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7 October 2011 6 Comments

SWTOR Crafting Skills: What We Know of the Game Mechanics

You can find a list of SWTOR’s crafting skills anywhere, from SWTOR’s official site to my own crafting skills overview, and a hundred other blogs and fan sites in between. What’s harder to find is a description of how the skills actually work; how you make items, how you increase your skill, what kind of items you can make, and what level of detail the system will give you.

This is all the information I’ve been able to find so far. If you find anything in here confusing, feel free to refer to my Crafting Skills Glossary & Primer which explains common terms and concepts in the crafting skills world. I’ll also do a companion post for “What We Know About Gathering & Mission Skills” soon.

SWTOR crafting interfaceCaveat: as with all pre-release information, this is subject to change! Also please note that the devs have repeatedly made it very clear that there are parts of the crafting system they have not yet released, so the absence of “yes this mechanic definitely exists” doesn’t mean “no it definitely doesn’t exist”.

Once SWTOR goes live, and/or the NDA is lifted so beta information is readily available, I’ll create a new version of this guide with less speculation and more facts. As always, watch this space.

And now, on to the meat of the issue: what do we know about the item crafting system?

Item quality scale

If you’ve played other MMOs, you’d be used to the idea of item ‘quality’. As a general rule the higher-quality an item is, the better its stats are and the rarer it is.

From Darth Hater, the SWTOR item quality scale is:

Cheap < Standard < Premium < Prototype < Artifact < Legendary

I’m assuming this maps to an approximate scale of:

  • Cheap: junk for selling or throwing away, suitable only for use when desperate
  • Standard: basic gear available from vendors everywhere, few if any bonuses
  • Premium: uncommon gear from casual-level crafting, quest rewards, and looting from enemies; readily but not universally available
  • Prototype: rarer gear from “better” crafting, special quest rewards, etc.
  • Artifact: very special gear that’s very hard to get, probably from top-level content
  • Legendary: incredibly rare, epic, story-worthy gear

(Obviously my approximate mapping of the gear quality levels is heavily influenced by the fact that I’m a veteran WoW player and I can’t help but see the scale and think “right, that’s grey, white, green, blue, purple…”)

There’s also a quality level called “Legacy” that’s above Legendary. However, although I haven’t yet worked out what this Legacy stuff is, the forums seem awash with people bemoaning that it hasn’t been implemented. Whatever it is, it seems to be a mystery, and something that may not even be implemented at launch. Either way, it’s something that’s unlikely to affect crafters for quite a while, so on with the show.

Crafted item quality

It’s confirmed that the crafting system will produce items of varying quality, based on a number of factors:

  • The quality of the schematic
  • The quality of the raw materials
  • Your affection rating with the companion making the item
  • Your skill level in the crafting skill in question
  • Your crit probability

Note that companions also used to have skill specialties (the most-quoted one is Vette, the Sith Warrior’s Twilek companion, who had a bonus to the Treasure Hunting mission skill). However, these have now been removed; all companions are now equally good at all crew skills, and the only impact your choice of companion will have is based on how much that companion likes you.

Despite the promise of ‘varying quality of crafted items’, BioWare have specifically stated that this doesn’t mean your item will have better stats within a set range when using better raw materials, because of the difficulty of normalising the items. There will however be a system for getting better results from the same recipe compared with other crafters.

Reportedly, a crit result when crafting will give:

  • extra items if you’re making a consumable (like Biochem products)
  • extra mod slots if you’re making armor or weapons

Let’s examine the factors that go into the quality of the item:

Material quality
We know that the gathering skills will provide most of the bulk raw materials for crafting. However, there are also “hard-to-find components” which come from mission skills (and possibly also gathering skills).

In a blog post, game systems designer Patrick Malott confirmed that there would be “three quality levels for crafted blasters”: Premium, Prototype and Artifact. Premium blasters just take normal resources from gathering and vendors. Prototype blasters require “rare gathered resources and other valuable items”. Artifact blasters require “rare resources (gathered or otherwise) and other valuable items – possibly acquired from other players”. It’s probably safe to assume that most crafting skills are equivalent in this regard.

So that covers schematics where you know in advance “this schematic will make an Artifact-level blaster and I need X, Y and Z rare components to make it”. However, that doesn’t tell us whether you can use a rarer component in a standard recipe to increase the chance of getting a better result.

Schematic quality
The same dev blog post basically covers this one: better schematics (that is, schematics for better items) will be harder to find and/or acquire. Again, this will be a factor that you know in advance: “X schematic makes a Premium item, Y schematic makes a Prototype item”.

