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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