While I don’t want to rehash the great discussion we had from my previous post, I do want to touch on a point that I might have missed, and that Psychochild mentions; who are we designing crafting for?
He points out that many socializers enjoy crafting, as it allows them to chat and be social while still getting something done. While you create 100 bronze daggers, you might as well chat it up with your guild mates, right? In this case, the actual crafting is just a side event to being social, and since it’s a side event, how engaging or useful the actual crafting is might not be that important. More important is that the crafting does not interfere with chatting, so active input systems like EQ2 tend to be less favorable to something like LoTRO, where you can queue up those 100 daggers, click a button, and chat until all 100 are finished. Sure you are just going to vendor all 100 daggers, but again, that’s not really the point, the point is that crafting is an excuse to stand around and just chat without feeling like you are doing nothing. No matter the play style preference, we all like to feel like we are advancing our characters, be it levels or crafting skill.
So at least for socializers (incoming generalization, relax), crafting being actually useful is great, but not make-or-break important. Systems where 99% of all crafted items are worthless vendor trash are not seen as broken, but rather as ‘just the way it is’. If you are aiming crafting at socializers, you focus more on creating a simple, unobtrusive system rather than something that will significantly impact gameplay or power balance. This might explain most crafting systems in MMOs. If you are not primarily a socializer, you might miss the point of crafting.
But what if we wanted to target crafting at other play styles like achiever, explorer, or killer? Would there even be an interest in such a system? EVE, for instance, has a vastly different crafting system, one that appeals more to the min/max crowd than to the typical socializer. If dumping data into excel and analyzing it is your idea of fun, you will love the crafting/market game in EVE. And lots of people do love it, to the point that that is all they do in EVE. Whole Corporations (guilds) exist to focus on mining/production/selling. And that aspect of EVE has a profound impact on all other aspects of the game. Regardless of what you do, the crafting system in EVE has impacted your game. In contrast, you could go from 1-70 and see almost all the content in WoW without ever coming into direct contact with crafting. You can ignore the nodes, ignore the crafting section of the AH, and never need to use a single crafted item.
At some point during this rambling I got a bit off track, sorry… My point is that it’s important to identify who you are targeting with your crafting system, and design reasonable expectations around it. If we are targeting the socializer, what the system does not do, impede chatting, is more important than what it does do, create useful items. On the other hand, if we are aiming at the min/maxer, you better make sure your system is not only useful, but centrally important to everything else, and deep enough to appeal to the number crunchers without excluding everyone else. Above all, what should be avoided is a crafting system simply thrown into an MMO for the sake of a bullet point on the back of the box, or because someone in design just assumes all MMO’s need a crafting system, regardless of how it actually fits into your game.
Maybe if crafting was targeted more to a specific audience it would receive less hate for being worthless or misguided. Just like raiding or PvP targets an audience, why can’t crafting?