Craftsmanship

I love good craftsmanship. I have a deep appreciation for things that are made well, with skill and attention and care by their creators. It can be anything, from games to carpentry to drinks. I particularly like it when I can see the craft at work, and appreciate it in progress.

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I don’t drink beer, and only occasionally drink wine. I know there’s often a lot of craftsmanship that goes into both, but I don’t get to *see* it. What I like are cocktails, where I can watch the bartender put them together and where each one, even if I’ve ordered the same thing, has a different twist based on who’s made it and with what. For me it’s not even about the liquor, it’s the huge spectrum of interesting flavors and mixes that really make the experience for me. If there existed a place I could go and get interesting mixed drinks sans alcohol, I’d go there all the time.

This weekend was the last weekend my favorite bartender at a local bar will be around, and I’m going to miss him quite a lot. In more than six months, I never had the same drink twice from him, and he would consistently come up with interesting, creative drinks that both perfectly hit my favorite tastes and pushed the boundaries of my comfort zone. I have an appreciation for flavors I couldn’t even name previously, and each drink would come with a history and a story– this is a drink that was popular in the ’40s, this drink was originally made in this place in the late ’90s, this drink can only be made this specific way, this drink used to be made with this liquor but it’s changed since then… all kinds of interesting tidbits. The craft wasn’t just in the drinks, but in the presentation and the delivery. I would rather pay $12 for a drink that I remember than $4 each for three forgettable alcohol-and-sodas. If it takes ages to make (like a Ramos Gin Fizz, don’t ever order one of these from a bartender who you aren’t 100% sure likes you), I’m happy to wait, because it means I’m going to get something finely crafted.

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In a lot of ways, the same is true for games for me. I’ve spent enough time building them myself to have a sense for when the developer is ghosting alongside me while I play, grinning and pointing at the next cool thing around the corner. The really well-crafted games are excited to show you the next thing around the corner, and when there’s a pause in the pacing or a period where I’m waiting, I know that it’s because really finely made things take time. I’ve played games that lack this spark, where slow pacing or a drawn-out wait are an obvious way of extending a game that’s rationing out its cool stuff. It’s easy to dismiss a carefully-paced-but-slow segment as an intentional time-waster, but you can tell the differences.

Take KOTOR. Knights of the Old Republic is one of the best RPGs out there, particularly for its time, and was a fantastically well-loved Star Wars game. It deserves a lot of the credit for rekindling the franchise during a lull. It starts with what many people have criticized as an overly long, drawn-out planet sequence, before you get to “the good stuff”, flying around from planet to planet lightsabering people. What I think is easy to miss is how absolutely chock-full of content that first planet is. Taris is a busy place, with a lot of stuff going on, and that time you spend on the ground, getting a feel for the characters and the “normal” game makes it all the sweeter when you’re not grounded and have the awesome Jedi powers that (spoilers) you get to have later on. “Just wait,” KOTOR says, “we’re setting up some awesome stuff for you but you’ve got to see this to really get it.”

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FFXIV is very much the same for me. Sure, I have to wait between content patches, and a lot of what there is to do in the interim is slowly work on getting incrementally better gear, but the next content they’re going to drop is almost certainly going to be amazing, and well worth the wait. It’s a game where I can take it slowly and enjoy myself OR push the line and grind out the best of the best, and in either case get to enjoy the really great content that’s coming up next. It will all still be around, and it will all still be relevant. Heavensward would have had nowhere near the impact if I hadn’t played through all of the main story content, and while some people have raged against the need to play through the main story to access Heavensward content, the game would be poorer for skipping you past that considered, crafted wait.

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I feel like in FFXIV, as in KOTOR, there’s a designer ghosting alongside me, excited to show me the next cool thing as soon as it’s ready. It’s like a really great bartender, flitting around the bar and pulling liquors and bitters and mixes out, grinning to himself and nodding as he takes tastes of what he’s making for you, then setting it down in front of you, assured that good work has been done and that it’s there for you to enjoy.

I love the effort and the craftsmanship, and I don’t think I’d want to rush it. The wait makes the experience really sing, and gives me pause to appreciate the work.



Source: Digital Initiative
Craftsmanship

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