To Craft Or Not To Craft?
I’ve read somewhere recently about how one internet writer thought that crafting as a whole was just fad that some gamers are going through and that will pass eventually. I certainly hope not! Granted, there are people who would prefer not to craft at all and let the crafting be done by those who enjoy it. On the other side of the coin, there are those that would play a game (an MMO as well) as one who doesn’t lift a sword to hit something, but rather to inspect it. There are those that can make a whole life out of it. You’re listening to someone leaning towards the “loves crafting” side, but I still need to hit things. After all, what’s the point of making a wicked-cool blade and not using it.
While developers are constantly trying to figure out what gamers want in their game environments (generally, not just locale) I think it’s important to have something that one can invest themselves into other than their in-game avatar’s stats. They go hand-in-hand, but the process can involve the player more. Please understand that I love creating your character the exact way you want including putting points in certain specs and all that jazz. However, someone else could come along side your character in an inn and could/would look exactly like you. There are only so many choices one can make in current games. In the end, there are only so many top-tier armors for a player to pick up. This is a real shame, but understandable on a development side of things. (Still a shame though.)
With the ideal crafting system in place, uniqueness could abound! It could also be fun getting to that point. You would need to have a lot of different elements in place to create this perfect system. That being said, Fantasy Life has brought a lot of what I like about crafting to light. It doesn’t have everything, but Fantasy Life has brought up enough ideas to the table that I just had to get these crafting ideas fleshed out. I believe in crafting and I think game developers should too.
Let’s start with what Fantasy Life brings to the table and proceed to use that as a base from which to build upon. “Why?” you may ask, simple really. They’ve made crafting feel like a whole other game within the game with it being as involved as it is. (It’s also a new game and completely relevant.)
Gathering mats can be as simple as going out into the wild to hit things until you break them up and get the materials you want whether they’re tree logs or ore. Everything else is just picked up from the ground like flowers (Why in the crap would World of Warcraft make it impossible to pick a stupid flower? Maybe you can’t use item, but your avatar should be able to pull a weed from the ground if they can wield a weapon.) In Fantasy Life, the stronger you get and the better the tools you acquire will help you gather higher level ores and wood. They are unlike flowers and that works because flowers aren’t known for being made of really dense materials. Also, there are sweet spot mechanics on ore/trees and when you find the right spot on a deposit/tree you’ll do more damage and finish quicker. This is a more involved approach to gathering and I like most of it. When you finish hitting a deposit or tree in Fantasy Life you then have to pick the materials up off the ground manually. This can seem like a lazy man’s gripe, but picture this situation in an MMO where people will be running around stealing your stuff. It could also go towards some people helping others out, but I think it’d lead to more grief… just put it in my bag. This is an article on the most ideal situations in a crafting system after all.
On the sweet spot or the “Boss Point” as Mina here calls it, you get extra damage. The more you over kill a node, the more you can get out of it. I also like the fact that she shows that enemies will actively go after the bonuses you get out of these special ore deposits/elder trees/boss kills. Pro Tip: Always leave them a few feet away from where you’re about to fight!
Crafting items in Fantasy Life is a mini-game . One of my favorite features of this process is that you are able to craft gear/weapons with some mats being in your personal bag and other items in your storage back in your house. Awesome idea! Thank you to whoever was on the brainstorming team and thought that up, you need a raise! Back to the mini-game concept though, sure it can be a little repetitive, but it would only really suck if there was no reason for its implementation other than to “make crafting more interesting”. However, the faster you do the mini-game and the more precise your timing is, the better chance you have to create a higher quality item. The chance for a higher quality item also goes up with the more time you spend crafting specific types of items. The higher your level of say…. Armor Smithing, the better your chances are of crafting higher quality gear. So once more, it’s more involved, but with benefits of having higher damage on weapons and better armor on gear. In a game with an active economy, this would help differentiate sellers from each other.
While the game text is in Japanese, this shows off how the crafting mini-game works pretty well. Later in crafting, you’ll have to punch more buttons to complete it, but the point stands. One thing Mina doesn’t do in the video is show you a basic and top quality difference. I wish she did.
While those are some impressive concepts to bring to the crafting table, given the rest of the game, I can’t expect them to get everything I want into one game… yet. That said, Fantasy Life is one of the games that has a truly awesome crafting system. Let’s visit some other games to help flesh out the rest of the best crafting system we can dream up.
Going a little more in-depth with the creation process of specific items was Kingdom’s of Amalur: Reckoning. While I’d say the bulk of the crafting system in there wasn’t ground-breaking, being able to pick specific parts of each item was. Are you crafting a sword? Then you’ll need a hilt, blade and maybe some leather to strap it all in and such. The key element here is that each part can have a fire affinity, critical hit buff or any other enchantment you can think of. You’d find these different parts in the world as drops or in crates. This allows for crafting specific weapons that caters to your play style. What a fantastic way to personalize your own weapon. Were you able to name your weapon? That’d be sweet… like in Minecraft.
The last few elements that should be brought into the crafting system will be taken from Ultima Online. First up, you’d have your list of items that you can craft (like WoW). There were a lot of different types and that’s all well and good, one puzzle piece that UO brings to the table is the ore difference. You can craft the same item with different ores and create items that have more defense naturally against poison, acid, or water… blah blah blah. That speaks for itself. They even took a step further though and gave you different tools that correlated to the different ores too that would also have an effect on the final product. This may seem like a lot to take in and juggle, but in practice it all makes very good sense and once again, opens up the world of crafting from a linear path to a more… uh… “open world” version of crafting (if you’ll let me call it that).
Another idea that UO used was the concept of salvaging materials. Let’s say you create a leather jerkin. Cool enough, but it doesn’t sell for much. What you could do is break it down into its main material component. So with Leatherworking it would obviously be leather. With Smithing, it’d be the ingots. The higher level your crafting gets, the more you were able to recoup back from the previously crafted items. This didn’t give you everything back, but the concept makes sense. Break something down and use the components to make something else for more skill-ups. It’s like recycling and we’re all supposed to like being green, right?
Lastly, and almost most importantly, the things you make have to look cool. Having a fun mini-game and all the other things would be squat if everything you made looked basic. Using different ores would offer color differences and having the extra effects on certain parts of your weapon could add some sweet eye-candy! You could make a basic sword, or put a bit more exotic items into it and create your own version of Thunderfurry.
Crafting should not have the room to be considered a fad. There is so much you can do with it to make it more interesting. The main issue is that it’s treated like multiplayer and DLC on 3rd party Wii U titles. It feels like it gets tacked on to have it in the game or just excluded. Games lately are getting a lot better about it, but if you’re like me, you’ll notice a lame attempt to just have crafting included as opposed to having crafting being an integral part of a game.