Friday, September 27, 2013

Smash It Up

There's one consistent continuity problem with Warcraft as it currently stands: you know EXACTLY where each Expansion begins and ends. Nowhere is that more obvious in the business of Professions. You may have a number to aim for when maxxing, but getting to that can often end up not as enjoyable, but more of an exercise in patience. In fact, immersing yourself in the business of any profession currently (with the possible exception of Cookery) is anything but entertaining. Blizzard have shown with Noodle Carts there are ways to make things more interesting and engaging, but that's only one small part of a very large problem.

It's taken me pretty much a year to arrive at a solution to the professions 'problem' that I'm happy with. Many of you will not like it at all, but you know what? At this point, I simply have to commit it to the ether, and to the Nether with the consequences because frankly, someone has to. Sometimes, everything you work for needs to be sacrificed for the greater good: for a system that actually remains useful, regardless of your position within it. Today therefore, we propose a radical rethink of every profession in game. I'm not just talking about the Primary ones either: the Secondary ones are all encompassed in this overhaul, because you can't have one without the other. Using the tools we've been given by the game designers over the last eight years and especially during Pandaria, I propose that when you start every new character at Level 1, this is how it goes. I hope that this will want to make you reroll a new class from scratch, just because you'll get to experience this journey once from the beginning. That's how good I'm hoping this revamp will be..

It all begins with a Magical Tower.

Human Tower. Your experience will vary.

When you first roll a Level One, you'll notice a tower like this (architecturally appropriate to your race) in every Starting Area. It's is where you will find the Crafting League, and it allows access to a phased area that you'll be returning enthusiastically to throughout the entire game as you level to 90 and beyond. Inside this Tower you'll get your introduction to the professions and what they can offer you: There's a Gathering Trainer, a Primary Trainer and a Secondary Trainer (plus vendors, of course.) Each of them has a specific storyline that begins in each starting zone, and which is peculiar to your race. By the time you hit 60, you'll say farewell to this line and hello to another that will take you from 60 to 85, covering the three expansions that encompasses. After that, you'll start a new path to 90. After that, you just bolt on new stories and trainers for each level cap.

Right at the get-go, you receive an item from your first ever quest. It sits in your Inventory, next to your Hearthstone, and it is the most important item you will ever need. This is the free gift from the Crafting League to you, a wonder of joint Goblin/Gnomish Engineering, and it is the Craftomatic 9000-G that no adventurer would ever want to be without, because it allows you to gather everything and make any item (assuming you have learnt the appropriate skill, still only two Primary Skills per player) and ensures you won't require anything else to profession with. No Jewellers Kits or Mining Picks any more, if you have this tool, it does absolutely everything [*]. It is the JML Luxury Item of choice. All you need now is to choose what professions you are going to utilise and off you go.

So good is this 9000-G that every mob you kill from this point onwards also has a chance to drop something useful for your specific craft. Mobs in the outside world yield some items, mobs in dungeons others, even BG opponents drop special items for PvP specific crafts. You then augment this with gathered items: herbs, leather, fish, archaeological finds, ore and your specific profession makes not simply armour, but level scaling weapons. Oh, and because someone asked, you'd get a choice of a PvE or a PvP set, depending on your persuasion. Yes, FROM L1 you can make items that will last you to the level cap, and when the level cap gets raised so do the stats of those items, so anyone crafting from scratch in ANY new expansion produces stuff that has a real value.

YES THE Craftomatic 9000-G is BETTER THAN THIS :D

Oh, and before you ask, when you reach level cap, you can't use your self-made weapons and armour in instances or heroics. You see, professions aren't about gearing you to play End-Game any more, or forcing people to play catch-up constantly to be in the best gear. Professions make stuff that is useful just for you in terms of game levelling, and enhancement/vanity/collectable items for everyone else. It doesn't become a crutch or a way to compensate when End Game gear lacks: it doesn't make massive profits from giving priority to those who can exploit a particular niche simply due to accessibility. Don't worry however about how you'd get your end game items once you cap, we've got that covered a little bit later. There's a bonus too because of this: ALL ARMOUR AND WEAPONRY IS BOA.

The only BoE's are those you'll find that drop in the world, you don't make stuff like that to sell it on the Auction House, it's just yours. There are specific potions and gear augmentations too, that you can send to ANY ALT, not just those with the crafting specialisation, with bonuses that work on any spec or class, as long as you play them. Again, they'll lose their usefulness at max level, so use them wisely (young Padewan.) If you want to sell things while levelling, then you can sell the spare crafting ingredients you don't need, whether they be gathered or created via skills like Alchemy. Instead of a bunch of useless potions no-one ever drinks again Alchemists can create reagents at low level that are still used in high level recipes. Scribes create special dyes to change not simply armour colours, but which can be used to alter the appearances of enchants.  

