6 reasons why video game crafting pushes me away

I’m not going to get up here on my shaky soapbox and claim that I’ve been a lifelong crafter in online games. That’s simply not the truth. I’ve existed somewhere in the vicinity of it with a fairly amiable tolerance for its presence. If people liked to craft and got something out of it, great. If it helped the in-game economy, even better. And if I could profit off of it by hoovering up gathering mats to sell to desperate crafters, that was just ducky.

Probably my most extensive bouts of MMO crafting came as I powered up Engineering in World of Warcraft back in the Burning Crusade era and pretty much my entire run with Fallen Earth. In almost every MMO before or since — and now with survival crafting games — I always vow to get into crafting when it launches and then fall away pretty quick.

So why does video game crafting push me away? The more I think about it, the more I’m annoyed that this system that’s all about creation and personal effort is designed to be as unfriendly as possible. Here are six reasons that I don’t feel any attraction to crafting, even in games that push it on me as a core feature:

1. It’s a money and time sink. Most games simply ask too much of a player to invest both time and in-game currency into leveling up these systems, and I usually have a much better use for both of those limited resources elsewhere. If you’re looking to make money, often engaging in crafting is a long game where the promise of profits is a ways off.

2. It’s not that engaging. Some MMOs have made a lot of effort to gamify and otherwise make their crafting systems interesting, but for the most part it’s a list of ingredients that are dumped into a recipe, some time is involved, and out pops a thing. It’s about as visually exciting as reading an IBM computer manual from 1979.

3. Most of the junk you craft isn’t useful for anything. Lots of crafted stuff doesn’t have any personal use, and with the market often flooded with low- and mid-tier supplies, it’s not like you’re going to hawk it off to others very easy. So crafters just hang in there for specializations and top-tier products, and I have no patience for that.

4. You can often get far better gear by questing and dungeon diving. So why am I spending all of this time and money and effort to make lesser versions of things? And if the gear was good, why wouldn’t I simply take the money, buy it from another player, and save myself the time and effort?

5. I get fatigued from more complex recipe requirements. I’m all on board for the first couple tiers of crafted things, but when we get to the realm of making things to make things to make things to finally make the real thing that you want to make, I’ve flipped the table and walked away. Some people thrill on spreadsheets and keeping track of all of that, but not me.

6. It’s an annoying hurdle for creators. Sometimes you just want to build without having to spend hours of gathering and crafting first. I love putting together housing plots, but in MMOs where you either need to buy decor off of the cash shop or spend gobs of time making it, I have this significant barrier between me and the activity that I genuinely want to do. Crafting is often just used as gating for content and activities, and that sincerely peeves me.

Just my take, but if I have to see another survival crafting MMO this month that challenges me to be an industrial McGuyver, I might upchuck.

9 thoughts on “6 reasons why video game crafting pushes me away

  1. Asmiroth March 22, 2019 / 9:11 am

    Agreed with one exception. Crafting for home decorations. Wildstar had a horrible crafting engine but doodads did it have great end results!

  2. Alli March 22, 2019 / 10:00 am

    I agree! As a real-life crafter, video game crafting has little appeal to me–with a few very notable exceptions.

  3. Bhagpuss March 22, 2019 / 10:30 am

    My journey with crafting over twenty years has been quite a trip. I started out believing it was an abomination that should never have been invented and ended up believing it was the most interesting, absorbing and satisfying aspect of the entire hobby. That high water mark passed a while ago, though. By and large, crafting in most of the genre seems to be getting less interesting than it was eight or ten years ago.

    I spent much of yesterday leveling my new Scholar on EQ2’s Kaladim server and this morning I took a couple of hours going from 60 to 75 on my Caprpenter on Skyfire. The crafting process itself is both relaxing and involving. The life of a tradeskill-oriented character in EQ2 is as fully-developed and complete as that of an adventurer. EQ2 crafting has a fantastic range of extended crafting quests throughout the level range; it has crafting dungeons, crafting Public Quests and crafting Epics. Crafters have gear and tools, their own currencies and vendors and guilds. Crafters make things at all levels that are useful and desired by adventurers and decorators.

    Vanguard is the only MMO I’ve played whose crafting could compete. It was a better-designed system and the mechanics of the crafting process itself were the most involving and stimulating I’ve seen. Unfortunately it never had the opportunity to grow and flower the way EQ2 has.

    Compared to either of those, crafting in all other MMOs I’ve played is relatively uninspired. Fallen Earth has its moments but again its really no more than a hint of what could have been, had the game been more successful. I personally dislike crafting systems that operate either offline or via NPC production, though, so it was never going to suit me as well as the systems that require me to be at the keyboard pressing buttons.

