Before I talk about crafting, I have to discuss resource gathering. Gathering is vital to crafting, and the choice of a gathering system must mesh well. There aren’t pure gathering types for MMORPGs, and every game seems to use a different system.
World of Warcraft uses a resource system based partly on mob drops and partly on resource nodes. A character with a gathering skill goes out, finds a copper node or a silverleaf bush and collects it. They then turn those items over to crafters or make items themselves. Cloth raw materials drop off of humanoid mobs, and useable items drop off of just about everything. These items come together to fuel the fires of industry. This system is good from an economic standpoint. If you are a gatherer, you will have money as long as you’re gathering. Crafters always have the option to gather themselves, and with enough gatherers the market price will be stable.
Final Fantasy XI uses a similar system. Gather Points spawn where resources can be gathered, and mobs drop useable loot. The difference between this an WOW is that as long as you have a tool, you can try to use a gather point. In WOW, you have to have a gathering skill to get resources. The good part about this is that anyone can gather, there is no restriction on it. The bad news is that anyone can gather, and there are no resource nodes that aren’t fought over. Also, since so much of the crafting materials are drops off of higher level mobs, a character either has to have a lot of money or has to be high enough level to go and get those items. Market prices are still largely stable, but availability of certain items is left to chance.
Star Wars Galaxies is unique for it’s gathering system in that resources have a quality value. In the game, resources spawn on planets and stay for a period of a few days to a few weeks. Each resource is given a name, and unique stats within a range for it’s type. For instance, Polysteel Copper will have a very high conductivity rate. A particular spawn of Polysteel Copper may have a conductivity rating of 950, and a different spawn later will only have 780 conductivity. When crafting, certain statistics of a resource are used and others are not. Copper is great for wiring and electronics, but not that great for insulation. Most resources come from the ground, pulled up by harvesters that anyone can place, or manually by traders who have the survey/sample skill. Creature resources can be harvested from any creature you kill. There are also special drops that can be used for crafting (such as krayt dragon tissues for more powerful weapons). All resources have some sort of quality, and that is what makes SWG crafting so complex and fun (more on that later). The benefit is that the game has great crafting and gathering depth. The downside is that it gets horribly complex if you obsess about being the best. People would devote large portions of their day to locating the best resources before they despawned.
Up next is crafting (for real this time).