A Sith Warrior's companions at work.Companion affection rating
As this implies, each of your companions will have an independent opinion of you. This is affected by how you choose to treat them when you interact with them, their opinions of what they see you do, how well your moral codes align … and whether you’ve bribed them with gifts. Different companions appreciate different gifts, and these gifts can be acquired via a range of sources.

Your companion’s affection rating will alter their crafting speed; a companion who likes you will work harder on your behalf. Previously, the affection rating also affected crit probability; it’s unconfirmed whether that changed when companion skill bonuses were removed.

Skill level
As far as I know, skill level is measured numerically. However, I don’t yet know whether it’s a simple numerical scale (like WoW and RIFT, where your skill level goes from 1 to X, and you need a skill level of Y to make an item; once you can make it, your results are the same whether you’re at skill level Y+1 or Y+100). This doesn’t gel with the devs’ repeated assertions that the crafting system will take a lot of time and dedication to master.

Crit chance
At this stage, we don’t know exactly what gives crit chance (beyond, possibly, companion affection rating).

Reverse Engineering

Reverse Engineering, or RE, is the process of breaking down existing items into raw materials. All crafters can RE, but they can only RE items that they could otherwise craft, or similar items. (Although reportedly mods cannot be REd, though that may change – if it hasn’t already.)

Reverse Engineering gives you a supply of raw crafting materials and, reportedly, a chance to learn an improved schematic for an upgraded version of the same item. The upgraded version is usually of a higher quality level, with appropriately higher stats. There are multiple types of improved versions possible, each with an upgrade in a different area.

For instance, if the hypothetical Nifty Jedi Robes are a premium-level item, making and then REing them gives you the chance to learn a schematic for the Amazingly Nifty Jedi Robes, which are a Prototype-quality item with extra Endurance, or the Totally Nifty Jedi Robes, which are a Prototype-quality item with extra Cunning. And, of course, once you’ve learnt the Amazingly Nifty Jedi Robes schematic, you can then craft and RE that for a chance at an even better schematic.

Crafting Skills In Play, or: How does it all work?

Well, we don’t know – as you can see so far, we don’t know the mechanics of “how do you improve your skill?” and “what impact does higher skill have?” and “how do you become eligible to craft better items?”.

What we do know is this:

Companions are the ones actually doing the crafting, at your character’s behest. Your skill level dictates what they can and cannot make (and presumably how well they make it), but their affection rating dictates how fast they make it (and possibly also affects how well they make it).

Companions will perform this crafting at crafting tables. There’s (at least) one table type per crafting skill. There will be a crafting table for your chosen skill on your spaceship (assuming you have a crafting skill, that is); there are also crafting tables out in the world. (I’ve seen conflicting reports on whether the tables are actually required or not.)

Usually they’ll perform crafting on your spaceship. If you have a companion sitting idle on your spaceship, you can instruct them to begin crafting a given pattern at any time, even if you’re out adventuring with another companion.

There’s also a specialised companion on your spaceship, a droid who’ll be a crafting companion and general butler-type. As far as I know, you can’t take him out questing, but you can use him to perform duties on your ship, including crafting. There’s one droid for the Republic and one for the Sith.

Crafting items will take substantially longer than in most MMOs; even the fastest item’s base time will be measured in multiple minutes rather than a few seconds, and some items may take up to a day to craft. However, up to five companions can be crafting items at once for you, which will speed up the process.

SWTOR crafting interface showing specialisationThere will be specialization mechanics! This hasn’t been discussed by BioWare yet, but you can see it in this image to the right, taken from an April 2011 dev blog about game art. (Click to enlarge it.)

If you look on the right of the panel, you can see the selected item requires “Plastisteel Specialist” and has to be performed at an “Advanced Armor Fabrication Table”. This specialisation may be BioWare’s mystery crafting mechanism, or it may just be one more piece of the puzzle.

Acquiring schematics is a large part of the crafting game. BioWare have confirmed that some schematics will drop from enemies, and in Flashpoints and Operations; there will also be valuable schematics available via a research system so that competitive crafters aren’t forced to raid. This may be the Reverse Engineering system described above, or something separate. The Investigation Mission Skill is also a source for schematics.

What We Don’t Know

We still don’t know how crafters will, mechanically, differentiate themselves from one another – however, BioWare continues to assure us that they will be able to. We don’t know how your skill is measured, or how you improve it, or what mechanical process you go through to create the items.

When we do know all that, however, I’ll be updating this guide – or creating a new version – so watch this space!

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