I don’t know when it started, but at some point, video games became all about crafting. Back in the day, crafting in video games was strictly a secondary thing. Sort of like a mini-game almost. And at first, it was kind of fun. Hey, I can go pick this flower, and then chop this tree, and then combine them to make a… something. Hooray! But if you didn’t want to do that, you could almost always ignore that part of the game and just do other stuff. Such as play the actual game.
Then I guess Minecraft happened. I don’t know for sure, and doing any sort of research is sort of against my personal rules for this site, but I’m going to guess that was one of the first games to go mainstream that focused entirely on the crafting. There isn’t anything else to Minecraft except crafting and survival. And it’s fun as hell! But it’s more of a sandbox than a game, even though it does have a way to “win.”
Since then, games, especially indie games, have become more and more about crafting, to the point where I personally just sunk 40 hours into a game called “Craft the World,” an indie game about dwarves crafting stuff. Lots and lots and lots of useless stuff. That you then have to find places to put. The entire game is nothing but an unlock-able crafting tree full of repetitive iterations of the same basic things. It too has a “win” scenario, which involves opening a portal to another world, where you get to start over. I quit as soon as I saw that my reward for “finishing” the game was… playing the game again. To be fair, it’s one of those incomplete indie games that you pay to beta test, so improvements may be in store in later versions of the game.
But I didn’t come here to talk about indie games. It’s hard to make fun of crafting in video games by picking on games called “Minecraft” and “Craft the World.” I mean, hey, what did I think I was getting myself into, right? I can fucking read, I see that word “craft” featured prominently in the titles.
No, I want to bitch about how crafting has bled over into every other game released since Minecraft. Specifically, I want to talk about Far Cry 3. Notice it’s not called “Far Craft 3″ or anything like that. Notice further that it’s not at all an indie game, it’s a big budget title put out by Ubisoft. Presumably it’s part of a franchise, since this is apparently the third game in the series, but I wouldn’t know, because I haven’t played any of the others and, you know, research is verboten.
If you watch the trailer and read comments about the game online, you’re left with the impression that the game is a first person shooter, with support for different play styles. You can choose to focus on stealthy take downs of your enemies, or long range sniping, or you can go the more traditional run-and-gun method of solving all your FPS woes. Your character can be customized by spending skill points in three different skill trees that focus on the different play styles. There are tons of different weapons and upgrades available for purchase.
The backstory is pretty simple. You and a bunch of friends were vacationing on a tropical island and were captured by pirates. You escaped from the pirate camp, but in the process your brother was killed. Now you have to try to find the rest of your friends and set them free. Meanwhile, the pirates are fighting an eternal war with the natives, so part of the game is all about taking back parts of the islands from the pirates and turning them over to the natives so you can use them as safe houses and bases. It’s pretty free-form and open world, and I’ve heard it described as “Skyrim with guns.” It’s all pretty rad, and after the opening tutorial mission, I was all set to dive right in and start murdering the shit out of pirates.
The first thing I attempted to do once I had full control of my character was change to my other guns. It’s an FPS game, of course I have other guns. You start off with just a .45 pistol, but there’s a store in the very first location where you can purchase other weapons if you wish. Turns out I already owned a few, so, great! Let’s bust those out.
Well, first of all, it was a nightmare just figuring out how I was supposed to change weapons. Listen closely, developers. The mouse wheel scrolls through your weapons. This is PC gaming 101. I get that you’re a bunch of lazy shits just doing a quick port from the Xbox, but fuck you if you can’t make this simple, universally accepted modification to your game. Get rid of your awful-ass console radial menu and let me just use the fucking scroll wheel to select my weapons already.
But that wasn’t even the main problem. The main problem was that although I apparently owned a bunch of guns, I was only carrying the one. Why was this? Because out of four weapon quick slots, three of them are locked at the start of the game. This confused the hell out of me, as standard FPS practice is to have 4-6 hot keyed action slots for weapons from the get go. OK, well, I guess I have to do something to unlock these so I can have more than one fucking gun at a time. Fine, what do I have to do?
If you guessed “kill animals and skin them for their hides so you can craft weapon holsters,” you’ve been paying attention! Yes indeed, I just busted my way out of a vicious pirate camp, watched my brother die in front of my eyes, have no idea where my friends are, and am suddenly in the middle of a war between pirates and natives; but what I have to do now is kill some pigs so I can make holsters and ammo bags, so I can kill deer, so I can make bigger bags, so I can have more room for crafting mats, so I can eventually unlock all the weapon slots and make some really big bags so I can get to the FUN FUCKING PART OF THE GAME.
It’s like a four hour cock-block for no goddamn reason. As near as I can tell once you craft all the stupid holsters, pouches, and bags, you can basically stop skinning animals and then you “only” have to collect flowers to make healing syringes and stuff. That doesn’t mean you can stop killing animals, of course. No, like Skyrim, the world contains tons of wildlife, and nearly all of it wants you dead. So you’re still going to be killing wild dogs and boar and tigers and bears for a long time after you don’t need to skin them anymore.
Why on earth anybody thought this was a good idea is beyond me. I’m pretty sure it’s the result of someone saying “Well, crafting in games is a thing now, we need crafting in our game. How should we implement it?” And then, picking the absolute worst possible way to add crafting to an FPS game about killing pirates. Let’s make it nearly impossible to kill any pirates right away, because you can only carry the one gun and hardly any ammo! Then we’ll force you to craft shit you should have just started the game with. You can’t even buy these things in the in-game stores. They can sell you an AK-47, but fuck if they can rig you up a strap to carry it with! Here’s a sniper rifle, but good luck finding some sort of container for the ammo you’ll need to carry around with you. That shit’s a mystery to us natives. Backpacks? What kind of sorcery is this?? We have C4 explosives and land mines, but we’ve never even seen a duffel bag!
It’s awful and annoying and part of a trend that just needs to stop already. Can we just agree to stop shoehorning crafting into every game? Not every game needs a multi-player mode, not every game needs micro-transaction bullshit, and sure as fuck not every game needs goddamn crafting.