    WoW has perhaps one of the dullest crafting systems I’ve used although it’s perfectly functional. LotRO’s is potentially more interesting but it becomes quite grindy quite soon. EQ’s original version of crafting was as terrifying as the rest of the game. It scared the heck out of me. I haven’t really done any crafting there in recent years. Maybe I should, to see if it’s modernized the way the rest of the game has. GW2’s crafting was fun for about the first three months back in 2012. Not so much since then. Crafting in most of the recent imported titles has been more like a system of random rolls to upgrade existing gear than genuine tradeskill content. The Survival game version of crafting is fun for about a week. Then it becomes a chore.

    Still, in the handful of MMORPGs that got it right, crafting remains an essential pleasure.

  4. Tyler F.M. Edwards March 22, 2019 / 11:00 am

    I actually really like crafting in theory, but almost never in practice. For me it just boils down to two issues:

    1: It’s usually utterly mindless. There’s no skill, no choice, no element of decision making at all. It’s just mindless grinding.

    2: It’s almost never worth it. I’m okay with crafting being a time-sink — I think there’s reasonable arguments to be made for it being a slower path to rewards than combat — but the rewards should be worth it in the end. Why should I bother if it’s more work for less reward?

    The only game I’ve played that gets it right for me is ESO. It still could be better — there’s still very little element of skill involved, and it’s a massive time sink — but the amount of choices you get to make in crafting gear (traits, set, enchantment, appearance) and the fact that you can actually make some pretty good stuff with it, up to and including legendary gear, makes it feel worth it in the end.

  5. Jeromai March 22, 2019 / 8:57 pm

    If you titled it MMO crafting, I might agree, but video game crafting, well, them’s fighting words. I’ve played a decent number of survival games where crafting is a central part of the gameplay, with decent to good progression, and enables housing/base building. Don’t Starve, Subnautica, Ark all come to mind. Minecraft reigns supreme once modded, from simulationist crafting in Terrafirmacraft to more elaborate industrial factory builds or encyclopedia magical trees to explore and traverse.

    MMOs now, most resort to collect ingredients, click a button and wait mass production that jumps up tiers and produces nothing that enables new, novel or unique gameplay after you’ve made it.

    One notable MMO exception would be legendary crafting (GW2 is my reference, but I suppose games like BDO and ESO also have something similar) which takes months to gather the materials/wait for time limited gates, in order to produce something relatively unique (scarcity controlled by the time-gates). Not that I personally like it, mind you, but it is different from the norm.

    And the biggest MMO exception of them all, A Tale in the Desert, which throws in so much simulationist stuff into its crafting that one needs to review their wiki and learn each system like one learns a foreign language, gradually, in parts, with frequent repetition and applied practice to grok it.

    The biggest thing that pushes me away from MMO crafting is the presence of multiple players. They serve no purpose except to shortcut the process or cheat the crafting system by helping you get over bottlenecks or trading stuff to you, or demonstrating by mere existence how far along they are in the progression while you, a mere plebian, trail far behind, or vice versa. And the fact they exist makes devs want to require multiple players to group/cooperate in order to progress, producing difficult to impassable barriers for solo players.

    Oh, and since there are so many people interacting within this enclosed economy/system, we better balance and pace everything at the speed of the fastest player that plays 16 hours a day… producing something that lets the fastest player experience a passable progression speed and slows everybody else to wading through molasses. Singleplayer crafting games are far more respectful of a player’s available game time, with either fast or adjustable progression rates.

  6. Telwyn March 23, 2019 / 4:47 am

    Of the MMOs that I’ve played EQ2 is clearly my favourite. It offers everything I could want from a crafting system, yet doesn’t make crafting itself a massively overly complicated chore a la FFXIV (the other game I’ve played where you level crafts as a separate class) – that game has(had) way too much dependency between crafting classes.

    I get number 6, all the talk about the Foundry recently has highlighted that for me – systems where you have to collect dungeon-maker items before making something *for someone else to enjoy* is annoying as it severely limits the quality and imagination of your creations. I do not apply the same critique to player housing though, as I think having housing tied into the crafting economy to some extent is healthy for the game.

  7. DonV March 23, 2019 / 4:18 pm

    i feel the same way about crafting. I know I should be doing it but have so many more interesting things to do in game.

  8. saltycleric March 23, 2019 / 11:06 pm

    You are totally in the majority I think in hating on crafting. The systems in existence are usually not in favor of the player but the developer because crafting is hard to balance. Yet when done right as a necessary part of the economy whether it’s sell done well done mechanically or not it makes the game better for everyone.

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