# The Goal of Crafting

All crafting systems have one goal: increase economic Capital. You take resources, you do work, and you are rewarded with goods. These goods must have value, which we call Capital, or what’s the point of even doing it in the first place? In video games there are three forms of Capital.

  • Human Capital — you, the person behind the character.
  • Avatar Capital — the intrinsic abilities possessed by your character.
  • Physical Capital — the extrinsic equipment you carry on your character.

So you have one major goal, increase capital, and this capital comes in three forms. This alone, however, would not really be enough information to satisfying a good analysis. We must also speak about the intent of crafting systems. Here things get a little bit muddy. Every game is unique, therefore any intentions a crafting system might serve would, in some ways, be unique. Still, when I looked at a few different games, there were certain common themes that seemed to crop up time and again. These themes break down into five basic intentions: Status, Combat, Access, Trade, and Exploration (SCATE).

# Status

Self expression is about making a character that is unique to you. Crafting a cool hat to show how stylish you are has all the hallmarks of uselessness, as far as games are concerned, but, once you take into account the human desire for social status, it begins to make sense. What it lacks in Physical or Avatar Capital, it can more than make up in Human Capital.

# Combat

For crafting to be about combat, then it must be about providing options. Games like Monster Hunter 3 fall into this category, as the choice in style of combat–be that lance, blade, hammer, or bowgun–comes from the crafting system.

# Access

Crafting can also be used as a gating mechanic to the flow of your game. If your game has the additional goal of exploration, Minecraft being the obvious example, then a way to naturally control the flow of your player through space is with keys (without really calling them keys). You can’t mine diamond until you mine iron and make an iron pick; you can’t mine obsidian until you mine diamond and make a diamond pick; you can’t go to the nether until you mine obsidian and build an obsidian portal — three levels of gating.

# Trade

For an economy to exist, there must be trade. So for games that desire a synthetic economy, the crafting system’s intent is to drive trade through various kinds of specialization: either through crafting roles, or through randomization and luck.

# Exploration

Finally, if you have a large cool world to explore, you can use the crafting system to entice exploration through the environment. Far Cry 3 goes so far as to explicitly show you where certain animals hang out on the map, as a means to get you to travel around.

A game may attempt to serve one or all of these intentions, and it may do so in a major way, or a minor way — depending on the level of focus. Diablo 2’s Horadric cube, for example, is primarily focused on Trade: It allows you to combine runes, gems, and weapons for the act of trade with other players. This makes sense, of course, because the simple reality in any Roguelike is that you are constantly getting great stuff you can’t actually use, and so is everyone else. The best path to good stuff is through trade, so the crafting system is designed to facilitate that path. The Horadric Cube is also, in a minor way, about three other things: access, through the creation of the horadric staff; combat, through the ability to socketing gems into your weapons; and social standing.