The unsolvable problem of crafting professions

In every MMO, there “should” be crafting. WoW has crafting. I see its fundamental problem now that I do a WoW-moneymaking miniproject prompted by Azuriel.

In WoW gaining XP, gaining achievements and gaining gear drops includes gameplay. The gameplay in WoW is pressing hotkeys that cast spells on a monster until it dies, while avoiding some bad things on the floor. If you do the gameplay on the expected level, you get reward. If you are better, you can complete more challenging monster fights to get the loot. Sometimes some flavor gameplay is added like using cannons to shoot down … birds trying to eat baby turtles and other stuff, but even that is some form of active clicking for some reward.

Gathering professions are also based on gameplay: you wander around in the world, find node, kill monster that guards it and gather it. It could be translated into a world quest where the monster around the node is the quest completion criteria, while the ore or herb in it is the reward.

However crafting has no gameplay attached. You just grab the materials (gathering them can include gameplay but that’s irrelevant) press “craft” and you’re done.

To make this thing more engaging, recipes and crafting levels are often added which are to be gained by gameplay. However there is a fundamental flaw here: getting the recipe/level includes gameplay, not using them. You need to do gameplay once, but then you can craft the item forever. This also means a permanent split between those who have done it and those who have not. The former can mass-produce items, making stupid amount of gold. Of course if enough people do the recipe-gathering gameplay, then no one will make gold, since the cost of the actual crafting is a single mouseclick after the initial (and already sunk) cost is paid.

Any kind of band-aid just make it worse: for example WoW has daily cooldowns on some crafting. This doesn’t help with the fact that still no gameplay is added, but now players must wait which they hate. Also, this can be – and usually is – bypassed by using masses of alts.

I’d like to point out that the problem is unsolvable unless crafting is somehow turned into a gameplay, one that the players enjoy to do. For example actual crafting involves hammering the item using various actions. If such meaningful gameplay can’t be designed, I believe the best course of action is just ditching the whole concept and let NPCs do the crafting: you approach NPC with materials, select recipe, press craft, come back later when the NPC is done.

No point trying to solve the unsolvable. No matter how heretic the idea is, player crafting with professions and recipes is better be gone.

Author: Gevlon

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10 thoughts on “The unsolvable problem of crafting professions”

  1. Final Fantasy XIV (the MMO), has a very interesting take on active/gamefied crafting, by making crafting done by using limited skills, through which you can not only complete the item, but get a higher quality version if you apply your crafting rotations correctly. Together with some randomicity, and a real chance of failure, it makes for something much more compelling than Wow’s model. Also, after you master something you can just mass produce it more or less instantly, which helps speed up the creation of low level items you require for more advanced recipes.


  2. What about recipes that require bind on pick up materials dropped by bosses in raids or heroic dungeons? Getting such materials is gameplay, and legion of alts doesn’t allow more often crafting.


  3. I much prefer Eve’s approach to crafting, where you manage automated factories, supplying them with resources and deciding what they should produce. Obviously, this requires an economy much more focused on large quantities of goods than WoW is.
    Note how an automated factory is still basically an NPC.


  4. FFXIV’s crafting has you hammering the item, trying to get HQ (High Quality) for better items stats or effects-wise.

    Problem is, some skills are locked behins other crafting professions (cross class skills) so it forces you to level classes/professiona you don’t want to play, essentially. And some of these are really really good, like flat HQ chance increase.

    They fixed it for combat, but not for crafting.

    Anyways it’s an interesting system, but it takes a lot longer to level. You can also auto craft, with a failure chance based on level, and no possibility to HQ.


  5. First thing I thought about with crafting gameplay was FFXIV. Besides the rotations to increase chance of getting HQ items, you can plan ahead by trying to get or make HQ ingredient items to make it easier to get HQ end items. It seems I’m not the only one mentioining this. Of course like everything, it can be solved. just like combat rotations. With high enough crafting stamina and high enough skill there will be perfect rotations that garuantee HQ for a certain level of items. then again they have an ingame macro editor to bind such rotations to a hotkey


  6. Not crafting per se, but I enjoyed PI in EVE where you were setting up harvesting and production lines on planets to get stuff done. I would spend hours on that, because I’m a huge fan of management games. I even moved to Lo-sec just so I can get better yield on my planets. In the same vein, min-maxing workers in Black Desert was also fun for me. Why can’t we get more of THAT.

    Traditional crafting I always found boring. The only reason I ever leveled a crafting profession in WoW was for the unique combat advantages, or in my case I raised inscription back in WotLK to skip the Hodir grind because I couldn’t be arsed.


  7. A core variance from reality in all game activities is the hyper effectiveness. If you had to go out into an actual forest, how many creatures could you kill? Not very many… but in a game, you slaughter them in droves. As a result, you get only a tiny reward for each one. This doesn’t seem all that unreasonable, as many people couldn’t kill most woodland creatures if their life depended on it, much less a monster. So, they have no experience with reality to temper the in game experience.

    Crafting is different as players would revolt if it literally took as long as it did to kill enough monsters to buy an identical item as it did to craft it, or require so many materials as to be ridiculous. “What do you mean, I need 500 animals worth of leather to make a belt? That’s ridiculous!” The “real world equivalent” to crafting would be to get to work at 9 am, push a few buttons, leave at 9:15. It doesn’t work, you just can’t have this as “gameplay.” You can try to stretch it out, but that’s tedious as you’re not in any risk as you’re slaving over a button all day. You can turn it into a slot machine, but that’s not a good solution either.

    There should be crafting, but remove all “economic” reasons to do it (I’m a big fan or essentially removing the “economy” from games in general, as I think it does nothing but detract from the actual game.) Also remove timeouts, and “leveling your crafting skill.” Replace all that with easy to get recipes that only make soulbound gear. You still have to gather the materials for it, and you can craft it yourself or pay an NPC to do it, but it’s never a leveling path or a “job.” Just something you can do every once in awhile to make new gear or upgrade your current gear.


  8. The thing about crafting any item in a game, is the economic scale and system to which it is held inside the game-world.

    Are items repairable? If so, by whom? NPC’s or other players? Imagine what would happen to the crafting economy if the players themselves had a “repair” skill they could learn as part of their crafting profession that would let them repair “level-specific” items that they can craft, for a fee. NPC’s charge a fixed amount at repair time, and all items are repaired regardless of item-level or slot assignment. Why is it such a stretch to think that players could reach that level of proficiency based on the profession they choose and the skill level they are able to attain? Instead, WoW uses a “gold sink” method of repairs that only serves to increase the amount of “sunk costs” that a player experiences because the gold spent for repairs never re-enters the economy. WoW could easily support a vibrant crafting economy if certain gear slots were filled by items that could only be crafted – and also repaired by players instead of NPC’s.


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