The Secret World takes Minecraft's crafting system and makes it better
Smash Cthulhu with hammer. Loot gun. Break hammer and gun down into raw materials. Rearrange materials to construct new super-powered hammer. Smash reanimating Cthulhu. Rinse, repeat until Cthulhu stops moving.
The Secret World's crafting system is immediately familiar to any of the millions of people that've spent time inside the blocky wonderland of Minecraft. In both games, you place raw materials into a small grid to craft new items. The item produced is determined by the arrangement and quality of the materials you put in. It's simple, it's fun, and Funcom's added a lot of additional aspects to the system that makes it more engaging and flexible. Here's the full run-down.
To get raw materials to work with, you have to break down existing items--there's no gathering system outside of tearing the weapons out of your enemies' corpses. For example, toss a cheap hammer into the 4x3 crafting grid (omg 3 more cells than Minecraft's!) and you'll see it broken down into three chunks of wood and three mineral ores, arranged in a nice hammer shape.
From there you can either rip out just the resources you want and arrange the remaining resources into the smaller shape of a different item, or pull out everything. Whenever you break down an item like this, you'll get worse-quality items than you put into building it, so you'll want to break down a couple items to build one new one. On the plus side, there's no built-in tax or fee for crafting, so your pocketbook stays the same.
Once you've got all the materials you need for the new item of your dreams, run 'em through a refiner to boost their quality and toss the tasty new minerals back into the crafting box in the shape of a hammer, gun, or a sword--whatever you want. Beneath the crafting window is an open slot for an Aseembly Kit, a one-time-use consumable that'll boost the quality of the item you're building. In the screenshot below, we've tossed in a Weapon Assembly kit since we're building a weapon here. Hit that big Assemble button, and bam! You've got a sweet new, superior-quality hammer to smash bad guys with.
My favorite part of the system is that you can use it anywhere, and at anytime to change what you're fighting with. Tired of fighting with that hammer? Drag it into the crafting window, move a couple pieces so that it's in the shape of a gun instead, hit Assemble, and you're shooting a shotgun now. Used in tandem with The Secret World's super-flexible skill system, which lets you swap between an endless number of completely custom-made skill loadouts, it should give us the most free character customization system any MMO has ever offered.
The system's designed to support player's other activities, and while some items can only be earned through crafting, it isn't meant to be a full-time activity for players. If you're building a character based on getting critical strikes, the designers want you to use the system to be able to tweak the stats of the item you're building to match that--and then get back to killing stuff.
The sub-crafting system to build the Prefixes that customize your items functions similarly to the other crafting: put crit bonus items into specific shapes to craft Prefixes of that type and then apply those to the weapon you're building.
To find new recipe types, players will be able to experiment by putting different resources into different shapes and see what comes out--the developers assured me that there are some item types that will not exist in the game naturally and can only come into existence if players find out how to build them on their own. On top of that, bosses in the game will drop rare and unique items that can be used to build powerful new items.