Unrealized GW2 Dreams: Crafting

Guild Wars 2 has created a somewhat less tedious crafting system than the average MMO, but it still faces the standard problem that it is not very interesting. It is adequately useful, but given the time investment and payoff, the average player is better served using the auction house.

Crafting lacks compelling gameplay. As a player, crafting is a solved puzzle that was solved several games ago and the new variation is about one recipe deep. Non-discovery crafting is exactly like it is in WoW or LotRO: recipe + materials + click. Discovery is interesting once, then you have figured out the pattern and have nothing left to learn. Before you have finished one tier of one trade, you have already seen the template used for everything. Several hundred materials all fit one simple formula.

Cooking is interesting but random. Most of it makes some sense, but the limitations of the discovery interface make recipes somewhat arbitrary, and you have no way of knowing in advance which recipes actually exist as opposed to which combinations should logically work. Arbitrary combination of all possibilities is the end result, which is something not quite like “discovery” or “exploration.”

Event recipes are briefly of interest, but your bank only holds 250 of anything, and how many stacks of candy corn do you want to store against the possibility of wanting to craft Mad King recipes in the off-season?

And that is about it. I like including crafting in the standard experience point system, although that ends when you reach 400 crafting rather than continuing to reward you for making top tier items. We have already discussed storage. The crafting technology and ancillary systems are very nice, but they do not build to a satisfying crafting gameplay experience.

I know that nothing is A Tale in the Desert, but sometimes you want to demand more.

: Zubon

14 thoughts on “Unrealized GW2 Dreams: Crafting”

  1. Honestly, cooking in GW2 is the best crafting profession I’ve seen in any themepark game. I hope with the new tier of crafting they take some of the intricacies of cooking, such as high-end recipes requiring about a dozen base ingredients and sourcing ingredients from across tiers, and apply to the other crafts.

    I reckon the interesting part for many is watching the markets, and responding when there is a profitable gap between costs of materials and finished product. Also buying up materials when they are cheaper than usual. Rosemary sprigs are half the price they were last week, talk about market manipulation, or else a lot more players are doing the invasions in mid tier zones, and picking the herbs in passing.

    But with tools like GW2spidy where you can see at a glance what is cheaper to craft or buy, and it can be quite variable between materials or components or finished product, it takes away from some of the acquirable knowledge about the markets.

    1. I want a crafting button that includes “and all components.” Maybe if I make something often, I’ll remember which spices to which soup base to which other soup base plus the second soup base plus …

    2. I always cringe when I hear people use the term “market manipulation.” This term insinuates motivation driven purely by the goal of changing prices for the sake of making profit. However, this almost never happens in GW2 due to the size and efficiency of the global market. If anything’s price goes up dramatically, it’s almost always due to a shift in supply or demand, not due to the actions of some wealthy cartel monopolizing goods and increasing prices.

      A great example is back when people were concerned over whether there was market monopolization of the most luxurious items, Dawn and Dusk, and John Smith the economist basically told straight-up that it was impossible and around 10 each get traded a day.

      1. You’d be surprised how much gold some TP players have and the limited supply for some items especially mid-tier with limited use. One individual is capable of buying up all the stock and hold it to ransom for a few hours until other players get wind of it and bring the price tumbling down again. To create the scarcity in Rosemary Sprig as seen for the month of August, you’d need 3000 * 7s = 210g as an initial lump sum and it wouldn’t take much to keep the supplies exhausted, and the supply is not easily replenished unless a lot more people are in the mid-tiers as seen in the last week.

        1. That’s the thing. The scarcity in Rosemary Sprig isn’t caused by someone buying up all the supply, it’s caused by an increase in demand, which causes a significant portion of the population to partake in it, instead of some individual (misinformed, according to John Smith. Though I’m fuzzy on whether he was referring to Rosemary specifically or not…).

          The thing about prices in an incredibly efficient market like GW2 is that, the prices are set by supply and demand. Items are being listed and bought at a same rate. If it’s being listed at a faster rate, it will become cheaper, and vice versa. If you simply buy up a supply (remember, not every sell listing is the lowest sell listing!), there’s still nothing stopping others from undercutting you (monopoly impossible) and the higher price simply means the items sells slower than people are listing it, Means selling your entire stock is an incredibly challenging thing, and due to this almost no one does it.

          The true “market manipulation” isn’t caused by someone buying up all the supply: it’s caused by someone convincing a significant portion of the population that something is going to increase in price. I.e. Reddit convincing many people to invest in Walnuts for Wintersday. The momentum needed to significantly change prices of goods is truly beyond simple purchase of all the sell listings.

          One individual buying up all the sell listings and holding it, I cannot fathom why. There’s absolutely no profit. Unless of course, he managed to convince many people his item’s previously unknown usefulness. Then he no longer is the sole culprit.

  2. Having just come off a night in Runes of Magic, where every single progress bar took 5 seconds per item to tick by, I’m suddenly a lot more appreciative of the ways GW2 streamlined out the tedium of crafting, unrealized dreams or no.

    What exactly would make up a satisfying and compelling crafting experience though?

