I can’t believe I don’t have a “crafting” tag yet. Ah, how far I have wandered from my roots. Well, here’s a return to them, while I take a quick stabby ponder at a debate that’s been pretty quiet of late: loot economies vs craft economies. ‘Course, since most of the blogs I read are — or were — WAR themed, and since WAR has neither real crafting nor a real economy yet, the lack of a lively crafting economy debate shouldn’t be all that shocking.
I finally came to the conclusion sometime last year that you can’t have overlapping loot and craft economies. You can have both, provided the stuff you can craft can’t be looted, and vice versa. Why buy a gun from Fred the Gunsmith when you can rip it out of the cold dead claws of a foozle? (Yes, foozles have claws.) Or, why bother killing UberSlash the Foozle King for the gun he drops when Fred can make one that’s almost as good if not better?
Let me clarify: you can’t be a happy full-time crafter in a mixed economy, not as they’re implemented right now in most games I’ve seen. I don’t know how that works out for looters, not being much of one myself. (I love to open the corpse-loot box, but I don’t really care what’s in it as long as it’s shiny. I’m a bit indiscriminate that way.)
Every game I’ve played that’s mixed looted and crafted items of the same type has ended up trivialising crafting, which pisses crafters off immensely and pleases the hobby-crafters and loot-firsters immensely. SWG started out as a 100% crafted-item economy, and it worked. Now it’s a bit of both, with some overlap, and since nothing decays the only thing that does decay is the number of crafters.
(Oh yes, tomorrow — or Monday, I’ve decided I may give myself weekends off, except for Haiku Sundays when I remember them — we’ll talk about item decay in MMOs. Another happy shiny topic everyone loves to agree on. /maniacal cackle)
Vanguard was going to be heavy on the crafted item side, and let’s just say it didn’t end up that way. Which is probably just as well, since the crafting system ended up making you want to gouge your eyes out with a rusty spoon (oh, not at first, no indeed. But after 5,000 work orders? Trust me. Rusty spoons. Or splintered chopsticks.). There may have been a tug of war between loot type devs and crafter type devs — or so I like to imagine, though I expect I may be glossing a little — and the loot type devs, damn their hide, eventually won, though it was a little back and forth there for a while at the end of beta and right around launch. (Remember the fairy godmothers in Sleeping Beauty? “Pink! Loot!” — “Blue! Crafted!” — “Loot!” — “Crafted!”)
EQ2 used to be loot and crafted, though it’s been several years since I last played it so I don’t really like to comment on what it’s like now.
All three of those games have items only crafters could make, primarily of the house decoration type, and as far as I’m concerned that’s the only mixed loot/craft option that’s going to work in the long term — the only option that doesn’t piss off the loot-firsters, the crafters, or both. Let the crafters craft, but don’t make them compete with loot, or vice versa.
Sure, you’ll still always have people who bitch that they can’t loot a house pillow and those evil crafters have a stranglehold on feathers, and you’ll have the others who bitch that looters are constantly trying to rip off the poor crafters who can’t get foozle claws for themselves… because everybody bitches all the time. I’ve finally understood that too. But for the most part, if you let the crafters make things that are in real demand (and don’t forget consumables — eh, one can dream), and if you let looters loot things they’ll really value (usually armour and stabby things), everyone will bitch be happy.