As usual, I've been a little wordy in my initial presentation. So let me summarize what I'm after when I ask for crafting to focus more on process than on result.
1. Craftable objects ought to have more properties.
All objects ought to have variable color, size, and shape, and various types of objects should have additional properties relevant to their purpose. To list just a very few examples of additional properties:
- alternate fire modes
- bonuses against certain mob types
- strengths/weaknesses against certain damage types
- special powers (perhaps with charges)
- Musical Instruments:
- alternate tunings
- reverb/sustain/chorus/tremolo/pitch bend
- visual effects timed to current music
- speed shifters
- climb rate shifters
- turn shifters
- Survey Devices:
- range vs. resolution tradeoffs
- droid interfaces
- automatic modes
2. Resource types and subcomponent configurations should determine the properties of crafted objects.
Food created with rice should be different somehow than food created with wheat; food created with Lokian wheat should be different somehow from food made with Nabooian wheat; food produced with domesticated wheat should differ from food produced with wild wheat, and so on. Igneous ores and sedimentary ores should result in objects with different final properties, as should using Copper versus Aluminum in a schematic that simply calls for a Non-Ferrous Metal. Maybe different materials just change the color of the final object, or its size, but the materials used to build an object need to be reflected somehow in that object.
In more complicated objects, the way that subcomponents are connected to each other should determine other types of properties that those complex crafted objects have. "Configuring" subcomponents could be as simple as clicking to draw a line between any of the subcomponents. Or it could be as intricate as offering a certain number of "bonds" (like molecular bonds) per object (perhaps derived from the complexity of the object) -- you could choose to link all subcomponents in a "ring" pattern, or join all subcomponents to a central subcomponent in a "star" pattern, or join just a few subcomponents using double bonds, and so on. Or perhaps you click on the name of a pattern and the schematic's subcomponents are connected automatically. In any case, the specific configuration chosen by the crafter should dictate what properties the final crafted object has.
As a final feature, let experimental modes also be determined by the types of resources and configuration of subcomponents. Maybe some resources let you experiment on durability while others don't, but those others instead let you experiment on damage capabilities. This would give the developers what they were looking for in the aborted Publish 7 crafting change (to prevent crafters from maxing out all an object's experimental properties), while still allowing players to decide what experimental features they want in an object by letting them choose what resources and subcomponent configurations they want to use in crafting that object.
3. The numeric quality level of resources and subcomponents should determine the highest level to which a crafted object can be experimented.
If the value of an object's Experimental Durability is determined by a resource's Shock Resistance value, then using a resource with the maximum SR value of 1000 should result in the maximum number of experimentation points available to spend on improving the final object's Durability.
(This is how crafting works now. It's good, and doesn't need to be changed. I mention it here only to make it clear that the types of resources used should determine the types of properties of the final object, while the quality of the resources used should determine the amount to which the final object has those properties.)
4. Critical fails should be balanced by critical successes.
A critical success on assembly should leave most or all resources in the schematic after construction, just as a critical failure destroys resources and subcomponents. (Architect schematics would be exempt from the effects of critical failures and critical successes.)
A critical success on experimentation should improve the property being experimented on to levels beyond the normal caps (which are determined by resource quality & subcomponent effectiveness values).
Critical success rates should be held to no more than 1%. Critical successes should be frequent enough to motivate crafting, but rare enough to discourage grinding.
[2005/03/30: A "critical success" feature like the one suggested here may now be part of crafting.]
I hope this clarifies what I'd like crafting to become. Again, my goal is to find ways to make it more fun by moving the focus away from just achieving some result (which promotes mindless grinding) and toward a more interesting process.