Having looked extensively at content in previous posts, and how we want it to be personal and persistent, there’s one area where content can be repeatable without players getting frustrated, but it isn’t being used to its full potential: crafting.
Crafting is an idea that is arguable the only original gameplay idea to have appeared in MMOs over single player RPGs (discuss!). You gather ingredients, learn skills and craft items. Then you repeat. In honesty, I suspect that the repeatable nature was the driving force behind the inclusion of the mechanic. It allows developers to give players something to do that isn’t eating up quest content, that we’re happy to repeat, and doesn’t require new areas to be created. It’s an ideal way of eating up game time.
However, most MMOs don’t do it justice. There’s an exception I know about from friends, which is EVE Online, and hopefully someone will leave a comment to explain how crafting works and why it’s important in EVE, as I’m not a player. Leaving EVE to one side though, World of Warcraft has crafting, but really it’s only food and water and potions that are that worth having. Lord of the Rings Online improved this slightly with a more sophisticated crafting system. You have three different professions, and you can progress through levels, and you have to rely on other gamers to get certain ingredients – it’s hard to be self sufficient as a crafter, unless you use the Auction House, so it adds to the social aspect.
Unfortunately, this improvement was somewhat ruined by the fact that 90% of the stuff you can craft is simply not worth having by the time you can craft it, and at higher levels even standard quest drops are better items than you can craft. Take tailoring – the only thing you can create that anyone might even consider buying is a cloak. All the rest, all the armour, is pointless.
The next-generation MMOs will realise that we want to actual have a purpose in the game, to serve a function to ourselves and others. In short, we want to be able to craft items that are as good as the best you can get from raiding. I’m not saying it should be made easy for you to create these high spec items, just possible. That opens up the gameplay massively – some may choose to go the raiding root, while others will toil away creating their own items. It’s a no brainer for developers surely, because it adds masses of game time in for players without any real new content work for the developers?
It’s possible that this is already happening. When I saw an alpha build of Aion: The Tower of Eternity at NCsoft last year even we talked about crafting (I’ve seen it more recently – check the preview in MMOZine, but didn’t look at crafting). They expressly said that you would be able to create items that were as good as, or better than, the drops. It was completely agreed that limiting the best items to raids was too frustrating for players who enjoyed the more sedate crafting element. It also allows you to become important to a guild just as a crafter, rather than your skills or use in combat. I’m hoping that this idea will be fully realised in Aion, and the inclusion of the Private Shop idea seems to indicate how much emphasis has been placed on crafting, and that other future MMOs will embrace it too.
So, am I alone in this? Is crafting pointless, or simply pointless in its current implementation?