The key to crafting anything is having materials to do so with. There are two really easy ways to acquire crafting materials: gathering and salvaging. Gathering isn't a new mechanic to MMOs at all, but it's new to the Guild Wars universe, and it's been implemented (like most parts of the game) with an eye toward approachability. Not only can everybody gather from the same resource node without competition (and each person's timer for a specific resource node operates independent of everyone else's), but gathering doesn't require a skill level, so anything you come across, you can gather. Of course, resources are still placed to improve as you get into higher-level territory, but you don't have to worry about running back to noobland to gather 500 chunks of copper before you can start gathering whatever it is you're really interested in.
Salvaging, the other way to acquire crafting material, is a little more limited (from what I've seen) than what we saw in the original Guild Wars. Rather than being able to salvage modifiers off of equipment (which might be possibly at higher levels, though I've not seen it happen), players can use salvaging kits to reduce loot (such as dropped armor and weapons or junk drops like scrap metal) into its component parts, turning it into useful stuff like scraps of jute (used for clothy stuff) and chunks of copper (used for, well, copper-y stuff). If you're not worried about using item drops you don't need as vender fodder, salvaging is an excellent way to rack up materials quickly.
Everything I used for crafting here was saved up over three or four levels of PvE gameplay. I did a bit of salvaging, a lot of gathering, and more inventory management than I'm used to, and I turned up an almost-full inventory with goods for almost every crafting category. I had the most stuff for armor and weaponsmithing, so those are what I chose to focus on first.
Going up to a crafting station after you've learned your discipline presents you with a screen that displays your relevant crafting materials (so you don't have to wonder whether that fine poultry meat is, in fact, useful as a weaponsmith) and a four-part crafting display in which you'll eventually be slotting components to create actual items. That isn't immediately useful, though, because you'll notice (at 0:08) that I don't have anything really workable in my components list -- no metal at all, in fact. Switching to the recipes tab (the only other available tab on that UI so far) opens up a list of things you can already do do, which is helpful because it's got a Refinement section that shows you, for example, how to turn copper chunks into usable bronze ingots.
You'll notice that at 0:16 I start to "craft all" of the bronze ingots I can make, given my materials. That does exactly what you think "crafting all" would do, and it does so in a very rapid manner. There's no RNG deciding whether or not I can, in fact, make a bronze ingot every time I start a new one -- it just works, and it works quickly enough that it takes all of about 10 seconds to craft 60 ingots. Another thing to notice -- and this is something of an underlying theme to the crafting disciplines in this game -- is that I get successively fewer XP from crafting the same item: I start getting about 150 XP for my first ingot to 81 XP for the last bar I craft. The system is built to reward discovery, not repetition. It will always behoove you to try new combinations rather than to craft 50 daggers of moderate pointiness or whatever your pet recipe might be.
Once you've got your component bits crafted, you can start making actual weapon parts. When I learned the weaponsmithing discipline, I unlocked several basic weapon recipes right away, like the bronze dagger handle and bronze dagger blade. I also learned a few other refinement skills and I learned some recipes for insignias, or weapon modifiers. Crafting just weapon parts isn't enough -- after all, why would you want to make a Plain Ol' Bronze Dagger when you can make a Mighty Bronze Dagger?
Inscriptions use some pretty oddball drops (like a vial of weak blood that my character apparently stops to collect after defeating foes) as well as more basic components (wooden dowels, so I guess I smear the blood on the dowel, and then use the dowel as like a panel in the dagger handle, or something?) and affect what sort of things your weapon or armor is good for. They're normally pretty self-explanatory. For instance, you'll see at about 2:05 that I crafted a Mighty Bronze Dagger and the "mighty" inscription gives a +7 bonus to my Power stat when I have that dagger equipped.
From what I was able to see in my little exploration, you can put any inscription on an equivalent-level weapon or armor piece. I don't imagine that if I had an inscription of superior awesome mightiness I'd be able to put it on my humble little bronze dagger, and even if you could put a regular mighty inscription on a superior awesome dagger of coolitude, I can't see why you'd want to. Since I didn't get to a high enough tier to really mess with that, though, I can't say for certain.
As you advance in crafting XP, new basic recipes will unlock, so you'll always have at least a vague idea of what you can be doing at any level. You'll see at 3:05 that I had enough XP to see a new tier of inscriptions to craft. Although I couldn't actually craft those things yet (red item names indicates that you're close to unlocking something but aren't quite there), I could see what was waiting for me if I gained just a bit more XP. That said, I think the system might get tricky as you progress -- at lower levels, just crafting stuff straight from the recipes works pretty well, but I think it might get frustrating to try to figure out whether you need the super mighty inscription or the awesome mighty inscription and whether those will work equally with weapons of a certain type or what. I guess for some people that's the joy of the discovery process; for me, I may resort to the inevitable wiki page sooner rather than later.
Something that's not in the video but was mentioned in chat is that some disciplines are trickier than others. Cooking, for example, seems to require a lot more patience and a greater diversity of materials that can be a lot harder to hunt down. The point of this is to give challenge to people who want it, not to mention that since consumables can lend combat buffs, the development team might be planning to create something of a throttle on how many people are churning out loaves of super-battle-awesomeness.
I wasn't using great gear when I started crafting (mostly just whatever dropped in battle), so this might not be hugely impressive, but as the video shows, stuff that I was crafting was pretty much on-level with the gear I was already using. While that's still not going to be of great comfort if you start crafting when your character is level 50, it should make things pleasant if you're slowly upping your crafting skill as you level. I can imagine adventuring until I've more or less conquered an area, bringing back my spoils, crafting stuff like crazy, equipping the new duds, and being set to go out and start the process again in a higher-level area.
So that's crafting at first glance! I have a soft spot for crafting in pretty much any game, so I was glad to have a chance to spend some time with it this weekend, and I'm looking forward to seeing how this basic system transfers to higher skill levels.
Elisabeth Cardy is a longtime Guild Wars player, a personal friend of Rytlock Brimstone, and the writer of Flameseeker Chronicles here at Massively. The column updates on Tuesdays and keeps a close eye on Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2, and anything bridging the two. Email Elisabeth at firstname.lastname@example.org.