Why is Crafting Important for a Successful MMO?
By Ron Keith
Sometimes, just sometimes, you don’t feel like killing monsters or other players.
There, it’s been said. It had to be said. Sometimes you’re not in the mood to go online and wreak havoc. Sometimes you don’t want fight. Ugh. Hard to believe, but true.
That doesn’t mean you don’t want to hang out in your cool, MMO world, filled with dwarfs and elfs, or Klingons and Vulcans, or whatever you’re currently playing. You want to wave to your friends and chat with your guildmates in Vent.
But it’s nice to have something to do. Sure, you can just hang out in Vent and chat, or just stand around in the city, but that can be boring if you don’t have anything to do.
That’s why crafting is so important: Crafting gives players something else to do. It’s another activity —œ activity being the operative word, here —œ that keeps players engaged in the game. Crafting gives players another excuse to come online, and giving players another excuse to come online is, of course, good for the MMO.
Yet, many MMO developers don’t seem to get this. How many MMOs have you played where crafting seemed like an afterthought?
Star Trek Online (STO) doesn’t even have a crafting system. Well, they kind of do, but it’s really more of a store. You simply trade in your crafting materials (mats) and get your items. There’s no crafting activity for the players to participate in, nothing to engage the players.
Cryptic Studios, the developers of STO, must have thought people wouldn’t care, but they were wrong: The forums are filled with complaints about the crafting system and pleas to implement decent one. Cryptic has, now, promised changes to the STO crafting system are coming, soon. Good for them.
In Warhammer Online, players can only craft potions and talismans to boost their stats. There’s no armor or weapons crafting. While Warhammer has lots of problems as a game, like buggy skills, crafting has been seen as one of the major shortcomings of the games.
In an interview, with Gamasutra, Jeff Hickman, Warhammer’s executive producer, said, "Our economy… missed the mark.” Crafting helps drive a game’s economy. An MMO without a robust crafting system, like Warhammer, is unnecessarily handicapping itself. Players like to make things for their friends, of course, and lots of magnanimous people will give their guildies crafted gear for free. But players are also greedy little bastards. They want to make things and sell them on the auction house, making a little gold, which helps drive a game’s economy.
Better crafting systems, also have just a little bit of the Vegas slot machine in them: There’s always that small chance a crafter will hit the jackpot, crit on an item they’re crafting, and make some uber gear. The possibility of making uber gear will turn even the most ardent dungeon runners into crafters.
The possibility of critting and making uber gear helps drive Aion’s crafting, but even the regular crafted gear is pretty good. The game’s crafting animations also enhance the crafting experience, giving players the feeling they’re directly involved in the crafting process. Aion’s crafting has almost everything a player could want in crafting. Unfortunately, the scarcity of drops is a problem with Aion, so players are almost forced to craft. No one likes to be forced to do anything.
Allods might have one of the best crafting systems in MMOs. Crafting in Allods contributes to the economy, so it helps create a thriving auction house, and there’s the possibility critting and creating uber gear. All things that make crafting fun, but the best thing about Allods crafting is that it’s kind of it’s own mini-game.
When crafting in Allods, you start every crafting process with the possibility of not only creating something uber, but also something crappy. And, while chance is a factor, the crafting process is also controlled by how you spend a set number of crafting points. So you feel like the decisions you make have an impact on the eventual crafting result. It makes for a fun crafting experience, one other games could learn from.
Crafting isn’t the main reason people come online and play an MMO, but it is another reason. Crafting gives players something else to do. A great crafting system contributes to an MMO‘s economy, allows players to make worthwhile gear and, sometimes, uber gear, all while making the player feel like they’re part of the crafting process. An MMO that ignores it’s crafting system does so at it’s own risk. A bad crafting system or a lack of a crafting system may not cause the demise of an MMO, but it will certainly contribute to it.