Crafting in 5 Subscription MMOGs: The Good, the Bad, and the Blah

Jeffprime examines the best and worst aspects of this cornerstone system with a look at state of crafting in the current generation of MMORPGs.

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For many online gamers, crafting has become an integral part of the
gaming experience. Countless hours are spent in the arduous pursuit of
reaching the pinnacle of crafting achievement. The rewards for crafting
can be very generous indeed: incredible gear and weapons, the ability
to generate incredible amounts of gold in-game, and having fellow
gamers clamor for your specialty services to help them become the
fully-equipped juggernauts of their dreams. However, there can be quite
a downside for crafting in that the gamer may face long hours of
endless grinding for the raw materials needed and there are other
pitfalls that may incur based upon the game’s crafting system

Indeed, the most important component of any crafting system is the
crafting system itself. Not every crafting system is equal to one
another. One system may have some fine points in one area, but found to
be lacking in another. Another game might have some innovative
features, but can be clumsy and confusing in execution. Many crafting
systems share similar features, usually because one system may
“inspire” the system in another MMOG.
Let’s be honest: game companies look at what other companies
have done to see what works and what doesn’t.
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, is there? No matter
the true origins of the crafting system, each game looks to put their
own spin upon it to make it stand out from the crowd.

Our mission (should we choose to accept it….which we have or
else you wouldn’t be reading this!) is to examine the
crafting systems of five different MMOGs that are subscription based
and look at the good, the bad, and the blah that the different systems
offer. We’ll start off with a cursory glance at each
game’s crafting system and then go over what they offer, good
or bad. Please not that I won’t be doing a detailed
step-by-step guide to crafting for each game, but just a general
overview of the system they have in place. The games that
we’ll be examining are style="font-style: italic;">World of Warcraft,
of Conan
, style="font-style: italic;">Star Trek Online,
, and style="font-style: italic;">Rift.

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The Great Forge in Ironforge.


style="font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;">World
of Warcraft: This
game’s crafting system can be viewed
as the standard due to style="font-style: italic;">WoW
being the 800 pound gorilla of MMOGs. In
players can learn up to 2 primary professions (such as
Blacksmithing, Mining, Skinning, etc.) and any number of secondary
professions (Fishing, Cooking, First Aid, etc.). The basic system is
that you go a trainer who trains you up to a certain level in a
profession and from whom you can also purchase recipes to make various
items. You can also gain rare recipes from loot drops, faction
grinding, and raids. To create an item, you must first go out and
gather the necessary raw materials (either from a profession such as
Mining or Skinning or by using the Auction House). As you create items,
you gain skill in that profession. Items have a level associated with
them so that as you increase in skill, lower level items will no longer
give you xp towards your profession. In addition, if you choose to
replace a primary profession with another primary profession, you will
lose all the knowledge you had gained in the old profession. For
example, if you have Blacksmithing and Mining, but then decide to
replace Blacksmithing with Enchanting, you will lose everything you
have learned in Blacksmithing.

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The crafting hall in Meridian.

style="font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;">Warhammer
Online: style="font-style: italic;">WAR
shares some similarities with style="font-style: italic;">WoW,
but there are
some differences. Here you can pick one crafting skill (Apothecary and
Talisman Making) and one gathering skill (Butchering, Salvage, etc.).
Skill levels are associated by the equipment you buy (such as vials).
If you choose to learn a new skill and unlearn an old one, the skill in
the old skill will fall back to zero. While there are trainers from
whom you pick up the skill, there are no recipes in the game. Creating
items is totally based trial and error, but the game will inform you
before you try your recipe of whether or not you should feel confident
of the final result. There are crafting guides that have recipes on
third party sites, but nothing in-game.

style="font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;">Rift:
follows the same method of style="font-style: italic;">WoW
(again, why reinvent the wheel?). style="font-style: italic;">Rift
allows you have up to three different professions, chosen from both the
gathering professions (Butchery, Mining, etc.) and the crafting
professions (Armorsmithing, Runecrafting, etc.) You will go to a
trainer who will train you up to the next crafting rank and will also
sell you recipes. You can also gain rare recipes from doing daily
quests. Like style="font-style: italic;">WoW
and WAR,
you’ll need a certain skill level to create specific items.
The main addition to the crafting system in style="font-style: italic;">Rift
is through the use of Augmentations, which are items that can add a
variable amount of bonuses to the item being created. Like the previous
two MMOGs, you can choose to unlearn a skill.

