Rift‘s crafting system has a lot of positive features. It’s fairly simple, easy to level, and (most importantly) enhances the in-game economy by providing a means to create a lot of items other players actually want. This last is the main reason I like the Rift crafting system so much. I’ve played a few games along the way in which crafting appeared to just be tacked on with no real notion of how the things I could make fit into the overall itemization scheme and it was always unsatisfying.
But that doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement. The three main ways Rift crafting needs to be updated are: (1) more customization; (2) more items, particularly at endgame, where craftable gear hasn’t kept up with drops from high-end content; and (3) more integration into the game as a whole.
I played a game for a long time in which the crafting system was opaque. Pretty much the only way to learn recipes was to experiment with mixing items together and see what, if anything, happened. Rift eschewed the total guessing game approach and I’m profoundly grateful for it. Most players are naturally going to prefer knowing what they’re making and how, and Rift‘s system probably suits them just fine most of the time. But there is value in opening up the system somewhat for people who like to play around and discover things. I do it some within the existing system; it’s fun to cook up some non-obvious item combo and maybe get a shard first out of it. It’d also be fun to take some of the items sitting in my bank (or some of that grey loot that just wastes bag space until I get a chance to click one button and dump it all for a negligible amount of gold) and just combine them to see if anything happens. Player-discovered recipes would make the Rift crafting system a lot more varied and reward “explorer” types who like figuring things out. Eventually, most of the truly valuable recipes will become known, but the players who discovered them would get an edge (and some bragging rights) until they became more widespread. An achievement for discovering a new recipe (and/or a few of them) would be an obvious extra bonus to include.
Making crafting more interactive would also promote the player-to-player interactions Trion emphasizes so much in other aspects of the game. I feel confident Trion will soon open up a new tier of endgame craftable items as more high end content comes online. It makes good sense to include items that have to have multiple professions work on them. Since no character can have more than three, and most people don’t have multiple toons covering every possible profession, that would require the crafter to seek out help.
I’m thinking of a system that works like this: I start an Outfitter item on my main. The item I make is perfectly useable once I make it. A Deathbringer, for instance. As it stands, item customization is limited to the augment included when it’s crafted and a small number of runes that can be applied to it. How about, instead of (or in addition to) slapping the standard augment on it to make a Nimble Deathbringer and throwing it in the Auction House, I give it to my guildmate who has Runecrafting? He runs the item through another recipe (i.e., one that infused it with extra Physical Crit, something there’s no one-handed weapon Rune for). I can stop there, or give it to another friend with Apothocary. And so on. The sky’s the limit. I can see a lot of room for customizable leveling gear to make crafting more interesting throughout the process and promote player interaction. And, of course, this would be a means by which players could make raid-comparable gear without undermining the utility of actually raiding. Trion has spent a lot of time and effort revamping itemization to make gear progression smoother. This is a way to give the crafting community more options, fill in more itemization gaps, and avoid the need to revamp scores of items again down the road. Also, these items and the materials used to make them will necessarily be expensive, providing a new money sink.
Finally, crafting needs to be better integrated with the rest of the game. Crafting rifts, crafting items that drop from mobs, and recipes that require a minimum amount of reputation with a faction are great ways Trion has used to include crafting in the overall game. But crafting quests are sorely lacking. Apart from the quest items that drop for each profession and the dailies, there’s not much there. An obvious improvement would be to add questable recipes. The previous suggestion could be implemented that way, for instance: A small- to medium quest line a player would have to complete to get access to the multi-player recipe options. Add in the first suggestion and let players take augments that aren’t of much use and discover combinations that make better ones, perhaps with the help of an NPC. Give us another use for all those Plaques of Achievement we’re collecting and let us buy new crafting items, lures, and recipes. Greater Marks of Ascension eventually start piling up in the Currency windows of high-end raiders; relic gear recipes buyable with these would be an attractive option. Having those recipes include items that only drop in raids would ensure that players can’t just skip raiding (some sort of restriction on equipping them–i.e., having a specific raid Achievement–would also be advisable). I said in my post about an expansion that player cities need to be implemented. Buildings including special crafting tools can and should be an option for them.
Rift has a pretty good crafting system. It’s easy to learn, not unduly burdensome to level, and provides a pretty broad range of craftable items to players who put in some time and effort. But it’s time to expand and improve it. Players who aren’t all that interested in it won’t have any more obligation to expend effort on it than they do now, but those of us who really like crafting will have more things to do and more stuff we can make. Plus, there’s still a lot more room to make it more interactive between players and the game as a whole.