Crafting in MMOs is a big part of my enjoyment of an MMORPG, but not necessarily as a pure standalone activity. I believe a good crafting system should require, for any given crafting profession, some items from other professions within the game. Such a system bolsters the in-game economy and also gives a solid reason for alt-play (presuming that one character cannot be all professions at once). I’ll look at this take on crafting and how the games that I have played the most have implemented it.
World of Warcraft
In its earlier incarnations WoW had a pretty good alt-friendly crafting system. I finished up with a stable of characters of various levels, all with a gathering and a crafting profession. I took alchemy, blacksmithing, jewelcrafting and enchanting to the crafting cap. Materials from one profession were important to the progress of others (e.g. blacksmiths make the metal rods that enchanters need as a basic tool of their craft).
Over the years some complexity was stripped out, but the game still has elements of this even today. Crafted armour has generally been of relatively little value in WoW as crafted gear is quickly replaced by quest or dungeon rewards. However flasks, enchants and gems are all considered vital stat enhancements especially for the raiding PVE endgame.
Lord of the Rings Online
LoTRO has an excellent crafting system according to my criteria. The system remains very interwoven even between gathering and crafting. Several of the vocations require input from other vocations in order to level their crafts; e.g. a historian has the weaponsmith craft but not the prospector gathering profession to harvest and smelt ore.
I do find the in-game auction house very busy in LoTRO and I think the interdependent character of the crafting system helps this. I haven’t played as much LoTRO as I have WoW but the intricate crafting system has encouraged me to create alts to ‘fill in the gaps’ among gathering or crafting professions. I’ve recently been power leveling a cook so I can make my own ‘buff food’ for my stable of characters, I’m also much more involved in the auction house economy than in previous times when I have played and I find this adds an extra dimension to the gathering and crafting sub-games.
Star Wars the Old Republic
I’m still haven’t capped a character or a profession yet. Unlike LoTRO or WoW you can take three professions (1 crafting + 2 gathering) and be self-sufficient for that craft. This weakens the crafting economy since there’s less of a need to trade mats on the Galactic Trade Network (the auction house by another name).
It is fitting for the style of the general game – the high degree of solo-friendly content and the background nature of crafting itself through the companion system. It would perhaps be odd to be dependent on other players or a set of alternate characters just to craft basic items. But given that SWTOR is a game geared towards encouraging players to roll alts (to experience the different class stories) I’d have thought the crafting system should have supported this also?
There are certainly other games that I could talk about regarding this topic. However I do not feel I’ve played EQ2 or Vanguard enough to really experience the crafting or how crafting professions might (or might not) be interdependent. Furthermore in games where crafting is leveled separately I feel interdependence would be a potential negative. Throttling progress in a profession skill is one thing, but blocking actual character advancement due to such a dependency is a step too far.