| >>According to my new friends, the latter are nearly universally unusable|
Like most things this is a complicated situation. When 3.0 came out we went to an internal Tiering system for all weapons and armor. These generally aren't visible to players, but the Tier system has allowed us to tightly regulate how good player-crafted AND storebought AND loot-dropped equipment is.
T1 - very poor
T2 - poor
T3 - storebought
T4 - master steel
T5 - rare metal
T6 - very rare metal
T7 - epic quality (Auction/Quest only)
T8 - legendary? (Perhaps one katana has fit into this?)
In 2.0 it was possible for a forged weapon to be 2-3x better than storebought. That was just too wide a spread and led to many weapon and armor categories being unusable due to the non-existence of crafting templates for them. Also, many GMs lacked the intimate knowledge of combat to properly design weapons for merchants and as prizes. This too led to unbalances. But we now have tools to standardize it all and I think it has helped bring things at least somewhat back in line. The modifiers to forged equipment are reasonable and it is very desirable that storebought goods to be a playable option.
Now the complicated part is we still have systems that do not follow the Tiering structure. Old shops, some critter loot.. throwback prizes. In many cases those are T1 or T2, which is why popular opinion can be what it is. We are always working on this and trying to make it better.
I hope this helps clear some things up about that!
As for artistry, yes I do intend for it to add additional customized looks to items. Artistry will hopefully someday feature dyeing, engraving, embossing, enameling, painting, and so on....
And well, I did release what? 200 custom weapon types? Not entirely sure why folks continue to use plain scimitars and broadswords when other fancy-sounding alternatives exist :chuckle: