Spent some time earlier this week finishing the Tradeskill Epic quest on my carpenter in EQ2. Working through the quest this time as a low level adventurer made me think about how tradeskills seem to be ubiquitous in MMOs today, but take on very different shapes and purposes.
I think the reason tradeskills are so different from game to game is that everyone expects something different from them (developers included.) In some games the tradeskill is a personal affair, and allows you to make items to use yourself and enhance your own experience. In others, the tradeskill is an integral part of the larger economy and in extreme examples player crafters supply most of the goods that keep the game moving. In order to keep items rare some games choose to make high barriers to crafting, while other games encourage it to the point that crafted items become worthless in normal gameplay. I thought I would touch on a few examples from games I’ve played.
EQ was where I started, and many of my experiences in other games are colored by that time. In EQ there were many different crafting skills that players were unrestricted to learn (with the exception of poison and potion making that were class restricted.) The barrier to making items was very high, in cost and attention to detail. Most items required some enemy drop to create, which tied crafting to adventuring. Making items was an exercise in patience, with many control-clicks required to pick one item off a stack and move it into a crafting container. I had pages of recipes I printed from EQtraders and Zam to assist in my crafting. Quests for crafters were few, but they did have a few that required many skills that gave major rewards. It was grindy and ultimately not as rewarding as it could have been, but I enjoyed it all the same.
In Vanguard, things were very different for tradeskills. Here there are quests and advancement paths that allow you to craft and not need to adventure to progress. I’ve written before about the three spheres of advancement in Vanguard and the great thing about it is that each sphere has its own quests, advancement path and equipment. The barrier to entry is low too in Vanguard because advancing skill through repeatable quests doesn’t require harvested materials, only fuel and solvents. Vanguard goes a step beyond and allows you to make homes and ships using your skills as well, allowing you to make real impact on the game world in a small way. It is still grindy, and the customization possible in making items is poorly documented in game which can be frustrating, but there’s alot to like about Vanguard for tradeskills.
I played Lord of the Rings Online and attempted to be a crafter in Middle Earth as well. In the game you collect items from resource nodes and enemy drops much like in EQ2 and Vanguard, and instead of a mini game style system for the actual combines you click a button and then wait. The crafting there is much like in WoW, with flavor all its own like farming hobbits and master dwarvish blacksmiths. I found that it really didn’t hold my attention the way that Vanguard and EQ2 have because removing the fun of combining items leaves the tradeskill as an exercise in harvesting which I don’t really enjoy. The WoW style market system in LotRO is also unintuitive to me coming from EQ2, which didn’t help with resource planning.
Most recently I’ve been getting into manufacturing in EVE with a friend. EVE is a game where ships are 90% player crafted and the game’s economy relies on robust corporations supplying the demand of non crafters. The barrier to becoming more than a hobbyist is quite high in monetary cost and in skills needed, and the ultra-capitalist system the game is founded on means that someone will always be more efficient at manufacturing than you for advanced items. That said, with the economy so reliant on player made goods there are many opportunities for people to make good money by watching the market and supplying items. In EVE you can make crafting into a full job if you wish, making it less of a space exploration and combat game and into a market simulation. I’m not that hardcore of course, but I’ve enjoyed the complexity of the system all the same. When you build something in EVE, you feel like you are making a difference to your corp, yourself or the galaxy as a whole.
In EQ2 tradeskills have hit a good median point between being intolerable expensive grinds and fluff. Harvested items are plentiful and their sale on the broker is encouraged by them not having value to npc merchants. Each avatar is restricted to one specialization, which limits the total grind and allows character advancement to become collecting rare recipes and class specific enhancements. There are group tradeskill instances, tradeskill specific gear (though no separate inventory for these) and for recent expansions quests that allow a non adventurer to participate in the lore of the game. It includes lots of elements that I think other designers would do well to take note of.
How do you approach tradeskilling in the games you play? Are there unique system examples that I’ve missed here? Let us know what you think.