Crafting is a computer games-related aspect in which game player needs to gather certain elements, puzzle pieces or resources in order to develop a new object. It can be found in:
- fantasy games (mixtures, elixirs, spells),
- war-games (armour and weapons modifications),
- survival games (food crafting, tools creation, healing).
In most cases, in order to create these you need:
- resources (which can be found by exploring game, doing quests or purchasing),
- knowledge (either learned yourself or by using NPCs-offered services),
- sometimes money (for paying for these services).
There are three general ways in which players can interact with crafting functionality in games.
Skilled craftsman and detailed recipe
Player need to gather all the required materials and resources and then find a skilled craftsman who will be responsible for creating desired object.
Do it yourself or modifiable recipe
In addition to finding needed stuff you also need to find some kind of recipe, scheme or algorithm required for creating of given object. This process is repeatable -- crafted tool's or weapon's characteristics are precisely determined and each time recipe or scheme is run, exactly the same object is created.
The Dragon Age: Inquisition shows a bit different approach. In this game, player finds only a general rule or recipe that describes object crafting process, but individual object's properties are determined by raw materials or source resources and can vary.
- an armour made of common iron will have less resistance points than
- an armour made of rare dragon bone
even though both armours are made based on exactly of the same recipe.
The same rule is a base of simple match-three game, Puzzle Forge 2 where weapons and armours quality is directly determined by raw materials used and amount of magic or crystals additions.
You do not know nothing!
In this approach only source resources and raw materials are well known to the players, but you can combine any of them in any combination with others, because the exact recipe in unknown and must be discovered.
This approach is also interesting from gamedev perspective, because it allows publication (either secretly or officially) of a new recipes or rules after the game has been officially published or as a part of game-packs etc.
Or maybe both?
It is quite common for the game designers to design a mixture of above approaches.
This is most commonly achieved by limiting certain recipes to certain game character classes, levels of knowledge of experience etc. If players are of the required class and is skilled enough, they can craft given object themselves. If not -- must pay for such operation in some skilled craftsman's shop.
For example, the Grey Wardens from Dragon Age: Origins can made objects for their class or profession (traps, mixtures), but must ask a blacksmith for a help in order to create a weapon or armour.
Similarly, in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim you have a basic knowledge in every professions, but you can master only one or certain of these (depending on your wish). If you are mastered enough in a profession that is required for crafting given type of objects, you can do them yourself. If not -- you, again, need to look for a skilled craftsman.
For example, if your character masters blacksmithing to the highest levels, ignoring other professions in the same time, it will be able to craft best weapons and armours by itself. But, for creation of complex alchemic mixtures or powerful spells it will need to visit someone else due to insufficient knowledge.