Item Crafting, taken Up to Eleven.
In many video games, you often are tasked with completing given objectives with the tools, equipment, units, or vehicles that are given to you by the game's designers. Often this can be an inflexible situation.
Not so much with DIY, or Design-It-Yourself Equipment, as the game designers give you, the player, the power and ability to craft your own instruments of destruction, typically with some form of in-game editor. Generally, any game that allows (or in some cases, requires) you to create your own tools for your use in the game environment falls under this trope.
Used frequently in serious racing Sims, Real Time Strategy, First Person Shooters, and many other genres, and ranges from purely cosmetic design choices (such as different custom paint-jobs on a vehicle) to customization of existing items, to being a critical and integral part of gameplay with designing equipment from scratch.
Depending on how well it is implemented into the game, It can be a unique and refreshing way of playing the game. Done poorly, and it may result in an utter Game Breaker. Or a Scrappy Mechanic, if the usefulness of the custom equipment falls too far on the other end of the spectrum.
Not to be confused with An Interior Designer Is You. That deals with designing interiors or the insides of rooms. See also Item Crafting (which allows the player to make their own gear, but doesn't always let them customise it), Randomly Generated Loot (when the game decides on the player's equipment's stats at random), and Spell Crafting (a similar trope about magic instead of items).
The old tabletop games BattleTech and Car Wars both used this. In both, you picked a basic chassis/frame and then added whatever you wanted, up to weight and money limits. For example in Car Wars, you could mount an Anti-Tank Gun on a compact car, or anything larger, but not on a subcompact.
Correspondingly, BattleTech's PC incarnation, MechWarrior, features the MechLab as an essential part of gameplay. The decision to remove it for the Mech Assault spinoffs was... controversial, to say the least.
The giant robot pen-and-paper RPG Mekton uses this as something of a selling point: you're not going to war in Standard Mech Design 837, you're using a model you designed and equipped. The system was versatile enough to design everything from your personal favorite handgun and motorbike, up to a full Ship of the Line - or more, if "Excessive Scale" is used.
Sid Meierís Alpha Centauri. Do you want a Nerve Gas fighter-bomber with Air-to-Air missiles and psionic defenses? A cruiser with a time-travelling particle beam, a radar facility and the ability to double as police in any harbor it enters? An espionage capable tank with drop pods, armor made from spider-silk woven steel, and extra resistance to hacking? A buggy-mounted artillery piece that launches fungal spores on enemies, with resonating armor made from alien technology and a built-in teleporter? How about a hovering fighter with psychic armor that launches psychic attacks and is extra-resistant to wildlife? In short, if you could imagine it, in SMAC you could build it.
In Blacklight Retribution this is combined with a leveling system and a surprisingly non-evil renting system to result in an insane amount of aesthetic and functional weapon customization.
Advertised as the entire point of Spore — creating your own creatures, buildings, vehicles, spaceships. In the actual game, only the combination of a very limited number of elements on your creature mattered; all other designs were cosmetic.
The ratio of weapons to speed to health on vehicles is also important.
Loadout basically revolves around this as its main draw.
In Robinson's Requiem you could combine nearly everything you found in several ways in your struggle to survive. You could even create several methods to kill yourself in interesting ways.
Earth series, starting with 2150. Tanks and other vehicles in that game could be designed from scratch, almost down to the individual nuts and bolts on a vehicle's chassis.
In 2150, this was restricted to choosing chassis, shields and weaponry. This trope comes to play in 2160 where aside from these, you also get to customize the engine (fast engine for more speed, classic engine for balanced and powerful engine for boosted shield recharge) and the armor (classic against kinetic only, reflective against energy and kinetic, anti-chemical against acid and kinetic). Hull design is determined by armor type but for aircraft, engines are a factor toonote for example, the LC aircraft's speed engines have a green glow, classic engines have a purple glow and powerful engines look like old-school jet engines.
The PC game Warzone 2100, which featured vehicle design from scratch fairly prominently. An advertisement from 1997 boasted over eight million different component combinations.
Sins of a Solar Empire plays with this somewhat, even more so in its recent expansion Entrenchment, with the ability to highly customize starbases.