Everyone becomes interdependent, encouraging more people to pick up professions to begin with. You're also given a decent array of armour and weapon augmentations, other items to cosmetically alter the look and feel of other people's gear (leather for hilts, gems to decorate) plus the inevitable vanity items. Every zone has a specific list of vanity item you can make across all the professions from the SAME AVAILABLE DROP TABLE, so people have decent scope to pick and choose what items they choose to specialise in. Plus, you can have speciality skills you learn in every profession: Alchemists are already making bonuses on Flasks, Potions and Elixirs. Miners will be able to refine ore for better yields or dig differently to unearth rare gems. Fishermen can choose to wait for a larger version of the same fish with the chance of special secondary resources. Archaeologists can choose to focus on unearthing patterns for long forgotten items, or re-purposing items to add to existing pattens for a different look. The key here is that EVERY PROFESSION DEPENDS ON THE OTHER to make them work best.

Yes, you can  of course choose to ignore all of this if you wish and sprint straight to level. No-one's making you do stuff that for many will now seem awfully time-consuming and involved. You don't need it, because all the stuff that drops in the World is slightly better than any gear you'd get from professions to begin with: it doesn't scale with level. The point here is that people get a choice, and everything works together, instead of being a disparate combination of factors that's been reinvented every expansion with no cohesive framework. At some point, there has to be a conscious decision to accept that going back to the beginning and SIMPLY DOING IT AGAIN BUT BETTER is not an admission of guilt or an acceptance of failure. It is an understanding that sometimes the only thing you can do to make something work is to embrace its failings, and start again from scratch.

Honestly, you don't listen to a word I say do you, HAVE YOU GOT A VEST ON...?

The Crafting Guild, at max level, is phased as the Tiller's Farm is now. In this area is your own Crafting Tower where your accomplishments are displayed, available only to you. Your list of legacy recipes (see below), a special banking area JUST FOR CRAFTING MATERIALS similar to Void Storage, a small patch of dirt imported from Pandaria where you can grow items from any level if you can find the correct seed that allows it. If you craft there it happens at a faster rate than if you did so in the normal world, and every day it offers you a series of quests that you can choose to do or not that allows you to earn rewards to allow you to buy better gear than your crafted items, by USING YOUR CRAFTED ITEMS AS CURRENCY.

Like the Craftsman's Writs we had back in Vanilla, you produce a selection of items, exchange those for Writs and then hand those in for rewards... how about Valor Points? Then you can buy the items you need without necessarily having to run dungeons and instances all the time to get them. It gives that much-needed sense of choice and value in your work and making the journey to begin with. However, do do all this, we need to wipe your slate clean and give you a completely new set of recipes and goals, and that will not sit well with a group of people for whom the business of professions has stretched over nearly a decade. I know who these people are: the ones who spent all those months hunting down the rare drops, making sure they owned every pattern their profession had to offer, regardless of the fact that now most are virtually worthless.

I know because I am one of them, and herein lies our biggest single stumbling block to change.

'At some point, something has to give...'

There's at least one way to deal with the legacy recipe issue: make every single old armour/weapon pattern into a Cosmetic Mogging-only item that can be made with materials that drop in a level-appropriate zone for the original drop. Then present every Veteran Crafter when the reboot happens with a Book of Ancient Recipes in which every one they have collected is lovingly transcribed. You have a record of what you've collected, and somewhere to store it. You see, the gift to all the Vanilla Generation players out there who'd technically lose the most on the back of this radical rethink is the legacy the Tillers have provided us with. In your own phased area under the auspices of the new Expansion, whatever and wherever that might be, is your own Player Housing. In fact, the only way to get it is to take a profession when you start the game, and yes you can link those recipes as a badge of honour if you so desire. We'll even give you a Feat of Strength to prove you caught them all.

The question then remains: what happens to a max-level crafter in this new system?

That's deceptively simple. Once the pre-Expansion patch launches, everyone keeps their skills, all old crafting-based achievements get converted to Feats of Strength and you get the complete new spellbook/interface, except you've learnt everything, with the notable exclusion of the special levelling quests you'd get if you started at Level 1 (so you have a chance to do those before the Expansion launches, much like the system worked with Battle Pet Trainers.) You then have an opportunity before the Expansion to gather a selection of the new mats needed to build your basic weapon/armour for levelling.

