19 Dec 2011

SWTOR: The Broken Mess of Crew Skills

Over the last few days I’ve been digging into the crafting system in Star Wars: The Old Republic. This isn’t something I really got into during beta – I was too busy waving around my lightsaber and shooting lightning from my fingertips to be concerned with harvesting materials and making pointless items.

I’m regretting that decision now, as I’d have loved to provide some choice feedback on the system. Other people may have found SWTOR’s biggest flaw, but for me crafting is about even with my issues on Space Combat.

For those of you yet to dig in to the intricacies of fabrication in Bioware’s MMO, here’s the run-down. At level 10-ish you gain your first companion, and with this you can learn Crew Skills. There’s three categories: skills that make things, skills that gather things and skills that send your companion on missions. Credit where it’s due, the last two choices are interesting as they allow you to focus on questing while your companion does all the tedious work of banging rocks together.

But pick a crew skill that makes anything and be prepared for a whole galaxy of redundancy. Let me explain.

The Artifice crew skill allows you to make lightsaber and blaster gems, lightsaber hilts, enhancements, shield generators and so on. There are two main types of lightsaber hilt: might hilts for melee classes and resolve hilts for Force wielders. There’s a few more variants in the later levels but those are the two main types.

For this example I’m going to focus on the Resolve Hilt. When starting out as a novice Artificer you’re able to craft Resolve Hilt 2, a Premium quality (green) item that’s usable at level 9. Once you’ve made a few you can Reverse Engineer them to get some materials back, plus the chance to learn how to make a Prototype quality (blue) version of Resolve Hilt 2. If you make a few of these and reverse engineer them you might learn how to make the Advanced Resolve Hilt 2, an Artifact quality (purple) item that’s also usable at level 9.

You might think this is a fair deal – you can do a bit of work and find out how to make a great quality hilt. Except there’s a Resolve Hilt 3 that’s usable at level 11. Why bother doing all that reverse engineering if there’s a better hilt just round the corner?

This isn’t just an abberation of crafting compressed at the lower levels. The mass of Resolve Hilts continues all the way to Advanced Resolve Hilt 23, usable at level 50. That’s a new basic hilt every 2 levels. Including variants that’s a total of 67 resolve hilts just to get you from level 10 to endgame.

Why?

It’s not just hilts we’re talking about either. The Artifice crew skill has 1144 different items that your companions can learn how to make. About two thirds of those are minor upgrades that could be removed immediately without any impact on the game. Comparing this to World of Warcraft in Cataclysm, Enchanting can craft 352 different items while Jewelcrafting can make 667.

Moving back to SWTOR, you might be thinking that with this huge number of lightsaber parts that there’s at least a market of players out there desperate to snap them up? Guess again! Most lightsabers that you get as quest rewards don’t have modification slots. Those that do come pre-filled with the latest set of parts for that level – there’s no assembly required here!

Add to this the number of items that get thrown at you as quest rewards and it’s often easier to wait for your next upgrade to be handed to you instead of spending time and money on doing it the hard way. Besides, it’s not as if the content is challenging enough to encourage you to spend money on fine-tuning your gear.

So why have all this choice? Why flood the Crew Skills with a whole slew of items that serve no real purpose once applied to the game? I know that players have been crying out for a richer crafting experience, but this is not it. It’s just the illusion of choice.

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20 Responses to SWTOR: The Broken Mess of Crew Skills

  1. Razerbug says:

    I’ve said it in show, I’ll say it again…

    They lifted the quite broken WoW end of Wrath game, slapped a resource heavy (but very nice) single player game on it, and called it good.

    A few months later, WoW Cataclysm’ed itself, re-did everything, went to GDC and said how broke it was, then re-did everything for MoP.

    SWTOR has slapped a skin on a game that’s quite a bit out of date, but they didn’t wait for it to fix itself… whoops
    Razerbug recently posted..A Dwarf, a Night Elf and a Human walk into a bar…My Profile

  2. Tesh says:

    Redundancy is good padding. They are still using a sub model, right?

    …note, not good *design*, just good padding.
    Tesh recently posted..Volleyball and Dungeoneering: Aspirational PlayMy Profile

  3. spinks says:

    No one is forcing you to make any of those lower level high quality items if they won’t sell. LOTO is similar, in that you get to make masterpiece level variants of every single piece of armour/ weapon in the game if you want. Before you mock, note that the material requirements for the nicer quality gear aren’t that high and people might well want them for alts. (Sure, it doesn’t get round the issue of levelling crafted gear generally being useless to high levels but giving the crafter more choice isn’t a bad thing in itself.)

