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The Future of Crafting in Video Games Already Happened – Legend of Mana, 2000

If I had a nickel for every "why is every game's crafting system so bland and same-y?" post here, I could, well, maybe buy myself a soda from a vending machine. But I see it a lot! If you want a look at what a true in-depth crafting system looks like, put on the nostalgia glasses and take a gander at "Legend of Mana" for PS1 (recently remastered on the Switch).

Crafting in LoM is called "tempering". What sets tempering apart from 99% of other crafting systems in games? There are no recipes for how to build items. You aren't looking to gather Holy Wood and Divine Twine to craft a Sacred Bow because you found an ingredient list that says you do it. You're gathering DiorWood, Gnome Coins, Chaos Crystals, and Salamander Silver, Mercury, and Glow crystals, along with a dozen other items. The ability to craft powerful items comes solely from the player's ability to understand the complex tempering system and utilize it to its maximum potential. There are no in game instructions for how to accomplish this – they basically built a chemistry set into the game and said "have at it".

What each of these items do is enhance the underlying material in a way that the user must understand in order to achieve optimal results – I'll let the tempering FAQ speak on this:

"The process itself involves the addition of elemental coins, the same ones that are used in the craft of a weapon. This is the most basic aspect, and adding a few coins of an element can boost some essences a little. To this, we also combine the power of Glow Crystals, which act like the increase of heat inside a chemical reaction, and thus increasing the power of the coins. Not only that, but we also combine Mercury and Sulpher, which act as catalysts with their respective essences, and reduce the amount of energy required for the essences to be boosted. Chaos Crystals are also often used, since they allow conflicting essences to be present without canceling each other out.

If it sounds complex, good – it is. The guide I referenced has only one complete item recipe due to the time and energy it takes to describe the process. Crafting a near-perfect weapon requires over 100 steps done in the correct order and hundreds of items to be consumed, all of which must be capped off by an equally-obtuse "varnishing" process when the weapon is ready to be finished.

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Why haven't we seen any systems like this since? Well, my best guess is that it's actually too much. Players don't really want this kind of crafting system – we want to illusion of being master craftsmen, but we really just want stats to go up on a screen. This is a true "skill" – there is no "stat" for your ability to craft, only your actual understanding on the ridiculous game mechanics that allow you to do something I've never seen in another game.

Anyway, for discussion's sake, has anyone else messed around in-depth with the tempering in this game? Does anyone have anything they think is competitive with this? I'll link a tempering guide so you can get a sense of how wild this whole thing is in case I'm not conveying it – do yourself a favor and search "DiorWood Bow" and see the steps.


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