How many tradeskills must a man walk down?

Tradeskills are funny things. Although even modern MMOs will have some kind of tradeskill function to let characters make stuff, it isn’t an aspect of the game that was inherited from MUDs or D&D. Nope, tradeskills were pretty much new to the MMO ‘genre.’

In fact, MMO tradeskills are in the same line of descent as Facebook farming games and resource management games like Civilisation. They owe more to board games than to RPGs in terms of inspiration. This is why they usually involve collecting materials, clicking a button, and then watching a green line – that’s pure resource management.

But here’s where the ROLE part of the game comes in – in MMORPGs, you need to decide which tradeskill/s to take on your character. And the original idea was that different people would pick different trades, so players would have to interact with each other to buy and sell. In older games, tradeskills were also rather more optional, and didn’t benefit the trader in any major way other than letting them make stuff to sell. Gathering materials while you wandered around was also a pipedream.

Then auction houses were invented, bored players rolled up tradeskill alts (or even second accounts) and people could do all of this without the tedious player interaction part. In every MMO I know that allows it, many long term players have several alts in order to cover multiple trade skills.

In WoW, Blizzard fussed with the formula by providing character benefits from tradeskills. Even gathering skills might (bizarrely) add character stats or minor abilities. This makes approximately no sense at all, and simply encourages people who don’t like tradeskills to level up tradeskills anyway. I always felt it might have been better to beef up the resource management side of the game and make it more fun for people who like that sort of thing.

But I digress. When a character gets measurable benefits from tradeskills then it makes sense to restrict how many you can take.

But aside from that, why restrict tradeskills? Why not just let someone take all of them? Keen tradeskillers with lots of time will just do the same thing on alts anyway. The answer is because trade skills made up part of your character’s role, so historically players were nudged towards keeping that quite narrow. But these days, games are opening up, characters are becoming more versatile, so maybe it’s time to blow the cap off tradeskills as well.

Would you take more tradeskills on your character if you could? Or do you think that would make you feel forced to take and level ALL of them, just because it would be possible?