Blacksmithing: [Opened Can of Worms]

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One of the biggest distractions for me in any game is crafting.  Take my experiences in Skyrim, for example; I’ve logged several days’ worth of game time, and easily 80% of that has been spent running around picking flowers, then running back to the alchemist’s shop to gleefully mix random crap together in the hope that it makes something shiny and/or vendorable.  Beyond just fulfilling my obsessive-compulsive disorder, it’s also an important mechanic that makes a player’s life much easier in the long run.  The ability to make unlimited healing potions is absolutely vital if you’re terrible at most videogames, i.e. me.

World of Warcraft is no exception to this rule, and though leveling the crafting professions can be something of a soul-destroying grind, I just can’t stop myself.  Maybe I’m more of a pain slut than I thought, I don’t know.  I’ve seen many changes to the profession system, from the addition of entirely new roles (holy shit, Jewelcrafting!) to minor tweaks in the form of allowing “tougher” items to give multiple skillups, thus making it ever so slightly easier and more cost-effective to craft your face off.  Mists of Pandaria introduced a newer and easier way to level cooking that allowed players with access to what I affectionately refer to as Panda-Lands to go from level 1 to 525 without having to do any more than some minimal fishing.  Now it’s looking like patch 5.2 is going to bring us a revamp of the often-bemoaned Blacksmithing profession, and on the surface it looks like a pretty sweet deal.  Truth is, it’s a pretty risky move that has just as much potential to flop as it does to succeed.

I’m a cheery person (lies artistic license), so I’d like to first take a look at the positives of this change.  If any profession needed a nerf to frustration, it’s Blacksmithing.  The sheer number of reagents required to max it out, especially during the “vanilla” levels, was mind-boggling, to say the least.  As a result, it tends to be somewhat difficult to find a fully-skilled Blacksmith, unless they a.) are masochists or b.) power-leveled it with the auction house.

There was supposed to be a picture here of somebody being whipped by a dominatrix with the caption “Origins of Copper Chain Armor” but I honestly cannot find one that even edges on safe-for-work so use your imagination, but not so hard that you get a boner because oh God please don’t do that shit while you read my blog, it’s weird.  –Ed.

The upcoming changes to Blacksmithing should make players a lot more likely to pick it up, meaning all of the delicious goodies that the profession brings will be much more readily available.  Players can power-level it using the Ghost Iron Ore projects, then go back and learn the “old” plans, freeing up time and mats to make only what they need rather than spamming the same bronze armor till it’s as gray as the ashes of your sanity.

Death Knights will also find this to be something of a blessing, since by the time they enter the game at level 55, leveling a profession would involve a great deal of farming and catch-up.  I expect we’ll see a high number of DK Blacksmiths as a result.  With Blacksmiths able to rely exclusively on Ghost Iron Ore for skill-ups, farming in lower-level areas should decrease, meaning that Engineers and Jewelcrafters who are mining in their level-appropriate zones will have to deal with far less competition from 90s on fast flying mounts.

HOWEVER.

It’s slightly disheartening for players who chose other professions that are not seeing this kind of revamp.  The multiple skill-up system has been extremely helpful to others, but there is a high probability that non-Blacksmiths are going to be a bit peeved.  Since the revamp is currently only live on the test realm, I’m hoping that they’re just revamping the one profession as an experiment, and that if it goes well, the rest will get the same treatment at the same time or shortly after 5.2 is released.

Then there’s the economic repercussions within the game itself.  The Ghost Iron projects don’t give gear, only vendorable items, so I assume that the dev team is banking on some sort of balance being struck by players who want to craft armor and weapons as they level.  The problem is that with the world revamp brought on by Cataclysm, quest rewards have caught up with crafted items to the point that the lower-level items are often equivalent or worse than what players can receive without having to put in the ore and jewels.  Unless these craftable items receive a boost to utility, it’s much more likely that the majority of the player base will simply wait until Pandaria levels and just farm the readily available Ghost Iron deposits to powerlevel it.  Beyond the few craftable item level 476 pieces and max-level belt buckles, all of which require a fair amount of mats, there’s a very real risk that Blacksmithing will be useless until level 90.  The market for lower-level crafted armor on my server is already virtually non-existent; this has the potential to be the final death knell, either by eradicating it completely, or causing price gouges, since most players will be eschewing the level-as-you-go model with the allure of e-z mode at level cap.  This will also be a blow to the ore and gem market, excepting in the case of Ghost Iron Ore, which will likely see even higher prices.  Though Engineering and Jewelcrafting will still require normal leveling procedures, they will eventually have to receive the same kind of revamp, lest the dev team risk completely alienating non-Blacksmith players, and at this point I expect the market for things like Mithril Ore and Shadowgems to disappear completely.  The same will happen for herbs, leather, and enchanting mats as the revamps continue.

Obviously, this is all still speculation, but the real question here is going to be how Blizzard is going to be able to keep all of these minutiae in balance without tipping the scales one way or another.  It’s no easy task, and though someday it will be my burden to bear, as well, I still don’t envy them for having to address it, although I suppose we could always blame Ghostcrawler if it fails.  (Note: Do not blame Ghostcrawler.  This was a joke.  –Ed.)

