Sunday, November 1, 2015

003 - The Blueprint: Re-Imagining Professions in Legion (Part 2)

Last week, I talked about a lot of what worked or, as the case may be, didn't work well in terms of professions in WoD.  I tried to take a look at the big picture - to identify the core concepts that played well, and those that didn't.  This week, I'm going to paint a picture of how I'd like to see Professions in Legion.  I'm going to wave my hands a bit when it comes to tuning, and I'm probably going to step on some toes.

I feel like, if you've stuck with WoW as long as I have - from Wrath to now - you're okay with having your toes stepped on with respect to professions.  But don't worry - because next week, I'll have a post that steps back, looks at all of this and critiques how well the system I'm about to describe really hits all those core professions-gameplay marks.

Laying the Foundation

Let's start with some frameworks and then build out each profession.  The first framework I want to get laid out is pretty straightforward.  All gathering become secondary professions.  The catch-up mechanics are already in place; the market effects are already field-tested by Garrisons.  It's time.  I first put this idea forward in Mists.  I feel like gathering can be used to encourage interaction with the game world, but currently it's all done on garrisons.  That makes it highly-bottable, but the effects of that on the economy are somewhat muted given that everyone is a gatherer.

When Legion launches without Garrisons & without flying, it is the perfect time to make everyone a gatherer.  Make them go out into the world and interact with it.  Make that world interaction more rewarding by allowing folks to gather materials while doing dailies, weeklies, finishing out quests or hunting down rares.  This will be a boon for legit play - as bots will get bogged down in combat without flying.

We first saw in Patch 4.2 what happens to markets when everyone becomes a gatherer.  Volatile Fire dropped from the Molten Front daily mobs, and prices cascaded nicely, allowing for accessibility as well as more advanced market plays.  By making everyone a gatherer at launch with no flying in Legion, this change will encourage more open world engagement and re-balance the risk/reward of botting heavily in favor of legit play.

Orbs & Elementals
The next framework I want to introduce is limited reagents.  To start - I'm taking us back to my WoW-youth, which happened in the universally-reviled Cataclysm expansion.  I'm talking about Orbs.  In my system, we will use Orbs in place of the current cooldown materials as limited reagents for crafting powerful gear and upgrades.

Orbs will drop from endgame activities, and they will be unbound.  In addition to Orbs, I'll also have Elementals (Fire, Water, Earth, & Air) as a limited reagent.  These will also be unbound.  They will also drop randomly from endgame activities.  I'm going through these quickly because they're connected - Orbs and Elementals.

With gathering as secondary professions, we'll be left with 8 primary professions.  None of these will use any cooldowns - only orbs and Elementals.  Each profession will be able to break down an Orb into 3 of a certain kind of Elemental.

This is important - while Orbs will be used universally across professions, each type of Elemental will embody & imbue certain characteristics (more on that in a bit).  Further, each Elemental will be associated with 2 Professions, as I've indicated in the beautiful Paint image above.  For example, Tailors will be able to break down an orb into Elemental Fire.  Enchanting will be the only other Profession that can do the same.

Elementals will be used in conjunction with orbs to create powerful gear & upgrades, but to start Legion, you'll only have two recipes: one for breaking down an Orb, and another for research.  Research will cost 1 of your Profession's Elementals.  It will have no cooldown, but it will be a random discovery.  I've always felt that gating recipes behind cooldowns was very 'meh'.  Well, now it's gone.

Having both Elementals and Orbs allows for a lot of interplay.  Elementals will get traded and sold, as well as orbs.  Elementals also become a sort of more granular reward than orbs.  So, for instance,  I imagine endgame reward structures like:
  • Complete a Normal Random Dungeon: 1 Random Elemental drops from Boss
  • Complete a Heroic Random Dungeon: 1 Orb drops from Boss & 1 Random Elemental is given to each player
  • Complete a Mythic Dungeon (maybe Mythic Dungeons wait til Patch 7.1): 1 Orb for each Player
  • Complete an LFR Wing: 1 Orb given to each player (once per week)
  • Normal / Heroic / Mythic Boss Kills: 1 Orb Drops (on weekly loot lockout)
  • Complete a Random Battleground: 1 Random Elemental for each player on Winning Team
  • Complete a Rated Battleground: 1 Orb for each player on Winning Team
  • Kill a Max-Level Rarespawn / World Boss (once per week?)
And on-and-on.  The tuning can get tweaked, and everything above is more or less not capped (except LFR, raid boss loot lockouts, and possibly Mythic Dungeons to once per day).  The idea is to keep endgame activities engaging and rewarding without feeling like each one is mandatory or like you're on a treadmill with a fixed pace.

The unbound nature of these allows crafting alts to get in on the game, while still incentivizing active play.  This is the best of both worlds.  But that's just the beginning.