    A Tale in the Desert is mostly notable for the sheer variety of minigame/systems for each crafting activity – some are just as full of tedium, some involve extreme spreadsheeting, and some are only fun or fascinating when you devise elaborate macros and third-party software solutions for them, which tend to be frowned on in most typical MMOs.

    The more intricate ones like blacksmithing, glassblowing and gem-cutting proceed to lock out 95% of the populace from being able to do them really well – which may not be the goal when most typical MMO players expect to be able to master every craft, via a stable of alts or otherwise.

  3. Take a peek at Age of Wushu crafting, if you haven’t already. There are regular professions: Herbalist, tailor, blacksmith, etc.. Then “arts”, caligraphy, GO(that Chinese board game), etc. Then a couple randoms uniques like divination.

    The economy started very similar to an EVE-like economy, but has since been diluted and simplified a bit.

    Each main profession uses a match-3 mini-game(I hate using that term). The game is basically exactly like playing that super-fun PuzzleQuest game. The “arts” each have mini-games unique to that skill/profession.

    It mixes things up a bit, basically. And a lot of the crafting via minigames allows for players to battle each other.

    Ultimately, though, AoW just really mixed up how and when you can craft stuff and what you do with that craft stuff.

    I think it’s all enhanced because, in a way, much of the gameplay was changed, not just the crafting portion of the game.

    AoW has done, to a degree, what I always felt about crafting. It has to be huge and a core system that other systems are built around and affected by. Of course, now, the same thing is happening in it that always happens – crafting is getting relegated out and a power-creep is slowly being implemented and taking over via skills.

    I have some terse(to keep this comment in check) replies.

    Any good MMO has to be built around a core of crafting and economy. Any and all combat in any shape or form must be a smaller sub-system built around that core.

    Most mainstream ideals are sort of like a catch-22. How do we make crafting more fun/I don’t like doing that(crafting). The big ideal that is the main push is built on the concept that crafting sucks. It’s a contradiction in ways.

    The end result is always remove something from crafting. GW2 did a great job with the discovery aspect, but that’s just a fun game of “discovering” – which I love, but you’re still using it to apply to crafting, which, again, is a subject of “it’s not that great”.

    Mainstream culture has to have key psychological changes in order for anything to change with crafting in this case(in my opinion). I think this is one of the cases in videogames where much of the responsibility lies on the shoulder of the players. Otherwise you just will not have a better system. The Asian market had it right over 6 years ago with this and relegated any type of “crafty”-ness to extremely small and quick systems that basically are direct enhancements to combat. GW2 is kind of that inbetween evolution, on the Western side. Just make crafting even more solo and just remove the bulk of old-school Western crafting that GW2 left in.

    It sounds backwards, but I could actually wax-philosophical about how EVE Online and other games have the mentality of a core crafting and economy system and their combat is so much better, richer and rewarding for being smaller and built around that core. Another example is the untold, enormous amounts of rich, diverse and pleasing combat that has sprung up from Minecraft – which is, at it’s roots a giant digital sandbox that you dump blocks into and add craftable, integrated elements to.

    And my last love/hate thing is with GW2 potions. I absolutely loved that they made so many and so specific, but because crafting doesn’t seem to be at the core of the game, there’s no real need to have the potions at all, they had to be curved so anyone could make them and they are so ancillary that I feel like they are barely worth making for myself

    Okay, I’m rambling. I’m done. :) As always, I feel like I come off a bit toxic, and I’m really not trying to. Great topic that I love and I’m really not trying to be so darn opinionated or rude. I look forward to being wrong and seeing ways I didn’t see before. :)

    1. So your critique WRT GW2 crafting is that the products of that crafting have no real effect on the rest of gameplay? No boons provided the player is likely to feel naked without?

      1. Maybe I’m neglecting high-end and dungeon content, but my experience through the leveling-up process was that potions are next-to worthless on the market.

        I greatly enjoyed making tons of potions, but I couldn’t even give them away. Literally. I tried giving stacks away and at the others’ convenience of time and place.

        Most people won’t even spend 1-minute out of their way to fill-up on appropriate potion-boons before heading to instant adventure, let alone take the time to eek out which they’d need to make for day-to-day leveling.

        5, 10 and 15% boons towards specific creatures for durations of 5 or more minutes at a time, isn’t worth having in a bag, when people are maximizing seconds-worth of gameplay to harvest specific items, Karma and/or gear from mobs and world-bosses.

        Most of the time, I imagine they are used exactly how I approach them. I have them, so sure I’ll quickly stuff a few in my bag, if all manner of convenience works for me at the time: I’m already near crafting or bank services upon logging in, etc…

        Then I’ll use ’em, because, heck, I have ’em and 5% towards centaurs is 5%, especially if I know I’m barreling through the centaur chained events in Northern Hirathi. But amongst fights with dozens of players in the events, am I noticing the boost? and how much. Pacing was made very smooth and fast in GW2. Likely it’s not even worth many times to try and think about the pacing, let alone care if it made a difference and by how much. It’s all too negligible.

