Changing the plans
What we know right now about the circuit board system implies that the schematic layout of a given item is set but other elements are variable. The item's level determines the base amount of power, but it's not clear whether the item's level is an inherent quality or it's something that can be altered based on the power core. The sample item that we're shown seems to imply that it's variable -- a level 31 item with a required level of 1 seems a bit odd otherwise -- but it could just come down to the oddness of early screenshots.
This implies an obvious focus for crafting. If you get an item with a poor layout but otherwise excellent quality, it might be a good thing if a crafter could rearrange the schematic or even create new circuit layouts whole-cloth, with new connections and potential locked chips based upon the item.
The whole power element seems to be well-suited to keeping this system in check; having a dozen nodes means that each individual chip gets less power and thus provides lesser benefits as a whole. Early crafters might be able to make only simple schematics, but experienced ones could create ornate and branching devices that could provide an extra edge. Some of them might even have their own locked-in or random chips to make the custom schematic a bit more desirable.
But perhaps this is taking the whole "basis" line in the wrong direction. What if crafting isn't based on manipulating the board but on using the board?
Build from the core
I wasn't a fan of Ryzom when I played it, but the concepts behind crafting were fascinating. You were expected to learn a pattern, then add on modifications as you learned them later. So you learn how to craft pants, then shoes, and then you learn how to add a health boost to any armor you craft. That meant selecting a pattern, then adding modifiers to that pattern based on what you wanted from the end product.
The core idea is sound. And it also would work nicely with what we've seen of the circuit board.
Imagine that you start with a core schematic, then you start placing elements on the board. You want the gun to have an inherent ability, for instance, or you want it to have higher power than normal for its level. As you place attributes on the board, you've still got an overall limit, but your net result is a new item with several inherent bonuses and a schematic to be filled.
Want to make a new gun? Start with the gun schematic and add in increased damage, a special ability, and a stamina bonus. You place the bonuses, you craft the item, and the end result is a weapon that's better than most dropped items and has several inherent bonuses while still allowing you to add in custom elements later.
One of the problems that themeparks have struggled with as a whole is making crafting relevant without making it mandatory. Allowing crafters to make items with unique abilities or boosts would certainly accomplish that. Sure, you can get comparable items in the endgame, but the crafted items have a bit more of that custom-build element.
But it's not the only system...
We also know that the circuit board is not the basis of all crafting in WildStar. This makes sense because there are some items that should be craftable that just don't work with that sort of interface. You're not looking to eke any major stat boosts out of furniture, or at least you shouldn't be.
What will the other set of crafting look like? I can't imagine that it's going to be extremely ornate, since I have a feeling it will be reserved for crafting things with more absolute value, such as furniture and consumables. Expect something much more traditional, with bars, recipe lists, and the requisite clicking upon recipes to craft them via filling a bar. Standard stuff.
If that seems a bit pedestrian for a game that's going out of its way to offer players a different experience, I would propose that we don't yet know how exclusive various crafts will be. With the emphasis on allowing players freedom to build as they wish, perhaps you won't be locked into one crafting skill or one gathering skill or any similar setup. Maybe you can just craft and gather as you wish and not fret about the consequences.
Or perhaps in a week I'll find out that all of this is beyond wrong. That's how speculation works, after all.
Feedback and your own speculation may be left in the comments below or sent along to firstname.lastname@example.org. For next week's column, I want to finally get back to looking at the Eldan, something I planned to do weeks ago before other things kept coming up.
Here's how it is: The world of Nexus can be a dangerous place for a tourist or a resident. If you're going to venture into WildStar, you want to be prepared. That's why Eliot Lefebvre brings you a shiny new installment of The Nexus Telegraph every week, giving you a good idea of what to expect from both the people and the environment. Keep your eyes peeled, and we'll get you where you need to go.