Elementals & Stats
The final framework I'd like to establish deals with with gear and enhancements.  I'll start with another pretty picture.


As I mentioned earlier, each Elemental will be associated with certain characteristics - secondary stats.  Blizzard has already mentioned that Multistrike is slated for removal in Legion, so our four remaining secondary stats line up very nicely with our Elemental framework.

Enhancement professions will make use of their own Elemental in conjunction with the Elemental corresponding to the stats they want to make use of.  So a Haste enchant would use Air & Fire.  Gear professions will still create gear with random stats.  However, they will be able to create items the will definitively reroll one secondary stat to another using Elementals.  So, say a crafted cloth chest rolls Versatility & Mastery.  A Tailor would be able to create an item - let's call it a Cloth Rune of Precision - that can reroll either of those secondary stats to Critical Strike when used.  This would require Elemental Fire (Tailoring base) and Elemental Air (Crit Base).  This forms the framework for what I will call the Rune system in Legion - which is how Professions will deterministically alter secondary stats on crafted (only) gear.

This system explicitly ties the bulk of Elemental production to certain professions.  So, if you want to have independence from market volatility & forces - say, if Orbs are going for 1200g while Elemental Water is going for 500g - then you will want at least half coverage so that you can buy Orbs and make Water at a profit.  The beautiful part about the Elemental system I've described is that you only need 2 toons to cover all four Elements.

No more Twenty-Toon Meta.  No more logging all over creation.  You'll want to keep track of Elementals and Orbs between your main crafters, but you really only need 4 crafters for full profession coverage since there are no cooldowns.

Raw Materials
Now I've talked a lot about the limited reagents framework, but I didn't talk about raw materials too much.  You're still going to be using raw materials - in fair quantities.  That's something I regard more as tuning, which can be tweaked as needed.  As a rule of thumb, I think a player should be able to gather the raw materials needed for a crafted item in not more than one quarter of the time it takes to gather the limited materials.  Also - I mentioned this in the last post, but it bears repeating - Each profession will only use it's own raw materials.  So, Blacksmiths won't need cloth, and Tailors won't need leather.

That concludes the frameworks I wanted to build before diving into each profession.  Hopefully that makes sense, and hopefully it's something you like the sound of so far.  Moreover, hopefully - you're excited to read on and get to the next section :)

Primary Professions

It's worth mentioning up-front that I'm not going to get too specific with crafting costs.  I'll give some examples in terms of limited reagents like Orbs & Elementals where I feel it's helpful, but these are really just for exposition.  Tuning is an art & a detail that can be tweaked and shouldn't detract from the concepts.  Also, I want to reiterate that I'm not going to get into the raw materials costs involved - that would just bog things down.

Remember that research will be how recipes are learned at random - and that there will be no cooldown on research.  I haven't yet figured out what role profession level should play in this system.  I'd like dinging max profession level to be a long-ish slog for dedicated crafters.   So, there should be a bonus for those at max level, but it shouldn't feel punitive to new crafters.  I think there are a lot of cool ideas that can be explored as far as active play - maybe a weekly Account-wide quest for 1-5 orbs that opens once you ding max profession level.  Maybe just a cool title.  Maybe a BoA Tome that can teach your other toons how to break an Orb down into another Elemental - like a Max Blacksmith can buy a Tome that teaches Orb->Water.  This could mean you only have to keep a stock of orbs on each toon in the long run rather than hunting for Elementals.  There's a lot of ideas to explore, and maybe I'll go through some more in later posts - for now, let's get into the Professions themselves.

Because it's just about damn time our toymaker-tinkerers got some real love and put first.  With the addition of Artifact Weapons in Legion, it's safe to say that crafted weapons will not be a thing.  I'm counting them as gone.  As well, with the upgrade trees on Artifact Weapons, I'm going to count weapon upgrades as gone.  So let's be honest - Engineering wasn't in a very good place in WoD, and the coming changes in Legion only look to double-down on this.

Unless something changes.  And that's what I'm here to do - shake things up.  Here's one for you - Engineering Helms will no longer require Engineering to wear.  They will overlap, then, of course with Helms from other professions, but they need something more that sets them apart - some kind of tertiary-style perk.  I haven't settled on what it should be, but on-use Avoidance is one possibility.  A movement-based cooldown is another.  Another more complex possibility is an on-use temporary stat swap with target player - which could be really useful for emergency off-tanking, off-healing, or off-dps'ing.  Whatever the ability, it needs to be cool, but not compulsory for ordinary content (at least not for all classes - Avoidance would obviously be preferred for tanks).

I mentioned earlier that I wanted to see each gear profession gain some kind of enhancement, and Engineering obviously needs some real love - so Engineers will be creating Helm Enchants.  Using the Elemental interplay in the Rune System, Helm enchants will grant +Secondary stats.

