Dessine-moi un mouton

If there were a game with crafting and loot and the two didn’t impinge on each other but could complement each other, what kinds of things would we be able to make?

– Furniture (from sofas to sculptures)
– Food & drink
– Non-combat clothing
– Combat-gear enhancements? (Stuff to put into other stuff that’s looted.)
– Teleport or Travel stones (however they might work)
– Mounts? Mount enhancements?
– Pets?
– Ships (e.g. Vanguard) 

What else? I’m only on my second cup of coffee, so don’t be expecting a lot of idea freeflow from here yet, but I bet there are dozens of things players could make without impinging on, or — more importantly — competing with loot. The idea is for the looters to have fun opening corpse-boxes and working towards genuine item-type rewards, while the crafters can feel useful by making things that aren’t found in the pockets of Foozle002. I’m not so much concerned with what crafter would make what items, but rather with a general list of all the stuff that could be produced for entertainment and consumption without treading on adventurer/looter toes. Fact is, many of us love the whole kill-loot-and-maybe-level mechanic, even me, and I think just removing that from all games (or most games) would be a shame.

And then, of course, there’s the question of raw materials. Do you get them from nodes around the landscape? From corpse-boxes? From NPCs? As quest/action rewards? All of the above?

craftingAnd finally, while it may be totally impractical, in the interests of horizontality I would love to see a crafting system that isn’t just as tiered as the combat system. You know — level 1, use copper; level 10, use tin; level 20, use iron; level 30, use steel, and so on. It’s silly, it’s limiting, and it means crafters are forever progressing upward so that eventually you can’t find someone to make the lower-end stuff because NO crafter ever has the means to keep every kind of resource on hand. It’s supposed to make entry-level crafting less of a barrier in more mature games (young crafter has wares to sell) but that very rarely seems to be the case, and gets worse as a game matures — especially in vertical-progression games.

Crafters need a relatively constant demand to stay in business, which in itself has proven hard to achieve as games mature. So that would be another challenge: providing enough time-limited or decaying or consumable types of goods to keep non-crafters looking for wares. Working towards a +2 sword to replace the +1 sword isn’t enough, because eventually everyone has those. Besides, why should crafter progression be designed exactly like combat progression, with crafters able to take on bigger and bigger recipe-monsters as they go up. Sure, you need to represent increasing skill and experience somehow — both to provide an indicator for comparison with others and as a measurable goal for players to work towards — but as with combat, pure numbers-based levels aren’t the only way to do it.

Plenty of games have tried variants on crafting and gathering, and have tied the loot economy and the crafting economy together in various ways. I used to advocate for a 100% player-crafted economy, but although I don’t really care about combat, I do like opening the corpse-box to see what’s inside; doing away with loot isn’t such a great answer (though less of the crap loot wouldn’t hurt).

There is of course no One True Answer (TM), because with MMO design there are always dozens of answers, and some methods will work better for some games than others. We keep asking for diversity in MMOs and yet we keep trying to imagine the single Perfect MMO when there may, in fact, be no such beast. Hell, maybe there shouldn’t be; we’ve already seen what having an 800lb gorilla does to the gaming industry.

For my own part though, I’d like to see a game that’s heavy on crafting but where the crafting doesn’t necessarily interfere with (or impede) the non-crafting parts of the game, and vice versa. I’d like a game where crafting is NOT just something you do when you can’t find a group — hobby-crafting bothers me deeply.

(Yes, many people love hobby-crafting. Good for them. I don’t, and it’s my blog (so neener). Give the hobby-crafters something else to do while they’re waiting for groups, just don’t let them make freaking aircraft carriers in their spare time. And no, I’m not being crafter-elitist, I’m being crafter-egalitarian. I want crafting to be an integral part of a game, designed at the same time instead of being tacked on at the end *cough* LOTRO *cough* and not designed as the poor drooling cousin to the almighty combat game. In fact, I’d like to see the almighty combat game taken down a peg or two, but that’s not the subject for today. I understand that this threatens the combat-only types, but it won’t stop me. Equality for crafters! No item-creation without representation!)

Uh, where was I? Ah yes, crafting that permeates a game on an equal footing with the other activity systems. And ideally something new and not just the tired old nicely tiered resources/recipes/product. Chop chop, people!