# Crafting Systems
I love crafting. Tell me a game has crafting, and already the first notes of the sweet sirens call begin to tickle my ears — yearning, as a designer and a player, to unlock its secrets. The barest whiff gives an alluring quality to any game; and yet, as I find far too often, this yearning turns to a loathsome disdain for the eventual reality. It seems I’m always left holding a bag of crushed dreams and unfulfilled fantasies. Indeed I do dream of being a rich merchant someday...
The problem is that people create crafting systems because, like me, they love the IDEA of a crafting system: The idyllic version, the fantasy. They rarely ask if what they are fantasizing about fits the goals for their game; what’s more, they horribly underestimate the implications of a crafting system.
Know the goals you are trying to serve!
I did a lot of research for this article, and a common theme made itself clear: the particulars of the crafting systems mattered far less than you would think. Before writing this, if you asked me, “Mike, what makes a crafting system cool?” My response would have been immediate: lots of items to make! And yet, that’s false. Games like Diablo 2, Dead Rising 2, Monster Hunter, and Vagrant Story — all wildly different, all fun in their own way — feel good because, at their core, they are there to serve the goals of their game.
To build a good crafting system, you must create a system that aligns with the game are you making; this should be painfully obvious. But how do we ensure this alignment? Our path to this understanding is best gleamed through a lens of economics, for this lens provides us with a very meaningful lexicon.
|Crafting System||A large game system that converts one or more in-game items into some other item or items. It is comprised of three parts: One, an Input Stream of Resources; Two, a system of Manufacturing; and Three, an Output Stream of Goods.|
|Player Resource||Things that the player can collect in the game. These are what make up the player's Input Stream, usually within the context of a crafting system (wood, stone, iron, etc.).|
|Player Good||Things that the player can create in the game. These are what make up the player's Output Stream, usually within the context of a crafting system (axes, swords, shields, etc.).|
|Low Stream||When the number of potential Player Resources (or Player Goods) is considered small.|
|High Stream||When the number of potential Player Resources (or Player Goods) is considered large.|
|Simple Manufacturing||A system of converting Player Resources into Player Goods that requires little work.|
|Complex Manufacturing||A system of converting Player Resources into Player Goods that requires a greater amount of work.|
|Open Crafting System||When Player Goods can also be Player Resources.|
|Closed Crafting System||When Player Goods are not allowed to be Player Resources.|
That is a lot of jargon, I know, and we shall discuss it all in due course, but primarily you will notice a theme: crafting, at the most basic level, is all about manufacturing. That’s all it is. Turning one thing into something else; and doing it through some form of work. There is more to it, of course, but before we get there it is important to take a step back and understand the system from the high level.