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28 September 2011 7 Comments

Why I Enjoy Crafting

Before I get started on dishing up actual crafting info, I wanted to take a moment to talk about why I care about crafting systems; why it’s a part of the game that I think is important enough to blog about.

I’ve rambled about this at friends quite a lot over the years, in one way or another, and most recently I had to get my thoughts in order to explain to Dee at exactly why I liked crafting.

SWG's crafting interface My enthusiasm for this aspect of game systems has often baffled friends whose experience with MMOs has been limited to games like WoW and RIFT with their extremely linear, uncompelling tradeskills systems. My first MMO was Star Wars Galaxies; SWG alumni can be found all over the MMO-gaming landscape mourning the loss of its brilliant crafting system.

(Okay, my first MMO was technically Ultima Online; however, that was many years before SWG, and I barely remember anything about it. Lord knows how I managed to miss the EQ bandwagon when my UO guild migrated there.)

I won’t fill this post with hundreds of words about what made SWG’s crafting system so unique (as I already did to poor Dee’s comments); instead I’ll summarise:

SWG’s system:

  • produced crafted items of better quality when the raw materials were of higher quality;
  • produced items of better quality when the crafter had put more effort into maximising their character’s crafting skills;
  • allowed the crafter to vary the item’s stats or other attributes (like colour and name), creating customised products;
  • required the crafter to sacrifice other parts of gameplay to be a crafter (ie. spending skill points on crafting meant you couldn’t spend them on combat skills), so the market was never glutted;
  • allowed the grindy part of producing items in bulk to be automated in ‘factory’ facilities while the player went off to do something fun;
  • was complex enough that player skill played a significant part in the outcome of the process (eg in selecting the best raw materials or making intelligent customisation choices); and
  • had a meaningful chance of failure (raw materials used, end product failed or useless)

SWG's crafting interface - the Experimentation window The important part is not SWG’s specific game mechanics or how they implemented these principles; it’s the principles themselves. In a well-designed crafting system, a dedicated crafter can set themselves apart with a higher-quality or rarer finished product because they know the system better and have dedicated the time to master it, in the same way that an expert raider or PvPer can distinguish themselves by their skill.

And that’s what I like about crafting – or, more accurately, about good crafting systems. Implemented properly, they’re not just a grindy break from killing people or monsters, they’re an interesting part of gameplay in their own right.

How will dedicated crafters find SW:TOR? Well… we don’t know yet. Most information is still locked up tight under NDA; we know what the crafting skills are (and I’ll be presenting a guide about that soon), but we don’t know much yet about how they’ll be pursued. However, Game Director James Ohlen went on the record at Pax Prime as saying that if you want to be a level 1 crafter, you can. This does suggest that the devs are aware that some people play to craft and enjoy a meaningful crafting-centric game style, so we can only hope that this translates into an enjoyable, complex, satisfying tradeskills system in-game.

Image credit: The image of SWG’s crafting interface was taken from a post on the Sony SWG forums which may disappear when the game finally goes dark in mid-December 2011. The image of the experimentation interface was taken from a post on The Chosen Ones’ guild forum.

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