Ships and economy buildings are stock, though.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas featured the ability to customize some vehicles to enhance their performance and appearance: Usually your car would only really benefit from the nitro speed boosters, but feel free to blow money on the golden dollar-symbol hubcaps and pimp hydraulics.
As Saints Row 2 can be considered the spiritual successor to San Andreas in its general tone and gameplay, it also has rather crazy customization options for vehicles (SWAT tank with nitro and spinners? You betcha!)
Stars! allows players to create unified ship and starbase designs by placing groups of components in functional slots. But no unique ship, every last one belongs to some design scheme.
In Ascendancy you design a ship by placing components on the "deck map" one by one.
The old Humongous Mecha strategy game CyberStorm allowed the player to customize their fleet of fighting robots, as well as oversee the training of their semi-human pilots.
City of Heroes introduced a Weapons Customisation feature in an update that allows players to choose a variety of different skins for each of the weapon-using powersets, some of which are unlockable, and many of which can be colour tinted. It's purely cosmetic, however.
Final Fantasy X does this with the Customization feature. You can put any abilities that you have the stuff for into the weapon or armor. Making these is pretty much the only way to get some abilities, like Break Hit Point Limit or Break Damage Limit outside the Celestial Weapons.
Its Spiritual SuccessorAge of Wonders allows player to create custom magic items for heroes or wizards in the cities with "item forge" building. In the campaign, this results in the strategy of spending a little while at the end of one level hitting "end turn" until you have the resources to make mind-bogglingly powerful weapons to use for the rest of the campaign.
Kingdom Hearts and its sequel allow you to create and edit Gummi Ships.
Fire Emblem 9 & 10 (Gamecube and Wii) have a forge to create weapons. Basically, it let's you take a generic weapon, choose a colour for it, and mess with its stats. Each increase in a stat raises the price. The more important the stat, the more the price goes up. For whatever reason, decreasing a stat below normal also costs more.
The two Privateerspin offs from the Wing Commander series allow you to customize whatever ship you're currently using. Especially in the original Privateer, though, there's only a few pieces of equipment that are worth equipping, and the rest is just for "make do" until you earn the money to pay for the good gear.
Vega Strike gives player a good choice of ships and equipment for different tasks — there's at least three viable strategies for optimization of beam weapons alone (range, DPS, DPS through shield) and some practical limitations (like hull volume and reactor's power) that avert "one is obviously better" trap even more.
Summon Night, specifically the Swordcraft Story games, where you have to make your own weapons rather than finding them in a dungeon, though the dungeon itself is used for finding the materials to build your weapons in the first place.
NetHack lets the player wish for items if they find a means of getting said wish. The trick here is that the player can also wish for modifiers to said items. Some of the more popular wishes include: blessed greased + 2/+3 grey / silver dragon scale mail, 7 uncursed candles, cursed potions of gain level, and magic markers.
Infinity: The Quest for Earth's ships are based on a "non-specialization principle"; that is, any ship can be used for any purpose (although obviously some are better at certain things then others) if outfitted properly.
The entire point of Robot Arena. You must design a robot from scratch, using the parts provided by the game (like pistons and wheels and engines and of course various kinds of weaponry), paint it, decal it, and control it in a deathmatch with other robots. The trick of course was to keep the weight of the robot to a minimum, and also to make good use of the limited space inside the robot's chasis.
Legend of Mana almost WALLOWS in this trope, as the player can build weapons, armor, musical instruments (used ingame for magic spells) and even custom robot sidekicks. There exists a subset of Mana players whose sole reason for still playing the game is creating recipes for new items.
Starting with Daggerfall, The Elder Scrolls games have a system in which the player creates their own spells. Naturally, this often renders the spells made for you completely and utterly worthless.
In the Genesis and Game Gear versions of Home Alone, Kevin has to assemble all of his weapons other than the BB Gun. In general, the only difference is what the weapon fires or what the trajectory is. In the easier difficulty, the game will automatically suggest combinations based on what he's collected so far. The harder difficulty has a few exclusive parts, and thus exclusive weapons.
