Yes the title implies an understatement of the player economy in WoW. But I didn't make this blog to be reasonable.
How much do crafters really matter in WoW?
With a very few exceptions, the gear we make is equivalent at best to NPC drops. In other words, our gear, in the grand scheme of things, isn't making us any more power. At best it speeds up our power gain early on, before we start getting marginal gains from raids.
Enchants, gems, and armor patches are all enhancements, and are important, but how much? These are rough calculations, but are close enough:
My paladin has 5175 AP, 589 from gems, enchants, and patches. This excludes NPC items such as my head and shoulder enchants. Berserking can be calculated to an average uptime of around 170 (numbers I found varied, this was highest, making i the most favorable to players). That makes players a total of 759/5175
1014 crit rating, about 123 from crit (I am rounding up to 1agi=1crit), and 3% crit damage, which I don't quite now how to factor in, but let's just call it 3% to crit, worth approximately 120 (1000 accounts for about half my crit chance, so I doubled and took 3%). That's a total of 243 from gems and enchants.
In total the player economy contributes about 10% of my AP and 25% of my crit. That's significant. And yet, less than a shouting orc in ICC does. Compare that to what I gaineded from leveling and getting gear from NPCs and players look well, not very significant. Consider also that there are some items which would have fewer gems slots in favor of more other stats, reducing the real contribution of gems.
Did anyone notice that I ignored the much harder to calculate glyphs? Even those probably wouldn't kill us. They're not game-changers.
If there were no player crafters of any sort, we could still down bosses. We'd go slower, we'd have to farm more gear, but the sad truth is, player crafters are a convenience and not much more.
But what if player crafters were essential?
Players could be responsible for much larger stat gains. Enchanting could be expending to cover everything rather than a select few slots. Gems could be stronger or we could add more sockets. But still, this is all surface area stuff. Unless normal bosses were as hard as hardmodes, we'd still get them down. We'd still get our gear and that gear would still account for the majority of our stats.
Let's start with a middle ground, in which players are essential, but not the total picture. Imagine needing an enchanter to remove the evil in looted gear. No stat gain, but you can't wear it otherwise. Or a blacksmith, leatherworkers, or tailor would need to refit the gear. An engineer would need to adjust the sights on guns and bows. NPCs would still provide the gear, but players would be essential. Would we actually enjoy this greater influence of other players?
I don't think so. WoW has gotten where it is, and the community has become what it is, based on other players being mostly irrelevant. We level up alone. We gear up anonymously. We might get loot in groups, but it is our loot and we need no one else to be able to use it. Once we get our hands on it, other players can go screw themselves. Thanks to scrolls we can even use our own enchanter alt to enchant our gear. Who needs a community when you have a lot of time? Needing people to make our gear usable would interfere with our independence.
Let's go even more extreme: Players as the primary source of gear. Think of EVE where players make the ships, weapons, even ammo. If you want a new chestpiece, you don't join the scheduled guild raid. Instead you hope that someone is crafting them, posting them, and not charging more than you're willing to pay. We'll overpay for a few gems, especially when dailies can feed us more than enough, but think of that crafted piece you recently bought and if it had cost twice as much, and you couldn't go to the raid and pray for a drop.
It's a strange thing that player crafting would seem to create a guarantee of gear and therefore be desirable, except it creates heavy dependence on players crafting. Whereas the RNG of a boss feels safer, because we know he's supposed to drop the item sometime and he won't charge us twice as much this week. We prefer our bubble of NPCs to protect us from other players.