Is Crafting here to stay?

I think I'm ready to move on to a future of finding ready made weapons and healing items in oil drums and behind brick walls.

I admit it. I have and acute sense of Crafting Fatigue.

A few games I've played recently:

Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Horizon: Zero Dawn
The Last of Us
The Witcher 3
Fallout 4
No Man's Sky
Bloodstained
Monster Hunter

I understand why it's there, and in some games, really makes good sense, but it's seems pervasive beyond the places I'd expect (I LOVE Dragon Quest Builders, for example).

So, is crafting here to stay?

Crafting is here to stay, even in game genres that don‘t need it. In games now there’s a real incentive to put “proven” game mechanics into a game because they're familiar to players but they also worked in the past, so you have other games you can directly lift from.

Part of any game includes different systems to intersect with the main "game loop". If you have an "Open World" game where there's a large open area to explore, you want to have an incentive to explore that open world. You can't have exploration for exploration's sake, that's not a videogame! You also want a sense of randomness and chaos in the world, a sense of progression in terms of finding "stuff" to use and new stuff to make, and a reason to either go back to a central location.

A Crafting system has all those. You explore the world and Find Shit. Then you take that shit back to the base to make New Shit, which you use to then go back into the world to find Bigger Quantities Of Shit to make Even Newer Shit on the tech tree. Even better, make finding crafting blueprints to be part of the discovery loop, so even if you have all the stuff you need to also have a key to know how to make it. Lock this behind smaller upgrades so you have to get each one first and really drag out the game's runtime. This is what they call "compelling gameplay"

Now that you have this, you can make items have wear and break so you have to keep looking for stuff and crafting constantly. If you want to add more hours to the game just tweak a bunch of stuff so that finding resources is harder. Better yet, gate progress by keeping certain resources in locked areas which are only reachable by crafting a bunch of Stuff. Now randomize the locations of absolutely everything so it's a different play experience every time, and baby, you got a stew going!

So you have this basic system that kind of fits into any game, that's kind of straightforward to implement, and something that's in a lot of games already, and it also adds a bunch of extra 'stuff to do' to a game, and it's a "Back of Box" feature too. Even if it doesn't make sense for the game, or if everyone is just tired of crafting systems (I know I am), they'll put it in for these reasons.

If you build your game around resource gathering, a crafting system absolutely makes sense. if you are making a AAA shooter that's also an open world, there's going to be crafting in it, because that's whats in videogames now. When demoing a game, I've had a very experienced game designer tell me I need a crafting system in it. I am not putting a crafting system in my game because I personally loathe them!

I like games with crafting in them too but the breaking point was a big No Mans Sky update that changed all the crafting blueprints. used to be I needed like 2 things to craft warp fuel, but now I suddenly needed like 3 and one was hard to find, and because one extra thing was added it became so much more of a pain in the ass to get around and explore. This is a huge bummer because the big compelling thing of the game was aimlessly exploring but while gathering stuff I found to keep going.

I think the crafting phenomena speaks more directly to a bigger problem in contemporary game design, which is a lack of general creative vision and obsession with numbers and systems over themes and aesthetics. It feels "wrong" now to just find swords and items in the world and not have to "work" for it. Once you free your mind of the concept of 'Gameplay' and of games being "correct" you can do whatever you want, and a lot of people are hesitant to do so.

I‘m actually in a weird space with this right now, as we speak. We have a game where we’ve added a crafting system, and yes, ostensibly because it's popular, but also because it ties other systems together - get loot drops from battles, use that loot to make things in another part of the game. It helps create an internal economy (which we need, I think), and “reasons” for doing things.

But I don't love crafting in general. I know people who do, but sometimes for me it feels like a blockade toward what I'm trying to do rather than something to discover. We're trying to push it more toward the latter, but it's hard to do, precisely because I focus on themes and aesthetics over numbers. Frankly I'm no good at numbers. I know how I want stuff to feel but not how to make the stuff feel that way.

I think crafting could stem from the discovery of interesting objects and combining them, but I don't think the system we've created is quite there yet.

I do think crafting is here to stay, but I also think it could be improved upon a lot, and I wish I could say we were the ones doing it, but I'm not super confident in that right now.

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@exodus#1401 We’re trying to push it more toward the latter, but it’s hard to do, precisely because I focus on themes and aesthetics over numbers. Frankly I’m no good at numbers. I know how I want stuff to feel but not how to make the stuff feel that way.

ah jeez if I had known I would have not had harshed on it so much, apologies. I think it's a sore spot for me because it's ruined a lot of games I normally liked and I started seeing it everywhere, breeding contempt.

