Why MMO Crafting Sucks & 5 Ways To Fix It

The Solution(s)

Any critic can find problems with a system, but few can propose solutions. In light of this, I’d like to propose some solutions to the current model of crafting systems. These solutions aim to encourage exploration and discovery over grinding to hit max level, and ideally will provide average players of any level with the ability to create gear tailored to themselves.

1. Gathering should allow players to get the materials they need as they level.

There are a few ways to do this:

  • Looted materials – such as enchanting dust in World of Warcraft – should stay in the current crafting system, but with less importance. Recipes using them should shift over to using a combination of rare materials and common ones.
  • More common looted materials like claws or cloth should be changed to be more akin to skinning, where you can “harvest” enemy corpses for the materials you need.
  • Node gathering should be player-specific (so nobody can steal your node) and should spawn another node somewhere in the zone when a node has been harvested.

2. Crafting should be based on recipe discovery, not number of items created.

You have to make players want to make items rather than dreading it. The system below is the way I would personally love to do crafting:

  1. Players are given recipes for basic refined materials such as bars of metal. They then use those refined materials alongside other materials to discover new recipes.
  2. Once a recipe has been discovered, it is added to your crafting book. Where this differs, however, is in execution. Rather than limiting the player based on crafting experience, the system should be designed around encouraging them to discover more recipes.
  3. Thus, access to the next “tier” of crafting (bronze to iron, iron to steel, steel to <insert fantasy metal here>, etc) is restricted by the number of recipes the player has discovered, rather than level. This allows players to focus more on the fun part of crafting (discovering new stuff) and less on the tedious part (gathering materials).
  4. It also provides incentive to continue discovering low-level recipes, as those recipes will allow the player to continue to a new tier regardless of how low-level they are.

3. Crafted items should scale with the player as they level up.

Item scaling would allow players to feel less guilty about creating items that are lower level, as they will stay with them on their journey. Higher-tier items would, instead of providing a faster scaling, allow players to create more magical combinations and perhaps give more customization (gems, runes, etc) slots. Increasing player strength with more options rather than higher numbers always serves to deepen the experience. That’s a lesson that Defense of the Ancients has been teaching us constantly over these past few years.

4. Crafting an item should become easier/more profitable as the player does it more

A system where you become better at creating items as you make more of them is a bit more reactionary, as it addresses the issue of players crafting a single item and never touching it again. This system would likely be more in line with traditional crafting: create the item, get experience, and each new experience level increases the stats of the item you craft. As you craft an item more, you become more familiar with the recipe, and “crude” gives way to “fine” gives way to “expert.” You can’t craft a master longsword in real life, but crafting one in the game can still feel like an accomplishment.

5. Crafting should have a purpose to players that have not hit the level cap

There are some non-crafting ways to make crafting more useful to players below the level cap. Once again, World of Warcraft leads the way in terms of making this viable. As players can freeze their XP gain in order to participate in low-level PVP, there is a market for lower-level items that are of no use to players higher up. This can also possibly be extended to low-level dungeons and drops, making them more likely to drop if a player is of the appropriate level and giving a player a reason to stick around besides low-level min-maxing.

The biggest issue with crafting – the juxtaposition of encouraging player discovery with forcing them to adhere to a set level structure – will likely never go away. It’s even present in non-MMO titles such as Skyrim. However, instead of sticking to the dusty old norms of the genre, designers should be trying new ways to get players involved. Crafting is an interesting system and has potential to give players even more choice in determining their character path. But it could definitely be less boring. And the best part about it is that the way I propose is hardly the best. Nobody knows MMO mechanics better than MMO players, after all, so share your own thoughts on how these systems can improve! The best designers are often the players with the most dedication, after all.

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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!