All existing crafting mats will then become obsolete, be downgraded to grey value, and given a vendor price dependant on level.


AAAAAAND there goes my credibility ^^

I reckon in the above I should have found something to upset just about everyone: the casual gamer, the hoarder, the gold maker, the completionist... all of which I am. I didn't want to discuss this with anyone for the longest time because it occurred to me that actually so much of what is wrong with the mechanic of making could be put right if I would put prejudice to one side and just tried something new. There was also the crushing irony that having complained so often that Blizzard's solution is to simply ignore stuff and start fresh, that's really exactly what this problem requires... in fact after this long it's almost a demand. However, I don't need numbers to know that the quantum leap isn't something to be taken lightly, and when you're sitting on the back of less than favourable subscription numbers with potentially game-breaking issues in the base mechanics of your combat engine, will you ever want to make such a contentious decision to begin with?

The Crab, he has a point.

I am enough of a realist to grasp that what I want and what is practical in an office four thousand miles west of me are two very different things. I'm not about to light my own torch and stampede screaming when none of this comes to pass come November. Yes, I will be disappointed when things fall short of my expectations, but frankly who isn't? Blizzard aren't making this game for me, I realised a long time ago. That means I have to find my own way of embracing what it is and how it works. That's why I took up fifteen minutes of your life if you read this far, and for that alone I am grateful. That is the real legacy of posts like this, and people like me: I just want to help make something broken better. And yes, despite what many people will tell you, it is broken. They're the ones making gold on the fact it remains so, that people fill niches and cubbyholes with the old and the odd, that someone somewhere collects something obscure and as long as that happens, there's a market. Ultimately, there would never be a way to 'fix' professions without making somebody unhappy, and working on that theory I think that the radical could be the answer. I doubt I'll ever know for sure because I don't have 'game designer' listed as my occupation. However, I thought I owed it to the game I love to try.

Sometimes, the only solution is to step back and start again.


[*] Trips to the bathroom and filing Tax Returns are YOUR PROBLEM. Please craft responsibly.


Shannon said...

I...actually love the idea. I mean, whether they actually put exactly this into play or something different, you're right: the entire thing needs rebooting. It's like pushing the RESET button on the old Super Nintendo; sometimes you just have to call for a do-over.

Kamalia said...

Sounds pretty great to me! I'm not sure I'd go so far as to make all the current crafting mats completely obsolete and replace them, because what would Blizz replace them *with*? They're already having a hard enough time coming up with names for new crafting mats for each expansion, espeically for ore and cloth -- we're up to three or four different types of iron now, a couple of different wools, a few different silks... though I guess they haven't done "cotton" anything yet :P I think it'd probably be okay to just re-purpose the existing crafting mats to the new leveling and recipe-obtaining scheme.

Crow said...

So let me see if I've got the broad strokes of the solution here:
* Everyone can craft everything.
* Crafted gear works like heirlooms in that it scales to max level, but can't be used in endgame instances.
* All mobs drop some kind of crafting mats.
* All crafted gear is BoA.
* Non-gear crafting profs make reagents that are used at higher levels by other professions.
* Professions have specializations.
* Profession gear isn't necessary, because dungeon drops and BoEs still exist.
* The Crafting Guild tower acts like Sunsong Ranch, with bank-like storage for crafting mats, farming nodes, and... legacy recipes?
* Crafted gear can be traded in via Writs to get Valor Points, which is throttled by daily access to Writ quests.

I want to make sure that I've got the major points of the system right before I give a response to them, because I think there's a lot to discuss, but I also wanted to clarify bits I didn't quite understand:

* What are the legacy recipes about? You mention some recipes making cosmetic-only equipment, but then... what, all non-gear recipes are just written down in the Legacy Recipes Tome and aren't craftable anymore?

* What's the reason for destroying all existing crafting mats if they're going to replaced with new crafting mats that drop off all mobs and PVP-enabled players? Why not just roll existing crafting mats into what's certain to be a huge library of crafting mats?

All that said: love the post. Would have responded earlier, but the last week's been bugger-all.

Zeppy said...

This is about the most terrible idea I've ever heard.

Consider this: crafting shouldn't be automatic... merchant gameplay is a very specialized thing that isn't for everyone. Blizzard does a great job of making professions generally accessible to those that need things from them, but for the people who *really* want to be crafters they put in the extra work. Just as it should be... you should not automatically get everything without extra effort.

The crafting system needs an overhaul, but... this certainly isn't the direction.

The Godmother said...

Zeppy, how about you actually *go read the post* and then come back when you have? ^^