Don’t get me wrong by the title, I think crafting in LotRO is better, or at least more interesting and useful than in WoW, and not as tedious or dangerous as in EQ2 (you are seldom subject to a death penalty!). However, as Tobold and other bloggers have been noting, crafting in LotRO is far from perfect at this point.
Crafting is not for everyone. Implementation of crafting systems in various games seems to vary from trivial:
“oh look at that, you can make a hat from a folded newpaper. That’s neat” Yawn and move on.
to full-on uber 1337 ultrahardcore:
“it only took me seven years off grinding foozles on the flaming plane of fire, but I finally got the pristine horgensplicer drop, now just 5,000 more cufflinks and I can make the crystalline swizzlestick of doom (which is bind on acquire, which I didn’t notice until I made it…).”
At its worst, crafting in MMOs is the equivalent of the anti-raid. Like raiding, it requires extraordinary efforts and commitments of time. Unlike raiding, the vast majority of this is most often solo grinding for materials or rare drops. Like raiding, the reward to commitment ratio (on its face) is dubious at best. Still, we do it.
Most crafting systems require players to obtain both vast quantities of basic materials (or obtain exceedingly rare ones) and endure some form of economic hardship to advance their skill. I’ll throw creating of items of little or no utility into the economic hardship bucket. So far, in these aspects, LotRO is not really different. From what I’ve experienced so far, most tradeskill professions suffer from one or both of these ills and long for tweaks.
How you gonna keep ’em down on the farm?
There’s an old joke, “How do you make a small fortune in farming? Start with a large one.” Farming in LotRO seems no different. I like the idea: buy seed, water and fertilizer, grow your crop and see what you get. You get saleable product, raw materials (which can be reprocessed into seeds) or both. You’ll never get your fertilizer or water back. You’d think with so many damned boars wandering around that fertilizer, of all things, should be in abundance. You’ll also never get all your seeds back (question: why not? I could reseed a field of corn by saving one row for the next crop IRL) and you never get back the cost of your water and fertilizer inputs if you vend your saleable product. Top it off with auction fees and the limited use for basic products (no one really needs cooking) and you have a recipe for economic disaster.
Farming is a particularly egregious example, because of the requirement of vendor components the pricing of which is more than nominal. There really isn’t a work around for kinship mates sending you, as the designated “kinship farmer,” all the manure and water they collect in the their travels. Even if they did, there is little market for pipeweed (a pure vanity product with no in game effect other than smoke rings) or food items for cooking.
Which brings me to one main problem in all these systems: utility. I don’t mind useless items that might be economically neutral or even only slightly negative until a skill level is improved, but IMHO, all crafters should have some kind of bread and butter products to allow them to continue their advancement. Food should be important enough that farmers will grow inputs and cooks will make it because players need it. Think of it as Michaelangelo painting signs and billboards for a living while increasing his skill to the point where he is Sistine Chapel-worthy. Not exciting, but hey, its a living– not an expensive hobby.
A Tailor of two Suities
Tailoring is not much better right now. Vast quantities of leather are required which requires grinding mobs which drop them. Unfortunately, for medium leather, medium hides drop from around level 14 wolves while the recipes requiring these inputs are base level 10, so there almost no way to keep your tailoring skill at level to self-equip. Likewise, light armor requires vendor purchased inputs putting it in nearly the same category as farming. And of course, drops and quest rewards at-level are superior to equivalent tailored items.
The man in the can
Metalsmithing is actually a bright spot here. Heavy armor can be made well in advance of the time that the first class, Guardians, obtain the ability to wear it at level 15. Granted a suit of heavy bronze is not epic, but its such a decent upgrade for the l15 Guardian that at least this portion is a viable skill. Ahh, utility.
Back to school
My scholar will have to take summer school because he’s falling behind in his school work. With a relatively rare spawn rate for relics in ruins, no minimap radar for them, and relatively high input quantities, this will be a slog. I could probably sell all the lore scrolls I could make for quest turn ins if I could find enough materials to make them, but I can’t. Dyes aren’t bad, but all dye recipes are drops and require vendor purchased inputs as well…
Finally, wither the poor woodworker/forester. While processing leather is simply like smelting ore: go to the craft station and have at it, processing wood requires a vendor purchased input of wax at 48 coppers a throw. Ouch. That’s quite a bit of silver to throw down on refining a raw.
Craftyaanisqatsi– a system out of balance
Seems like two aspects of LotRO’s crafting system might be susceptible to “rebalancing” easily enough. Vendor prices for required inputs and sale prices for base crafted items could easily be tweaked to make this less of a negative proposition. Even reducing the price of optional recipes sold by crafter NPCs would help the utility issue. It doesn’t make sense that I should have to drop more than 100 silver to get linen or tough leather recipes to make only near-at-level items. At this point in the game, that is a losing investment except for completeists.
Other non-monetary problems are tougher to deal with. Crafted items should be craftable at-level and useful (not uber, but useful) at that level. Over all quantities are high, but bearable. With input quantities where they are, its really only viable to be a manufacturer if you have kinship members or alts supporting you with hides, ore, etc. That’s ok. Not great for a soloist, but bearable. Among our wee kinship, we’ve effectively reached that conclusion very quickly after just a few weeks.
Absent making all the professions useful at-level, crafting becomes merely a hobby to be undertake in the higher level future by the idle wealthy rather than the means to advancement it should be. I’m still crafting away, but I’m beginning to sound like all those “Woe is me” Elves still haunting middle-earth. ;) Turbine fix me!