The crafting system is brilliant in many ways: it is engaging, it takes a bit of thought, and it requires a good amount of dedication in order to advance. Unlike most other games it isn't just a matter of having the proper mats and skills and pushing "Create". Having to account for having the proper tools and using them right in and of itself is a stroke of genius.
Everything else about the system is a complete failure and an example of S-E not thinking things through.
Lets start with the basics, shall we? Here are the facts we're dealing with:
- All weapons and armor are non-consumable. The only way they leave the economy is if someone vendors them or throws them away.
- Inventory is capped at 160 (+80 per retainer at $1 each)
- Bazaars are capped at 10 per player and an additional 10 per retainer
- The only way to sell an item is for a player to luck across your bazaar or for you to abuse /shout
- The only ways to get materials is to luck upon the right bazaar, buy it at extortionate prices from NPCs, or to farm them yourself
Lets look at the above in light of the crafting SP curve. It will take about 5200 successful synths at an average of 400 SP per in order to reach the cap. Assuming you never have a bag full of unlimited materials and never fail a synth it will take you over 130 hours of nonstop powergrind crafting in order to reach the cap. Of course, this is the rub: once you reach about level 20 or so all materials will need to be sourced from gatherers or from combat classes meaning you're going to be hunting through bazaar **** in order to find the materials. This also doesn't take into account the sheer amount of cash necessary in order to fund this massive appropriation of materials. I'll touch on this more in a moment, but first lets look into the alternative: Guild Leves.
Guild leves give you an alternate way to advance at no cost to you. If you were to do nothing but guild leves in one crafting class and by some freak of luck didn't ever get any that had cross-class requirements (like Bronze Chakrams on the level 10 blacksmith requiring at least level 5 leatherworking, etc), then it will take you a minimum of 130 leve resets in order to hit the cap assuming you never break a synth, you get 5 attempts per leve, and you never get lower than 400 SP per synth. This means you're going to be powergrinding a minimum of 200 days at only one craft, and this is only if you get lucky on what leves are available at every reset. Since many leves are underleveled compared to where you're at (and give you less SP per synth), require cross classing (eliminating it from your ability to complete), or offer less tries (the amount of materials and end products required is dropping as we get higher in rank) you can assume that this number of days will double to well over one year.
Lets now assume that you are hard core enough to pick up the gauntlet from the challenge I described above. This leads us to our third problem: there can be only one. In order to level your armorsmith from 49 to 50, for example, you will be doing at least 100 complete armor piece synths assuming all the parts of the synth are in that level range and it takes a large amounts of crafted parts to create the final product. If you factor in 10000 players per server and only 10% of them are the proper class to wear that item, you've now equipped 10% of those players for that slot. Since the variety of useable gear is small and the slots you're crafting for is also small, one armorcrafter could conceivably gear out every plate and mail wearer on a server. In the worst case scenario where every player on the server hits 50 at the same time it would take no more than a half dozen armorsmiths to gear out every heavy melee class on the server.
You don't believe me? Go to the market wards in Ul'dah right now and start browsing retainers. If every player on the server bought jewelry to fill every slot on their paperdoll there still would be jewelry to spare. What makes this more horrific is that most of this is made in an area of levels that is mostly made up of leves and it takes relatively few (ha ha 20-30) synths to advance a point of skill. Imagine how much more heinous this will be by the time the crafter wave hits 20? Every player on the server could buy multiple sets of cloth gear and still there would be gear rotting on retainers forever. 100 clothcrafters getting from 15 to 20 will generate in the area of 20000 pieces of cloth armor. I can promise you that more than 100 will try to make it at least that far on any given server.
By now the money hungry among you are licking your chops and gearing up for the world's longest poopsock marathon. You want to be one of those six crafters, right? This means you'll be rich beyond imagining, right?
