We wanted to make crafting really important [...] - Paul Sage, Creative Director
MMORPGs are the leviathans of online gaming – a complex system that needs to harmonize the big key aspects of the genre: PvE, PvP or crafting just to name the general few. Then you brake those down in hundreds of pieces and you try to shape them in perfect balance with each other. It’s no easy task and only few developers succeeded to get close to that balance. Crafting, is one of those sub-systems that’s very difficult to balance and it’s often overlooked by the developers. I’m not saying that crafting is non-existent in other MMOs – it’s just considered a bonus feature…a time sink if you will – when in reality should bring another layer of immersion to the game.
I will be honest with you, when I first read about crafting in Elder Scrolls Online, I wasn’t very impressed. There was very little info about the system and the general gossip was “ok, you can gather ore’n stuff and create a sword” … and then WoW popped into my head reducing my enthusiasm considerably. Buried in deep negative thoughts, an interview with Paul Sage came out of nowhere and one of his first sentences was “We wanted to make crafting really important..we know that people really want to play crafters” – in that moment, my enthusiasm changed.
Let’s keep in mind that ESO has no easy task – it needs to please both the Elder Scrolls community and the MMORPG crowd. Fortunately, it already has the (amazing) crafting model found in the Elder Scrolls series – all it needs is the balance and that extra ingredient to make it viable end-game and most importantly… fun. Zenimax understood that players WANT to craft…that some want to be THE crafters…and implemented an amazing system.
So without further chit chat, let’s dive into the system and what we know thus far.
There are 5 crafting skills in ESO: Weaponsmith, Armorsmith, Alchemy, Enchanting and Provisioner (cooking). Each crafting skill allows the player to create powerful items, from weapons and armor to potions and food/drinks. A player has the choice of becoming a general crafter – allocating skill points in multiple and even all crafting skills - or a Master Crafter, which means you specialize in one crafting skill to create the most powerful items for that crafting line. Being a specialist crafter doesn’t mean you can’t craft items from other crafting lines, the general belief is that you’ll have a set number of crafting points to allocate at end-game that won’t allow you to become a specialist in more than 1 crafting skill.
Paul Sage also stated that crafting will allow the players to create very powerful items which are pretty much on par with the end-game loot you get from PvE/PvP. Now that we covered the ground rules and basics of crafting…some of you will ask “Ok ok..I understand, they’re making the crafted gear viable in end-game..great but..it’s the same system we’ve seen in many other MMOs. Where’s the fun? Where’s the reward?”…and reward you shall have.
There is a base of 2 ingredients to any recipe from any crafting skill. For the sake of the NDA, let’s say combining a refined malachite with a moonstone will make you a Crystal Sword. The properties of this sword are known before hand, so there’s no surprise there. You then decide to apply additives to this sword which will increase the sword’s quality level and upgrade/change its stats. The interesting part is that you don’t know what the bonuses are before applying the additives, the crafting system is designed in such a way that you need to keep experimenting with the additives and share new found recipes with other players to be really effective at crafting – to quote Paul Sage: ”Experimentation was huge for us [...]“. This basically means that most of the high-end gear will come off combining the right additives with the right recipes and learning new additive-based recipes from other players or from the game’s social system. Now you’re probably thinking…wow that’s so cool – but there’s more.
The loot you get from dungeons, can be further upgraded by a crafter. So even if you get that omg sword drop from the dungeon boss, an enchanter can enchant it further and the weaponsmith can upgrade it further OR deconstruct it to learn the recipe and getting the materials. Crafters can also learn different racial styles that will allow them not only to create powerful items, but different looking items aswell. Or maybe you just want to transform your epic armor into an orcish style? – they can do that too.
Elder Scrolls Online has the potential to create one of the most comprehensive crafting systems found in any MMO to date, that combined with all the other aspects of the game, will offer players the tools and means to have a great experience, no matter their play style or chosen path.