No, it‘s totally fine! I don’t disagree with anything you said above. I think it's used for padding/filler/time wasting a lot of the time, or as a substitute for interesting design. I do think it can be done better though… and I do like acquiring things in games, and crafting is an easy thing to do with those collectibles. But as you say, it can make a lot of games worse!

Crafting can be an amazing and fun thing when it works well and is well integrated. And that can even differ in the same game; Monster Hunter is an excellent example. I love that I essentially have three tiers of healing items: one that works right away, one that I have to craft and then it heals more, and a final desperation tier that I have to craft and heals less. That, and the more tiers I bring along, the more inventory space I could be using to gather monster parts I have to sacrifice. It makes for a nice balancing act.

On the flip side, MH also makes me spend time on gathering tours to collect basic resources I need to play (or micromanage a farm to get the resources) which is time taken away from what I‘m actually there to do.

On the flip side, there’s games like Shadow of the Colossus, where something like 80%+ of the world is just there to explore if you feel like it (sure, there‘s the lizards and fruit, but you sure don’t need them, and may not even know they exist). It‘s clean, it’s fun, and it doesn't tack on a system that hurts the flow of the game or experience.

I think crafting is the next of the new systems that's getting slammed onto every game, whether it should be or not. RPG level up mechanics was the last, and I'm sure there will be a next. It'll be a bit more suffering titles where it's wedged in and shouldn't be, and other titles where it works great and sadly encourages it being wedged in to more places, but just like leveling systems, it'll calm down eventually. In the meanwhile, we can see some interesting permutations as it winds up all over the place.

Well, I am hoping inventing will be the new crafting - in my game you combine items and get something that has characteristics/powers from whatever you put into it, plus you draw your own sprite for the result. At first I was going to have a ton of pre-existing craftables in there as well as examples, but now I'm taking most of them out, so the player just has to invent things for themselves.

yeah, that seems neat - it does that discovery element of crafting thing, which feels more exciting than trying and failing.

I think the crafting part is fine usually, it‘s the resource gathering that I’m sick of.

For example, Dragon Quest VIII‘s Alchemy Pot lets you combine items. That’s cool. I don't have to go gather a bunch of sticks to do so.

I am also very fatigued by harvesting and crafting as of last year when I saw the trend growing a lot. Before playing Death Stranding, I was totally burnt out from the likes of Minecraft, Terraria, mobile games, and, the straw that broke the camel's back: Breath of the Wild.
Now, I'm an animal crossing fan, I've played the series for 19 years. Somehow I tolerate the newest release. It could have been worse. Before release, I was saying the game would go one of two ways: total disgrace with microtransactions and tons of harvesting, or, more in line with classic games. I am pleasantly surprised with the outcome. But they're pushing it...
Any resource gathering and crafting in a game feels like a total waste of my life at this point! I've had it up to here with gathering dirt and flowers! I'd rather collect and chop fire wood in real life!

I hope it doesn't further corrupt games like Zelda. I hope the next Zelda game kind of cuts back on it, in a good way that doesn't leave us with a feeling that something is missing. Collecting fruit and stuff was fun in BotW but upon starting a clean save file, I do not look forward to doing it all again.

Guess it really depends on the game. Something like Minecraft is all about crafting so that makes sense. I noticed you played Witcher 3 recently and think that‘s an interesting one to jump off. I like making potions in that game, but mostly you find the ingredients you need once, and then the potion is there for you whenever you need it. As for all the other stuff I find it very overwhelming. I don’t really care about all the junk I pick up all the time and I don‘t want to have to be scanning for it while enjoying the rest of the game. It’s a bit of a burden. It‘s kind of like task switching. I guess that’s sort of where I‘m going with this. Don’t make me drop the game‘s flow so I can dig through menus I was ignoring. If it works it’s way in seamlessly than it's alright.

Crafting is the fastest way to make me go look at GameFAQs because I have FOMO about not getting the right weapon because I didn’t get the right ingredient in the right spot for the hidden blueprint. If game designers want me to spend more time being engaged with a third party walkthrough, then yeah, crafting is achieving that goal!

Crafting has been silly IMO since before I got annoyed at it when I was playing _World of Warcraft_. It certainly is here to stay since then!

