Why MMO Crafting Sucks & 5 Ways To Fix It
In order to accurately propose a solution to a problem, you first have to know what the problem is. In this case, World of Warcraft provides the most easily understood examples, and has acted as a standard for most MMOs to come after, so I’ll be addressing it. There are other crafting systems that circumvent this standard, but they are the rarity, not the norm. Even though I wish they were.
The first step in creating something is gathering. There are three ways to gather crafting materials in World of Warcraft: nodes (mining, herbalism, skinning), corpses (tailoring) and salvaging (enchanting). This breakdown of each way to gather allows us to take a look at what gathering professions are not as time-consuming.
- Nodes are the most reliable source of crafting materials, so it’s no surprise that alchemy and blacksmithing are the easiest crafting skills to level up. Farming for materials is as simple as finding a path that covers the most space possible and harvesting every node you come across. As a result, node gathering is the least frustrating of all gathering, as they spawn in static locations and give a predictable amount of resources per drop. Thanks to the way WoW handles nodes – every time you harvest it spawns another node in the same region – you can farm as long as you want without having to take breaks to wait for respawn timers. The only issue is that said nodes can often be stolen by other players also farming for materials. The amount of times a node has been stolen from me by a character with a name like “Lazxcavb” is far higher than it should be. The “nodes” created for skinning by killing a beast enemy don’t have this issue, making it a nice competition-free farm.
- Corpses are a little more unreliable. Any time a game relies on enemy drops for average crafting materials, the harder it will be to get those crafting materials without dedicated farming. Gathering cloth from corpses is more frustrating than nodes by far thanks to this, but Blizzard has effectively tuned the game so that players know what enemies drop cloth (humanoids of a certain level). These enemies also drop cloth far more frequently. Other MMOs, unfortunately, haven’t followed suit with this fine-tuning.
- Enchanting is considered the most irritating of all gathering-related disciplines, thanks to the fact that you have to get rare drops in order to get materials. It’s also the discipline I hate most whenever I play an MMO. Getting rare drops to advance your level just isn’t fun. It sucks to rely on rare drops to gather materials, thus forcing you to farm a lot or purchase items from the auction house.
Crafting, however, is far more irritating than gathering. Crafting has been codified as a series of levels that you increase by creating items, and every time you reach a certain level, it makes previous items worth less experience and unlocks a new generic set of recipes. These recipes are usually the standard refinement materials (bars, inks, etc) combined with other, more rare items such as gems, materials from a gathering profession not directly associated with the crafting profession, and rare materials from dungeons and bosses.
This method of crafting is both farm-heavy and grind-heavy. It encourages players to spend a lot of time and/or money doing the same paths to optimize their materials gathering so they can level up as much as possible. Oftentimes it leads to a lag in crafting where the crafting level does not match the character level, forcing the player to rely on drops instead of items they have created. This is very frustrating to the average player, as it greatly reduces the value of crafting and makes it so that the only true value behind crafted items lies at the max level. There is no fun to be had in farming materials for items you are simply going to sell or disenchant because they serve no use at your current level. Basically, grinding sucks.
Games as diverse as Star Trek Online to Warhammer Online have used this exact same system. A system, I might add, that is straight out of 1997. Even games like Guild Wars 2, supposedly designed to break the MMO mold, follow this method of crafting almost to the letter. Sure, there are some tweaks (in GW2 the tweak is the discovery system), but you are still crafting items that are completely useless to you to raise an arbitrary stat to the max level. I don’t want to make 50 of the same useless steel boots in order to make a mithril boot.