        But comparitively, I think they are a barely a convenience and for a solo-experience only, and (I’m guessing) likely only a scant few specifc boons are worth anything, and most likely those are only at max level — which isn’t far from how just about any system ends up relegating stuff in any MMO, because, also, of my aforementioned opinions on “crafting-systems”.

        In my opinion, the entire schematic — the whole idea — of how many people and designers approach crafting systems needs to be seriously and deeply reverse-engineered to come up with a vastly different order of things from basics to the current evolution of crafting and the results of crafting.

        I loved what GW2 did. Loved it, but I find the execution poor in light of how the rest of GW2 operates and how potions and other craftables work in GW2.

        Overall, it’s not a bad system, given the reality of how most MMOs work, and GW2 did “improve” upon it in ways — like reducing tedium of crafting multiples, but that again is just band-aids on top of band-aids in my book.

        1. I scarcely remember to take them in the dungeons that would use them. Dredge potion? Oh yeah, I should remember that in the Dredge dungeon, but meh, for the time and storage space, I might as well just keep a stack of good maintenance oil and always use that.

        2. Huh. I much prefer the optionality of the potions as they are, rather than have the common frame of thought being an elitist jerk one where you get kicked out of a party if you aren’t “fully prepared” with literally everything.

          That said, I have used them solo when specifically farming a mob type for that last little boost in damage, high-end dungeon runners do use them if they’re optimizing (undead slaying in Arah, flame legion in CoF come to mind) and folks have used them on the past update’s candidate trials when struggling to eke out as much spike damage at possible for the achievement.

  4. FFXIV’s (probably new) crafting system is worthy of mention here – as each crafting discipline is its own class, you get specific crafting abilities, and crafting progress is handled in the exact same way as combat classes, with XP and levels, and gathering and crafting-specific stats.

    Gathering’s slightly more interesting than in GW2 – each node gives several different potential items and the probability of getting each, and you pick what you’re going to gather. Successes in a row give you a bonus to XP, so there’s a little bit of gambling where you go for the likely stuff to build up your bonus and then go for the rare item on the last gather, which if you get you’ll get 150% XP for. Not too exotic, but FFXIV is interesting in that there’s very few monsters that attack anyone nearby, so being a non-combat character that actually has gameplay (after it unlocks in the first few hours) looks actually viable for the first time in ages in a themepark MMO.

    But crafting is where things get interesting – when you craft an item, it gives you a progress and quality bar, and a durability meter. Nearly every action costs durability, crafting mana, or both, and the goal is to fill up the progress meter before durability depletes. Most abilities have a small chance of failing, so you have to balance making sure you’ve got enough durability to finish the item with trying to earn quality on the item. The more quality you finish with, the more of an XP bonus you get and the greater chance of the created item being a high quality item. Every crafted and gathered item in the game has a chance of being high quality, which for equippables means the stats are a higher tier, and for components means that when they’re used, the quality meter starts a little higher.

    You do eventually unlock the ability to craft multiple items, although they’ll all turn out standard quality whereas if you took time with them you’d get a few high quality ones, but the point is that it’s an actual minigame with strategies and a lose condition, with mechanics that share core concepts with the combat game (like crafting gear).

    I know ArenaNet said before release they were taking a punt on the crafting system, but damn if it doesn’t mean they lose some vectors for making a more diverse world.

    1. In some MUD forums, there’s been a little chatter over the years about treating the crafting of an item similar to that of fighting a mob or boss, as the key exercise in constructing a finished product.

      Depending how an MMO is built and what it can support, you can do plenty of mixing-and-matching with components and materials — that’s a huge ball of yarn I love to sping, but for now – the crafting.

      The idea is simple: whether it’s a WoW/RoM like system, GW2 or what have you. You’re ready to finish the product, so now you need to actually fight it. Losing, the item is either not crafted, destroyed, you lose some or all components or what have you.

      The implications are that of bringing “crafting” into a more combat-oriented realm, since some people don’t like combat — and I don’t know what the ratio of “Those that like combat, but dislike crafting versus those that like crafting but dislike combat” would be. I’d imagine it’s not so simple. Or I’d be very vague and only guess that it’s likely more people that like crafting also like combat in some form, while there’s more of a divide for those that only like combat.

      I digress.

      Have a system where you have some form of equivalent exchange attached to an endless amount of possible parts, ores, herbs, pieces, bits, doo-dads, wog-nuts or whatever. You’d also have an attribute table similar to how players have, get and use attributes.

      Different numbers are assigned to all the different pieces at any and every stage in a crafting process, and could even be increased or decreased based on other variables, during the process. But the final phase would have an overall attribute(s) assigned that determines how tough it is.

      This could also allow ways to figure out how to allow group-crafting.

      The possibilities and potential for huge and varied implementations are there(I think)

      But there’s just too many other factors that I am unknowing about: such as where the likes and dislikes lie for many players.

      I still feel, that no matter what, there is a “game-breaker” that is largely psychological, where players will have catch-22 roadblocks at many places. So no matter how cool of a system I try to come up with, I’m missing the mark entirely.

      Until some awesome designers punch holes in my preconeptions, I’ll have to keep searching.

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