Procrastination Amplification: Punditry on MMOs and games in general.

Automated Crafting

There’s been a leak of some information regarding the crafting in The Old Republic this weekend. Not a lot and I can’t really confirm or deny it right now as I’m writing this post on a train with only sporadic internet connection. It doesn’t matter though whether the crafting system will really be as automated as Keen believes, because I will be talking about the general viability of such a system and not any specific implementation in TOR.

So here’s the gist of it: Instead of gathering materials and crafting goods out of them yourself, you give companion characters the task to do it while you do something else (or even log off.) Intrinsically this sounds boring. After all, you don’t actually get to play the game but have “bots” play it for you. There is no meaningful decision making involved, not is there a time constraint to make things interesting. Clearly this is inferior to crafting as other games implement it.

Or is it? Gathering and crafting in a game like World of Warcraft take absolutely no skill either nor are any interesting decisions involved. Gathering requires flying around in circles and landing whenever a node pops up on your minimap while the only thing you need to do for crafting is to collect a shopping list full of items (through gathering or the auction house) and click a button.Yet most people would consider World of Warcrafts system to be more interesting, even going so far as calling it fun. There is a certain market for dull repetitive tasks, but surely there are enough of those in MMOs that you don’t need crafting as another one? Why is it that we react so strongly to the idea of automatic gathering in a game but accept the mindless dronework that it is in others?

Clearly, an optimal system would have neither but not every game can have (or should have) a highly complicated crafting system. Is it really better for such a game to implement WoW-style crafting than to go with this (alleged) SW:TOR idea? Would dropping crafting completely be the best solution if you can’t make it interesting?

All those questions aside, a game in which you rely solely on subordinates to do the manual work for you is by no means always a boring one. Look at Starcraft II or any similar game. These games are all about having others gather resources for you and then making decisions about the allocation of those resources. Yeah there’s a twitch-component as well, but no onewould consider the game to be more interesting if you had to manually collect minerals and vespine gas instead of your workers doing it for you.
Just like in real life, delegation in games allows for more high-level decision making which can surely be more interesting than manual labor.

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