J3w3l at Healing the Masses recently posted her views (with a Firefall focus) about the generally underuse of crafting in modern MMO's and I whole heartedly agree. If properly implemented, crafting can become a good tool to increase player interaction in game. These days though it has been made a bit too optional, with equivalent level/quality items coming from loot drops and in conjunction with either a regular/high level chance to get an item and/or permanent gear it really makes crafters and crafting in general a truly non-essential part in game. As she said "this usually leads to item tiers and gear treadmills". It shouldn't be this way, and I did post my ideal crafting setup somewhere on Keen and Graev's blog awhile back but was unable to find it so I thought I'd just recreate it here.
Firstly in conjunction with my previous post, crafting should have its own skill score per craft. If I am good at making swords I shouldn't automatically be a master fisherman, grand mage, or champion sword fighter. That's just common sense. Not so in GW2 where you literally CAN be a master swordsman by baking cakes. On top of that, I think Ultima Online had it right by putting a skill cap per character - something that should seriously be reintroduced. There were no "classes" per say. You could be anything you wanted, but you couldn't be the master of everything at once. If you could then that aspect of interaction with others to supplement you in areas you are lacking is lost and negates to the player community the game should be trying to encourage.
Secondly ALL items (especially consumables) should have expiration. "Don't I mean durability?" you ask. Yes and no. In most games durability goes down when you use an item. Keep that shiny sword in your bank or at home and it can last forever / a long time. Expiration is a timer. The quality of your gear should be going down -always-, even if you are just standing still, and in some cases even if you are logged off. Health potions? Food with buffs? They should expire. Consuming expired goods should poison / kill you. Simple. As for your sword if it is a regular item then maybe it won't decay while you are logged out. However the more you use it the faster the expiration timer goes down. Also, an important note: the player should NEVER be able to see the exact time of expiration. They should just be able to tell if it's "good", "average", or "bad" in a general sense (maybe background color, if they pass a skill check) with no specifics. A magic sword however? Yes. That should decay even if you are not online... because... magic! :P
Actually the main reason for the decaying magic sword would be for uniqueness. As an example lets say there's an item called the "sword of fighting". Once it is found then it or the mob/chest it drops from will not respawn until it decays. If there is only ever one sword of fighting in the world at a time, then you can expect it to have some pretty sweet stats. This will really encourage you to make the most of it before it vanishes. Sure you can try "repair" it, but that should only add a % of time back instead of resetting the entire expiration. "But No MMO would use the expiration thing!" you exclaim. See Mabinogi. It's still called durability there but for me the decay is -still- too slow.
Thirdly, availability - or lack of. Notice how I went right past quality? Sure, it's nice if a dagger made by a master crafter is slightly better than the same dagger made by a one day old character, but availability is where the action really happens. In GW2 there is a bucket load of vendors with the lowest tier gear. I'm surprised they get ANY business at all because by level 5 (which takes all of 10 minutes to get to) you'll be getting drops of the next tier items. Now if those items didn't drop, or dropped at a much reduced rate coupled with the expiration timer above they'd be getting a lot more trade, which is slightly better but those are still NPCs. A better option is to ditch them entirely for player run shops or have them only sell the stuff they purchased from players. Game designers concerned at the possible data ramifications of a gazillion things held by a single vendor should remember that said items expire and should no longer be sold (delete them) once the timer runs out.
As one would expect this would lead to a surplus of stuff in friendlier places and a shortage in harder to reach unfriendly lands. Keeping in mind that your stuff WILL break that should either mean being batman level prepared before you start or expecting to pay more to buy less in the further reaches of the map. In the same vein, traders that sell their goods in those far places (or anywhere there is a "shortage" really) should get additional benefits (most likely gold). You can still use auction houses and cash shop methods with this, as long as the acquisition of said goods is restricted to set locations. Friendly cities for example. If I'm wading through the labyrinth of undead zombie spiders I shouldn't be able to get a pizza delivered to me by NPCs... much less a brand new weapon or full set of gear. Interestingly this would open the door for a "player courier" system, would be cool if a player DID have to deliver said pizza to me. Must give that more thought as there is too much room for griefing. :P
What do you think?