    • Gazimoff says:

      I could understand that approach if there was more space between each hilt, but packing them in every two levels is just absurd. If they were spaced out at every 6 to 10 levels with three variants for each then I’d be right with you on the alt approach, but right now it just feels like there’s too much to make it useful. It feels like there’s no thought in it at all.

  4. immortaltruth says:

    I discovered very early on that professions are not going to be very profitable at all, and your probably better off farming kills to make extra money. dungeon drops sell for a lot of credits, I got over 600 credits from a vendor for a chest that dropped in hammer station, only a level 16 flashpoint. at level 16 I also managed to solo esseles, all that loot brought in over 1000 credits. at level 50 who knows how much vendors will pay for boss drops?

    professions look like an optional extra, do it if you want, it will probably cost more money then you get back since you have to spend money just to gather materials with a companion. Maybe at end game legendaries will be in demand.

    Just a silly prediction, but the crew skills that craft companion gifts could end up being the money makers down the road. A lot of gamers are obsessive compulsive and just might spend all their money trying to max out all their companions loyalty to 10,000/10,000.

  5. Reliquary says:

    I see the multiple items not as an upgrade opportunity or even as a selling point but to get away from the limitations of crafting in other games where you were tied to one item you could make cheaply to level your skill. This way you can create multiple items for the ability to level. I would assume they may change some of this. I haven’t tired but if you keep crafting the “discovered” item does it level into another “discovered” item or a higher level item that you normally would have to pay for? I’m not going to nitpick just yet. I think that is the problem with most MMO that come out everyone bashes it too quickly instead of giving it a chance and waiting for them to patch. Anyone who started WoW from day one knows that.

    • Gazimoff says:

      There’s a couple of interesting points there.

      The way that Reverse Engineering works, you have a chance to discover a better quality schematic when reverse engineering an existing one. The new schematic is better quality (ie Prototype from Premium reverse engineering), but the same level. This by itself is a good thing – it means that not every skill is trainer bought.

      The issue is that because you get new schematics from your trainer very often, there’s no point in doing the reverse engineering to deliberately hunt for schematics. The list of possible schematics is bloated because there’s a whole bunch that aren’t worth the effort of trying to craft. This is the bad side of the design.

      On the subject of “bashing” an MMO, that’s not what I’m doing here. If I was proclaiming that all of SWTOR was crap and that nobody should buy it then I’d agree with you. But it isn’t. It’s a fun game with a lot of content that I’m still enjoying. I’m happy to admit that.

      That said, it’s only right that I look at where the game doesn’t meet my expectations, stating why I have a problem with it and sometimes offering ways it can be fixed. I wouldn’t call it nitpicking per se, I’d call it highlighting the bleeding obvious. If people don’t complain about it then the patches and changes don’t happen. I’d rather nail my colours to the mast instead of waiting in silent hope.

      As a note, I was there for Warcraft’s launch. I was also there for MMOs before and after it. I know what launches are like.

      • Buhallin says:

        Late to the party on this, but…

        The RE’ing process is less meaningful for the linear skills and items (Cybertech, Hilts) than it is for the primary things like Armormech and Synthweaving. An upgraded hilt or mod might just be a few extra points, but there are 15 different potential purple combinations for a piece of armor, each with different stats that are pretty hard to come by in different combinations – such as Defense and Alacrity.

        Are all the upgrades critical to have? No, but I’m not entirely sure why it’s a bad thing. Call it bloat if you want, but I think it provides a variety of ways for people to play. Just want to level? Fine, push through. But for those who really want to push it, a blue level 15 hilt will give the same stats as a green level 17, which gives them an advantage. A hardcore crafter can also drive to unlock many/all of the combinations, allowing highly customized gear to be created for people based on role.

        Crafting’s a hard thing to balance. Make it too good, people will complain it’s mandatory. Make it too easy, crafters complain there’s no point to them doing it because everyone can just do their own, and no depth. While I do agree the mod lines could use some variety in the upgrades, I think having something in there that hardcore crafters can drive for that you don’t care about sounds just about perfect.

  6. Waz says:

    I do not have thw same experience you have with crafting. I am a armortech and reverse engineering is wonderful. I craft the the armor I have skill for to increase my armor skill then reverse engineer it to get mats back and a chance to make a better quality item, often purple. It is win-win. I skill up my craft, I get even better armor, and yes purple armor sells well and is often a huge improvement to companions. I depend alot on my companion so equiping her is important.

