Crafting sucks

I think I spend a good hour or more last night getting the water entrance to my new structure in Minecraft ‘just right’. That activity involved placing and deleting dirt squares repeatedly. Finally it’s now a waterfall that only has water falling down, rather than down and under into the ‘secret’ passageway behind it. :Achievement!:

This was, of course, after I cleared half the Sahara digging up sand to turn into sandstone for the middle layer. Plus I needed to bake lots of cobblestone into stone, because, well, you can’t have things not looking right, right? Sure cobblestone and stone do the same thing, and the only real difference is that cobblestone is more white/gray/black specs while stone is just mostly gray, but listen, the gray looks better, so that’s how it was built!

Which brings me to the point of today’s posts: ‘fun’ crafting has nothing to do with the actual activity required to craft something, but is all about the WHAT and WHY of crafting. That’s why 99% of MMO crafting sucks. The ‘what’ is my 1000th pair of chain pants to grind up smithing, and the ‘why’ is because I need the skill at the cap to make that one epic I’ll actually find useful (until the next raid that replaces it, if not the raid last week that already replaced it, oops). No amount of ‘mini-games’ is going to make that fun, because if I actually want to play a mini-game, I’ve got a Wii, and it does that type of gameplay far better than an MMO. And no Wii mini-game is fun after the 1000th time anyway, so yea.

And it’s not like WHAT and WHY has never been done well in an MMO. Crafting the 1000th pair of chain pants in UO was fun. Why? Because I had a vendor to sell them on, and by keeping my vendor well stocked and with reasonable (but still very profitable) prices, I developed a reputation and had repeat customers. A few of those repeat customers then became friends through the somewhat ‘natural’ interaction of me being around the house and them visiting it. My characters FULL TIME activity in UO was crafting and gathering at one point, and it was thrilling. UO had click and wait crafting.

Minecraft is much the same, although less ‘massive’. The crafting is still very simple ‘drop it into this, pull out that’ stuff, and the gathering is ‘mash left-click x1000000’. Yet the gathering is fun thanks to the huge random world, and the crafting works because you not only set the purpose, but also directly see the results. I don’t start by baking sand to allow myself to finally reach gold-smelting. If Minecraft was a ‘tradition’ MMO, $10 says smelting iron/gold would be an ‘end-game’ activity you skilled-up to reach. That sounds incredibly stupid, but that’s how a lot of MMO design works, and that’s why 99% of crafting sucks.

6 Responses to Crafting sucks

  1. Bhagpuss says:

    If you reference your UO pants crafting against Saylah’s series of posts on her EQ2X furniture shop you’ll see that the concept remains intact, I think.

    http://notadiary.typepad.com/mysticworlds/2010/09/job-well-done-and-new-faces.html

    Mrs Bhagpuss has spent much of the last 18 months in EQ2 building houses – she’s in there now doing one for Brewday so as to get it done before we go to Rift. Her virtual design skills are awesome. I am not even going to mention Minecraft to her because I would like to keep my duo partner for the actual fighting stuff.

    I completely agree with you about crafting mini-games. The point of crafting in MMOs is what you DO with what you have crafted. Which doesn’t mean the process can’t be absorbing too.

    Vanguard developed the crafting process to the point where it really was a game within a game, but even there it was the high desirability of the end product that provided the motivation to persist. It would have been rather hollow if all that effort had resulted in stuff no-one wanted.

    The counter argument must be that if crafted items aren’t all that important (viz WoW, Warhammer, Rift) then the crafting process needs to be fast and easy. I craft in every MMO because I like to make all my own gear if i can. Mrs Bhagpuss and I try to cover all the possible crafts between us to be as self-sufficient as possible. I don’t think either of us looks at the actual process as “fun”. It’s the end result that’s fun.

    Sorry, that was a bit incoherent. Pick out the bits that make sense and craft a narrative if you like.

  2. sid67 says:

    I agree on the mini-game. They quickly tend to end up being more of a frustrating chore rather than a “fun activity” pretty quickly. That’s particularly true when the reward is insignificant. I’m reminded of WAR’s miserable Cultivating skill (or whatever the growing one was called). Ugh.

    That said, mini-games for profit can quickly end up being an important meta-game. One could argue that the entire EvE economy is based on lots of boring mini-games but I don’t you’ll find anyone calling them trivial because that’s how you earn virtual currency.

    In a weird way, I think you see the same thing with WoW’s daily quests. Boring, trivial mini-games that aren’t thought of as boring or trivial because of the reward they provide.

    As always, give the dog his treat and he’ll happily run circles around you all day.

  3. Mala says:

    I’ve tried writing up about 3 comments now, but I keep disliking them, so I’m just going to end with “I totally agree”

  4. Kyff says:

    You hit the nail on the head. But I wonder why you didn’t drop any words about darkfall.

    I’ve hated crafting in both EQs, Vanguard and Morrowind. Never even tried it in other games. Darkfall is the first game where crafting is actually useful and meaningful. It’s pretty easy to get yourself set up with crafting basics and the fist handmade chain haubercs were such an improvement to mob dropped cloth with little durability that I enjoyed every crafting act.

    Due to the durability loss you actually need to replenish your stock, making the 10th hauberk as useful as the first. I know I will hit a wall between chain hauberk and dragon armor at some stage. But up to plate it’s something that can quite easily be done.

  5. Saylah says:

    EQ2X questing has never been my thing. And even though I enjoy crafting in general because I like the idea of creating items that persist on in some manner in a virtual world, I’ve never had as much fun as I had in EQ2 crafting.

    It was the first time I attempted to play the game completely on my own terms aided by the fact that I didn’t feel constrained by getting my money’s worth from a subscription. It was the perfect storm of new players coming in to the world and old veteran players coming on board who didn’t have the time or patience to harvest and craft lower level items. The whole thing quickly grew beyond my ability to sustain the custom requests and orders. Unfortunately, the game didn’t have any mechanics like EVE for me to form a cartel of equal minded crafters so that I could keep the shop going.

    I don’t mind click-n-go crafting ala WOW and many other MMOs. I preferred EQ2′s open ended, craft what you can conceive at least when it came to carpentry. I’d prefer something even a not so great system versus nothing at all. MMOs minus crafting ring a false note for me in the RP department. With the exception of the born into wealth and the unemployed, the vast majority of us have jobs. I consider crafting my character’s career – how they earn a living in that virtual society.

  6. Torcano says:

    I agree and won’t repeat points already mentioned…

    But saylah, don’t you think that ‘realistically’ even a lvl 1 hero who slays beasts that would own any commoner would be more valuable economically than any mere trade?

    The whole DnD hero class system used by most RPGs is actually sort of predicated RP wise on the fact that any level of PC class means you are beyond the rest of the world.

    I think what muddled things for you is the fact that due to players all being heroes they actually make up the majority of the visible population.
    Giving the impression that a Player isn’t a godlike force in the world.

    Basically what I’m saying is in a hero themepark like WoW crafting pretty much defies RP logic in 99% of cases. Something like EvE….well that’s a different story.

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