Why Have Crafting in a game?


Staff member
I spend a lot of time talking to people about MMORPGs. And very often, I run around people who, for whatever reason, don't feel like Crafting is really anything more than a side game or a hobby activity. To hear them talk, MMORPGs should be all about content, character progression, and compelling loot drops - and anything that might potentially get in the way of that or distract from it shouldn't be part of the game.

Needless to say, I disagree with those people tremendously.

However - because I try to be a reasonable human being, I wanted to talk for a bit about what the value of having crafting in a game actually is, especially for people who don't do it! I think often, non-crafters tend to view crafters as people just out to try and take their hard-earned game money. The truth is, crafters and crafting can bring a lot more than that to the games we play. Here's a few examples:

Crafters facilitate relationships between players

Here's an example from a game I've been playing recently. In this game, there are multiple crafting professions with interdependency involved. I picked a profession that makes house furniture. In order to make some of that furniture, I needed hide harvested from creatures out in the world, Another crafter I met was working on crafting food, and he needed meat harvested from creatures as well.

I put the word out in my guild that I needed hides and a few folks volunteered to help gather those in exchange for some furniture pieces. Awesome! But I went a step further and said hey, I have a friend that needs meat to make food, could you all get that for him too? Well, fast forward a couple of weeks, and now my friend is providing raid food for half the guild - and through him, they've met his guild as well, and taken a few of their members along on raids.

None of that could have happened without crafting.

Crafters often act as teachers for new players

Here's an example from SWG Legends, which is an emulator for Star Wars Galaxies. In that game, my character is a shipwright who specializes in making equipment for the fighters that people fly in the space side of the game.

Almost every day in SWGL, I meet people who are brand new to the space aspect of the game and who literally don't know how their ships work. They come to my shop, and they ask me questions. "Which armor should I use? How do I know what the best engine is? Which stats should I care about?" I've had similar experiences in many other games as a crafter, so this isn't unique to SWGL. I probably spend a good third of my time in SWGL educating my customers - explaining the stats and how they work, giving them advice on how to set up their ships, and so on. My armorsmith friend does the same thing with players learning the ground game in SWGL, explaining how resistances work, and what the numbers all mean.

The truth is in any game where equipment has meaningful stats other than "item level", crafters often understand how those stats work better than almost anyone else. We have to. After all, we're spending time and resources to make items, so we want to make the right ones. And many of us know that educating our customers means they'll come back to us when they need something.

Crafters encourage exploration of the world

You might think of the crafter as the guy who sits in town all day making shields at the forge, but the truth is that in most games, crafters need very specific things to create their items, and those things don't all come from one easy place. For example, when I played Vanguard, the different harvesting nodes that we needed spawned in distinct areas of the world. If someone were building a ship, for example, depending on what size of ship they needed, I might direct them to the banks of the river near Khal, or a grove of trees in Western Thestra. In fact, the top two questions I get asked in any game I play as a crafter are:

"Hey Neph, what is _______ used for?"
"Hey Neph, where can I find ________?"

In most games, crafters have to learn far more about the world than adventurers do, because otherwise we simply can't get what we need to create items. Whether that's where to find harvests, or which dungeons drop the parts we need, or even where the ONE merchant is in all of FFXIV who happens to sell quicksilver for alchemy - a crafter is the person who can tell you.

Crafters actively think about the community

Most of the time if you talk to an adventurer, they'll be focused on their immediate goals. They're trying to level, wanting to finish a quest, or focused on a certain drop. If you talk to a crafter? They'll be thinking of what everyone else around them needs, and how they can potentially help.

In Wildstar, on my server we used to do server events on a regular basis. Three or four guilds would get together and cooperate to put on races, parties, and contests for everyone else to come join in on, as a way to give people a break from constantly chasing their quest journal or their raid flagging. Often these events would draw hundreds of players. Without exception, every single one of the people planning events was a crafter. Because they weren't focused on their own immediate needs, but those of others, they were able to come up with something fun that actively made the game better for everyone around them.

Those are just a few examples of what crafting can bring to a game. And it's a lot more than just being a way to make items to "fill holes" in people's gear sets.