  7. Petter says:

    As a Cybertech, I agree with a lot of what you write here. I’ve been crafting stuff mostly to level it up and to reverse engineer – but I’ve reached a point where I’ve realized that REing stuff isn’t worth it right now, unless I find an orange piece that I really want to keep. As it stands now, I might as well wait until I reach 50 before I even bother – as it usually is in gear-based games like SWTOR.
    Petter recently posted..Boxing Day miscellaneousMy Profile

    • Gazimoff says:

      I’m inclined to agree with you that making the bare minimum to hit the crafting cap might be the way to go. Mods etc might be useful at endgame, but for the leveling experience they’re mostly pointless.

  8. Waz says:

    I have gone further into the game and still cannot complain about crewskills. I am now level 35 trooper and armortech and my gathering skills (scavenging/underworld trading) have been enjoyable. As I progress I am always filling in a slot with a piece of armor I have created through crafting/re-engineering. I believe this system of crafting is superior to WoW’s. Farming materials is now handled by crew. Crafting is handled by crew. I am PvPing or questing while I am collecting materials and crafting upgrades. It is a win-win as opposed to me flying all over Azeroth getting ganked or being robbed of a node or a plant. Sorry, I like crafting really good armor without having to group with and fighting 4 or 5 other people for a pattern that never drops.

    • Gazimoff says:

      I’m not disagreeing with everything here. I agree with you that the mechanics for crew missions are mostly great. Both archaeology and treasure hunting provide alternative ways to obtain resources when gathering nodes are low, which I really appreciate.

      That said, I still fee that there’s a huge amount of bloat in the crafting crew skills, particularly for Artifice and Cybertech. This problem is compounded by quest rewards and flashpoint drops making early crafting pretty useless. It’s also an expensive way of doing things, particularly when credits are in short supply for everyone except slicers.

      • Waz says:

        I see your point. I have not yet had a problem with credits yet. A friend and myself usually quest on a planet for 2 to 3 hours (including the heroics) and end up 20k to 30k richer in credits. Throw in a warzone or 3 (average 2k per warzone) and you have a good amount of credits to get you through. Flashpoints and space missions are fun but not very profitable. The market is still too young to predict values. Underworld metals sell fantastic though.
        Question, I know next to nothing about cybertech but won’t you be the one who will be creating all the enhancements, armor mods for orange armor? I forsee you being very rich because everyone will find that favorite armor piece and want to always upgrade it with better enhancements and armor mods. Artifice makes crystals, correct? Damm, wish you were on my server. I would send you credits if you kept me current with armor mods, enhancements, and upgraded crystals for my auto cannon. That is another concept I love about this game that I believe crafting makes posible, orange gear can be kept throughout your leveling experience. Just keep upgrading the mods to keep it current.

  9. syrane says:

    I’m enjoying the crafting system so far. I’m a Artifice and agree the is a lot of schematics, but seems like there being so many new schematics for say hilts or whatever it may be is actually handy. If i’m missing a slot in a piece of armor or my new saber i can craft a level appropriate piece to fill it. I don’t have to use something levels behind and then wait say 10 levels for something new. I know the stat difference isn’t that big of a gap and if content was harder it may mean more adding up all the small gains. Guess what i’m getting at is i enjoy being able to open my craft window, find the piece i need at any level, make a few items at little cost to reverse engineer a nice small upgrade or missing piece. I know i’m not gonna use every schematics but i do know no matter the level i am, i’ll most likely be able to open my craft window and not have to wait to make a item my level or have to settle for something from many levels ago til i can. In my opinion I think this may have been what they could have been shooting for. the idea of any level you are if you need something you would be able to make it. though in all honesty it could have been thought out better, but i still enjoy it. sorry so long : )

  10. swtorSPEC says:

    I just recently started crafting heavily and I can say that things seem out of balance. Rubat Crystals are so hard to come by that I have to reverse engineer all the hilts I get on drops just to craft higher level items. The Galactic Market and Crafting go hand-n-hand but using the Galactic Market is painful. We should petition BioWare for a general search feature.
    swtorSPEC recently posted..SWTOR Attributes & StatsMy Profile

    • syrane says:

      i agree the galactic market search and what not is flawed. But if your archeology you end up with more rubat crystals than you know what to do with.they are more abundant than any other crystal i could find. Wondering if you have archeo?

  11. swtorSPEC says:

    I use Artiface, Archeology, and Treasure Hunting. I have to buy Rubat Crystals at the market.
    swtorSPEC recently posted..SWTOR Attributes & StatsMy Profile

  12. Blasphemous says:

    I don’t play wow anymore, I have been playing SWTOR, huge fan, saw the first made movie in the movies on launch, I love videogames even more, I un-installed the game today, after 24 days and at level 50, and 7 other toons to 10. This game is broken, broken bad.

    It isn’t even in the same league as far as crafting goes, lol are you serious? then WOW’s crafting system…..period.

  13. Phillip McCracken says:

    dude, you are literally killing me right now.