Games like Fallout 4 take crafting too far for the average player
Odds are, you've either played, are currently playing, or plan to play Fallout 4 in the future. It's the hottest thing in video games right now. I only have one problem with it: crafting. It's too damn complicated.
Fallout 4 seems to be the pinnacle of "the crafting problem", a serious issue to casual and hardcore gamers alike. I can hear your thoughts: "What's so bad about in-game crafting? I like to personalize my stuff." The issue I have with in-game crafting lies not in the crafting system itself, but in the complexity of it. Slowly but surely, video games are becoming more and more complicated, but "crafting", and "personalization" take the cake when it comes to most complicated part of a game.
The Crafting Problem - Complexity
Once upon a time, a player got to pick the color of their in-game character and which weapon they wanted. Now every single piece of clothing can be customized and interchanged and stylized and crafted personally or found in the environment. Weapons have interchangeable parts and mods and effects that will alter the gameplay. Before you get ahead of yourself, you'll have to pick the right perk tree, so you can earn the gunsmithing perk...so you can craft special attachments. Wait! You can't just craft those attachments! First you need to find objects in the wild and break them down to find tiny attachment ingredients like springs and screws and other bits and bobs. IT'S JUST TOO COMPLICATED.
Rather than spending my time enjoying the game world, shooting super-mutants, or what-have-you, and completing missions, I'm left scouring at the ground, looking for toy cars so I can wheedle one last screw out of them to make that suppressor I've always wanted. Is this a mandatory part of the game? Of course not, but if you want to succeed in the mandatory parts, you'll have a much better time of it with a customized long-barreled revolving pipe pistol over the regular old rig you found in the dirt.
The big issue here isn't the system itself. I like modding my weapons and changing up attachments to suit my play style. The issue is in the ingredients. It's just way too much work to find all the tiny bits and bobs that you need. Yesterday, I spent an hour on Fallout 4 looking for screws so I could make weapon attachments. Who knew it was so hard to find screws in the post-nuclear apocalypse?
The Common Man
Big game developers need to remember that, generally, it's the common man that plays their games. The common man needs to eat, sleep, work, spend time with his family, play a little bit of Guitar Hero on the side... you get the point! Most people, casual gamers especially, don't have a lot of time for gaming, and when all they did on Fallout 4 last night include searching for screws for an hour, they're likely to put in Call of Duty instead.
I understand that there are players out there who are extremely into the roleplay part of role playing games and like to go searching for ingredients and picking flowers in the meadow so they can brew their very own chamomile tea, but the general populous only has time for, "Give me a gun; I've got an hour to shoot shit."
Bethesda Softworks and other huge game companies that keep cramming customization and crafting down people's throats should consider a quicker option, as well as an in-depth role-playing way. Maybe include a crafting difficulty selection at the beginning. On easy, all of the tools are at the workshops, you just need to unlock the skills and bring the guns. On hard, you can look for screws all night long.
But the fun doesn't stop at weapon creation and customization...
Settlement Creation in Fallout 4
Don't even get me started on the new settlement creation in Fallout 4. Remember how angry I was a few minutes ago about looking for screws for an hour? Try clearing branches out of the road at your settlement for an hour and a half!
Of course, settlement creation is only partially mandatory. You get sent back to your home town at the beginning of the game to help out and make a small town of survivors happy. Once you head there, it becomes your fully fledged job to run the town. You need to clear debris, build new houses (including individual pieces of furniture), find food and water for your settlers and more! Can't the NPCs figure out their own lives? Never has a game depended on the player so much!
The worst part about the settlement creation, as slightly mentioned above, everything is from scratch. Players literally have to put up every single wall of any houses they plan on building. Or, there are pre-fabs. "PRE-FABS?!" an excited BlackTide said as he clicked on the menu icon to learn more. Within pre-fabs players have access to small pre-made rooms such as "Hallway End" and "Corner"; there are also small and large shacks, which are hilariously misleading. Nothing comes pre-set and ready to go. I can't simply point and say "barber shop" and have one appear before my very eyes.
Simpler versions need to be in this game. By the time I have my first settlement up and running, my guns customized to perfection, and my armor polished and looking swanky, Fallout 5 will be out. It's because of games like Fallout 4 that I have about 6 other titles still plastic-wrapped on my shelf. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some screws to find.