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By Crom,
I must be high level to

think about crafting even a hankie,

much less this item!

style="font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;">Age of
Conan: By Crom, there are
some differences to be found in the crafting system in style="font-style: italic;">AoC
as opposed to style="font-style: italic;">WoW
and Rift
You can choose two crafting skills out of five (Armorsmith, Gemcutting,
etc.) and you can learn these skills at various trainers once you hit
level 40. There are multiple tiers of crafting and to advance to the
next tier, you’ll have to do a series of quests for the
master trainer once you’ve amassed enough xp to hit the next
tier. As always, there are plenty of resource material gathering, but
you can create some different things in style="font-style: italic;">AoC.
You can build siege weapons to be used in large-scale PvP warfare and
you can create building for use in guild cities. While most recipes are
available from trainers, you can pick up rare recipes from loot drops
or raids. The highest level recipes will require the use of special
buildings that can only be found in the highest tier guild cities, so
if you want to fully maximize your crafting, you will have to join a
guild that has a great city behind it.

style="font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;">Star
Trek Online: style="font-style: italic;">STO
has recently revamped their crafting season with their style="font-style: italic;">Season Three
update. Just like any other crafting system, you create items by first
gathering raw materials. However, you don’t need any specific
skill to gather these materials. You just have to search through space
and on planets. After you’ve gained a few levels,
you’ll be given a mission to go to Memory Alpha (if
you’re Federation) where crafting takes place. Klingon
crafting takes place on Qo’noS. Players create schematics
which are then later consumed in the creation process (unless
you’re making a consumable which does not require a
schematic). Unlike other MMOGs, there is a general research skill so a
player can create a variety of items from healing items to personal
weaponry and shields to ship systems.

The Good, the Bad, and the Blah

Rather than listing good points followed by bad points, I’m
going to list certain characteristics that I think should be found in a
good crafting system and then discuss MMOGs that follow that guideline
or fail to do so. The reason for this is if I list “having
awesome crafter titles” as a good characteristic and style="font-style: italic;">WoW
that feature but style="font-style: italic;">WAR
does not, I don’t have to discuss the
same topic in two separate places. With that in mind, let us turn our
crafty minds to what makes a good crafting system, in my humble opinion.

of Use:
Crafting should be
simple to do so that it can be easily
understood by the players. Who wants to have to know quadratic
equations or the phases of the moon to harvest some mats? To this end,
most of the games cited above meet this standard. Learn a skill, gather
the needed mats, and follow the recipe. The one game that stands out
that does not do this is style="font-style: italic;">WAR.
With its trial-and-error method,
frustration easily builds for the crafter. Why isn’t this
working? What else do I need to add to make it work? You
don’t know what is needed as there are no recipes. While you
can look at other sites that have listed recipes, you are unable to do
so within the game so style="font-style: italic;">WAR
fails at this topic badly.

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Easy to follow recipes for
making stuff.

You should be able to
craft items that your character can
use or else put on the Auction House. If you can’t make
something that benefits you, then why make it in the first place? style="font-style: italic;">WoW,
and STO
allow you to make items that are beneficial as you level
up. AoC
items are pretty good if they’re top tier, but
otherwise items you receive from loot drops at least equal what you can
make. WAR
is similar in that loot items tend to be as effective as
crafted items as you level up, with the exception of talismans that add
buffs. Why craft when you can loot something as good or better?

This criterion is twofold. First, you should be introduced to crafting
early in the game so that you can take advantage of the system as soon
as possible. Second, you should be able to travel to a crafting
location very quickly to allow you to make whatever items you want to
create. You shouldn’t have to spend 20 minutes running across
a giant zone to the only forge to be found in the kingdom to do some
smithing. For introducing crafting early in the game, only style="font-style: italic;">AoC
fails while the other four introduce it very early on in your questing
career. Age
of Conan
fails miserably
because you don’t get to start until you’re level
40. That’s pretty insane. That’s like playing a
first-person-shooter, but you can only use the pistol for the first
half of the game and then you’re allowed to use a rifle for
the second half. Plus, having to do quests for the trainer to get to
the next tier is cumbersome. It just adds a time-sink that the player
has to wallow through to make something better.