I remember liking the cooking and alchemy in the PS4 remaster of _Odin Sphere_. But I think because I just kinda got ingredients and then the bunny cooked cool dishes and they didn’t impact my gameplay in a troublesome way. It’s also been like 7 years since I played it.

I recently tried to get into Dragon's Dogma and bounced off after a few hours for several reasons, but definitely one of them is becoming instantly overwhelmed by the crafting system. I am sure it is not actually that complex, but just seeing all the different ways I could create slightly better or worse healing items makes my enjoyment hat fall right off my head.

Breath of the Wild worked for me only because of the fun jingle and the engaging presentation of the ingredients and dishes. That being said, by the later parts of the game, it was not that fun, as I just cooked three-meats-and-a-salt over and over. This is true of every mechanic in Breath of the Wild, I think! After a certain point, the game just becomes a slog in terms of how much health everything has, and you have to engage with the weapon degradation and crafting a lot more than you'd want.

I think I am just the kind of person who wants these sorts of things taken care of for me, or simplified. If instead of having to remember whether Greenwych can make a stamina potion, or whether Bluegrass goes best with Silkshrooms or Mentos, I would much rather have a world populated by three plants: Big Heal Plant, Medium Heal Plant, and Small Heal Plant.

I like how "crafting" works in Persona! Enemies drop a bunch of bizarrely-named items, and then every few days I go over to some dude across the street, and he, while making sure to unfailingly remark on the rarity of the item in question, bangs a hammer until I have new armours to buy! I like that loop! That's fun to me! But I don't want to _be_ the guy banging the hammer.

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@wickedcestus#14928 I like how “crafting” works in Persona! Enemies drop a bunch of bizarrely-named items, and then every few days I go over to some dude across the street, and he, while making sure to unfailingly remark on the rarity of the item in question, bangs a hammer until I have new armours to buy!

This is how it works in _Etrian Odyssey_ too, and I don't mind it. You also know exactly which monster will give you which drop and how more you need before the clerk will be able to craft you something.

i don‘t personally fined crafting to be a particularly interesting game mechanic, but i also don’t hate it, if it‘s unobtrusive? but i bounce off stuff like Minecraft because that sort of resource gathering isn’t relaxing for me (weirdly, though, this doesn't happen for me with DQ Builders).

as to the original question, i think it's likely to stick around, but maybe less games will keep using it or something else will evolve out of it.

I'm the guy who has a Factorio Diary thread so I feel it is part of my duty to share my thoughts here.

Well, I'm pretty mixed on them too, but they're definitely here to stay, because they can mostly be put to good use. There's a lot about what makes them good and what makes them bad. I think it depends a lot on how well connected and cohesively the system is designed, whether or not it has a compelling minigame or challenge associated with it, how "fungible" crafting materials are (as in to what degree crafting materials or even the game's economy in general is essentially interchangeable) or how materials overlap among recipes, and how generous or stingy the game is with materials and especially whether or not it will be especially stingy with rare materials (basically what's the risk that crafting will go hand-in-hand with grinding or farming).

  • - Minigame/Mechanical Form
  • First what I gotta know first about a crafting system is whether or not it has a compelling gameplay verb for interacting with the crafting system and if it doesn't if that's cool, and even if it does if it has ensured it will be able to continue to respect the player's time. Not all crafting systems need a minigame associated with it, and no game needs one that's boring, or too difficult or not difficult enough, etc. Having it be pushing a button in a menu is probably a better idea that having one that's boring or frustrating. But, sorry for TLOU posting/praising once more, but even something as simple as players having the opportunity to scramble to craft something in the middle of combat, but it takes time and leaves you vulnerable, is better than nothing.

    If it's fun or even complex on its own, that's great. I haven't crafted since the last significant overhaul so it might be a drag now but FFXIV's crafting is a great example of how a crafting system can have its own gameplay loops and challenges completely separate from main gameplay actions. Plus it has plenty of QoL features that cut down on monotony.

  • - Overall Scope
  • Crafting I feel has to be carefully balanced with a less hands on form of resource acquisition, and suited to the game. It has to know its place, or justify a more dominating presence. Something that feels pretty precarious is, say, having an involved crafting system in an RPG and have that be the main avenue for some of the game's most valuable stuff. This feels like a cheap trick to give players an incentive to engage with it or be gated from some of the most powerful gear or cool tools. If this is the case but the crafting system isn't that involved and you can just push a button in a menu and combine your arcane limited quantity and one-of-a-kind materials without having engaged with it much for the rest of the game, well, you have just designed a multi-part sidequest the progress flags of which take up room in the player's inventory. At least put one-of-a-kind stuff in the Key Items page, please, or better yet, make sure crafting materials have their own cleanly organized inventory.

