What would a skill-based crafting system look like? Or what could it look like?
Well, what is it that makes up "skill" in combat? To some considerable extent, it is the provision of choice as you gain in combat level. Choices that not only determine what you can do, but how well you do it. New skills do more damage or bypass means players have of avoiding your attacks. Picking out boxes in your skill trees may mean increasing stats, ignoring armor, increasing crit chance, providing additional combat advantages if your target has a certain debuff. The bottom line on all of those choices is that combat, like crafting, is founded upon random chance but combat, unlike crafting, has dozens of different ways of modifying or mitigating your base chance for success, and modifying them by meaningfully large amounts.
But that is just one part of combat skill. You can't mash your keyboard like an angry German kid and expect to be skillful. It helps to know what skills you have, how your gear affects your skills and how you can maximize the effects of as many skills as you find useful. If you are a truly skillful player, you also know the skills, the strengths and weaknesses of your enemy's classes and you know how to counter the strengths and take advantage of the weaknesses. There's really no one-to-one correspondence between aspects of combat in game with aspects of crafting in game here, because the point of what I am saying is that you as a player KNOW how to play the game. Class skills provide a variability for people to learn what is effective, what is not, and how to use it.
So, what I am suggesting is that skill in a game means being able to shift what is randomly determined in your favor.
Randomization is a core to any sort of computer game -- even Words With Friends has random elements to it. To be skillful, you need to both choose the right "abilities" (something that is inherent in the game) and know when to use them (something that you, hopefully, develop inside your own head).
Why is crafting in SWTOR so atrocious? It provides you little or no opportunities for either in-game abilities or in-your-head knowledge to mitigate the sadistically low chances for success you have for Crew Skills.
SWG's crafting system was just mentioned as being something "vaunted" but "random" all the same. Like I just said, randomization in games is a given. SWG's crafting system gave you multiple ways to mitigate the randomness, though, which makes it something worthy of comparison, worthy of learning from. Yes, just like SWTOR, SWG let you learn more schematics as you gained "skill", but this is where the two separate because this is where variation in crafting for SWTOR ends and where it began for SWG. SWG Crafters had skill trees that gave them access to abilities that increased their chances for success. They could acquire gear with stats that increased their chances for success. They could craft in locations that provided bonuses that heavily mitigated chances of failure (city specializations). What different crafters produced differed in quality -- in terms of producing game-altering effects -- and so there was true value to be earned in what you could craft. Much of that variance in quality came from your resources and resources varied in quality randomly, but only to an extent and within certain parameters. If you were an SWG crafter and don't know what I am talking about, then you DID not understand resource gates, you DID not understand how schematics relied on certain resource attributes to differing degrees, or you were only a crafter during the NGE when these did not matter so much. Resource quality may have been random, but there were KNOWN constraints to that variation and if you wanted to make the most of resource gathering, you had to KNOW the best fastest and most efficient ways to survey so you could drop 50 harvesters on that new server best spawn of Dathomiran Fiberplast, finding the largest single spawn on Dathomir to harvest it, and resulting in your doc getting the best buff packs the server has seen, resulting in that doc being able to charge more for buffs and preventing some hack crafter from undercutting you. Knowledge of how the system worked mattered because of the variability built into the system and the fact that enough class ability, the right gear, the right location, the right tools and workstations and the brainpower to put it all together meant that you could reduce your chance of failure to zero.
I am not saying we should have SWG crafting here. If I wanted that, I'd play the EMU. I am also not saying that we SHOULD be able to reduce our chance of failure on everything to zero, even though it gets pretty close to that in SWTOR combat. What I am saying is that SWTOR crafting has zero variability and, as such, it requires zero knowledge to be the "best" crafter in the game. And by "best", I do mean wealthiest since there is no difference between the Advanced Overkill Augment 22 I can craft versus what anyone else with that schematic can make. All it takes to be the best crafter in this game is the decision to spend more time on crew skills than on combat, compared to the average player. Time may determine the quality of some wines, but it's hardly a good measure of what should pass for quality in a game.
So much for what's bad. This is getting a bit long so I'm going to put a few concrete suggestions in a separate post.