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So I was thinking that crafting skills are pretty damaging to an economy. Even games like wurmonline and Haven and Hearth that I've enjoyed I've found players doing silly stuff like making items they have no intention using or trading. The biggest offenders like WoW/EQ/Rift it's actually silly to make take anything but harvesting skills if you want actually participate in the market as a seller. As a matter of fact these factors are often made worse in the previous games with quest requirements/BoC mechanics at higher levels of crafting skills.
So I looked at EvE's economy and drew a conclusion that since skills aren't tied to performing actions in game(make 500 of this), it allows crafters to actually follow market reasonableness. Players don't have to sell items at a loss and rarely do such. So while this isn't the only reason for such a vital economy I consider it a major factor supply side. A side of crafting that is pretty ignored if favor of consumption side mechanics like item decay and loss.
However since this is still crafting for an MMO I'm still going to force there to be some advancement. Mainly in the form of making your own crafting facilities, resource balances/gathering, and item exploration. Crafting facilities are designed/modified by the player to offer advantages and disadvantages to the player. Resources are Scouted for and claimed after which they start to have diminishing returns with use. Items are essentially designed by the players exploring a "black box", and choosing which stat bonuses to grab.
Items themselves are designed to slowly decay. Each stat bonus a crafter adds will be broken off the weapon one by one until you have a base weapon. A base weapon is usable but the only bonus it would provide would be the ability to use weapon specific skills. As for the stats added the crafter has a pretty wide berth in what they can add if they spend a lot of time exploring the weapon. With very good design a good crafter could even have a weapon that has a preference for dropping negative stats before good stats.
Crafting facilities are designed to have logarithmic growth(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logarithmic_growth) in their stats(a severe version diminishing returns). The largest factor a player can affect here are the number of modifications allowed at each step of making a weapon. From that point other things that can be changed at the facilities is affecting which stats come up more offen, when you're required to add negative stats, the magnitude of stats, and how often you're given "hints". For instance a facility could just try to max out all stats as evenly as possible and be allowed to craft a wide range of items. A different facility could modify itself to have a preference for a specific negative stat, having negative stats occur more often in smaller magnitude, positive stats with greater magnitude, but at the cost the number of modifications a smith can take.
Gathering is shifted to be time based. A player goes out into the world finds a claim then hires NPCs to mine/hunt/cut/gather it(open world, dungeon reward, or where ever). The yield they provide starts high but eventually decays to a trickle. Yield is also collectable in something measured in hours and eventually days. In this case I choose such a long time because I want to reduce the number of items produced so that item decay could be lower/slower. However there are benefits to keeping an old mine in the sense that the crafter already knows how to use the metal that comes out of it(explored the black box with that mines ore as input).
Crafting is then split into several steps with each step having several modifications. The number of steps, modifications, what modifications will mean all based on the facility. Steps would be broken down into something similar to: Foraging, Drawing, Striking, Annealing, Finalizing, Carving, sweating, or similar depending on the item. Modifications would be the actions a player actually takes during those steps. After each step the player then receives X outputs based on the modifications they took, they choose Y of the X outputs(IE one choice could be +1 damage, +2 crit, -1 speed) to take to the next step as the weapons stats. And keep performing the process until all steps have been taken.
The entire process is NOT random, and determined on the resource/facility/steps taken, IE repeating everything identically will get the same item. Which means that a crafter learns how to navigate each step based only on seeing what they input and then get out(IE black box). It also means the crafter has to make a lot of choices: buy modifications, how long to keep resources, whether or not to systematically explore their crafting or keep with the first good item they find, and other things I haven't thought of yet.
Right now this is really brief since getting to this point is quite some ways and many changes are expected. So I'm really asking is for opinions on removing skills from crafting and shifting the advancement towards 'investment', 'exploration', and 'return on choices'?
Practice doesn't make perfect, practice makes permanent.
"At one point technology meant making tech that could get to the moon, now it means making tech that could get you a taxi."