An upcoming FPS They touts the "Weapon Tuning System" as a major feature.
The Neverwinter Nights expansion Hordes of the Underdark gives you access to a forge at the beginning of the second act. If you've got the gold for it, you can make some pretty insane weapons, like a Keen Flaming + 7 Longsword... that's still called a + 2 Longsword, because you can't change the names of the weapons.
In Overlord the overlord can only use weapons and armor made specially for him. While available designs and materials are limited, said items can be given special effects by sacrificing Minions. Lots of Minions.
The online game NavyField features customizable World War II ships. You can change out engine, guns, torpedoes, ammo type and quantity, armor, fire control, aircraft, and crew within specified maximum limits based on weight and physical size. Of course, bigger guns have larger shells and on a tiny ship that can really limit your ammo. The guns even have a few quality modifiers for guns where an "L" gun will have longer range but weigh more while a "D" gun of the same caliber will have less range but weigh less.
The player could design a weapon of their own in Worms 4, complete with adjustable variables such as knock-back, terrain destruction potential, and even whether or not its rounds could poison enemy worms.
Trinity Universe has the managraphics system which lets you repaint weapons with bizarre themes to have slightly different abilities.
The old Amiga game K240 had this, basic ships had only hp, no weapons, those were added onto Hardpoints, with ships having from 1 - 6 depending on size. It wasn't just weapons either (of which you got air-to-air and air-to-ground types, you could also get several different types of defences.
The same applies to its PC remake, Fragile Allegiance.
Sword of the Stars, a turn-based 4x game, has this with ships. Ships are made with a number of interchangeable sections (3 sections for ships in the original, but the first two expansion packs added the Zuul, who have some race-specific ship types with just 2 sections, as well as dronesand Morrigi ships that make their fleets faster with only 1 section), plus each section has hardpoints to attach weapons to. There are 3 sizes of weapons hardpoints, a weapon must be the same size or smaller to fit, with smaller weapons than a hardpoint's size leading to multiple barrels, there are also specialized hardpoints such as for missiles (which also utilize the size system), drones, and beam weapons. Most sections also have checkboxes for (reflective) armor and engine sections have checkboxes for fuel options as well.
Interplay's Tanktics is all about producing DIY tanks (whatelse?) from scratch and pitting them against the enemy.
In the purely aesthetic corner, Drawn to Life. It's the main gimmick.
World of Warcraft allows this to some extent with gem sockets on higher level items, which allow you to mount gems that provide stat bonuses depending on their type. The Cataclysm expansion also introduces Reforging, where you can actually reallocate the intrinsic bonuses built into an item.
Elemental - War of Magic allows you to arm, armour, clothe and outfit your sovereign, heroes and your entire army to whatever specifications take your fancy. Want everybody in your Legion of Doom to wear a fez? Go ahead!
In a combination of webcomic and adventure game, Wicked Awesome Adventure encourages its players to design equipment out of pocketed items. This has led to unusual (and occasionally Game Breaker — swiftly confiscated by the Duck) items like the Swear-jar F-bomb, the Vevuzela Speargun, the Brusherhang, and the Rubik's Hypercube.
Star Ruler has this for starship design. Players first set the scale of the ship (anywhere from the size of a Coke can to larger than the galaxy), then the player begins by placing a type of hull (carrier, light, heavy, etc) then adds power plants, thrusters, weapons, armor, shields, control systems, and support equipment (such as mining lasers, repair lasers, stealth fields, etc) to the ship's design grid. Finally, the player can set default AI behaviors for the ship, such as target preferences. How many objects, their relative complexity, and the size of the ship determine how many resources are needed to build the ship.
Infinite Space allows the player to customize their ships with a variety of weapons and modules. The nationality of your bridge module even changes the views displayed while cruising and fighting.
Freedroid RPG allows to craft addons from broken droid parts and install them on some items.
X-COM: Apocalypse allows to fit vehicles for your purpose — changeable engines, weapons and other parts you can buy or build.
