Last article, I talked about basic trade skills, and the lack of skill involved in basically all of the trades offered. In order to craft the most legendary magical breastplates in WoW, the only 'skill' required is that you've spent 3 hours clicking the 'make crappy bracers' button over and over while standing at the anvil with a load of metal in your bags, and blacksmith hammer in your hand. There's no actual crafting involved, and none of it requires any effort. That's great, because it makes everyone feel special and wonderfully equal with one another. You are all wonderful individuals! How boring. The only barrier to crafting rarer or specialized recipes is spending hours grinding out the recipe itself via reputation points, or having the recipe randomly drop off some tiger in the jungle.
My MMO experience doesn't span every game ever made; in fact, some could argue it's pretty limited. I really enjoy trying new MMOs, and doing free trials at the very least, but I'm a latecomer to the genre. My first exposure to an MMO was about 2 weeks with Final Fantasy 11, where I had no idea what was even going on, and then being drafted into closed beta for World of Warcraft. I understand Star Wars Galaxies had one of the most loved crafting systems, but my limited time with SWG (free trial) only exposed me to being a level one nobody running around with Han Solo and Chewbacca on the way to board the Millennium Falcon. At that point, I pretty much considered that I had 'won the game', and didn't see much point in going any further. Another notable standout is the non-combat MMO A Tale in the Desert. They pretty much took crafting to ridiculous levels (in a good way), because that was what one of the game's main focuses was (well, that and social interaction). In order to make a sheet of paper -- which by itself is only another element in something bigger -- you had to pick papyrus, dry it by the river overnight, come back when it was dry (not 12 seconds later), press it into sheets... I don't remember the exact process, but it was like they basically sat down and were like 'how did Egyptians make papyrus scrolls?', and then modeled it in game. Guilds would band together, making adobe bricks one at a time, and could eventually build a pyramid when they had 800 billion of them. Nuts, but awesome.
The focus of WoW and Warhammer, though, is not on crafting. It's on combat, whether it be PvE, PvP, RvR, or whatever the flavor of the month is. Realizing this, the devs seem to have tacked on crafting, because 'it's suppsed to be there'. This isn't to say the systems themselves are horrible, but just that there's no sense of actually crafting anything. In WoW, to make armor, you need to be by an anvil. You don't even need to be facing the anvil though, just 'within the anvil's radial sphere of anvilosity'. The same goes for harvesting ore, you can walk up to the ore deposit, turn around 180, and bang your pickaxe on the ground behind you, and still manage to get some copper. I believe that harvesting professions should show you the item in question (shrub, vein, whatever), and allow you to actually fumble around in a bush, zooming in and out, spinning and rotating it to look for berries or leaves. Getting jumped while harvesting would hide the window, and would lend itself to the initial 'eh?!' confusion you would actually feel if you were involved in extracting ore from a vein when suddenly you were under attack. No more spinning the camera around while you mindlessly whack away at a tin vein.
I propose that the crafting side of trade skills actually resembles a craft, and that you have to actually hit the hot metal with a hammer in order to forge something. A common theme I'm suggesting throughout these skills is the use of a 'workbench' that would be accessible in the guild crafting hall, bank, or whatever. WoW has mana looms to create special spell cloths, and alchemy labs to create flasks, but you don't actually use them, just stand next to them. Lame. Each skill would have a slightly different layout, but with similar features. The workbench could also provide players with a designated storage area for their craft's raw mats.
Let's take a look at a few mock ups (please keep in mind they're rough, but you'll get the idea):
Here's my glorious Blacksmith's Workbench. It's got a few things going, without being too overwhelming. There's a forge in the upper left (with variable temperature settings for smelting various metals), a mold to pour your smelted metal into, an anvil to whack on your creation, and a trough to cool your final creations in. Also in the upper right are two basic tools for use, clicking on which would change your cursor.
Just looking at this simple diagram, you can see a huge amount of options opening up. Various parts of your workbench could be upgraded (better hammer, hotter forge, larger trough for breastplates), and various molds would be unlocked or purchased at various ranks. You still start making 'scale bracers' or 'copper daggers', but now you're MAKING them. I think one of the coolest features would be having the anvil portion open up to something like the 3d model-viewer interface Wowhead has, where you can spin the axe around, looking for rough areas, then set it back down and take a few whacks on it. More experienced blacksmiths would be able to create items with higher durability, and occasionally during the crafting process, mishaps would happen (broken blade, armor with cracks). The ruined gear could be re-melted down and used again, all while trade skill experience points are earned.
