Hyperspace Beacon: Managed crafting

As the launch of Star Wars: The Old Republic draws nigh, BioWare and LucasArts have been more and more forthcoming with information about game mechanics. This week, the big reveal was crew skills. This cryptic term is simply another word for crafting. Back at E3 this year, Rich Vogel, a producer for SWTOR, mentioned there would be crafting in the game, but he only gave us a tiny tidbit of news. He simply said that it would be like World of Warcraft's. Then a few months later at PAX Prime, I talked to Blaine Christine, another SWTOR producer. He said, "I think it's a different take on crafting than what people will be expecting. It's not the standard implementation. It's going to be a treat." We have seen that it is definitely not the standard implementation, but whether it's a treat or not is yet to be decided.

Before we begin the rest of this article, I want to make sure you have a bit of research under your belt. You have to know what the crew skill crafting system is like. So you definitely have to read our announcement of this system as well as our interview with Daniel Erickson from last week. This should give you a good understanding of what the whole crew skills system is about.

So now that your homework is done, step over the break, and let's explore the pros and cons of this interesting system.

As with everything in SWTOR, the crew skills have a basis in storytelling. It makes sense for your character to craft this way in the context of the story. It's not some arbitrary clicking of boxes or gathering of raw materials. The best thing about it is that you can remain a heroic warrior and a great crafter at the same time. It's the best of both worlds, right?

In certain MMOs, it is required that you specialize in crafting. However, this is not the case with SWTOR. Everyone is going to be able to craft. The Sith Warriors to the Republic Troopers will have the ability to create items for other players, with no negative impact to their combat games. In fact, I would venture to say that crafting can only benefit their overall combat game. They have nothing to lose but time.

This system is unlike anything any other game has; it's as unique as the rest of the game is unique. There exist very few MMOs in which everyone is a pet class. So I guess it's only proper that you have something for your unused pets to do (instead of idly sitting in your datapad or inventory someplace). You will be able to assign tasks to your pets, then after five minutes to 23 hours, they will come back, begging you to give them more work. You can task them with gathering raw materials, making items from the raw materials, or conducting diplomatic missions that can earn you influence with certain factions and Dark Side or Light Side points.

Every diplomatic, crafting, or gathering quest is on a timer. It's a set-it-and-forget-it type thing. While your companions are off flirting with royalty or sifting through bantha dung or making you a sweet new set of beskar'gam, you can be off saving the galaxy or corrupting it -- whichever works best for you. This is excellent for those who are very combat-oriented players who would rather not have much to do with traditional crafting but who still want to make their own armor and weapons.

Now keep in mind, not everything is revealed about crafting. I don't want to tout the negative as if this-is-the-way-it-is-and-you-are-going-to-like-it. However, we all know that BioWare doesn't like to announce anything until it is pretty much set in stone. While I am sure there will be minor changes to the system, the overall plan is set.

One of the worst things for the more casual crafter is that everyone will be able to craft. That means if you really love to craft but are just a casual player, there is the probability that your items will be just as good as those made by someone who does combat full time but only crafts on the side. Your sales market just shrunk. This also means, casual crafter, that you will have to -- at very least -- do all the combat missions up to the point that you have at least five companions, if you want to be as proficient as a combat player.

Another thing that you're going to hate about SWTOR's version of crafting: The system is unlike anything any other game has. Granted, I have not played any of the crafting missions, but I have to wonder whether it is going to feel like any other existing version of crafting. Samm for TOROCast went so far as to say that it is not crafting at all. I have to admit, there is an element of truth there. Many crafting systems are a type of minigame; players come to expect that. Again, the game has not launched, but there does not seem to be any minigame to the SWTOR's crafting system.

That leads me to the next point. Everything is on timers. Crafting in a lot of games is all but instantaneous. I think the longest wait time in Star Wars Galaxies for any crafted item after you hit the "make" button is 60 seconds. Now, the diplomatic missions are between five minutes and 23 hours, so one can assume that five minutes is most likely the minimum for crafting, too. At any rate, the point really is that you are on overseer to the crafting process, not really the crafter yourself. You tell your companions to make the stuff you want then tell them to get back to you when they are done.

I know there are a lot of negatives for those who are hardcore crafters or those who play a game for the crafting aspect. I do appreciate that type of gameplay. No matter how much my ADD mind may scream at me, I do understand the merit behind other crafting systems. However, this system appeals to me mostly because it's a casual system. I don't like to spend hour after hour clicking on the same resources over and over. I don't even like the research behind making money at an auction house. I'm all about less work in crafting.

I am fearful of the effect this will have on the economy. One of the things I like about games with intricate crafting systems is that they usually have interesting economies at the same time. Although SWG has economic issues now, prices were pretty balanced when things were primarily crafted. But in an economy where everyone has the ability to craft, I believe only the best of best items will sell.

Well, I'm done talking. Let's hear what you have to say. What do you like about the crafting system? What do you dislike about it?

The Hyperspace Beacon by Larry Everett is your weekly guide to the vast galaxy of Star Wars: The Old Republic, currently in production by BioWare. If you have comments or suggestions for the column, send a transmission to larry@massively.com. Now strap yourself in, kid -- we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!
This article was originally published on Massively.