As for access to crafting locations, style="font-style: italic;">WoW,
and Rift
are pretty good at having multiple crafting locations. style="font-style: italic;">AoC
fails yet again in that many top tier items require access to special
buildings that can only be found in top tier player cities.
There’s no room for solo crafters in old Hyboria, hombre. You
better join a posse (guild) to get the cool stuff made. style="font-style: italic;">STO
gets a fail too in that you have to travel to Memory Alpha (for
Federation) or Qo’noS (for Klingons) to craft things. Why
can’t you craft items at any starbase? Again, this is just
another forced time-sink to keep you wasting time travelling when you
could be doing exciting things, like playing dabo or phasering tribbles.

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You will become very familiar
with Memory Alpha.

Crafting Choices should be Sufficient:

What I mean by this phrase is that when you choose a crafting path, you
should be able to create anything you want from that specific crafting
school and not rely upon other crafting schools. If I choose
Leatherworking, I should be able to craft some wicked leather armor and
not need items created by a Blacksmith or a Tailor. Yet, all of these
games, with the exception of style="font-style: italic;">STO,
force you to need items from other crafting professions to make certain
items. They do this to promote “the social experience and
grouping dynamic,” but we know the real reason. Again,
it’s another time-sink where you’ll either grind
out some gold to buy the needed mats from the Auction House or create
an alt that has those needed crafting professions. It’s utter
crap. If they want to force you to need items from other crafting
professions, then they should allow you to learn those other crafting
professions and not limit you to 2-3 professions. Since style="font-style: italic;">STO
relies only upon a general crafting level, you don’t have
that problem.

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Plans for a cool hammer.

Recipes should be Attainable by Solo Play:

I know that many people hate the fact that most game content can be
soloed today, but that’s the nature of the beast. To that
end, restricting certain recipes to raid drops is dumb, dumb, dumb. If
you want to force the players to grind out faction favor, I can
understand that for really good recipes (even though I still hate
grinding). Forcing players to group in a raid setting, which can be
nerve-wracking for casual players, only serves to force players to play
an aspect of the game that they might not want to do. There are many
players who love raiding, and there are many players who hate raiding.
I don’t see the need to penalize players who don’t
like raiding when there can be an alternative. style="font-style: italic;"> STO
is the only game that meets this test, while the other four fail. A
good alternative would be something along the lines of the epic
crafting quests in style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest 2.

should be Fun:
should be an enjoyable part of the game for the player. If
it’s not fun, then why is it in the game? A game is supposed
to equal fun! If crafting is grinding work, then why do it? I
don’t see big sales for style="font-style: italic;">Bathroom Shower and Tub
Tile Grouting: The Game, do
I? To this end, style="font-style: italic;">WoW,
and Rift
get a blah. Crafting can veer from “that’s a cool
item!” to “let me kill another 100 beasts so I can
make some mittens to hit the next tier in crafting.” style="font-style: italic;">WAR
gets a fail for their lousy crafting system that sucks the joy even
from a baby’s laugh. Why not have the ability to create some
whimsical objects with crafting? Something that may not be useful in
the powergaming sense, but an item that brings a laugh or a cheer from
other players? Making a funny costume, some fireworks, or wind-up toy
soldiers could lighten the mood. You could even make some mini-games
out of what’s created, such as a soap box derby race or a pie
fight. There are so many possibilities.

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Every time you craft in WAR,
an angel dies...

All in all, the basics of crafting are pretty universal across the
gaming spectrum, but each MMOG seeks to put their own stamp on
crafting. Some MMOGs succeed in certain aspects of their crafting
system (such as an easy system that you learn early on in style="font-style: italic;">WoW,
and STO)
but fail in other areas, such as needing mats from other crafting
professions (non- style="font-style: italic;">STO
games). While no single game has the ultimate crafting system, most of
them have capable systems, and most players should find little to fault
in them overall. (I’m just picky!) I would say that style="font-style: italic;">WoW
and Rift
have the strongest systems, and style="font-style: italic;">WAR
definitely has the worst. Agree or disagree with me? Give your opinions
in our forum.

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