I’ve decided to set aside blogging about the financial state of the game to return to my roots of blogging about the economics within the game. The crafting system in Star Wars: The Old Republic has seen a number of changes in the last six months, but this will be the first in a series of posts outlining ideas for additional changes that I think would benefit the crafting system and the economy as a whole. The goal for each post will be to highlight an idea that I think would be a positive improvement to the current crafting system by working within the existing framework with a focus on attempting to maintain plausibility.
A number of core beliefs will become apparent in the crafting system improvements, including the need for well designed credit sinks to balance credit generation rates and the need for interesting complexity that’s incentive-based and non-arbitrary. I’ll be very interested in feedback and discussion as well to separate the good ideas from the crazy ones!
Let me begin by saying that I was a very vocal proponent of the introduction of intermediate crafting components in the 4.0 crafting update and still maintain that view. It introduced an additional layer of complexity that was lacking in earlier generations of crafting in the game, but I also see a significant opportunity for improvement that has been left untapped. The crafting system would benefit from refinement schematics that would allow Cell Grafts, Bonded Attachments, and Assembly Components to be converted between grades. The Conquest crafting system already places a relative scale to the grade levels because the recipes for the same War Supply require 4 of each component of Grade 6 through Grade 9, but increases to 6 and 8 of each component respectively for Grade 4 through Grade 5 and Grade 2 through Grade 3. The Grade 1 components are currently not included in the Conquest crafting recipes.
Rather than simply utilizing those relative rates though, we also need to balance for critical rates with maximum Influence companions and their roughly 40% critical chance as well as ensuring that the system does not provide incentives to refine the same stack of components back and forth between grades to somehow generate components infinitely. The system could either be one directional, only allowing components to be refined into higher grades, or it could be balanced by always down converting to a lower grade at a 1:1 ratio while up converting at a less than 1:1 ratio. Regardless of the down converting solution, the conversion up one grade level could have a schematic input ratio of 6:4, meaning that 6 lower grade inputs would be refined into 4 output components one grade level higher. A critical success would result in 6 output components, which seems to balance the expected return fairly well.
Finally, the schematic would also include, in the same quantity as the input components, the Prototype (Blue) materials from the relevant Mission Skill for each Crew Skill. The game needs more uses for the Prototype (Blue) materials from Mission Skills in general and this is a logical addition to require some additional investment in the refinement process. It might also make sense to include the same quantity of the relevant grey crafting material as another input cost, but other than providing a credit sink it serves little purpose and therefore may not warrant inclusion.
The primary benefit is that the crafting system becomes more dynamic by allowing the refinement of components among the various grade levels. By connecting the lower grade materials to the end-game economy, where the vast majority of the volume and profits tend to reside, players can make more interesting choices regarding material gathering and crafting. The game’s economy would find an equilibrium that balances the relative rarity and gathering quantities of the various Premium (Green) materials obtained from Scavenging, Bioanalysis, and Archaeology that should increase the value of the materials below Grade 9 accordingly.
The various grades within a crew skill often feel as disconnected as the same grade of another crew skill. There is currently little interaction between grade levels and once a player has outgrown a level there’s little need to ever consider it again outside of the Conquest crafting system, which was significantly reduced in importance in the 4.x content cycle as well. The introduction of a component conversion schematic instantly makes the entire spectrum of materials and components relevant again and interactive within each crew skill. It would make lower grade materials have a much more meaningful connection to the higher grade materials of their same crew skill while maintaining the distinction between the crew skills.
The biggest hurdle is probably always balancing, but that definitely seems most apt in this case. Research and testing would need to be completed to correctly align the schematic recipes to the relative rarities and costs of the input materials of each component. Another hurdle is that while it would increase player choices within the crafting system, it is possible that the interest level of the player base in a refinement or conversion process is not significant enough to warrant the development time required to implement it.
The introduction of schematics that would allow crafters to convert components among grade levels of the same crafting skill would create new and interesting choices for both gathering and crafting. The grade levels within a crew skill would become linked commodities and hopefully increase price stability of the materials and components on the GTN. The new heroic system that was introduced with the launch of Knights of the Fallen Empire increased player’s interaction with many of the lower grade materials on lower level planets, so the introduction of a conversion mechanic would be timely as well. The refining process would also add another use for Prototype (Blue) materials from mission skills and possibly provide a small credit sink. The best crafting systems always provide as much choice as possible for players in my opinion, so any change that introduces additional, interesting choices to the game’s economy is a win in my book.
As always, thanks for reading. I’m really excited to write this series on changes I would make to the crafting system and the in-game economy. I have another 6-7 blogs outlined already, so as soon as I have time to write and edit each I’ll be posting them with a goal of 2-3 posts per week this month.
Andrew | SWTOR Economics