I was first introduced to the mechanic of gathering ingredients and crafting potions/armor in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. The game encouraged players to explore the wilderness for herbs and scrap to craft the most powerful items in the game.
This tradition has since carried on, and in Skyrim, players could only access some of the best armor early on if they levelled up their smithing skills.
TES series employs perhaps the best version of this mechanic; players begin by only being able to craft the essential items. But, as they level up, they will be able to make equipment of rarer ingredients eventually.
For example, if they’re proficient enough, they can work on dragon bones and Daedric armor, items that are not readily available even on higher levels.
The mechanic allows players to feel satisfied after they traverse the world in search of items required to craft equipment and emphasizes on player’s flexibility. I have always been fond of this mechanic and have looked for a better implementation of it since.
But, of course, due to its time-consuming nature and dopamine inducing effects, MMORPGs with gathering and crafting mechanics are not a rarity.
Here’s a list of MMORPGs that make good use of gathering and crafting mechanics.
1. Ultima Online
Ultima Online is a fantasy MMORPG developed by Origin Systems and released in 1997.
The crafting mechanics in this game are broken down to their core skills, such as Alchemy, Blacksmithy, Carpentry etc. Players proficient in Blacksmithy, for example, won’t be able to make potions. This introduces a level of complexity that ensures players can’t exploit the game’s economy using the mechanics.
Furthermore, crafting is one of the essential abilities in the game since some of the best loot in the game is not sold by NPCs, and the best way to acquire them is crafting.
Like crafting, the game also has three skills for gathering, and it’s important to know that not all skills focus on crafting; Cartography, for example, is necessary for preparing maps and important to decipher treasure maps.
Similarly, for fishing, it’s required for fishing and recovering shipwrecks.
2. Albion Online
Albion Online is a medieval fantasy MMORPG developed by Sandbox Interactive and released in 2017. For a game that chooses to have no classes and instead lets the player’s armor dictate their abilities, crafting sure is a handy tool to have.
Furthermore, the game features a player-controlled economy with all the items and equipment in the store being player-created/crafted items. To craft items, players must first gather ingredients and refine them; all these three actions require their own separate skills and upgrade paths.
Additionally, like Ultima Online, Albion separates different types of crafting in the skills. For example, beginners might be able to create basic swords, while veterans can craft staffs bestowed with incredible stats and buffs, but getting there requires a lot of grind and understanding of the mechanics.
Since the economy is player-controlled, it’s an essential skill to have, especially in the end game. No player will be selling the best possible armor set, and end-game players will have to invest in crafting to have equally levelled gear.
3. Black Desert Online
Black Desert Online is a sandbox MMORPG developed by Pearl Abyss and released in 2015.
The gather and crafting mechanics are rather complex in this game and require players to own a house with a crafting station before starting their career as a crafter.
However, the mechanic also requires players to house their business workers and order them to gather ingredients from the world, making the process a little less tiresome.
Furthermore, workers are required for some of the crafting professions like Blacksmith, Woodwork etc. All this also requires a license from a special trader to allow you to hire employees and conduct your business.
It doesn’t stop there, as players also have to establish trade routes using their fame (a reputation stat).
It’s not farfetched to say that this is the most complex gathering and crafting mechanic in an MMO yet and easily the most rewarding.
4. Final Fantasy XIV
Final Fantasy XIV is a persistent world MMORPG developed by Square Enix and released in 2013.
Like MMORPGs before, FFXIV focuses on eight distinct classes of crafting called Disciples of the Hand. Each class specializes in different types of items and also allows players to repair items corresponding to their specialization.
Additionally, the game offers many trinkets to boost players stats and abilities in crafting. The game allows crafting by giving the player a list of needed ingredients.
Once obtained, players can synthesize their equipment which involves a mini-game of balancing durability with progress.
The final product’s quality is gauged by considering the player’s proficiency in the crafting skill and the quality of ingredients used.
But fear not, once an item has been crafted, it can be produced again using Quick Synthesis that bypasses some of the more tedious parts of the mini-game but doesn’t assure the quality of the final product.
RuneScape is one of the OG MMORPGs, with the initial version releasing in 2001. The game offers a mix of gathering and crafting mechanics that are limited to free-to-play players, unfortunately, as they cannot prepare many items, including weapons.
The game allows players to begin their crafting career once they reach level 40 by allowing entrance to the crafting guild. There’s not much to add here as crafting is pretty straightforward, players can craft items like Urns for trading or create powerful items and weapons for themselves, but that’s more of a late-game mechanic.
If you’re looking for a simpler approach for gathering and crafting, RuneScape is a no-brainer.
Although, the newer versions have better versions of this mechanic, I have always enjoyed the feel and balancing of the old-school RuneScape, so while all RuneScapes feature this mechanic my experience in this article is strictly about OSRS and not RuneScape 3.
6. Guild Wars 2
Guild Wars 2 is an MMORPG developed by ArenaNet and released in 2012. The game’s crafting mechanics are relatively straightforward; players can activate up to 2 crafting disciplines from the possible nine options.
However, players can avoid this slight speed bump by spending real money and acquiring “additional crafting licenses”, an in-game item that allows players to activate up to 4 crafting disciplines, and it certainly alleviates some of the more tedious parts of the grind.
Players can then readily start producing the items they have recipes for. However, crafting requires players to be close to crafting stations scattered across the zones.
Crafting is also possible without any recipes; however, it involves trial and error. There’s no way of knowing what the item is before its completion, so perhaps don’t waste your resources.
7. EverQuest 2
EverQuest 2 is a fantasy MMORPG developed by Daybreak Game Company and released in 2004.
Like other MMORPGs above, the game essentially breaks down crafting skills according to their professions and allows players to choose between two of them; however, this decision is reversible by using Tradeskill Respecialization.
Players can choose between a primary and secondary crafting profession. Crafting items also nets experience making further productions more efficient and better quality.
Furthermore, an expert artisan can sell their goods to other players making it a tremendous money-making job.
8. Istaria: Chronicles of the Gifted
Istaria is an MMORPG developed by Virtrium LLC and released in 2003. The game uses the sword and sorcery world as its setting and allows players to choose their profession in open-form gameplay. Players can be adventurers/warriors or more passive crafters.
The game claims to be one of the best-crafting MMORPGs, featuring various schools that allow players to gain proficiency and gaining abilities.
In addition, the game offers a total of 22 crafting based professions. Besides tedious gathering and crafting, players can also participate in crafting related quests that further boost XP.
However, the core gameplay of crafting and gather remains pretty much the same as other games, where players must step out to find items and then make something of it (provided they have the blueprint/recipe).
The unique mechanic in the game is that as players become more proficient in crafting skills, they will be able to use fewer resources or resources of lesser quality to produce high-quality items.
But, of course, like any game, trial and error and practice are required to get better at the mechanic.
I enjoy gathering and crafting mechanics in video games, particularly in games that allow players to make items that would be otherwise inaccessible; from The Elder Scrolls to Prey, I have a great fascination with collecting ingredients and making something special.
It’s like cooking, but instead of food, you make a super-powerful piece of armor or weapon that makes the game more accessible and makes you feel like a real badass.
But of course, a straightforward mechanic cannot dictate the quality of the game, so I have tried not to include titles that are overtly about crafting while offering little to nothing else.