Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Crafter's Journey

I've traveled a long winding course in my MMORPG crafting career since I first put hammer to anvil in World of Warcraft's village of Goldshire back in 2005 to make a pair of boots.  I guess I really love crafting, or perhaps was fortunate that I grew bored of WoW, because WoW's crafting system did not turn me off of crafting totally.  I didn't really mind the system that let me gather a bunch of materials, then park my toon at the forge and click the create all button.  After all, that was a great time to get up and get a soda and fix a sandwich.  For me, the trick to making crafting interesting was figuring out how to gather the materials I needed to make the items.

WoW's crafting system did have two major drawbacks when I played the game back during the vanilla days of 2005-2006.  The first is that a character's crafting level was tied to his/her adventure level.  Ugh!  The second was that to get to max level in your profession basically required raiding?  Really?  I never understood why a crafter could not just concentrate on his craft and had to adventure.

2006 came along and after 9 months of wandering Azeroth I was so sick of WoW that I swore off all MMOs.  That lasted approximately one month when I heard about another game called EverQuest 2 that was allegedly much better.  So I bought the game and found out EQ2 was better than WoW.  One of the things that made EQ2 better was the crafting system.  First off, I could have one character harvest all the types of crafting materials.  Next, crafting ability was not tied to adventure level.  Yay!  So I could concentrate on adventuring with my ranger and crafting with my army of crafting alts.  And I had crafting alts.  By the time I left the game in 2009, I had reached the level cap of 80 in all 9 crafting professions.

The other thing that made EQ2's crafting system better than WoW's was the crafting mini-game in which a crafter basically plays whack-a-mole to create an item.  Crafting actually involves skill and hand-eye coordination.  Then hire a talented game developer like Emily "Domino" Taylor to evolve this system further by creating tradeskill writs, crafting instances and crafting quests and SOE had (and still has) a crafting system that arguably is the best in the industry.  Domino is still my favorite game dev of all time.

But all was not right in Norrath for me.  After 3 years of crafting, I started to suffer pain in my left hand from all the button pressing involved in crafting.  Another problem was the cost of EQ2.  In order to have 9 crafters on my account, I had to subscribe to the SOE Station Pass.  When I began playing, the character limit per account was 6 (later changed to 7).  But by ordering Station Pass, I got an extra 4 (later 5) character slots.  Hence the crafting army.  But Station Pass did not have any discount plans for ordering more than one month at a time.  Boo!

Paying extra was okay when SOE games were the only ones I played, but in 2009 I became interested in another game, Eve Online.  I had heard about the game, but I didn't really become interested until the fall of the Band of Brothers alliance and listening to Dianabolic and The Mittani battle it out on The Funky Bacon Show on Eve Radio.  I finally took the plunge into New Eden in August of 2009 and liked what I saw.  With my guild breaking up, combined with the next EQ2 expansion, Sentinel's Fate, coming out in February 2010 instead of November 2009, I made the move to New Eden full time in October 2009.

Eve Online was an eye-opener as a crafter.  Eve has a reputation as tough, and if you want to really play in the big leagues in the best MMO economy, New Eden is the place to play.  A person just can't jump into manufacturing.  In order for making my own products to even make financial sense, I had to learn a lot of skills.  In space, a character can't just wield a pick-axe.  No, in the year YC113, you need specialized mining ships to obtain ore and the skills to fly them properly.  A proper industrial carebear also needs skills to exploit planets of raw materials and the ability to process those materials into products to sell or use in further manufacturing processes.  The budding industrialist also needs a network of research agents and the skills to invent things.  And perhaps most importantly of all, the industrialist needs the start-up isk to make everything possible.

After 18 months of not making much more than ammunition and drones, I'm finally ready for the big time.  That's right, tech 2 production.  I've got colonies on 10 worlds in 5 systems in two constellations.  I've got a network of research agents that reaches out across 4 regions.  I have an industrial command ship that greatly expands my mining capability for the more common ores and a small flotilla capable of smashing level 4 missions in order to gain the more uncommon ones.  I've got the skills to make blueprint copies and shortly will have the skills and basic tools to make tech 2 ships.

In short, I'm about to reach the pinnacle of my MMO crafting career and guide a force of literally thousands of non-capsuleers in creating some of the most complex and awesome items in the MMO world.  And then CCP comes out with the character creator in Incursions as a prelude to Incarna. I had a great time making my characters, but as I picked out the clothing, I looked at the choices and said to myself ...

"I hate those boots.  I wish I could make my own."

I now have the urge to actually get my hands dirty again in addition to directing a vast enterprise from a pod full of goo.  So where can I make a pair of boots?  RIFT.

Yes, RIFT harkens back to those days of old where I collected a bunch of materials, stood by a crafting station and then left to go make a sandwich.  But the boots are much better looking and useful.  Also, because RIFT just launched yesterday, not a lot of information exists on exactly how to do everything.  So I'm trying to figure out the best combinations of professions for the three Guardian characters I plan on creating in order to streamline my supply chain.  After all, sending things via the mail system costs money.  And I'm not really sure what I can make or how valuable crafting really is at the higher levels.

I've had a blast as a crafter over these last 6 years.  I think I'm just about where I really want to be.  After all, doesn't everyone want to have an empire, even if it pales in comparison to many around you?  And don't many successful people just putter around with some of the simpler things they did when first starting out?  Right now, I fit that description.

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