.

It seems only fair for me to give my own take on the question. I liked WORLD OF WARCRAFT’s crafting system which had you mine / harvest / gather resources and then craft goods repeatedly to level up to goods of greater complexity. As an altoholic-er altoPHILE, I liked that various crafting skills interacted so you would leed an item from a blacksmith for your gadget or need something from a tinker for your jewelry or some cloth item for your leather good.

I not only had various characters of each profession and race but also each crafting skill and would mail stuff to myself to act as a bank and various characters could retrieve the item they needed to finish their product.

However I hated having to race to some node to gather the resource. I loved GUILD WARS 2 simple rule that everyone can mine at the same node without depleting for someone else.

I think GUILD WARS had a separate inventory for crafting resources, which allowed me to expand inventory. I think CHAMPIONS ONLINE had something similar.

Yeah, so my crafting knowledge in mmos is pretty limited.

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Brazen Bondar

I enjoy both the gathering of resources as well as the actual crafting process. I was a HUGE miner in Glitch. I could literally spend hours going from one mine to another to get resources. But, I agree that this is a different function from actual crafting. Again, my apologies to the Landmark wounded but I found that crafting process there to be very satisfactory. I particularly enjoyed that people could leave open crafting stations throughout the world so no one was forced to carry around a crafting station. I don’t find the companion crafting in SWTOR to be enjoyable even though I do craft there. It reduces me to feeling like an overseer. The one thing I’ve always believed is that there should be two crafting systems: one for those who do industrial level crafting and one for those who do not. When you have a system that caters to industrial level crafting it usually is not enjoyable for small level crafters.

Bryan Correll

Something something SWG something something complete.


Like Bree, I will exclude gathering, selling, commerce, economy from my answer and focus only on the crafting bit.

I’ve basically never played a game where the crafting wasn’t just opening a recipe, adding materials and then clicking a button to craft. I did try FFXIV and so saw the crafting minigames there, but didn’t stick with the game so didn’t get familiar it. So, my experience with crafting has been nearly entirely negative: i’ve never seen a system that involves any sort of skill whatsoever.

So, if I were designing a crafting system, it’d be completely from scratch, ignoring existing systems.

My goal would be to get crafting to a similar place as a deep tab-targeting system: players have lots of different crafting skills they can use, and the choices they make when crafting, as well as how they react to the crafting process, will have a significant effect on the outcome. Use the right skills at the right time and you craft an awesome sword. Miss a skill, or make the wrong choices, or react poorly, and you craft an average or mediocre sword. Screw it up properly and you’ll get the equivalent of a wipe: you fail to craft the sword and lose your mats.


I wouldn’t. Instead, I would throw them all out…

…and instead, I would create system that make people want to craft instead of having to. Where they choose to rely on other crafters for the most part instead of being forced to. Where as RNG wouldn’t exist. While the choice of crafting would of valued alternative as a progression, as opposed to being a side project that aids progression. Where grinding will be kept nominal. And reliance on any cash shop would be neutered. As well professions would be easy and intuitive to break into, but more progressive to master for the long haul. And even allow the invention of something entirely new and novel… short like me: I would make it enjoyable.


You have described golden years EQ2 crafting to a T, up until wow’s influence destroyed it.


I’m not sure how popular my opinion is, but I basically love crafting but loathe commerce; as such, what I want is in essence Monster Hunter World’s crafting system. As in, both the components used in crafting and the end results are bound to your character — so not only there is no need for commerce, it isn’t even possible to trade for those things — with all the high-end gear coming only from crafting (so you will be wearing full sets of gear that you farmed the materials and crafted yourself).

If crafting can’t compete with the best gear drops, though, I tend to only engage in it only for the sake of completeness. And if crafting forces me to rely on other people — for example, by spreading components across multiple professions and preventing a single player from having them all — then I completely disregard that the game even has crafting and flat out refuse to ever trade with other players; basically, I will only trade for something when it’s a choice, when I also have the option of obtaining whatever I need by myself.


Fishing and mining like Warframe. I really like how the gathering of materials is some form of (interesting) minigame like that; still a natural partof the world, not a detached minigame. Very innovative, and I would love to see that extended to all gathering types.
Throw rare components on top of that, obviously rng but player skill could also matter.

Crafting like original EQ2. Subcomponents from different crafting skills (for the social trading aspect), quality range of products influencing stat outcome, quality on subcomponents controlling max quality of end products, crafting being a real fulltime occupation like adventuring with products that are on par with raid loot (requires rares and hard to craft, especially perfect quality products).

On top of that, something I am not aware that any game has done:
Components/products that can only be crafted in certain locations in the world (for resons..magic..pure water..whatever). With added logistics (by game design) to move these things around, preferably by players.
Crafting that can only be done deep in dungeons, requiring adventurers and crafters to band up.
Adventurers being dependend of crafters for re&pro active repairs, slow decay of equipment effectiveness (maybe each repair takes its toll on quality) – Or other systems and game design to making adventuring and crafting synergize (side effect is socializing).
Adventures hiring crafters and builders to build stuff, crafters hiring players for logistics tasks and protection of their goods.
Everything still with pure pve in mind, though it obviosly fits even easier with a pvp game.

Anyways, point is to make systems and game design that makes crafting as valid as adventuring and have social constructs appear from this in a natural non forced way.

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I’d combine the variety and flexibility of ESO’s system with the dedicated classes for crafters and harvesters, as well as the more involved crafting process from FF XIV.

I’d also love to see ESO create a separate pool of crafting skill points that you earn separately from combat skill points.


It was the resource gathering in SWG that I really liked – the fact that scouting out a really rare, high quality resource node enabled you to create server-best items. I used to spend hours just prospecting. Speeder, camp, pot-shots at wild animals. Happy times.


One of the few games when combining the hunt for resources, the aesthetics, the music, craft system…I actually felt immersion.

2Ton Gamer

I remember liking SWTOR’s companion crafting when they had the app where you could use your phone to tap in (or maybe that was a desktop remote thing??) I do seem to remember it being something official though, but it didn’t last long.

Currently I think Crowfall’s crafting is very deep, but maybe too grindy, but I do like where their head is and even though I am not a PvP 24/7 dedicated player, I have dreams of being a crafter 24/7 there as a job, if I ever get super bored with everything I am playing.