Why MMO Crafting Sucks & 5 Ways To Fix It

The Problem

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.

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7 Comments on Why MMO Crafting Sucks & 5 Ways To Fix It

monotoy

On January 10, 2013 at 3:55 pm

I fully agree.
Take anything you might do in real life – knitting, sharpening knives on water stones, growing plants, playing games, reading, learning languages, cooking, whatever – while getting better at it always involves a certain amount of repetition (to refine your skills), you rarely improve on whatever it is by doing stuff you already know one million of times. You also normally don’t improve just by using the equivalent of “rare drops” (exotic es, highly expensive natural stones, learning extremely complex but rarely used words etc). You improve by applying your skills in different manners, using different techniques (recipes, ways to achieve the same end, talking to different people doing the same thing but by different means) with the same materials to end up with variants. By doing so, you widen your skill set, connect more and more dots … hell crafting in mmos should be even cross skill, levelling different types of crafting should increase overall skill gain.

how to implement this properly in a game type that is based on grinding? hell knows.

Patches

On January 10, 2013 at 5:17 pm

You’re quite right, however my real problem with crafting is that it seems only useful to use on my toon when you’re low level and not rich, so what you make is usually better than what you can get from Monsters / Loot / Auction House…

But then, you reach a point where the best things are only drops from tough Bosses or difficult dungeon runs. Meaning that in mid or late part of the game, you’ll get the best by doing tough dungeons or buying it from the AH… What’s you’re crafting seems to only serve as getting more money… Be it the equipment lower level players wants or the ‘classics’ that everybody needs (health potion, etc…)… Only a few of items in the long list of what you can do will be useful to you, as a player at the level you’re currently at…

And also crafting shouldn’t take too much of your time… When virtual cooking take almost as much time as cooking real food (granted, the amount and complexity of what you get in the end is not the same, but you’ll eat virtual food more quickly and more often than in real life), then it became tedious and not fun, in the long run… Unless your MMO makes you the blacksmith or the cook of the town, I guess…

Kevin

On January 10, 2013 at 6:39 pm

I still like the way SWG used to do it with their resources. Maybe not an exact copy, but it was interesting.

They had resource nodes like anyone else. but those nodes “shifted” in and out. So sometimes, you had certain resources with very good stats, other times it was crap stats, or sometimes one stat was better than the other. That got a little confusing to the outsider, but the econ guys loved it.

The crafting part was the best. Sure, it was just like anything else, make an item. But as you “leveled up” in crafting, or you got additional crafting gear, you had “experimentation” points. This allowed a pretty wide and varied modification of the good. Of course, it could also fail.

But a big problem is as patches describes it. Quite frankly, crafting is pointless in most theme park games once you are 50, since raiding is where you get everything. And there’s no way to reconcile this. Every game that tries it fails crafting wise.

You need to make crafting either identical in goods to the raid stuff, or make it better, and make raids about things other than the fat loot. (Rep points or something, I dunno.)

Me, I love open market economy games, where the majority of stuff is crafted by the player and sold by the player. (Think SWG, EVE, POTBS, etc.) These are the games that do crafting right, but they weren’t themepark games where the best stuff came from raids,hence why they could do this.

Luther

On January 11, 2013 at 1:08 am

You would love crafting in FF14.

Goner

On January 11, 2013 at 1:20 am

I don’t really play one of this game, but i remember back to the 8ties, a game call ” Sapiens”, made by Loriciels one of the best game maker of the moment , and you could craft your weapon and it was really about dexterity and …….well you know it was fun.
http://www.gameblog.fr/blogs/ironyan/p_68998_amstrad-cpc-sapiens-de-loriciel-1986
the 4th picture ( this is the amstrad cpc version )
Sadly everything is french but your weapon was craft manually not aleatory,(one of the 1st game with night and days cycle), so you get really involve in the art of crafting..
here the PC version more color full : http://homeoftheunderdogs.net/game.php?id=3748

CatmanStu

On January 11, 2013 at 10:36 am

My take on crafting is that it should compliment other skills not sit in isolation.

Say you craft a sword and it is powerful for your level so you kill enemies quicker and level quicker making the sword less powerful. In a normal RPG this would mean learning to craft a better sword for more power, but I would say it should be about making your current weapon more effective as you are accustomed to it and should have a higher skill level with it than a new weapon making the ability to maintain and improve a weapon integral to the level of the weapon skill.

This would be as simple as creating a buff for an item that increases each level and decreases if the item becomes unusable and has to be fixed; which could be offset by having a huge leveling boost for fixing a broken item.

S.J.M

On January 15, 2013 at 10:22 am

During my time on WoW I found 2 things from crafting.

1 – The only good one that could be used in tandem with leveling (and beyond) was Alchemy/Herbalism. Any kind of pot could be useful, be it healing/Mana or an effect over time buff. Once I hit the level limit and raided, spending time finding herbs and making pots wasnt all that long, I’d have weeks of pots stashed in my bank for future use and more flasks then i’d ever need and wouldnt need to replenish as quick. It was quick to level and for the most part kept up with my toons actual level. I used what I made, and those that were not could be sold… or sent to an alt. Which brings me to point #2

2- Nearly every other type of crafting was only helpful to your alt. Blacksmith items were shoddy at best, but you could gear your alt toon up for a few dozen levels before drops and auction house buys became better equipment. Same for leatherworking, and tailoring. All the gear was near pointless for leveling as you went with your main as it was always several levels behind you.

I have not played WoW in many a year now, so Im nieve to what its like, but way back when the only profit that enchanters ever made was forcing people to pay silly money for big enchants, thats when it became worthwhile to the enchanter.

Oh, but making bandages was a good thing and easy to do. And they saved my arse several times in raids when those pesky priests didnt want to heal!