The problem with the above scenario is that somehow you're going to need to be able to unload all the stuff you're making. Remember the bazaar limitation? Even though you may be one of the few and proud that can make the item, there is no way for you to get rid of it unless you have a line of people frothing at the mouth to buy it the moment it hits your bazaar. Even if you went crazy and picked up 30+ retainers and took over an entire market ward with them you would not be able to unload goods as fast as you make them (and remember, we're assuming that you have an unlimited supply of free resources in order to make this gear). You will be forced to either toss the gear as fast as you make it or vendor it for a fraction of the material cost. On the bright side, the materials will be dirt cheap since the number of crafters demanding them is low, but you will still be losing money hand over fist. In every non-consumable class (i.e. not cooking, alchemy, or ammunition oriented synth) whatever you make will be in the economy forever, so once a server is filled with level 30 gear there will be no money to be made in this bracket. Once the first group hits level 50 it is game over for that class, since there is now nothing left for them to do. The market is now saturated so there will be no chance for additional profit. Any further gear you make will only drive supply up and the associated cost of that item down.
Where do gatherers fit into this? Outside of materials for consumables, it will almost always be preferable for a gatherer to simply vendor anything they farm. Unless you (like the crazy crafter above) pick up dozens of retainers there is no conceivable way you can unload your materials, and even with those retainers you have to hope one of the few crazy crafters decides to patronize your shop. Unless you simply like to gather you are simply wasting your time and effort.
What does all this mean for combat classes? You will have to live without gear for a very long time. On the bright side everything you need will be dirt cheap. On the downside you'll be fighting in chronically underlevelled gear. By the time you hit the 30s you will be virtually unable to progress because your gear will be holding you back so substantially. If you need repairs you will have to use a NPC because there will be virtually no crafters that can provide them for you. You better hope you get severely lucky with your leves to score some armor. As for weapons, you might want to get used to sucking for the first year. You think all this is bad, though?
It gets worse
There is no way that S-E can fix this problem without severely changing how the game operates. The following is a short list of things that must happen in order to salvage this situation:
- An auction house with unlimited sales slots must be implemented. This is the only way a crafter will be able to find the materials needed to craft and unload their goods in a reasonable time frame. Retainers can be left in the game, but should have no bazaar fees (unlike the AH) and would serve primarily as inventory expansions.
- SP awarded by crafting must be increased dramatically or the cost in SP to level must be reduced. In order to expand the crafting population to 60 players (or .6% of the population of a server of 10000) this would have to change by 10 times (or 1/10th the SP required to level) just to keep the status quo in tact (though the cost of non-consumables will still crash like in the current scenario).
An additional change that is possible without resorting to either of the above is the following:
- Keep everything as is and allow unlimited local leves. Even not factoring in travel times you're still going to be doing 130 hours of nonstop crafting to reach the cap. Doing this would at least keep the market stable since it wouldn't be necessary flooded with gear from grinding synths to level.
The likely result
You notice how I keep talking about unlimited resources and the like in order to describe the above scenarios? No player will have this kind of resource availability. No linkshell will either. The only groups that will have the kind of organization to pull this off will be the RMTs. If you want to know what I think is coming, simply look at a history of DeBeers. The RMTs will powerlevel up crafters backed by an army of gatherers and flood the market making actual players unable to advance due to the lack of being able to unload gear. Once they have a monopoly, they can charge exorbitant costs for the gear vacuuming up all the gil on the server into their own coffers. In order to afford gear you'll have to buy gil which then gets deposited right back into the RMT bank. Due to the slow pace of guildleve advancement they will have a one year monopoly and will destroy this game before it has a chance to take off. If you think a 40000g harpoon is bad just wait until the level 30 spear costs you 8000000g to buy from Dsxgheltr Love.
This would be a good investment for the RMTs. By the end of one year their ability to extort prices will be finished (due to market saturation) but the amount of money they will have made will be so immense that they can basically walk from the game at that point to whatever else hits the market.
I hate to be chicken little here, but S-E has to wake up and fast or their game will die. This game has so much potential it would be a shame to see it fall because of a foolish failure to run the math on a subsystem as substantial as their crafting and gathering systems.