(Inspired in part by this post over at Zen of Design, and this link to a Gamespy article from the comments thereafter.)

“Crafting” is one of those topics that, I suspect, could stand for a fair bit more definition.  I am beginning to think that, perhaps, some of the disappointments that those of us who occasionally request “crafting” in our MMOs typically face arises from the fact that we haven’t done a very good job defining what we really want, even amongst ourselves.

I was reminded of this disconnect, which I had noticed before (back during my EQ days, and again in the weeks after the EQ2/WoW simultaneous launch), while reading the Gamespy article linked above.  Some of the points that author makes are dead on in terms of what I’m looking for… others, I’m sitting there shaking my head in denial.

Three Styles

As I’ve contemplated this over the years, I think there are essentially 3 goals, 3 styles of play (at least) that everyone kind of lumps together under the umbrella of “crafting”.

Artisan

The artisan is pursuing the crafting sub-game to explore the possibilities.  The goal here is not to make the most items, or sell them for the largest profit, but simply to figure out the steps necessary (and challenges that can arise) to craft the best individual items possible.

(This is my style, by the way.)

This type of crafter isn’t exceptionally concerned about selling his/her creations, except perhaps as a method of testing his creations and measuring progress in the craft.  This is the person that wants to be the master jeweler, the storied swordsmith, the ultimate in the craft… “quality over quantity”.  One of a kind items, things that are likely to last a long time and see a fair amount of use, would be the ideal items for this style of play.

Manufacturer

The manufacturer is focused on production quantity.  Quality is a concern, but only as a secondary consideration: it needs to be sufficient that the items have some actual value and/or utility.  Money is really only a secondary consideration as well… obviously it’s nice to have, especially since it makes it possible to produce more goods, but it is kind of annoying to have to worry about it as well.

This is the type of player that gets a charge out of reaching various quotas: “woot, I just made my 100th blaster”, or “Yes! 50 loaves of bread in a single hour!”  These would presumably be great players for producing general “commodities”, items needed in significant quantity, like food and ammunition for example.

Merchant

The merchant is focused on selling, and probably mainly for it’s value as a social activity.  For most, money isn’t the real focus here, or items, or process… it’s about meeting people and social interaction.

The crafting process for this style of play is really just a means to an end.  The items that are generated have significant value in terms of creating connections: people who need the items come to buy them, people who create similar items come to compare wares and prices, people with components used to make the items come to sell and/or trade… it’s all good.  The money flows can be a measure of how well a person is interacting, and thus is of some concern, but isn’t really the end goal.

And yes (I don’t really believe this myself… good grief), I really just noticed that I’ve generated definitions that fall into 3 of the 4 classic Bartle categories.  Probably a subconscious thing.  Anyway: Artisan=explorer, Manufacturer=achiever, Merchant=socializer.  I suppose the Killer sub-type is the player that creates mules to generate and horde stuff, complaining all the while about how hard or complicated it is and why isn’t this stuff readily available from NPCs?  Actually, the Killer is probably those manufacturer/merchants that focus on cash acquisition and market dominance: “I’m richer than you are, ha ha”.  I’m going to go with the term “Monopolists”.  As well as the RMT people, I suppose, although they aren’t usually really “crafters” in the strictest sense…

Mechanics evaluation

So, how do/should these varying goals play into the mechanics of the system?

I’m not entirely sure, to be honest.  I don’t really understand the mindsets outside of my Artisan category yet, I guess.  It seems to me that a relatively complex but laid back system for creating items would be the best bet.  This isn’t whack-a-mole: time limits to react and things like that, except maybe in occasional brief, controlled circumstances, simply doesn’t seem to be the best option.

I’d like to see a system where any specific level of character skill on “automatic” gets you to level “A”, while active manipulation of the same level of character skill gets you to level “A” and then some.  Some things should take significant amounts of time and effort to make, others should be fairly simple.  People craft cabinets, not cookies… not that Baking is not a craft equal to carpentry (says the guy who can burn water while boiling it to make chicken broth).  The same distinction, in reverse, applies to wood shims and wedding cakes, after all.

Got to let this sit for the moment… duty calls.  Any comments?

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