  • - Generous or Stingy
  • This is obvious enough how it lends to either good or bad gameplay. Monster Hunter, as much as I have loved it, since _Monster Hunter 3U_ which I feel qualifies me as a _Monster Hunter_ vet at least by technicality since _Monster Hunter Generations_ and _Monster Hunter World_ have been such noticeable paradigm shifts particularly with how generous (or stingy) it can be with resources, is still trying to get this _just_ right. Justifying crafting in _Monster Hunter_ is easy enough since, well, it's literally the meat potatoes and dessert and fruit gummy vitamins of the character progression system and the catalyst for almost all further gameplay. But some games have been better than others in terms of how much or how little resources gameplay granted you and how they could lead to either satisfying reward systems or repetition bordering on tedium. If I'm gonna play _Monster Hunter_, it should be a given that I want to hunt monsters, so I can hunt stronger monsters in an endless leapfrog, and it's just useful that the game be keenly aware of how often it is going to make me do something over and over again. At the same time, it should also be aware that I'm gonna _like_ that sometimes (or I'm probably not a _Monster Hunter_ fan, or I've found ways to make it more interesting like by doing it in an order I find satisfying or helping friends).

    If you're mostly aware of the series by osmosis, you should know that "the grind" in _Monster Hunter_ hasn't been all that bad since at least the previous-to-currently-released iteration, especially considering that the length of hunts via an overall HP reduction has meant less tedium and overall since that same iteration. I, at least, don't find I'm getting tired of grinding out a specific monster because the game is generous enough with materials that I usually am done by the time I'm wanting to be done. At the same time... I dunno... _World_ sometimes feels _too_ generous, and is less picky about specifically attacking specific monster parts to get what I need... but that's something to be careful about what you wish for.

  • - Fungibility and Recipe Overlap
  • To me the extent and logic of material fungibility is usually where I feel it can be shown how well thought out a crafting system really is. The best systems manage the fungibility of materials in interesting ways to create interesting choices.

    For instance, one of the simplest examples is something like a fantasy game having different tiers of Metal Ingots. Highly adaptable materials that are common but not too common can create interesting choices fairly easily if, say, I've been kitted out with Iron Gear for 5-10 hours of gameplay by now, and start finding enemies that drop Steel Ingots moderately commonly or maybe uncommonly, I have new information and can maybe make some interesting choices. Usually something like this is giving you a heads-up that some gear upgrades are going to be useful soon, and it's giving me a shortcut to some possibly early ways to get to that new tier of gear power. I can choose which gear I want to build first with a new tier of powerful material that I've got new but not reliable access to, or, if I'm a weirdo (and I am), I might feel compelled to put some time in to grind out to get all the Steel Ingots I need as soon as possible and feel really powerful at the stage of the game I'm at. Or maybe some sort of base material might end up being able to be used in a variety of different recipes that I can choose to my liking. Like potion bottles I can fill with a wide variety of potions, every potion bottle is a potential potion, the value of which is dependent on personal playstyle, my engagement with finding or unlocking recipes and my commitment to accruing potion materials, etc.

    Crafting systems, I think, are good when they introduce some level of choice and personal expression into character progression and resource management. In that first scenario If I'm another 5 gameplay hours before I can buy a Steel Greatsword, and another 10 before I can fight enemies that drop Steel significantly more reliably, and another 15 before I'll find a shop that will sell my Steel Ingots, in a certain sense, that is speaking to the fungibility of the game's resources. Gated behind 15 hours of progress is the ability to make your currency resource fully fungible with steel, at 5 hours my currency is fungible with a Steel Broadsword, but at 0 and 10 hours, steel is replicable with farming time as well, which I can either choose to do or not.

    The game at least giving me that choice is usually a decent chance that a crafting system is well designed because it's aware that it is creating an alternate way for you to manage your resources and make alternative choices. The worst kinds of crafting systems are ones where everything is either too fungible and not nearly enough thought has been put into the idea that the interesting part isn't pushing a button and getting a Steel Sword from 2 Steel Ingots and some Supple Leather, it's representing interesting choices that are more engaging than just a straight up currency resource we use to acquire everything, it's about using limited quantities of things to make interesting choices, or playing in weirdo ways to get ahead of the power curve (my fave), or even just coloring the world and the player character's place or status in it.