As the topic of Warhammer Online’s crafting system was briefly mentioned here recently, I figured this was as good a time as any to throw out my somewhat fleshed out idea for a crafting system, and see what flaws or issues people might find.
First some basics before we get into the details. My idea could only be applied to a game from day one; it’s not something that can be attached to an existing game. The system would also determine many other aspects of design, and the assumption is that those aspects would indeed work. Finally, this is just something that I randomly came up with, and while based on my previous MMO experience, it’s not an adjustment of any one particular system.
The game in question here would be a mix of level and skill base, something similar to Asheron’s Call. Crafting would not be available in any way until a certain point, sometime around halfway to the level cap. Itemization itself would be radically different than what we are use to in most MMOs today, in that all weapons of a certain type (sword, axe, dagger) would have only a very minor difference in dps stats. A bronze sword is nearly as effective as a diamond megablade. Skill points factor heavily into a weapons total power, so someone with low sword skill will do significantly less damage than someone with near-max (softcap) sword skill. No item would be bind on equip or pickup, and all items would have a durability score, which would eventually lead to an item being destroyed with enough use. Death quickens the destruction process.
When you first pick up a craft, let’s use weaponsmith as an example, you are able to craft the most basic of weapons, those being bronze. As you advance in your craft, more options become available, such as iron, steel, diamond, etc. Now remember that the difference between diamond and bronze is mostly cosmetic, as the stats increase only slightly. The only time stats could be improved more significantly, and this would be rare, is if the smith ‘crits’ during crafting, resulting in a bonus power increase, or he uses a rare extra ingredient, which would result in a minor side buff, such as a bleed effect or stun. Both crit and side buff items would also receive some kind of secondary cosmetic change, be it a small glow or extra gem in the hilt.
All items, even the most basic bronze, would be harder to craft than what most MMOs offer today. While the exact balance would need to be tuned, something along the lines of both a time limit (1 sword per day) and a skill check (mini-game to determine success rate, with a possibility to create junk) would be involved. All higher level items, the iron, steel, diamond gear would have increasing difficulty in crafting, both in the time cooldown and the mini-game, plus an overall increase in materials needed.
The intended result would be this: bronze weapons would always be useful, as power-wise they are comparable to all but the rarest weapons, but cosmetically they look inferior to higher crafted gear. Since all gear eventually wears out, characters would store multiple sets of gear. A low cost set for day to day use, along with more specialized sets, be it a ‘look cool’ diamond set or a very expensive ‘best’ set used only for serious challenges (PvP or PvE), and however many in-between sets. As gear does wear down, all players would constantly be looking to replace broken pieces, creating an infinite demand for crafters. As crafting would require spending character points (or whatever advancement system is used), a crafter would be weaker in combat than a pure focused fighter/mage, although still able to hold their own in all but the most extreme cases. This inherent weakness would limit the appeal of crafting, making it rarer and hence more desired. In addition, crafting drops during adventuring could be sold, creating a secondary market between adventurers and crafters. Deals could be made between two people, with one providing rare materials and the other crafting at a discounted rate, in exchange for further material supplies.
I envision a scenario where a warrior finds a rare gem, and seeks out a top crafter to craft a new sword. The warrior would be wise to find the highest skilled crafter he can, as the gem is rare and the result is not guaranteed. Let’s assume the crafter is successful, he crits, and the warrior now has a very rare, very distinct sword, both in power and looks. This not only bring a bit of fame to the warrior, but also to the crafter. And while the warrior was successful in acquiring a new sword, its time is limited, and eventually with enough use, it too would need to be replaced.
On top of all this, since gear never gets out-leveled, quests and mob drops would be mostly related to gold or crafting ingredients, and less about actual gear drops. The idea of raiding or grinding to acquire that one awesome weapon would not exist, replaced with the constant need to upgrade and replace, steadily being able to afford using more powerful or fancy gear more often. A poor player might own a special sword, but he won’t be able to afford using it during normal questing, while a player of great wealth will have more freedom in what gear is uses in day to day use, and will be able to pursue and purchase rare pieces.
I could go on, but I think that lays out the basic ideas. More detail could always be applied to each scenario or example, but I’m curious to see what others think. Let me know!