Now we come to the point where everyone says “O Most Benevolent Overlord Bunny, Future Dev of Our Hearts, how wouldst thou revamp yon professions in thy developmental glory?” and then the ghost of Shakespeare rises up to pimp-slap me for that sentence which nobody actually even uttered but I need to pretend like I’m popular because I have shitty self-esteem for which the pretended arrogance is just a defense mechanism, so I’m going to keep on pretending and answer.  I love lamp and run-on sentences.

Revamping the other professions to match up with Blacksmithing is a given.  My concern for the gathering markets leads me in the direction of just saying “screw it” and simplifying all crafting professions to use just one type of gathered material, which would then be available no matter what zone you’re in.  To clarify, players would be able to gather Ghost Iron Ore in Elwynn Forest just as easily as they can in the Valley of Four Winds.  This still reduces the problem of level 90s farming nodes that appropriate-level players require, since said nodes would be available anywhere.  Rather than removing the ability to create gear and weapons using the Ghost Iron projects, replace the “old” recipes with much more generalized pieces for various item levels that produce armor with random stats and bonuses, much like the system used in Diablo 3.  If the possible stats are upped to compete with current quest rewards, this could potentially revitalize the crafted item market — since it all uses the same type of ore, crafting them is much easier and more convenient, meaning more players are likely to actually try to craft useful armor for their appropriate level, which means the “rejects” can be put on the auction house for purchase by non-Blacksmiths.  Small tweaks to Tailoring already offer a similar system at higher levels, with the chance to craft not only uncommon quality gear, but also rare, a mechanic that could easily be carried over to others.

To break proposed changes down by profession and skill:

Gathering Professions: Unify all mats obtained using gathering professions into one type per quality.  Gems will be unified into one type per color, per quality.  Method of obtaining skill points in gathering professions will change to something closer to the Fishing system, with skill-ups being granted randomly as players gather items.

Alchemy: Philosopher’s Stone still required for transmutes, but no longer vendorable (I cannot tell you how many times I have accidentally sold the damn thing), and upgradable for character level range by turning in x amount of profession level-appropriate potions to Alchemy trainer.  Other options would be to make it upgradable using a quest that rewards the improved trinket, or change the base stone from a crafted item to an item purchasable from any Alchemy Supplies vendor.  Remove need to choose between Alchemy spec and implement an overall random chance for double-procs on potions, elixirs, flasks, and transmutes.  Adjust transmutes as needed to fit in with other revamps, i.e. Northrend jewel transmutes would be changed to convert x number of uncommon gems to rare gems and rare gems to epic gems once they’ve all be unified.  Change Northrend Alchemy Research to general Potion Research, Flask Research, Elixir Research, Transmute Research, etc.  Goblin Rocket Fuel will be changed to Engineering-only recipe.

Inscription: Pigments and inks simplified to one common type and one uncommon type each.  Add recipes for lower-level Rare-quality staves.  Change Northrend Inscription Research to general Major Glyph Research.

Jewelcrafting:  Recipes will now improve the stats of each type of cut rather than introduce new gems, like the jeweler system in Diablo 3.  Change different types of stone statues to statues offering different benefits, such as healing, +str, +sta, etc.  Simplify rings, necks, and trinkets to grant pieces with random stats, with new versions available for various character levels.  Unified uncommon-quality gems can be turned into a random batch of rare-quality gems once per day, and rare-quality gems may be shattered to create a random batch of uncommon-quality gems.  “Secrets of the Stone” and research on regular 24-hour timer now have the chance to discover any profession level-appropriate cuts not taught by the trainer.  Remove Cataclysm trinket quests and make higher-level trinket recipes obtainable from Jewelcrafting trainer.  Change Jewelcrafting trinkets from bind on pickup to bind on equip, which will open a new potential market and help to stabilize the economy.  Epic gem cuts will drop from all raid instances, stat bonuses dependent on level range for each raid.

Engineering:  Remove need to choose between specs and rename Goblin Rocket Fuel to Rocket Fuel.  Recipe for Rocket Fuel is now Engineer-only and will be trainable rather than crafted.  Volatile Rum component will either be removed altogether or made easier to obtain by addition to certain vendor item tables.  Various quality random-stat goggle/helm recipes will be craftable based on level, with goggles remaining Engineer-only, but special bind on equip helms usable by any profession added.  Addition of recipe for weather forecasting machine that will notify players of current weather all over the game world.  Remove Engineering requirement to use crafted mounts.  Eliminate Salt Shaker.

Tailoring:  Size of crafted bags will increase as skill level is raised.  All armor will now adhere to the random stat system with improvements to bonuses based on level.  Remove Tailoring requirement to use crafted mounts.  Unify thread reagent to one type, similar to Crystal Vials.  Revamp system for “special” cloth types (excepting Imperial Silk) to require x amount of cloth and elemental crafting pieces, such as fire, water, earth, etc.

