Now it's time for one of those long-winded rants about crafting. You see, I love crafting. There's something that really draws me in to an MMORPG with a good crafting system. What's a good crafting system? Well, that's up to the individual using it, but here are some things that pop to the top of my head when thinking about it.
1. Items should be customizeable and/or unique in some way. If two players make the same item, there should be differences between the two.
2. Grinding should be kept to a minimum, and anything you "have" to make should be desirable and usable.
3. Crafting should be complicated enough to take some experimentation to get good at, but simple enough to be able to get into.
There are other things I look at, but these three seem to be the things most lacking in today's MMO market. So, let's take a look more deeply at them.
My first point is very simple. I don't want to make an item that is identical to everyone else's item. I want it to reflect the resources that went in to it as well as my skill. Even if you are making a pair of lowbie boots, a higher level craftsman would make the boots better than a low level craftsman. This can be represented by skill bonuses, quality or durability bonuses, or in other ways. Star Wars Galaxies represented this by having every attribute of an item have an experimentational bonus, and having the crafter's skill determine the initial quality of the item as well as how many experimentation points and the likelihood the experimentation points would work. If I work hard to grind my way to max level of a trade skill in World of Warcraft, all I'm rewarded with is the hardest recipes in the game, which is laughable for the amount of time and resources it takes to get to that level. The reward should justify the means it took to get there.
My second point is a make-or-break point of most crafting systems. Whether a crafting system is utilized depends on how easy it is to get in to and how interesting it is. If I have to make 300 sets of orc underwear to get master tailoring, I'm not going to enjoy crafting as much as if I could make whatever I want. This is honestly a hard thing to do with most recipe type crafting systems, as they are innately designed on skill level versus recipes. This is fixable by making every recipe available from the begining and tweaking the failure chance and chance of skillup a bit. This would mean a low level blacksmith could make the hammer of uberness +10, but would most likely fail to make it and suffer some mishap (which should hinder him in a significant way so that he doesn't just try until he succeeds). Additionally, a high level smith could level making lvl 1 swords all day, but the chance of skilling up is low and the amount of skill gained will also be low, making it much more advantageous to use recipes of about your level (but not requiring it)
My final point is complexity. A simplistic crafting system is boring. World of Warcraft's crafting system can be completely automated with addons. Meanwhile, Final Fantasy XI's crafting system is complex and rich, but almost too confusing and lacking resource availability. Project Entropia's crafting system is difficult and conufsing, but fun if you have the time to invest in it. A crafting system should be interesting and fun every time you craft.
Next time I'll go into the Warhammer Online crafting system and my personal thoughts on it. Theories will fly and opinions collide on the next episode of VG Theory.