Tobold talked about crafting today and it made me think about how crafting works and how it ought to work. WOW crafting has a few different issues, some of which would require a total overhaul to fix and some of which would be easier.
1. Each individual craft used to level up is trivial. When I cap out a profession I have to make 500 different things so there is no possible way those things could be individually relevant. They end up being junk, food for the vendor.
2. Everyone takes the same path to capping out. This makes levelling a profession boring because every person does it precisely the same way. There is no sense of discovery.
3. Every crafter is the same. Once you get a recipe there is no difference whatsoever between the best and the rest. The fact that there is no way to be a more skilled crafter is a loss.
The way I would address these if I were designing a system from scratch is to firstly make every craft much more relevant. Rather than creating 500 (or even 300) things I would want crafting to take many less crafts, maybe more like 30. The trick to making this work is that of course each craft would need to be much more challenging. I would set up a system where a crafter would have 3 new recipes available to them. To learn more and advance their craft the crafter would have to complete one of the recipes in their log, much like completing a quest, and then a new recipe would pop into that spot. All recipes that have ever been completed would go into the crafter's permanent repertoire to be crafted again whenever the crafter wishes. Since the acquisition of recipes is random everyone would take their own course through crafting and would need to make 1 of everything to learn all the recipes available to them.
I would make it such that completing a craft requires a combination of items you get acquire from the Auction Hall, vendors, and personal collection/questing. Because you have 3 crafts available at all times you should be able to collect the ingredients as you quest and move through zones to make appropriate gear. Because these crafts would require a lot of effort rather than just buying the materials I would definitely want there to be a substantial experience award for completing each one. I would think that awarding experience for subsequent crafts of the same recipe would be fine, but the additional ones would be worth much less than the first. The idea would be for crafters to be able to earn a lot of experience through crafting but that levelling purely through crafting would be not ideal. Essentially I would be aiming for the 'optimal' levelling path to be to level professions alongside doing level appropriate quests.
The final major change to crafts is I would want them to produce variable results. I would achieve this by implementing a mini game for each craft that would be necessary to complete each craft. For example, blacksmithing could require a game of Minesweeper to complete a helmet. If the player plays Minesweeper terribly the item would end up being:
If the player plays perfectly the final item would look like:
The idea would be that items have a substantial range in power and that range is determined by how well the crafter plays the minigame associated with that craft. In this way crafters would actually be very much distinguished by their skill and a particular person could produce top notch goods while someone with less skill and practice would make things that were decent, but worse. The idea would be to create a variable market for goods of slightly varying quality. I would aim to have the items produced by appropriate level crafts with moderate skill to be more powerful than items acquired by questing or from drops. Basically if someone levels up their crafting as they adventure I would want all their completed projects that are class appropriate to be the best equipment they can acquire for a substantial length of time.
I would hope that these changes would integrate crafting into levelling much more smoothly and make each part of the process feel much more rewarding. Crafting would worth pursuing even if you had no intention of making endgame equipment both for the experience and the equipment acquired along the way. In theory someone who really wanted to just craft could even level to the cap by crafting and establish a name for themselves as the best crafter of their kind around because their results could actually be superior to nearly anyone else. They could find a real role in the world without having to kill anything. In a fantasy fighting game I don't think being a crafter needs to be the optimal path but I like the idea of it being possible.