I think we can probably get away with a bit more - maybe crafted boots that overlap other gear professions, only with a random, cool tertiary-style perk (grav-buffer boots - no fall damage; Emergency-Maneuver boots - on-use blink that sometimes doesn't interrupt casting; etc.)

Of course, there will still be the required crafted pets.  This should at least keep Engineering interesting throughout the entire expansion.  I think Engineering has always been a Profession with a lot of flavor - and I'm not going to presume that I can add that flavor better than others, but I do think some core elements need a boost to keep Engineering attractive from an economic standpoint, and this is a solid foundation for that.

Blacksmiths will also lose Crafted Weapons, but they will regain their signature enhancement: Belt Buckles.  This is not only a boon to Blacksmiths, but also the Jewelcrafters, who got nerfed into the ground in WoD.

Blacksmithing was very strong in WoD, and the switcheroo of weapons for buckles should be enough to keep it going alright.  But this is a good opportunity to talk about Crafted Gear Upgrades.  I liked these in WoD, and I think they are worth keeping.  The general rule should be that Base-Level is Heroic Dungeon ilvl; Stage 2 should be above Normal Raid and maybe just below Heroic; and Stage 3 should be between Heroic & Mythic.  I don't think LFR needs to be added as a rung on the crafted gear upgrade ladder - with the caveat that we keep a unique-equipped limit for crafted gear.

Whereas a Base-Level piece of crafted gear would require, for example, 3 Orbs and 3 Elementals, a Stage 2 upgrade would cost another 4 Orbs and 4 Elementals.  Stage 3 would run 8 & 8, and higher Stages could increase similarly.

The stat reroll items I described earlier would cost considerably less - I'm thinking 1 Elemental Water (Base Blacksmithing Element) & 2 of whatever corresponding Element is desired.  Eventually, I can see hardcore raiders using these re-roll items liberally to optimize the secondary stats on their crafted gear.

Similar to Blacksmiths, Leatherworkers will regain Leg Armors as enhancements for Leather / Mail / Plate based classes.  They will continue to be able to craft Leather & Mail gear, as in WoD, and will have item upgrade & re-roll recipes similar to Blacksmiths.

Since Leatherworking was in a good place in WoD, and it's not losing much, I feel like it can be more or less left alone.  Flavor items like Drums should remain a mainstay, and I wouldn't mind seeing more added, but the core of the profession should benefit from having access to an enhancement market as well as the Rune framework and item upgrades. 

I felt like the cheap flasks in WoD were a waste after the first tuning adjustments, and so I'd like to see them removed.  Otherwise, I enjoyed how Alchemy regained a lot of its flavor-items with recipes that were updated for Draenor.  I'd like to see that carried forward into Legion.

Alchemy will make use of the Elemental system via flasks & potions, according to the pretty picture above.  Possibly Stamina & Armor can be swapped in favor of Versatility, but at the very least, they correspond well, if we decide to keep them - that is, Earth can be used for Stamina Flasks & Armor pots.

Similar to item upgrades, Alchemy will craft potions & flasks using Elemental Earth as a base, and other Elements as appropriate to the type of flask / potion being created.  As an example, a batch of 5 Intellect potions could be crafted with 1 Earth & 1 Fire.  A batch of 5 Intellect Flasks could be crafted with 1 Earth, 2 Fire, and 1 Orb.

I do like the idea of Alchemy Stones, but I feel like the profession-only items in Legion should try to be more flair over function.  I'm sure stones could be tweaked to fall into that system, but strictly speaking, Alchemy should be in a good spot without it.

I know we saw Alchemy lose some profitability as Warlords went on, but I really feel like there were a lot of fishbots camping inside of garrisons that influenced this.  Fishing had a lot of depth added in WoD, but I've always resented how easy it could be botted.  Forcing players out into the world to fish should help with that.  In addition, removing the universal currency of Garrison Resources and the Trading Post shuffle will help stabilize fish & meat prices.  And if they get too scarce, I'd just add them to world mob loot tables and tweak it from there.  But moving these resources away from bots and the 1-click gathering of collecting your Garrison Cache will go a long way towards making Alchemy a less insane market.

Tailors will once again be able to create spellthreads as enhancements for cloth-based classes.  In addition to their usual repertoire, they will get another new bag, and hopefully some flavor items (like a parachute or something more imaginative).  I also liked the pet that Tailors got in WoD, but honestly between bags, spellthreads, and gear (base, upgrades, reroll items), I think Tailoring should have enough to keep things interesting for awhile.

Enchanters lose their big winner with the removal of weapon enchants, and so they need some kind of replacement.  I want to see chest enchants added as the big enchant.  I also want to see the lower-tier enchants removed.  I feel like they were bloat - but of course, it's no big deal to keep them in.  Just like it's no big deal to keep in minor flasks for Alchemy - these aren't a show-stopper.