Leatherworking:  Deeprock Salt/Refined Deeprock Salt and Salt Shaker no longer required.  All hides may be cured using salt purchasable from a supply vendor.  Add recipes for enchanted voodoo doll and toy kodo pets (Alliance equivalent for kodo may be substituted with elekk).  Armor adheres to random stat system with improvements to bonuses based on level.  Armor kit bonuses will also increase according to level.  Unify thread reagent to one type, as suggested with Tailoring.  Dragon scales will be replaced by a unified type of scale that will be obtainable from any “scaly” creature — dragons, crocodiles, turtles, etc. — in lieu of regular leather on their skin loot table.

Enchanting:  Disenchanting will yield unified dust or essence from uncommon items, shards from rare items, and crystals from epic items.  To avoid “breaking” the shard and crystal market by allowing level 90 players to steamroll through old instances and easily farm rare or epic items for mass disenchanting, yields will change to dust or essence if the level requirement of the item is x or more levels lower than the player disenchanting it.  Addition of Research on a 24-hour timer to learn new rare enchants, which will sacrifice 3 shards per use and give between 3 and 5 skill-ups at a time.

Fishing:  Clicking on the fishing bobber is no longer required to “catch” a fish; instead, the fish will automatically be caught at a random point during cast time and added to the player’s bags.  Find Fish is now a passive ability granted when a player learns the Fishing skill (like Find Herbs, etc.) rather than from a random drop.  Schools may be fished from by clicking on the school itself rather than attempting to land a cast within its confines, and will no longer require multiple casts to obtain full yield, as in the case of mining nodes and herbs.  Each school fished will give between 3 and 5 skill-ups.

Of course, I do realize that implementing these changes would be a fairly massive undertaking involving lots of man (and woman) hours, and would likely be about as big of a risk as the “official” changes being made, but when it comes to a player base as dedicated and loyal as those in World of Warcraft, any major change is a risk.  No solution is perfect.  No matter what any dev team decides, there will always be some vocal dissenters who believe that the changes have killed the game and ruined the experience for everyone.

The important thing, however, is to go into any major change with an open mind, no matter what side of the desk you’re on.  Skepticism is perfectly fine, but if we immediately dismiss something right out of the gate without even giving it a shot, who knows what we’re actually missing out on?  Because of this, I’m placing my faith in the dev team for World of Warcraft and assuming that they’ve covered the bases, discussed the risks, and so on.  They haven’t let me down yet.

And hey, one day, they might even pay me to do this shit.

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6 responses »

  1. Black-smithing is the worst prof in the game and thank gods they are tweaking it. I learned long ago NOT to become a Bs’er. As a currently maxed level jewel-crafting DK, I say YES! to your ideas about JC. It starts off easy, but really starts to make your eye twitch in the higher levels. I also have an alchemist- yes, you warned me, I know, but I like variety- and it can be tedious when you collect a metric heck-ton of herbs only to find they have little to no use at your current level. (JC was the same thing. I have a bank full of gems that have never appeared in any recipes I’ve gotten.)

    I have to disagree a little bit on fishing, though. I know you hate fishing. Most people do; it’s tedious. But I like the challenge of getting your cast to land in the school, if it’s not just a random thing in which case they need to make it a “mini-game” of having to purposefully cast right to land it. Otherwise, I agree with the rest, especially the automatic bagging of the fish instead of clicking, which is a game in itself, but an annoying one. How many times have I looked away from the screen for some stupid reason at the moment I need to be clicking on that damned thing?!

    As for people not liking what they do next… that always happens. The Dev Teams of any game have no way to know how a thing will work in the game until it goes live and people need to chill and be constructive in their criticisms. Of course, we all know how often *that* happens.

    • Jewelcrafting is a prime example of how Burning Crusade has been left untouched despite being in really bad need of an update. The scariest part is that with the way professions were in vanilla, JC was still one of the easiest. *shudder*

      You do make a good point on the fishing — a mini-game for schools could be fun if implemented properly, maybe something like the crafting mini-games from EQ2. In that case, though, I’d simplify it down to 3 or 4 buttons max, using the same sort of screen as pet battles/vehicles. The trick, then, would be to prevent other players from being able to come up and click the same school while someone’s playing the mini-game, although they’ve done something similar to this with battle pets (the player still appears in the world while battling, but the pet they’re fighting against disappears from the world). I’m not sure how the WoW player base would feel about such a thing, though… there are quite a few former EQ2 players out there, but I think most of them are too “spoiled” by the lack of mini-game mechanics in most current titles and would be shocked half to death by their addition.

      They could always add in a targeting circle, but that really wouldn’t make it any more of a challenge than just clicking the school itself. 😦

      Selfish Gamer Me wants to say “screw it, set Fishing up to be like any crafting profession where you can set it to do x amount of casts and keep going until you cancel it or your bags fill up” just to make it easier to sit back with a book as it levels. I don’t suppose it’d make it any easier than any other profession, but it’d still probably take the challenge out of it for those crazy people who actually enjoy casting!

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