Virtually everything in the game can be crafted by players. Most crafting targets player owned space ships. The crafting system is very open ended allowing maximum flexibility. Advanced crafters will enjoy the complexities of resources and casual crafters will still have the ability to create some interesting components with little effort. It includes features such as reverse engineering, modifications to existing components, mass production and experimentation. Crafting was built with one mantra, player made components must be better than anything found in the game. Meaning, anything you obtain from quests/missions cannot be better than what a player can make.
When players decide to pursue crafting, they must purchase a basic crafting kit. Given the style of game, think of the basic crafting kit as a 3D printer with the ability to work with more than just plastic cord.
Crafting in the game is a pretty basic process. You select the item you wish to make from a catalog of schematics you can purchase, get as rewards from missions, other players can email you them and finally you can just make stuff up.
Schematics are pretty simple, they tell you the object you are going to make, the raw material classifications required to make it and the attributes the object will have upon creation. For example, if you were to craft a shield generator for your ship, the schematic would list the various classifications of minerals and gases required to construct it. It would also list some of the attributes it will have after creation such as the durability, effectiveness in a variety of areas and reliability.
Once a schematic is selected, the player uses materials available to them in their factory. Most player factories will be on their spaceship. Advanced crafters will rent factory space when a ship is too small to craft the schematic, for example you cannot craft the hull of a spaceship inside a spaceship.
For beginner crafters, material selection may be limited to just the classification of the required resource. An example would be that a beginner may purchase in bulk, mineral - silicate. The attributes of this bulk material will be generic and consistent.
Once the materials are combined into the hopper, the crafting process moves into an experimentation phase. There are two parts to this phase.
First, raw materials may be combined at different temperatures allowing players to choose whether to combine the raw materials in liquid, solid, gas or plasma states. Depending on the schematic, one state may be better than another. But the end result of this stage could yield a complete failure if the wrong temperature is selected. Schematics will indicate ideal temperatures for basic crafting so that beginners do not waste lots of materials.
Second, once the materials are combined, the crafter can experiment with the near complete product. This step allows the crafter to adjust the attributes of the final product. There are two methods, one is about luck where the crafter selects one or more attributes they would like to increase or decrease the value of. The more attributes selected, the less likely the results will be as good as the player had hoped. The other method is more predictable where the player uses sliders to increase or decrease attributes and as a result, other attribute values will change. While the sliders offer estimates, the final product is generally very close to the values set during this step.
At this point the player has crafted an item. They can use, sell or destroy it. Alternatively, they can convert it to a prototype for a factory run, and they can also sell the prototype. Unlike a schematic, a prototype lists the exact ingredients necessary and also has all the settings used during the crafting process. Prototypes are destroyed during the mass production process, more on that below.
Advanced crafting covers some techniques of basic crafting to a more complex level. Players will become more proficient in crafting over time. Each time a player uses a schematic, they get better at crafting it. As a player experiments, they begin to experience bonuses. Over time, players will become masters of schematics and have the ability to craft them better than others. It is up to the player whether they wish to share their prototypes or keep them to themselves.
Some of the advanced options include selecting specific materials instead of broad classifications. So in the example above, the object called for a resources classified in mineral - silicate. This classification has more than 6,000 variations in the galaxy, one of which is named Lumeatrum, a mineral with legendary attributes which can have drastic effects when producing exceptional quality products as opposed to using Graeth, a very poor quality mineral.
Besides material selection, advanced crafters can also add in additional materials not part of the schematic. This can be a risky venture but in some cases the results can be drastically improved. This type of hit/miss experimentation is something any crafter may try but it is more often that during various missions or other parts of gameplay, the player is exposed to a hint from a non-player entity to guide them to making a better item.
At the point of combining resources together, basic crafters may use a single temperature setting. Advanced crafters may adjust this setting throughout the crafting process to control, at a very specific level of detail, the temperatures used at each point of combining materials. This technique is called tempering and can result in total disaster or alter the manner in which attributes may be experimented upon.
Finally, advanced crafters will also benefit from crafting bonuses. The bonus system is a simple buff system where the buffs may be applied by owning a specific item, having completed a specific mission or having a very high level of proficiency with a particular schematic.
As part of the crafting process, a prototype can be created for mass production or factory runs. Ships equipped with factories can then be used to create a predetermined quantity of items. At the time the prototype is used, it is destroyed. So it is important that the factory be loaded with all the required raw materials. Thus the steps are fairly simple, player loads prototype into the factory, then the player loads the raw materials into the factory. Finally the player indicates the quantity to create and starts the production. Depending on the size/complexity of the prototype, the run may complete in minutes, hours or days.
Factories are not infallible. Players become more proficient with using factories over time so the more factory runs a player manages, the less likely they are to have a factory run break down during the process. When break downs occur, players will receive a smaller number of objects than originally planned. All resources loaded into the factory are also lost. It is recommended that players starting out factory runs start small and ramp up to larger runs over time. Some players may never experience a break down, it all boils down to risk management.
Factory runs can also be automated so that the product goes straight from the factory into the player markets. This level of automation does cost the player a small amount per item but may save a significant amount of time for players mass producing common products players need such as fuel, food and medicine.