Selecting the hammer tool would change your cursor to a circle (or square), and rolling the mousewheel could change the size of the impact zone (perhaps assuming you had hammers of various sizes). Holding down the mouse button would start a golf swing timer, where you let go at the top for a hard WHACK, or just did a few minor bonks to refine the edge.
Again, the basic workbench has a few tools at your disposal. In this case, you have various files (with awesome default Adobe Illustrator styles applied to them). The roughest would be to determine the basic shape, with different cuts having different effects (+int, +str, etc), as well as the type of gem itself (ruby, emerald) affecting the final result. Upgrades would include files capable of cutting diamonds, different settings for jewelry, or perhaps the ability to actually bore sockets into certain items (using a drill or what-have-you for initial hole, then the files to fine tune the cut). The magnifying glass tool will throw you into closeup mode, where you can spin the gem around, and look for flaws or miscuts. A tumbler would also make sense. Skilling up in jewel crafting would make flaws become highlighted (glowing red) while under the magnifying glass, or enable for complicated multifaceted cuts.
The Apothecary's tools are a burner (with variable temperature) which rests below a large beaker (which also indicates its own temperature), loose test tubes, a scale (the gold boxes are weights), and mortar and pestle. Recipes would go something like this:
Mix 20g of Bark from a Fel Tree with 10g of Demon Chest Hair. Add to a liquid base of water from a sewage system, and shake the concoction slowly until the liquid becomes a reddish orange. In a separate vial, prepare 10g of Dried Virgin Camel Feces mixed with Boar's Blood (any type will do), and heat until boiling. Combine the two vials into a large beaker over medium heat, and watch carefully. The color will change from the initial red, to dark brown, and finally become a perfect sky blue. If heated too long, the mixture will break down to a vile green concoction that is worthless. Sequester your potion immediately into a non-metalic vial, it should last for up to 60 days.
This recipe alone would take a few steps to make (along with the gathering of various resources), and requires the user to actually not shake too hard, watch the temperature at two points, weigh out precise values, and actually (OMG) craft a potion! Simple beginner recipes call for a dry ingredient and wet to be combined in a simple tube and shaken thoroughly, while something like above would produce a 'flask effect'. Upgrades to the Apothecary Workbench include: spare vials (at first you can only mix two test tubes, eventually you need more), a hotter burner, larger beaker, finer weights (27g isn't possible if you only have a 10g and 5g weight), finer grinder, etc, etc, etc.
All of these were just me sitting down and beginning to type, then jumping into Illustrator or Photoshop to hammer out mock ups. There are so many directions you could go with this. Butchering has the actual animal sitting on a cutting board, and while you can just lop a leg off and roast it up, or cut four feet off of a rabbit for crafting talismans, more advanced butchers could extract poison glands (carefully!) from venomous animals to use for poisons or remedies.
I have a picture in my head of enchanting requiring you channel a spell being cast (limited to mages and the like), and holding it steady in an ever changing dead zone (like doing a wheelie in Tony Hawk?) for an amount of time. The longer you can hold it (to a degree), the more powerful your Fiery Enchant hits for. Get two master enchanters working TOGETHER (gasp!) and they can up the power as well. 6 expert enchanters in your guild? Draw a hexagon on the ground (or go to the designated capital city enchanter's guild where they have various arcane shapes scrawled into the floor), place a weapon on the altar in the center, and channel some nasty mojo into that axe! They all work together, and if the spell backfires, the axe is shattered, or they all have Bad Mojo Sickness for 30 minutes or whatever.
The point is that the options are endless, and go way beyond the typical 'i r have 6 ore in my bag, brb to maek ur ax, gimme a sec'. I also envision a system where you actually drop gear off with someone to be upgraded, and come back to pick it up the next day. I hope you trust that guy, because the spell may backfire ruining your armor, or he may destroy the rare uncut gem you found questing. He may even just sell your armor and never log in again. But those that excel at what they do would earn a reputation as a skilled craftsman, and be valuable assets to their guilds and servers.
originally posted 10/21/08