Chest enchants should feel big.  In fact, they should be +Main Stat in contrast to the +Secondary Stats of all other enchants.  In this new system, we wouldn't have crystals - they're easily replaced by orbs.  Instead, I think Dust & Shards are enough non-limited reagents to deal with.  Epics would simply Disenchant into multiple Shards.

A Chest Agility enchant could cost 1 Fire, 5 Air, and 1 Orb.  A Critical Strike to Ring Enchant could cost 1 Fire and 3 Air.  Tuning can be tweaked - these are just semi-realistic examples.

I don't think I'd change much about Jewelcrafting, itself - outside of extending the current system to it.  Jewelcrafters would have their own upgrade items and re-roll items, with a unique re-roll to Spirit item that costs 1 of each Elemental.  Again, we can get rid of lesser gems and focus on the real deal.  And with Belt Buckles - every toon will have at least one gem as a baseline.

I'd like to see more, though.  I'd like to see raid gear drops have sockets more often - or even as a baseline.  Jewelcrafting benefits from gear to an extent, but as an item enhancement profession, it's only a shell of its glory days.  Costs should really be based on the availability of sockets, but I really feel like each player should average 2 sockets on their gear plus 1 from their belt buckle.  I don't think that's too far from where we are now, but it will make a big difference.

If that was the balance of sockets on gear, then I think 1 Earth, 1 Orb, and 2 of the Corresponding Elemental would be a fair price for a gem.

Inscription is, in my opinion, the weirdest of all the professions.  It will lose wands & staves, but retain trinkets.  It will maintain glyphs.  Trinkets alone are worth a lot of gold.  And in the new system, there are a lot of possibilities for consolidating the 4 decks into one.  Imagine one deck, with 10 cards.  Scribes would then be able to craft a completed deck into a trinket along with a handful of volatiles and maybe an orb.

I enjoyed that creating trinkets was possible outside of the Darkmoon Faire, but I think it'd be fine to enforce a Scribe-only rule on the conversion of a deck into a trinket.  That's just an idea - one that I'm sure Scribes will hate.  The problem with inscription is that it is a logistical nightmare to run.  The tradeoff for this extreme barrier of entry has always been steady sales and insane ROI.  Maybe there's a place for that, but I feel like it's time to overhaul inscription.  Darkmoon cards are an area where we can do that, but the biggest opportunity is actually in glyphs.

Hold on to your seats.  With over 300 glyphs, it's time to cut down on the bloat.  There only needs to be 24 glyphs.  A major glyph & a minor glyph for each class.  In my mind, glyphs would no longer be permanent.  You'd use a major glyph to write any of your class's major glyphs into your active glyph slots.  Similarly for minor glyphs.  This reduces the inventory of glyphs down by a factor of more than 15.  Dust of disappearance goes away.  Instead, you know all your glyphs as a baseline and writing or over-writing one will cost a major / minor glyph specific to your class instead of a dust of disappearance.

The gameplay impact is negligible.  The market impact should be minor.  The barrier to entry & complexity of Glyphs / Inscription is obliterated.  I know that established scribes everywhere will want my head for this.  Because the complexity gives you free-reign over a captive market.  But it's time to face the music.

I don't believe, however, that Glyphs shouldn't be cheap - at least not like Wrath cheap.  It should take ink, 1 Earth, and 1 other random elemental for each major glyph, and maybe just ink & 1 Earth for each minor glyph.  They'll be limited - so even with only 24 glyphs to cover, that coverage & inventory will still create dynamic choices - it just won't be overburdening. 

For reference, Darkmoon Cards should be created in batches of 3 and cost 1 of each Elemental.  The conversion of a created deck into a trinket should require 1 orb and 3 of a certain type of Elemental corresponding to the type of trinket being created.

But don't hate me too much - you guys get Shoulder Enchants again :)

A Conclusion to a Modest Beginning

That's a long post.  And it's not even as long as it could've been had I gone deeper into all the details.  But I think a lot of the details aren't truly necessary - this should be enough to illustrate the concept.  A profession system that rewards active play on whatever toon you choose to play on, but that also grants access & perks to those who achieve full coverage.  It minimizes inventory.  It minimizes logging around.  It grants each profession the ability to remain a relevant part of the goldmaking economy well through the lifecycle of the expansion.

It may need tuning as well as some extra fleshing out in places.  The next part of this series will talk about how well this checks all those design goals from Part 1.  Until then, I encourage you to leave feedback (Twitter is a great way to get in touch) about what you like and what you don't like about what I've presented here.  It will give me more to think on, and hopefully we'll develop some stronger ideas via iteration & revision.  Thanks for reading!