Last week, my new favorite obsession on the PS4, Neverwinter, received a significant update, which included a complete overhaul of its crafting system. Prior to the update, in-game crafting was, well…in my mind, it was perfectly fine, though some might call it dull. Crafting was a mostly passive experience. In the game, you simply navigated to your “Professions” page, chose a profession (i.e. leatherworking, tailoring, alchemy) to upgrade, hired certain professionals (which could also be obtained through some quests), and then “sent them off” on any number of available tasks, which could take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. Once the tasks were complete, a notification popped up, and you could then choose to re-assign tasks or not. Most came with rewards of small amounts of XP and/or gold, as well as armor or weapons or other resources, depending on the task. It was simple system that didn’t interfere much with gameplay. I never got too deep into crafting with any of my characters, because, frankly, I don’t really enjoy crafting in games. But I liked this version of it, because it allowed me to consistently gain small bits of XP (of utmost importance in RPGs, always!) without having to do anything.
And let’s face it, we all like to get stuff without having to do the work to actually get it.
But I digress.
So along comes a new Neverwinter update for consoles that effectively eliminated “Professions.” Instead of crafting with just a few button-presses, the game now gives players their very own workshops, complete with individual retainers to oversee said shops and a host of different artisans with various skillsets. You, as the master of your workshop, are charged with hiring artisans to craft things, dispatching adventurers to gather things for the artisans, working with your retainer to make sure that your workshop has everything it needs, and collecting everything that’s been crafted. Become a good enough master at crafting, and you can then upgrade your shop and interact with your artisans remotely.
With the update in place, I spent a portion of my weekend trying out this new workshop system with one of my characters. And it went about as well as I expected it might, which is to say, not well at all. Because, I don’t want to have to work in a game. And the workshop is work. From literally having to review résumés of applicants to setting priorities concerning my artisans to figuring out how to obtain the best tools for them, it all hits a little too close to real life. Moreover, it’s just not that much fun. (Not that the original “professions” system was outright enjoyable, but at least it did what it did well.) Dealing with the workshop takes me out of adventuring, which is why I’m playing the game in the first place. I’m sure that if I was willing to put in the time to learn the ins and outs of the workshop, I could probably reap some decent rewards, but I’m not interested, because…I don’t really enjoy crafting in games.
In-game crafting means about as much to me as trophies and achievements – zilch, zip, zero.
Cooking food Breath of the Wild?
–The only system I may be okay with. It works well, provides needed rewards, and is cute to watch. But if I didn’t have to do it, I wouldn’t.
Formulating potions in Skyrim?
–Fun the first time, followed by diminishing returns. At least it gives me something to do with all my skeever hides.
Crafting survival stuff in The Last of Us?
–Well, okay, but I gotta hurry this up because I thinking something is sneaking up—oh I’m dead.
Hammering out new armor/weapons in Dragon Age: Inquisition?
–Nice idea, but I never need anything listed, and I never have the right materials anyway.
Making absolutely anything in Red Dead Redemption II?
–I would rather be repeatedly mauled by a cougar.
When it comes to crafting in games, I’m definitely not this go-to for advice, which would boil down to can’t you just find what you need while playing? Because more often than not, that’s the case for me. I make do with what games gives me in loot drops and random finds, and usually, what I end up with is more than enough. Now, would I have a better time in RDRII if spent a couple hours crafting better ammunition? Maybe. But I shouldn’t feel like I’m being penalized for not doing so. (And there have been occasions in RDRII where I’ve felt this exactly.)
As grumpy as I might sound, I’m not bashing crafting. In most cases, it’s an optional experience – it certainly is in Neverwinter, for example. The choice to do it or not is completely up to the player, and that’s fine. When I’m immersed in a game that includes crafting, unless I’m forced to make something in the moment, it’s likely something that I may try once but will mostly ignore. If you want to craft until the dawn’s first light, be my guest. I hope you make the best and most awesome thing ever made. In my particularly dim world view, the bottom line is simple:
I don’t really enjoy crafting in games.
What are your thoughts on crafting in games? Which games have the best systems and which have the worst? Sound off below!
Lede image (© EA, BioWare) was taken by author during gameplay on PC using GeForce Experience.