Aurora has a lot of this. Individual traits for most ship component have to be researched independently. Only then can you design components with those specific traits and stats. And finally you can start researching those components for use in ship design. To top it off, most components have selectable sizes, armor protection, and further traits such as sensor resolution and EMP resistance which makes every single designed component different from others of the same type. So players have to design and research multiple versions of active sensors, fire controls, energy weapons and missiles to fit on their ships to receive optimal performance. And that's not including engines, shields and other vital components. Player-designed fleets contains multiple types of ships, each ship being as complex as their closest real life counterparts.
Champions Online and City of Heroes both have simply amazing customizeable costumes for the character. This can lead to some remarkably creative costumes, as well as positively eye-blinding ones. As mentioned above, however, this is purely cosmetic.
Way of the Samurai brings this to the fore in allowing players to design their own daggers, swords, and spears. This is extremely important because the weapon held was the only thing determining the nameless samurai's attack and defense levels. A wide variety of blades, grips, hilts, and pommels were available to mix and match. Some were obvious sets designed to go together (such as the 'Shark' prefix-set of 3), while others were simply individual parts which could be put together on the player's whim. Also notable for allowing players to also choose the special attacks in their sword by determining its stance, then using a Point Buy system to allocate any skills learned from weapons with that particular stance. Combining parts with regards only for stats sometimes made high-power weapons into the swordsmithing equivalent of Rainbow Pimp Gear.
While most EVE Online ships are customizable with modules, only tech-level 3 ships allow the player to swap entire sections of the ship.
Forza Motorsport features extensive customization on its cars, both visually and mechanically:
Mechanically, you can swap out engines, drivetrains, and in some cases engine aspiration, or simply upgrade the existing engine. You could get a Dodge Neon with a V10 engine from a Dodge Viper with the AWD drivetrain from a Dodge Stealth. Once you've put on your upgrades, you can then tune the car, to alter its handling characteristics. One might make first gear longer to reach a higher top speed, or reduce it for break-neck acceleration, then tweak the differential to adjust how easily the tail slides out, then adjust the suspension and anti-roll bars to induce oversteer or understeer.
Visually, you can give most of your cars aftermarket body kits (which often affect the performance, especially with spoilers. Most simply reduce the overall weight slightly), and in Forza 4, you can give OEM body kits, such as swapping out the front end on a 1980s Porsche 911 Turbo with the front end from a standard Porsche 911, or give it the stripped down racing front end. Rims can be swapped out for hundreds of other rims (which affect the car's overall weight). The most notable feature of the customization, though, is the Vinyl Editor / Decal Editor, which allows you to place thousands of decals on your car to make liveries. A player might drive said Dodge Neon with a replica Martini livery, depict the Master Chief fighting Gordon Freeman, or simply have racing stripes or go-fast stickers.
Cataclysm has a grid based vehicle construction system with different types of parts able to share the same tile. With enough skill, items, and time it's possible to build anything from a scooter to a tank to a motorcycle with several large truck engines that's capable of going over 500MPH.
Indie multiplayer game Gimbal features an extensive ship customization system where you select a hull and tack on as parts as you can (depending on level/budget). If you wish, you can make a ship that derives its thrust from around a dozen Flak Cannons.
Star Trek Online revamped its kit gear so you can mix and match what abilities you can use. However, you can't mix and match profession gear, meaning a Tactical Player can't use Science abilities.
Kerbal Space Program allows you to design and build your own rockets and other craft from scratch using sets of specialized parts, letting you construct a wide variety of landers, probes, space stations, rovers, or any other sort of vehicle that strikes your fancy.
Wizard101 has the option for players to merge an items appearance with another items stats. This is a way to edit an item in a purely cosmetic fashion, letting a player essentially chose their own look and not have to change it whenever they get new gear. This was mostly done to prevent players from having to deal with Rainbow Pimp Gear to have the best stats.
Endless Space's blueprint system allows players to customize their race's starships and upgrade their performance. Different modules and weapon systems can be installed with different abilities, such as siege weapons for slow but guaranteed planetary capture, bomber storage to directly attack enemy population and infrastructure, or troop modules to directly invade and take over system in one turn with enough force.