Heroes Don't Craft

Richard Cobbett has penned an analysis - more of a rant, really - of crafting in RPGs and other video games that comes to a simple, very basic conclusion: heroes don't craft. Cobbett's comical frustrations aside, many complaints in the piece are perfectly understandable and echo things I've heard in private and read on the internet for years by now, which really makes me wonder when we're going to see a dramatic shift in crafting mechanics in videogames. For now, the design doesn't seem to have changed a whole lot, and more and more games seem to be implementing them.

Here's an excerpt that shows a potential alternative to the status quo:

[I]f I'm going to make my own sword in an RPG, let me actually do that thing properly instead of simply telling me what I'm going to get. Make it meaningful. Make it a memorable moment. Let me choose my style of blade, the curve of it, the runes on its surface, the style of the hilt and pommel, the style of leather on the strap. Then have the courage to let it be my blade for the duration; my Excalibur, my Glamdring, my Orcbonker 3000. something to look back on as fondly as any character or moment.

Knights of the Old Republic did that really well. The scene in which you craft your lightsaber is almost exactly how I wish everyone else did it. First, it's a one-time, special thing. You're making your own sword, which is something your character would be doing in game. The whole decision process of making and later upgrading it is rooted in both the world's fiction and your own personal tastes. Colour of crystal. Single or twinblade? The whole game has been leading to this point, making it feel special, and while afterwards you can pick up about as many lightsabers as bits of vendor trash, I suspect that most players did what the game gently indicated they should keep upgrading that one weapon, not because it's special in the grand scheme of things, but because it's theirs. It certainly beats what happens in most RPGs; out-levelling about ten Swords of Legends and throwing them to NPCs for chump change. What's that you've got there? Excalibur, fabled blade of the One True King? Two gold, mate.

Maybe the economy would be better if heroes put some more money back into the system, like actually paying trained blacksmiths to do the crafting for them? At some point I genuinely expect to get to the bottom of some dungeon somewhere. probably Divinity: Original Sin 2. only to find a blacksmith standing there over some dragon's carcass and saying (How do you bloody like it when someone does your job for you, eh?) And it'll be fair enough, really.

Not only should blacksmiths be able to craft better gear than my guy, who's just taken a few experimental whacks at an anvil, they're probably able to order moon-rocks and whatever at trade prices instead of having to scour the entire countryside in the hope of stumbling across some that aren't too badly guarded by fire-ogres.