Why Crafting in MMORPGs is Terrible

Monday, April 18, 2011 | 8

There are a lot of things that people must accept in MMORPGs that are counter to any logical reality. Anyone familiar with modern economic principals on an even basic level knows that scarcity steers the financial ship.

The problem with the MMORPG equation is that every creature from the smallest mouse to the mythological red dragon all are birthed with a gold coin press. Seriously, every single goblin has stockpiled a similar amount of money, but then called it quits because it is heavy, or something. There is also a disparity in the amount of money monsters have geographically, but this is becoming too specific and doesn't affect my main point.

In order to have a balanced economy where foreign gold farmers can't thrive, the neurosurgeons that work in game development came up with a single solution to limit the value of online currency. In addition, since they had already made the bulk of the game before realizing the problem, they wanted to just insert something in there without actually exerting effort in it.

The Solution: Make a half-assed system that requires you to unload exponentially increasing amounts of money and time as you level up. Also, make it as monotonous and horrible as possible.

And so the MMORPG crafter was born.

Have you ever wondered why you gathered all that iron if it immediately becomes useless when you gain two more levels? It is because you've been bamboozled! The folks at Trion, Blizzard, EA, Mythic, and FunCom are all laughing their asses off at your gullibility. They're richer because you had to spend more time playing to get your ultra-mount since you blew your whole treasury on making Fur Boots of Shooping for 6 hours to get up enough skill to make Fur Hats of Shooping...

Now it may seem like I'm just complaining, which I am, but crafting has done nothing but deteriorate since Ultima Online did it in 1997. Of course they can't be held to the same standards as modern MMORPGs because they actually planned for crafting to exist in the game.

Now, it isn't exactly a fair comparison because Ultima Online had the advantage of being sandboxesque, but you could actually progress entirely through a trade-skill without fighting anything. Ever.

It seems like it would be advantageous to attract the type of gamer who isn't interested at all in fighting to supply people who are constantly having their equipment destroyed from fighting... That almost seems like a functional economy, huh? That being said, it wouldn't work in these modern linear abortions, so I guess ultimately this article is about my love of sandboxes.

Yay sandboxes...


  1. You obviously never played Mortal Online

  2. At the end of the article I sort of allude to my fondness of sandbox titles. When the line in the sand was drawn during the development of Darkfall Online and Mortal Online I was in the other camp.

    Darkfall crafting was as bad or worse than any non-sandbox title because equipment was way too important to success in a game that claimed skill was important.

    Needless to say I was extremely disappointed with Darkfall. If they've fixed all the technical issues with Mortal Online, I'd definitely be willing to give it a shot! Did they get rid of the penises yet?

  3. Mass appeal and greed is whats killing your dreams. That and the predictably satisfied mainstream gamer.

  4. I agree. Predictability is being used as a cheap learning curve. Could you imagine if all game developers made their games based on the assertion that everyone has already played World of Warcraft? Gran Turismo 5 would have 'i' for inventory and 'c' for character sheet.

  5. There once was an MMO with good crafting. Where mobs the size of your pinkie didn't drop 8 foot long two handed swords of l33tness, but all mobs only dropped raw mats that had to be crafted into gear, and all good stuff was player-made. To get the best gear, you had to fight the toughest mobs or dig mats in the most dangerous places, then find someone who had spent the better part of a year to master that particular craft skill, and had done a lot of research to find the best recipes. Even years after launch of the game, there were no spoiler websites telling about these recipes, they were pased on to you by vets who liked you, or you did research yourself.
    In-game currency was worthless (everyone had enough of it anyway), the real in-game currency were rare mats.

    Oh, the game had an open class system as well, so your master swordslinger could also be a master digger, master crafter or attack magician, and every player could drop the battle axe for his magic gloves to heal a teammate or stun the mob right in battle if needed.

    It also had a beautiful open map with unique mobs and races (no trolls and no elves either for a change), and a lore where no side was fully bad or good.

    Also, it had an awesome community.

    Of course, this game failed, big way. It was called "Saga of Ryzom". An open source server is still running, so you can check it out if you want...

  6. I think you accidentally touched on the most important factor in a functional MMORPG economy. Money should always have a value. If it doesn't then the developers didn't spend a long enough time providing incentives from recirculating your money back into the game.

    I tinkered around with Ryzom, but I remember being extremely unimpressed. I'm not a big fan of mandatory factions, levels, or classes.

    That being said, it is important that people continue to support semi-original MMORPGs to send a message to lazy developers who just resort to WOW cloning (I'm looking at you, Bioware).

  7. Hm, i don't think i understand what you mean by "mandatory levels", but Ryzom had neither mandatory factions nor classes - the fact that every player could learn every skill got rid of the "wait a sec while i load my healer" nonsense. Also, any toon and any guild could chose the faction, change it or even go "neutral".
    (of course, the open skill system lead to the dilemma that power levellers would eventually master every skill, though that didn't really happen until the game was a couple of years old).

    Obviously, the economy was flawed, but that wasn't the games biggest issue. It had a very steep learning curve and it was a grindfest, but mostly it failed because it was launched at the same time as MMO nemesis WoW, which was much easier accessible.

  8. Woah, I got mixed up pretty hardcore on that one. There is some other MMORPG with a Z in it.

    In general, I think that without a healthy economy a game can never actually be "good". Regardless of if you openly participate in an economy, the economy dictates how easy (or difficult) it is to re-equip yourself and get back out there (assuming you lose your gear when you die). I think the big problem with a lot of these "hardcore" European MMORPGs is that they don't understand economics... Go figure.


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