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Here's a snip:
Most old-school western CRPGs, following the lead set by Dungeons & Dragons, generally stocked the stores with little more than starting gear for low-level characters. Over time, as Eastern console RPGs started building up steam, stores tended to be stocked with progressively more powerful gear, generally equivalent to hard-earned gear you could have obtained in the previous area.I guess that way there was a minimum baseline of gear, but it felt weird that the ultimate ubersword of the dungeon near the previous city was just sitting on a store shelf in the next.
At some point, crafting became a thing. I blame Ultima (starting with Ultima VI, circa 1990). However, crafting in Ultimas at least as I recall was pretty low-key. You either crafted simple weapons that you could easily buy in a store, or crafted as part of a quest to create an uber-item. Otherwise, it was pretty much baking bread and milking cows for personal consumption. As the 1990s came to an end and we started getting cross-pollination between fledgeling MMORPGs and the single-player RPG genres, we got more and more instances of crafting though still more often than not quest-based with very specific recipes
D&D 3.0 came out, and . well, things changed. Effectively, magic items were put in the hands of players, rather than the Dungeon Masters (or, for CRPGs, the game designers). Go to a large enough city, and you could buy anything short of artifact-level that you wanted, according to the rules. Alternately, you could craft your own, for an expenditure of experience points and gold for the requisite materials. Easy-peasy. I was not too fond of this latter change, as it really turned what I'd always treated as an in-game reward into little more than a revenue source. In other words, instead of being thrilled with a really cool magical item found amongst a dragon's horde, any item that wasn't exactly what the player wanted was simply thrown into the ol' Bag of Holding to be sold in town for cash to buy a specific item. It also seemed to take what was once a source of mysterious and . well, magical. possibilities (at least to less experienced players) and turn it into little more than a shopping list.
Jay is also interested in hearing your opinion on the subject, so don't forget to comment, either here or on his blog.